Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Iraq: The greatest ‘non-story’ of the modern era

Neil Clark
Another day and yet more death and destruction in the Middle East country. The latest violence has killed at least 54 people and injured over 100 others. In July, over 1,000 people were killed and over 2,300 wounded. You probably think I’m talking about Syria. But I’m not. I’m talking about Iraq. The country that George W. Bush and Tony Blair 'liberated’ in 2003. The western military intervention was, we were told, going to usher in a wonderful era of democracy, freedom and human rights. Instead, it has ushered in an appalling decade-long blood-fest, with ordinary Iraqis having to endure a living nightmare of life in what has become one of the most dangerous countries on earth. Rather like Sherlock Holmes’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the silence of pro-war commentators and politicians when it comes to the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq is most revealing. The same elite figures in the West who couldn't stop writing or talking about Iraq in 2002 and early 2003, telling us what a terrible threat Saddam Hussein’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were to us all, and how we needed to go to war with Iraq not only to disarm its evil dictator but to 'liberate' its people, are now silent in the light of the continuing bloodshed and havoc that the illegal invasion caused. In the run up to the invasion of March 2003, you couldn’t switch on a television news program in Britain or America without seeing a neo-con or ‘liberal interventionist’ obsessing about Iraq. In the lead-up to war, these great ‘humanitarians’ feigned concern for the plight of Iraqis living under Saddam’s dictatorship - but today show little or no concern for the plight of Iraqis being blown to pieces by bombs on a regular, almost daily basis. There are no calls from the ‘usual suspects’ for a Western ‘humanitarian’ intervention to stop the killing in Iraq. For these serial interventionists, Iraq, post-invasion, has become the greatest ‘non-story’ of the modern era. Instead, the same people who couldn’t stop talking about Iraq in 2002-2003 now can’t stop talking about Syria - feigning concern over the plight of Syrians in the same way they shed crocodile tears over Iraqis in early 2003. It’s interesting that when it comes to casualty tolls, pro-war politicians can tell us exactly how many people have died in Syria since the violence started there in 2011, (and of course for them, all the deaths are the personal responsibility of President Assad), whereas when it comes to Iraq and the number of people who have been killed there since March 2003, there’s a great deal more vagueness. “We don’t do body counts on other people” Donald Rumsfeld famously declared in November 2003. The Iraqis killed since March 2003 (and casualty figures vary from around 174,000 to well over one million) are, for our political elite, ‘non-people.’ In 2013, it’s only dead Syrians (and Syrians whose deaths can be blamed on Syrian government forces) that matter - not dead Iraqis. Because Iraq is deemed a ’non-story’ and our leaders never talk about the situation there, it’s no surprise to see that public perceptions of the death toll are way below even the most conservative estimates. Sixty-six percent of Britons in a poll earlier this year estimated that 20,000 or fewer Iraqis had died since the invasion of 2003. Donald Rumsfeld would no doubt be delighted to hear that. If they had any sense of shame, the people who have destroyed Iraq would at least have had the grace to retire from public life. But neo-cons and liberal imperialists don’t do shame or remorse. The same bunch of ’humanitarian’ interventionists and hawks who urged the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have spent the last two years propagandizing for an attack on Syria. These manic warmongers would rather we ‘move on’ from Iraq to focus on the next Middle Eastern country on their hit list. But we must never ’move on’ from Iraq until those who destroyed the country are put in the dock. The chaos and bloodshed we see in Iraq today is a direct consequence of the destabilizing and destructive neo-con policies of the US and Britain and those responsible for ‘the supreme international crime’ of waging a war of aggression against a sovereign state must be held to account for the enormous amount of human misery they have caused.

Affordable Care Act: 5 Things to Know about Obama health Care

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Saudi Arabia: Women’s Rights Activists Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni Jailed for Helping Starving Mother

Two leading women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia are set to start a 10-month prison sentence for helping a woman who was starving. According to Equality Now, reliable sources say Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni will be arrested in the very near future, after losing an appeal against their sentence. Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Equality Now's Middle East and North Africa Consultant, said the sentence they were given in June shows authorities in Saudi Arabia are looking to silence the women for their human rights work. Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were arrested in 2011 after responding to a plea for help from Canadian woman Nathalie Morin, who had texted them to say she and her children had been locked inside her house with no food. After arriving at the address, both women were arrested by police and charged with "supporting a wife without her husband's knowledge, thereby undermining the marriage". They denied the charges, saying they never intended to turn the woman against her husband - adding they never even met her. They believe they were set up by authorities because of their human rights work. Morin was not allowed to testify at the trial but has publicly declared her support for them. She wrote on her blog: "I am sorry for what's happening to madam Wajeha Al Huwaider and her friend. "[The] two Saudi women find themselves in a serious legal problem with jail just for trying to help me ... there is no evidence for the charges that are against her [Wajeha] and her friend." She also posted a YouTube video after they were convicted, saying she was trapped in Saudi Arabia and that she had never met Al-Huwaider or Al-Oyouni. As well as their 10-month prison sentence, the women have been banned from leaving Saudi Arabia for two years after their release. Abu-Dayyeh said: "It remains unclear whether Fawzia and Wajeha were victims of a set-up because of their past human rights work, and the critical stances they have historically taken against the Kingdom's restrictive laws and overall treatment of women. "The harsh sentences against them seem to indicate that the Saudi authorities are more concerned with punishing and silencing those who strive to protect and advocate for human rights, rather than actually addressing human rights abuses - a violation of international law. "The women have been targeted by police for years for their campaigning and now find themselves at the mercy of the system they have fought so tirelessly to change. "According to reports, this is also the first time in Saudi legal history that a travel ban has been imposed in a case involving domestic issues. "This case and the system of lifelong male guardianship of women in the Kingdom, clearly illustrate that protecting a husband's dominant, possibly abusive position in the family is more important than ensuring his wife's well-being, and that those who try to fight against discrimination and violence against women might well themselves be targeted."

Bangladesh MP Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury to hang for 1971 war crimes

An MP for Bangladesh's main opposition party has been sentenced to death by a war crimes court for charges including murder and genocide during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan. Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, the first member of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) to be tried by the court, was found guilty of nine out of 23 charges. The BNP and his lawyers argue that the trial was politically motivated. Previous verdicts against Islamist leaders have been followed by protests. The war crimes tribunal was set up by the Awami League-led government in 2010 and opposition parties have accused it of pursuing a political vendetta against its opponents. Tribunal's Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said: "We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that troubled the collective conscience of mankind." But human rights groups and the BNP have both said that the tribunal falls short of international standards. "We will do whatever we need to do to show the world that this is a farce," the Reuters news agency quoted Chowdhury's wife, Farhat Quader Chowdhury, as saying immediately afterwards. Mr Chowdhury's lawyers say that they will appeal against the conviction at the Supreme Court. The BBC's Mahfuz Sadique - who was in court - says that Mr Chowdhury repeatedly interrupted the tribunal judges as they delivered their two-and-a-half hour verdict. "This judgement came from the [law] ministry. A copy of the verdict has been available on the internet since yesterday," Mr Chowhury cried out after the announcement of his conviction and sentencing had been finally completed. Our correspondent says that Mr Chowdury's lawyer also claimed that the verdict was a foregone conclusion - but allegations that it was available online beforehand are impossible to substantiate. Attorney General Mahbubey Alam has dismissed the allegations as "out of the question, incorrect... and merely an assumption". Lawyers sympathetic to the BNP meanwhile are reported to have threatened to "try everyone connected" with the war crimes tribunal once the party returns to power. Senior BNP official Khandker Mahabub Hossain said: "Everyone related with the trial will be tried some day on this soil." Security was tight in Dhaka where the verdict was heard in a packed courtroom. But troops were also deployed to Chittagong, the home district of Chowdhury where he has been re-elected six times - and where there is likely to be anger at the verdict.
Trauma of independence
Analysts say the tribunal's verdicts have exposed profound divisions in Bangladeshi society. Last month when the Supreme Court gave the death penalty to a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Kader Mullah, there were demonstrations both for and against the decision. The sentences handed down to its leaders over the last few months have unleashed a wave of unrest, pitting supporters of Jamaat against pro-government groups. But this rupture goes back to the very origins of Bangladesh when some groups, including Islamist groups like Jamaat, opposed the struggle for independence from Pakistan. The special court was set up in 2010 by the government to deal with those accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who attempted to stop East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was then) from becoming an independent country. It is trying nine Jamaat leaders and two members of the BNP - they have always denied any role in war crimes committed by pro-Pakistan militias. Chowdhury is the first of those BNP members - and the first sitting MP - to be sentenced. Prosecutors accused him of genocide, abduction, committing atrocities against Hindus and forcefully converting a number of Hindus to Islam. During the war his father was an influential politician who worked to prevent Bangladesh breaking away. The prosecution also said that his father's residence in Chittagong was turned into a torture cell at that time. Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people were killed during the war. Other researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.

Al-Qaeda returns.....The new face of terror

A FEW months ago Barack Obama declared that al-Qaeda was “on the path to defeat”. Its surviving members, he said, were more concerned for their own safety than with plotting attacks on the West. Terrorist attacks of the future, he claimed, would resemble those of the 1990s—local rather than transnational and focused on “soft targets”. His overall message was that it was time to start winding down George Bush’s war against global terrorism. Mr Obama might argue that the assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi by al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, the Shabab, was just the kind of thing he was talking about: lethal, shocking, but a long way from the United States. Yet the inconvenient truth is that, in the past 18 months, despite the relentless pummelling it has received and the defeats it has suffered, al-Qaeda and its jihadist allies have staged an extraordinary comeback. The terrorist network now holds sway over more territory and is recruiting more fighters than at any time in its 25-year history. Mr Obama must reconsider.Back from the dead It all looked different two years ago. Even before the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, al-Qaeda’s central leadership, holed up near the Afghan border in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, was on the ropes, hollowed out by drone attacks and able to communicate with the rest of the network only with difficulty and at great risk. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), its most capable franchise as far as mounting attacks on the West is concerned, was being hit hard by drone strikes and harried by Yemeni troops. The Shabab was under similar pressure in Somalia, as Western-backed African Union forces chased them out of the main cities. Above all, the Arab spring had derailed al-Qaeda’s central claim that corrupt regimes supported by the West could be overthrown only through violence. All those gains are now in question. The Shabab is recruiting more foreign fighters than ever (some of whom appear to have been involved in the attack on the Westgate). AQAP was responsible for the panic that led to the closure of 19 American embassies across the region and a global travel alert in early August. Meanwhile al-Qaeda’s core, anticipating the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan after 2014, is already moving back into the country’s wild east. Above all, the poisoning of the Arab spring has given al-Qaeda and its allies an unprecedented opening. The coup against a supposedly moderate Islamist elected government in Egypt has helped restore al-Qaeda’s ideological power. Weapons have flooded out of Libya and across the region, and the civil war in Syria has revived one of the network’s most violent and unruly offshoots, al-Qaeda in Iraq, now grandly renamed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The struggle to depose the Assad regime has acted as a magnet for thousands of would-be jihadists from all over the Muslim world and from Muslim communities in Europe and North America. The once largely moderate and secular Syrian Free Army has been progressively displaced by better-organised and better-funded jihadist groups that have direct links with al-Qaeda. Western intelligence estimates reckon such groups now represent as much as 80% of the effective rebel fighting force. Even if they fail to advance much from the territory they now hold in the north and east of the country, they might end up controlling a vast area that borders an ever more fragile-looking Iraq, where al-Qaeda is currently murdering up to 1,000 civilians a month. That is a terrifying prospect.
No more wishful thinking
How much should Western complacency be blamed for this stunning revival? Quite a bit. Mr Obama was too eager to cut and run from Iraq. He is at risk of repeating the mistake in Afghanistan. America has been over-reliant on drone strikes to “decapitate” al-Qaeda groups: the previous defence secretary, Leon Panetta, even foolishly talked of defeating the network by killing just 10-20 leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The general perception of America’s waning appetite for engagement in the Middle East, underlined by Mr Obama’s reluctance to support the moderate Syrian opposition in any useful way has been damaging as well. A second question is how much of a threat a resurgent al-Qaeda now poses to the West. The recently popular notion that, give or take the odd home-grown “lone wolf”, today’s violent jihadists are really interested only in fighting local battles now looks mistaken. Some of the foreign fighters in Syria will be killed. Others will be happy to return to a quieter life in Europe or America. But a significant proportion will take their training, experience and contacts home, keen to use all three when the call comes, as it surely will. There is little doubt too that Westerners working or living in regions where jihadism is strong will be doing so at greater risk than ever. The final question is whether anything can be done to reverse the tide once again. The answer is surely yes. When Mr Bush declared his “war on terror”, his aim was the removal of regimes that sponsored terrorism. Today, the emphasis should be supporting weak (and sometimes unsavoury) governments in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger and elsewhere that are trying to fight al-Qaeda. Even Kenya and Nigeria could do with more help. That does not mean a heavy bootprint on the ground, but assistance in intelligence, logistics and even special forces and air support. Most of all, it means more help to train local security forces, to modernise administrations and to stabilise often frail economies. The most dismaying aspect of al-Qaeda’s revival is the extent to which its pernicious ideology, now aided by the failures of the Arab spring, continues to spread through madrassas and mosques and jihadist websites and television channels. Money still flows from rich Gulf Arabs, supposedly the West’s friends, to finance these activities and worse. More pressure should be brought to bear on their governments to stop this. For all the West’s supposedly huge soft power, it has been feeble in its efforts to win over moderate Muslims in the most important battle of all, that of ideas.

U.S. government shutdown begins after Congress fails to break impasse

The U.S. government began a partial shutdown on Tuesday for the first time in 17 years, potentially putting up to 1 million workers on unpaid leave, closing national parks and stalling medical research projects. Federal agencies were directed to cut back services after lawmakers could not break a political stalemate that sparked new questions about the ability of a deeply divided Congress to perform its most basic functions. After House Republicans floated a late offer to break the logjam, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected the idea, saying Democrats would not enter into formal negotiations on spending "with a gun to our head" in the form of government shutdowns. After missing the midnight deadline to avert the shutdown, Republicans and Democrats in the House continued a bitter blame game, each side shifting responsibility to the other in efforts to redirect a possible public backlash. If Congress can agree to a new funding bill soon, the shutdown could last days rather than weeks. But no signs emerged of a strategy to bring the parties together. The political dysfunction at the Capitol also raised fresh concerns about whether Congress can meet a crucial mid-October deadline to raise the government's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. With an eye on the 2014 congressional elections, both parties tried to deflect responsibility for the shutdown. President Barack Obama accused Republicans of being too beholden to Tea Party conservatives in the House of Representatives and said the shutdown could threaten the economic recovery. The political stakes are particularly high for Republicans, who are trying to regain control of the Senate next year. Polls show they are more likely to be blamed for the shutdown, as they were during the last shutdown in 1996. "Somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose," said pollster Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University poll. "Going in, Obama and the Democrats have a little edge." The dollar held steady on Tuesday even though much of the U.S. government was due to start shutting down. S&P stock futures inched up 0.2 percent, unchanged from earlier price action after the cash index fell 0.6 percent on Monday, while U.S. Treasury futures slipped 5 ticks. Most Asian markets were trading higher on Tuesday.
The shutdown, the culmination of three years of divided government and growing political polarization, was spearheaded by Tea Party conservatives united in their opposition to Obama, their distaste for Obama's healthcare law and their campaign pledges to rein in government spending. Obama refused to negotiate over the demands and warned a shutdown could "throw a wrench into the gears of our economy." Some government offices and national parks will be shuttered, but spending for essential functions related to national security and public safety will continue, including pay for U.S. military troops. "It's not shocking there is a shutdown, the shock is that it hasn't happened before this," said Republican strategist John Feehery, a former Capitol Hill aide. "We have a divided government with such diametrically opposed views, we need a crisis to get any kind of results." In the hours leading up to the deadline, the Democratic-controlled Senate repeatedly stripped measures passed by the House that tied temporary funding for government operations to delaying or scaling back the healthcare overhaul known as Obamacare. The Senate instead insisted on funding the government through November 15 without special conditions. Whether the shutdown represents another bump in the road for a Congress increasingly plagued by dysfunction or is a sign of a more alarming breakdown in the political process could be determined by the reaction among voters and on Wall Street. "The key to this is not what happens in Washington. The key is what happens out in the real world," said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. "When Joe Public starts rebelling, and the financial markets start melting down, then we'll see what these guys do." A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed about one-quarter of Americans would blame Republicans for a shutdown, 14 percent would blame Obama and 5 percent would blame Democrats in Congress, while 44 percent said everyone would be to blame. An anticipated revolt by moderate House Republicans fizzled earlier on Monday after House Speaker John Boehner made personal appeals to many of them to back him on a key procedural vote, said Republican Representative Peter King of New York. After Boehner made his appeal, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called on him to permit a vote on a simple extension of federal funding of the government without any Obamacare add-on. "I dare you to do that," Hoyer roared. THE FALLOUT The potential fallout has some Republican Party leaders worried ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential race, particularly given the Republican divisions over the shutdown. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who commandeered the Senate floor for 21 hours last week to stoke the confrontation and urge House colleagues to join him, sparked a feud with fellow Republicans who disagreed with the shutdown and accused the potential 2016 presidential candidate of grandstanding. "Whether or not we're responsible for it, we're going to get blamed for it," King told reporters on Monday. "They've locked themselves into a situation, a dead-end that Ted Cruz created." It was unclear how long the shutdown would last and there was no clear plan to break the impasse. The Senate on Tuesday planned to recess until 9:30 a.m., at which time Democrats expect to formally reject the House of Representatives' latest offer for funding the government. The shutdown will continue until Congress resolves its differences, which could be days or months. But the conflict could spill over into the more crucial dispute over raising the federal government's borrowing authority. A failure to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would force the country to default on its obligations, dealing a potentially painful blow to the economy and sending shockwaves around global markets. Some analysts said a brief government shutdown - and a resulting backlash against lawmakers - could cool Republican demands for a showdown over the debt limit. "A lot of this is political theater. It's not about real policy. Part of this is taking a stand for their constituents," said Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton University. "If there is fallout from a shutdown and there is a big enough shock, maybe they will be willing to move on to other issues," he said. Obama says negotiating over the demands would only encourage future confrontations, and Democrats are wary of passing a short-term funding bill that would push the confrontation too close to the deadline for raising the debt ceiling. "The bottom line is very simple - you negotiate on this, they will up the ante for the debt ceiling," Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said.

Centre for Human Rights Education Pakistan concerned on Security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Center for Human Rights Education- Pakistan and its member organization has expressed deep concerns over the three recent incidents of terrorism in Peshawar, the Provincial Capital of Khyber Pakhtun khwa (KPK) Province and has demanded urgent and effective actions to save the lives of the people. Enough lip service has been done but now the people want to see a concrete policy, effective strategy and action to stop terrorism. Today’s (September 29) bomb blast at Qisa Khwani Bazaar, recent attack on the government employee’s bus and deadly attack on the Christian community in a Church on September 24, 2013 has raised feelings of fear among the people and shows the failure of the security apparatus and the government. It is very sad that the federal and the provincial governments has not shown their seriousness after the deadly attack on the Church and remained failed to stop the other two attacks in the same city. This is a very serious situation. Therefore, Centre for Human Rights Education- Pakistan calls upon the government, Pakistan’s security apparatus and other political forces to pay attention to the worsening law and order situation and fulfil their responsibility of securing people’s right to life. Centre for Human Rights Education views that "It is good to have debate on whether to go for a dialogue or any other action to deal with the issue of terrorism. But the government ultimately needs to decide in consultation with other genuine political forces about the option it needs to adopt in the current circumstances. However while making any decision it should be kept in mind that the Pakistan’s territory and the lives of its people cannot be kept hostage in the hands of the terrorists who do not our law, our political system and the sovereignty of our country and want to impose their agenda by force. This is never acceptable".

Pakistan flirted with terrorism as state policy: US official

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Pakistan to shun terrorism to make peace with India, a top US defence official suggested that over time Islamabad "flirted" with terrorism as state policy.
"I was clear in Pakistan that the principal threat to Pakistan is terrorism, not its neighbours," Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who visited India, Pakistan and Afghanistan recently, said Monday at a Washington think-tank. "The government of Pakistan has flirted over time with using terrorism as an instrument of state policy, and it's coming to the realisation that terrorism's a boomerang and it comes back on you when you try to use it for your own purposes," he said. "I was honest with my hosts in Islamabad in terms of how Pakistan must achieve peaceful relations with India on the east in order to reap the benefits of cross-border trade, if it's truly to develop its economy," he said at the Centre for American Progress. "And it needs a secure and stable Afghanistan on the west for the same reason," Carter said. The official said he "was equally frank with my interlocutors in Delhi that the US supports Pakistani efforts to improve their bilateral relations and hope Delhi will reciprocate". Carter said he had also told the Indians of US government's appreciation for their support to Afghanistan "in the realms of humanitarian and development aid and their efforts to train the Afghan security forces in India". Meanwhile, asked to comment Sunday's meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, the State Department said the US welcomed "any and all high-level discussions between Pakistan and India". "That would improve their bilateral relationship," said spokesperson Jen Psaki who noted President Barack Obama had last week said the US shares "an interest with both countries in seeing a peaceful reduction of tensions on the subcontinent". "And we continue to support, strongly, efforts by India and Pakistan to improve all aspects of their bilateral relations, and we encourage further dialogue," she said. In response to another question, Psaki said the US position on Kashmir has not changed. "We still believe the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan's dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine, and we continue to encourage dialogue."

Imran Khan’s Appeasement of Taliban

by A Z
Imran has long pleaded that the only way to combat terrorism is by partnering with and empowering Taliban. Here comes his “revolutionary” new idea, of inviting TTP to open an office, that has merited wide coverage. And if the strategy had to be summed up in one word, it would be, “Collaborate!” Yes, collaborate with Taliban. Let me phrase it this way, “Empowering TTP to Prevent Violent Terrorism in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. Sounds catchy, doesn’t it? Almost as catchy as “Man-Caused Disasters”, “Scourge of Democracy”, “Bane of Free Markets” and comes from the same school of thought. Imran is the Chancellor of The University of Denial, whose motto is that the best way to fight terrorism in Pakistan is not to talk about it. And “Not talking about it” is a big part of PTI’s strategy. Here’s what Imran had to say and Asma Jahangir’s riposte to it.Imran warns repeatedly that drone attacks lead to terrorism. The LEJ has “Loose Lips, Kill Shias”, and “Loose Stereotypes” blow up ordinary Pakistani women and children to avenge drone attacks. This strategy treats terrorism as a persistent side issue, rather than a violent existential threat to the state and its subjects. And its only answer is to keep appeasing the extremist groups to entreat them to not to blow us up. Empowering Taliban is a transparent defense of Taliban and other organizations engaged in violent radical activities within our national territory.Rather than countering the violence perpetrated against the citizens of Pakistan, it pretends those attacks have never been made, and urges the state to continue partnering with the extremists. A course that leads national law enforcement to unwittingly work with the terrorist organizations. Fighting terrorism with more Islamism is Imran’s approach and it derives from his long-held fondness for Taliban. This is the fulcrum of appeasement. On the one hand Imran and those like him argue that terrorists are a tiny minority of a tiny minority. On the other, if the Republic of Pakistan fails to mend its ways and appease them, they warn that the bloodshed will continue and will spread. Imran now stands blatantly exposed as the apologist for a radical movement which has wrought mayhem all across Pakistan. Imran’s new strategy could have been written by Munawar Hassan. And, probably, it was. Even if it was not, what Imran has in common with the loose ideologues is that neither of them wants to allow a serious discussion about terrorism in Pakistan. Instead they want the conversation to be about how overblown and how dangerous the talk of fighting terrorism is. But if the idea of fighting Taliban is overblown, then why is it dangerous? And if it is dangerous, then why is it overblown? TBX1 Imran replaces terrorism with vague euphemism. With words so generic that they mean nothing at all. And the content is equally generic. Swap out a few words and it could be about any social problem in Sweden or Norway. But that’s the essence of this strategy. Inaction and ignorance. Ten years of inaction. Months of silence followed by hours of noise. It is not a rhetoric that sets out real goals and objectives. Its only objective is to sideline serious efforts to combat Taliban and replace it with blank buzzwords. Because he has no idea what’s out there anymore. To know the enemy is the first step toward defending against an attack. But how do you defend against a threat, when you can’t even spell its name? The terrorists of the TTP. The Orwellian blankness of Imran’s strategy is a space of ignorance to mask the truth of terrorism. The enemy is reduced to a social problem, terrorism to justifiable violent extremism, and the war on terror to nonsense. Postscript: It’s about time the likes of sensible people like Asad Umar start questioning their presence among the likes of Imran, Pervez Khattak, Arif Alvi etc.
- See more at: http://lubpak.com/archives/285103#sthash.MC1DGR4F.dpuf

Balochistan: Confessions of a Punjabi Girl

The Baloch Hal
By Naeema Saeed
A Few days ago, I told the editor of the Baloch Hal that I wanted to write for the paper. I see the Baloch Hal as an endeavor, being a part of which would be nothing less than a privilege for any Pakistani. But what could I possibly write about? The things which bother us are predominantly too “Pakistani” that are, ethnically, irrelevant to many in Balochistan. They are irrelevant because the people over there are routinely abducted and are mercilessly butchered. Yet, this does not stir the national conscience. But what else do I know about Balochistan? Hardly much! I only know about the eventual tragedies resulting from decades’ long negligent behavior and unfulfilled promises. And amongst those tragedies too, I am aware of only a fraction, and within that fraction, the state plays the victim as do the dissident groups. Finally, I had decided that I would write about the things the Punjabis have knowingly or unknowingly sacrificed for Pakistan and yet their acts are not acknowledged rather their attitude is seen as the imperial power that colluded with the establishment. However that evening I met a gentleman who has been working with a donor agency. He wanted to make a proposal regarding peace resolution, conflict prevention or something like that. “Why not explore Balochistan?” I asked. He was reluctant. Nobody goes there, he explained. The law and order situation is at its worst in Balochistan. He even said that he would be rather work in Afghanistan, where his organization is already working. For quite a while, I have had a defensive attitude for the Pakistani side. I sympathize with the Punjabis especially, not out of chauvinism but because I believe that the establishment and the Punjabis are not the same and they are often mistakenly deemed as interchangeable. I believe that most of the Punjabis are the well-wishers of the people living across Pakistan yet they are ignorant of about what is being done elsewhere in their name. I believe that the Punjabis are so zealously Pakistani and Muslim that to them being anything else is sort of a sin. So they do not like being Punjabi and they do not recognize or appreciate any other ethnic identity. Many of them do not appreciate the existence of other sects and religions too. It is unfortunate but in a way the Punjabis of Pakistan were never totally free from the colonial imprints. They have been fighting a war of self-assertion and identity for a long time. During all this time, they had not been at peace with themselves or with their surroundings. The Punjabis speak Urdu and appreciate English speaking people. The Punjabi language is usually shunned away as a language, especially in urban areas. So, their Pakistani selves have suppressed their native culture. They imitate the West and at the same time eulogize the Muslim conquerors. They think that Mahmood Ghaznavi is the real hero and they intentionally skip Bhagat Singh in national archives. Many of them know nothing of Bacha Khan. All I see is that the Punjabis are suffering from cultural cringe and an identity crisis. They assert the Pakistani self so much that they often overlook the basic tenet of the constitution i.e. Pakistan is a federation. A federation does not simply imply that there should be two tiers of government. It implies unity in multiplicity. Federations rule out regulating cultural differences. It is not merely a congregation of the units, states, provinces or cantons. It is celebration of diversity. Yet, many Pakistani and the most of the Punjabis ignore these facts. Because of the complexes surrounding their identity, I sympathize with the Punjabis. However, on that very day when the guy told me that working in Balochistan is the last of all options, my all delusions vanished away. It dawned upon me that the Punjabis and the rest of Pakistanis are not simply ignorant, they are deliberately ignorant. Their fault lies in ignoring the dark reality intentionally. The fault lies with the media too. Recently two earthquakes jolted the province of Baluchistan. In spite of that, all we see are few still shots and footages on television channels. The new island in Gwadar, on the contrary, was given live coverage in news bulletins. I believe even 2011 London riots were given better coverage by the Pakistani media than the earthquakes in Balochistan that have claimed hundreds of lives. In the backdrop of this indifference, every Pakistani is a culprit. We want to own Balochistan without putting any effort for it. This definitely is a form of imperialism. We blamed the state machinery for the Dhaka tragedy. In the age of flourishing electronic and social media we cannot play innocent anymore. We know the situation in Balochistan is unstable but we just ignore and sit idly. This surely is not going to help. Another disgraceful episode was the pre-election campaigns of Pakistani politicians. Many claimed legitimacy by just setting foot in Balochistan. They branded arranging one political rally in Quetta as their success. That surely is a point of mourning. It points out to the irony that they had been absent from Balochistan for years without caring about what had been going on and they appeared on the scene for political maneuvering just before the general elections. Moreover what about post-election scenario? There is silence again. Pakistanis know that the conditions are bad, but how and why they are they so bad? They do not know and their attitude shows that they are not very keen either to change the status quo. All the government does is to blame India and so do many media persons. To improve the situation, we need to find out our own faults and work on them. Nobody from outside could have flared up the situation to the extent that we have done in Balochistan. It is high time that we in the Punjab realized our responsibilities toward Balochistan.
Naeema Saeed, based in Lahore, is a student of law and a freelance journalist who has previously worked with Geo Television

Pakistan: Massive hike in POL, power rates from today

The government on Monday gave a shock to the already burdened public by announcing an increase in the prices of petroleum products and electricity. The government notified a significant hike in power prices, ranging between Rs 2.93 and Rs 5.89 per unit for domestic consumers. The increased prices will be effective from October 1 (today). An official of the Water and Power Ministry said the raise in the power tariff would help the government generate revenue from consumers, a move that will reduce the power subsidy, in accordance with IMF loan conditions. The domestic consumers using more than 200 units will now pay Rs 14 per unit against the old rate of Rs 8.15 per unit, an increase of Rs 5.89 per unit. Consumers using more than 700 units would face a hike of Rs 2.93 per unit in the tariff. Bulk consumers will now pay Rs 18 per unit, instead of Rs 15.07 per unit. The consumers of the Peshawar Electrical Supply Company and those who use less than 200 units per month would be exempted from the hike in prices. Meanwhile, contrary to the proposals of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and Petroleum Ministry, the government on Monday went ahead with the increase in prices. The price of supreme petroleum has gone up from Rs 109.50 to Rs 113.25. Whereas, after an increase of Rs 4.69 a litre, the new price of diesel would be Rs 116.95 against the old price of Rs 112.26. The price of light diesel (LDO) has been increased by Rs 2.81, taking it to Rs 101.24 per litre from Rs 98.43. Likewise, the price of HOBC has been increased from Rs 138.33 to Rs 143.9. The price of kerosene oil, mostly used as fuel in remote areas where LPG is not available, has also gone up from Rs 105.99 to Rs 108.14 after an increase of Rs 2.14 litre. According to an official, OGRA had advised the government not to pass on the price differential to the consumers and maintain the September prices for the month of October. He said that the ministry had also endorsed the recommendations of OGRA and called for maintaining the prices and subsiding the differential. However, he added, the government’s finance managers have the final say in this regard. The official further said that the government is still subsidising supreme petroleum. “Instead of passing on the differential of Rs 5.45 a litre, the government has passed on Rs 4.12 and subsidised the product with Rs 1.33 litre,” he added. The opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have reacted strongly to the increase in power tariff by the government. PPP President Amin Fahim Monday said it was an anti-people step that would make survival difficult for the poor masses. “The government of the rich cares only about the rich and has nothing to do with the poor people,” Fahim said. He said the PPP would lodge a strong protest in the National Assembly and would also hold demonstrations across the country over the hike in prices. The party termed it a “callous and thoughtless move totally disregarding the plight of the poor people” of the country. In a statement leader of the opposition Khursheed Shah said that the raise of four rupees per unit in the price of electricity will place crushing burden on the people already reeling under inflation, lawlessness and unemployment. He said that the party will raise the issue in parliament along with other parties in the opposition with a view to force the government to take back its decision. Meanwhile, PTI termed the new electricity rates as “brutality against masses”. “What the PPP government did in five years, PML-N has done in four months,” the PTI spokesman said. He added that the party would stage protest rallies to demand withdrawal of increase in the electricity rates. The party said that this act of the government has burdened the already financially crushed people of the country and it would be unbearable for the poor masses. It warned the government to refrain from passing the burden of its expenditure and budget deficit to the people through such “cruel acts”.

Pakistan: Leadership inertia

More than 150 people have died so far in three different attacks within a week in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). A new pattern of behaviour has emerged of late in the terror groups. As soon as some faction of the Taliban accepts responsibility for the attack, the main body, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), distances itself from the group taking responsibility, as had happened in the All Saints Church incident in Peshawar, when the TTP refused to acknowledge Jundullah as its affiliated outfit. This ambiguity is being created deliberately to confuse the already perplexed government, who could not decide what to do so far with those waging open war against the state. It is the people of the country who are paying with their lives while the government appears to be suffering from business-as-usual inertia. The attack on Kissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar, has killed 42 people. Scores of people have lost their businesses that they might have created putting in years of sweat and blood. For many it could have been the only source of livelihood. That anyone could wipe out the dreams of others so easily is horrendous, to say the least. The bomb that ripped the bazaar apart was attached to a vehicle and exploded by remote control. That a city that is in the eye of the storm could be left poorly guarded speaks volumes of the seriousness of the provincial and federal government to address what has now become a bleeding ulcer. The government, both of Imran Khan in KP and Nawaz Sharif in the Centre, wants to give the terrorists a chance by conducting a peace dialogue with them. Imran Khan even went as far as asking the government to allow the Taliban to open an office in Pakistan. Of the many All Parties Conferences that had been held till now, the last one saw the killers being called stakeholders. All the appeasement and words of caution have however failed to bring a notch of difference in the attitude of those who have a singular agenda to ruin the country unless it becomes a state of their choice. The country is being blown to pieces and we do not know what the government is up to. The final draft of the so-called National Security Policy has yet to see the light of day. No organizational arrangements are in sight for the implementation of security plans envisaged in so many meetings conducted by the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. The Joint Intelligence Centre, the creation of which the interior minister promised on the floor of the National Assembly, is yet to be set up. The National Counter Terrorism Authority that was to become a coordinating hub for law enforcement and the intelligence agencies is still nowhere near finding its feet. In short, no infrastructural development or strategic planning specifically targeting terrorism has been done. How many more attacks and loss of innocent lives will it take to shake the government out of its policy of appeasement of the terrorists, both in KP and at the federal level? We have had stories about the Punjab government taking on the madrassas, flagged for their extremist approach. No movement to that end could be seen either. If Karachi could be handled, as is being done, with a well-planned and coordinated operation, why cannot other parts of the country? If Punjab can remain calm, terrorist-free, why cannot KP? Is it lack of political will again at play? Is the government scared of the blowback if they dare touch the hornet’s nest of terrorism in some parts of the country, especially where it is entrenched in safe havens such as in Punjab? There is complete ambiguity about what the government is planning to do. Nawaz Sharif was angered by the fresh attack in KP, and has resolved to do something substantial once he returns from New York. The hope is that this is not the usual course of our leadership, showing anger and some new resolve against the enemy, albeit only temporarily. Perhaps the situation is not that simple as is still being perceived by our leadership. The county needs action on the ground. Is there anyone who could realize and understand that we have already crossed the red line?

Imran Khan's Yet another fake measure

After being outwitted by militants by all counts, an unnamed spokesman of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) on Monday has announced that his party chief Imran Khan would chair a national conference, which will be attended by intellectuals and religious scholars, on October 5 to discuss ways to eliminate terrorism. The bomb blasts in the last week have left hundreds of Muslims and non-Muslim countrymen dead, flouting the so-called strong security arrangements erected by the herds of the security agencies. The political leadership in the Centre and in the KPK had been confined to issue condemnation of the bloody incidents, vowing to arrest the culprits—a promise that they had failed to fulfill at least in 12 years or so. Falling short of the ideas to counter terrorist strikes, the PTI that earlier banked on holding another All Party Conference, now has decided to convene the National Conference of intellectuals and religious scholars to seek their guidance. The PTI chief may have its philosophy to tackle the issue yet his public oratory does not make any sense how he can advocate the security agencies that hardly writ over the terrorists to announce unilateral ceasefire for initiating the peace process with the outlawed outfits. How can he force the people to sit with the killers? He had no mandate to overturn the status of outlaws playing havoc with life and property. Notwithstanding what Imran Khan had to offer on the issue; the fact is the PTI government had completely failed to deliver. These killers are devoid of humanity and are least law-abiding citizens of Pakistan hence should not be given leverage to last on the political horizon with guns and bombs in their hand. Leaving aside all misdirected rhetoric of all and sundry, the PTI Government should either stand up against merchants of death and destruction or stand down, making way for more effective administration to fight against killers. The bloodshed if continued unabated for too long the people, who voted the incumbent rulers to power, will soon be justified in raising voice for their ouster, regretting the folly they committed in the May 11 elections. The federal government must not waste its time in fake measures like APCs or National Conference. The people had seen enough of the blood and bodies. If the need arises, the issue can be debated in the Parliament which is supreme forum to hammer out the issues of the national importance. Personal whims and wisdom can undermine the supremacy of the national institutions that may drive the country to the brink of collapse. The last but not the least, the military leadership should not remain tight-lipped over their failure to defend the people and territory. They should too intensify the pursuit against violence and lawlessness so as to leave no space for the outlaws to rule the roost. Though late yet if the KPK’s Inspector General of Police is planning to launch targeted operation in the province capital he should not be impeded at any cost sans wasting any more time in fake measures like the National Conference. The KPK government must speak the language that their enemy (bombers) speaks the most.

Clarity needed: Blasts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

THE facts are few, but incontrovertible. Over the course of a week, various targets were hit in KP. Increasingly, those targets have become soft ones. Beyond that, the facts quickly give way to theory and speculation. Several groups have claimed responsibility for the various attacks, but there remains some uncertainty about at least some of the attacks — who is really responsible and why now, just when the country’s political leadership is bending over backwards to seemingly accommodate the militants? To probe these questions is not to dabble in conspiracy theories that are being peddled by militancy sympathisers. After all, both the prime minister and the interior minister have expressed doubts about who is behind the latest string of attacks and why — and neither man is known to be particularly gung-ho about talks or prone to hyperbole. What is required though are more cold, hard facts. For too long now, the country’s leadership, be it civilian or uniformed, have talked all too easily about external conspiracies, saboteurs and unnamed enemies of peace without ever offering up public proof. That outside powers or neighbouring countries could be playing dirty games inside Pakistan is and always will remain a possibility. That there are elements within the spectrum of militancy and terrorism who are implacably opposed to talks for ideological or mercenary reasons is also always a possibility. But in the absence of clear public proof, the people are entitled to discount such theories. After all, it is just as much a possibility, if not more, that the TTP does not really want talks. Similarly, having found the state to be so defensive and supine in its offer of talks, more violence now could make sense for the TTP because it can cause a near-capitulation by the state to become a real capitulation. There is a broader problem here. Even when militants are caught, arrested, prosecuted and convicted, there is little attempt by the authorities, or the media even, to explain the linkages and the campaigns of violence to the public. To this day, while the names Baitullah and Hakeemullah may mean something to most people, there is little real public understanding of what the TTP is, who its constituent elements are and how the terror umbrella functions. This is because the state has preferred to alternately peddle in conspiracy theories and obfuscation over the years. The violence that has been visited on Pakistan is apparent to all. It is perhaps time the country’s leadership starts divulging what it does know, instead of always just darkly hinting at the facts.

PESHAWAR: Of anger and despair: Political, civil rights leaders demand operation against militants

Members of the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and civil society on Monday protested against the attack on Qissa Khwani Bazaar a day earlier. Addressing protesters at Peshawar Press Club, former provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said Peshawar was slipping out of the government’s hands because of its policies. “Militants are present in every nook and cranny of the city and there is an urgent need to launch a targeted operation to rid the city of them,” said Hussain. According to him, during the initial three months of the incumbent provincial government’s rule, all check posts along exit and entry points of the city were removed. “It is high time law enforcement agencies launch an operation and seal the provincial capital’s borders,” he insisted. Discussing the federal government’s proposed peace talks with the Taliban, Hussain said there should be no dialogue with militants until they accept the writ of the state. PkMAP Provincial General Secretary Arbab Mujeebur Rehman in his address said: “If our government is not serious about bringing peace to Pukhtun areas, we would have no option but to request the international community for it.” He added the state was failing in protecting the lives of innocent people. Rehman criticised the provincial government for its pre-election slogans of change and durable peace. “What kind of rule is this, where mosques, churches and even markets have turned into graveyards?” he questioned. “All those responsible should be made answerable to the public,” added Rehman. Bacha Khan Trust Education Foundation Director Dr Khadim Hussain also spoke at the occasion. “People are being killed mercilessly in the streets while the government remains indecisive about taking steps to stop the assaults,” said Dr Khadim, adding the government was giving a different context to the attacks instead of searching for ways to end the mayhem. All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairperson Haroon Sarbdyal said people need to wake up and realise who the common enemy is. The protesters held placards which read ‘Stop the genocide of Pukhtuns’ and ‘End terrorism, we want peace in our land’. They also chanted slogans against those responsible for such brutal attacks. At least 42 people were killed while 91 were injured when a car packed with explosives blew up inside the bazaar. This was the third such attack in Peshawar in a span of eight days.

Pakistan: Govt drops petrol, electricity bombs on masses

In a move that is feared to unleash a new wave of massive inflation across the country, the government has enormously increased the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff effective from Tuesday (October 1), Geo News reported Monday. According to sources at the Ministry of Petroleum, the petrol price has been raised by Rs4.12 and that of diesel by Rs4.69 per litre. Now a litre of petrol and diesel will be available to the consumers at Rs113.25 and Rs116.95 respectively. The price of light diesel has been jacked up by Rs2.81 per litre to Rs101.24. Earlier today, the government had notified a staggering rise in electricity tariff of up to Rs5.89 per unit with effect from October 1. The above steps are expected to let loose a huge storm of price hike, as rates of all the essential items including edibles will sharply go up in the coming days. The worst-hit will once again be the masses including the people belonging to low and fixed income brackets.

U.S. government shutdown to start after budget negotiations fail

The U.S. federal government was due to start partially shutting down on Tuesday after lawmakers failed to compromise on an emergency spending bill before a midnight deadline. Competing spending measures flew back and forth between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate late into Monday night, but Congress deadlocked over Republican efforts to use a temporary spending bill as a means to delay implementation of President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law. It is unclear how long a government shutdown will last. The funding gap will leave some essential functions like national security intact but sharply cut many regulatory agencies, furloughing up to a million federal workers.