Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turkey: protesters, police clash in Istanbul

Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas late Thursday to break up fresh anti-government protests in Istanbul, amid anger over the death of a demonstrator earlier in the week. Officers faced 2,000-3,000 angry protesters on a second consecutive day of demonstrations in the Kadikoy district, an opposition stronghold. The police fired tear gas, water cannon and plastic pellets to break up the crowd as it approached the local offices of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). The incidents lasted several hours, with many protesters arrested, an AFP photographer said. There were media reports of similar incidents pitting police against demonstrators in the capital Ankara and in the southern city of Antakya, where 22-year-old Ahmet Atakan died during a protest on Monday. Atakan's death was the sixth recorded in protests since demonstrations against the government of Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian, began in June. His family said he had been killed by a missile fired by police - said to be a gas canister - a version of events denied by Interior Minister Muammer Guler. He has accused protesters of using the young man's death to "spread chaos". Local officials said Atakan died after falling from a rooftop where he had been throwing stones at police. Similar clashes with police broke out in Istanbul and elsewhere on Wednesday night during anti-government protests across Turkey. Read more:

Assad: Syria to hand over chem arms in 1 month, only if US drops strike plans

Syria will start handing over information on its chemical weapons to international groups a month after it signs the Chemical Weapons Convention, President Bashar Assad has told a Russian TV channel. Damascus has agreed to a Russia proposal to put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control. “Syria is handing over its chemical weapons under international supervision because of Russia,” Assad said in an interview with state-run news channel Rossiya-24. “The US threats did not influence the decision.” Within days Damascus promises to submit to the United Nations all documents required for joining the chemical weapons ban treaty. A month after Syria signs the Chemical Weapons Convention it will start handing over information on chemical weapons to international organizations. “I believe the agreement will come into force a month after the signing and Syria will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile to international organizations. These are standard procedures and we are going to stick to them,” he said. Meanwhile, the UN says that it has received a letter from Syria on the country’s intention to join the treaty banning the production of chemical arms, their stockpiling and use. The Syrian government’s letter of accession is being translated, AP cited UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq as saying Thursday. Signing the letter accession begins the process for a country to become party to the international agreement, the official said. “It doesn’t mean that Syria will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations and that’s it. It’s a bilateral process aimed, first of all, at making the US stop pursuing its policy of threats against Syria,” Assad said, adding that a lot would also depend on the extent to which Russia’s proposal is accepted. “Terrorists are trying to provoke American strike against Syria,” Assad said. Rebel forces are receiving chemical weapons from abroad, he added. Countries that provide “terrorists” with chemical weapons should be held accountable, Assad said. “We should thoroughly investigate the [chemical weapons used in the attack] to discover their components and which side used them,” Assad said. “All states claim that they do not cooperate with terrorists, but we know for sure that the West provides them with logistical support,” he said, adding that the West and some countries in the region, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, “maintain direct contacts with terrorists and supply them with all kinds of arms.” Both the Syrian government and rebel forces have blamed each other for the chemical weapon attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21. Talking to the Russian TV channel, Assad reiterated that the US has failed to present evidence that the Syrian government was behind the incident. No country in the Middle East, including Israel, should possess weapons of mass destruction, Assad said. That would protect the region and the world from devastating and expensive wars in future, he said. “If we want stability in the Middle East, all the countries in the region should stick to [international] agreements," Assad said. “And Israel is the first state that should do so, since Israel possessed nuclear, chemical, biological and all other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.” The president recalled that a project on the elimination of WMD had been proposed, but the US opposed it “to allow Israel” to have such weapons. Any kind of a war against Syria would “destroy the entire region” and lead to decades of instability in the Middle East, Assad said. “Syria is making serious efforts so that our country and other states in the region will not be involved in a new crazy war that some proponents of the war in the US are trying to unleash in the Middle East,” he said. Earlier in the week, RT, citing unnamed sources, reported that rebels could launch a chemical attack on Israel by from government-controlled territories as a “major provocation.” Assad did not rule out such a scenario. Toxic agents “were used against Syrian Army soldiers and civilians” and that therefore rebel forces did have these weapons, he said. “Everyone is aware that terrorist groups and those who control them are trying to provoke an American strike. Earlier, they attempted to draw Israel into the Syrian crisis,” Assad said.On Monday, as the White House was pushing for congressional approval of the military strike against the Syrian regime, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged Damascus to put its stockpile of chemical weapons under international control. Moscow also called on the Syrian government to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Syria accepted the proposal and agreed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. Moscow’s initiative was also welcomed in Washington. President Barack Obama urged the US Congress to postpone a vote to authorize military action, and said he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, accompanied by groups of experts, are scheduled to meet in Geneva late Thursday to discuss in detail Moscow's plan to dispose of Syrian chemical weapons.

Pakistan, India spar in Kashmir in worst border violence in years

By Annie Gowen
After a decade of relative quiet, Indian and Pakistani troops are shelling each other with vigor again along their disputed border, raising tension between the nuclear-armed nations and forcing hundreds of villagers to flee. Many fear there is worse to come. As the American military withdraws from Afghanistan, some Pakistan-based militants who had been fighting there have pledged to turn their attention to the Kashmir border region — and their old foe, India. Already, there are signs that militant activity is on the rise in this area, with graffiti appearing saying “Welcome Taliban.” In recent days, the disputed border that separates much of the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan has turned into a virtual war zone. A month of cease-fire violations by both sides has resulted in the deaths of at least 11 soldiers and two Pakistani civilians and the wounding of several residents. “We can’t sleep at night,” said one village head, Lal Din, 38. “Whenever we hear gunshots and mortars we huddle together in the corners of our shacks. We are helpless to do anything to prevent it.” The two sides have fought for more than six decades over this hilly and verdant land, which has been at the heart of two of the countries’ three wars. While few people see the current skirmishes as exploding into a full-scale conflict, the fear of further deterioration is widespread. “In three or four months, the people fighting in Afghanistan or Pakistan could come here,” said Sheikh Younis, 42, who runs a mobile phone shop in a mall in downtown Srinagar, not far from the lotus-fringed lake where tourists take rides in colorful boats. “People are very concerned about it. What’s going to happen after 2014?” Militant incursions on rise The current skirmishes began in August, when five Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed while on patrol in Indian-controlled Kashmir. That triggered near daily mortar and machine-gun fire from both sides along the Line of Control — some 460 miles of razor-wire fencing, surveillance cameras and heavily armed military posts snaking through the Himalayas. Although no major population centers have been hit, the exchanges of fire have renewed tensions as leaders of the two nations were to try and meet later this month during the U.N. General Assembly. Kashmir, whose population is mostly Muslim, has been bitterly contested since the British granted India independence in 1947 and the land was split into Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. In the late 1980s, an Islamist insurgencybacked by Pakistan emerged, seeking to end India’s control over the disputed territory. Kashmir suffered more than 50,000 dead in that conflict. Over the last decade, India and Pakistan have crept toward normalcy, with easing visa restrictions and hopes for increasing bilateral trade. Violence along their disputed border ebbed, too, after a 2003 cease-fire agreement. Insurgent activity also declined dramatically, in part, experts say, because many of the fighters now had a far more compelling target nearby — American and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Now, residents say the relative calm could be over. The army and police say cross-border incursions by militants are on the rise. In recent days, Indian army officials claimed they shot and killed five foreign fighters in Kashmir, including one from Pakistan’s lawless North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. As the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan wanes, leaders of Pakistan-based militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba — which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks — have publicly pledged to turn their attention again to Kashmir. On Friday, its founder, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed — who lives openly in Lahore despite a $10 million U.S. bounty offered for his arrest — gave a fiery speech laced with anti-India rhetoric to thousands in Islamabad, demanding the “liberation” of Kashmir. Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University and author of “Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba,” predicted that Lashkar and smaller militant groups “are going to seek to ramp up as the U.S. draws down its forces in Afghanistan.” “It’s pretty clear there is some sort of a strategy in place to slowly polarize the situation once again and do it in a way that looks as indigenous as possible,” he added. Local residents say they are worried by growing support for militants, with funerals of home-grown fighters drawing larger crowds. Many young Kashmiri men — who consider the Indian army a brutish occupying force — are seeking to join insurgent groups like Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen to win an independent Islamic state, they say. Yasin Malik, a former militant who is chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, a separatist political party, said that everywhere he goes in the region he hears from young men, many of them well-educated, who want to fight for Kashmir’s independence. Many of these youth, who resent India’s presence but at that same time feel left behind by its growing prosperity, took part in civil protests in 2010 that degenerated into rock-throwing clashes with security forces that left more than 100 dead. Now, instead of stones, some want guns. “I think if America leaves Afghanistan, the Taliban might come here, and a lot of Kashmiri youth would surely welcome this, including me,” said Qadri Inzamam, 21, a soft-spoken college student. “We have been born in a conflict zone. We have seen it from our childhood. It’s in our veins to get liberated from this occupation.” Inzamam said he attended a funeral in December for one of those who threw stones in 2010, Aatir Yousuf Dar, a 19-year-old business major from the village of Sopore. He had dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur but instead joined Lashkar-e-Taiba. Dar was killed, along with five men from Pakistan, in a 30-hour gun battle with police and army forces in Kashmir, according to local press reports. Thousands turned out for his funeral, Inzamam said. The women of the village showered his corpse with sweets and rose petals and painted his hands with henna, as if he were a bridegroom. Politics get in the way Few believe this month’s talks between India and Pakistan — if they happen — will have much impact on the border clashes. Pakistan’s newly elected leader, Nawaz Sharif, has pledged cooperation with India but must grapple with hard-liners within the military and the country’s own Islamist insurgency, experts said. On the other side, India is heading into an election season, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government preoccupied with domestic issues as its once vibrant economy has slowed dramatically. Stephen P. Cohen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of a new book on India and Pakistan called “Shooting for a Century,” said that the relationship between the two countries is likely to remain hostile, but not flare into full-fledged war. “Nuclear weapons play a paradoxical role — they make war too costly but they symbolize rivalry,” he wrote in an e-mail. The renewed fighting is already putting a damper on the few areas of cooperation that exist between the two rivals. A plan for India to export electricity to its power-starved neighbor has stalled. At the spot on the border where Indians and Pakistanis trade almonds, dates and tomatoes, the number of trucks carrying goods has fallen by about half in the last month, according to a police official in the Poonch district, further south in the Jammu region. Villagers up and down the Line of Control have found their lives suddenly disrupted by the cease-fire violations. Masood-ur-Rehman, the administrator of the Kotli district in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, said that in recent days officials have had to move more than 500 people to temporary camps for their safety, and dozens more have fled to stay with relatives. Before the cease-fire a decade ago, residents of the tiny village of Kirni in Jammu had been moved down the hillside into temporary quarters away from the violence. In 2011, they finally decided to return to their ancestral homes. Villagers organized a big celebration with the savory turnovers known as samosas, sweets and dancing. But their joy vanished on Aug. 22, when machine-gun and mortar fire again rained down on them from Pakistani positions up the hill. The firing — “like an earthquake,” one said — lasted for four terrifying hours, wounding a six-year-old girl and a older woman. The village was shelled again Sept. 3. Now village council head Mohammad Sayeed, 40, is pondering whether he will have to move all his people again. “Unfortunately we are thinking there is no hope for us,” he said.

Syria says now a full member of chemical arms pact

Syria became a full member of the global anti-chemical weapons treaty on Thursday, the country's U.N. envoy said, a move that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had promised as part of a deal to avoid U.S. air strikes. Several U.N. diplomats and a U.N. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was not yet clear that Syria had fulfilled all the conditions for legal accession to the treaty. "I think there are a few more steps they have to take (before Syria is a signatory) but that's why we're studying the document," a U.N. official said. Syria was one of only seven countries not to have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits members to destroying their stockpiles. "Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the (chemical weapons) convention," Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters in New York after submitting relevant documents to the United Nations. He said Assad signed a legislative decree on Thursday that "declared the Syrian Arab Republic approval to accede to the convention" and that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had written to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to notify it of Syria's decision to join the convention. "The chemical weapons in Syria are a mere deterrence against the Israeli nuclear arsenal," Ja'afari said as he waved a document he said was a CIA report on Israel's chemical weapons program. "It's a deterrent weapon and now the time has come for the Syrian government to join the (convention) as a gesture to show our willingness to be against all weapons of mass destruction," he said. Under threat of U.S. military action after an August 21 poison gas attack on Damascus suburbs that killed hundreds, Assad's government agreed to a Russian plan to hand over its chemical arsenal to international control and join the convention. Assad's government blames the rebels for the attack. Washington blames the government and says the sarin gas used killed more than 1,400 people, including many children. The United Nations said earlier on Thursday it had received a document from Syria on Thursday on joining the global anti-chemical weapons treaty. "In the past few hours we have received a document from the government of Syria that is being translated, which is to be an accession document concerning the Chemical Weapons Convention," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters. Assad had told Russian state television on Thursday that Damascus would send the documents on joining the convention in a few days. "The petition will contain technical documents required to sign the agreement," Assad said in comments translated into Russian. "After that, work will start that will lead to the signing of the convention prohibiting chemical weapons."

Afghanistan: Kidnappings for ransom surge in Kandahar
Deeply concerned about increasing kidnappings for ransom in southern Kandahar province, the human rights office on Thursday said two minor boys were brutally murdered in captivity after their families failed to meet the kidnappers’ demand. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission regional office in Kandahar said in a statement unknown individuals kidnapped a 10-year-old boy, Syed Haroon, from Kandahar City and returned his dead body with visible signs of torture to his family after 15 days of the abduction. It said the kidnappers had sought eight millions Pakistani rupees in ransom from the family, which failed to arrange. Another boy, Ahmadullah, 8, was kidnapped from the Karez Bazaar area and found hanged to death from electric pole, the statement said. Four days ago, unknown gunmen entered a house in Kandahar City and shot dead seven members of a family, including three males, two females and two children. The human rights office expressed its deep concern over the said incidents and asked security organs to overcome their inefficiency. The governor’s spokesman, Javed Faisal, said efforts were underway to arrest those responsible for the killing of the two children and to prevent such incidents. He said Haroon had been kidnapped for money, but Ahmadullah was killed without any contact between his kidnappers and family. However, he put at four the number of family members killed in the gun attack, saying police were investigating all the cases.

Afghan Team Returns to a Hero's Welcome in Kabul

The Afghan National Football Team was given a warm welcome by President Hamid Karzai, several other government officials and tens of thousands of fans in Kabul on Thursday morning aftern returning from Nepal where the team defeated India 2-0 in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup to claim Afghanistan's first international championship trophy. The historic victory sparked massive spontaneous street celebrations across the country. In Kabul, thousands of residents crowded the streets waving flags, singing songs and firing celebrators gunshots into the air for hours after the final whistle of the match blew. In a country where violence and economic hardship are a part of everyday life, the triumph of the Lions of Khorasan let loose of torrent of joy and national pride that lasted through the night, but will be remembered for much longer. A crowd of over 20,000 people welcomed the national team players as they made their way from the airport, where they were greeted by President Karzai and his fellow officials, straight to the Ghazi Football Stadium to celebrate with fans and showcase the SAFF trophy. The players were met with booming chants of "long live Afghanistan." The Afghan team won four matches and drew one over the course of the week-long tournament. The championship win over India marked a fitting vindication after Afghanistan was defeated in the finals by the same opponent 4-0 in the last edition of the competition two years ago in New Delhi. "I cannot express my happiness. We actually won the SAFF Cup. I am here at the stadium to celebrate the win," said Zarghoona, a Kabul city resident who attended the Ghazi Stadium victory rally. Although no women were out in the chaotic streets on Wednesday night, Several women were present at the Ghazi Stadium event, joining in the celebrations by waving Afghan flags. Yousef Kargar, the coach of the Afghan team, proudly said that it was not a victory only for sports, but for all aspects of Afghan life. He added that the win and subsequent rejoice was a sign of unity among the Afghan people. "It is not a victory only in sports, but it is a victory in the economic, political and cultural sectors. We won the South Asian Championship because of our hard work," Mr. Kargar said. Meanwhile, prominent Afghan politicians congratulated the team on the victory. "The win was not easy, the national team faced major challenges, but they proved to the world that Afghans are extremely talented," said Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the National Front Party (NFP). The Afghan players expressed their happiness with the win and said that it was their responsibility to make the country proud and live up to the expectations of their countrymen. "We fell short in 2011, but we won it this year. I'm so happy," said Sanjar Ahmadi (#11), an Afghan attacker and one of the goal scorers in the championship match. Ahmadi also scored a goal against the tournament hosts, Nepal, in the hard fought semi-finals match. Thursday's welcome was impressive, not just because of the turnout of prominent Afghan leaders, but also because of the resilience the throngs of fans showed after having celebrated for hours on end the night before. Faces were painted, cars were decorated and flags draped every which way. Even police forces out to manage crowd control engaged the festivities, honking horns and even shooting their guns in the air. "This happiness is more than the joy during Eid," one football fan who joined in the street celebrations on Wednesday night. Once the game ended on Wednesday night, many residents of provinces around Kabul flocked into the city to join in the party. "I have come from Parwan province to join the celebrations along with my countrymen. I consider this victory as an unforgettable moment," a Parwan resident in Kabul said on Wednesday night. The celebrations on Wednesday night, and the high-profile reception the team received on Thursday signal just how important this victory was for Afghans. The winning of the first international tournament in country history is a remarkable accomplishment. But more profoundly, it was clear from the reactions and general atmosphere of the capital on Thursday that, amidst all the challenges and uncertainty facing Afghanistan, the spirit of hope and pride is alive and well.

SCO Looks To Find Its Way On Afghanistan

As tens of thousands of NATO troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, a moribund Eurasian political and security alliance is looking to prevent militancy from bleeding into its members' territory. The problem, experts say, is that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) appears unable to rise to the challenge of becoming the region's go-to security watchdog. The SCO -- anchored by powerful Russia and China, and rounded out by Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- has struggled to find consensus on the Afghan question. And that hinders its ability to effectively deal with future threats emanating from Afghanistan, according to London-based counterterrorism expert Raffaello Pantucci, because the SCO's charter requires "common consent and agreement" on all its actions. Originally founded in 1996 as the Shanghai Five, and renamed in 2001 upon the inclusion of Uzbekistan, the SCO's mission is centered on Eurasian security and border defense. The alliance's role has expanded over the years, particularly in the realm of threats that stem in part from Afghanistan, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. No Standing Army But while intent has been stated, the SCO has failed over the years to establish mechanisms and institutions capable of effectively tackling such threats, according to Pantucci. "There is no standing army," he says. "It is not like the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization], [which] has a formal rapid-reaction force. [The SCO doesn't] have the equipment and infrastructure that can actually respond to problems." Shashank Joshi, a fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute, agrees. He believes the SCO's effectiveness is hampered by Russia and China's competing regional interests. "China is traditionally worried about Islamic extremism emanating from Afghanistan," he says. "At the same time it has opened channels with the Taliban and has a strong relationship with the Taliban's primary external backer, Pakistan. So China is keeping its options open. The Russians are more firmly ranged against the Taliban, more skeptical about the Pakistani role and will probably be more prone to backing anti-Taliban forces." Joshi was referring to contacts Beijing reportedly had with the Taliban this summer. And Joshi says that if SCO observers and regional players India, Pakistan, and Iran were to be granted full membership during the summit in Bishkek on September 13, it could complicate things further. "This is a group of real contradictions and there can only be some areas where they can cooperate," he says.

The search for Jinnah's vision of Pakistan

By Shahzeb Jillani
Mr Jinnah's words didn't go down well with the powerful and ambitious religious ideologues at the time
Sixty-five years after the death of its founding father, Pakistanis are still searching for Mohammed Ali Jinnah's vision for the country - and a missing historical speech. During much of its existence, Pakistanis have been encouraged to believe that Mr Jinnah created Pakistan in the name of Islam as a theocratic state. Others have disagreed, arguing the founding father wanted a Muslim-majority but secular and progressive country. The debate over the two competing and contradictory visions has intensified in recent years as the country reels from growing Islamic extremism and Taliban militancy. At the heart of this debate are some public addresses of Mr Jinnah given around the time of the partition of India in 1947. Transcripts of those addresses have been available in Pakistan. Crucial speech The archives of state-owned broadcaster, Radio Pakistan, also contain cranky old audio recordings of most of those speeches, except for one: his address to the Constituent Assembly in the port city of Karachi on 11 August 1947, three days before the creation of Pakistan. For liberals in Pakistan, it was a crucial speech in which Mr Jinnah spoke in the clearest possible terms of his dream that the country he was creating would be tolerant, inclusive and secular. "You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan," Jinnah declared. "You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the state." Documented evidence suggest that Mr Jinnah's words didn't go down well with the powerful and ambitious religious ideologues around him at the time, who then made sure the speech was virtually blacked out in the next day's newspapers. Successive military governments in Pakistan were accused of attempting to downplay, even remove, the speech from official records. Why did that speech unsettle some Pakistani leaders so much? Many believe it was because it was seen at odds with the kind of anti-India, anti-Hindu, Islamic state they were trying to create and preserve their own power bases. By the time Pakistan embarked on a process of Islamisation and introduced tough new laws aimed at religious minorities in the 1970s and 1980s, the more controversial bits of that speech were largely wiped out from public discourse. Jinnah was repackaged as an Islamic leader, rather than a westernised secular man he had been for much of his life. 'Destroyed deliberately' Along the way, whatever audio recording there might once have been of that crucial speech disappeared. Mr Jinnah's ideals for Pakistan were further muddled, as the country's hardliners began to question whether the founding father had indeed said those words in his address, was he in the right frame of mind or what he might have meant by them. "It's a case of criminal, wilful destruction of our history," alleges Murtaza Solangi, the former director general of Radio Pakistan. He cannot say with certainty whether Pakistan ever possessed the audio recording of the 11 August speech. But based on his persistent inquiries over the last few years, he's come to the conclusion that "if Pakistan ever had a copy of the speech on tape, it was probably destroyed deliberately". In his quest to trace the audio, Solangi contacted the BBC in London. He was told the BBC archive didn't have the 'Jinnah tapes'. He then contacted All India Radio (AIR) in Delhi. Indian officials told him they have the speech. But it took the Indian authorities another two years before they were forced to release the tapes in public domain -mainly in response to a request by an Indian Muslim activist under the country's Right to Information law. 'Missing' tape So, when the news came last week that All India Radio had handed over original recordings of two of Mr Jinnah's 1947 speeches to Radio Pakistan, it was seen as a breakthrough of sorts. But Mr Solangi's excitement was somewhat dampened when it turned out that the crucial missing speech wasn't part of it. The recordings handed over last week are already a part of Radio Pakistan archives," he points out. "The only difference is we now have them in much better, original quality." The first of the two speeches handed over is believed to be Mr Jinnah's last address on radio within the borders of present day India. It was recorded on 3 June 1947, in Delhi. The second tape consists of Mr Jinnah's well-known address to the Constituent Assembly in Karachi on the day the country came into existence: 14 August 1947. It was recorded by sound engineers from All India Radio. They were invited to come to Karachi from Delhi because the country about to be born did not have radio stations equipped for such recordings. AIR engineers are believed to have recorded both of Jinnah's speeches in Karachi: August 11th and 14th. "They [AIR officials] initially told me they have the missing August 11th tape, but of late have become evasive about it," says Solangi. "They have told others they don't have it. At the moment, we just don't know whether they have it or not." Historic importance Some in Pakistan suspect it may have to do with the dominant Indian narrative which paints Jinnah as the man responsible for large-scale Hindu-Muslim violence in the run up to the partition and the man who divided India. But it's not entirely clear why, if the speech indeed exists, the authorities in India would hand over two of the Jinnah tapes, but not the 11 August speech. "I doubt it's deliberate," says Raza Rumi, director of Jinnah Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank. "Given the red-tape in the Indian bureaucracy, I wouldn't be surprised if Pakistan's request for Jinnah tapes is simply stuck or lost in the system." The recording of Jinnah's 11 August speech may be of great importance to students of history on both sides of the border. But if ever found, could it really help Pakistan's seemingly marginalized liberals to win an argument with the hardliners and the religious right in reshaping the country's now deeply entrenched Islamic identity? "It's not about trying to convince the religious zealots that Jinnah wanted a different kind of Pakistan," says Solangi. "It's about correcting our distorted history and letting the people decide what kind of Pakistan they want."

Karachi: Descent into darkness

A long day of violence and political intrigue in Karachi underscored just how difficult it will be – possibly even futile – to try to bring peace to the city. The troubles began when the planned Rangers operation in the city commenced. A former MQM MPA Nadeem Hashmi was arrested for the murder of a policeman, in Lyari the house of People’s Amn Committee leader Uzair Baloch was raided and the son of an ANP leader was also detained. The Rangers may have hoped that by trying to be scrupulously fair and targeting all the political parties involved in violence they may avoid causing too much trouble. That turned out to be a mistaken assumption. The MQM, as is its wont, immediately shut the city down, although denying any responsibility publicly, and claimed persecution. And what many of us had feared could happen in Karachi started happening. The city was held up by violence through most of Wednesday, with markets shut and people staying off the streets. There were violent protests in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and other cities; all of them of course strongholds of the MQM. This, in a nutshell, is why any attempts to enforce law and order in the city are doomed to failure. At a national level the leaders of the political parties may agree on the need for an operation but their promises are entirely disingenuous. Ultimately they will only look out for their self-interest, which means denouncing any action taken against them and resorting to violence to ensure their political influence isn’t reduced. All parties are quick to cry ‘martyr’ but the MQM, by virtue of being the largest party in the city, is always the main focus of criticism. In this case, the criticism is entirely justified. In a city awash in guns and where all the political parties use violence to enforce their writ, being the most important party carries with it extra responsibility to maintain peace. The MQM has deliberately and conspicuously failed to do that. It is no coincidence that MQM chief Altaf Hussain asked for the creation of new provinces – widely interpreted to mean the establishment of a Muhajir province – just one day before the operation began. Knowing that the MQM would come under fire, Hussain tried to divert attention away from his party’s culpability in violence and towards their grievances, also harkening back to the 1992 operation against the party when police ‘encounters’ became the norm. He spoke of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and stated that the MQM was the main target of the operation ordered now in the city by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after a recent meeting of the federal cabinet in the Sindh capital. The words used by the MQM leader were provocative – ushering up images of violence and bloodshed, with the horrors of 1992 undoubtedly ignited in the minds of many living in Karachi. The next few days will be the greatest test of the governments’ resolve. What happens next is far from certain. The overall political situation is already looking more volatile than it did just a few days ago and there is every risk of more and greater violence in the days ahead. To buckle under political pressure would be tantamount to admitting that nothing can be done about Karachi during the next five years. While that should be avoided – with extreme care of course taken to ensure no one is dealt an unjust hand – we have to be wary of the fact that the political parties here, almost all of them, command so much firepower that they can turn Karachi into a war zone. We are in for some difficult days but they may well end up defining the direction the city takes.

Pakistan growth to fall despite rescue funds: IMF

The International Monetary Fund warned Pakistan Thursday that economic growth could be worse than expected next year due to strict austerity measures built into a $6.7 billion rescue loan. Pakistan is in the grip of its worst energy crisis in modern history which causes power outages up to 20 hours in parts of the country and has hammered industrial output. During the last five years, GDP has averaged only three percent, far short of the seven percent considered necessary to lift the country out of poverty and fully absorb the growing labour force. Central bank reserves have fallen to $6 billion, down from $14.78 billion in fiscal year 2010-11 and are enough only to cover imports for one and a half months. On September 5, the IMF agreed to extend Pakistan a three-year $6.7 billion loan, making an initial disbursement of $540 million available to the authorities. The loan is aimed at reducing Pakistan's fiscal deficit -- which neared nine percent of gross domestic product last year -- to a more sustainable level and reform the energy sector to help resolve severe power cuts that have sapped growth potential. But future disbursements are dependent on the completion of tough economic reforms measured at quarterly reviews. In Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, only around 250,000 people pay income tax and agriculture, which still accounts for 50 percent of the economy, is totally exempt. To repair the economy, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to widen the tax base, improve the image of paying taxes and limit corruption. The IMF said his budget for the fiscal year to June 30, 2014 "represents an important initial step" but cautioned that "a more efficient and equitable tax system is needed". Austerity will also push down growth. Before Thursday, the IMF predicted growth of 3.5 percent of GDP but has revised that down to 2.5 percent if the necessary reforms are implemented. In announcing the loan, the IMF said Pakistan's adherence to the programme would likely encourage financial support from other donors. The Asian Development Bank has this week announced that it will invest $245 million in Pakistan's power distribution systems.

QUETTA: Gunmen kidnap, kill labourers in Gwadar

The Express Tribune
Gunmen overnight kidnapped and killed three labourers working in Gwadar, officials said. The attack happened at a stone-crushing plant at Santsar, around 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the Gwadar port. “Gunmen came during the night and attacked. They set fire to machinery at the plant, kidnapped the owner and three labourers,” local official Dostain Baloch told AFP. “They took away all of them and later on, during the night, they killed the three labourers and discarded their bodies. The owner is still with them,” he added. Another local official, Mohammed Akbar, and Mohammed Omar, the partner of the kidnapped owner, confirmed the attack. Pakistan has approved the transfer of Gwadar from Singapore’s PSA International to the state-owned China Overseas Port Holdings Limited. The Pakistanis pitched the deal as an energy and trade corridor that would connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil, overland through an expanded Karakoram Highway.

Pakistan: Dhinak Dhinak by Beygairat Brigade

Pakistan: PTI govt under fire in KP Assembly

Opposition parties in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government for appointing an ‘army’ of the parliamentary secretaries for the first time in the province’s history. They declared the appointments against the spirit of the 18th constitutional amendment, which, they said, has reduced the size of the federal and provincial cabinets for minimising burden on the national exchequer. Speaking on a point of order, parliamentary leader of Awami National Party Sardar Hussain Babak said the PTI-led provincial government had followed in the footsteps of the previous Balochistan government, which had accommodated all MPAs as ministers.“ Almost all MPAs of the ruling alliance have been pleased through appointment as ministers, advisers, assistant to the chief minister and parliamentary secretaries,” he said. Mr Babak said actually, all MPAs had been appeased as the chief minister feared that they would abandon his government by switching loyalty. He said the number of ministries was reduced through the 18th constitutional amendment to reduce burden on the national kitty. “However, contrary to the spirit of the 18th amendment, the provincial government has enlarged the cabinet size on different pretext,” he said. Criticising the PTI for its ‘soft’ stand on militancy, he told the cabinet members of the ruling party to ask their brothers (militants) to stop killing innocent Pakhtuns. Parliamentary leader of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl Lutfur Rehman asked under which law, the provincial government had appointed 32 parliamentary secretaries. “There is no MPA of the ruling alliance, who is not adjusted to important positions,” he said. Mr Rehman said the chief minister had set the August 31 deadline for the functionaries of the provincial government to eliminate corruption and show performance and had promised that the people would see a visible change at the expiry of the deadline.He, however, said neither corruption had eliminated nor had the employees shown performance. The JUI-F MPA said at the expiry of the deadline, the provincial government appointed 32 parliamentary secretaries instead of streamlining the affairs of the government departments. Responding to the criticism of the opposition, provincial Law Minister Israrullah Gandapur said there was nothing unconstitutional in the appointment of parliamentary secretaries. He said the parliamentary secretaries were not part and parcel of the cabinet and that they won’t be entitled to perks and privileges. The opposition later walked out of the House twice, first complaining of being discriminated against during the appointment of the chairpersons to the district development advisory committees and later when Speaker Asad Qaisar refused to allow Mr Babak to speak on the floor of the House. Also during the session, the MPAs, who were elected during the recent by-elections, included Ahmad Khan Bahadar, Jamshed Ali Khan, Shah Faisal and Azam Durrani, took the oath of their office. MPA from Chitral Saleem Khan said most roads, water supply channels and crops had been damaged due to the recent torrential rains and floods in his constituency. He said the people of Chitral were expecting that the chief minister would visit them to share their misery and announce compensation for them but even not a single minister bothered to visit them. MPAs from the other districts also drew attention of the government towards the damages caused by rains and floods in their respective areas and demanded of the government to immediately repair the damaged roads and other facilities. Later, the government tabled the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Ordinance, 2013, which was passed by the House. The ordinance was promulgated by the provincial governor on August 13, 2013. The House also passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Arms Bill, 2013 to regulate the manufacture, conversion, repair, sale, transportation, bearing or possession of arms of ammunition in the province.

Pakistan: An Anatomy of Sharif’s First 100 Days
By Zahid Hussain
For a third-timer it’s been a laborious start; a triumphant return to power notwithstanding, the first 100 days of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government have been decidedly short on deliverables. Between June 5 – when the Prime Minister and his cautiously designed cabinet first took oath – and his official 100-day mark, the world has shifted on its heels. Violence in Egypt and the prospect of punitive action against Syria are indications of an evolved external environment, while closer to home increased skirmishes on the Line of Control in Kashmir, and the border with Afghanistan have cooled relations with Pakistan’s neighbours. This 100-day phase has clearly lacked the direction and clarity of vision needed to deal with the nation’s cumbersome challenges. The new government’s cabinet ministers are uninspiring relics, unable to channel the innovative thinking required to address a radically altered domestic and external environment. Balochistan – the country’s largest province – is still functioning without a provincial cabinet since the PML-N has failed to finalize a list of cabinet slots despite the readiness of its coalition partners. As the security and law and order situation in the restive province teeters on a knife-edge, further delay in closing on slots for Balochistan’s cabinet is only likely to aggravate the situation. While Sharif’s previous stints in power have been far from acceptable, this third run looks depressingly unpromising. Fundamentals seem to be a challenge. Three months into the PML-N’s reign, for instance, countless cabinet, bureaucratic and diplomatic posts lie vacant, signaling the inertia that has become a hallmark of the Sharif administration. Micromanagement of key portfolios, for instance, is leaving a lot undone in strategic ministries. Pakistan has been without an ambassador in Washington for the past four months, and there is no indication that this critical post will be filled anytime soon. The absence of an ambassador in the capital of the world’s most powerful country and a key ally does not bode well for relations between the two nations – or for a rapidly changing regional dynamic. Moreover, the absence of a sitting foreign minister was felt acutely during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit last month that saw the signing of several economic accords but no major breakthrough on the Taliban prisoner issue. It’s not as if some public time has not been spent debating the terrorism question within. The Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that economic progress and political stability in the country are not possible without eradicating terrorism and violence, particularly in volatile Karachi. Yet with little real cognizance of these issues, the new government seems to be out of its depth, as Mr. Sharif appears to be pursuing a policy of appeasement and providing space to militant and sectarian outfits, particularly in the Punjab. By throwing its weight behind unconditional negotiations with the Taliban, this month’s trumpeted All Parties Conference has served a deathblow to Pakistan’s struggle against the insurgency. Without having made the laying down of arms a pre-requisite to negotiations, the latest APC aptly illustrates the ambivalence of the Sharif leadership in tackling homegrown militancy. While on the one hand there is no guarantee that the dialogue will be a success, on the other there exists the inherent danger that the Taliban will use this breathing space to reorganize itself. The insurgency’s war of attrition has showed no signs of slowing down so far – there have been more than one hundred incidents of terrorist activity in the first 75 days of the new government’s tenure, and the latter has been slow to move on announcing a cohesive counterterrorism strategy. The DI Khan episode – which saw the escape of 248 prisoners as the result of a high-profile TTP coordinated jailbreak, is just one example of this dwindling law and order situation. On the critical economic front, the power crisis seems to have consumed much of the new government’s initial attention, and understandably so – the PML-N spent much of its election campaign promising to completely eliminate electricity loadshedding. However, by paying off around Rs. 500 billion in circular debt – raised largely through bank borrowing – the government has only managed to marginally improve the power supply situation. A long-term solution still remains elusive, however. Admittedly the energy policy announced by the government does provide for a comprehensive redress of the crisis, but any success depends on the government’s seriousness in implementing unpopular policies. So far, for instance, no steps have been taken to revamp the Distribution Companies (Discos) that are largely responsible for the massive leakages. While the Sharif government has rightly prioritized economic revival, there is still no sign of the administration having initiated fundamental structural reform to put the economy back on track. So far, a number of infrastructure and development accords have been signed with China, and the government has also agreed to a $6.7 billion IMF bailout package to be paid over a period of three years that may give it much-needed breathing space. But under the latest agreement, Pakistan is also required to bring down its spiraling fiscal deficit, enact reforms to increase growth, and improve the rate of tax collection. The government has taken some measures to curtail current expenditure, but no substantive move seems to be in the offing to reform the current taxation system and enhance revenue generation. As a result, bank borrowing has seen a huge rise in the first three months, making it very difficult for the government to bring down the ballooning budgetary deficit and achieve its target of 4.5 per cent in the current fiscal year. Without broadening the tax base, the crisis in public finances may just sharpen. At the same time, no substantive measures have been taken to restructure or disinvest losing state-sector enterprises that are a massive drain on the national exchequer. Among them are PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills and Railways whose growing losses have become untenable. In fact, to give some perspective, the combined losses of these public sector organizations and the power sector now equal the country’s entire defence budget. Clearly, therefore, prospects for economic revival will continue to remain limited unless this critical issue is addressed. As the new government approaches its 100-day mark, there is a sense of lost opportunity in the air, and a hope that the new democratic transition begun in the last government will not fritter its local and international public capital. Because ultimately, in the absence of a comprehensive strategy to deal with key domestic and foreign policy challenges, big promises are no substitute for hard dividends. Pakistan is still waiting for the Sharif government to wake up and move past its initial learning curve. It is time to start rolling out the promised reforms.