Monday, December 2, 2013

Beyonce Is Most Searched Star On The Internet
Beyonce has dethroned Kim Kardashian as the most-searched celebrity of 2013 on the world's second-largest search engine, Queen B's busy year began in February, when she performed at halftime during Super Bowl XLVII. She followed that with a world tour and even pulled in a Grammy award.

Kardashian dropped to number-two, while singers Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Madonna round out the top five. Justin Bieber, who has made headlines all year long and for all the wrong reasons, finished sixth and is one of only two men to land on the list. The other, U.S. President Barack Obama, came in at number 10, right behind singer Miley Cyrus. Nicki Minaj and Amanda Bynes finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Six of this year's top 10 searches were on the list last year.

Music can change the world

By Dana Da Silva
Music has always been regarded as a catalyst for social change. In this report for Africa Renewal, Dana Da Silva writes that African music is evolving in a way that it is becoming entertainment-oriented and less of a tool to mobilise against society’s ills.
Do you ever listen to a song and find yourself moved so deeply you are almost in tears? Have you ever been to a live performance that turned your worst day into your best? Have you ever heard a song that inspired you? Music has the power to move us and to change us. Yet today’s music mostly does not seem to have the same earth-moving, society-shaping effects as that of the past. Much rarer are the antiwar sentiments of composers like Bob Dylan of the US. The anti-apartheid and government-challenging lyrics of musicians like South Africa’s Miriam Makeba and Nigeria’s Fela Kuti have largely been exchanged for party-hard, live-the-rich-life lyrics.
With today’s technology, music has become even more of a part of our life experiences: we listen to it on our drive to work, when we go to parties, while we study, when we exercise and in so many other settings. Yet we see fewer and fewer people taking to the streets with picket signs because of its messages. There are, however, still musicians who hope that their words will inspire change. Known throughout the world, Youssou N’Dour is a musical peacemaker in his native Senegal and lends his words and music to critical campaigns, such as malaria prevention programmes. Oliver Mtukudzi’s music has created awareness and dialogue around HIV and AIDS in his home of Zimbabwe. In Benin, UNICEF goodwill ambassador Angélique Kidjo keeps a strong note of social concern in her lyrics—singing about hunger, homelessness, AIDS and injustice. And some up-and-coming musicians are also lending their voices to protests against crime, human rights violations, xenophobia and much more.
Music with a message
The combination of the right lyrics, rhythm and instruments can build a group identity, stir strong emotions, engage audiences and amass people to take action. This makes music the perfect partner for social change. In Africa a variety of NGOs, bands and activists are trying to make a difference through music. The Sigauque Project is a band based in Maputo, Mozambique, whose music is all about raising issues and trying to bring about change. Its musical influences include Senegalese mbalak, Nigerian Afro-beat and Mozambican marrabenta. A unique pan-Africanism stems from the band’s use of music originally recorded across Africa, which it performs in its own unique style. The band’s two singers, with full horn section, throbbing bass and rhythmic percussion, create sound, including jazz that keeps audiences grooving all night, while the messages come through loud and clear. “Now, you see musicians singing about girls, money and fast cars. Not long ago Africa was full of music that made a statement—about government, corruption, things that matter,” says Sigauque Project leader and trumpet player Daniel Walter. “Our music talks about HIV, women’s rights, recovering from a disaster, xenophobia and much more. It’s not just great music, we’re saying something.”
Music for social change
Most of the music performed by the Sigauque Project was produced by Community Media for Development (CMFD) Productions, which records music and radio projects for social change. The project Musicians against Xenophobia brought together musicians from Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe to produce four songs about discrimination. South Africa’s large migrant population faces discrimination and harassment. “Many people do not know these things are happening,” says Machotte, a Mozambican saxophone player. “Through this music, maybe we can make people know and think about this, and people will change.” Noting the power of music to reach youth especially, CMFD Productions and the Sigauque Project also recently produced two songs about HIV awareness. One combines the band’s hard-hitting jazz sounds with a local rapper’s lyrics about being faithful, while the other uses the popular passada rhythms that Mozambicans love to dance to. The CMFD also produced other songs for radio programmes. The most recent, “Hungry City,” accompanies a documentary and radio drama series about the crisis state of food security in Southern African cities. Another song talks about floods in Mozambique and accompanies a radio series about the country’s recovery from the floods that hit it in early 2013.
Music as a platform
Music is an important part of popular culture, it entertains us, and so it is a great platform for discussions on social issues. Concerts are particularly effective because artists have the opportunity to address large crowds. For social messages to take root, they must be accepted by large numbers of people, and individuals are more likely to accept these messages if their peers do. When music is played over the radio, people hear and sing along to the songs, repeating the messages so that they and others really hear them. This gives people an opportunity to understand what messages the music holds and then to speak about them. Music is a means by which we can convey important messages and ideals to people in the hope that they will truly listen and, as a result, come together and bring about social, political and economic change. When asked about the possible future uses of music, Daniel Walter has big hopes: “In many African countries today there exists democracy in name only; criticising the government can lead to a loss of opportunities. I see an important role for music in the coming years using a lot of popular messaging.”
So the next time you wish to make change, why not make a song about it?

“Saudi, Israeli-Run Center in Jordan Leads Syria War”

Saudi and Israeli military officials are running a ‘military operation center’ in Jordan in which they mastermind plots to destroy Syria, Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad has said. Muqdad who was speaking to Arabic language al-Mayadeen satellite channel on Saturday said, Saudi and Israeli militaries run the center in Jordan while agents from the United States and Jordan also cooperate with them for supporting militants in Syria.
“Syrian government has been saying it from the beginning that the Israeli regime is interfering in Syria crisis and it has proofs and evidences to show this,” he said. He added, “Israel isn’t just an observer of the war in Syria but it is actually a supporter of all terrorist operations in the country”. Asked about Saudi Arabia’s role in Syria Muqdad said, “Riyadh’s role is destruction of Syria and killing people”. However he added, this was coming from the side of a government which is not a ruling system chosen by Saudi people.
Speaking on the upcoming talks planned in Geneva between Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition, he said, “we will negotiate about future of Syria without any foreign interference but we will never talk to terrorist groups who massacre Syrian people”.
He welcomed Syrian opposition’s decision to take part in the talks and said Syrian government has formed a delegation for taking part in talks stressing that the important thing is that to keep on with the schedule and don’t change the date of the meeting. After months of wavering stances and rejections, the so-called Syrian National Coalition announced it was going to attend the long-delayed “Geneva 2″ talks in January aimed at ending the country’s fatal conflict. However the deeply-divided opposition is facing rejection from many of its affiliated armed-groups fighting against the Syrian army. Despite Coalition’s agreement, the so-called Free Syrian Army which is their official armed force on the ground has rejected the talks and refused to put down arms for reconciliation. Al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting for the Syrian opposition have also rejected taking part in talks as an act of treason. T
he war in Syria started in March 2011, when pro-reform protests turned into a massive insurgency following the intervention of Western and regional states.
The unrest, which took in terrorist groups from across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, has transpired as one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.

Obama Ups US Contribution to Global AIDS Fund

Marking the 25th annual observance of World AIDS Day, President Barack Obama said his administration remains committed to the global fight against AIDS. He also announced an increase in the potential total U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The observance brought together the president and other U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Obama reflected on how far the fight against HIV/AIDS has come since the devastation of the early days of the epidemic. He announced that a major goal of the PEPFAR (The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) program, begun by his predecessor, George W. Bush, had been achieved. "Two years ago, I set new prevention and treatment targets for PEPFAR, like increasing the number of mothers we reach so that we prevent their children from becoming infected, and helping six million people get treatment by the end of 2013," he said. "Today, I’m proud to announce that we’ve not only reached our goal, we’ve exceeded our treatment target. So we’ve helped 6.7 million people receive lifesaving treatment. And we’re going to keep at it." The president has faced criticism from AIDS and health activists over what they call lagging U.S. contributions to PEPFAR, down 12 percent since 2010. PEPFAR began in 2003 with a $15 billion U.S. commitment. Obama said his administration has not just sustained PEPFAR efforts but "expanded them," and he noted efforts to ensure that contributions from other donors match those from the United States. During the president's first term, the U.S. pledged $4 billion to the Global Fund. For the current fiscal year budget, Obama requested $1.65 billion -- conditional on other donors stepping up contributions. Over the next three years, Obama said the U.S. will contribute $1 for every $2 pledged by donors, up to a potential total of $5 billion. He urged donors attending the Global Fund meeting in Washington not to "leave money on the table" and said the U.S. will remain a global leader in the fight against AIDS. "We will stand with you every step of this journey until we reach the day that we know is possible, when all men and women can protect themselves from infection; a day when all people with HIV have access to the treatments that extend their lives; the day when there are no babies being born with HIV or AIDS, and when we achieve, at long last, what was once hard to imagine -- and that’s an AIDS-free generation," he said. Secretary of State John Kerry said it is clear the world is "turning a very important corner" in the AIDS fight, but said the challenge ahead will require major continued commitments. Kerry indirectly addressed criticism, saying achieving key goals of reducing infections, mortality and increasing access to treatment in Africa and elsewhere, were due to President Obama's insisting on "setting a new standard." "The way that we have leveraged our commitments inspires greater contributions from other nations and we have shown, I think, therein, strategic leadership," he said. Kerry cited South Africa, Rwanda and Namibia as examples of transitioning PEPFAR from providing direct aid to delivering support for "locally run and self-sustaining efforts." Domestically, Obama announced his administration will redirect $100 million to the National Institutes of Health to develop a new generation of therapies to fight HIV and AIDS. "The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put HIV into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies, or better yet, eliminate it completely," he said. Also in his remarks Monday, the president noted that his signature health insurance reform law, which has been plagued by serious flaws, provides for free AIDS testing. And he noted that the law bars companies from denying health coverage to Americans, including those infected with HIV.

Saudi Arabia: Labor Crackdown Violence

Ethiopian migrant workers have been the victims of physical assaults, some of them fatal, in Saudi Arabia following a government crackdown on foreign workers. Many workers seeking to return home are being held in makeshift detention centers without adequate food or shelter.
Human Rights Watch spoke to five Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Four Ethiopians in Riyadh told Human Rights Watch that the attacks began after November 4, 2013, when authorities resumed a campaign to arrest foreign workers who they claim are violating labor laws. Security forces have arrested or deported tens of thousands of workers. Saudi officials and state-controlled media have said that migrant workers have also been responsible for violence, including attacks on Saudi citizens, in the wake of the crackdown.
“Saudi authorities have spent months branding foreign workers as criminals in the media, and stirring up anti-migrant sentiment to justify the labor crackdown,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Now the Saudi government needs to rein in Saudi citizens who are attacking foreign workers.”
Saudi authorities should immediately investigate assaults on Ethiopian and other migrant workers by security forces and Saudi citizens, and hold those responsible for violent crimes to account, Human Rights Watch said. Saudi and Ethiopian authorities should work to speedily repatriate undocumented foreign workers waiting in makeshift holding centers, if they have no fear of returning home, and ensure that they get adequate food, shelter, and medical care.
The most violent attacks occurred on the evening of November 9 in areas around the Manfouha neighborhood of southern Riyadh, where Ethiopian residents make up a majority of residents, according to local activists. Two Ethiopian migrant workers told Human Rights Watch that they saw groups of people they assumed to be Saudi citizens armed with sticks, swords, machetes, and firearms, attack foreign workers.
One of the Ethiopians, a 30-year-old supervisor at a private company, said he heard shouts and screams from the street, and left his home near Manfouha to see what was happening. When he arrived near Bank Rajahi on the road to the Yamama neighborhood, west of Manfouha, he saw a large group of Ethiopians crying and shouting around the dead bodies of three Ethiopians, one of whom he said had been shot, and two others who had been beaten to death. He said six others appeared to be badly injured. He said he saw Saudis whom he called shabab (“young men” in Arabic), and uniformed security forces attack the Ethiopians who had gathered. The shabab were using swords and machetes, while some of the uniformed officers were beating the migrants with metal police truncheons, and other officers were firing bullets into the air to disperse the crowd. He said that he narrowly escaped serious injury when a Saudi man swung a sword at his head. It missed, but hit his arm, requiring stitches to close the wound. The other Ethiopian witness, a 26-year-old undocumented day laborer who lives in Manfouha, told Human Rights Watch that he was sitting among a group of 23 Ethiopians in a private home on Street 20 on the evening of November 9 when a group of 20 shabab with machetes and pistols broke down the door and attacked the people inside. He and five other Ethiopians escaped by climbing to the roof, but he does not know what happened to the other 17 men. Another Ethiopian worker who lives nearby, but who did not witness the violence, told Human Rights Watch that on the afternoon of November 9, he was sitting inside the Ethiopian community center and school compound five kilometers from Manfouha when 35 Ethiopian men came to the center. The Ethiopian men said that groups of armed men were forcing their way into homes in Manfouha, removing the men, and holding the women inside. The person who spoke with Human Rights Watch said that the men showed him as proof a mobile phone video they said they surreptitiously filmed from a distance that appeared to show a Saudi man raping one of the Ethiopian men’s wives. He said the group told him that 10 other women were missing. Since the evening of November 9, Ethiopian activists have circulated dozens of YouTube videos and other photos purporting to show Saudi men in civilian clothes and security forces attacking Ethiopian workers in Manfouha. Human Rights Watch cannot confirm the authenticity of these videos, though the incidents they purport to show largely match the witness accounts. Saudi authorities should ensure that all incidents of apparent use of violence and abuse in Manfouha are swiftly and transparently investigated, and that anyone who committed a crime is brought to justice, including members of the security forces, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities should both address any unnecessary and unlawful use of force by security forces and take steps to prevent ordinary citizens from harassing or molesting migrants based on suspicions that they are violating labor laws. Some Saudi sources blame the migrants for instigating the violence. Arab News, a local English-language newspaper, said that Saudi security forces entered Manfouha on the evening of November 9 to restore the peace after a group of Ethiopian men “went on a rampage in anger at the Kingdom’s ongoing campaign against illegal foreign workers.” It stated that one Saudi man died after “rioters” hit him with rocks, and that the 65 injured were “mostly Saudis and legal residents.” The Sabq news website reported on November 14 that Ethiopian migrants had stabbed to death a 14-year-old Saudi boy in Manfouha, reportedly asking him, “Are you Saudi?” before attacking him.
The five Ethiopian migrant workers who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that many undocumented Ethiopian workers in Manfouha have turned themselves in to the authorities since November 9, fearing violence from police and groups of Saudi citizens. One worker described the atmosphere in Manfouha as a “battleground.” The Ethiopian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Muhammed Hassan Kabiera, toldArab News on November 13 that at least 23,000 Ethiopians, many from the Manfouha area, had surrendered to Saudi authorities for repatriation.
The Ethiopian workers said that authorities transported the Ethiopians to makeshift holding facilities across the area, including a large wedding hall and the campus of Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University. One man told Human Rights Watch that he visited the wedding hall and saw thousands of foreign workers detained there, men in one area, and women and children in another, both inside and outside the building.
He said that Saudi guards give the detainees only one small meal of rice per day, and provide no access to medical attention. He said that other Ethiopians in the neighborhood are trying to help the detainees by bringing food, and that many at the hall had been left without shelter during recent heavy rainfall in Riyadh. One Ethiopian in Riyadh said he escaped from the wedding hall after officials held him in an area outside the building for 10 days, failing to supply the detainees with sufficient food, which forced them to buy food from Saudi guards.
Two Ethiopians in Riyadh told Human Rights Watch that people they knew who turned themselves in had not known that authorities would hold them in makeshift detention centers. They said that Saudi officials told them they would take them directly to Ethiopia. Saudi police officials say that the kingdom is spending one million Saudi Riyals (US$267,000) per day to house and feed thousands of detained Ethiopians. On November 19, the Ethiopian foreign minister, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, announced that the government is doing “everything possible to repatriate citizens from Saudi Arabia within 14 to 25 days.”
“Saudi authorities say they are carrying out a crackdown on migrant workers humanely, but keeping thousands of people in makeshift centers without adequate food, shelter, or medical attention could lead to humanitarian disaster,” Stork said. “Saudi officials should release the detainees or send them home immediately.”
Migrant Worker Campaign Background
Over nine million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia–more than half the work force–ill manual, clerical, and service jobs. Many suffer multiple abuses and labor exploitation, sometimes amounting to forced labor, Human Rights Watch said. Saudi officials say that the ongoing labor crackdown against foreign workers, which includes road checkpoints and raids on businesses, is part of Saudi Arabia’s effort to combat high levels of unemployment among Saudi citizens by opening jobs previously filled by undocumented workers. Those targeted include workers who do not have the proper residency or work permits, and workers who are caught working for an employer who is not their legal sponsor. According to local media outlets, authorities have arrested and deported thousands of workers since November 4.
The violence between Saudis and Ethiopians follows months of local press reports blaming Ethiopian female domestic workers for brutal attacks against Saudi employers. In July, Saudi officials claimed that over 200 Ethiopian women had been detained in two months for “psychological problems,” leading the labor ministry to temporarily ban the recruitment of Ethiopian workers to the country.
In October, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in turn, stopped processing applications for Ethiopians to travel to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns over poor labor conditions for Ethiopian migrants.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the Saudi government to abolish aspects of the kafala or “sponsorship” system that create conditions for abuse, including rules requiring a worker to obtain permission from his or her employer to change jobs or leave the country. These rules leave foreign workers with little option for redress in cases of abuse or labor violations and force them into under-the-table work.

Putin Condemns Ukraine Protests as 'Pogroms'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that events unfolding in Ukraine should not be described as a revolution, but were rather more reminiscent of a “pogrom.”
The Russian leader said ongoing mass demonstrations were unrelated to Ukraine’s recent decision to pull back from signing a series of landmark deals for closer economic integration with the EU. “This internal political process is an attempt by the opposition to destabilize the existing legitimate rule in the country,” Putin said during a visit to the former Soviet nation of Armenia.
The remarks come amid growing public irritation among Kremlin officials over suggestions that Ukraine reversed course on its plans with the EU under pressure from Russia. On Monday evening, crowds at Kiev’s central Independence Square continued to swell as demonstrators reinforced barricades around the space that served as the focal point of the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the center of the city Sunday in a mainly peaceful rally, although there were ugly scenes of violence when police clashed with mobs seeking to storm the presidential administration building.
The protests that began on November 21, ostensibly over cancellation of the EU pacts that had been due for signing last week, have increasingly been focused on demands for the government to be dissolved and the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. Putin said what was happening in Kiev betrayed signs of a long-prepared strategy. “These actions are, in my opinion, prepared not in view of current events, but for the 2015 election campaign,” Putin said. Yanukovych was narrowly elected to the a five-year presidential term in February 2010. The Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend preparations for the EU association agreements has been widely read as a victorious outcome for the Kremlin and its efforts to keep its former Soviet neighbor within its economic orbit. Russia has been openly lobbying for other economically struggling former Soviet nations, such as Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, to join the Customs Union trade bloc, which some view as an exercise by Moscow at reasserting regional influence. But Ukraine has generally played it cool over such initiatives, viewing them as an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.
While Putin has insisted that no pressure was being applied to Ukraine, Kremlin officials have openly threatened Ukraine in the past that an EU trade deal would preface trade embargoes. Earlier this year, Russia cited hygiene concerns when it slapped an import ban on the products of a major Ukrainian major candy maker that provides work for thousands of people.
In October, Russia’s state-run energy giant Gazprom complained that Ukraine had not settled an $882 million unpaid natural gas bill for August and warned that it could in future begin demanding advance payment for the fuel. That prompted Ukraine to announce it would stop buying Russian gas until the end of the year, which raised the specter of a possible halt of deliveries to Western Europe, only for Kiev to back down a few days later.

Bahrain sentences 16 activists to 7 years in jail

A Bahraini court has sentenced 16 activists to seven years in prison each for allegedly attacking a police vehicle during an anti-government demonstration. A judicial source said on Monday that the activists were also found guilty of blocking roads by setting tires on fire in May last year, AFP reported. This is the latest in a series of convictions the Bahraini regime has imposed against protesters -- among them prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab. The prominent activist, who heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was imprisoned for participating in “unauthorized” protests. Rajab was initially given a three-year term in prison but the sentence was later reduced to two years on appeal. In a statement published last week, rights group Amnesty International said the Al Khalifa regime “must immediately release” the prominent activist. Amnesty said at the time that the activist would have served “three quarters of his two year sentence and will become legally eligible for release,” on November 29. Nabeel has been under the regime’s custody in Jaw prison in eastern Bahrain since July 9, 2012. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Amazon drones on...Amazon testing delivery by drone

‘Modern slavery’: Intl delegation decries migrant rights abuses in Qatar

Qatar has made no progress in abolishing laws that effectively force foreign workers into slavery, an international delegation has said. A worker’s rights group has estimated 4,000 migrant workers could die if nothing is done before the 2022 World Cup. A delegation from the International Trade Union Confederation concluded a four-day visit to Qatar on Sunday. In the press release published following the official visit, the delegation said it found “no improvement in living and working conditions of migrant workers.”
Qatar uses the Kafala system to govern its domestic migrant workers. The system requires that foreign workers be sponsored by an employee who is responsible for their visa and legal status. Human Rights groups have found evidence that the Kafala system is being manipulated, with employers denying migrants’ wages and refusing to grant them an exit visa to leave the country.
“Professional and poor workers alike tell the same stories; they came to Qatar with optimism and good will, only to face despair when their employer decides they are disposable and refuses to pay wages, sack them without benefits and or refused to sign their exit permit,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
Burrow added that Qatar has been offered the support it needs to change, but it must make a commitment to improving conditions for migrant workers in the country. During their stay in Qatar, the delegation conducted hearings and interviews with migrant workers. They said that the number of woman and children in Qatar’s so-called labor camps has seen increases and predict that over 4,000 foreign workers could die due to poor conditions before FIFA 2022, if Qatar does not make the necessary reforms.
“Their desperation is multiplied when you visit the labor camps and hear the tales of terror from the poorest and most vulnerable workers forced to hit in squalor,” said Burrow, adding that “international companies should be on notice about the reputation risk of doing business in Qatar without respect for workers’ rights.”
About 88 percent of Qatar’s population of 2 million is made up of migrant workers.
“Modern slavery” The European Parliament passed a resolution in November condemning the current situation for migrant workers in Qatar. The document urges FIFA to “send a clear and strong message to Qatar to avoid the football World Cup 2022 [being] delivered [with] the assistance of modern slavery.” The Qatari government issued a swift response to the resolution, saying that it was “premature”. "Qatar takes the allegations that have been made concerning the construction sector extremely seriously and has therefore already put an independent review into those allegations in place, to be conducted as a matter of the utmost urgency," the Qatar foreign ministry said. The high-profile case of French footballer, Zahir Belounis, who was allowed to leave Qatar after two years of struggle last week, drew international press attention to migrant worker rights in Qatar. Belounis was granted an exit visa by his former football club, El-Jaish, but has to renounce his claim to a backlog of unpaid wages.
"This is great news for Zahir and his family, but there are still huge numbers of men and women trapped in Qatar on account of its exit visa system," said Nicholas McGeehan of Human Rights Watch.
The UN has also slammed Qatar for failing to comply with an international convention banning the use of forced labor in the run up to FIFA 2022.

New York: Investigators focus on speed in deadly NYC train derailment

NTSB investigators are trying to determine how fast a train was traveling when it derailed in NYC, killing four and injuring more than 60. Linda So reports.

Feinstein blasts Afghanistan’s Karzai over refusal to sign deal

Sen. Dianne Feinstein had strong words Sunday for Afghanistan’s president for refusing to sign an agreement governing the future of the presence of American troops in his country. Mrs. Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she thinks Afghan President Hamid Karzai “is such a cipher.”
The senator told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. Karzai is “so much the victim of what thought occurs to him right at the moment based on some anger that he feels about something that may not even be related.” Mr. Karzai says he’ll leave the matter to the next president after April elections. The U.S. has said it will plan to withdraw all troops after 2014 if he doesn’t sign promptly, and a signed deal is needed to enable U.S. troops to train Afghan forces.
Read more:

New sticking point between U.S. and Afghanistan: fuel supplies

A simmering dispute between the U.S. and Afghan governments spilled over Sunday into a spat about whether U.S. and coalition forces have deliberately withheld fuel supplies from Afghan army and police units. A statement posted Sunday night on the website of Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the United States of "applying pressure and creating dependency" by cutting off fuel supplies to two or three army and police units. It quoted Afghan National Security Council officials as saying the alleged cutoff of "fuel and support services" had hampered security force operations. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, in a brief statement late Sunday night, denied that any fuel to Afghan forces had been cut off. The Afghan military, which took over combat operations last summer from ISAF forces, still relies on the coalition for fuel, vehicles, logistics and other supplies.
"We continue to process all [fuel] orders as soon as they are received" from Afghan National Security Forces, the ISAF statement said. "We remain committed to supporting our ANSF partners and will continue to do so." Karzai said his security council, in a meeting Sunday, considered the fuel issue "a pressure tool used by the United States until Afghanistan ignores its own conditions" and signs a proposed post-2104 security agreement with the United States. The statement accused the U.S. of acting "contrary to their previous commitments of a spirit of cooperation."
Karzai is locked in a political showdown with the United States over his refusal last week to sign the security deal despite agreeing earlier to the text of the proposed pact. Karzai has laid down several conditions, among them an immediate end to U.S. military raids on Afghan homes and airstrikes against insurgents that accidentally kill civilians. According to the United Nations, Taliban and other insurgents are responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
Karzai, whose relationship with the United States has deteriorated since he accused American officials of scheming to undermine his presidential campaign in 2009, has said he will not sign the 10-year deal until after the Afghan presidential election in April. The pact would allow for U.S. military trainers and counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan after combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014.
Many Afghan politicians, including former members of Karzai’s government, have accused him of putting the nation’s security at risk in order to remain politically relevant as he enters a lame duck period. By law, Karzai cannot run for another term. Collapse of the agreement would mean an end to billions of dollars in military aid to Afghanistan and probably would trigger significant cuts in reconstruction and development money that fuels the aid-dependent Afghan economy. The terse war of words Sunday, waged in dueling official statements, reflects heightened tensions between the two governments as they approach an end of the year deadline for signing the agreement. U.S. officials have said they and their NATO partners will not be able to plan for a post-2014 military presence if the agreement is not signed by the end of the year. A grand council of influential Afghans convened by Karzai unanimously recommended last month that he sign the agreement by Dec. 31.,0,2499562.story#ixzz2mKitsKtY

Bilawal Bhutto condemns attack on Express News office
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the attack on Express News office in Karachi today. In a statement, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said targeting of media offices was tantamount to suppressing freedom of expression. PPP Patron said in the past, several newspapers and TV channels were attacked by various groups, and it was the latest attack on media. He further said that PPP workers and supporters throughout the country stood united with media and would continue the struggle for free media. Bilawal Bhutto demanded the government to arrest all the culprits and provide adequate security to media professionals and offices.

The Syrian jihad is a distraction. Pakistan's diehards are the real threat

By Rob Crilly
Every few weeks we hear of another Briton killed in Syria, fighting for al-Qaeda linked groups. So far as many as 20 are thought to have been killed fighting government forces, reigniting fears of a new generation of British Muslims learning jihad overseas before returning to launch terrorist attacks at home.
Maybe, but I'm told MI6 remains far more exercised about the dozens of Brits in Pakistan's tribal areas. And with good reason. Syria has proved a welcome distraction for both the government of Pakistan and the terror groups based in its territory. Security officials and members of the Pakistan Taliban have tried to talk up something of an exodus of jihadis to the Middle East. For Pakistan, it is a way of sweeping the problem under the carpet, and for the likes of the Pakistan Taliban it suggests the sort of global reach of which they can only dream.
And for British Muslims it provides something of a five-star jihad experience, as my colleague Ruth Sherlock reported last week: Unlike the much more ascetic jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where fighters followed the puritanical Wahhabi practices of Osama bin Laden and were cut off from the outside world for months, nights in Syria can be spent online gaming, chatting to family in the UK or watching al-Qaeda videos on the internet connection that is provided at their sleeping quarters. Indeed, the frontline is a taxi ride away from comfortable Turkish cities. Young jihadis have used Twitter to post pictures of Kit Kats and cans of Red Bull. Fight an oppressive regime by day, and be home for tea and YouTube.
In contrast, Pakistan's tribal regions are an arduous journey away, skirting military checkpoints and the all-seeing, ever-present drones. Recruits are expected to survive on little more than dry bread and rice for days at a time. There are no Kit Kats for several hundred miles. Forget Wi-Fi: communications are limited to the occasional use of landlines or satphones.
This is not for the fainthearted. And there are plenty of Four Lions-esque tales of soft, Western arrivals finding that perhaps this kind of jihad is not for them. Take this example from Der Spiegel, describing how a bunch of Germans decided that maybe they couldn't do without the comforts of home.
Likewise, winters in the Hindu Kush region can get really cold. For days and weeks on end, the would-be jihadists had to do without meat, bathrooms and warm showers. And then they had to sit around with Uzbeks without being able to understand a single word they said. During their telephone calls and in their e-mails back home, they sounded less and less enthusiastic and more and more discouraged about waging jihad. Rami M, for example, the overweight one, would complain about having to march for long distances with a heavy weapon on his shoulder.
The truth is that Pakistan remains at the centre of terror nexus. This is where groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network run training camps swapping bomb-making skills and jihadi rhetoric. Life is tough. Death circles in the sky 24/7. The weather is brutal in winter. And there's not much on TV. It's no surprise then that I'm told Britons at training camps in Pakistan's tribal areas number "in the tens" – far, far fewer than the hundreds who have joined the Club Med jihad. But they have shown a dedication of purpose simply to get there. There's no taxi home. Nor a romantic fight against a brutal oppressor. While Syria is attracting the headlines and the militant wannabes, we must not take our eye off the real threat.

Pakistan continues silencing dissent through selective web blocks

Urooj M, a former DJ on a Pakistani FM radio channel, also a film aficionado, was incredulous when she found the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had blocked the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
This widely used online entertainment news portal, a prominent source of reliable news and box office reports regarding films, television programmes and video games from all over the world, was blocked on 19 November, but the ban was lifted by 22 November. Pakistan is notorious for blocking websites. It has banned more than 4,000 websites for what it considers objectionable material, including YouTube, in 2012 for a film that was deemed blasphemous by Muslims around the world. In 2011, in a particularly ill-thought-out move it announced censoring text messages containing swear words. In 2010, after a decision by the Lahore High Court, Facebook was blocked as a reaction to the ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad’ page that was seen as offensive to the prophet. Users were given no reason for this sudden and selective ban. However, Omar R. Quraishi, a journalist had tweeted: “PTA official declined to give specific reason for ban on IMDB – said is placed for 3 reasons: “anti-state”, “anti-religion”, “anti-social”. While these “targeted bans” are small irritants in his life, as he can easily by pass them, Ali Tufail, 26, a Karachi-based lawyer, finds them wrong on principle as he sees them infringing upon the fundamental rights of the citizen as given in Article 19 and 19 A of Pakistan’s Constitution. He said the government must give users sound “reasons” why they block a certain website and “what benchmarks or what standards are used to come to the decision to enforce these sudden bans” and if there is a committee that takes these decisions, “we must be told who these people are.” The same was endorsed by Nighat Dad of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF). “We strongly oppose any form of censorship employed on citizens, curbing their basic right to information.” However, netizens believe the ban was enforced to block the movie trailer for The Line of Freedom, a film that highlights the issue of the crises in Balochistan province showing Baloch separatists abducted by Pakistani security agencies without charges in a bid to stamp out rebellion. “Our team did a quick survey with the help of tweeters around the country,” said Dad. “We checked various other movie titles but only Line of Freedom seemed to be blocked on IMDb and several other websites were accessible otherwise.” The DRF termed it an “unprecedented event” because the government had “used all sorts of means to curb the dissidents’ views” from Balochistan. “I didn’t even know there was a movie by this title which was giving the government so much heartburn and so I just had to see what was so unsavoury that the government had to block the entire website,” said Dad who watched the whole 30 minutes or so of it by circumventing the various firewalls. “This is what happens, when you forcibly close the internet, word gets around and people get curious!”
Malik Siraj Akbar, editor of the online Baloch Hal, who sought asylum in the United States, is not surprised at the ban. His own newspaper was blocked in November 2010 and even now the ban has not been completely lifted, he says. “Since 2010, it has been available in some parts of the country and not others and access has not been very consistent,” he said adding there were hundreds of other Baloch websites, “mostly those supportive of the nationalists that have been blocked”.
But Tufail added: “This is one battle which the government would find difficult to win as newer, maybe more objectionable [to Pakistani state] websites, will keep popping up which they would never be able to keep pace with,” terming such bans an “exercise in futility”. There could be some truth in the story of the ban on the Baloch film. Because their voices remain unheard, several family members made a 700km journey on foot from Quetta to Karachi to see if that would make a difference.
Naziha Syed Ali, a journalist at English-language daily Dawn, had recently visited Awaran, a stronghold of the separatists in Balochistan, which had been badly affected by the earthquake on September 24. She said she got a sense of “hostility expressed mainly towards the army and paramilitary rather than Pakistan per se. Then again, the army is seen as a symbol of the country, so it’s pretty much the same thing.”
Ali said “More than fear, they don’t want to take help from what they see as an occupation force.” According to her the “feelings of alienation have been greatly exacerbated by the issue of the missing people and the kill-and-dump tactics”. In addition, while Ali found there to be “sufficient food for now”, there was dire need for health services and proper shelter “as the tents that have been distributed are not warm enough for winter”.
The problem is the army is not allowing international and local non-governmental organisations to carry out any relief work there. Instead, the charities run by religio-political organisations and even banned outfits are seen freely roaming about. For years, the state has kept a stony silence over the issue of the disappearances of the Baloch nationalists. Rights group say if the state lets the various organisations into the region, their dark secrets about grave human rights abuses, for now a national shame, may become a problem for it on the international front.

Pakistan: History may not be that Kind to General Kayani

By Yousuf Nazar
The history may not be that kind to General Ashfaq Pervez as some of the analysts and journalists have been. He may be remembered as the man who took Pakistan to the brink of civil war. He was one of Pakistan’s most powerful men for almost a decade, first as the chief of Pakistan’s premier secret agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during 2004-2007 and then as the army chief for a record six-year term. As the ISI head he presided over the rise of Pakistani Taliban as the deadly force that was to claim lives of over 45,000 civilians and soldiers. Under his watch as the ISI boss, Mohammad Noor Alam alias Abdullah Mehsud, an ex-Guantanamo Bay inmate, became one of the most wanted jihadi commanders shortly after his arrival in Waziristan in May 2004 after his release from Guantanamo Bay in March 2004. It still remains a mystery how Abdullah was so quickly able to raise a terrorist force of thousands of armed fighters. Kayani remained “India centric” for too long before it dawned on him that the internal terrorism posed the greatest threat. His duplicitous stance on drone attacks practically emboldened the Pakistani Taliban and their sympathizers as the battles to win public opinions against their heinous crimes were lost on the TV screens where the ISI surrogates ranted against America while Kayani secretly urged his friends in the Pentagon and the CIA to hit specific targets like Baitullah Mehsud.
The false narrative on drone attacks, fed to leaders like Imran Khan and media proxies like Zaid Hamid, by the intelligence agencies under Kayani’s watch, was originally intended to hide Army’s complicity in the drone attacks beginning since the very first strike against Nek Mohammed in 2004. But it enabled bigots like Munawar Hasan to hijack the national discourse in the name of Jihad and added to the confusion even among the ranks of the armed forces. I am not a supporter of any party. I am a non-entity for most Pakistanis apart from a few who care to read my articles in English newspapers. I have no incentive to make false allegations but two senior members of Tehreek-e-Insaf, Naeemul Haq and Firdous Shamim privately confirmed to me the secret contacts between the GHQ/ISI and Imran Khan. I have no option but to disclose my sources because the national interest must override personal considerations and friendships.
In the final analysis, Kayani remained “India-centric” to the suicidal degree that Pakistani establishment long has been. Talibans in Afghanistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kashmir remained key planks of a rudderless strategy that has boomeranged. Kayani’s most dangerous and potentially fatal policy was the appeasement of the hate mob led by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Malik Ishaq – the leader of LeJ - was released on bail by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in July 2011 after spending 12 years in jail. On his release, he was received outside the prison by leaders of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), banned in 2001 as a terrorist organization but now renamed to Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ). The ASWJ leader heading the welcome party was Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi who came in handy when Ashfaq Kayani called on Ishaq to talk to the terrorists who had attacked Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in October 2009.
The Army chief’s personal plane had carried Ishaq to Rawalpindi, while another plane belonging to the ISI chief, Gen. Shuja Pasha, carried Ludhianvi, according to the reports published in Newsweek Pakistan, and daily newspapers, the Express Tribune and the News International.
Shias are “the greatest infidels on earth,” Malik Ishaq told a Reuters reporter in November 2012. His LeJ goons operated in Quetta carrying out planned genocide of Hazara Shias without any resistance from security forces. The New York Times reported December 3, 2012:
“The murders in Quetta, for instance, involve remarkably little mystery. By wide consensus, the gunmen are based in Mastung, a dusty agricultural village 18 miles to the south that is the bustling local hub of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the country’s most notorious sectarian militant group.” Pakistan’s security establishment did not deliberately stop the growing power of dreadful extremists of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi while its own ‘death squads’ pursued and ruthlessly killed Baloch dissidents and dumped their bodies with great efficiency. LeJ was brought into mainstream politics under Kayani’s watch and participated in 2013 general elections under the cover of Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ). The same ASWJ was behind the violence and riots that rocked the garrison city of Rawalpindi and spread to other cities during the holy month of Moharam in October 2103.
The idea that extremists and militant organizations like LeT and LeJ should be brought into mainstream is the most dangerous development since Pakistan’s political and material support for the Talibans started during the mid-1990s. It may lead to bigger disasters even a civil war. If that happens, history will not forgive Kayani never mind what Pakistani media might be telling us today.

Pakistan’s new army chief: Nuclear ties with Saudis, US exit from Afghanistan, Riyadh’s anti-Iran drive

Gen. Raheel Sharif, 57, who comes from a distinguished Punjabi military family, started work as new chief of Pakistan’s armed forces chief this weekend with three formidable tasks on his plate, spin-offs from fast-moving events involving the United States, Iran and Israel.
He will have to adapt his military policy to next year’s US military evacuation from neighboring Afghanistan leaving a dangerous void.
Pakistan has been inextricably bound up in the 12-year US-led war in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and its ally Taliban, both of which used Pakistan’s lawless tribal territories as rear bases for their war on coalition forces. The Obama administration is trying at all costs to prevent the Taliban from seizing the government in Kabul after President Hamid Karzai’s retirement. Its strategy, so far without much luck, is to enlist Iran to help in this objective which, however, is diametrically opposed to that of Pakistan Prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif is anxious to be rid of Taliban, whose expanding terrorist operations are threatening his government’s stability, and wants to push them over into Afghanistan. In particular, he would like to clear them out of the northern and western border districts, where Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri has set up his central command.
To achieve this goal, the Pakistani government must reach terms with Taliban leaders for their cooperation. The new armed forces’ chief’s second mission is to complete the transfer to Saudi Arabia of the nuclear weapons plus ballistic missiles Riyadh purchased and which Pakistan held in reserve under a secret defense pact the two governments signed in 2004. This transfer may have already started. It makes Islamabad a major contributor to the evolving Middle East nuclear arms race boosted by the six-power nuclear deal which recognizes Iran’s “nuclear rights.” It also means that Pakistan has ranged itself on the side of the Sunni Arab camp against Shiite Iran, by lending a Sunni power a nuclear capability versus a nuclear-armed Shiite Iran recognized by the six world powers.
Gen. Sharif will be fully backed in this task by his prime minister, an old ally of the Saudi royal house. These critical moves have not been lost on Iran or India. Friday, Nov. 29, New Delhi announced a team of planners and engineers would soon be leaving for Tehran to accelerate the construction of the southern Iranian port of Chabahar near the Pakistani and Afghan borders, India’s most important naval base in the Arabian Ocean, which will also offer landlocked Afghanistan its first outlet to the sea. This outlet is important enough to grant India and Iran a strong foothold in the Afghan capital after the American exit, even if Taliban seizes power.
New Delhi sees Chabahar port as a counterweight for the big naval base China is building at Gwadar on the Arabian Ocean to share with Pakistan.
Taking shape therefore is the first tectonic strategic-political-military movement set off in a key world region by the six-power first-step nuclear deal with Iran.
It finds Beijing pulling away from its alliance with Tehran and aligning more firmly with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to counteract rising US-Iranian influence in Kabul. India is stepping into Chinese shoes in Tehran, cheered on by Washington, and distancing itself from Israel, its foremost supplier of advanced weapons. Indian-Israeli military and intelligence ties have been receding in the last two years. The change of military chiefs in Islamabad is also relevant to the covert war waged by Saudi intelligence against the Iranian regime in recent weeks. The Saudis are using Pakistani Baluchistan as their base for subversive operations against the central regime in Tehran.
According to Iran and some Western clandestine agencies, Israeli intelligence is assisting this Saudi-Baluchi campaign. Gen. Sharif will have to decide whether to allow it to go on and how much leeway he is willing to grant Saudi undercover agencies.
The outgoing chief of staff, the charismatic Gen. Pervez Kayani, managed during his six-year term to keep Pakistan’s armed forces for the first time clear of Pakistan’s endemic political wars, the bane of this nation of 180 million. But he also worked under a cloud as a suspected sympathizer of Pakistani terrorist organizations, which operated against India. The military Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI) has long been suspected of secretly supporting one of Al Qaeda’s foremost operational arms, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which conducted terrorist operations against American and Israeli targets, the most horrendous of which was the coordinated assault on 12 targets in the India city of Mumbai in Nov. 2008, which left 166 dead and hundreds maimed.
Intelligence experts in the West maintain that the Mumbai outrage, one of Al Qaeda’s first serial attacks, could not have gone forward without Gen. Kayani noticing its preparations. Washington chose to take Kayani at his word when he said the ISI was an independent entity and not under his military command, because his cooperation was needed for the counter-terror operation against Al Qaeda concentrations in the Pakistan tribal areas along the Afghan border. Many eyes are watching to see whether or not the new chief of staff will continue his predecessor’s policy of tacitly approving the clandestine relations between military intelligence and Islamist terrorist movements.

Pakistan: Dr Shakeel Afridi demands better conditions in prison
A Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden has spoken out to demand better conditions in prison and complain of being falsely implicated in a treason case, his lawyer said on Sunday. Shakeel Afridi also called for access to his lawyer in a letter that his attorney Samiullah Afridi, who shares his client s tribal name, said was genuine. Shakeel Afridi was arrested and charged with betraying his country after US troops killed al Qaeda leader bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad in May 2011.
He was initially sentenced to 33 years in jail and given a fine, but a court in the northwestern city of Peshawar overturned his sentence in August and ordered a retrial.
“I have been arrested and implicated in a false case,” said Afridi in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. “I am perhaps the first Pakistani who has been denied access to his lawyer. What kind of justice is this,” said the letter. In the letter, Afridi argued it was his legal right to see his lawyer, and said: “I am a (government) officer and a respectable Pakistani citizen.” He called for access to better conditions and security in jail. He also said he did not know on what basis his sentence had been overturned.

Peshawar Church Blasts: I Am Still Shocked By The Many Human Losses Says Bishop Humphrey Peters

The Anglican Bishop of Peshawar, Mgr. Humphrey Sarfraz Peter, leader of the “Church of Pakistan”, has publicized a complete list of the dead and wounded in the attack carried out on 22 September to the Church of “All Saints” in Peshawar: as reported to Fides, the attack of two Islamist suicide bombers caused the death of 126 Christians and 166 wounded.
Mgr. Humphrey Sarfraz wrote in a note sent to Fides: “I am still shocked by the many human losses: this is the worst accident affecting a Church in our diocese. The attack was a cowardly act of violence against innocent Christians, who are true martyrs. Christians consider themselves true Pakistanis: we have sacrificed a lot for this country. The provincial government has promised to give compensation of 500,000 rupees (approximately $ 4,70 ) to the families of the victims and 200,000 rupees (about 1,900 dollars) for the survivor, who are severely disabled. So far, the victims have received no compensation”.
Another Anglican Pastor Ijaz, who was leading the liturgy in the Church on the day of the explosion reported: around 500 Christian families have their homes near the Church. The residents are mostly poor and marginalized citizens. Many of them work as health workers or workers who are underpaid and exploited. With regards to the massacre, note local sources of Fides, there are still controversies. Many of the wounded, complain the local faithful, could have been saved. Many died due to the lack of emergency treatment and shortage of hospital staff. The victims were placed in coffins without any identification and the families of the seriously injured were not warned. Families therefore missed the opportunity to pay their last respects to their loved ones, who then died. An accident, which has caused anger and rage and testifies the serious superficiality of hospitals: two injured were mistakenly considered dead and placed in coffins.
While a memorial poster with pictures of the identified victims of the suicide bombings has been fixed in the Church; in the remembrance of the dead. Moreover, in the courtyard outside the Church: site of the first explosion, a small shrine venerate the dead was created.
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Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Two Shia brothers shot martyred in Sipah-e-Yazid attack
Notorious Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists shot martyred two Shia brothers near Peoples Secretariat and mausoleum of founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi on Sunday night. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that notorious terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba made two real brothers for the only reason that they were Shiites. Mudabbir Raza and Haider Raza embraced martyrdom due to the straight fires of the Yazidi terrorists. Bodies were rushed to hospital for postmortems. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of two Shia brothers. They said that genocide of Shia Muslims continued unabated across Pakistan but government has been appeasing the terrorists instead of eliminating them.

Lahore: Police arrest 17 Jamiat members from Punjab University

The Express Tribune
Seventeen male students of Punjab University (PU) – who belong to Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) - were arrested on Monday, Express News reported. The IJT is the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). After students were cleared out of a hostel and some were arrested, agitated students reacted by snatching keys from drivers and blocking roads and underpasses near the university. Police attempted to take them into custody, but the students hid in blocks in the university. Traffic has been cleared from some roads but others are still blocked despite police efforts. Jamiat members were protesting against a press conference held by the university in which the administration had alleged that members of the party had locked two teachers of the law college in classrooms on November 30. The protest was held on a bridge connecting the university with the hostels. The agitated students had blocked traffic on the bridge. A contingent of police officers arrested 13 boys and cleared out the university’s Hostel No 16, as it is considered a stronghold for Jamiat members. Following the evacuation, a group of students started pelting stones and police arrested another four IJT members. Police seized bottles of alcohol from the room of a Jamiat spokesperson, identified as Rao Adnan. There are conflicting reports about whether the police arrived first, after which the students began protesting, or if they came in response to the students’ protest against the administration.
‘Harbouring militants’
PU vice chancellor had accused IJT of harbouring militants in the university hostels. However, Jamiat had refuted the claim and accused the VC of “trying to defame Jamiat” to hide his own inefficiency. Early September, intelligence agencies had arrested Ahmed Sajjad, believed to have been the handler for a terrorist cell in Lahore, from PU Hostel No 1. A senior serving intelligence agency officer had told The Express Tribune that JI has been directly and indirectly involved in providing accommodation to al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.

Pakistan sees eight-fold increase in HIV cases in 11 years

Pakistan has seen an eight-fold increase in HIV cases between 2001 and 2012, said a UN report on the eve of the World AIDS Day. The report, ‘HIV in Asia and the Pacific: Getting to Zero,” released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, says that emerging epidemics are becoming evident in 12 countries in Asia and the Pacific region, where an estimated 4.9 million were living with HIV in 2012. The 12 countries account for more than 90 per cent of people living with HIV and of new HIV infections in the region. The countries are Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. According to the report, Pakistan introduced the “third gender” option for identity documents and Nepal recognised “third gender” in the national census. The report points out that inadequate focus on key populations at higher risk of HIV infection and geographical areas with higher HIV burden mean that most countries in the region are not progressing fast enough to reach global targets on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. While significant progress has been seen in some countries — with some reducing new HIV infections by over 50pc since 2001 — impact appears to be slowing with overall number of new HIV infections across the region remaining largely unchanged in the past five years. Total estimated HIV spending in the region in 2012 was $2.2 billion, up 5pc from 2011. Yet, the AIDS response in the region remains under-funded. To achieve the 2015 annual investment target in low- and middle-income countries in Asia and the Pacific, UNAIDS estimates that about $5.4bn must be mobilised. According to the report, new HIV infections in the region remain concentrated among key populations: people who buy and sell sex, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and transgender people. The fastest-growing epidemics in the region are among men who have sex with men. These epidemics are typically concentrated in major cities. The report calls for a rapid increase of voluntary confidential community-based HIV testing and counselling for populations at higher risk in the region. In a message on the AIDS Day, President Mamnoon Hussain said that as HIV is an issue of global concern it is important that the international community focuses on AIDS prevention and cure in the less developed countries and thereby help make Pakistan and the whole world HIV and AIDS free. He said that promulgation of ‘Blood Safety Ordinance’ both at federal and provincial levels and supply of diagnostic kits and laboratory consumables and equipment to all provincial, AJK, Fata and federal centres are critical advances in the fight against the disease.

Pakistan: Is PTI turning into a fascist party?

By Yasser Latif Hamdani
They have used pictures from the Balochistan earthquake and Gaza as evidence for their claim that drones killed innocent civilians in the recent Hangu drone strike
When I voted for the PTI on May 11, 2013, I did so for very good reasons and none of them had anything to do with drones. That Imran Khan, the tallest figure in Pakistani politics, was contesting from NA 122 — my constituency — was just icing on the cake. I felt that the PTI had not only managed to bring the apoliticised urban middle class into the democratic process but had also managed to wean a significant portion of the right wing vote from traditional right wing parties. The hope underlying my decision was that the PTI would become a party of the centre right and, with time, would absorb other right wing parties and lead Pakistan towards a genuine two party system.
The results, however, returned PTI as the second largest party of the right. Having been placed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and in opposition at the centre, the PTI positioned itself to the right of the centre right PML-N, which had the overwhelming majority. The impact therefore has been precisely the opposite of what one had expected of the PTI’s rise. Instead of pulling the extreme right to centre right, the PTI has allowed itself to be pushed into the extreme right. To be fair, the first indication of this came when the party abandoned its principled stance on equality of citizenship by targeting an already demonized group, the Ahmadis, just before the elections. Next came the angst on display in Lalak Chowk in DHA, Lahore. The hitherto apoliticised urban middle class was upset that, despite having voted for Hamid Khan — the PTI candidate from NA 125 — the PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique won the election. He did so because the overwhelming majority in NA 125 was not of DHA dwellers but of the slums around it. Saad Rafique had done his homework. Hamid Khan failed to do his. Yet PTI supporters were unable to reconcile themselves with the results; they wanted to know why, when they had braved the heat in May to vote for their favourite candidate, he was not elected. This is a dangerous attitude in a democratic process.
The PTI won fair and square in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It did so because its anti-corruption slogan and pro-development stance resonated with the people in that province, who were sick and tired of the previous government’s woeful performance. Admittedly the PTI’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been unable to overcome the multitude of problems confronting their province, and it is also not their fault. Instead of working hard at delivering on the many promises of their manifesto, the PTI has chosen the easy route; the unconstitutional politics of agitation. The agitation has been centered solely on the drone issue. I do not wish to go into the merits or demerits of drones but suffice it to say that the PTI’s rhetoric on the issue is composed largely of false statements and outright distortion of the facts. They have used pictures from the Balochistan earthquake and Gaza as evidence for their claim that drones killed innocent civilians in the recent Hangu drone strike. The Hangu drone strike killed Afghan Taliban leaders but the PTI’s information secretaries, not just in Pakistan but also in places as far off as New Jersey, continue to mislead the ordinary rank and file of PTI supporters with false evidence.
These ordinarily intelligent and amenable folk become rabidly fanatic when someone holds a point of view contradictory to their own. Their charge is always the same: anyone who disagrees with them is being funded by the US. Imran Khan must share the blame for this. He has openly accused everyone who criticises him on his policies of being a US agent. I do not say that there are absolutely no critics with ulterior motives but to accuse everyone of being an agent is just plain wrong. In a democratic society there can be and there should be many voices. Dissent is the central feature and the strongest attribute of an inclusive and democratic country.
In comparison, we must consider the main attributes of fascism. Obviously, fascism in the 21st century is not going to be the same as fascism in the 20th century. The paraphernalia of the Nazi regime and Italian fascists may be the most enduring historical symbols of fascism but they are irrelevant to the modern reality. The three core ideological components of fascism are said to be the rebirth myth, populist ultranationalism and the myth of decadence. Let us see how the PTI fares on these. The rebirth myth is self-evident in the ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan) slogan. Drone agitation is a classic case of populist ultranationalism. Finally, every PTI worker believes that the system is completely decadent and must be brought down by radical politics outside the constitutional realm. The nature of the radical politics that PTI supports is also opposed to all forms of anti-conservative nationalism. These are the makings of a genuinely fascist party.
Let me state here that I believe Imran Khan to be a humanist. His work with Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust and Namal College indicates that he believes in positive and progressive change through education and provision of healthcare for all. His politics through the PTI in recent times, however, indicate otherwise. I hope Imran Khan can pause and reflect on where he is taking his political supporters and whether his political supporters in the end will overwhelm his humanist aspirations. Instead of committing PTI to an extreme agenda, would it not be worthwhile to focus on issues that have been entrusted to him? After all, foreign policy is not a provincial subject and the people of Pakistan have not given him a mandate on the federal level. Is it not prudent then to understand the limitations of the mandate that Imran Khan has received? Pakistan is bigger than any political party and the hour calls for statesmanship and not politics.

PPP urges new policy in post-Hakimullah scenario

Daily Times
Opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khurshid Shah on Sunday advised the government to consult heads of political parties to make a new policy in the wake of post-Hakimullah Mehsud situation. Speaking to media persons in Sukkur, the senior PPP leader said he had requested the government to call an urgent all-parties conference to draw up a new strategy in the post-TTP chief death scenario and to re-initiate dialogue process with the militants for restoration of peace in the country. Shah complained that the government is not listening to them and that even its close ally Fazlur Rehman is also ignored in this regard. “If the government does not pay attention to us (PPP), it should listen to its close ally Maulana Fazalur Rehman who has been demanding an immediate all-partiers conference,” Shah said. He said if the government is not interested in calling the all-parties conference then it should take the heads of political parties on board to formulate a fresh policy to tackle terrorism. The opposition leader asked how would the country’s problems be solved if its prime minister did not pay attention to them. He noted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not even visited parliament.

As many as 500 Turks, some of them trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, have crossed over into Syria to fight the Bashar al-Assad regime alongside Al Qaeda and its affiliates, a report from Turkey’s interior ministry claims. Turkey’s government, which is fiercely opposed to al-Assad, has come under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to militants and weapons crossing the country’s long border into Syria. The interior ministry report, published in several Turkish newspapers on Wednesday, said about 500 Turkish citizens had joined the ranks of the Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). “Some have received training in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the report says, according to press accounts. Based on data collected by the National Intelligence Organization and police, the report said 13 Turks fighting alongside Al Nusra had been killed in Syria. It said another 75 Turkish citizens had been killed in the conflict, which first erupted in March 2011. Officials from the interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment. Western reluctance to back more moderate rebels in the uprising against al-Assad has strengthened the position of radical Islamist fighters, including ISIL and Al Nusra. Al Nusra, created in January 2012, joined Al Qaeda in December of that year and is on a U.S. list of foreign terror groups. It has carried out some of the deadliest attacks against the Syrian regime, including several suicide bombings. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on a trip to Washington last week, rejected charges that his country was allowing extremists to cross into Syria and called for greater intelligence cooperation to halt the flow. Turkey has taken in about 600,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict and also hosts the main opposition coalition.