Monday, November 18, 2013
Former pop musician Yank Barry is teaming up with celeb boxers, aiming to knock out hunger and homelessness among Syrian refugees, while Jewish group Shalom offers medical careIn escaping the horrors of the Syrian civil war, Hadirdrami Yantar hoped he would find solace in Bulgaria. Lured by dreams of a better life in a Western country, the 39-year-old Syrian and his family of four arrived in the town of Harmanli, only to be met by a harsh reality.Living as squatters in the makeshift trailer park that serves as a camp for new arrivals, Yantar’s family were forced to brave low winter temperatures with only outdoor fires to keep them warm. Unable to handle the growing number of refugees, the Bulgarian authorities are helpless to offer anything more than overcrowded camps in poor condition with little medical care or food. “We count on external assistance,” admitted Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski during a meeting with Jewish Canadian philanthropist, pop musician/jingle writer Yank Barry on November 13. Driven by personal ties to Bulgaria and his humanitarian mission, Barry is among the most recent contributors to join the relief effort to aid the Syrian refugees in Bulgaria, the European Union’s least wealthy member. Recently, Yantar, his wife and three children, moved to a private hotel. Their rent for the next six months is paid for by the Global Village Champions Foundation, co-founded by Barry and famous boxer Muhammad Ali, which is spending $1 million to help fund the housing of 50 refugees. Superstar boxer Evander Holyfield accompanied Barry on this recent trip.“I don’t know why I’m the one leaving the camp, but I have three children and my wife is pregnant. This is a chance for us,” Yantar told a local TV station after exiting Harmanli.
http://www.scmp.com/In the heyday of Sino-Soviet socialist brotherhood in the 1950s, Chinese liked to say that “today’s Soviet Union is tomorrow’s China”, as Beijing faithfully followed Moscow’s every footstep in development. But since the collapse of communist rule and the Soviet Union in early 1990s, the old saying has become an evil omen haunting China’s communist leaders. And there are renewed shudders among the Beijing leadership following a warning from President Xi Jinping calling for the need to pay greater attention to the dramatic events in Moscow more than two decades ago. Significantly, officials ranging from top central government ministers to heads of grassroots party organs have been called on to watch a four-part DVD documentary about the historic events. The video, In Memory of the Collapse of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, is jointly produced by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and its affiliated Research Centre of World Socialism. It tells the story on how a once great power stumbled to become a second- or third-class nation. The video blames Mikhail Gorbachev’s radical moves to introduce Western-style democratic reform and to relax the party’s monopoly control of ideology and also Boris Yeltsin’s rush to privatise state-owned enterprises as the main reasons behind the collapse of Communist rule and the dismantling of the Soviet empire. Another new video co-produced by the National Defence University that was leaked late last month tells how the West, the United States in particular, has schemed for a Soviet-style collapse in China. Entitled The Silent Contest, the 100-minute video begins with a lament for the end of the Soviet Union, and proceeds through recent history to show the supposedly evil motives behind America’s relations with China and other communist countries. General Liu Yazhou, political commissar of the military institution and son-in-law of former president Li Xiannian, produced the work.Analysts pointed out that the renewed fear of a Soviet-style nightmare in China might reflect the leadership’s anxiety over slowing economic growth, rising social tensions and growing calls for political reform following the leadership transition last November. They said that whether the new generation of Chinese leaders will pursue reform in the next few years lies in how they interpret the Soviet collapse. Xi, the party’s general secretary, appears more fascinated by the ideological aspects of the Soviet downfall than his predecessors. In an internal speech early this year, Xi told party officials that China must still heed the “deeply profound” lessons of the former Soviet Union, where political rot, ideological heresy and military disloyalty brought down the governing party. “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse?” Xi asked, according to a summary of his comments that has circulated among officials, but has not been published by the state-run news media. “An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered,” he said. The mainland’s propaganda machines have responded to Xi’s call, publishing more articles warning about the possibility of a Soviet-style collapse in the last major communist-ruled state. Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, said Xi was clearly setting out his “policy line”, which is to strengthen the party’s capacity and determination to adhere closely tight to the existing system, and resist any demand for democratisation or constitutional rule as understood in the West. “The sense of crisis has been reintroduced to warn the rest of the party not to be complacent and to embrace changes that he is introducing,” he said. Kerry Brown, executive director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said that although Chinese think tanks had expended huge effort and time on trying to understand why communism in the Soviet Union failed, there remains a lack of consensus over the cause. Was the most critical issue a lack of economic reform, over-hasty political reform, issues intrinsic to the structure and culture of power within the USSR, or the failure to reach consensus within the leadership? “The one point upon which most Chinese intellectuals, politicians and officials seem to agree is that, contrary to mainstream opinion in the West, the collapse was not a good thing and the results were to cost Russia and the states created out of the ruins of the USSR dearly,” Brown said. He said that one of the great paradoxes of our time was that the world’s second-biggest, and most dynamic, economy happens in name at least to be governed by a system that was written off two decades ago. “This is no cause for celebration in China however,” Brown said. Xiaoyu Pu, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, said that while the Communist Party had maintained its legitimacy through economic performance and nationalist mobilisation, it faces many challenges. Thus, the primary security concern of the party leaders is not national security, but regime security. “For the CCP, the collapse of the Soviet Union has always been regarded as a ‘negative example’,” Pu said. “The party has put a lot of energy and resources into examining what lessons the CCP could learn from the collapse of the Soviet Union.” However, Pu said the implications of the documentary programmes should not be over-estimated as they “might reflect the voice of the leftist and conservative faction within the party” “It is hard to say the programmes reflect the consensus of the CCP leadership,” he said. Tsang noted that the USSR lasted 69 years and the People’s Republic of China had now been in existence for 64 years. In other words, the Chinese Communist Party could surpass the Soviet Communist Party during Xi’s tenure. Xi has every intention to ensure the People’s Republic will outlast the USSR and thus has every reason to get the Communist Party to re-learn the lessons of why their comrades failed.
Construction companies in Qatar, which is experiencing a massive building boom ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, are involved in widespread abuse of migrant workers, according to Amnesty International.Qatar’s construction sector is rife with unacceptable working conditions for migrant labourers, according to a report released by Amnesty International on Sunday. The report, titled “The dark side of migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup”, details widespread abuse of migrant workers that the international human rights organisation claims often amounts to forced labour. “We have met workers that have been unpaid for many, many months, up to nine months or a year in Qatar,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on migrant workers in the Gulf, in a film accompanying the report. “Then they can’t leave the country because their employer won’t return their passports, won’t give them an exit permit, which is required under Qatari law, won’t buy them tickets,” he added. These factors combined, he said, meant life in Qatar for many migrant workers was “deeply traumatic”. Preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup The report is published as the Gulf Emirate experiences a massive construction boom ahead of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. According to Amnesty International, there are now around 1.35 million foreign nationals – mostly from Asian countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka – working in Qatar, making up some 94 percent of the total workforce. Nepalese workers employed by a supplier to build the FIFA headquarters in Doha told the NGO they were being “treated like cattle”, with employees working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week in Qatar’s searingly hot summer months. “Please tell me - is there any way to get out of here? ... We are going totally mad,” said one Nepalese construction worker, who had not been paid in seven months and prevented from leaving Qatar for three months. Amnesty researchers said they had witnessed 11 men sign papers to declare falsely that they had been paid their wages simply to get their passports back so that they could leave the country. Qatar must ‘seize the opportunity’ “It is simply inexcusable in one of the richest countries in the world, that so many migrant workers are being ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. The human rights group has called on the Qatari government to “seize the opportunity” to set an example on the protection of migrant workers’ rights. The organisation has also called on FIFA to work with the Qatari authorities to prevent abuses. “FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup,” said Shetty. “But unless critical, far-reaching steps are taken immediately, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who will be recruited in the coming years to deliver Qatar’s vision face a high risk of being abused,” he concluded.
Sectarian violence spread in Pakistan on Monday after clashes between minority Shi'ite and majority Sunni Muslims near the capital Islamabad prompted the government to impose a curfew and block mobile phone services over the weekend. Clashes confined to areas in and around the capital at the weekend spilled over on Monday into two towns in the volatile northwest. Tensions are high this month as Shi'ites mark Muharram, an annual period of mourning which has often sparked bouts of violence. Rawalpindi, a garrison city near Islamabad, remained under curfew and tight security for three days after a Shi'ite procession on Friday degenerated into sectarian clashes which killed at least eight people. On Monday, a mob set shops on fire in a predominantly Shi'ite district in the northwestern town of Kohat in clashes that killed a policeman and a civilian, police said. Tensions were high in the northwestern city of Hangu, also subject to a curfew, local media reported. During Muharram, a period of mourning to mark the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, Shi'ites hold long processions where they flagellate, beat or cut themselves to show their grief. The authorities imposed a mobile phone blackout on Rawalpindi, the seat of the Pakistani army, and parts of Islamabad over the weekend. The curfew was lifted only on Monday, but the city remained tense. Attacks on Pakistan's Shi'ites, who make up about a fifth of the 180 million population, have worsened in recent years. Most of the attacks are the work of Sunni extremists affiliated with banned groups, such as the Taliban or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which wants to drive all Shi'ites out of Pakistan. Hundreds of Shi'ites were killed in bombings and other attacks last year, including children gunned down on their way to school and doctors heading for work.
At least three people have been killed after renewed sectarian clashes in northern Pakistan, with the army being called in to establish control over the affected areas, officials say. The violence centred on the city of Kohat, where members of the Sunni Muslim armed group Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat held a rally on Monday to protest against the earlier killing of several Sunnis in Rawalpindi. The deaths occured after firing by unidentified assailants near a Shia Muslim mosque in the city, which is located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. "The activists were rallying against the Rawalpindi violence when unidentified gunmen opened fire on the procession from near a Shia mosque in the area, killing two people," Saleem Khan Marwat, district police chief, told the AFP news agency. Pakistani media, quoting local police station chief Mazhar Jaan, said that the death toll was three, including two policemen. That toll was confirmed by Fazal Naeem Khan, a local police official. Jaan said that there had been an exchange of fire between the two sides. Marwat indicated that the ASWJ activists had been fired upon, before retaliating with their own gunfire. Police and army troops later cordoned off the area and ordered markets to be closed. Troops were also called into the nearby city of Hangu, where tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims were also high. Friday's violence in Rawalpindi erupted when a procession of Shia Muslims marking the most important day of the mourning month of Muharram coincided with a sermon at a nearby Sunni mosque. That violence resulted in nine deaths, and the imposition of a curfew in Rawalpindi, a twin city of the capital Islamabad, that was only lifted on Monday morning. A ban on gatherings of more than five people remains in force. Troops were also deployed in Rawalpindi as well as in the southern Punjab city of Multan to keep the peace on Monday. Pakistan is facing rising sectarian violence, with armed Sunni groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan often attacking gatherings of Shias, who make up some 20 percent of the country's overwhelmingly Muslim population.
Authorities imposed curfews and deployed troops in two different areas of northwest Pakistan on Monday after three people were killed during a sectarian clash, police said. The violence occurred in Kohat city, where members of a hard-line Sunni Muslim group, Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat, were holding a rally to protest a sectarian clash in Rawalpindi city on Friday that killed 10 people, including at least eight Sunnis, said police officer Fazal Naeem Khan. Shooting broke out during Monday's rally, killing three people, including a policeman and two civilians, said Khan. It was unclear if the civilians who were killed were members of Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat. The Sunnis then clashed with police and Shiites, and several shops were set on fire, Khan said. Authorities responded by deploying troops and imposing a curfew in Kohat district and neighboring Hangu district, Khan said. The development came shortly after officials on Monday lifted a curfew in Rawalpindi that had been imposed after the clashes there on Friday, said police officer Mohammad Amir. Army troops will continue to patrol the city for several more days, and there is still a ban on more than four people assembling in one place, said Amir. The sectarian clash in Rawalpindi occurred when hundreds of Shiites were holding a procession to mark Ashoura, one of the sect's most important religious occasions. The Shiites clashed with members of an Islamic seminary affiliated with Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat. Ten people were killed in the clash and 56 were wounded, said the Rana Sanaullah, the law minister for Punjab province, where Rawalpindi is located. At least eight of the dead were Sunni Muslims. The identities of the other two were not made clear. Outbursts of sectarian violence occur regularly in Pakistan. Hard-liners from the Sunni majority who consider Shiites to be heretics have targeted the sect with bombs and shootings, with Shiite attacks on Sunnis less common, at least in recent years.
www.shiitenews.comYazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked Shia mosque, Imam Bargah and a commercial market in Kohat of Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa province on Monday. A police cop was martyred and several others were hurt in the terrorists’ attacks. Shiite News Correspondent reported that the armed terrorists attacked Imam Bargah Syed Habib where one police cop was martyred and three were hurt. In Teera Bazar, they put a market owned by Shiites, on fire. The terrorists also attacked a Shia mosque in Kohat and latest reports had it that they were harassing people by sporadic firing despite imposition of curfew. Tension also prevailed in Hangu where rockets were fired by the Yazidi terrorists on the day of Ashura with intention to sabotage peaceful observance of Ashura. Curfew was imposed in Hangu also.
The Express TribuneA curfew was imposed in Kohat and Hangu after unidentified gunmen killed two people, including a police official, Express News reported on Monday. The curfew was later lifted in Hangu after situation returned to normalcy. The shooting happened in the city of Kohat while activists from the Sunni organisation Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) were demonstrating against Friday’s violence in Rawalpindi which left nine people dead. “The activists were rallying against the Rawalpindi violence when unidentified gunmen opened fire on the procession from near a mosque in the area, killing two people,” district police chief Saleem Khan Marwat told AFP. Another local police official, Tanweer Ahmad, confirmed the incident. Marwat said the ASWJ activists retaliated by firing bullets in the air, which sparked tension in the area. Some shops were set on fire in a market near Shah Faisal gate. Police and the army cordoned off the area and ordered markets closed. A search operation is underway.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari has condemned the clashes in Rawalpindi on the eve of Ashura on Friday that left 10 killed and injured scores of others, and called it as barbaric and inhuman that had nothing to do with religion but was aimed at fanning sectarianism to harm the country and its people. The former president said that no words were strong enough to condemn the senseless killing and wounding of innocent people. He said he was shocked and grieved over the loss of so many lives and injuries to many others and prayed for those who lost their lives and early recovery to those injured. Zardari cautioned the people against those who were bent upon destroying peace and tranquillity of the state and society in the name of religion to achieve their nefarious agenda. “We must be conscious against the machinations of the enemies of our society who by perpetrating such acts wanted to provoke reprisals and retaliation from the aggrieved persons to further fuel the fire,” he said.
Protestors shut several markets here on Monday after the curfew imposed following clashes during an Asuhra procession in the city. Protestors demonstrated against the Rawalpindi tragedy and forced the closure of shops in Raja Bazaar, Bara Market, Sabzi Mandi, Urdu Bazaar and other markets of the city. Earlier on Monday, authorities lifted the curfew which was imposed in the city on Friday. The city administration said that section 144 would remain imposed in the city, while the army would remain on standby. At least ten people were killed following clashes during the Ashura procession in the city. According to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, all facts regarding the tragedy would be made public and the culprits would be brought to justice.
The masses know, consciously or unconsciously, that Islamic fundamentalism and US imperialism are two sides of the same coin The statement of Munawar Hasan, chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) on martyrdom and the fierce reaction by the Pakistan army reveals nothing but the rottenness of the Pakistani ruling class, its state and politics. The army quickly demanded an apology and the JI’s subsequent response of “intervention in politics” by the army is quite sardonic. Historically, the JI is known as the most organised Islamic party, having close ties with the Pakistani state and US imperialism. In the decades of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the JI was active as a vicious representative of the domestic and international right wing. Its student wing, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, has always been used as a tool by the state and imperialism against left wing student organisations. After the victory of Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1956 Suez war against Britain, France and Israel, the slogan of Arab Socialism was echoing in one country after another in the Middle East. Like the Arab Revolution of 2011, a revolutionary wave swept across the whole region in the 1950s and 1960s, sweeping aside old puppets of imperialism and replacing them with left-leaning parties and leaders in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Algeria and other Arab countries. These left wing governments under enormous pressure of the masses embarked on a process of large-scale nationalisation. This endangered imperialist interests in the Middle East, while the reactionary monarchies were trembling. To stem this revolutionary fervour against capitalism, the CIA started propping up Islamic fundamentalism. From Indonesia to Egypt, Islamic fundamentalist parties were strengthened as a counter-revolutionary force through financial and political support. The real creator of this Islamic fundamentalism was the US president Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. Dulles himself was a Christian fundamentalist and pathologically detested communism. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Nahdat-ul-Ulema (which played a key role in killing over a million communists and trade unionists in 1965) in Indonesia were contraptions of this reactionary onslaught. In Pakistan, the JI was the centre of this imperialist policy. This explains why it remained hand in glove with military dictatorships. The 1968-69 revolutionary movement of the masses in Pakistan swept across both wings of the country. But after the abdication of the movement by Maulana Bhashani and other left wing leaders, this class movement was derailed on nationalist lines and was ensnared by Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League. In the civil war that followed, the atrocities and massacres of the Bengali masses committed by the Pakistan army in connivance with the vigilantes of the JI in the shape of its armed wings — Al Badar and Al Shams — were carried out with vicious brutalities against innocent people. The deep involvement of the JI in this ‘Operation Blitz’ is revealed in the book, The Indo-Pak War by Major General Hakeem Arshad Qureshi, who was a battalion commander in the Dinapur district of East Pakistan during the operation. He narrates: “Maulana Tufail Mohammad (Amir) of the Jamaat-e-Islami visited us after the military action...The Maulana was particularly concerned about the performance of the ‘razakaars’ (volunteers) belonging to his party... He jokingly remarked that his party cadres had always come to the rescue of the Army in tough situations.” The first Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government embarked upon a welfare programme for the masses and reforms were introduced in health, education, transport and other sectors through massive nationalisation. The JI came out against these reforms and supported the feudals and capitalists against the PPP. The JI had the full backing of US imperialism. The JI spearheaded the Pakistan National Alliance movement against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, which led to the military coup and hanging of Bhutto. This was organised on a religious basis and was actively supported by the Pakistani ruling classes and US imperialism. They not only supported the vicious dictatorship of Ziaul Haq but also played like a B-team of that brutal dictator. During this dark period of history, the military used the JI and its vigilantes in intimidating, arresting and torturing political activists. The Saur Revolution of April 27, 1978 in Afghanistan (18 months before the invasion of the Soviet forces) under the leadership of Noor Muhammad Tarakai of the Khalq Party threatened the interests of landlords, capitalists and imperialists in the whole region. To sabotage this revolutionary government in Kabul, which was making huge efforts for the downtrodden masses, the CIA initiated the ‘Dollar Jihad’, flooding the area with dollars managed by the ISI and distributed through the JI to its sister organisation Hizb-e-Islami led by Gulbadin Hikmetyar. But when huge sums of money started pouring in for this “Jihad” through smuggling of narcotics, many other obscurantist sects and organisations jumped on the bandwagon for this loot. The clergy became rich overnight and were riding SUVs instead of bicycles. With the withdrawal of the Soviet forces, imperialist funding suddenly came to an end. That was replaced by the multibillion dollar business of smuggling narcotics and arms, resulting in many of these groups not only turning against US imperialism but also against each other. Zia’s generals were deeply involved in that criminal business network, but the proxies fragmented and clashed in the lust for a greater share of black money. The JI remained and still is an integral part of this harrowing orgy of bloodshed and terror. The JI’s frustration with the US is in part due to dollar supplies drying up and in part due to the contradiction of the pro-US and anti-US factions of the Pakistani state, particularly within the military. In the absence of mass left wing forces, religious parties are struggling among themselves to exploit the anti-imperialist sentiments of the people. In this cutthroat competition, vitriolic statements like Munawar Hasan’s are a part of that process. To recapture the intoxication of potent power enjoyed with the patronage of imperialism and the Pakistani army, the JI, a party that always remained a fifth column of the army, has come out in open conflict with an important faction of the army. However, the support of the JI and other religious parties among the masses is very fragile and limited. The masses know, consciously or unconsciously, that Islamic fundamentalism and US imperialism are two sides of the same coin. The JI is doomed either way. If it withdraws its statement it will face the wrath of religious extremists, and if it does not it will face the severe displeasure of the generals. Religious parties and US imperialism, the liberal and secular rulers are all on board on the preservation of this capitalist system because their vested interests rest in it. These conflicts are temporary and superficial. The JI and army cannot do without each other. Let us not be in any doubt; as in the past, these forces of dark reaction will unite to save this system in the wake of a rising revolutionary movement of the oppressed. The working classes will have to unite to dislodge this reactionary monolith for its emancipation and should ignore this pseudo-wrangling.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has strongly condemned Rawalpindi tragedy, which took place on the eve of Ashura procession. In a statement issued on Sunday, the Sindh CM said that the elements involved in the incident are the enemy of the people. The Sindh CM expressed deep grief over the incident and condoled with the families of the victims. He appealed to the ulema to play their role for promotion of inter-faith harmony. The Sindh CM also called upon the people to remain peaceful and united to foil the conspiracy of anti-Islam and anti-state elements.