Sunday, November 24, 2013

Diplomacy wins important step in striking Iran nuke deal

A landmark agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue was announced on Sunday in Geneva after Iran and six world powers - China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States - managed to break a deadlock that had lasted for decades. According to the new deal, as elaborated by the White House, Iran will stop enriching uranium above fissile purity of five percent over the coming six months, a level up to which it can be used for producing energy but not enough to make bombs. Under the deal, Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched up to 20 percent will either be diluted or converted into oxides so that it cannot be used for military purposes. Iran will also halt installing any new centrifuge while allowing more global inspections of its nuclear sites. US President Barack Obama, on behalf of the biggest stakeholder in the dialogue, declared the deal an "important first step" to curb Tehran's nuclear program. He released a response to the agreement that is being described as an "interim deal," pledging to stop imposing new sanctions worth $7 billion on Iran in the next six months, in a modest relief to the Islamic nation. The accord has been applauded by most countries except Saudi Arabia and Israel, which will only accept a deal that promises to wipe out Iran's nuclear program altogether owing to historical and geopolitical reasons. Sunday's announcement in Geneva is a positive diplomatic achievement for Iran's newly-elected president Hassan Rouhani, who is known to be a moderate. Under pressure from stringent sanctions, Iran's main exports, oil and gas, have been hit as countries reduced their purchases from Iran. Double-digit unemployment and inflation have gripped its economy, prompting Iran to seek a way out of the impasse. Iran's new leader appears to believe in tactics. He understands pragmatic ideology and the diversity of diplomatic methods to help his nation optimize benefits within the available options. This deal probably signals the beginning of the re-orientation of Iran's diplomacy. Iran will aim to compromise on its nuclear program and seek to engage with the international community, especially the US. However, it should be noted that this deal has far from touched the fundamental discord between Iran and the US. The two countries still feud over ideology. In addition, Iran gains more influence in the strategically important region after the 2003 Iraq war, which is difficult for Washington to accept. Unless there is strategic adjustment of the two sides, deep distrust between the two sides will remain.

UNHCR tries to help Saudi woman who eloped to Yemen: source

The U.N. has called for a Saudi woman to be given asylum in Yemen to avoid being deported back to Saudi Arabia, after she eloped with a Yemeni man, a U.N. official said on Sunday In October, Huda al-Niran, 22, crossed into Yemen after her family refused to allow her to marry Arafat Radfan, a Yemeni she had met while he was working at a mobile telephone shop in Saudi Arabia. Yemeni authorities detained the woman for entering the country illegally pending her trial, which is expected to result in her being deported back to Saudi Arabia. An official at the UNHCR office in Sanaa told Reuters on condition of anonymity the UN agency would help Niran obtain "a humanitarian asylum". "If Yemeni authorities do not agree to grant her the right of asylum, the UNHCR will look for another country to host her," the UN official said. Yemeni government officials could not immediately be reached for a comment. On Sunday, a Yemeni court postponed issuing a ruling in her case until December 1, Kadi said, as hundreds of people gathered outside the courtroom chanting: "Love before borders and citizenship." Last week Human Rights Watch called on Yemeni authorities not to deport Niran "without considering her claim that the Saudi government will not protect her against life-threatening family violence". Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and a U.S. ally, is an absolute monarchy that follows Sunni Islam's strict Wahhabi school. It forbids women to travel abroad, open a bank account or work without permission from a male relative. A landmark domestic violence law was introduced this year, but activists have called it toothless because judges may decide a man is within his rights to beat his wife, daughter or sister if he disapproves of her behavior.

In Iran, Mainly Praise for Nuclear Deal as a Good First Step

The smiling started early in Tehran on Sunday, when President Hassan Rouhani kissed a young schoolgirl in an Islamic head scarf before dozens of cameras, signaling that Iran’s future had taken a new turn.
After years of seemingly endless bad tidings of more international sanctions, more inflation and more saber rattling, many in this capital received the news of the first nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers in more than a decade like an awakening from a bad dream, and they shared their emotions on social media. “When I checked my Instagram when I woke up, someone had posted a picture of an Iranian and American flag,” said Asal Khalilpour, 29. “After I read the comments saying a deal was made, tears started rolling down my cheeks of happiness. I couldn’t believe it.” People from across the Iranian political spectrum, including many hard-line commanders and clerics who had long advocated resistance and isolation from the West, told state news media on Sunday that the deal that Mr. Rouhani’s negotiating team had made was a good start. One man’s nay could have undone it all. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been working for some time to engineer a way out of the economic and diplomatic quagmire of sanctions. Soon after Mr. Rouhani spoke to reporters, Ayatollah Khamenei issued a short message online saying he considered the deal a success. “The nuclear negotiating team deserves to be appreciated and thanked for its achievement,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. He added that “their behavior can be the basis of the next wise measures.” Ayatollah Khamenei had spoken of negotiating directly with “the great Satan,” the Iranian ideological label for the United States, as long ago as March, three months before Mr. Rouhani was elected president promising better relations with the West. “I am not opposed,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on the subject during his annual address on the first day of the Iranian year, March 21. “But first the Americans must change their hostility towards Iran.” At the time, few observers thought the remark, made amid a flurry of verbal attacks on the United States, reflected a serious change in policy. But Ayatollah Khamenei apparently allowed a group of Iranian diplomats to begin secret preparatory talks with American officials in Oman, according to an Associated Press report citing American officials. He also assured that the next president of Iran would follow a line different from the prickly hostility of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose comments about Israel and the Holocaust had helped make Iran a pariah. “It is clear that any international outreach could not be handled by someone like President Ahmadinejad,” said Amir Mohebbian, a political strategist who advises Iranian leaders and is often briefed on Iran’s relations with America. “I think the leader helped bring Mr. Rouhani to power to make the public ready for a policy change.” Noting the long friendship between Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr. Rouhani, a career diplomat, Mr. Mohebbian said that “nobody is better suited to bring Iran back to the world community than Mr. Rouhani.” He compared the handling of the talks to a construction project, with Ayatollah Khamenei as the architect and Mr. Rouhani as the contractor executing the design. “The leader has shaped this situation and paved the way for Mr. Rouhani to be the right person at the right time,” Mr. Mohebbian said Others in Tehran said they had had inklings of what was coming. “Rumors of secret talks started circulating in Tehran in March,” said Nader Karimi Joni, a journalist and commentator close to Mr. Rouhani’s administration. Mr. Joni said he had heard the rumors from someone in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and that although he could not confirm them at the time, “later it became clear the leader had sent trusted aides, instead of people close to Ahmadinejad, to conduct the talks.” One man who was widely thought to have been involved was Ali Akbar Salehi, a foreign minister under Mr. Ahmadinejad who now heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Asked on Sunday about secret negotiations in Oman, Mr. Salehi appeared surprised; he smiled and said, “You must understand that I cannot comment on this right now.” In the early hours of Monday, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official denied the Associated Press report about secret bilateral talks, the state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The agency said the official, whom it did not name, warned the news media against publishing reports that “would create ambiguity over Iran’s clear-cut stances.” Whether Tehran’s change of heart about a deal with the West grew from the pain Iran felt from sanctions or a new strategic calculation about its nuclear program, one factor appears to have been the Obama administration’s publicly stated desire to resolve the issues related to the Iranian nuclear program. Ayatollah Khamenei said in March that “the Americans constantly send us messages, telling us they are sincere.” Though the leader dismissed them in his speech as a public relations tactic, Mr. Mohebbian said, letters that Mr. Obama had sent to Ayatollah Khamenei “created the start of a better atmosphere,” and Ayatollah Khamenei responded. After the country’s Guardian Council, which vets prospective candidates, decided on the field for the presidential race, Mr. Rouhani emerged as the only candidate who was not considered a hard-liner like Mr. Ahmedinejad. Dissatisfied middle-class Iranians who felt alienated by the intrusive security state that Iran had become flocked to Mr. Rouhani’s standard, and he won the election comfortably without a runoff. “I am so happy I voted for Mr. Rouhani at the time,” Sajad Motaharnia, a student of English, said on Sunday as he watched a news broadcast about the nuclear agreement, which was given extensive coverage on state television. “But I’m also sad when I think how we have lived under pressure for the past 10 years because of the bad decisions of some politicians.” Mr. Rouhani himself seemed to want to draw a line under the past, by bringing the families of Iranian nuclear scientists who were killed in recent years to his news briefing on Sunday; the schoolgirl he kissed for the cameras was the daughter of one of them, Darioush Rezai-Nejad. Some opposition to the agreement was evident on Sunday among Iranian hard-liners. The Raja News website quoted several lawmakers warning that Parliament had the power under the country’s Constitution to ratify or reject the agreement, and that they were dissatisfied with several elements of it. One well-known hard-liner, Hamid-Reza Taraghi, an official interpreter of Ayatollah Khamenei’s speeches, was among the skeptics, saying he was disappointed that the deal did not call for the lifting of all sanctions. He dismissed the notion that Ayatollah Khamenei had approved secret talks between Iran and the United States. “What is clear is that the supreme leader did not agree with the way the previous negotiating team operated,” Mr. Taraghi said, referring to the Ahmedinejad administration. “But bear in mind that Ayatollah Khamenei is honest and does not believe in duplicity in politics.”

Commentary: China's setup of air zone legitimate, conducive to regional peace

The Chinese government on Saturday issued a statement on establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The move, however, provoked anger in Japan, which accused China of "one-sidedly" setting up the zone that covers the disputed Diaoyu islands, and described the zone as "totally unacceptable." Having no intention to generate tensions, China's move is to uphold its own legitimate rights and safeguard what has always been its own. As pointed out by many military experts, the establishment of the air zone is a necessary, rightful and totally legitimate measure taken by China in protecting its sovereignty and providing air security. Actually, the establishment of the air zone is not only perfectly legitimate, but also in line with current international practice. An air defense identification zone is established by a maritime nation to guard against potential air threats. Since the 1950s, more than 20 countries, including the United States, Australia, Germany and Japan itself, have successively established such zones. China's Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun has stressed that the zone "has no particular target and will not affect the freedom of flight in relevant airspace." Since the zone is both in line with the UN Charter and in respect of relevant international laws and customs, China has every right to decide on its own whether to set up such zones, without getting permission from any other countries. And Japan should know better than to continue its overreaction and learn to accept the "unacceptable." On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also voiced concerns over the zone, fearing it might "constitute an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," and increase tensions and risks in the region. But is it China to blame for upsetting the status quo over the islands? The status quo of the Diaoyu islands, which had lasted for decades under the principle of shelving the dispute, has already been broken more than one year ago when the Japanese government launched a unilateral move to "purchase" and "nationalize" the islands. The farce of "buying" the Chinese territories is a sign of Japan's expanding nationalism and growing belligerence, which should be identified as the real danger in the region. Instead of "increasing tensions and creating risks," the setup of China's air zone could contribute much to regional peace and security by curbing the increasing rampancy of Japan's right-wing forces, as well as the continuous and dangerous provocations of Japanese politicians, which even Washington should be vigilant against. The White House has repeatedly said that the United States does not take a position on territorial disputes between China and Japan, a neutral stance the Chinese government has appreciated. But keeping a blind eye to the dangerous tendency in Japan could prove to be risky and might even jeopardize the U.S. national interests.

Netanyahu : Iran nuclear agreement a ‘historic mistake

Prime minister promises that Israel will stop nuclear weapons program; President Peres says pact to be judged by results, not words; ministers lambaste agreement
The nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers early Sunday morning was “a historic mistake,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, excoriating the agreement and vowing to keep Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. “What was accomplished last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it’s a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday morning’s weekly cabinet meeting. “Today the world has become much more dangerous, because the most dangerous regime in the world took a meaningful step toward acquiring the most dangerous weapon in the world.” Netanyahu’s remarks came just hours after Iranian delegates and world powers reached a first-step accord in Geneva aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day attain nuclear weapons.
“For the first time the world’s leading powers agreed to the enrichment of uranium in Iran, while ignoring the Security Council resolutions that they themselves championed,” the prime minister said. “These sanctions have been removed for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be canceled in weeks. This agreement and what it means threaten many countries, and including, of course, Israel. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The regime in Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction and Israel has the right and responsibility to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
He added that Israel would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Netanyahu was expected to speak by phone with US President Barack Obama later in the day, Reuters reported. Netanyahu has been vocal on the world stage in his criticism of a deal with Iran. In his UN General Assembly speech in September, Netanyahu blasted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and warned the US against mistaking a change in Iran’s tone with an actual change in nuclear ambitions. The Israeli leader subsequently denounced the potential nuclear agreement as the “deal of the century” for Iran.
President Shimon Peres released a less fiery statement Sunday saying that Israel prefers diplomacy but the deal “will be judged by results, not by words.”
Addressing the Iranian people, Peres said, “You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles. Israel like others in the international community prefers a diplomatic solution.” “The international community will not tolerate a nuclear Iran,” Peres concluded. “And if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse.”
The deal limits continued Iranian enrichment of uranium to 5 percent in exchange for eased sanctions.
A White House official said the deal included an agreement that Iran would halt progress on its nuclear program, including a plutonium reactor at the Arak facility. The deal also calls on Iran to neutralize its 20-percent-enriched uranium stockpiles. Tehran has also agreed to intrusive inspections under the terms of the deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make US allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer by reducing the threat of war. Netanyahu’s words came after a morning which saw a bevy of Israeli ministers criticize the deal, with only a handful of lawmakers backing it.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the agreement had created a ”new reality in the whole Middle East, including the Saudis.” When asked if this would lead to an Israeli military strike on Iran, Liberman said Israel “would need to make different decisions.” Home Front Command Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that it would now be more difficult for Israel to act for the duration of the six-month agreement.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, said there was no reason for the world to be celebrating. He said the deal, reached in Geneva early Sunday, is based on “Iranian deception and [Western] self-delusion.”
“Just like the failed deal with North Korea, the current deal can actually bring Iran closer to the bomb,” Steinitz said. “Israel cannot take part in the international celebrations based on Iranian deception and self-delusion.” MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) wrote on Facebook that American attempts to calm Israel would only worry him more. “There is no doubt that the agreement exposes differences, not just tactical but also strategic, between us and between the West and the US.” Economics Minister Naftali Bennett called the deal “bad, very bad.” “If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning,” he said on Facebook. “There is still a long campaign ahead of us. We will continue to act in every possible way.” Finance Minister Yair Lapid panned the interim agreement and said Israel would have to work to make sure a final deal had better terms. “This is a bad deal that does not bring even one centrifuge to a halt. I am worried not only over the deal, but that we have lost the world’s attention.” “Those that support this agreement only say one good thing about it, and that’s that we win time en route to a final agreement,” Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin told Channel 2 TV. “Our main activity is now directed at a very clear destination — what will be in the final agreement.” Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev was one of the few Israeli voices to back the deal, saying it entails significant impediments to Tehran’s race to nuclear weapons and is far preferable to a military confrontation.
“Considering the achievements such as the dismantling of [Iran’s] stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, reducing the number of centrifuges, halting construction of the heavy water facility [in Arak], all the while sanctions of Iranian oil and banking industries continue, compared to the alternative of a military strike at this point it is clear that the agreement reached is far superior,” he said.

Lavrov: Win-win Iran deal only became possible after Rouhani came to power

The nuclear deal agreed between Iran and the P5+1 group is a win-win situation for everyone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, adding that it only became possible after Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, came to power.
“The very long and difficult negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program have ended, an agreement has been reached, and this deal crowns [our] longstanding relations, during which we’ve seen both ups and downs,” Lavrov told journalists. The agreement means that “we agree with the necessity to recognize Iran’s right to the peaceful atom, including the right to enrichment, with the understanding that all questions we currently have for the program will be [settled] and the whole program will be put under the IAEA’s strict control,” he said. “It’s the final aim, but it’s already fixed in today’s document.” The agreement was based on the “concept promoted by the Russian president and fixed in Russia’s foreign policy,” Lavrov said. Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted to the news saying that the Geneva agreement is a “step towards solving one of toughest global problems,” adding that it was a “breakthrough, but only the first step on a long and difficult path.” Russia is “ready to continue the enduring search for a mutually acceptable, wider integrated solution that will ensure Iran’s inalienable right to develop a peaceful nuclear program under IAEA control and the security of all countries in the Middle East, including Israel,” he said.
The deal means that the International Atomic Energy Authority will have an expanded role in controlling Iran’s nuclear program.
“Iran has agreed to a range of additional measures apart from those that the agency is already undertaking. So I believe that in the long run, it’s win-win for everyone,” Lavrov said, adding that the Iranians had changed their stance since the election of Hassan Rouhani as the country’s president. Lavrov said that he and the other P5+1 ministers “felt that the declarations [from Iran] about wishing to find a solution had a serious basis. This became apparent in the negotiating positions of our Iranian colleagues.” Lavrov said he was now “sure that Iran will conscientiously collaborate with IAEA.” “We’ll reaffirm mutual confidence after reaching this agreement, the confidence we often lacked and which caused unnecessary tensions in the region, in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf region,” he said, adding that this confidence would allow “the US and EU partners to ease the sanctions pressure that was imposed against Iran.”
The pressure on Iran should be reduced by canceling unilateral sanctions, Lavrov said.
“We didn’t recognize those unilateral sanctions, and I think it would be right to reduce them,” he added. A reduction in pressure on Iran would also help in “promoting the aim outlined by the international community in 2010,” Lavrov said, namely, “a conference to create a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.”
Under the Geneva agreement, Iran has pledged to freeze its nuclear program for six months while the P5+1 countries and Tehran seek a permanent agreement, Lavrov said. This time is needed to figure out “the parameters Iran will require for peaceful nuclear activities, fuel production, nuclear power facilities and nuclear research reactors which produce isotopes for medical and other humanitarian purposes,” Lavrov said. Over those six months, “Iran will not add any centrifuges, and will refrain from taking any steps toward the construction of the heavy-water-moderated reactor in Arak. In other words, the whole current Iranian nuclear program – which is, by the way, fully controlled by the IAEA – will stay the same for the next six months.” Resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program could also help to resolve the Syrian conflict, too, by “involving Iran in the constructive work” on this problem, Lavrov said.

20 questions about the Iran nuclear deal: What it says, what's at stake, what's next

When it comes to Iran and the West, the relationship has been convoluted for decades. And this deal is no different. After days of negotiations, six world powers and Tehran reached an agreement that calls on Iran to limit its nuclear activities in return for lighter sanctions. It's complicated politics coupled with complicated science. Here's a quick primer to get you up to speed.
How did Iran's nuclear program start?
The United States launched a nuclear program with Iran in 1957. Back then, the Shah ruled Iran and the two countries were still friends. With backing from the United States, Iran started developing its nuclear power program in the 1970s. But the U.S. pulled its support when the Shah was overthrown during the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Who are these 'six world powers'?
The talks involved the P5+1 group comprising diplomats from the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China and Germany -- and of course Iran. The group has been meeting in Geneva for days in hopes of reaching a diplomatic solution. Reaction to deal in Tehran
Is Iran the only nation with a nuclear program?
Eight nations are known to have nuclear weapons, including all the P5+1 countries, except for Germany. Iran's neighbor, Israel, has always declined to confirm whether it has any, although the Federation of American Scientists estimates it has about 80 atomic weapons. But since the 1979 revolution, concerns have escalated that Iran could enrich uranium and make atomic weapons. Iran has maintained its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.
Why have the other nations not faced as much scrutiny?
For nations such as India and Pakistan, no action was taken partly because they never signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. "There was very little that the U.S. could've done to stop Pakistan," says Mark Hibbs, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Iran, on the other hand, signed the treaty. And as a result, its program was put under the spotlight. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency had information suggesting Iran conducted activities it hasn't declared in the past.
Why is Iran's nuclear program considered such a threat?
Since its revolution, the West has worried Iran could use its nuclear program to produce atomic weapons using highly-enriched uranium. A decade ago, nuclear inspectors from the international agency announced they had found traces of highly-enriched uranium at a plant in Natanz. Iran temporarily halted enrichment, but resumed enriching again in 2006, insisting enrichment was allowed under its agreement with the IAEA. Enough with the background. Let's talk about the deal that was reached. It's more of an interim agreement before the deal. Described as an initial, six-month deal, the White House says it includes "substantial limitations that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon." In short, it slows the country's nuclear development program in exchange for lifting some sanctions while a more formal agreement is worked out.
It's not permanent, so why is it a big deal?
For years, Iran and Western powers have left negotiating tables in disagreement, frustration and open animosity. But the diplomatic tone changed after Iran's election this year, which saw President Hassan Rouhani take over. " For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," U.S. President Barack Obama says.

Obama comments on Iran nuclear programme deal

Afghanistan's Karzai rejects elders' advice to back U.S. deal quickly

An assembly of Afghan elders endorsed a crucial security deal on Sunday to enable U.S. troops to operate in the country beyond next year, but President Hamid Karzai left the matter up in the air by refusing to say whether he would sign it into law. The gathering, known as the Loya Jirga, had been convened by the president to debate the pact which outlines the legal terms of continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. It voted in favor and advised Karzai sign it promptly. But Karzai, in his final remarks to the four-day meeting, said he would not sign it until after a presidential election due next April. "If there is no peace, then this agreement will bring misfortune to Afghanistan," he said. "Peace is our precondition. America should bring us peace and then we will sign it." The president did not elaborate, but has previously said a free and fair vote is needed to guarantee peace in the country and his spokesman later said Karzai had not changed his mind. As the meeting ended, assembly chairman Sibghatullah Mojeddedi told Karzai: "If you don't sign it, we will be disappointed." Karzai responded "Fine!" and left the stage. Failure to clinch the deal could mean a full U.S. pullout, leaving Afghanistan to fight the Taliban insurgency on its own. U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan since leading a drive to remove the Taliban in late 2001. U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the deal must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence. In his remarks, Karzai acknowledged there was little trust between him and U.S. leaders while saying signing the pact was broadly in Afghanistan's interests. Backing from the Jirga, handpicked by his administration, had been widely expected. Most speakers were muted in their criticism of the thorniest issues in the document, including a U.S. request for immunity for its troops from Afghan law. Critics say Karzai's recalcitrance on the date might reflect his desire to distance himself from any deal with the United States and avoid speculation that he has sold out to the West. A former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, said Karzai is known to use 11th hour demands to press for concessions from the United States during negotiations. "He has to be the one ... to sign off on this loss of Afghan sovereignty. He knows intellectually that this is in Afghanistan's interest, but at the same time it's distasteful to him," Neumann said.
The deal took a year to bash out and Karzai's volte-face threw the entire process into doubt just hours after both sides announced they had agreed on its terms. Even in Afghanistan, where some view the security agreement with the United States with contempt, many officials were unsettled. Some believe Karzai is simply concerned that the United States and other Western countries may attempt to interfere in next year's presidential election. Having served two terms, he is ineligible to run again. By withholding his signature until after the vote, Karzai could also use ratification as leverage to ensure the United States does not try to back a candidate not to his liking. Opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah, who dropped out of a run-off against Karzai in the 2009 elections, citing concerns about fraud, was among those who shared this suspicion. "What he is asking for is a guarantee about the elections and most probably his favorite candidate," Abdullah told Reuters. Karzai accused the international community of meddling during the 2009 election that he won, saying they had tried to encourage Afghans to vote for an opposition candidate. Others were concerned that Karzai's reluctance to sign the agreement could jeopardize Afghanistan's relations with its international allies and its economic future. "If we keep talking about signing the agreement after the election, we will lose our biggest ally," said Freshta Amini, an MP from southwestern Nimroz province. But some Loya Jirga members supported Karzai's comment about delaying ratification. "If the Americans want to sign this pact with Afghanistan, then they should also respect our demands for a transparent election, and peace and security in the country," said Farid Alokozai, provincial council chief in Wardak, outside Kabul. One cabinet minister close to Karzai said many members of the president's team were unhappy with his decision. "There are people who want this pact to be signed immediately after the Loya Jirga. But there are spoilers too, who have a lot of influence over the president."

Pakistani Film Star Waheed Murad remembered on his death anniversary

Legendary Pakistani film actor, producer and script writer Waheed Murad was remembered on his 30th death anniversary on Saturday. Waheed Murad was born on October 2, 1938 in Sialkot. He was the only child of well-off film distributor Nisar Murad. He got early education from Karachi Grammar School, did graduation from S.M. Arts College Karachi and then masters in English literature from University of Karachi.
He is well-known for his charming expressions, attractive personality, tender voice and unusual talent for acting in films. His style of acting made him popular amongst the young cinema viewers of South Asia. Waheed Murad started his film career by joining his father's established 'Film Art' in 1961 as producer of the film Insaan Badalta Hai.
He appeared in a supporting role in 1962's in the film Aulad. Heera aur Pathar was his first movie as a leading actor and considered to be his major breakthrough.
He acted in a total of 124 films of which 38 were black and white and 86 were in color.
He acted in films 115 Urdu, 8 Punjabi movies and one Pashto film. He received on 32 prestigious film awards. He was awarded Nigar award for best actor in Heera aur pathar in 1964, Armaan in1966, Andaleeb in1969, Mastana Mahi in1971and Legend Award for life time in 2002.
In November 2010, 27 years after his death, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz for distinguished contributions in the fields of literature and arts.
He died on November 23, 1983 in Karachi.

Why are Christians missing from Pakistan’s history books?
The 64th anniversary of the death of S P Singha was recently marked by Christians in Pakistan but if I said his name outside of Christian circles, few would know him. That is because the role of Christians like Singha in the formation of Pakistan have been largely airbrushed out of our national history.
Most Pakistanis are unaware of him and the vital contribution he made to the development of Pakistan’s education system and had fixed the metric examination system and intermediate level degrees. In recognition of his work, he was awarded the title of “Dewan Bahadur”, distinguishing him from ordinary men.
Singha was born in 1893 in Pasroor/Sialkot, Punjab, but later moved to Lahore where he worked as a registrar in the Punjab University and permanently settled in the city. Later, he was elected as a member of the Punjab Assembly and became a Speaker in the Assembly with the support of the Unionist Party. He served in this role until the partition when he became the first Speaker of the Pakistani Punjab Assembly.
But this is where the happy story ends, as soon after he was informed that only a Muslim could be Speaker of the Assembly and a vote of no confidence was moved against him on the grounds of his religion. In essence he was ousted and this affected him profoundly. In fact, it shattered him to the core as he never for a minute expected in the new Pakistan that he would be punished simply for being a Christian and especially given his years of devoted service. After all, hadn’t Quaid in his first presidential speech guaranteed to religious minorities that they were “free to go to your temples” and “equal citizens of one state”? This was not so much a speech as a covenant between Quaid and the minorities who had supported him in the creation of Pakistan. Singha would have no doubt really taken these words to heart because he was so very committed to the vision of Pakistan – support which proved crucial when it came to deciding whether it should get Punjab or India. It seemed that the vote was going against Quaid e Azam when the Hindus and Sikhs refused to support and joined forces to make Punjab a part of India. Quaid seemed resigned to it, saying: “Better a moth-eaten Pakistan than no Pakistan at all.”
But Singha and fellow Christian, Ralia Ram, gave their unconditional support to Pakistan during the 3 Davis Road meeting in Lahore. The Christians leaders voted in favour of Pakistan despite receiving death threats and when there was a tie in the vote, Singha made his decision and swung it Pakistan’s way. The map of Pakistan looks the way it does today because of the loyalty of Christians and their unwavering faith in the new nation.
But how quickly Quaid’s radical vision and the part played by Christians were forgotten after Quaid’s death.
The betrayal of these ideals and Singha’s forced exit from the Assembly so broke his heart that not long after this betrayal he fell ill, dying on 22 October 1948, just a month after the death of Quaid. Singha must have seen what was coming for Christians in this new Pakistan and perhaps, as some speculate, he came to regret his decision, especially when he was publicly humiliated and ejected from the Speaker’s office simply for being a Christian. With Quaid gone, who could he turn to? Fast forward to today and there is not a single Christian MP in the Pakistani Parliament. Punjab is the province where Christians are targeted the most, with some reports stating that 85% of blasphemy cases and attacks against Christians are happening in here. Churches are being attacked, the houses of Christians are being set on fire, and worst of all, innocent Christians are being killed. For many people, the rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan started after the objective resolution passed in 1949 but for me it started the moment we removed the first Speaker from his office on the basis of his religion, simply because he was not a Muslim. If we had opposed this kind of bigotry and hate from the outset and kept Quaid’s August 11 speech before our eyes as the golden principle for our nation, then Pakistan would have been a radically different and, dare I say it, much better country today.
Although many unnecessary years of pain have already passed by, it is better late than never that we still try to make the Pakistan envisaged by Quaid e Azam, where religion has nothing to do with the business of government and every Pakistani, regardless of their race and religion, is an equal Pakistani citizen. Pakistan is facing grave threats and is on the brink of becoming of failed state but things still can still be changed if we become sincere about reshaping our country from the ground up.
For this, I firmly believe a good start would be to give credit where credit’s due to Dewan Bahadur S P Singha and other minority leaders like him who played a pivotal role in the making of Pakistan – and not with dutiful speeches that can once again disappear in the wind but with real words written down in the pages of our school textbooks.
The present curriculum has been strongly criticised by those who claim it is helping to create extremists. It is certainly in need of a serious overhaul. But the overhaul needs to happen not only to the curriculum but to our minds. What use is a curriculum if the parents at home or those teaching it in the classrooms do not really believe or respect it? It is important to tell the youth of today and coming generations about the truth of Pakistan’s birth, for the sake of a healthy society and a stronger nation. I hope that the present government will think over this matter with seriousness and sincerity, and adopt a resolution that remembers the role of minorities in the making of Pakistan. In this respect, the Punjab government should not dismiss the very heavy responsibility it bears in particular.
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Bilawal Bhutto: Violence against women worst HR violation
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party said violence against women is the worst form of human rights violations and its complete elimination remains the core dream of any progressive human society.
In his message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women being observed on November 25 under the aegis of United Nations, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reiterated the commitment of his Party towards the steps and actions to protect women from violence and crimes. He said PPP had always stood for empowerment of women and election of his mother as the first woman ever elected to head an Islamic nation had proved that an overwhelming majority of our nation treats their mothers, daughters and sisters as equal partners in progress, peace and prosperity. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pointed out that women in Pakistan have immensely benefitted from Benazir Income Support Programme, Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme and several other legislative and practical steps initiated under People’s governments. He said as a son of a martyr mother, he will continue the efforts launched by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for the political, social and economic empowerment of women to ensure complete elimination of violence against women in Pakistan.

Video: Afghan President Hamid Karzai's closing speech at Loya Jirga

Afghan Jirga Endorsed BSA, Called On Karzai To Sign It

Afghan tribal elites concluded a four-day Loya Jirga on Sunday, endorsing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, which allows a residual US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. A unanimous majority of 2,500-member Jirga called on President Hamid Karzai to sign the document by the end of this year. But, the Afghan president laid out three pre-conditions before signing the security pact: transparent elections in April 2014, no raids on Afghan homes and a breakthrough in talks with the Taliban. Washington has said that it's "neither practical nor possible" to delay the signing. President Karzai in his speech on Thursday in the opening of the Jirga said that the BSA would be signed after the April elections. "If there is one more raid on Afghan homes by US forces, there is no BSA. US can't go to our homes from this moment onwards," President Karzai in his half an hour closing remarks in Jirga. The Afghan president said he believed peace in Afghanistan is "first in the hands of the US and secondly in the hands of Pakistan". He said now that the Jirga has endorsed the document, he will continue bargaining with the US government on the three pre-conditions. The US military would be stationed out of nine military bases in Afghanistan, but representatives of central Bamyan province in the Loya Jirga said they wanted a US base in their province too. The Jirga has accepted that the US soldiers should be prosecuted under the US law, suggesting that an Afghan government's representative should be present during the trial. The Jirga outcome also includes that the US cannot have any prison in Afghanistan and it should handover all Afghan detainees to the government of Afghanistan. The US insists the deal - which has taken months to negotiate - must be signed before the end of this year in order to secure plans for how many troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. US government's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, on Friday said that the security pact between the countries ought to be signed in the next few weeks. "We feel strongly that the agreement ought to be signed as soon as it's approved by the Jirga and then it ought to be sent to the parliament and approved and this ought to occur at some time in the next few weeks," Ambassador Dobbins told TOLOnews. "The Afghan people are anxious whether the United States and the international community remain committed to their security and wellbeing and frankly the American people and the international community are uncertain about whether the Afghan people really want us," he added. The American-led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the September 11 attacks in order to oust the Taliban regime and prevent terrorist groups like al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations. Twelve years later, as the coalition withdraws in the lead up to its self-set December, 2014 deadline, there are still around 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, out of which 68,000 are American. The Afghan security forces currently number at around 350,000 men. They're greatest deficiency, according to experts, are logistics. Most are adamant about the US and other coalition countries continuing to advise, train and assist the Afghan forces beyond 2014.

Afghanistan: BSA could be scrapped if raids continue: Karzai

President Hamid Karzai on Sunday said he would consult with Loya Jirga and US leaders on amendments to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) before signing the vital security pact. However, he gave no clear timeframe. “We want the US to be sincere in implementing this important deal,” the president told the concluding session of the tribal assembly in Kabul, identifying peace and transparent elections as the main objectives behind the accord.
“Can we achieve this (goal) in a month’s time? If I sign this agreement and peace continues to elude the country, who will be held responsible?” Karzai asked after most of the 50 committees supported inking of the BSA before the April elections. In line with jirga recommendations, foreign troops could no longer raid and search civilian houses, the president said. “If they do, we will terminate the pact,” he warned.
Thousands of people had been massacred in the name of the war on Taliban and Al-Qaeda, he regretted, stressing the trail of murder and mayhem must end permanently.
Peace in Afghanistan remained in hands of America and Pakistan, the president reiterated. “It’s absolutely clear. With their cooperation, the objective can be realised,” he maintained. If peace did not come about, the BSA would spell misfortune for Afghans, he observed, hoping the Americans would heed their recommendations for changes to the agreement to prevent a repeat of past mistakes. “We have won wars, but lost politically,” remarked the president, who tended to favour delay and caution in signing the agreement. However, he hastened to affirm his desire for friendly relations and cooperation with the global fraternity. Karzai believed the security situation in Afghanistan continued to offer cause for concern. To substantiate the point, he pointed to a bomb blast in Jalalabad earlier in the day, killing two schoolchildren.
Giving the Americans military bases was a hard decision that was inconsistent with Afghanistan’s pride, he acknowledged, “but we had to take it because of compulsions.” Three days ahead of the grand tribal assembly in the capital began, the president recalled, he had spoken to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador James B. Cunningham and ISAF Commander Joseph Dunford. “I asked the (US) ambassador why they are in a hurry. Why can’t the BSA be signed after 5 months? He hinted at the 2014 presidential polls going to a second round, reminding me of the previous polls,” Karzai told the delegates. He vehemently opposed a run-off vote, calling it a drag on Afghanistan’s war-tattered economy. Insisting on an end to foreign meddling, the president was confident that a transparent election would throw up a clear winner in the first round.

Delegates back US jurisdiction over troops
A vast majority of the consultative Loya Jirga on Saturday accorded approval to the controversial clause of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) concerning judicial jurisdiction over US troops staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014. With 20 articles of the deal debated on Friday, the 50 jirga committees are to thrash out the remaining six today. The article on legal jurisdiction over foreign soldiers -- being an emotive issue for the Afghans -- was to be decided by the tribal assembly.
Jirga Chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi said the text contained no major controversial point. The US soldiers committing crimes in Afghanistan would be tried under the American military law, he added, explaining there was no question of immunity. “We have suggested the best way is to prosecute US soldiers under the US law in the presence of Afghans,” said Mujaddedi, a former president and reconciliation commission chairman. One participant Asadullah Jamali, also the Faryab peace committee head, told Pajhwok Afghan News all contents of the accord were debated in detail and members floated a string of suggestions. “There were differences over Article 13 (that concerns judicial jurisdiction over international troops). All of us believe the US soldiers involved in criminal offences in Afghanistan should be prosecuted here,” he said.
If their proposals were not accepted, the delegates would not oppose the troops’ trial in the US, he explained, confirming the long-running issue between the two sides had been settled. Haji Mohammad Omar Ahmadzai, another participant from central Logar province, proposed that victims should be given a chance to watch criminal proceedings against the US soldiers, who were prosecuted for crimes committed in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan elders seek US security pact signing in 2013

Afghan elders at a grand assembly in Kabul have called for a security deal with the US to be signed this year. The pact allows thousands of US troops to remain in Afghanistan once combat operations end in 2014. But President Hamid Karzai, who wants to delay the deal, told delegates he would only sign it once the US had brought peace to his country.
The US has said it is neither "practical nor possible" to delay the signing. The Bilateral Security Agreement also has to be approved by the Afghan parliament. The deal under discussion may see 15,000 foreign troops remain after 2014, although the US says it has not yet taken a decision on any presence. The soldiers who stay beyond 2014, when most foreign combat forces leave, would primarily train and mentor Afghan forces. Some special forces would stay to conduct "counter-terror operations".
'Tense exchanges'
More than 2,000 elders have been taking part in the grand assembly of elders, or Loya Jirga, meeting behind closed doors in Kabul for the past four days. "Given the current situation in, and Afghanistan's need... the contents of this agreement as a whole is endorsed by the members of this Loya Jirga," a declaration reached at the end of the meeting said, quoted by AFP news agency. "The Loya Jirga requests the president to sign the agreement before the end of 2013." Opening the meeting on Thursday, the Afghan president urged delegates to support the pact, but said he would not sign it until after the election scheduled for April 2014.
The BBC's Karen Allen, in Kabul, says the vast majority of elders wanted the deal signed within a month. The assembly's chairman, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, said he will resign his official posts and leave the country if the security deal is not signed by the end of the year. The past few days have seen tense diplomatic telephone exchanges between US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Karzai, our correspondent says. Washington insists the deal - which has taken months to negotiate - must be signed before the end of this year in order to secure plans for how many troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "We believe that signing sooner rather than later is essential to give Afghans certainty about their future before the upcoming elections, and enable the United States and other partners to plan for US presence after 2014. "It is neither practical nor possible for us to further delay because of the uncertainty it would create." Security has been tight for the meeting after a suicide bombing last weekend near the huge tent where it is being held. The Taliban has branded the meeting a US-designed plot, and has vowed to pursue and punish its delegates as traitors if they approve the deal.

Cross-border terror: India all set to build a Berlin Wall in Jammu
To stop infiltration and continuous ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side, India is now all set to raise a 10-metre high embankment running along the 197-Km stretch of the International Border in the Jammu sector. The serpentine wall will pass through 118 villages in Jammu district. Seen from the Pakistani side, the border will be demarcated clearly by first a fence, a trench and then the 10-metre high wall. A strip of land as wide as 135 feet is being acquired for the purpose, to accommodate several bunkers and outposts for the border security forces.
Earth excavators are set to be used to dig the parallel trench, which will make infiltration virtually impossible, said sources. The International Border in Jammu and the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir have both remained tense throughout this year. The inspiration for this wall seems to have been drawn from a similar wall in the West Bank, erected by Israeli authorities who say the wall has served as a deterrent for violence perpetuated by the Palestinian militants. The wall constructed by India is supposed to be higher than the Berlin Wall which separated Europe during the Cold War. It will be the first of its kind between the two neighboring countries.
More than 200 ceasefire violations were reported through 2013 in different places across Jammu and Kashmir, most of them in the area along which the Government of India is now planning to build the embankment. On Oct 23, early this year, Pakistani rangers fired at more than 50 locations in Samba sector which was described by security forces as the most extensive ceasefire violation in one night in the past two decades. Director General of Border Security Forces (BSF) Subash Joshi said in New Delhi that the BSF was waiting for the government of Jammu and Kashmir to acquire land along the stretch. “We have identified the land. The embankment will be followed by the fence,” he said. Under the Land Acquisition Act of the Jammu and Kashmir government, the project also has to be given a green signal by 24 MLAs, who will have to give a no-objection certificate to the state government. “For the wall to come we have already identified and acquired land in 29 villages,” said Divisional Commissioner (Samba) R K Verma, said. A similar exercise has been initiated in Kathua too. Sources say the decision has been taken by the authorities with much persistence by the BSF in view of the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. The violence in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir has seen an unexpected spurt this year. “It is only possible to construct a wall of this size in certain places in the state. It cant be done throughout the state. Jammu being the easiest one, it will help to stop the infiltration and drug smuggling also, a home Ministry official told Firstpost.
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Concerns grow in Pakistan and India over border violence

For much of the past decade, the residents of this village near Pakistan’s border with India have lived in relative peace, tending their water buffalo and goats, despite a history of tensions between the countries. But this fall, mortar shells from India killed a 40-year-old rickshaw driver and several animals, residents say. “I have sent my family to relatives and keep my door locked,” said Mohammad Iqbal, 55. “When I am sure peace is restored, I will bring them back.” Recent attacks involving Indian and Pakistani troops have been the worst border violence since a 2003 cease-fire. Now, with snow falling on the mountainous border, fighting has subsided and displaced residents are trickling home. But analysts fear the calm will be relatively short-lived. While few expect another war, the flare-ups illustrate the simmering tensions that may only increase as the two countries jostle for influence in Afghanistan while U.S. troops withdraw. “This is the new normal,” said Stephen P. Cohen, a senior fellow and South Asia analyst at the Brookings Institution. “This is going to be just like the Middle East, but only with two countries with nuclear weapons.” The fighting this fall, which included artillery and mortar fire, claimed civilian and military lives on both sides of the border. Ominously, it took place not only in Kashmir, which has been a source of tension for decades, but also farther south on the outskirts of Sialkot, an industrial area known for producing quality soccer balls. Since predominantly Muslim Pakistan was separated from mostly Hindu India in 1947, the countries have fought two wars over Kashmir, which is divided between them but has a majority Muslim population.
Each side has blamed the other for the recent fighting.
Pakistanis speculate that the Indian government is becoming more aggressive toward its neighbor, in part to gain support ahead of national elections. Meanwhile, Indians accuse Pakistan of failing to rein in Islamist militants seeking an independent Kashmir. Some of the militant groups are widely suspected of having ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence services. The conflict started in January, when Pakistan accused Indian forces of killing a Pakistani soldier on the disputed border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control. India then claimed Pakistani soldiers or militants crossed the border and killed three of its soldiers. In August, the feud took a dangerous turn when five Indian soldiers were slain in Kashmir. Pakistan denied responsibility but shelling between the two sides escalated. Last month, Pakistan’s military accused India of firing 4,000 mortar shells and 59,000 machine-gun rounds during a two-day period that coincided with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with President Obama in Washington. One of those shells killed the rickshaw driver in Tahir Joian. “We were forced to retaliate,” said Brig. Mateem Ahmed Khan, a senior commander for Pakistan’s border force near Sialkot. He accused India of stoking the tension to undermine Sharif’s visit to Washington. “It was a rain of fire coming down on our villages and posts,” he said. With Pakistan restricting Western reporters’ access to the border, it is difficult to verify the claims of its military. In Tahir Joian, chunks of concrete were missing from walls and a hole was visible in a thatched roof, but there did not appear to be widespread damage.
Efforts to avoid crisis
When a reporter visited a Pakistani ranger outpost recently, soldiers were looking out over a tranquil border, listening to music from an Indian Border Security Force bunker about a quarter-mile away. The sound of music across the border underscores a crucial point: Unlike previous conflicts in the 1990s and early 2000s, which led to fears of another major war, India and Pakistan are working to keeping their skirmishes from turning into an international crisis. The directors of military operations for both countries hold weekly conference calls to try to keep hostilities in check. Khan recently met his Indian counterpart at the border to discuss matters such as how Indian forces can clear brush around their outposts without fear of being targeted. Sharif, who campaigned on improved relations with India before taking office in June, is pressing for security and trade negotiations with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Though the two met in late September, Singh has appeared hesitant to engage in substantive talks, expressing concern that Pakistan is not doing enough to control Islamist militant groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. But many Pakistani analysts doubt that this country’s military is to blame for the tension, since it is focused on battling domestic militants. A bloody insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban has claimed more than 45,000 lives. “Pakistan is preoccupied with domestic issues at the moment, so the military would have no interest in heating up the Line of Control, none whatsoever,” said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. “In fact, it has an interest in assuring all is peaceful on the eastern front so it can focus on the western front” with Afghanistan, an area where many militants are based. Lodhi said Singh may be adopting a tougher approach to Pakistan because of Indian elections in the spring. Singh is stepping aside, but his Congress Party faces a stiff challenge from the BJP party, led by Narendra Modi, an ardent Hindu nationalist who wants to take a harder line with Pakistan.
The Afghanistan factor
Even after the elections, analysts fear, the India-Pakistan border could turn volatile as the two countries struggle for influence in Afghanistan. In recent months, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been reaching out to India for military aid, a potential alliance that unnerves Pakistani leaders, who fear their country could become further isolated in the region. To Pakistanis, their nation’s regional importance was highlighted this summer when U.S. officials turned to the country for help in trying to arrange peace talks between the Taliban and Karzai’s government. The talks ultimately didn’t happen. In Pakistan, some officials believe India escalated tension at the border to draw attention away from Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. “India was anxious it was getting left out and that Pakistan was not taking it seriously,” said Riaz Khokhar, Pakistan’s foreign secretary from 2002 to 2005. Sushant Sareen, a researcher at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, called Khokhar’s comments “utter rubbish.” The real cause of the skirmishing on the border, he said, was Pakistan’s unwillingness to stop Islamist militant groups from crossing the border. In recent weeks, before snows in the Himalayan mountains made passage difficult, as many as 100 Pakistani insurgents sneaked into Indian territory, according to Indian intelligence and security officials. They say the insurgents plan to carry out attacks before the elections and stoke separatist fervor in Indian-controlled Kashmir. “Before, there was this looming American presence in the region that kept things from happening,” Sareen said. “But now, with that focus shifting from the area, it’s going back to business as usual.”

Explosions in Upper Kurram Agency kill three, injure one

At least three people, including two students, were killed and one other injured Sunday in two separate explosions that took place in Upper Kurram Agency, DawnNews reported. According to the political administration of the area, a roadside bomb was detonated near a car in the Shablan area of Upper Kurram Agency. Subsequently, two people were killed whereas one person sustained injuries. The second explosion occurred in the Dal area of Upper Kurram Agency due to which one person was killed. Following the explosions, the political administration cordoned off the area and a probe into the incident went underway. Kurram Agency, which is close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, is one of the seven regions in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), governed by tribal laws. An extremist insurgency led by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) plagues the region while the area is known to be infested with militants, including the Al-Qaeda, Taliban and several other armed extremist organisations. Separately, a police official was killed when unknown motorcylists opened fire on him within the remit of the Bannu Township police station. Meanwhile, a roadside-bomb was defused near Karam Kot on the Miramshah-Mirali road.

U.K: Corruption rife in the Pakistani community

By Benedict Brogan
Corruption in parts of Pakistani community is growing problem that politicians have underestimated, Government’s chief legal adviser says
Corruption in parts of the Pakistani community is “endemic” and a growing problem that politicians have underestimated, the Government’s chief legal adviser has said. Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General, said ministers should “wake up” to the threat of corruption in public life, which he attributed to “minority communities” that operate a “favour culture”. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Grieve praised the integration of minorities into British life, and pointed out that corruption can also be found in the “white Anglo-Saxon” community. But he said that the growth of corruption was “because we have minority communities in this country which come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic. It is something we as politicians have to wake to up to”. Mr Grieve said he was referring to “mainly the Pakistani community” but added that other minority communities had similar problems. His remarks could affect Britain’s relations with Pakistan. In 2010 David Cameron refused to apologise after he accused the country of “exporting terror”.
Ministers are aware that high-profile stories involving child abuse, Islamist extremism, slavery and corruption in the Pakistani community are being used by far-Right agitators such as the English Defence League to stir sectarianism. Mr Grieve, the MP for Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, has a sizeable South Asian community in his constituency. “I can see many of them have come because of the opportunities that they get. But they also come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture,” he said. “One of the things you have to make absolutely clear is that that is not the case and it’s not acceptable.” He said electoral corruption in particular had increased. He identified Slough, Berks, as an example of where abuses had occurred. In 2008 a Tory councillor, Eshaq Khan, was found guilty of fraud involving postal ballots. Earlier this year the Electoral Commission announced it was considering introducing ballot box identity checks in Tower Hamlets, east London, in an effort to stamp out electoral fraud in areas with large South Asian communities.
Asked if he was referring to the Pakistani community, Mr Grieve said: “Yes, it’s mainly the Pakistani community, not the Indian community. I wouldn’t draw it down to one. I’d be wary of saying it’s just a Pakistani problem.” He added: “I happen to be very optimistic about the future of the UK. We have managed integration of minority communities better than most countries in Europe.” Tory ministers have avoided singling out particular communities over political corruption. However, in 2010, Baroness Warsi claimed the Tories lost three seats at the general election as a result of voter fraud within the Asian community. Mr Grieve also said the Government was considering how to deal with the expected influx of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants when movement controls are lifted in January. He acknowledged that “the volume if immigrants may pose serious infrastructure issues”.

Pakistan: General Kayani leaves behind an insecure Pakistan

Dubbed as the 'most powerful man' in Pakistan, army chief Kayani is stepping down soon, leaving behind a violence-marred country. Experts believe it is a result of his half-hearted attempts at fighting the Taliban.
Most security and political analysts do not underestimate the might of the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military chief is considered more powerful than prime minister or president. The generals of the ubiquitous army, which has collectively ruled the Islamic Republic for more than three decades, call the shots and have the last say in matters related to defense and foreign policy, experts say. Some even claim that the army and its intelligence agencies - particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) - interfere in domestic politics and the civilian administration has to follow their orders. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani , who succeeded former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in 2007 - has been commanding this powerful institution for six years. But the "most powerful man" in Pakistan is about to step down, leaving an uncertain future behind. General Kayani's term as army chief is ending on November 29. The government says that Prime Minister Sharif - who is technically the supreme commander of the military - will announce the name of Kayani's successor on the day of the general's retirement.
But what legacy is Kayani leaving behind? Will he be remembered as a general who supported civilian democracy after almost a decade of military rule? Will he be viewed as an army chief in whose tenure Islamist militancy became stronger? Will his successor continue his policies at a time when neighboring Afghanistan stands at a crucial juncture of its history as NATO troops prepare to leave the war-torn country next year?
"As an institution, the Pakistani army has not cut off ties with Islamist extremist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani Network, and the Quetta Shura," said Malik Siraj Akbar, a Washington-based Pakistani political expert. "Under Kayani's leadership, some segments of the Pakistani military developed contempt for the Taliban but this does not represent a shift in the army's institutional support for radical groups." Akbar believes that Kayani is only opposed to some factions of the Pakistani Taliban because the militants continued to attack his soldiers and bases."I believe General Kayani didn't make as much effort to fight extremism in Pakistan as Musharraf did," Akbar told DW. Islamabad-based retired army general and security analyst Talat Masood thinks otherwise. He told DW in an interview that Kayani launched a number of successful military operations against militant Islamists. "The operations in Swat and South Waziristan were very successful in pushing back the Taliban. It is true that Kayani was reluctant to do the same in North Waziristan but then his hands were tied. He didn't get any backing from the civilian government," Masood said, adding that the first three years of Kayani's term were quite effective in the fight against terror. "I would like to know how good they (Kayani's first three years) were?" Islamabad-based peace activist and writer Arshad Mahmood asked, adding that the security situation had deteriorated in the last six years and that the army was equally responsible for it.
"Kayani has recently said he is proud of leading the 'best army in the world.' I want to know what this best army has achieved so far?" questioned Mahmood. "Today, Pakistan is considered a safe haven for terrorists who come here from all over the world. There is no writ of the state in many parts of the country. Sectarian violence has increased. People don't feel safe anywhere in Pakistan." Mahmood told DW that the Pakistani generals seemed to be "cut off from reality" as they were unaware of the affairs of the world. "They still pursue the so-called 'strategic depth' and 'deep state' ideology to use Afghanistan as their backyard against India."
Kayani's admirers say that unlike most of his predecessors, the general did not interfere in politics and supported the country's democratic setup.
"The fact that former President Zardari's government was able to finish its tenure and transferred the power to Sharif is in itself a big achievement for Kayani as the army chief," Masood said. The analyst, however, admitted that the influence of the army over domestic and foreign policy affairs didn't lessen under Kayani. "On the whole, Kayani's tenure was not anti-democracy."
Akbar, however, disagrees: "Kayani kept on staging soft coups against the former civilian government of the Pakistan Peoples Party. He didn't, or couldn't stage a full coup for two reasons: one, since the US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, the army has remained deeply embarrassed and demoralized; two, the army also couldn't convince the nation that it was succeeding in fighting the Taliban." Experts also say that the regional and international scenarios also didn't allow the army to rule directly.
Akbar said that the military, under Kayani's command, opposed former Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani's plans to bring the ISI under the civilian control, and it resented the US Kerry- Lugar Bill that reduced its funding.
Kayani's successor
There are four generals who are in the running to replace Kayani - Haroon Aslam, a former head of Pakistani Special Forces, who was involved in successful missions to end the Taliban's control in the northwestern Swat Valley in 2009; Tariq Khan, who led similar operations in South Waziristan and Bajaur; and Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif, also senior generals in the Pakistani army. Masood believes the senior most general should replace Kayani. "The one who has a good training in defeating insurgency and who is also good at dealing with Pakistani politicians and the international community." The security expert says he hopes PM Sharif will appoint Kayani's successor on merit. "His past experience with General Musharraf was not good, but that should not affect his decision now. The time for a military coup in Pakistan is over." Former president and army chief Musharraf - who is facing criminal charges - led a coup to overthrow Sharif in 1999 after the then PM appointed his "trusted general" over the senior general Musharraf.

Pakistan’s ‘illegal’ nuclear procurement exposed in 1987: report
Pakistan’s nuclear procurement was exposed as early as 1987 with the arrest of a Pakistani national, resulting in sharp divisions in the US government, but then Regan administration decided to ignore it in lieu of Islamabad’s contribution in Afghanistan against the Russians, American media quoted the latest set of US declassified documents as saying, on Saturday. The arrest of a Pakistani national Arshed Pervez in July 1987 on charges of illegal nuclear procurement roiled US-Pakistan relations and sharpened divisions within the Reagan administration, according to recently declassified documents published by the National Security Archive and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director Kenneth Adelman wanted to crack down on the Pakistani nuclear programme by cutting military and economic aid. Adelman argued that failure to do so “would be seen as ‘business as usual,’” taking the pressure off Pakistan “at the very time we should be trying to increase pressure on them to stop … illegal procurement activities in the US”. By contrast, the State Department took a contrary view because US aid to Pakistan supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan. “We are particularly concerned about weakening the president’s hand in discussions with the Soviets on Afghanistan, which (are) at a critical stage.” Pervez, who had tried to bribe a Customs official to get an export licence, sought to purchase high strength maraging steel, uniquely suited for gas centrifuge enrichment technology, and quantities of beryllium for his country’s covert nuclear programme. This arrest and then an indictment in California on another case made headlines in the United States. The revealed document say Adelman wanted president Reagan to invoke the Solarz amendment (after then-Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-NY), which required an aid cut-off in the event that governments receiving US aid or their agents illegally tried to procure material that could be used for a nuclear weapons programme. Reagan, however, refused to invoke the Solarz amendment. Although Pervez would be found guilty, the White House kept US aid flowing to Islamabad for reasons of “national security.” For the Reagan administration, aiding the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan trumped non-proliferation policy interests. The report says the high priority given to a close US-Pakistan relationship may have encouraged, as some journalists have alleged, State Department officials to warn the Pakistanis of the imminent arrest of their agents. The declassified documents say a key figure in the AQ Khan nuclear procurement network, Inamul Haq, who was working closely with Pervez, evaded arrest by slipping out of the United States at the last minute. The declassified documents show the “illegal network” had Islamabad’s “approval, protection, and funding”. A few weeks later, under secretary of state for political affairs Michael Armacost explained to Pakistani ruler General Ziaul Haq that State had unsuccessfully tried to get information about the Customs Bureau’s investigation of Pervez, but “we did alert the GoP (Government of Pakistan) through letters, Ambassador Hinton, and our talks with the foreign minister that there was an issue here that needed to be addressed urgently.” “I understand the idea of warning, Zia replied.” The Pervez case demonstrates how the US government agencies, including the Customs Bureau and ACDA, sought to monitor and disrupt Pakistan’s nuclear procurement activities. For its part, the Reagan White House used loopholes in US non-proliferation laws to avoid the enforcement of sanctions on Pakistan. The documents released in Saturday’s publication illustrate these and related developments. They include: Records compiled by the US government lawyers for prosecuting Pervez, including correspondence between Pervez and the Khan front company, Multinational, Inc., Pervez’s correspondence with Carpenter Technology Corporation, the supplier of maraging steel, and Pervez’s personal notes, which include references to “atom” and “military” which his lawyers could not explain. A memorandum by Kenneth Adelman shortly after Pervez’s arrest said: “If we now ‘lawyer our way around’ the Solarz amendment”, and seek to avoid its enforcement, “Zia will conclude once again that he need do nothing about his bomb programme.” An ACDA memo on the applicability of the Solarz amendment which concluded that “there is no plausible end-use for 25 tonnes of grade 350 maraging steel other than in the manufacture of centrifuges” for producing highly-enriched uranium and “for which Pakistan has no use except in nuclear explosives”.

Aseefa Bhutto strongly condemns the kidnapping of innocent teachers from Bara Khyber Agency
Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the kidnapping of eleven innocent teachers who were preparing to set out for the polio vaccination drive in Bara.Militants kidnapped 11 teachers involved in a polio vaccination campaign for school children in the Bara district of the Khyber tribal agency on Saturday morning.In a statement, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said that we needed to stand with our brave teachers, our lady workers who were risking their lives for the future of our nation. “We have to stand with the brave people of Bara who have suffered so much at the hands of the terrorists”, she added. Aseefa Bhutto called on the government to do everything in its power to locate and free the kidnap victims and create a democratic environment that is peaceful, safe and secure for everyone in the country. “I have been repeatedly urging the respective governments to own the immunization program”, she further said. “It’s a big tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with the kidnapped teachers and their families”, she said. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari also prayed for their speedy recovery.

Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif, the Saudi poodle with a nuclear button
The Saudi support for Nawaz Sharif has been no secret in Pakistan or abroad. Politically speaking, it was General Zia who created Nawaz Sharif during the so-called Afghan Jihad in the 1980s. The Jihad was a Saudi-CIA war against the ‘infidel’ Soviet Union. It was the Pakistan Army headed by General Zia which was contracted by the Saudi-CIA combine to fight the Jihad. General Zia was himself a Deobandi who helped the Saudis launch the anti-Shia and anti-Brelvi Takfiri campaign in Pakistan, which has crushed the entire socio-cultural structure of the Pakistan society. General Zia ruled the country for 11 years making sure that the Takfiri system he had installed would continue. For this purpose, the Deobandi madrassas (seminaries) were established to prepare hate-mongers and suicide bombers to carry out the Shia genocide. But the Deobandi mullahs and madrassas despite their venom and destructiveness were politically-electorally insignificant. They still are. Thus, the Saudi-Army nexus created a new political elite whose agenda was to win the votes of a society radicalized by Takfiri propaganda against the Shias, Brelvi Sufis, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Christians. Another part of the propaganda was demonizing and apostatizing of the likes of Benazir Bhutto and secular-progressive elements who had roots amongst the masses and could pose a danger to the Saudi Takfiri ideology.
This Saudi-Army complicity, its mechanism, and functioning is a long story, and cannot be covered in these spaces. The main issue here is the very person of Nawaz Sharif who has been acting more like a hatchet man of the Saudi Takfiri ideology than a Pakistani politician. The first Takfiri shot Nawaz Sharif fired after General Zia’s death was meant to destroy Benazir’s political career. He cried non-stop in every public and private forum: “She is a security risk!”
What was the meaning of calling her a security risk? It was not a political slogan at all, as some commentators have observed. It was the very first instance of apostatising of Benazir Bhutto done not by a mullah, but a politician. It meant this: Benazir must not be allowed to become prime minister of the Islamic Republic because she would give all nuclear secrets and other classified information to the infidel India. Within months of her assumption of the office of prime minister, Nawaz Sharif’s Takfiri slogan against Benazir found ‘evidence’ when she met Rajiv Gandhi in order to normalize relations with India. The rightwing Urdu press went hysterical with allegations that, inter alia, she had handed classified information to Gandhi. The ‘evidence’ discussed was that she had given the names of the Sikh militants who has been campaigning for an independent Khalistan.
Soon Benazir was sacked and Nawaz Sharif took over. Now it was his opportunity to show how loyal to the Saudis he was. In 1992, he introduced the notorious Blasphemy Bill in the parliament. The Bill stipulated death sentence for anyone who insulted the Prophet (PBUH). To this day, the people of Pakistan have been tasting the bitter fruit of the Bill. No meaningful discussion of the Bill was allowed, and within minutes it became a part of Pakistan’s constitution. After he was sacked by General Musharraf in 1999, it was the Saudis who rescued Nawaz Sharif and housed him in a palace in Riyadh.
According to the agreement which Nawaz Sharif signed with the Musharraf government (and guaranteed by the Saudis), he would not enter Pakistan for 10 years nor run for a political office for the same period. But when in 2007 Benazir returned to Pakistan, the Saudis came into action and forced General Musharraf to let Nawaz Sharif return to Pakistan. This was in violation of the agreement, but the Saudis did not want her to win the elections. They sent their man to counter her. But Benazir was a genius. She convinced Nawaz Sharif to work for democracy while abjuring his inglorious past. For the first time in his political life, Nawaz Sharif made a sensible decision and joined Benazir against dictatorship. But Benazir was soon assassinated, and Nawaz Sharif was reclaimed by his handlers and paymasters.
And now, it is the same old Nawaz Sharif who has made alliances with Takfiri Deobandis who proudly kill Shias, Brelvi Sufis, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Christians. It is the same Takfiri Nawaz Sharif who has sided with the Deobandi killers against the Shias on the Rawalpindi tragedy in which Shias were shot and killed, and their imambargahs burnt down. But the matters do not rest here. Nawaz Sharif seems to be going international in his service to the Saudis. Some of the highly reputed publications have claimed that Pakistan is ready to provide nuclear bombs to Saudi Arabia against Iran.
In an interview with Prince Talal of Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal has observed, “If Iran does go nuclear, Saudi Arabia may not be far behind. It has options. Riyadh underwrote Pakistan’s atomic-bomb program and keeps the country’s economy afloat with its largess.” To a question about how Saudi Arabia can go nuclear, Prince Talal said, “the arrangement with Pakistan is too strong. . . . Nawaz Sharif, specifically, is very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan”. (Read: These are not words of the LUBP editors. These are the words of Prince Talal, which show how dangerous Nawaz Sharif to world peace is. Of course, he is not the only one. It is the Pakistan Army which is a mercenary organization and has sold nuclear secrets in the past for money. But it is through Nawaz Sharif, the “very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan” that the world might see a nuclear holocaust. Neither Nawaz Sharif nor any of his myriads of spokesmen has condemned Prince Talal’s reductive, in fact insulting, description of him. Because this is the true description of the man who is more loyal to the Saudis than to his own country. The world must take note of the dangers he and his Saudi masters pose.
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