Monday, September 23, 2013

Hillary Clinton 'not in any hurry' to make decision on 2016
With the 2016 election a little more than three years away, Hillary Clinton says she won't rush into a decision whether to make a second go for the White House.
“I’m not in any hurry," Clinton said in an interview with New York magazine — her first since stepping down as secretary of state. "I think it’s a serious decision, not to be made lightly, but it’s also not one that has to be made soon." Clinton said the seemingly endless speculation about her possible run for President is tiring, both for her and for America. “This election is more than three years away, and I just don’t think it’s good for the country," she said. "It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there, and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important; in fact, maybe you came to the party to talk to that particular person, and they just want to know what’s next. I feel like that’s our political process right now. I just don’t think it is good.” But Clinton has been keeping a keen eye on the political climate in Washington as she wrestles with the idea of another run for the White House. "I’m both pragmatic and realistic," the former first lady and New York senator said. "I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders, and I’ll do whatever I can from whatever position I find myself in to advocate for the values and the policies I think are right for the country. I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other.” At the moment, Clinton says she's enjoying her time at home with Bill. “We get to be at home together a lot more now than we used to in the last few years," she said. "We have a great time; we laugh at our dogs; we watch stupid movies; we take long walks; we go for a swim. You know, just ordinary, everyday pleasures.” And her husband claims he doesn't know which way Hillary is leaning. "I don't," Bill Clinton told CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. "Somebody may know, but I don't. I'm not one of the people who does." Still, Bill can understand the appeal of Hillary on the top of a 2016 ticket: She served well as secretary of state, and because people across the political spectrum finally got to see her the way those of us who know her see her. And, you know, when you're — when I was president and she, like me, was subject to a long line of relentless criticism, and she did in the Senate. And she made a lot of friends in the Senate among Republicans as well as Democrats. People in New York liked her across the political spectrum. But it was the first time the country had ever gotten to see her as somebody who just, what you see is what you get, she shows up for work every day, gets stuff done, and is very strong about it. I think that's — but these polls don't mean much now. We're a long way ahead. I think she would be the first to tell you that there is no such thing as a done deal, ever, by anybody. But I don't know what she's going to do. Given Hillary Clinton's experence as secretary of state and in the U.S. Senate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thinks she would be one of the best-prepared candidates in recent memory — even more so than Bill. "More prepared than President Obama," Pelosi said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "Certainly more prepared than President Bush [and] certainly more prepared than President Clinton I might admit." Pelosi said it was premature to say who she'd support in a possible primary showdown between Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. "I always have had a habit of saying, 'When you're serious about running, I'll be serious about it,'" she added. "But I think it would be magnificent for America to have a woman president. I think it would be just wonderful." Clinton, for her part, agrees. "We broke the great race barrier with President Obama but it's time that we also really ask ourselves deep down what it's going to take to elect a woman president," Clinton said on Thursday during during the question and answer session following a speech in Miami. "And I will certainly do what I can when that time comes to elect somebody — whoever that somebody might be."

Iran president brings 'charm offensive' to U.N., but will Obama buy it?

This week's United Nations meeting could mark a turning point in the acidic relationship between Iran and the United States. Will U.S. President Barack Obama shake the hand of newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani? Will the two presidents even hold a meeting? Those are key questions after Rouhani's "we must work together" opinion piece published by the Washington Post's website last week. His comments have sparked optimism on the streets of Iran's capital, where residents are hopeful as they take note of their new president's unprecedented charm offensive pushing for better relations with Washington. But the Iranian president's new approach hasn't played as well in Israel.The New York Times reported Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up an effort to blunt Iran's diplomatic offensive, and plans to warn the United Nations that overtures toward a nuclear deal could be a trap. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy, but the United States and others suspect it's for atomic bombs. The dispute about why Iran is seeking nuclear capability has prompted international sanctions and escalated concerns about additional warfare in the Middle East. In his op-ed, Rouhani wrote that he wants "a constructive approach" between his country and the world, including about Iran's nuclear program. "We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart," Rouhani said.Analysts are divided about Rouhani and his sincerity in addressing his country's nuclear program. But there's one thing all analysts agree on: the op-ed was a jumping off point for a very high-profile public relations push. And this week, Rouhani could take things a step further. Analyst: Rouhani needs to strike a deal quickly In many ways, Rouhani's recent election is like Obama's in 2008: Rouhani enjoys enormous political capital, offering an opportunity to renew U.S.-Iran relations. Rouhani overcame hard-line conservatives by campaigning as a centrist and a reformer, using a "hope and prudence" slogan. To keep hard-liners at bay, Rouhani now must deliver something -- namely, economic relief as Iran strains under global sanctions -- or his critics will prevail as they did against Obama in 2009 when his own venture on U.S.-Iran diplomacy foundered, one analyst said. "Now the roles are reversed: Rouhani needs to strike a deal quickly," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, who authored "A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran." This week's U.N. General Assembly meeting "could be quite decisive," Parsi said. "That's going to be the moment where the two sides have to invest the political capital needed. Otherwise it will go nowhere. It's going to be costly politically to strike a deal. There's going to be critics on both sides," Parsi said. "There is a need for a huge dose of political will to be injected into the process." Will the two presidents meet? Obama and Rouhani are both scheduled to deliver speeches at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. But it's unclear whether the two presidents will meet. Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Monday that no meeting has been scheduled with Rouhani for this week, but the White House remains open to diplomacy that serves American interests. Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama shouldn't meet with Rouhani during the U.N. gathering, though shaking hands in a corridor would be appropriate. Abrams says that's because while Rouhani is Iran's president, he is not the country's leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader of Iran. "They are not counterparts, they are not equal," said Abrams, who also supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East under former President George W. Bush. "So for the president to meet with him, I think confers too great a recognition on him." Abrams said Rouhani was a skilled political tactician when he was the country's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. "Remember this is the guy -- Rouhani -- who wrote several years ago with pride how he tied us up in negotiations while the nuclear program (of Iran) was going forward," Abrams said. "So we should approach this with skepticism." Asked Monday whether the two presidents may just shake hands, Rhodes replied, "I don't think anything will happen by happenstance on a relationship this important."
White House weighs in
The Obama administration has welcomed Rouhani's published column. "But the fact of the matter is actions are what are going to be determinative here," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "The Iranians, for a number of years now, have been unwilling to live up to their obligations to the international community as it relates to their nuclear program." The international community's economic sanctions against Iran has "taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table," Earnest said. He did acknowledge that Rouhani now enjoys a window of opportunity against his hard-line adversaries at home, but Iran must "demonstrate their seriousness of purpose" and show "their nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful means." For now, Obama's schedule this week doesn't contain any meetings with Rouhani. Asked if the United States is willing to ease sanctions against Iran, Earnest said such economic pressure "is what has brought the Iranians to the table."
Optimism in Tehran
On the streets of Iran's capital, many appear to be hopeful that their president's overtures toward the United States are a good sign. But they're also realistic that 34 years of mistrust will not disappear overnight. "I am 99% sure things will be better," said Tehran resident Syed Ali Akbar. "I can just feel it." Barber Hassan Ahmadi said he wants sanctions to end. "I want to see better relations," he said, "so we can live a little easier." Ali Hayati wasn't even born the last time Iran and the United States had diplomatic relations. But now, he feels like there's a chance for change. "I want to see Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Obama sit in front of each other and speak about life," he said. At the House of Persian Carpets in the famous Tehran Bazaar, merchant Sadegh Kiyaei said he's optimistic. "We believe that two nations -- Iran and America -- they realize that they need each other. They like each other," he said. "And they feel that it's the right time to get together and to start talking at least."

Assad: Terrorists may attack chemical weapons inspectors, blame Damascus

Syrian armed opposition may be ordered by its foreign sponsors to stage a false flag operation against foreign inspectors when they arrive in the country to monitor destruction of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile, says the Syrian president.
Bashar Assad voiced his concerns in an interview by China's state television CCTV in Damascus. The Syrian leader proposed this possible scenario as he was explaining how his government may be accused of trying to dodge its obligations to destroy its chemical arsenal. “We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement,” he explained. Russia brokered an agreement with Syria to dispose of its stockpile of chemical weapons amid US threats to use military force against Syrian army over alleged use of sarin gas, which killed an estimated 1,400 people in August. Moscow expects the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which received detailed inventory of the Syrian arsenal last week, to prepare a deadline for the operation. It also plans to work with other members of the UN Security Council on a resolution, which would support the OPCW plan and provide for security of the inspectors, who would control the disarmament. But Washington, London and Paris are insisting on a UNSC resolution which would involve punitive measures against Damascus for any possible hindering of the operation under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Chapter 7 allows for the enforcement of Security Council resolutions with military action. Russia opposes such provisions. Speaking on the UNSC debate, Assad said the three Western powers are fighting an ‘imaginary enemy’. “By submitting the draft to the UN Security Council, or by urging the US and Russia to agree on a deal, the US, France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy," he said. The president said he was assured that Russia and China would "ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand." Asked for details on the stockpile of chemical weapons, Assad said, “Syria has been manufacturing chemical weapons for decades so it's normal for there to be large quantities in the country.” The WMD arsenal was created due to Syria’s confrontation with Israel, the Syrian leader said. "We are a nation at war, we've got territories that have been occupied for more than 40 years, but in any case, the Syrian army is trained to fight using conventional weapons," Assad assured. While admitting that the security situation in Syria is far from perfect for the work of OPCW inspectors, Assad said the weapons are safe from being captured by any party. They are stored “under special conditions to prevent any terrorist for other destructive forces from tampering with them, that is, destructive forces that could come from other countries,” he said. "So there is nothing to worry about. The chemical weapons in Syria are in a safe place that is secure and under the control of the Syrian army." Earlier China said it is willing to send experts to contribute to the OPCW’s mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Russia pledged its assistance, which would probably involve securing locations where the stockpile would be processed.

Obama calls Kenya attack 'terrible outrage,' U.S. cooperating
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday called the attack in a Nairobi mall a "terrible outrage" and said the United States was providing all the cooperation it could to Kenya. "We stand with them against this terrible outrage that occurred," Obama said during a meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in New York. Both men, who are in town for the United Nations General Assembly, expressed condolences to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. "I feel the pain of President Kenyatta ... terror anywhere in the world is terror on all of us," Jonathan said.

Canada condemns bomb attack on Pakistani church

Canada condemned the attacks that killed nearly 80 parishoners leaving a historic Anglican church in Pakistan Sunday. According to Reuters, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the 130-year-old All Saints Church in Peshawar after mass had ended. “We are deeply concerned by the violent disregard of extremists in Pakistan for the right of all religious communities to practise their faith in peace and security," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Andrew Bennett, Canada’s ambassador for Religious Freedom, said in a joint statement. "This was an act of cowardly violence that brutally targeted innocent worshippers. “Canada calls on Pakistani authorities to bring these perpetrators to justice and to protect those who seek to worship in peace, free from fear and intimidation." The Taliban-linked militant group TTP Jundullah claimed responsibility within hours of the attack. "They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them," said the group's spokesman, Ahmed Marwat. "We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land."

Pakistani rights body questions talks with Taliban

Condemning the suicide attack on a church in Peshawar that killed 81 people, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Monday asked the government to explain how talks with the Taliban will address challenges facing the country. The HRCP described yesterday's attack on the church, which was claimed by a Taliban faction, as "inhuman and an affront to the values to uphold which Pakistan was established". The rights watchdog called on the government to share with the people its strategy to overcome "ongoing faith-based and militant-orchestrated attacks on citizens across the country". It asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to explain how holding talks with the Taliban will address the "challenges that haunt Pakistan today". "How will such talks help rein in the multiple other actors engaged in a bloody movement by extremist militants at the domestic level?" HRCP said in a statement. Over 120 people were also injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves outside the historic church in Peshawar, the capital of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Sharif has been pushing plans for talks with the Taliban but he too said yesterday's attack could affect the process. HRCP said the suicide bombing and similar attacks in the past were symptomatic of a deeper malady. Amid the militants onslaught, the new government was yet to share "its vision and strategy for dealing with the problem of militancy in the name of religion", it said. The organisation asked the government to take steps to reassure non-Muslim citizens that authorities have the will and ability to protect their lives and religious freedoms.

Death Toll In Pakistan Church Attack Reaches 85

At least 85 people are listed as dead in northwest Pakistan after what's been described as the largest-ever attack on the country's Christian minority. A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up Sunday at the historic All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar, not far from the Afghan border. The BBC says two groups with ties to the Pakistani Taliban have said they ordered the attack in retaliation for U.S. drone strikes. The Associated Press reports: "Angry Christians blocked roads around the country to protest the bombings. On one of the main roads coming into the capital of Islamabad, demonstrators burned tires and demanded government protection for the members of the Christian minority." On Sunday, protests took place in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and the capital, Islamabad, according to the BBC. More demonstrations were expected on Monday.
The AP says: "[The] bombings raised new questions about the Pakistani government's push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people." Speaking with NPR's Morning Edition on Monday, Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said the Christians and minority Muslim sects have been frequently targeted by groups belonging to Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority.
"There have been issues regarding Christians, including an assassination of a minister of religious affairs who was a Christian, including application of the very controversial blasphemy laws against Christians," Nasr tells host Steve Inskeep.

Who are Pakistan's Christians?

The deadly bombing of a church in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar is unprecedented, but not entirely unexpected considering the community's history in the country, explains the BBC's M Ilyas Khan. Until now, Taliban militants have mostly targeted the places of worship for Muslim minority sects in Pakistan such as Shia Muslims and the Ahmadi sect. But attacks against the Christians are not uncommon. Some of these have been related to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, while others appear to have a political motive. In recent years the assassination of two high-profile Christian politicians also put the plight of this minority in the spotlight.Vulnerable sector After Hindus, Christians are Pakistan's second-largest minority group representing about 1.6% of the country's overwhelmingly Muslim population. Large populations are in the southern metropolis of Karachi, and there are countless Christian villages in Pakistan's heartland of Punjab, in Lahore, the city of Faisalabad. In the deeply conservative north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province there are, according to one lawmaker, 200,000 Christians, of whom 70,000 live in the city of Peshawar. The majority of Pakistan's Christians converted from Hinduism centuries ago under the British Raj. Most of those converts had been low-caste Hindus, kept at the lowest rung of society by virtue of their birth and would have converted to escape the fate destined for them within the caste system.Under the Raj many of these converts provided labour in garrison towns - and every cantonment city has an area known as Lal Kurti, traditionally the area where Christians reside. But to this day the Christian community remains in the poorest sector of Pakistani society, consigned to menial jobs. Entire villages in parts of Punjab are Christian, with inhabitants working as labourers and farmhands. There are sections of Pakistan's Christian community that are well off and they came over from Christian Goa under the Raj, are more educated and mainly settled in Karachi. Many of their descendants still work in the corporate sector. What all of them share is a sense of vulnerability with a number of the wealthier Christians leaving to settle in Canada and Australia as the climate of intolerance in Pakistan becomes more unbearable - and if some Muslims are thinking of leaving, Christians and other minorities will feel the pressure more acutely. Pre-partition Pakistan was a much more diverse place and levels of tolerance have declined as Pakistani society has been increasingly Islamicised and more homogenous. Pre-partition Christians could count themselves among minorities that made up 15% of the population. Now minorities fall short of 4% of the country. And with the introduction of Islamist militancy, their situation is that much more urgent.
Since the 1990s, scores of Christians have been convicted for desecrating the Koran or blaspheming against Prophet Muhammad, although experts say most accusations are fuelled by personal disputes. While most of them were awarded death sentences by lower courts, the sentence was often set aside by the higher courts due to lack of evidence, or because the complainants in the case were found to be targeting the community for economic benefits. Perhaps the best known example is that of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman from a Punjab village who in 2010 got into an altercation with some Muslim women of the village and was later accused by them of having blasphemed against the prophet. Then Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who publicly stated that the law had been abused in Aasia Bibi's case, was murdered by his police guard. Months later, the country's minister for minority affairs and a leader of the Christian community, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for speaking out against the law. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that murder. Two years later, a minor Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, became the first non-Muslim to be acquitted by a court in a blasphemy case when it was discovered that she had been framed by a local Muslim cleric. Accusations of blasphemy have often led to mob violence against Christians. In 2005, hundreds of Christians had to flee their houses in Faisalabad city after one of the residents was blamed for having burnt the pages of the Koran and the entire neighbourhood was attacked by a mob wielding axes and sticks. Several churches and Christian schools in the city were set on fire. In 2009, in Gojra town of Punjab, nearly 40 houses and a church were burnt by the mob, and at least eight members of the community were killed, all burnt alive. Mostly Muslims and Christians co-exist amiably enough without frequent outbreaks of animosity, going to each other's festivals, sharing community spaces.
Motives behind attacks
But some of the violence against Christians is organised and directly related to American-led war in Afghanistan, so has an expressly political motive. Months after the US-led coalition attacked Afghanistan in late 2001, a grenade attack on a chapel inside a Christian mission hospital Taxila city killed four people. A couple of months later, gunmen executed six workers of a Christian charity after tying and gagging them at their third-floor office in Karachi. These incidents, though isolated, have continued down the years. It is too early to say which category Sunday's church attack in Peshawar belongs to, but its timing may be of some significance. It has happened at a time when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is about to land in New York on his first visit to the US and the United Nations. Analysts say the Peshawar bombing will overshadow his visit and raise questions among the international community over his country's commitment to fight militancy. This appears to be a repeat of an earlier attack by the militants in which at least nine foreign climbers, including three Chinese, were killed at the Nanga Parbat mountain in June. But it is the first large-scale attack against Christians which appears to mimic recent deadly assaults on minority Shias in Pakistan. But the dynamic with that particular enmity is entirely different. Shias in Pakistan are seen as influential and high profile with positions in the military and playing prominent role in the country's cultural life - they are caught up in what many analysts call a proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Pakistan's Christian and Hindu minorities evoke public sympathy and are not tools of a larger sectarian and ideological battle. They look like part of a militant plan to send a message to the West or embarrass Nawaz Sharif when he heads in that direction.

Pakistan Christians demand better protection after Peshawar bomb attacks
The deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan has brought protests in several cities. More than 80 people are known to have died after two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside an Anglican church in Peshawar on Sunday. Three days of mourning have been declared. Demonstrators vented their anger at the government, accusing it of failing to protect minorities. A militant group linked to the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it would continue its attacks on non-Muslims. People blocked streets in Islamabad and elsewhere, with more protests expected. Burials have been taking place in Peshawar, the northwestern city surrounded by tribal areas often controlled by militants. Pakistan’s Christians number about two percent of the population and are among the country’s poorest.

Afghanistan: Female teacher shot to death in Farah....ignorant islamist will never change
Gunmen dragged a female teacher out of a car and shot her dead in the Pushtkoh district in the Bala Baluk district of western Farah province, officials said on Monday. Farida, who taught at the Chah Zandan High School, was on her way to Farah City, the provincial capital, on Monday morning when gunmen intercepted the vehicle she was travelling in near Regi village. Abdul Rahman Zhwandai, the governor’s spokesman, accused the Taliban of killing the schoolteacher, but rebels have so far said nothing in this regard. Mohammadullah, who was in another car behind Farida, said five motorcyclists stopped her vehicle. He claimed the men were Taliban, who dragged the teacher out of the car and shot her to death on the spot. Her spouse Syed Nizamuddin works at the provincial Independent Election Commission (IEC) office, said the office head, Mirwais Azizi. She is the second teacher to be gunned down in a month. A male teacher was killed last month in an ambush in the Sangin district of southern Helmand province. Meanwhile, a security official said six insurgents had been killed during an overnight military operation in Grana and Seh Joy villages of Bala Baluk. An Afghan National Army spokesman, Mohammad Hanif Rezaee, said another seven suspected militants had been detained during the overnight offensive. The dead included Abdul Rahman Neka, a Taliban commander.

PTI tastes a rare spurt of anger amid cries of pain

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies tasted public anger for the first time when aggrieved families of those killed in the Sunday’s twin suicide attacks on All Saints Church in Peshawar city sparked anger over the government’s apathy. “Shame, shame, we don’t want your posters and slogans. Come and help us,” the Lady Reading Hospital crowded with families of the killed and injured in the attacks resonated with protest chants as one PTI MPA turned up to give a statement on media present on the spot instead of consoling the families of the victims. The yard outside the trauma centre resonated with cries of pain and anger as the aggrieved families did not let the MPA score points on media and speak. Mourners were chanting slogans against the provincial government and LRH management for not providing quick response to the traumatised wounded people. “The government instead of giving severe punishment to the culprits has been releasing militants and criminals from prisons,” remarked Father John William, who stated that not a single murderer was brought to justice. Umar Maseeh, another protester at LRH, accused PTI chairman Imran Khan of supporting the cause of militants. “Imran carried out his election campaign across the country, but he was never attacked, while we are unsafe even inside church, why?” he asked. “It only shows Imran is a sympathiser of militants,” he alleged. The bloody attack was a reality check for the coalition partners of PTI, including Qaumi Watan Party and Jamaat-i-Islami. The ministers and MPAs fearing backlash could not dare to visit the LRH for almost three hours after the incident to console the angry mourners and ensure timely treatment of the wounded. There were no arrangements at the official level to provide coffins. Thanks to Al Khidmat Foundation which arranged about 100 coffins for packing bodies. Of total 59 cabinet members, advisors, special assistants and parliamentary secretaries, only senior minister Sikandar Khan Sherpao and PTI provincial information secretary Ishtiaq Urmar, who is also parliamentary secretary, reached the LRH, but the angry protesters did not let them speak. Agitated Christians forced Sikandar Sherpao and Mr Urmar to leave the hospital’s premises immediately. The absence of Information Minister Shah Farman often seen in an offensive demeanour on the floor of the assembly and press briefings, was conspicuous. Health Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai whose reckless statements frequently put the ruling coalition in hot waters was missing till the PTI chairman and chief minister turned up at the hospital where he just gave figures of the dead and injured in the attack. Perhaps, it was the appearance of the former information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain on media which might have spurred the PTI into action as Imran Khan came from Islamabad to the Peshawar hospital for damage control. Imran, while talking to media, blamed his political rivals for inciting the aggrieved Christians against the provincial government. He condemned them for politicising the incident. However, he seemed willy-nilly in condemning the terrorists who had attacked the innocent worshippers at one of the oldest churches of the city. “The previous government has left the mess for us and now people are being provoked against us,” he told media without mentioning the Awami National Party. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, on the directives of the President and prime minister, came too late (at around 8:00pm) with the message of the Punjab chief minister’s offer of medical help. The agent of the federal government Engineer Shaukatullah, who did not come out from his palatial Governor’s House to console the religious minority brutally attacked by terrorists, was visible only when the interior minister was talking to media.

Rehman Malik: Terrorists are not serious in talks

Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that bomb blasts in Peshawar Church proved that terrorists are not serious in talks, SAMAA reports on Monday. Malik reached at the Lady Reading Hospital to express solidarity with the blast victims. He said ‘Mulla Baradar was set free and on the next day the Church blasts took place’. It is to be mentioned that two blasts took place in a church situated at Kohati Bazaar area of Peshawar which left at least 81 people dead while more than 100 people were injured.

Nationwide protests against Peshawar church bombing

Protests against the deadly Peshawar church bombing in which 81 people lost their lives are being held across the country. Protests are being held by members of the Christian community and civil society in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Noweshera and other cities. In the federal capital, protestors blocked the expressway. A large protest is expected to be held outside the press club in the city later on Monday. In Karachi protests are being held in several areas of the city, including Numaish Chowrangi and Isa Nagri. All missionary schools and colleges are closed in the city as three days of mourning had been announced. Protests were held in several areas of Peshawar including outside the provincial assembly. The Christian community protested in different areas of Hyderabad. Protestors burnt tyres and pelted stones blocking traffic. They demanded that those behind the terrorist attack be held responsible. In Tando Muhammad Khan and Jamshoro, protests were held outside the press club. Protests were also held in Faisalabad outside the city’s press club. Protestors held a sit-in and blocked traffic. The Christian community also protested in Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Mandi Bahuddin and Hafizabad. 81 people were killed and over 140 injured in twin suicide attacks at the All Saints Church in Peshawar.

Despite global downturn: Bangladesh's GDP has grown at an average of 6.3% per annum

By Subir Bhaumik
US secretary of state Henry Kissinger had dismissed Bangladesh as a "perpetual economic basket case" almost immediately after it was born. Spite, more than anything else, may have influenced the remark as the birth of Bangladesh was "raw chilly to wounds" sustained by the US in Vietnam. Washington could only blame itself for supporting Yayha Khan's blood-thirsty military junta in one of the worst genocides in recent history — but unlike China that quickly got over the same hangover for Pakistan and developed relations with Bangladesh, regardless of the party in power, the US could never come to terms with the Awami League that had spearheaded the fight for the country's independence from Pakistan. But Bangladesh has proved Kissinger wrong with a vengeance. In the last five years, its GDP has grown at an average of 6.3% per year, in the midst of one of the worst global downturns in recent times. It has achieved its 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals two years in advance. In 2013, it had brought the number of poor to less than 30% of its population — a target set for 2015 by the UN. In most indices of human development, especially gender-related, Bangladesh has surged miles (in some cases, yards) ahead of India and other south Asian nations. When India is unable to manage its spiralling current account deficit, Bangladesh sits on a comfortable current account surplus of $2.57 billion for the first time in its independent history. Its revenue collection has risen threefold over the last five years and its tax-GDP ratio has increased to 13.5% from 10.8% during the period. The Awami League, which has been in power since January 2009, has good reasons to take credit for its management of the economy.
The foreign currency reserves at the Bangladesh Bank have crossed the $16-billion mark, enough to meet import costs of five months. Export earnings have soared to over $27 billion from $10 billion in the last five years. Bangladesh also witnessed a buoyant remittance flow with the amount nearly touching $15 billion. With its expatriates largely from the working class, the tendency is to send a lot of money back home to buy assets for the future as they plan to return home rather than settle overseas. So, regardless of the political turmoil back home, most Bangladeshis abroad believe in a future for south Asia's youngest nation. For the first time, foreign direct investment has topped the $1-billion mark. It was $1.3 billion in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Foreign aid flow has also increased substantially. However, the agriculture sector has witnessed a decline and investment in the private sector has fallen too, as the State of Economy report published by the Planning Commission in September 2013 indicates. In fiscal year 2005-06, the agriculture sector grew 4.9%. But that came down to 2.2% in the last fiscal year primarily because fresh acreage could not be added to agriculture due to lack of irrigation and other infrastructure. But due to successive bumper harvests, production has gone up and the food import bill has dropped by as much as 16%. Food prices have risen by only 2.8% this fiscal year. This has helped to boost forex reserves. The growth of the services sector has dropped to 5.7% from 6.4%, the report said. But that is attributed to lack of investment, primarily because of the disturbed political situation in the country.
Ayear ago, the Bangladeshi taka was selling at 84 to a US dollar. It is now between 77 and 78. In the same period, the Indian rupee has fallen over 15%: from 47-48 to a dollar to 61-62. In fact, currency traders predict that another nosedive by the rupee and it would be nearly at par with the taka. That may not be good for Bangladesh that seeks to boost exports, but it does indicate the strength of the economy. When Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina lost patience with the World Bank, withdrew the funding request to the global lender and decided to fund the $2.9-billion rail-road bridge on the mighty Padma river, she made a huge statement of national confidence. It is not easy for Bangladesh, once so dependent on foreign aid, to tell the World Bank to pack up.
Then Hasina refused offers from China and Malaysia to fund the 6.15-km bridge — the Malaysian terms were not attractive and Chinese entry would have upset India. But Hasina reasoned that sovereign bonds offering interest a little higher than bank deposits would easily fetch expatriate funds because the remittances were flowing. Finance minister AM A Muhith has already placed taka 68 billion ($0.88 billion at current exchange rates), or about a third of the total cost of the Padma project, in the current 2013-14 national budget. That is some statement of financial confidence. Bangladesh, despite her political turmoil and uncertainties over the next parliamentary polls, seems well on its way to become a middle-income nation before the end of the decade.

The irrelevance of Mullah Biradar

The senior Taliban leader released by Pakistan last week can no longer deliver what the U.S. and the Karzai regime expect from him Pakistan released Mullah Abdul Ghani Biradar on September 21 after a three-year detention. He was the senior most member of the Taliban at the time of his arrest by a joint Pakistan military/U.S. intelligence team in Karachi in 2010. There were conflicting theories about the reasons for his capture. It is believed that the U.S. authorities had located him and the Pakistani officials had no choice but to “extend cooperation” in making the arrest. Some believe that Mullah Biradar was in covert contact with the Americans for laying down the basis for reconciliation with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that this had irked the Pakistan security establishment which could not digest any unilateral moves by Taliban leaders that bypassed it. That was enough excuse for restricting his freedom. Yet another theory is that he was detained at the behest of the top Taliban leadership because of his alleged clandestine links with some American mediators. Prolonging his detention did not deliver any political advantage for Pakistan. On the one hand, Islamabad got rid of a continuing and unwarranted headache by setting Biradar free; on the other it reciprocated Kabul’s overtures by accepting their demand for his release. Handing him over to the authorities in Kabul would have created a permanent breach in relations with the Taliban leadership. So he has been released and allowed to go wherever he wants, and he may head to Qatar or Saudi Arabia where other senior cadre of the Taliban now live.
As mediator
The point, however, is that by detaining Biradar, Pakistan has irrevocably damaged his credentials and his possible role as peace mediator. The Taliban have consistently followed the policy of not acknowledging any of its cadre detained either in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Freed, they lose their relevance as far as the Taliban are concerned. Their bona fide becomes suspect for a number of reasons. In the eyes of the Taliban, detained and released cadre could have been tutored or even indoctrinated, and would speak the language of the captor. The foremost example of this is Mullah Zaeef, who was arrested by Pakistan in 2001 while he was still the Taliban’s ambassador in Islamabad. The same thinking or yardstick would apply to Mullah Biradar. As Biradar is such a senior leader (or was), and is related to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, he may prove to be of some help in providing insights into the Taliban mindset on issues such as the possible convergence of perceptions on how to mainstream the Taliban in the political and electoral processes of Afghanistan. He may even be useful in building bridges between the Taliban and the Americans, but certainly not between the Taliban and the Afghan regime. The bedrock of the Taliban approach to any negotiated settlement remains the complete withdrawal of all coalition forces. This would continue to be the main stumbling block to any resolution of the conflict that is predicated upon the acceptance of the U.S. scheme of things in Afghanistan, including talks with the Karzai government.
Reaching out
Why was the Afghan government so desperately seeking the release of Mullah Biradar? For several years now Kabul has been investing a lot of labour and resources in opening up channels of communication with the Taliban leaders. The idea was to establish direct contacts with the movement’s leaders so that “other” mediators or “spoilers” could be bypassed and the Taliban pressured or persuaded to join the government in return for some representation in the various branches of the administration. This was never going to work. It was then decided to make efforts to secure the release of Mullah Biradar who could possibly use his clout and influence in helping to facilitate contacts between the regime and the Taliban leadership.
Towards settlement
The Afghan authorities, rather than seeking the release of a prisoner, howsoever eminent and important, should realise that the long term and sustainable resolution to the conflict lies in creating a consensus, with all groups on board, that will ensure the withdrawal of all coalition forces from the country — a sine qua non for the country’s sovereignty and stability. A consensus that will be based on the following foundations: no foreign militants in Afghanistan; Afghan soil not to be allowed to be used against any other country; progress towards pluralism and institution-building; guaranteeing human rights and interacting with the international community. Afghan institutions like its Parliament, Constitution, President are sacrosanct but more sacrosanct is the integrity, unity and sovereignty of the country. Treating symptoms, sometimes successfully, can drive one into a state of complacency such that the focus shifts from resolving the underlying problem. The U.S. and its appendage in Kabul have been endeavouring to somehow diminish the strength or support for the insurgency by bribes, detentions, killings, weaning away the reconcilables, night raids, tortures — but the rebellion or insurgency has not abated or diminished in its intensity, vigour or the number of people offering their lives for a cause which they believe is just. Just as rank and file Afghans rose to defend their liberty in the wake of the former Soviet Union’s military intervention in the 1980s, rank and file Afghans are resisting the U.S.-led military intervention that has lasted for nearly 12 years. That however is no proof that the people of Afghanistan support the Taliban’s policies overwhelmingly. It only demonstrates the will of the people in supporting a movement that is in the vanguard of a struggle to free the country of foreign occupation. As for Pakistan, its short-sighted policy of detaining a person of such seniority and destroying his credibility and capability to facilitate useful, meaningful contacts with the Taliban for either Pakistan or America would be termed a grave error of judgment — whatever be the cause or motive for his detention.

Manmohan Singh condemns Peshawar suicide attacks

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday condemned in the strongest terms the suicide attacks in Peshawar in Pakistan in which 60 people were killed, terming it as "yet another deeply disturbing manifestation of the evil forces of terror". In a statement, Manmohan Singh, while condoling the deaths, said "such barbaric acts are against the tenets of every religion". The statement read: "The horrific suicide attacks at a church in Peshawar today is yet another deeply disturbing manifestation of the evil forces of terror. That the attack took place at a place of worship and claimed the lives of dozens of innocent worshipers makes this senseless act of violence even more tragic. Such barbaric acts are against the tenets of every religion. India condemns the terrorist attack in Peshawar in the strongest terms. We convey our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wish speedy recovery to the injured." At least 80 people died and more than 120 were injured after two suicide bombers Sunday morning blew themselves up near a church in Pakistan's Peshawar city when worshippers gathered for prayers, officials said.

Peshawar's Bloody Sunday: Hundred years of coexistence tears at Peshawar’s heart

The Express Tribune
As bodies became unseemly piles in the morgue and victims offered up mangled injuries for attention, Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) was mercilessly transported back to the horrors of October 28, 2009 when a bomb exploded at Meena Bazaar. “It is difficult to tell how many people have been killed or injured, they are just pouring in,” said LRH Chief Executive Officer Arshad Javaid initially. “This is the biggest trauma we have had to deal with since the 2009 attack, which killed 139 people.” And no one was prepared. The LRH chief confessed the hospital was running short of medicines, supplies, coffins and something he did not need to say out loud – space. Pervez Masih, an eyewitness waiting to get head and chest injuries looked at, described how an ordinary weekend mass at the 130-year-old church turned into a bloody Sunday. Around 400 people, including the elderly, women and children, were at the church, he estimated. “What sounded like a minor blast occurred outside the church, but people rushed out to the main gate.” That is when the second suicide bomber, clad in a police uniform, ran at the crowd and blew himself up, said Pervez. “We don’t understand what happened next,” he said, and he does not remember how he reached the hospital. Principal of Geovernment High School No-4 Nothia William Ghulam and his son Neil William, a student of Khyber Medical College Peshawar, were not as fortunate as Pervez. They died in the blasts, but William Ghulam’s wife, daughter, brother Anwar and sister-in-law survived, however, not unscathed. Anwar and his wife were being treated for head, chest and hand injures at the LRH. The aftermath of the twin suicide attack has resulted in at least 78 dead and more than 146 injured. By evening, Khyber Teaching Hospital had 25 patients – six women and three minors – and had sent 15 of their nurses to the LRH. A jolt to the system As the first closest point of response, the LRH took in the lion’s share of the casualties but Sunday meant lean staff; even the blood bank was shut. Doctors had to be called in; the hospital had to be woken up with a shock to its system. The first response to any calamity or attack determines many eventualities. Most importantly, it controls the increase in fatalities and severity of injuries. This was near impossible in the attack at the church as ‘ambulances’ took the shape and form of anything with wheels and a working engine. No Rescue 1122, a few Edhi and mostly Al Khidmat ambulances were visible hurrying to the LRH. The latter eventually took bodies waiting to be buried to their homes. Inside the hospital, while LRH doctors, nurses and staff were being called in, not much could be done about the shortage of space – the dead and the injured remained lying on the floor for nearly three to four hours. Below ground, the LRH morgue has the official capacity to store 60 bodies. Without sufficient hands on deck, the deceased lay askew on blocks of ice. The hospital had only 52 coffins at a point when it had at least 70 bodies. The last straw, the first brick Above ground, the chaos only brewed chaos. As relatives collected inside the halls, there were not enough medical professionals to cater to everyone’s injuries and beds were in short supply. A majority of the injured seemed to be women and children. Distraught, with no place to even sit, loved ones raised a voice, chanting slogans against the absence of facilities and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. “Yeh zalim loug hain, yeh humain is mulk mein nahin jeenay dein geh,” cried an inconsolable family member of a deceased victim. Younas Masih, an older adult, led the impromptu protest which resulted in some broken window panes and a rowdy crowd. “We are citizens of this country and we have equal rights like other citizens. Why is the PTI government not providing us with security and with facilities in the hospital?” “We only ask for our rights,” said Younas. “This is a huge loss for us.” Security lapse? As the hospital was overrun with patients and caregivers, safety measures were invisible. Standard procedures after a blast dictate heightened security to ensure a second disaster does not follow, bur there were no policemen or private guards visible at the gates or inside. After the hospital gained some control, LRH chief Javaid assured the victims and their worried caregivers the hospital was fully staffed and will attempt to treat every patient. Referencing the blood bank which was shut earlier, Javaid promised the hospital was equipped with blood but encouraged people to go and donate.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2013.

Ban Ki-moon condemns Peshawar church attack

The Express Tribune
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned Sunday’s “atrocious” terrorist attack on a church in Peshawar and called on the government to bring the perpetrators to justice.
A statement issued by UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the secretary general was “appalled” by the attack, which had reportedly killed more than 75 people and wounded over 100 others as they were attending Sunday mass. “The secretary general condemns this atrocious bombing attack in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said. The secretary general said these acts of terror cannot be justified by any cause, and urged the government “to do everything possible to find and bring the perpetrators to justice”. “The secretary general extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the people and Government of Pakistan.” He reiterated the solidarity of the United Nations with the government’s ongoing struggle against terrorism and extremism and urges the government to continue taking steps to build tolerance and strengthen relationships between diverse religious and ethnic communities in the country,” the statement added.

Pakistan: Deadly ideology: Killing of churchgoers

THERE are moments when the full force of the threat that stalks this land hits with a sickening intensity. Yesterday was one of those moments — a depressing, shocking, violent attack that made it apparent, as though a reminder was needed, of just how far this country has drifted from the ideals and principles upon which it was created. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan is not dead, for Christians still congregated in Peshawar yesterday to celebrate the Sunday mass. But the suicide bombers who attacked the All Saint’s Church and killed innocent, ordinary citizens were trying to kill Jinnah’s Pakistan. If this country is to survive and emerge one day as an embodiment of its founding father’s ideals, there can be no room for extremists, terrorists and militants. There is truly an either/or scenario for this country: either the terrorists are defeated or the Pakistan that the majority of the country wants will be lost forever. The targeting of Christians may seem to some as a new front being opened by the militants, but in fact it is logical progression of the extremist ideology. Be it other sects within Islam or other religions, the violent extremist wants to eliminate all others and produce a homogenous society in which only a particular version of Islamic interpretation rules over the people. The hatred and bigotry embedded in the extremist ideology is not just about foreigners, but also about the majority of Pakistanis themselves. Be it Shias, Ismailis, Barelvis, non-Muslims or anyone else deemed to be outside the pale of radical Islam as practised by the militants and terrorists, everyone is a target. Until that reality is absorbed by the country’s political leadership — that what confronts the country is a murderous ideology — there can be no real understanding of why Pakistan has been so wracked by violence. And without that understanding, there cannot begin to be a solution. For a week that began with the killing of an army general and ended with the murder of scores of Christians, the inevitable question is where does that leave the nascent dialogue process with the TTP? If dialogue was at the outset very unlikely to succeed, what chances of success are there now? Perhaps the most discouraging aspect about the dialogue process is the national political leadership’s abject surrender before the Taliban. Even yesterday voices were heard suggesting that the church bombing was an attempt to undermine the dialogue process. When deferring to the enemy trumps honouring your dead, what hope for peace, dialogue or anything of the like?

Pakistan: No talks with Taliban

As these lines are written; seventy-eight Christians, including children and women, are dead and over a hundred and forty reported wounded in the two blasts taking place in a hundred and thirty-year old All Saints Church, the second oldest in the city, in Kohati Gate area of Peshawar. While the fact is that the terrorists do not distinguish between the cast, colour and creed of the innocent Pakistanis they kill, it still is a source of solace that all sections of the population across the country have expressed their outrage and solidarity with their Christian countrymen. The Christian community, undoubtedly, knows that mosques belonging to various Muslims sects filled with worshippers have been blown up through the length and breadth of the country. Some questions need to be asked of the concerned government in the aftermath of the blasts: Why no special security arrangements were made on the occasion when Sunday congregations at churches are a regular feature of the followers of the Christian faith. Why did it take two to three hours to shift the critically wounded victims to the hospital when the delay might well have, and may have, resulted in the deaths of some of the injured? It took hours for the medical staff to come to the aid of the injured even after the blast victims had been shifted to the hospital. Where were the senior doctors? The tragedy has also left many questions regarding the political fallout on the proposed peace talks: It is no secret that Nawaz Sharif government became serious to take substantial steps towards holding talks with the Taliban only when the TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud undertook to unite about the sixty odd militant groups for peace dialogue. Hakimullah also vowed to fight the terrorists groups who tried to sabotage the peace process. The blasts in the Peshawar church can clearly be defined as an act to sabotage the efforts towards peace talks with Taliban. The people, the political leaders and agencies of Pakistan may be guessing as to who is responsible for this act of terrorism but the terrorist group responsible for the attack on the church cannot be hidden from Hakimullah Mehsud and leaders of other terrorist groups who supposedly want peace talks. Is it even possible to think that the TTP leader will take action against his terrorist brethren of other groups? Will Hakimullah Mehsud ask his men to raise arms against the terrorists who openly oppose efforts for peace talks? Hardly, anybody in Pakistan believes so. The Frontier Post has all along held the view that the militants lack the ability to be peaceful; violence is their only way to settle issues. Secondly, attacking and killing innocent Pakistanis because the US drones are attacking the militants is just a pretext for committing violence against us; their actual aim is to destroy Pakistan. But even hoping against hope if the talks with Taliban are to be successful, Hakimullah has to prove that he has the ability to control all the terrorists groups under his control. Without show of this control and without the commitments that terrorism will not happen in Pakistan during talks or the actual talks are going on, the process cannot be continued. Hakimullah has failed in showing control or committment. The incidents of terrorism after the All Parties Conference, has convinced the ordinary people that a peaceful solution to terrorism is not an option anymore. The fact that Taliban are faceless enemies may have been true in the past but not anymore. The names of even the second tier of TTP leaders and of many Taliban groups are now well known to many. Our forces can target them and make the Taliban on the run. The sooner we understand that Taliban will continue with their terrorist activities against us; talks or no talks. Our civilian population, our troops and our installations will forever be targeted by terrorists and the sooner we decide that the only way to end terrorism is to end the terrorists the better. Except in Swat, where we met tremendous success; there never has been a dead serious effort to totally root out terrorists from anywhere else in the country. We have always been deceiving ourselves by creating the myth of \\\'good Taliban\\\'. When we decided that there were no good Taliban in Swat, we were able to clear Swat of them. We have to decide there are no good Taliban anywhere in Pakistan and go after them. If our troops can drive them from the high mountains, steep valleys and dense forests of Swat, we can defeat them anywhere. As for the activities of terrorists in our urban areas, the example of Karachi is a very recent example. After a serious action against criminals in Karachi, hundreds of Taliban have left the mega city and gone back to their safe havens in Waziristan. If we end their strongholds in Fata, including Waziristan, and act decisively against all criminals in the rest of the country, the menace of Taliban will end. Though it is easier said than done, it can, however, be done. It has to be done!

Peshawar: Baptised in blood

Those who rule us should hang their heads in collective shame, when suicide bombers can enter a church in Peshawar and kill over 70 worshippers. The number is sure to rise as many of the 120 injured are in critical condition. If any of us professes shock that such an attack could take place here, that humanity could sink so low, their surprise will ring hollow. Even though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack as these lines are written, the answer to that question doesn’t really matter. All of us can guess; it is the same forces that have struck before – in many places, and in many ways. We have become a country where identity – be it religion, ethnicity or gender – can be the difference between being allowed to live and having a permanent death sentence hanging over you. Christians are massacred while they pray, Shias are hauled out of buses and killed over belief and women are murdered, raped and humiliated because of traditional notions of ‘honour’. The Christians – as patriotic and as Pakistani as any of us – have hardly ever been involved in controversies and have generally chosen to keep a relatively low profile, speaking out only peacefully about the ceaseless social, economic and religious discrimination in their face. Have they been targeted because of their association with the ‘west’ and the notion that they have links with the Christians in the US and other nations? Who can assume that the madness that drives some to mow down human beings like that is immune to this brand of hatred? The perfunctory words of condemnation that were issued by the politicians after the church attack are no longer enough. Sending a few government officials to the site of the attack – as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did by sending Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and as the PTI leadership did, taking time out from meetings in the luxurious environs of Islamabad – will not suffice. Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the ANP was forced to leave the spot due to the rage of mourners as he reached the church to condole with families. PTI chief Imran Khan has commented on how such attacks seem to take place just when peace talks are approaching and then lashed out at his political opponents, rather than those who committed this monstrosity. This is egregious behaviour. The absolute last thing we need right now is the usual bout of conspiracy theories – a result of flights of foolish fancy based on notions that ‘outside’ forces did it. It is no time for ignorance and irresponsibility. This country has borne too much pain for business to continue as usual. It is time to level with the citizenry. We can’t simply be told that talks will be the held with the militants and then everything will miraculously resolve itself. It must be explained, in great detail, exactly what is being done to check the triumphant march of hatred and madness. What concessions are on the table? If there is to be any red line, what is it? Right now, what should the victims, their families and people at large expect? That such attacks will continue with impunity without any consequences for those who perpetrate them? Members of the Christian community who blocked roads with the bodies of their loved ones should be joined by the rest of Pakistan. This should be no occasion to wonder just how many non-Christians – the members of Pakistan’s Muslim majority – mourn with them. This was an attack on everyone who doesn’t subscribe to obscurantist agendas. We have remained silent for far too long and silence now will have blood on its hands.

Peshawar church bombings toll hits 81; over 145 injured

The death toll of twin suicide bombings at a church in Peshawar has reached 81, Geo News reported. The tragedy came to pass after two suicide attackers blew themselves up outside a church near Qissa Khawani bazaar here on Sunday. According to latest reports at least 145 people were injured in the attacks. Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) cordoned off the site of crime after what is said to be the Pakistan’s deadliest attack on the Christian community. The dead and injured, some of them seriously, were rushed to different hospitals of Peshawar including Lady Reading Hospital. AFP adds: The two attackers struck at the end of a service at All Saints Church in Peshawar, the main town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has borne the brunt of a bloody extremist insurgency in recent years.There were 34 women and seven children among the dead. Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement claimed responsibility, saying it had set up a new faction, Junood ul-Hifsa, to kill foreigners to avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives. "We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until drone attacks stop," Ahmad Marwat, a spokesman for the group, told AFP by telephone. In June, the group claimed responsibility for killing 10 foreign climbers at a base camp of Nanga Parbat, the second highest mountain in Pakistan after K-2.
Pope Francis also spoke out against the violence, calling it "a bad choice of hatred and war". The small and largely impoverished Christian community suffers discrimination in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation but bombings against them are extremely rare. Schoolteacher Nazir Khan, 50, said at least 400 worshippers were greeting each other after the service when there was a huge explosion. "A huge blast threw me on the floor and as soon as I regained my senses, a second blast took place and I saw wounded people everywhere," Khan told AFP. An AFP reporter saw shreds of human flesh and bloodstains on the walls and floor of the church, whose windows had been ripped out by the blast. Pages of a Bible were scattered near the altar and rice meals mingled with dust on the floor amid shattered benches. Walls were gouged with ball bearings used in the explosives, he said. Grieving relatives blocked the main Grand Trunk Road highway with bodies of the victims to protest against the killings, an AFP reporter said. Christians in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and other cities also staged protest rallies to condemn the attacks and demand state protection for their lives and properties, AFP reporters said. In the southern port city of Karachi angry protesters clashed with police when they tried to clear a road in Isa Nagri, a low-income Christian neighbourhood.In the town of Gojra in Punjab province in 2009, a mob burned 77 houses and killed seven Christens.

Peshawar bleeds yet again
On 22nd September 2013, around 78 people were killed and over a 100 were injured when two blasts occurred near a church in the Peshawar Kohati's gate area. Many women and children, including a three year old child, also died, and most of them are in a critical condition. What was their fault? What possible sin did they commit? What could they possibly have done to deserve something so horrific to happen to them? They were Christians. They were not Muslims. They did not believe what the 'official Muslims' of Pakistan believe in. Their fault is that they exist. Their fault is that they were born in Pakistan, the country which does not believe in the rights of minorities, rather it believes in the right to make their life a living hell. Their fault is that they are helpless. Their fault is that they are basically not Muslims. Today once again, the government has failed to provide adequate security to the minorities of Pakistan. Today once again people have died due to their beliefs. Today, children and women, for whom it was just an ordinary Sunday with ordinary church meetings, have died merely because they went to church to practise their beliefs. Now, they'll be returning home without their loved ones. Many of them will be returning to empty homes. But heartbreakingly, many of them will not be returning at all. All this commotion, all this haphazardness, all this chaos but the government just sits and does nothing. The government fails to provide adequate security to its minorities. It also fails to prevent hate speech against the minorities, all of them including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and Shias. It fails to give them their basic right - the right to live. No one can declare that any minority has been given that basic right, because that would be an outright lie. All the government can do when something like this happens is to fake a sad face, look grim and condemn the attack and demand for the victims to be brought to justice. They won't take any action against any perpetrators, they won't TRY to investigate the incident. Why? Because they're just minorities. So I ask the government and the politicians and everyone who just gave a statement condemning the attack - What will condemning the attack do? The victims, they don't need your fake sympathies. They don't need your phony statements about condemnation. They don't need your stupid statements to the press. They need security. They need justice. They need to be assured that this will not happen again. Can you provide it? Can you promise them this won't happen again? How can you when you don't even give a damn what happens to the minorities in Pakistan anyway? As long as no one hurts you and your family, why would you even care? We demand justice. We demand basic rights to be given to all minorities to be able to freely practise their religion, we demand them to be able to live without the fear of constantly look over their shoulder for someone who wants to kill them in the name of Islam. We want guarantee that all their rights will be safeguarded and that they will be provided security. We demand justice for each and every person who has been affected by those monstrous attacks in the name of Islam. This is not what Islam teaches. Islam is a religion of peace and love, it is not the religion of forcefulness and hatred and bloodshed. Today, Peshawar bleeds. Today Pakistan bleeds. You may not call them Pakistanis, you may even pass judgements that Christians have always been secretly working against Pakistan, but you know deep down that Christians are as Pakistani as they come. Today, they have lost over 60 members of their community. Just condemning an attack will not do. What good does it do to them? Will it bring their loved ones back? Will the perpetrators get what they deserve? Will the police even bother investigating? Or will they let it be, because after all, they're Christians, just another minority of Pakistan. Yesterday, the Kalima was removed from an Ahmadi mosque in Sialkot. Today, a massacre of Christians took place in Peshawar. What is next? Which minority is going to be targeted next? Shias? Hindus? Or back to Ahmadis? This is never going to end. This will keep on going until the extremists wipe out every minority from Pakistan and then live in the 'land of the pure'. That pure land which is now full of the blood of innocent men, women and children. The same pure land which all of these minorities helped to make. The same pure land which now has no place for anyone except the religious extremists inciting hatred against minorities and the greedy politicians, who only care about money and power. To the minorities, I say run. Run and do not look back. Pakistan is not the place to live right now, or anytime in the near future. Live somewhere where at least you will be treated like a human, at the very least. At least you would be able to live without the constant fear that you'll be murdered at that very spot. Run. To the attackers and the government, I say you can kill people and murder them in the name of Islam and you can condemn these incidents all you want, but God knows what is in your hearts. Fear the day when you will be judged in front of Him for murdering innocent people. Fear the day when He encompasses you in His Wrath. Because no wrath is greater than His. Fear that day. May some sense be knocked into you. So long. Till the next blast. Till the next minority attack in the name of Islam.

CLAAS issues initial report on Church attack in Peshawar

It is regret to inform you that militants attacked All Saint’s Church (protestant church) Church of Pakistan in Peshawar this morning while believers were busy in worship during Sunday Service. There were two police man deputed by the government who sit on the main gate of the church as security in routine. For last many days there was a threat by the Militants/Taliban’s for attack on the targeted church. But there was not any increase of police force to secure Christians during service. Two constables were not enough to stop suicide attacker when he forcefully entered in to the church premises. Through sources we are informed that there were two bomb blasted in the church one after another. About 45 killings of women men and children we heard and several injuries, and immediately shifted to hospital for emergency treatment. According to the source about 150 children were there in Sunday school who are severely injured and many of them died. It is shocking that all previous attacks and incidents happened in the presence of police including this and this is the biggest attack in the last five years. At 02:00 pm CLAAS team headed by Mr. Joseph Francis including Katherine Sapna, Rama Rasheed, SohailHabel, Asher Sarfraz, John Paul and Saleem Gabriel from Minority Movements in Pakistan reached at Lady Raiding Hospital (LRH) Peshawar at about 07:15 pm and visited injured and their family members, while some of them were shifted at Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) Peshawar because of insufficient doctors and beds. It is also observed that there was not sufficient medical facilities in these government hospitals. The victims are not treated well. They are severely injured and their bodies are burnt due to blast but there are not burn wards with air condition/cooling and they are suffering with burn and sever pain. The other hand the dead bodies were buried at about 06:30 pm the same day without any proper funeral because of the government pressure on the church leaders. There were mostly children died in this attack and their parents severely injured. Parents were under treatment while the children’s dead bodies were buried by locals and the same as the children were in the hospitals under critical situation when the parent’s dead bodies were buried. The locals were depressed by their church leadership, no one was there from religious leadership to give them courage, though there were many Christian organizations present to show solidarity and to assure them that they are not alone. The bishop of Peshawar Diocese church of Pakistan was present there in the hospital but he did not leaded the funerals with prayers even the pastor was frightened and he did not offered funeral of the martyrs. CLAAS team visited all injured and helped them with the amount Rs.2000 rupees each for their expenses. They are getting free treatment in the hospitals but there were many other things like travel for one hospital to the other for which they need money. CLAAS team also met with the families for condolence who has lost their love one’s and showed sympathies and solidarity to be with them as a body of Jesus Christ. CLAAS team is in Peshawar and has intended to stage a press conference at press club Peshawar on this severe inhuman act to Muslim militants against Christians. CLAAS team will visit victim families at their houses and also attacked church. Team will also meet bishops of Peshawar Diocese, Church Pakistan.

Pakistan church blasts ‘demonstrate inability of authorities to protect minority communities’

Suicide bombing in an historic church in Peshawar, Pakistan, has been widely condemned by a UK-based human rights organisation as another example of how Pakistan’s authorities fail to protect minorities in the majority-Muslim country. Global Minorities Alliance (GMA), which advocates for the rights of persecuted minorities the world over, has watched the story unfold with mounting concern as it becomes apparent that a lack of help at the scene has caused chaos and is hampering efforts to find the people still missing.
The Church of Pakistan, in Khohati Gate district of Peshawar, was attacked while the Sunday services were coming to an end. More than 600 people were in the church when two suicide bombers entered and detonated their devices. The attack is said to have happened due to a security breach as the church had previously received bomb threats. The local authorities are now under fire for not following up on these threats, meaning nothing was done to protect the community that worships there. The blast has killed at least 70 people and injured 120 more; however, the death toll continues to rise, and the lack of help at the scene of the incident has angered the Christian community, which makes up 1.6% of Pakistan’s population. So far no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack, but previous attacks on the community – including last week’s murder of Boota Masih, a Christian man in Karachi who was stabbed to death in public – have been blamed on hardline Muslim groups. GMA’s chief executive, Manassi Bernard, is concerned at the lack of medical help for the many injured people at the scene: "There are not enough doctors available in the local Lady Reading Hospital, no help desk provided and the Christian community has no one to get help from.” The vice-chairperson of GMA, Shahid Khan, highlighted how the Christian community in Pakistan has always suffered attacks such as these, where no government help has been provided: "It is a security lapse where the government has failed to protect the minorities and I am deeply concerned about the chaotic situation at the scene of incident where church members have no clue where their loved ones are. “There are so many people missing and there is no help for the deeply-shocked Christian community.” Shamim Masih, a journalist and human rights activist based in Pakistan, spoke to GMA this morning to strongly condemn the attack and give a wider picture of the situation on the ground: "This is a security lapse since the Church has received threats of the attack and informed the local authority who did not provide any security. The local government has failed to protect minorities and has even been involved in hate speeches against minorities.” The attack is already being called one of the worst assaults on Christians in Pakistan for years; as the details unfold, it is expected that the death toll will rise. GMA has previously launched a campaign to highlight persecution against Pakistan’s Christian community through the misuse of blasphemy laws, where Christians are accused, imprisoned and murdered following accusations that they committed acts of blasphemy. These allegations are often unfounded or occur following trivial disputes, and yet can lead death sentences.