Monday, September 9, 2013
Syria welcomes a Russian proposal to place the nation's chemical weapons under international control, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday after talks in Moscow, praising the Kremlin for seeking to "prevent American aggression". Moualem, who spoke to reporters through an interpreter after Russia expressed hope the proposal could avert military strikes against Syria, stopped short of saying explicitly that President Bashar al-Assad's government accepted it. "I state that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the Syrian leadership's concern for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country, and also motivated by our confidence in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is attempting to prevent American aggression against our people," he said.
Russia's proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control was a "potentially positive development," but could be a stall tactic, President Barack Obama told CNN on Monday. "We're going to run this to ground," Obama said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, adding that the United States will work with Syrian ally Russia and the international community "to see if we can arrive at something that is enforceable and serious."
Health Ministry urges parents to vaccinate unprotected children against deadly virusaces of the wild polio virus were detected in Jerusalem’s sewage system, the Health Ministry announced Monday.The ministry recently launched a national vaccination campaign to prevent contagion after traces of the disease were found in southern Israel. Around 650,000 Israeli children have been administered the vaccine since mid-August.According to the ministry, the evidence of the virus near the capital indicates “that we have not yet vanquished the virus and emphasizes the immediate need to complete vaccination against polio.” The ministry has distributed letters to parents nationwide who have not yet vaccinated their children, urging them to ensure their kids receive the medication to prevent the transmission of the disease, Channel 2 reported. Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious viral infection that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis or death. Through the 1950s, the disease crippled as many as 35,000 Americans per year, but a public health campaign eliminated the disease in the US by 1979. The American Centers for Disease Control notes that while “polio has no cure, vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading.” In late August, a wild polio virus — which has spread across the country this year — was identified in sewage samples taken in the southern Galilee. According to the Health Ministry, the sample was taken before the launch on August 18 of a nationwide vaccination effort against the virus. Last month, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition to stop the vaccinations. The petition claimed that, among other things, the proposed solution could be more dangerous than the problem itself. Yaakov Gurman, director of the Izun Hozer organization, which filed the petition, told The Times of Israel that the risks inherent in the few samples of the wild strain polio virus discovered in several places in Israel could be multiplied many times over once a million kids are given the oral polio vaccine (OPV) — essentially a weakened form of polio which, like most inoculations, introduces the virus and lets the body build up a resistance by developing the antibodies needed to battle a full-on invasion of polio. New York pediatrician and author Dr. Stuart Ditchek disagreed. ”The benefits of using OPV by far outweigh the risks in this scenario, thus the recommendation,” he said. “The recommendation being implemented in Israel is smart and guided by advisement of the [US] Centers for Disease Control. The group in the lawsuit simply disregards the CDC as an honest adviser,” and thereby risks the public’s health, he said. “There is no documentation scientifically of their concerns.”
The sound of car horns rang out Saturday in front of the Wilshire Federal Building as hundreds of Angelinos urged passing drivers to honk in protest against U.S. military action in Syria. The rally, which wrapped around the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, brought together several local families who shared a common Syrian heritage. Having left the Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah five month ago, Haitham Akel, a professor in civil engineering, shared his reasons for bringing his wife and three young sons to the rally. “I was a professor in a university in Ar-Raggah when members of Al Qaeda told me if I don’t leave this city they were going to kill me. That’s why I came back to America,” Akel said. “Now the people that have power in Syria is Al Qaeda.” Having lived in Syria with his family, Akel expressed his concerns and frustrations with the possibility that the U.S. might attack his home country. “I want Syria to be Syria, not a radical Islamic country,” Akel said. “I brought my family out here because I want to tell President Obama that we don’t want him to attack my country because we were living there and we know what exactly is going on.” For the second time in two weeks, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) organized an anti-military intervention rally in Los Angeles. Saturday's Los Angeles protest was one of several that took place across the country in the hopes of swaying Congress as it prepares to vote on the Syrian military strike. Sharing similar sentiments as Akel, rally organizer Maggie Vascassenno from the International Action Center expressed her feelings on the heated topic. “I came out here because I am opposed of any U.S. war against the people of Syria,” Vascassenno said. “This war is not for the people and it’s not about chemical weapons. It’s about going over and dominating the Middle East just like Iraq was and just like Afghanistan.” Vascassenno is not alone in her anti-war sentiments. Many lawmakers in both parties oppose Obama’s request for Congress to authorize using military force against Syria following the deadly August 21 chemical gas attack that the Obama administration believes was ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “The U.S. is not the world’s policeman and the people of the U.S. need jobs at home not war abroad,” Vascassenno said. “We want to let the congressional representatives know that the people of the U.S. do not support another war in the Middle East.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the authorization measure earlier this week, and the first votes by the full Senate could come as early as Wednesday. “I would be very angry if Congress approved an attack on Syria,” said Haig Krikorin, a Los Angeles resident of six years, as he stood beside other protesters. Krikorin said he was skeptical about the origins of the recent chemical attack. “I am Syrian. My parents, my sister, my brother and my daughter are all there,” Krikorin said. “The [Syrian] government would never kill its people with chemical weapons. This is a problem.” Krikorin and other Los Angeles protesters marched along Wilshire Boulevard around 4 p.m. Saturday, waving signs that read, “War In Syria: Built On A Lie,” while chanting “Hands Off Syria.” Similar slogans were heard in front of the White House that same day, as nearly 150 protesters voiced their concerns in Washington over the possible military action in Syria. With anti-war protesters in full swing, Obama is said to address the nation on Tuesday to continue his push for support in a strike against Syria.
By MEGAN THEE-BRENAN As President Obama’s campaign to rally support for airstrikes against Syria continues, there is widespread opposition to any military intervention, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Part of Mr. Obama’s problem may be messaging. More than three-quarters of Americans (including 7 in 10 Democrats and about 9 in 10 Republicans) say his administration has not clearly explained what the country’s goals would be in Syria. Over all, 56 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of the Syrian crisis so far, and 33 percent approve. There are sharp partisan differences on the president’s performance: 52 percent of Democrats approve of how he is dealing with Syria, while 77 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents disapprove. Mr. Obama has the difficult job of convincing wary Americans, including many in his own party, that intervention in Syria is in the best interests of the United States. But it is not all about messaging. When Mr. Obama addresses the nation on Tuesday evening to discuss his strategy in Syria, the poll findings suggest he will be facing a war-weary public. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans are concerned that United States military action in Syria will become a long and costly mission, and 90 percent are concerned that it would lead to a more widespread war in the Middle East. One factor working in the president’s favor is that history has shown that the American public usually rallies around the commander in chief once military action has been taken overseas, even if public sentiment was against that action beforehand. The nationwide telephone poll of 1,011 adults was conducted Sept. 6 to 8 on landlines and cellphones and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Support for authorizing a military strike against Syria didn't pick up in U.S. Congress Thursday, which could mean trouble for the Obama administration as it would need to spend more time and precious political capital to cajole the undecided lawmakers, as well as the American public, to its side, experts say. The problem even began to emerge on Wednesday, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed their public mark up of the authorization resolution for over three hours, and passed it 10-7 only after it satisfied Sen. John McCain by adding language to change momentum on the ground. But the vote tally showed bipartisan support as well as bipartisan opposition, indicating Congress' fractured state of opinion on the Syria issue. Vote counts made by the press testifies to the point. CNN said the Senate, which is expected to vote on the resolution next week, has 24 yes votes, including the Democratic leadership and most committee chairs, and 17 no votes, with 59 still undecided. It is believed that if opponents resort to filibuster, Majority Leader Harry Reid may need to muster a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome them. In the House, where all seats are to be contested in the election next year, there are only 26 yes votes, including both parties' leadership. There are 102 no votes, 284 undecideds and 21 unknown as of Thursday afternoon, according to the CNN. A vote count by The Washington Post yields similar results. "Many in Congress, and not just Republicans, surely resent being called upon to authorize an action which public opinion polls indicate is widely unpopular, particularly among independent voters who can determine election outcomes in many states and congressional districts," said Michael Barone, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. According to recent opinion polls, the majority of the American public are against a military strike against Syria, and support for action typically lingers somewhere between 20 to 30 percent. Members of Congress were acutely aware of the perils of supporting an unpopular military venture one year prior to an election. Reports indicated the House is poised to sit on any resolution after the Senate has voted on it. If it fails in Senate, the House might not take it up at all. Even if the Senate passed it, it could be the week of Sept. 16 before the House even begins to deliberate it on the chamber floor. Faced with a war-weary nation, Congress has been complaining about the lack of administration effort to persuade the public. During a House Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Luke Messer asked Secretary of State John Kerry if President Barack Obama is willing to make the case for military action to the public from the Oval Office. "I have no doubt the president will," Kerry replied. At the St. Petersburg Group of Twenty (G20) summit, which Obama is attending, White House spokesman Ben Rhodes said Obama is mulling over the idea, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez also supported an Oval Office address. According to the White House, Obama has canceled his trip to California next week to shepherd the resolution in Congress. To date, the administration has reached out to about one third of the Congress on Syria in the past two weeks, reports said. The renewed push may be because of the realization of the high stakes for Obama, both in policy and politics. Michael Doran, a senior fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said Thursday at a Washington event that Obama "absolutely has to do this," because the U.S. credibility is on the line, and inaction could spell more trouble in the Middle East for the administration. Obama could also appear weak if he loses the vote in Congress for use of force against Syria and that it is a bad place to be, given his agenda in the fall to deal with issues such as debt ceiling, federal budget, Obamacare implementation and immigration reform, Doran said.
The United States should not take action in Syria, because it would appear to be siding with an opposition force that has extremist elements, Sen. Rand Paul said Monday in the debut of CNN's new "Crossfire." "We've seen priests beheaded by the Islamic rebels...We've also seen an Islamic rebel eating the heart of a soldier. So it's not like there's no atrocity on the other side, and al Qaeda is on the other side," he said. "I can't conceive of how we would go in and be allies with al Qaeda." The Kentucky Republican has been a vocal opponent to President Barack Obama's August 31 proposal to take military action in Syria following the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons against the opposition. For his part, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, argued he's not calling for the U.S. to align with al Qaeda but said there are "vetted elements of the Syrian opposition that we believe...would largely share our values." "If you just sit back and say 'you know what, there's no consequences to the use of chemical weapons. Go kill another 1,400. Go kill another 14,000,' at what point do the consequences of those actions not only send a message in Syria, but globally we want the Ayatollah in Iran to head our message," he said. "We want the dictator of North Korea to understand 'Do not cross a line' as well. This is, I think, even beyond Assad." Menendez is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which passed an authorization resolution last week to grant authorization to the president. Paul is also a member of the committee but voted against the resolution.
A chemical attack may be launched on Israel by Syrian rebels from government-controlled territories as a "major provocation," multiple sources told RT. The report comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed that Syria puts its chemical weapons arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction in order to prevent a possible military strike against the war-torn country. Moscow also urged Syrian authorities to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The offer has already been passed over to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, who met Lavrov in Moscow for talks on Monday. “We don’t know if Syria will accept the offer, but if imposing international control over chemical weapons stored in the country can help to avoid military strikes, we are immediately going to start working with Damascus,” Lavrov said. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has welcomed Moscow's initiative, “based on the Syrian’s government care about the lives of our people and security of our country,” Muallem said later on Monday. Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice made a statement saying that Damascus' alleged "use of chemical weapons against its own people" posed a threat to US national security. “The use of chemical weapons also directly threatens our closest ally in the region, Israel,” she said, speaking at the New America Foundation in Washington. The statement was made shortly after RT published a report about the possibility of a chemical provocation. A few hours earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that to avoid a military operation, Syrian President Bashar Assad has a week to surrender control of “every single bit” of his stock of chemical weapons to the international community. “But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done,” he added, speaking at a media conference in London as he wrapped up his European tour in a move to garner support for the Obama-proposed “limited” strike against Syria. The US Administration has blamed the Syrian government for the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. Washington has maintained it has the intelligence to prove it, but has so far refused to make public a single piece of concrete evidence that would link the Assad regime to the deadly incident. On Sunday, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a series of 13 videos showing what is purported to be proof of chemical weapons use in Syria. The disturbing images of the victims of the alleged attack were earlier shown during a closed-door briefing to a group of senators, as Obama is trying to get authorization from Congress for the military strike on Syria. The administration told senators that the authenticity of the videos was verified by the intelligence community, reported CNN, which first aired the graphic material. The videos depict scenes of convulsing children, men vomiting and struggling to breathe, and also what appeared to be dozens of dead bodies wrapped up in white sheets, lying side by side. But the footage still does not provide an answer to the question of who was behind the attack. The Syrian government and the opposition forces point the finger of blame at each other. It also remains unclear as to why exactly President Assad would order a chemical attack at a time when a group of UN experts were carrying out an investigation in the country. There is proof the footage of the alleged chemical attack in Syria was fabricated, Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib, mother superior of the St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria, told RT. She added that she plans to submit her findings to the UN.
Saudi Arabia has sent death-row inmates from several nations to fight against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences, the Assyrian International News Agency reports. Citing what it calls a "top secret memo" in April from the Ministry of Interior, AINA says the Saudi offered 1,239 inmates a pardon and a monthly stipend for their families, which were were allowed to stay in the Sunni Arab kingdom. Syrian President Bashar Assad is an Alawite, a minority Shiite sect. According to an English translation of the memo, besides Saudis, the prisoners included Afghans, Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Somalis, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis. All faced "execution by sword" for murder, rape or drug smuggling. Russia, which has backed Assad, objected to the bargain and allegedly threatened to bring the issue to the United Nations, said an unidentified former Iraqi member of Parliament who confirmed the memo's authenticity, says AINA, an independent outlet. "Initially Saudi Arabia denied the existence of this program. But the testimony of the released prisoners forced the Saudi government to admit, in private circles, its existence," AINA writes. "The Saudis agreed to stop their clandestine activities and work towards finding a political solution on condition that knowledge of this program would not be made public." AINA also published the original Arabic memo. The report mentions that most of the 23 Iraqi prisoners returned home, as did an unspecified number of Yemenis. But AINA does not indicate the fates of the remaining inmates or how many may have been killed, wounded or captured. Assyrians, the builders of Mesopotamian civilizations, are a semitic people indigenous to northern Iraq. They are ethnically distinct from Arabs and Jews, and are generally Christians. Assyria dominated the Middle East in the first millennium BCE.
http://www.afghanistantimes.afPakistan’s National Security Advisor, Sartaj Aziz, and Leader of Awami National Party and Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, Haji Adeel, said that Pakistan had long pursued a counterproductive policy in Afghanistan, but it is the time the civilian leadership should take the lead in devising Pakistan’s foreign policies. Haji Adeel quoted Sartaj Aziz as saying “Our aim is to facilitate efforts in restoring long-term peace in Afghanistan.” He was talking to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in an in-camera briefing on the government’s Afghan policy where he said that Islamabad has no favorites in Afghanistan. To dig into this policy change, Afghanistan Times conducted an interview with Head of the Regional Studies Center, Abdul Ghafor Lewal, and Mr. Pordali, Head of Mahmud Tarzi Think Tank. Mr. Lewal said, “Before discussing the current situation, it is necessary to go back to historical background. During the cold war ages, the Western Camp and the Arab World threw their support behind Pakistan. The role of Pakistan at that time was considered to be highly crucial. Pakistan was used as an instrument. Now Pakistan has lost that importance. Pakistan’s security establishment at that time had been enjoying unquestionable powers but now that is also losing momentum. In Pakistan these days, civil society, intellectuals, liberal political parties and nationalist forces have become powerful. Their voice is getting important and people have started thinking that the age of martial laws, military coupes, intervention in foreign countries have gone by. Now they want Pakistan to be a peace-loving and peace-supporting country. They think Pakistan shouldn’t be a threat for global security, and it should be a safe haven for militants. Moreover those fundamentalist elements, once used to be considered a strategic asset for Pakistan’s security establishment, have turned out to be posing existential threats to Pakistan. There is yet another factor as well and that’s economy.” Pakistan’s economy has been plummeting in the recent times because of plaguing militancy and extreme energy crisis. Pakistan’s economy and energy needs are changing, and in this course the importance of a secure, developed and prosperous Afghanistan for Pakistan has gone many notches higher.� To pursue their economic, energy and strategic objectives in Afghanistan, they attempted to make it Pakistan’s fifth province but they faced serious setbacks. Now they are left with no other option but to accept that they should abandon the policy of intervention and establish friendly relations with Afghanistan. The most important thing is that the US and the international community have been fearing about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Even Pakistan itself is a bit nervous if militancy catches length, ultimately its nukes will reach into the hands of militants. That’s why it wants militancy ended and relations with Afghanistan normal. Moreover, civilian leadership wants to convert Pakistan into a responsible state where its nuclear arsenals are safe and where its military generals have minimum say in Pakistan’s foreign policy. It could be done under the watch of the international community. Besides that with each passing day, nationalist movements are gaining grounds such as Pashtun nationalist movement, Baloch nationalist movement, Indian Muhajir movement such as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are some of the factors that have tarnished the image of Pakistan’s security establishment. Now civilian leaders, media and general publics have started questioning the role of the security establishment. And because of this change the role of the establishment once it enjoyed in the days of USSR invasion in Afghanistan, has also changed. Collectively all these factors compel Pakistani leadership to rethink its Afghan policy. Responding to a question whether Nawaz has the spleen to take the decision making power regarding Pakistan’s foreign policy from his military generals away and to vest it into the hands of Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Lewal said that Nawaz of the day is not the Nawaz of the 1999s. And the military generals of today are not the generals of 1999s. Now too many things have changed. Time is going in favor of Nawaz. This time around he can bring too many changes. Now he can tell his nation, his generals, and the international community that he wants Pakistan to be a peace-loving country. He can also say that to reach this position, Pakistan needs to overhaul its security thinking and its foreign policy. He can ask his nation to stand behind him as Pakistan has encountered many hitches because of its own wrong policies. “I am of the firm opinion that his nation will stand behind him in this juncture,” said Lewal. No one will blame him or punish him for bringing reformations in Pakistan’s foreign policies. Now Pakistan army cannot react as it had reacted against him in 1999. Talking on economic and water relations of the two countries, he said that when political relations of two countries are hostile it is economic relation that can play an effective role. It is an effective alternative. Pakistan can invest in some productive projects and I am sure this will go in favor of Pakistan. For instance if Pakistan supports Kabul in Kunar dam project, both parties will benefit from it. The project will have positive effects on agriculture and as well as energy. So it will be a two-pronged project. Pakistan can put its share in Afghanistan’s infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction. The environment is conducive. If Pakistan starts investing it will not only erase its tarnished image but the trust deficit will be overcome. In overcoming the trust deficit between the two countries, sending cultural delegations, establishing people to people contacts are much important. Responding to query that whether sports diplomacy, and the continuation of democracy in Pakistan, will work out in bringing the two countries closer, Lewal said that if we look into the EU model we will realize that it were not only political and government relations that brought about this change, but cultural and people to people contacts proved to be of utmost importance. Here also media, civil societies, cultural delegations and people to people contacts can bring the desired results. As you know nowadays Pakistan is caught in internal economic challenges due to counterproductive policies of the military, and this country needs to boost its economy by using all the possible ways to come out from this complexity. The one way that can help Pakistan in this area is to enhance its trade and economic relations with Afghanistan and through Afghanistan to Central Asia. It’s possible only when Afghanistan and Pakistan have friendly relations. Thus, this is one of the main reasons that obliged Pakistani politics to review its policy and strategy regarding Afghanistan, Lewal said. In the past, Pakistan always wanted to interfere in Afghanistan and to establish a puppet government in the country and Pakistani politics in the past were terming Afghanistan as Pakistan’s 5th province. All interferences and negative role of Pakistan was to implement its own objectives. But the vicious attempts failed utterly during the past decades. It is a fact that Pakistan’s Afghan policies and strategies were being drafted by the military, and civil administration had no role to implement or engineer any foreign policy. Each time the civil administration attempted it, it faced strong reaction by the military. In the past, Nawaz had tried to confront the military, and as a result he was ousted from the country for years. Civil administration never had their own appointed minister in foreign ministry. This in an indicative of the military’s hegemony on civil administration in Pakistan. Moreover, it is an issue of great significance for Afghanistan that Pakistani officials confessed that they have interfered in Afghanistan in the past and all the interferences were counterproductive. After decades, it is the first time Pakistani officials confirm the Afghan nation’s claims. “We in the past three decades have said that Pakistan had interfered in our internal affairs, but Pakistan and international community incessantly refused to hear our voices. But now, Pakistanis have confessed that their interferences have had no fruitful results for any country, neither for Pakistan nor for Afghanistan,” he said. Mr. Pordali, Head of Mehmud Tarzi Think Tank, said, “This policy shift is a positive step taken by Pakistan’s civil administration and we Afghans welcome it. But the military still calls the shots in Pakistan, and it would be difficult for Nawaz to have an upper hand in major decision-makings. “I am not very sure that a change will come by in Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan until the military is in power. The Afghan government cannot impel Pakistan for a policy of non-intervention; Afghanistan can only wait and see until pragmatic measures are put forth by Pakistan,” concluded Pordali.
Afghan presidential spokesperson Aimal Faizi has rejected comments from the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, who said in an interview with Voice of America on September 5 that "there is a civil war in Afghanistan." Faizi said in a statement that, if there really is a civil war in Afghanistan, it meant the United States has not been fighting terrorism but a civil war. Faizi said a civil war "would require no U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan." Faizi said Afghanistan is a victim of terrorism and the "reason for the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan as mandated by the United Nations is to fight against terrorism only."
Justice (retired) Mian Nazeer Akhtar said that the time for speeches against Ahmadis was over and it was now time to do something practical. He said everyone should play their role against Ahmadis to tighten the noose around them.Several clerics called for further persecution of the Ahmadi community at conferences held on Saturday night to mark the 39th anniversary of the passage of the Second Amendment, which declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. The speakers branded Ahmadis enemies of Pakistan, called for their social and economic boycott, and demanded that they be banned from taking up any government or military jobs. The Jamaat-i-Ahmadia had asked its members to stay away from the gatherings and be extra careful in their movements on the day. Though provisions exist in the Pakistan Penal Code declaring hate speech to be a criminal offence, they have rarely been invoked. According to Section 153-A of the PPC, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written … promotes or incites, or attempts to promote or incite, on grounds of religion … disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious groups …. shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine.” Johar Town At the Markazi Khatm-i-Nabuwat Conference in Johar Town, Ruet-i-Halal Committee Chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman said that he and his followers were prepared to make sacrifices for Khatm-i-Nabuwat. He alleged that Ahmadis were involved in “suspicious activities” and “serious measures” were needed against them. Dr Amir Liaqat Hussain, of Geo TV fame, defended Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. He said that the Ummah needed to unite in support of the laws. He said that they would not allow any amendment to the laws. Maulana Muhammad Azam Naeemi said there was a need to mobilise the common man against Ahmadis. Maulana Raghib Hussain Naeemi termed Ahmadis and their leaders “stooges of the West”. Pir Muhibullah Noori, caretaker of Baseerpur, said that Ahmadis should be banished from Pakistan. He told the audience that if they truly loved the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), they would not let Ahmadis live their lives freely. Allama Raza-i-Mustafa said Ahmadis should be chased till death. Justice (retired) Mian Nazeer Akhtar said that the time for speeches against Ahmadis was over and it was now time to do something practical. He said everyone should play their role against Ahmadis to tighten the noose around them. The participants in the conference passed a resolution demanding a ban on Ahmadi publications and legal action against their publishers; the removal of all Ahmadis from government jobs; government-sponsored celebrations of September 7 at a national level; and for the introduction of a new oath of office for holders of important posts affirming that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the last prophet. Chenab Nagar The 26th annual International Khatm-i-Nabuwat Conference, organised by the International Khatm-i-Nabuwat Movement, was held in Chenab Nagar, whose population is mostly Ahmadi. The speakers at the conference made derogatory remarks about Jamaat-i-Ahmadia leaders and blamed them for terrorism in Pakistan. Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) Secretary Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi said it was time to pounce on Ahmadis. He called them apostates and said that they deserved “extreme steps”. Allama Muhammad Younas Hasan said that a “massive search operation” should be launched across the country to identify all of them. He said that he and his followers were willing to make “any sacrifice” for their cause. He said all sects of Islam were united in their opposition to Ahmadis. He said that Muslims should boycott Ahmadis socially and economically to make it harder for them to live in Pakistan. Maulana Qari Shabbir Ahmed Usmani said that the struggle against Ahmadis would continue “till its logical end”. He said all Ahmadis and their leaders should convert in order to gain Allah’s blessings. Maulana Asadullah Farooq demanded a ban on Ahmadis joining the armed forces as they were “traitors”. Speaking at a conference at the Idara Talimat-i-Islamia, Jamaat Ahle Sunnat leader Nazim Allama Riaz Hussain Shah said that lessons about Ahmadis should be put in the schools syllabus. He praised those who had launched the campaigns against Ahmadis in order to get them declared non-Muslims via the Second Amendment. Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-i-Nabuwat Vice Ameer Maulana Sahibzada Aziz Ahmed, addressing a conference at Jamia Ashrafia, said the Ahmadi population in Pakistan was a security risk and they should therefore be banished. JUI-F General Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that the appointment of an Ahmadi as advocate general in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was unacceptable. He said that the government must withdraw his appointment, or they would launch a movement. Abdul Lateef Yousafzai, the new KP advocate general, held a press conference last Friday where he said he was not an Ahmadi and accused the JUI-F of running a campaign to “smear” him.
The speakers of the conferences said that Ahmadis were enemies of Pakistan, demanded that they be barred from government or military positions, and even encouraged a social and economic boycott of Ahmadi shops.Pakistani clerics gathered across the country on Saturday to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the passing of the Second Amendment, which declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, and called for further persecution of the Islamic group (ET). The speakers of the conferences said that Ahmadis were enemies of Pakistan, demanded that they be barred from government or military positions, and even encouraged a social and economic boycott of Ahmadi shops. Ahmadis are considered non-Muslims by the more mainstream Muslim sects for believing that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya faith, was a prophet.
On Sunday, September 8, 2013, Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stepped down as the president of Pakistan. Many will write about this historic day as it represents the first time a democratically elected president completed a five-year term, followed by a peaceful transition to another democratically elected government. Most of Pakistan's leaders have been removed from office in coups d'état or have been forced to resign. Zardari is the only one to leave office with a formal lunch hosted by his political rivals. Although Zardari's tenure in office was characterized by judicial activism and media opposition that often bordered on hatred, it will be remembered for its tolerance of that criticism. Since Pakistan's independence 66 years ago, its politics have been intensely polarized. Opponents of the subsequent governments have been routinely jailed and even killed after being labeled "enemies of the state." Zardari, however, chose to take the criticism, preferring the noise of a fledgling democracy to the enforced silence of superficial stability. Polarization in Pakistan has not ended but it has diminished, at least among the major electable national leaders and parties. Much of what it took to achieve this historic moment is publicly known, but there are many stressful and difficult moments known to just a few. Perhaps one day the entirety of the struggle to deliver democracy and strengthen Pakistan's parliamentary roots will become public knowledge. What most people do know is that since the February 2008 parliamentary election, and especially after the resignation of former president and military strongman Pervez Musharraf, there has been a powerful lobby in Pakistan hankering for the "good old days" when the reins of authority were held solely by the country's powerful generals, bureaucrats, and judges, who were assisted by powerful media barons and urban industrialists. When Zardari took office, many politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and citizens had very little idea of who he was. The picture painted by the country's intelligence agencies and the permanent establishment thrived in a nation obsessed by rumors and hungry for conspiracy theories. Pakistan's urban elite have often been more comfortable with military rule and historically, elected leaders have been denigrated as incompetent and corrupt. It was not always easy to muddy and blacken the image of democratic leader Benazir Bhutto, especially on the international stage or with her party members, who stood by her like a rock. But it was very easy to scapegoat Zardari, the businessman-consort of the leading pro-democracy politician. He was accused of many things over the past two and a half decades without any charge ever being proved in any court. Anyone who has spent time in political life knows well that once your public image has been defined for you, it is often impossible to change that image. As such, Zardari took little interest in restoring his personal image once he became president. He did not care that analysts and journalists tied to Pakistan's establishment described him as an "accidental president" and repeated unproved past allegations against him. Instead, his focus was to redress the imbalance in Pakistan's power structure. Unelected presidents and military dictators had, in the past, accumulated power in that office at the expense of Pakistan's parliament and its provincial governments, the constituting units of the Pakistani federation. Zardari worked with the various parties in parliament to shape amendments that restored the constitution to its original form. Because of his efforts, Pakistan can now be a functional parliamentary democracy and a proper federation, with real authority in the hands of its provinces. Hardline opponents constantly claimed that Zardari and the PPP government, led by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, would be gone in three months. This was then consistently repeated by the sages on Pakistani cable television and by print columnists. The entire effort was to destabilize the government itself, but it didn't work. Instead, it undermined the effectiveness of the government and deferred tough economic decisions. The relentless pressure from many quarters, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, eventually resulted in Gilani's removal over a contempt of court charge, something unheard of in any democracy. This judicial activism and the discretionary use of the court's Suo Moto powers paralyzed the executive branch of government. PPP cabinet ministers and administrative heads of government departments and agencies spent a lot more time answering frivolous petitions in court than they did in their offices governing the country. But with the May 2013 elections, which resulted in a new government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, the question of the PPP government's performance is now history. Zardari's legacy will instead be the strengthening of the democratic process. Out of office, he can now work on rebuilding the PPP so that the party can seek a mandate from the people during the next election to actually govern and deliver -- something it was not allowed to do last time. While Pakistan's constitution bars the outgoing president from running for elective office for two years, Zardari is not prohibited from generating ideas and direction for his party. Hopefully, he will reform the party by bringing in new blood not associated with allegations of corruption and inefficiency. The PPP remains a mass political party that needs to be rejuvenated to make the case for a liberal, tolerant, pluralist and fair Pakistan. Zardari's son, Bilawal Bhutto, who is co-leader of the party, has already spoken of that need publicly on social media. If the democratic environment, free of excessive polarization, which Zardari sought to create in the last five years, lasts for the next five, there will be room for Pakistani politicians to debate the country's fundamental issues: terrorism, international isolation and economic reform. Farahnaz Ispahani is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., and a former Pakistan Peoples Party member of Pakistan's parliament.
I can say with some confidence that President Zardari's legacy will be written in golden words. I don't say this as his son, or patron-and-chief of the Pakistan People's Party - but as a student of history. I would compare his presidency to that of America's Lyndon B. Johnson. He too was an accidental president. He came to power following the assassination of the popular and charismatic John F. Kennedy. Much like Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Benazir, JFK was assassinated before he could implement much of his agenda and vision for the country. LBJ used the political capital he gained following his assassination and the landslide victory in the election to make JFK's dream a reality. He passed America's historic civil rights legislation and many historic welfare programs under what he called 'the great society'. Despite these historic achievements and high expectations, the Vietnam War and malicious propaganda from the right wing made LBJ so incredibly unpopular at the time that he did not seek re-election. Today he is remembered as one of modern America' s greatest presidents.
It has been a bloody few weeks in Pakistan, even by the country’s violent standards. Sectarian extremists assaulted an open-air market. Separatist militants executed bus passengers. Terrorists bombed a children’s soccer game and a policeman’s funeral. A deadly jailbreak freed more than 200 jihadis. And the nation’s capital went on lockdown after rumors of impending high-profile attacks. This unrelenting terror makes all the more striking a recent statement by Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s water and power minister. Energy, he declared in an interview, is a greater challenge than terrorism. Asif’s statement is striking -- and spot-on. Militancy grabs headlines internationally, and it’s undoubtedly of grave concern. But Pakistan’s energy crisis directly affects many more people than the Taliban. More than anything else -- corruption, sectarianism, inadequate public services-- a lack of power is destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 193 million people. Pakistanis -- including those in the militant-choked northwest -- suffer as much as 20 hours of daily power outages. Energy shortfalls have exceeded 40 percent of national demand and cost the country 4 percent of gross domestic product. Hundreds of factories, including those in the dominant textile industry, have shut down, leaving scores unemployed. Hospitals have had to curtail services, putting patients’ lives at risk. Doctors report the crisis is increasing stress and depression. Energy Insecurity Militants have naturally exploited Pakistan’s energy insecurity. In April, the Pakistani Taliban destroyed the largest power station in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the restive province bordering Pakistan’s tribal belt. Half of Peshawar, the provincial capital, lost power. Power shortages have also sparked violent protest among ordinary citizens. Rioters have attacked utility offices, law enforcement, banks, shops, and the homes and offices of ruling and opposition party politicians. The root cause of Pakistan’s power crisis is a dysfunctional energy sector that even Asif, the power minister, admits is a “nightmare.” With multiple ministries and agencies responsible for energy matters and no clear lines of authority, the policy-making process is wholly uncoordinated. Inefficiency is rife; transmission and distribution losses have approached 30 percent. Finally, the sector is burdened by so much debt that Pakistan literally can’t afford to provide energy. These are big problems, and solving them will require big, politically risky moves: expanding Pakistan’s tax base, cracking down on theft and restructuring the power sector. Encouragingly, Pakistan’s new government has made energy its top priority, and proposed a new national policy. Unfortunately, some of its correctives could be as destabilizing as the crisis itself. The new energy policy calls for emphasizing cheaper, unexploited indigenous reserves. These include coal in Thar, an impoverished desert region in Sindh province. For decades, Pakistan has extracted natural gas from another arid, poor, resource-rich region: Baluchistan. Over time, the fruits of this extraction have largely eluded locals, fueling an anti-government insurgency that blows up gas lines and severs electricity wires. If Pakistan targets Thar’s coal fields, the consequences could be similarly explosive. Sindh is already embroiled in natural resource disputes, as locals blame their province’s water shortages on dams in upstream Punjab province. Islamabad’s plans to expand generation capacity by building more dams could drive up tensions between Pakistan’s fractious provinces. This all has troubling implications for the U.S., which has a strategic interest in a stable Pakistan. More unrest heightens the operational challenges of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which requires the use of Pakistani supply routes. Mere Sliver During his recent trip to Pakistan, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that U.S.-funded projects have added more than 1,200 megawatts of power to the national grid. This is a mere sliver of Pakistan’s daily demand, which averages 15,000 MW. It hardly makes up for the estimated 4,000 MW that would be generated by a proposed gas pipeline with Iran, which Washington staunchly opposes. There’s only so much $1.5 billion in annual economic assistance for Pakistan -- authorized by Congress through next year -- can do. Still, modest efforts are better than none at all -- and now is the right time to pursue them. Relations with Islamabad have softened, and a broad-based strategic dialogue, suspended for several years, is expected to resume. Washington should use this opportunity to supplement its financing of high-cost generation projects (such as dams) with cheaper, smaller projects that subsidize electricity costs for the urban poor. President Barack Obama’s administration should also work with Pakistan to establish a more welcoming environment for American energy investors and entrepreneurs. A bilateral investment treaty, now under negotiation, would be an excellent start. This wouldn’t improve Pakistan’s security situation or tax-to-GDP ratio, but it could strengthen intellectual property rights. That would facilitate the entry of U.S. technology, including solar-powered lanterns and electricity-independent sterilization technology for medical equipment. Finally, Washington should encourage more Pakistan-India energy cooperation. The two countries have agreed to a deal that will export electricity to Pakistan, and a joint working group is considering further possibilities. Such cooperation can be enhanced if, as expected, the two eventually normalize their trade relationship. None of these measures will end the blackouts. Yet we have too often ignored the roots of instability in Pakistan. Any efforts to address its power crisis can only benefit us all.