Friday, August 30, 2013

The Gang Rape Epidemic in India
The subjects of sex and property have nourished the Indian film industry for years. The female body has always been an object of gaze. Barring few notable exceptions, the stories are about a man in whose world a woman is but an accessory. The hero fights the battle and the heroine nurses the wound; the hero kills the villain and his woman submits her body and soul to him. They become block-busters, those harmless pieces of entertainment. “Let us watch it. So what if it is rubbish?” If this be the motto of our people, then I dare say: we are doomed. This sexist culture is reinforced by the Hollywood movies where the modern man finally finds his refuge, his model, his own image. Hollywood’s ability to detoxify every human experience is what appeals to us. The political is made apolitical and the anti-political, the dissenting, is turned into an object of ridicule. In our haste, we ignore the painful and honest voices. Our age admires the human-machine Arnold: his brick-like body, his machismo. In India during 2011, the total number of reported rapes was 24,206. One can fairly guess that, given the harassment of women who raise their voices, the real number of rapes was significantly higher. A month ago, Digvijay Singh, a senior leader of the Congress Party made a rude remark about a woman politician, and the entire country had a good time laughing at his sexist jibe. It is not uncommon in India for women to get raped even inside police stations; the army too has to its credit a large number of cases where women were raped by its personnel and then murdered. A year and half ago, I visited Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi on the surcharged day when India was playing a cricket match against its arch rival Pakistan. JNU is the bastion of the left, with excellent records in academics and activism. The campus was in a “nationalistic” mood (that is: an anti-Pakistani, anti-enemy mood). During the match, when an Indian batsman would score a boundary, the pro-India group would hoot, and when the Indian batsman would get out, the pro-Pakistan group would shout and hoot. This soon led to an ugly brawl during which the female students were singled out and targeted: in other words subjected to double violence for (a) being members of the “pro-Pakistani” group and (b) being women. She must know how to behave. “She is the enemy’s woman”, hence…. But it is heartening that JNU is making gender studies compulsory for everyone who is enrolled in the University. A month ago, a young woman at JNU was shot with a pistol in a classroom. She thankfully survived, but the young man who shot her died after he consumed pesticide. The media is in a state of mourning today, but yesterday, Amitabh Bachan, an Indian actor of distinction was asked by a journalist: “Why don’t you play a lead role, a role of a protagonist?” Would this journalist ever bother to ask this same question to a woman actor of the same age? No, because she would be an “old woman.” Female writers of hallmark and distinction are asked “Why haven’t you married?” Such nonsense is uttered, and people read it with delight. Sexism as an industry survives in India with much fanfare and approval. Sexism is part of the mass entertainment on which this country survives. Under the current circumstances, with another Indian gang rape being publicized world wide, the media has already started “Live self-defense training programs” that raise some ugly and profound questions about disciplining the body. If the media is so genuinely concerned, it must immediately start live or recorded classes on women’s studies. But such a thing will never happen. It is at best a quixotic dream. The media’s recently found love for fascism is sufficient proof of its concern toward the plight of working-class women. The “country” means: a tiny elite of the super-rich. Aided by the US and European bourgeoisie, a new aesthetic of culture is being circulated. Women are its first victims. Imperialism never respects. It is the sadistic pleasure of destruction that it thrives on. Its connecting motor is hatred of the other: blind and brute hatred. Rape in India is becoming an act of collective spectacle. After each rape, the politicians from the right use it as an occasion to teach women which values are Indian and which ones are not. According to Raj Thakrey, the recent incident would not have happened if the inept and corrupt Chief Minister and his Deputy had not been in office. In other words: “Get me elected, and I will ensure that such incidents do not happen.” For many Muslim fanatics, a rape becomes an occasion to “keep our women within bounds.” The youth too respond: they walk with candles under the glare of media cameras, upload their photos on FaceBook and then compete for “likes.” They gleefully participate, with hearts beating like water pumps, in the great debates organized by serious-looking journalists. And the media sincerely cries over it, weeps, confesses its helplessness. On other occasions it takes up the issue of a trial and condemns the rapists after “shifting through evidence with the seriousness of a Learned Judge.” Women are gang raped by the army and police in “disturbed” areas. But these incidents are never even discussed by our elite English-speaking journalists. They are mostly busy discussing castration and the death penalty. Given the fact that the vast majority have already succumbed to the lure of capital and its culture, it seems that those of us who live on the fringe are being asked to get used to the rapes and then to the banal televised outbursts. - See more at:

UK's no vote on Syria harms ties to US

The UK parliament's decision not to support military action in Syria has thrown Prime Minister Cameron's policy in the region into disarray. The defeated motion was poorly managed and further sours relations with the US. David Cameron certainly did not expect 30 members of parliament (MPs) from his own party, the Conservatives, and nine MPs from its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, to help defeat his motion for military intervention in Syria - the first time in recent history that the House of Commons has blocked the government from launching military action. It was a huge blow to the UK prime minister, but given the shaky coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the lack of support from the ultra-conservative UK Independence Party (UKIP), and with public opinion largely against an intervention in Syria, it wasn't altogether surprising. "It was, frankly, unbelievably poor parliamentary management on the part of the coalition government, to have gone into this vote without having it absolutely nailed down," Richard Whitman, Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, told DW. Just why Cameron pressed for the motion to be passed through parliament so quickly, Whitman says, and before the UN inspectors had reported back on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, remained a mystery and MPs from his own party, the Conservatives, agree."The West made great play of getting weapons inspectors into Syria. At the very least, we should give them time to report back," John Baron, one of the Conservative MPs who voted against the motion, told DW. While France was quick to step into the breach and assure the US that it is "ready" for intervention in Syria after Thursday's UK 'no' vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron is scrambling to save face by insisting the UK was still seeking a "robust response" in Syria and was still "deeply engaged" on the world stage. Iraq's 'long shadow' But Cameron seems to have failed to gauge the shift in attitude towards military missions among lawmakers in Britain. "I certainly think Iraq has cast a long shadow. The threshold for military action has certainly been raised quite a bit. And I think that No. 10 [the government] miscalculated the extent to which that threshold has been raised," Whitman said. "The tragedy is it's going to complicate British foreign and security policy in the short term," he said. "Because what is Britain's position on Syria now?"According to Whitman, at one point, it was all about lending support to the Syrian rebels, now the UK seems to focus purely on punitive action against Assad - the latter made more difficult by the fact that Assad's air defence systems are much more advanced and have a much wider reach than, say, Libya's. And that's what Baron and other MPs as well as military officials are concerned about - prolonged military engagements with no clear objective or strategy beyond mere punitive action, particularly if there is no legitimization in the form of a UN mandate. "We cannot keep riding roughshod over the UN," Baron told DW. "It lessens our authority when, perhaps in future, we may have to condemn similar actions by countries less friendly to the West." Special relationship Britain's traditional "special relationship" with the US is also likely to be damaged by the negative vote, but Whitman acknowledged US-UK ties have been rough around the edges for some time."The relationship between the US and the UK was undergoing a recalibration anyway, ever since Iraq - the circumstances of Britain withdrawing from Iraq, the US thought it was premature," Whitman told DW. "So, it [the Syria vote] wasn't a watershed." Rather, it's several issues accumulating to sour relations in the long term. Britain's involvement in Afghanistan has also been seen as problematic in the US, Whitman pointed out, and reducing British defence expenditure has not helped either. "But also the strange position the UK finds itself in the EU now, with ambiguity to what its future relationship there may be, all that has accumulatively complicated the UK's relationship with the US." What next for the EU? And indeed, the handling of the Syrian issue could prove a pivotal moment in European foreign policy, as the US and France will likely try to recruit new allies, such as Poland, Whitman said. "It will be interesting to see what kind of political coalition France will be able to pull together within the EU and where the UK stands within that coalition." Another rebel Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, who also voted against the government's Syria motion, thinks that UK foreign policy needs a major rethink. "It is possible that last night finally saw the United Kingdom moving to a foreign and defence policy which is much more appropriate to a country of our size," he said in a statement to DW.

Afghanistan: Ending violence with violence
Once upon a time, mosques were considered to be places of solace, tranquility, and safety. It was when religion was neither a business nor was it used as an element of facade. But simplicity and dedication gained strength. It was when politics had never infiltrated the mosque. Now no place is safe—mosques, schools, markets, shrines, military barracks and playgrounds. The questions remain: why such sacred places are no longer safe and snug? And why our blood is spilled everywhere and everyday. It’s all because we face the scourge of militancy. Militants have become real life vampires whose sanguinary nature knows no bounds. This nation has suffered irreparable losses in men and material because of militants. These losses are becoming intolerable. But there is none who could place a full stop to their deadly activities. They have become the embodiments of terror while the general public is treated as scapegoats. Living up to their modus operandi and targeting once again a mosque, the militants killed a district chief in northern Kunduz province on Friday morning. 19 others were also killed in the suicide attack. The dead included the Dasht-e-Archi district’s administrative head Sheikh Sadruddin, his bodyguards, a public representative’s brother and some other civilians who had come to offer condolences to the family of a tribal elder who died a day earlier. The attack left 30 others injured. According to the Deputy Police Chief for Kunduz, the suicide bomb blew up at about 3:30am when a number of people were sitting in the condolence ceremony. The militants have become that much cunning, untrustworthy and treacherous that they can use any trick and any ploy to mow down government officials, public representatives, and tribal elders. The fury is elicited even more as these butchers don’t spare public places and education centers too. They don’t spare graveyards as well. They don’t stop spilling the blood of Afghans. They claim they have been fighting against foreigners but it is the Afghan nation that has borne the agonizing pain of fundamentalists’ repulsive actions. And it is the civilian population that has become the victim of a war orchestrated to annihilate terrorism. There is hardly a day where they don’t spill the blood of Afghans. They claim they have been fighting to bring peace and stability in the country and to push the foreign forces out but war itself is anti-peace. They have been at war over the past dozen years, claiming to be bearers of peace. Isn’t it absurd to say something and do something else? It is very contradictory. They claim they are fighting in the name of Islam while their very war is against the peace teachings of this great religion. Islam never allows targeting civilians or those who are not in the battlefield. It also doesn’t permit to target women, children and elderly and also trees and animals. What the Taliban have been doing is totally against Islam. They kill anyone - combatants and non combatants - irrespective of their gender, age and profession. They have become such a ruthless breed that none is safe in this country from their illogical ire and their insanity. They hate everything that belongs to Afghanistan. Even though reconciliation and diplomacy are effective tools, but looking into their mounting deadly attacks violence should be met with violence. The government should show its force to the militants as until now they have interpreted the peace appeals of the government as its weakness.

Afghanistan women’s football team defeats Kyrgyzstan
Afghanistan national women’s football team defeated the national women’s football team of Kyrgyzstan during a regional match, organized ahead of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Gold Cup.
The friendly matches will be played between Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, as part of the preparations for the upcoming SAFF Gold Cup. The Afghan women’s football team is expected to play it’s second friendly match against Tajikistan on Monday, the Football coach of Afghanistan, Yousuf Kargar said on Sunday. Afghanistan defeated Kyrgyzstan by 1-0 during it’s first friendly match in Kyrgyzstan, after Sajia Sahar hit the first and only goal of the match, leading Afghanistan to 1-0 victory. The Afghanistan women’s football team will participate in the upcoming South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Gold Cup, which is scheduled to be organized in Nepal on 31 August, and will continue until 11 September. The friendly matches between the four nations will continue for a week, until the SAFF Gold Cup matches are started. The Afghan team has been playing internationally since 2008 and has mostly competed against teams in the region, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Last year, the Afghan women’s national team, with Sahar as captain, took third place in the South Asian Football Federation tournament. During the competition, they beat their arch-rivals Pakistan 4 to 1.

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start The Fire

After British Vote, Unusual Isolation for U.S. on Syria

With a few exceptions in the past half-century, there has been a simple rule of thumb when it comes to international conflict: America does not use force without Britain at its side. So when Prime Minister David Cameron was unable to muster the votes in Parliament for support for a strike in Syria — even one limited to stopping the future use of chemical weapons — shock could be heard in the voices of senior White House officials who never saw the British rejection coming. “Bungled by Cameron,” said one. “Embarrassing,” said another. “For Cameron, and for us.” Now Mr. Obama is left to cope with miscalculations on both sides of the Atlantic. If he goes ahead with the strike — which seems all but inevitable, based on the statements of senior administration officials who say the president is determined to restore “international norms” against the use of chemical weapons — he will look more isolated than any president in recent memory entering a conflict. True, Britain stayed out of Vietnam — it was dealing with issues in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia at the time — and there was no need for Britain in small actions in Panama and Grenada. Ronald Reagan angered his close partner Margaret Thatcher by providing minimal assistance in the Falklands War. But the Middle East, site of Britain’s former empire, is a different matter — territory in which Britain and the United States have long history and deep interests. For that reason, it was symbolically important that Britain was side by side with the United States in both Iraq wars in the past two decades, not only marching to Baghdad in 2003 but holding key parts of the country. It was a key player in the Balkans, a NATO operation. And so while its decision to sit this one out, over Mr. Cameron’s objections, may have more to do with the specter of Iraq among the British public, it is what one former adviser to Mr. Obama, who declined to be quoted by name, “the kind of setback that reeks of misjudgment and mismanagement.” Other former players in the Obama team, at least when speaking on the record, were only slightly more forgiving. “I think Obama is fighting a lot of war weariness and war wariness in both Britain and the U.S.,” said Christopher R. Hill, Mr. Obama’s first ambassador to Iraq and a longtime diplomat before becoming dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. “But you could almost see it coming. When you don’t have an overall diplomatic strategy, it’s hard to marshal a coalition. It’s better to have diplomacy backed by force, than force without a diplomatic strategy.” Instead, Mr. Obama has talked about restoring “international norms” against the use of chemical weapons, an argument he might reasonably believe would resonate with the British public, given the horrific experience British soldiers endured as they faced gas attacks during World War I. He may have also relied on Britain’s deep involvement in the Libyan intervention two years ago. But in this case, Mr. Obama has done comparatively little to explain his longer-term strategy for changing the course of events in Syria without getting sucked into a war. In fact, he has argued the opposite — that a brief strike will do the trick of teaching the Syrians a lesson. “It doesn’t seem credible,” said Eliot Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and the author of “Supreme Command,” a study of presidents and their relationships with the military. “The argument has been that you can do a strike, call it a day, and say ‘We taught them a lesson.'” If so, said Mr. Cohen, who served as a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, “I fear it will just be a symbolic use of power.” The British Parliament, however, fears it will be something else: the beginning of another conflict in which the West will inevitably get sucked in.

Demos held across world over US-led military strike on Syria

People around the world have held demonstrations to express opposition to a Western military intervention in Syria. In Jordan's capital, Amman, protesters expressed support for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and chanted anti-US slogans on Friday. “We are here today in protest against the prospective strike on Syria. The Arab people oppose any military strike by the United States and its NATO allies against Syria,” said a protester during the rally.In Turkey, people gathered outside the US consulate in the southern city of Adana to denounce the possible military action on the Arab country. In the Turkish city of Istanbul, people held similar demonstrations and chanted slogans against the United States. Anti-war demonstrations were held in Venezuela and Greece as well. On Thursday, Londoners took to the streets to say no to a strike on Syria while in the US, anti-war rallies were held in a number of cities including Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. On August 21, the militants operating inside Syria and the foreign-backed Syrian opposition claimed that hundreds had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar. A number of Western and Arab countries have also accused Damascus of carrying out the attack. However, the Syrian government has denied their allegations as baseless. Since August 27, speculations have become stronger about the possibility of a military attack on Syria. The UK parliament on Thursday voted against a motion by British Prime Minister David Cameron to authorize military action against Syria. Washington says it is willing to carry out an attack against Syria without the approval of the UN or its allies. Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence.

US ready to decide on military action in Syria 'on our own' - White House

President Obama could well consider a military strike in Syria despite the British Parliament rejecting a motion authorizing the UK’s involvement in the conflict. White House officials told reporters Thursday that the statement from United States’ closest ally, reluctance from the United Nations Security Council, and widespread uncertainty in the US Congress would not be enough to sway Obama from a limited missile strike on Syrian targets. Obama, who has been criticized for not consulting with Congress over Syria, met with lawmakers and other top leaders in a White House conference call Thursday. “We have seen the result of the Parliament vote in the UK tonight. The US will continue to consult with the UK government - one of our closest allies and friends. As we've said, President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” said a White House statement following the meeting. “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.” A White House statement released after the 90-minute teleconference said the call included, among others, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as well as relevant committee chairmen and ranking members. "The views of Congress are important to the President's decision-making process, and we will continue to engage with Members as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate US response to the Syrian government's violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons," the White House statement read. Hegel also said on a recent trip to the Philippines that "it is the goal of President (Barack) Obama and our government ... whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort," adding that the US would continue to consult with Britain on the matter. "Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together. And I think you're seeing a number of countries publicly state their position on the use of chemical weapons." When asked whether it was in Assad's power to do anything to prevent the threat of military action against his country, Hagel replied that he did not wish to "speculate on hypothetical situations." US Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that administration officials failed to provide any new evidence but only revealed the government has allegedly intercepted "some discussions and some indications from a high-level [Syrian] official" regarding use of chemical weapons. "The main thing was that they have no doubt that Assad's forces used chemical weapons," Engel said. The administration also plans to release a declassified intelligence report on the recent chemical weapons attacks in Syria Friday, according to Major Garrett of CBS News. The White House will reportedly release the legal justification for military action if Obama orders it, as well. “When the president reaches a determination about the appropriate response…and a legal justification is required to substantiate or to back up that decision, we’ll produce one on our own,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in the hours before the British vote. Thursday’s intelligence presentation did not implicate Assad in the chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, White House aides told the New York Times, but administration officials believe they have “enough evidence to carry out a limited strike that would deter the Syrian government from using these weapons again.” Assad and the Syrian government have blamed the chemical attack, documented in gruesome footage throughout the Internet, on opposition forces. The White House has admitted that the US has “no smoking gun” to prove Assad was behind the attack, leaving enough doubt for the British House of Commons to reject military action. While UK MPs debated possible a possible missile strike US Congress was in the midst of a summer recess, although Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said a vote would not be necessary. “There have been consultations. There will be more consultations,” she told Time magazine. “This is not to send troops over, as I understand it…obviously, it would be good to wait, but if time is of the essence that’s the decision the administration has to make. I think there is lots of ways of doing consultations which is adequate.”

U.N. inspectors start leaving Syria; Obama meets with security team

Pakistan: Article 245 being misinterpreted: Raza Rabbani
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani Thursday said those demanding to call out army in Karachi are not presenting a full picture and Article 245 of the Constitution is being misinterpreted. “If the army does come to Karachi, it will render the High Court unable to exercise its powers,” Senator Rabbani said while speaking from the floor of the Senate. Speaking on the same issue, Senator Maula Bux Chandio warned that an (army) operation will leave everyone screaming at the end of the day. “I am against an operation in Karachi. I am saying this with my eyes set on Col. Mashadi that an operation will leave both you and us screaming,” Chandio said.

Pakistani singer: Faiza Mujahid - Meri Zindagi

Nayyara Noor-tera saya jahan bhi ho sajna

Blasphemy in Pakistan: Why is Asia Bibi still in jail?
Four years ago, Asia Bibi was asked to fetch water while working in the fields. Some of her Muslim fellow workers refused to drink it because they considered it to be “unclean” since it was collected by a Christian. A dispute ensued and her co-workers complained that she blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad. Then she was arrested, sentenced to death by hanging, and has been languishing in a jail ever since. Her husband and five children live under death threats and have been forced into hiding. The case has prompted widespread international condemnation, including from heads of state and the Pope.
Pakistan has the strictest anti-blasphemy laws. Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code forbid damaging or defiling a place of worship, outraging religious feelings, defiling the Quran or defaming the prophet Muhammad. The wording of the laws is vague and can be subject to abuse, either by the authorities or by any Pakistani who can accuse a fellow citizen of blasphemy with a personal complaint to the prosecutor. Punishment can be life imprisonment of or even death. Those accused of blasphemy are frequently threatened or attacked, even before any investigation has been carried out. People take to the streets and violence waged by pro-blasphemy groups ensues.
Asia Bibi’s case is such a political hot potato in Pakistan that it appears to have paralyzed the authorities. In Pakistan, some of those who publicly called for Asia’s release were murdered. For example, the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated by his very own bodyguard because he defended Asia Bibi and vocally opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also assassinated for speaking out. Each time that a Christian villager is accused of blasphemy, heaps of Christian neighbors flee the area out of fear that they are next in line to be harassed or accused of the same “crime.” While Asia Bibi’s case has been widely featured in media reports around the world, scores of victims accused of blasphemy vanish into the shadows without the public hearing of them. Despite the international and domestic commotion, Asia Bibi is still in jail. How can that be? Why hasn’t the Pakistani government released her? In 2010, President Asif Ali Zardari dropped plans to issue a presidential pardon after hardline pro-blasphemy groups staged massive demonstrations against the measure. Hitting a sensitive nerve, the case has shed light on how the Pakistani government has been taken hostage by militant extremists. Pakistani judges are under pressure from mobs waiting outside their courtrooms, ready to spark riots. Lawyers fear assuming the defense of the accused. And rather than doing what’s right, it’s easier for the Pakistani authorities to turn a blind eye. Releasing Asia Bibi and amending article 295 of the Pakistani penal code, its inflammatory anti-blasphemy law that places Pakistani society at the mercy of religious extremists, would help Pakistan demonstrate that it will not bow down to those who threaten the rule of law through violence and intimidation.

Who is Veena Malik’s billionaire boyfriend? Find out!
Who is Pakistani actor Veena Malik dating these days? No, she’s not gone back to her Supermodel co-star Ashmit Patel. Neither is she with any cricketer. We spotted her with businessman Shaikh Umar Farukh Zahoor, who is her current boyfriend.
Shaikh who?
He is Norway based, and is apparently a billionaire with interests in real estate, gold and mining. Which means he is pretty much like an Arab Sheikh, isn’t he? Moneywise, at least. The two are really in lurrve and all, even praying for each other, we heard. While Veena visited the Ajmer Sharif dargah in India, her boyfriend prayed at Mecca and Madina. Looks like they are crazy about each other!
Will Veena and Shaikh get married?
We’re happy that the Silk Sakkath Hot Maga actor has finally found true love. But will her long distance relationship last? Maybe, or maybe it’s time to think about marriage! But then, what will happen to Veena’s Bollywood career? Keep guessing!

Judge overturns jail term for Pakistan doctor who helped find Osama bin Laden

A doctor who was jailed for 33 years for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden had his prison sentence overturned by a local judge Thursday. Shakeel Afridi was arrested for treason last year over his role in a CIA-backed fake polio vaccination campaign which he used to collect DNA samples from bin Laden and his family in order to prove the al Qaeda leader's whereabouts to U.S. authorities. Afridi was later charged and sentenced for alleged links to the banned militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam. The doctor filed an appeal, which was heard by judicial official Sahibzada Mohammad Anees in Peshawar, Thursday. Anees declared Afridi's sentence was incorrectly imposed because the officer acting as a magistrate in the original trial did not have the authority to hand down a 33-year prison sentence. Anees referred the case for re-examination. Special public prosecutor Iqbal Durrani read out the verdict to journalists outside the courthouse. Durrani said he opposed the appeal decision, claiming Afridi had set up a hospital in the Bara subdivision of the Khyber tribal region providing healthcare to Lashkar-e-Islam militants. "He was also funding the banned militant organisation against the state," Durrani said. Afridi's lawyer, Samiullah Afridi, denied these charges, asking how his client could help the same organization which held him hostage until he paid a large ransom, requiring him to sell his house. The lawyer also said his client had been denied legal representation in the original trial. Afridi's sentence last year angered the United States, which withheld $33 million in aid for Pakistan in retaliation. Afridi remains in custody, Reuters reported.

South Korea shatter Pakistan's Hockey World Cup dreams

The Express Tribune
Pakistan lost to South Korea 2-1 in the Asia Cup Semi-final on Friday, Express News reported. Pakistan managed to score just one goal from four penalty corners, evicting the team from the Asia Cup race. Team green cannot qualify for the World Cup following its defeat in the Asia Cup semi-final. Pakistan has played six World Cups so far.

Pakistan: Torture: the police’s language

The police in Pakistan does everything except what it is meant to do: enforce the rule of law and prevent crime. In fact, having excelled as spoilers of the citizen’s peace, the force is used to carry out illegal jobs of the politicians and those who matter in the power circles. In a study carried out by the Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD) in three districts of Punjab, Faisalabad, Multan and Rahimyar Khan, a not unusual but persistent picture of the police culture has emerged. Bribes, torture, extra-judicial killings, manhandling at the time of arrest, resistance to lodge a First Information Report (FIR), misbehaviour with women, altering investigation processes without informing the complainant are excessively rampant. Combined, this is what makes up the popular misnomer: ‘Thana culture’, something the Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif had vowed to dispense with. However, the rise of police encounters in recent years in Punjab certainly builds the case for a broken promise. The underlying theme of the report by DCHD is the third degree torture applied by the police that even makes innocent people confess to crimes they had never committed. Suspects are tortured to either protect the actual criminal or to get away with avoiding arduous investigative processes by cutting them short at the initial stage. People usually avoid going to the police, fearing that it will make things worse for them. Theoretically, in the case of a crime, the police is considered the first step towards the ends of justice. The prevalence of murders for personal revenge, acid-throwing incidents, abusive traditional punishments by panchayats (traditional courts), and the recent phenomenon of setting up of Taliban courts in Karachi are the results of a parallel justice system operating in society. The criminals have become fearless, making their own rules and dividing turf conveniently among different groups in, for example, Karachi, where they are busy killing people for extortion money and other reasons. According to one report presented in the Supreme Court, nearly 400 police officers are running crime rings in Karachi. The question arises that if the police is not doing what it is supposed to do, what then is it doing? Used for personal and political purposes by the higher ups, no attention is paid to its capacity building and neither is there any effective system within the police to convict officers complicit in crime or involved in abusing the law. This is where the rub lies. The only way to remove this anomaly is to ensure mechanisms to hold the police accountable for its misdeeds.

President Zardari: Demands for Karachi’s handover to army unjustified

President Asif Ali Zardari said in unequivocal terms on Thursday that there was no justification for calling the army out in Karachi in the presence of elected governments at the Centre and in the provinces. The president expressed these views during a meeting with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah at the Bilawal House here. The law and order situation in Karachi in particular and in Sindh in general came under discussion. Zardari said the Sindh government should make an example of criminals and no slackness would be tolerated in protection of life and property of the masses.Sources said the president grilled the chief minister over the Karachi situation and the failure to provide timely relief to flood victims in the interior Sindh. Shah briefed the president on the steps taken to improve the law and order situation in Karachi and provision of relief to flood victims; however, the president said it was not enough. Zardari asked the chief minister to give a free hand to the police and other law enforcers to eliminate the criminals from all parts of Karachi without succumbing to political affiliations. The president also directed practical steps for provision of relief to flood victims.

President Zardari to be in politics after vacating presidency

President Asif Ali Zardari will do politics and work for his Pakistan Peoples Party after vacating the presidency on Sept 8, Khursheed Ahmed Shah, the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and a senior PPP figure, told reporters on Thursday. Answering questions at a reception for him by the Parliamentary Reporters Association about the future role of Mr Zardari after completing his five-year term as president, Mr Shah said: “He is our leader. He will remain in the country and do politics.” Pointing out that Mr Zardari had suffered more than 11 years in prison, Mr Shah said there was no question of his going into exile. Mr Zardari will become the first democratically elected president in the country to complete his five-year term, which runs out on Sept 8. He will be succeeded by Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League-N who was elected to the office by a parliamentary electoral college on July 30.

China Over Syria : Action won’t help

China is urging restraint amid growing tensions over Syria, saying any military intervention in the crisis would only worsen turmoil in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday military action would not help, and repeated China opposed anyone using chemical weapons. “A political resolution has, from the very beginning, been the only way out for the Syrian issue.” There should be no rush to prejudge findings of a UN team investigating chemical weapons claims, he said. “China calls on all sides to exercise restraint and remain calm,” Wang said. Chinese petroleum enterprises have left Syria as a result of local turmoil, the Ministry of Commerce said. Zhong Manying, director of the ministry’s department of Western Asian and African affairs, said Chinese companies and citizens had been advised to leave.

What is behind Obama's actions in Syria?

Just last weekend, the United States took a cautious stance on the issue of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, but this week the Obama administration appears to be gearing itself up to take military action against embattled Syria. This shift is surprising, but it also reflects the changes to Obama's strategy in Syria. For some time now, the Middle East has been in a state of chaos. Conflict in Egypt is escalating, and the United States has been embarrassed by its financial and material support for the military forces that have overthrown an elected government; the planned peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been called off after Israeli security forces shot dead three Palestinians during clashes in the West Bank; there are daily bombings in Iraq and terrorism attacks has become commonplace. Obama's Middle East policy has hardly been a resounding success. Furthermore, the Unites States was embarrassed by Russia only this month, after the latter granted American fugitive Edward Snowden a years' asylum. For years, the two have been competing on the Syria. With old and recent scores to settle, Obama will be looking at options to change his course of action. Meanwhile, eager to push for a military intervention in Syria, France too is brandishing the great banner of morality. A combination of such factors can only make U.S. intervention more likely. But one thing is sure. Washington will hesitate to repeat past mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Analysts therefore conclude that the most likely option is limited air strikes in Syria. According to the U.S. media, the military strikes under consideration, involving sea-launched cruise missiles or possibly long-range bombers, will be directed at specific targets. The U.S. will be hoping to kill two birds with one stone: to deter and degrade the military capacity of the Syrian government, while minimizing civilian casualties. However, the United States still faces an unavoidable question: In the absence of a UN mandate, or any clear proof of guilt, what gives America the right to attack a sovereign state? Nor can a growing crescendo of anti-war voices simply be ignored. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an opportunity to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran, Lebanon and Jordan have said no to military intervention in different forms. Even among the U.S. allies, there is discord. "Regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, we ask, along with 36 other States, for a report of UN experts from the Secretary General of the United Nations," Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said in a statement on Wednesday. Last night, in a move that finally recognized huge public opposition to military intervention in Syria, the British Parliament voted against its own government's proposal supporting the principle. Prime Minister David Cameron has been forced to acknowledge in public that the UK will not now take part in any such action. This represents a devastating blow to western military hawks . Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that foreign intervention will not lead to peace, but as has been proved by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, it will achieve nothing other than to undermine regional stability. The current situation in Syria is at a tipping point. The choice lies between military intervention or peaceful resolution. President Obama must weigh his options carefully.

Syria crisis: Commentators react to Cameron defeat

Prime Minister David Cameron's Commons defeat over military intervention in Syria has prompted a wave of debate online. What does it mean for the UK, Mr Cameron's leadership and the West's role in Syria? Kevin Maguire, writing in the Mirror, says it was "humbling and catastrophic" for Mr Cameron but "what a wonderful night for democracy, international law, the British people and Ed Miliband". Mr Cameron, he says, was unable to explain convincingly how Britain entering the war would benefit Syrians or Britain, and suggests the prime minister was "playing a bigger, more dangerous game". "The suspicion is that triggering regime change lurks behind Cameron's yearning to intervene," he says.
'Bursting to intervene'
In the Daily Mail, Max Hastings also questions Mr Cameron's motives. "Cameron has been bursting to intervene in Syria for many months," he writes. "He may well believe it is the right thing to do, but does he also hope such an action will enable him to show off his leadership on a great international issue?" Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph gives some thought to where the Mr Cameron of old has gone. "Long before the debate, a young Tory pointed out that the problem with intervention in the past had been the rush. The West, he said, has 'two crucial qualities which should always condition foreign policy-making: humility and patience'. That young Tory was David Cameron, seven years ago," he writes. "Even in February 2011 he said he was 'not a naive neo-con who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet'. Yet since then, he came to place great faith in the 'bombs and missiles' that he used to disparage. And he failed to realise how little support he had." The Guardian calls the prime minister's defeat "an almost unprecedented failure". "The prospective missile attack on Syria is not a foreign policy moment on a par with the Suez war in 1956, the Norway debate of 1940 or Chanak in 1922, all of which led to the fall of 20th Century prime ministers," it says, in an editorial. "But it was a massive reverse nevertheless. It is a reminder that things are different in hung parliaments and that Mr Cameron's control of his party has been seriously weakened." Andy Boddington, writing in the Lib Dem Voice blog, wonders, if this is the moment when "we stop believing we are a world power". "At long last we, or at least our parliament, believe that we cannot bomb our way to peace. This could be the point where we believe our best interests, and those of the world, lie in using our financial and political resources to promote a world that works without war."
'None of our business'
But former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown fears the Commons defeat can only do damage to the UK. "We are a hugely diminished country thi [sic] am. MPs cheers last night. Assad, Putin this morning. Farage too as we plunge towards isolationism," he writes on Twitter, sparking a big online debate. He later adds: "In 50 years trying to serve my country I have never felt so depressed [or] ashamed. Britain's answer to the Syrian horrors? none of our business!" For the Independent, the result of the vote is a victory for the institution of Parliament itself. "Parliament, so often bemoaned as a whipped and weak talking shop, proved that, when faced with the gravest of decisions, it can still call the executive to heel," it says, in an editorial. Conservative MP Douglas Carswell who admits to "reluctantly" voting with the government at the last minute, agrees. Writing in his Telegraph blog, he says: "For decades, our country has been run by a tiny, self-regarding mandarinate in Whitehall. Not for much longer. Parliament is now claiming powers that, thanks to a historic quirk, have given Downing Street the powers of a monarch. "If the Commons insists it has the final say over going to war, it won't be much longer before Parliament wants confirmation hearings for senior mandarins and budget hearings. "Instead of a presidential system, perhaps our prime minister might once again be first among equals. Of the cabinet, and commanding a majority in the Commons. But not in control of it." 'Damaging blow' After the vote, Mr Cameron said he would respect the wishes of the majority and rule out joining US-led strikes. So where does that leave President Barack Obama and the UK's relations with the US? The Independent's Washington correspondent David Usborne suggests it may prove to be a "damaging blow to the so-called special relationship that Britain in particular is always so anxious to emphasise and nurture". He says Mr Obama now appears "more isolated in the world", and possibly facing "emboldened" congressional critics. He adds: "The first indications from within the White House, however, were that Britain breaking away would not deter him from moving forward, however, and nor would the absence of any resolution at the United Nations." Outspoken TV chatshow host Piers Morgan, a Briton living in America, says the Commons defeat is unlikely to worry his adopted country. "I think UK commentators are rather overdoing the 'crushing blow to special relationship' line, America will do what it wants, as always," he tweets.

Britain says no to Syria intervention as U.S. considers actions

Any possibility of British involvement in a military campaign in Syria has been effectively ruled out after British lawmakers voted down the prospect in parliament, costing the US the nation’s closest ally in a potential strike. By a 285 to 272 margin British MPs rejected the government’s motion to support in principle military action against Syria. A second vote was due to be held on committing to action following the report by United Nations weapons inspectors, who are currently investigating claims that President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on civilians. British MPs also voted down an opposition Labour amendment calling for more information about the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria. The Labour amendment was defeated Thursday by 332 votes to 220. “A number of Tories in the no lobby with Labour,” wrote Labour MP Jon Trickett. MPs on both sides of the aisle expressed doubt over British involvement in Syria during a six hour debate in the House of Commons. Cameron called back lawmakers from their summer vacation to determine whether Britain would join US-led military action in Syria, if the US decides to do so in the coming days. The vote could be a blow to Cameron’s authority after he has advocated UK military action in the event US forces deploy missiles in the Middle East. British Prime Minister David Cameron asserted that such action would put a halt to human rights atrocities in Syria, while Labour party MPs said they required more evidence of Assad’s guilt to intervene in the Middle Eastern nation’s two-year civil war. Cameron, while advocating limited attacks against the Assad government, admitted he was not "100 percent certain” that Assad was behind a recent chemical attack, but that it was “highly likely”. After the defeat in the parliament, Cameron admitted it was clear that Britons did not want action and said he “will act accordingly.” One MP shouted “resign” as Cameron pledged he would not order an attack.Phillip Hammond, the UK Defense Secretary, said the US “will be disappointed that Britain will not be involved”, however he did not think it would halt the process, “I don’t expect that the lack of British participation will stop any action,” he told the BBC. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel commented on the UK's decision, explaining that a concerted international effort is the way forward in this matter. "It is the goal of President (Barack) Obama and our government ... whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort," he said on a trip to the Philippines. Hagel added that the American approach will be "to continue to find an international coalition that will act together. And I think you're seeing a number of countries state, publicly state, their position on the use of chemical weapons." When asked whether it was in Assad's power to do anything to prevent the threat of military action against his country, Hagel replied that he did not wish to "speculate on hypothetical situations." The vote came just before US President Barack Obama met with congressional lawmakers and other key leaders to brief them on possible military action in Syria. White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that the US was prepared to “go it alone” in Syria to protect American “core national security interests.” “The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests of America,” he said. “The decisions he makes about our foreign policy is with our national security interests front and center.” Doug Brandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told The Guardian that “caution has grown” within the Obama administration. “I think they’ve found over the last couple of days both a lack of support at home, both among the American people and Congress, and then they look internationally and suddenly they don’t feel quite so surrounded by friends,” he said.

'US, NATO, hands off Syria' – hundreds of New Yorkers during massive protest against US strike on Syria

Hundreds of people protested at New York’s Times Square on Thursday over possible US plans to strike Syria’s regime which it believes to be behind a deadly chemical attack.
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backers of the opposition who want a US intervention, and Americans who say they can't stomach another war all took to the iconic Manhattan Square. "US, NATO, hands off Syria," chanted hundreds of protesters, weaving through thousands of tourists, some carrying pictures of Assad, and some just declaring themselves against another US war.
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