Friday, December 6, 2013

Saudi ban on women driving illegal: Analyst
A political commentator has slammed a ban on female driving in Saudi Arabia as unfair, saying such restrictions are not legal under the kingdom’s law, Press TV reports. “There is no law against women driving in Saudi Arabia.... These women who defied the ban on driving are not breaking any law. They are breaking a tradition, they are breaking an edict,” Naseer al-Omari, a US-based writer and political analyst, told press TV on Saturday. The analyst further criticized Western states for keeping silent on the injustice practiced by the “medieval” Al Saud regime against women. “It’s a shame that these Western governments do not say a thing about what’s happening to Saudi women - not just when it comes to driving, [but also] when it comes to personal freedom; ability to travel; ability to choose,” Omari noted. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving. The ban is a religious fatwa imposed by the country’s Wahhabi clerics. If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court or even flogged. Omari went on to say that Riyadh is not able to challenge Wahhabi fatwas, adding, “The Saudi people have to live with this reality, with this injustice.” On November 29, Saudi regime forces arrested leading campaigner Aziza al-Yousef while driving a car through the capital Riyadh along with her fellow activist Eman al-Nafjan. In October, Amnesty International censured Riyadh for not addressing the “dire human rights situation” in the kingdom.

A Pacific Vision for Russia and the US

It’s been a rocky year for U.S.-Russia relations. We have seen espionage accusations, diplomatic slaps in the face, and unpleasant media fallouts in both domestic arenas. Moreover, it seems that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent success (short-lived though it may be) at keeping Ukraine in the fold will frustrate Washington politicians into abandoning any attempts to seek common ground with Moscow. But the need for a strategic vision calls for an unbiased evaluation of all long term cooperation possibilities. One that is evident and as yet unexplored is U.S.-Russia relations in the Pacific region.
The Asian-Pacific region’s strategic significance is acknowledged both by Washington and Moscow. In a 2011 Foreign Policy article, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of the Pacific region for U.S. foreign policy, trade, security and global stability. Recognizing the developments, especially in the economic realm, that have already taken place, she formally announced the U.S. “pivot” to the region that would become a key driver of global politics. On the other side of the Pacific, Putin has also recognized the ongoing developments in the region and its strategic value for Russia’s ambition to diversify and strengthen its economic development and global engagement and security. Truly, the national interests of two major global actors intertwine in this region far more than official Moscow and Washington are willing to admit.
One of Washington’s top priorities is to provide for an open and nondiscriminatory economic order, allowing free trade to flourish, thus protecting the commercial interests of U.S. companies and the ability of consumers to receive relatively cheap products from the Asian-Pacific. It is also critical for the U.S. to dissuade regional economies from focusing excessively on China. In recent years, the U.S. has been deeply involved in regional economic frameworks like ASEAN Free Trade Area, Trans Pacific Partnership and the East Asian Summit with the goal of securing a leading role in the region.
Unfortunately for Russia, it is not yet fully incorporated into the frameworks of Asia-Pacific economic institutions. Moreover, Russia’s economic involvement in APEC is only $206.8 billion, a sliver of APEC’s overall $16 trillion trade turnover in 2012. Considering that $87 billion of Russia’s trade turnover is attributed to trade with China and is consistently growing, Russia’s economic engagement in the region is viewed as closely linked to Beijing’s. Aware of this disproportion, Moscow is working on signing a series of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, India and Pakistan. During the 2012 APEC Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Putin called for a strengthening of regional transparency and liberalization, innovation, and the development of trans-border infrastructure development to advance the integration of Russia’s Far East into the other economies in the region. Moscow’s ambition to integrate Far East and Siberia into the region could be a great opportunity for U.S. to invest in Russia and de-monopolize Chinese’s financial presence in this resource-rich part of Russia. By supporting reconciliation between Russia and Japan, the intensification of Japanese investment in the Far East, and the further increase of Russian-Korean and Russian-Vietnamese trade relations, Washington will deprive Beijing of its almost exclusive rights to Siberia’s energy supplies. An economically independent and engaged Russia will be an asset to the overall economic stability of the Pacific, balancing Chinese influence and providing for a (sometimes literal) gold mine of investment opportunities.
The American goal of quelling Chinese aspirations might also prove to be compatible with Russia’s interests. The rapid growth of China’s military capabilities is understandably worrisome to Russia and has induced the military consolidation of the Russia’s Pacific fleet. It is worth noting that, in light of growing competition between Russia and China over Central Asia, Moscow is bound to act more assertively against growing Chinese influence. China’s trade with Central Asian states already exceeds Russia’s, negatively affecting Russia’s plan to incorporate Central Asia into the Customs Union or any other future integration schemes.
Russia’s cooperation with India, which has its own tensions with China, is also critical for the U.S. The joint Russo-Indian military venture, which will see the modernization of the fifth generation successor of the latest Sukhoi PAK-FA, will strengthen both Indian defense and help to counterbalance China. The growing interest of Russian military-industrial and energy companies in Southeast Asia will give Russia cause to become increasingly interested in the security and stability of vital water corridors in the waters of East Asia. Despite protests from Beijing, Russia is intensifying its connections with Vietnam, arranging for joint oil and gas exploration and signing military contracts, including the sale of six submarines in 2009. Thailand, Indonesia, Laos and Malaysia are among other potential targets for Russia’s armament deals. Most of those countries are America’s partners in the “hub and spokes” cooperative security system and their close relations with Russia will only prove beneficial for the U.S., as Moscow would be more inclined to engage in conflict resolution that might erupt between China and them. Another area of joint interest is North Korea and nuclear non-proliferation. As stated in the Russian Foreign Policy Concept, political stability in Asia is crucial to Russia foreign policy priorities, especially on the question of non-proliferation. The readiness to participate in Korean talks and enforce a peaceful resolution is even more evident when placed in the context of Moscow’s ambition to build a Trans-Korean railroad and a direct pipeline from the Russian Far East to the Korean market.
Russian involvement in the political and economic system of the Asia-Pacific will only help to promote U.S. aspirations to foster a stable and economically open regional structure. The moderate pacification of China and the limitation of Beijing’s economic dominance in the region is compatible with the long term goals of both the U.S. and Russia. But to get the most out of any potential cooperation with Moscow, Washington must modify its perception of the region and acknowledge Russia as a significant actor there. The U.S. needs to engage Russia and invite it to strengthen its participation in regional trade and political organizations. It must also support reconciliation between Moscow and Tokyo and the further development of Russo-Korean relations, as well as welcoming Russia’s ambitions to integrate its Far East into the regional economy. In the same sense, Russia must to show its readiness to integrate into the regional economy on the rules of transparency and accountability, to prove that Russia’s turn East goes beyond China and that it is ready to engage Washington in a depoliticized manner with strategic cooperation in mind.

S. Africa to hold Mandela funeral on Dec. 15

The South African government on Friday announced Mandela's funeral will be held on Dec. 15. The decision came after President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela's family in Johannesburg. Shortly before midnight on Thursday, Zuma announced the 95-year-old anti-apartheid icon passed away at 20:50. The president said on Friday that the late statesman will be laid to rest at his home in Qunu in the southern province of the Eastern Cape. The national mourning will last for 10 days before the funeral. From Dec.11 to Dec.13, Mandela's remains will be stationed at the Union Buildings in the administrative capital of Pretoria, according to Zuma. During the national mourning, Dec. 8 has been declared a Day of Prayer and Reflection and Dec. 10 would be the day for the official memorial service in Johannesburg. President Zuma thanked all South Africans and the world for their support to the Mandela family. Mandela was admitted to hospital with the serious recurring lung infection in recent years. He suffered from tuberculosis when he was incarcerated for 27 years before the apartheid ended in 1994. After being discharged from hospital in Pretoria on Sept. 1, he started his final fight against the disease at his home in Johannesburg. He was the first democratically-elected president in South Africa, with an honor of the state father in the country.

Obama to go to S. Africa for Mandela memorial services

U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to South Africa to attend memorial services for Nelson Mandela. White House spokesman Jay Carney says that First lady Michelle Obama will accompany the president during his trip next week. They will pay their respects to the memory of the former South African president.

Manama rocked by mass protest ahead of intl. forum

Anti-regime protesters in Bahrain have staged a mass demonstration near Manama ahead of an international forum on Middle East security to be held in the capital city. Thousands of people rallied in the village of Sa'ar, west of Manama, responding to a call of the main opposition bloc al-Wefaq to protest against a crackdown on opposition activists. The protesters were carrying pictures of jailed opposition leaders and banners containing messages for top international officials who are attending the two-day Manama Dialogue forum opened on Friday evening. "To those meeting at the Manama Dialogue (conference): Are you aware that there are female detainees in Bahraini jails?" read one banner. "Why do you support democracy for people of other countries... (and not) in Bahrain?" read another banner. Police attacked the protesters with tear gas and sound bombs trying to disperse them. Similar protests were also held in the villages of Sanabis, Deraz, Sitra and Diya, where protesters burned tires and at some points clashed with security forces. The protests come as British Foreign Secretary William Hague is planned to deliver the keynote address at the annual security forum upon its opening. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will also give a speech on Saturday, the second day of the forum which is organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa ruling family to step down. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government to crush the peaceful protests. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in the Saudi-backed crackdown.

Veena Malik - Rum Rum

Family planning advocates face fatwas from fundamentalists in Pakistan

Healthcare activists promoting family planning in Pakistan are facing constant fatwas from conservative forces, killing of volunteers and kidnapping of the public health activists, apart from the lacklustre support from the government. "Five of our staff members were killed by the fundamentalists. But the sister of one of the martyrs came up to join and the take the social fight further as a health worker," says Sayed Kamal Shah, CEO of Rahnuma which is the largest NGO working in the area of reproductive health. He was in Kochi to make a presentation at the ongoing global health conference on social marketing and social franchising, being organized by HLFPPT from December 3 to 5. The main hurdles of family planning programmes in Pakistan are lack of political will, insufficient public funding, unavailability, stigma, family pressure and religious concerns, he said. "The attitude among the people is changing fast now and there is huge demand. The unmet needs for contraceptives are 33 percent. The people want to buy contraceptives, but availability is the concern," he explained. The government spending is below 25% in Pakistan where now the provincial governments were entrusted to handle health subject, making the things further complicated. "The political parties are also not ready to take a stand to support the family planning as in the case of clergies," he added. "The allocation is not coming. There is no national policy for health or education and there is no commitment from the external donors to support the programmes after 2014," Shah said.

Analysts echo Karzai claim some TVs fueling prejudice

A number of analysts say President Hamid Karzai is right in his claim that some TV channels have been involved in spreading linguistic and ethnic differences in Afghanstan.
At a conference “Development of Salang Pass for next 50 years,” in Kabul a day earlier Karzai said those involved in spreading differences among Afghan communities should be dealt in accordance with the law. He called on media outlets, particularly television channels, to avoid fueling such prejudices and instead work to strengthening national unity.
Ahmad Saeed, an analyst, said the president was hinting at Jwandon Television when he made his latest remarks about media organizations. He told Pajhwok Afghan News the government was yet to frame any law tighting grip over media organizations and that was why such malicious drive could not be controlled.
Afghanistan's Regional Studies Centre head, Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, said President Hamid Karzai was right in castigating some media outlets spreading bigotry, who said the policies of Tolo Television were based on spreading linguistic and ethnic fanaticism. He alleged Tolo Television was being backed by foreign and neighbouring countries such as Iran, Pakistan and other western states, which was creating disarray and polarization among Afghans.
He said Afghans were now aware and no one could create gulf in their ranks and unity. Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, writer and analyst, while supporting President Karzai’s viewpoint, said the president should have raised the issue years ago to rein in the media outlets.
Not only Tolo, Noorin, Arman, Rah-e-Farda and other media outlets, but some political and cultural organizations, Wolesi Jirga members, Cabinet ministers and officials were also involved in discrimination among Afghans and fuelling prejudices.

Addicted and hopeless in Afghanistan's Herat

Cheap drugs and corrupt police blamed for high levels of addiction in country's western province.
Herat, Afghanistan - When Mariam's sister-in-law told her to place her hands on the Quran, she felt a sense of calm that only faith and family could provide. Her sister-in-law looked her in the eyes and told her: "What I'm going to show you can't tell anyone."
Mariam had put on weight after migrating to Iran, and she was relieved to discover something that would lessen the mental and physical anguish this was causing her.
"Here," her Iranian sister-in-law said, holding up a powdery white substance to Mariam. The substance was podar, or heroin. Within four days of trying it, Mariam said she found herself hooked. More than three years later, when was she deported back to her native Afghanistan, Mariam still couldn't shake the habit.
In Afghanistan's western Herat province, Mariam - now a skinny and frail woman whose rough, dark skin belies her 37 years - soon found herself amid a community of fellow drug users. The province, which shares a border with the Iran, is home to an estimated 60-70,000 of Afghanistan's 1.6 million drug users, according to Afghanistan's anti-narcotics ministry.
Mariam's story is anything but unique to the nearly 400 other people roaming around the squalid shantytown of Kamar Kala, located just one kilometre outside Herat City. Like Mariam, many in the makeshift community became addicted to drugs while migrants in neighbouring Iran.
For Nasir, 37, it was the fatigue from his work as a day labourer on Iranian construction sites that led him to drugs. "If you give me a blueprint I, could erect the entire building from top to bottom on my own," Nasir said proudly of his 21 years of experience.
Despite his aptitude, Nasir, like the rest of his Afghan compatriots, was quickly relegated to manual labour. After months of hearing Nasir complain about the exhaustion and physical pain he suffered at the end of each day, his Iranian friends introduced him to tariyak, or opium. Soon he became dependent on the narcotic, but as the years passed it wasn't enough. Nasir moved on to using crystal methamphetamine and eventually heroin.
Though Afghans often complain of ill-treatment while in Iran, Nasir was more positive about his time there. He said in the year that he has returned to Afghanistan his addiction has only intensified. "In Iran I wasn't on a constant 24-hour search for the next high. I had a job that kept me busy, but here, what do I have?" A dangerous combination of low prices, both Nasir and Mariam said they could feed their habits on less than two dollars a day, Afghanistan's double-digit unemployment rate and the Afghan police's relatively lax stance towards drugs prevent many Afghan migrants from weaning themselves off drug use. Though many of the Kamar Kala residents are from other Afghan provinces, shame, a lack of economic prospects and the threat of attack mean most of the residents are stranded in Herat.
"I would give anything to return to Kunduz, but how would I?" asked Massood, 25, who says the three-day journey would involve passing through areas where the Taliban is very active. Massood's re-integration into Afghan society is further complicated by the fact that he was born a refugee in Iran.
Massood echoed complaints often lodged against Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, saying not only have they done little for returnees, but that they have also not made their presence known. "I wouldn't even know where to go to get a tazkireh [Afghan national ID]. I'm Afghan, not Irani, but who do I tell that to?"
Aside from the journey's dangers, Massood has another reason not to return to his home province. Sitting outside one of the makeshift homes that dot Kamar Kala - made of sandbags stacked atop one another and covered by a cloth tent - Massood is approached by other addicts who ask him for money to buy food. Asked how he makes money, Massood only says that he has "a job" in the community. As his visibly disoriented visitors venture back into the house where they get high, Massood becomes increasingly forthcoming. He says he has become a drug dealer, taking advantage of lax enforcement: Kamar Kala residents say police often leave them alone after paying a bribe of 50-100 afghanis ($1-2).
With tens of thousands of addicts in Herat alone, Massood stands to make swift profits from the sale of narcotics.
Still, for Afghan migrants who went to Iran in search of economic opportunity, the community they have formed in Kamar Kala does little to counter the shame many feel for not only "failing" in Iran, but returning as addicts.
"There were no drugs in Bamiyan before. The most anyone would do is naswar, chewing tobacco, or a little tariyak from time-to-time," said Nasir, the construction worker, about his home province.
Though he is one of the few Kamar Kala residents with an income and a sense of authority, Massood is glad that his Iranian wife and children are staying in Iran along with his mother. "They would disown me if they saw me in this state," he says, looking at four of the unmarked graves where addicts from the slum have been buried.

Bilawal Bhutto pays glowing tributes to Nelson Mandela
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has condoled the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela and paid glowing tributes to him for his successful heroic struggle against apartheid and human slavery.
“History shall record Nelson Mandela and his personal sacrifices in golden words for he inspired the weak, discriminated and those treated inhumanly. He will live on in the human history as a huge icon as a freedom fighter who led his nation from apartheid, slavery and human indignity to human equality, freedom and dignity.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pointed out that apartheid regime of South Africa tried every dirty trick from calling him atheist to putting him in chains for three long decades but failed to break him and stop him from his struggle for his country and its people.
“I know that his detractors won’t digest it well but the fact remains that almost similar kind of mudslinging campaign was carried out against President Asif Ali Zardari under the concocted and unproved charges of corruption putting him into jail for over a decade,” he said adding that even after undergoing such worst victimizations at the hands of their respective regimes, both Nelson Mandela and Asif Ali Zardari pursued the policies of reconciliation and tolerance.
“As I walked out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”-Nelson Mandela

Chinese president mourns "world-renowned statesman" Mandela

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday expressed deep grief over the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95. In a message of condolences to his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, Xi also extended his sincere sympathies and those of the Chinese government and people to Mandela's family. Lauding Mandela as "a world-renowned statesman," Xi noted that Mandela led the South African people through arduous struggles to the anti-apartheid victory, making a historic contribution to the establishment and development of the new South Africa. Mandela, who visited China twice, was also one of the founders of the China-South Africa relations, and an active champion of bilateral friendship and cooperation, said the Chinese president. The Chinese people, Xi said, will always remember Mandela's extraordinary contributions to the development of the China-South Africa ties and the cause of human progress. Meanwhile, the president stressed that he will continue to work with Zuma to further consolidate and develop the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership, so as to carry forward the bilateral friendship.

Video: World leaders remember Mandela for legacy of peace, courage

As news of Nelson Mandela's passing spreads, world leaders express their condolences and reflect on the legacy of the former South African president who broke racial barriers in a post-apartheid country.

Video: U.S. vice president says the world needs people like Mandela

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is visiting South Korea, mourns Nelson Mandela's death and says the world needs people like the late leader.

Video: Nelson Mandela - Barack Obama pays tribute to South Africa's Madiba

Malala hails Mandela, ´my leader´

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban to champion girls´ rights to education, paid tribute to "my leader" Nelson Mandela on Friday following his death.
The 16-year-old, who earlier this year was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that Mandela won in 1993, said Mandela would "never die" and was a "perpetual inspiration" for people around the world. "Nelson Mandela is physically separated from us but his soul and spirit will never die," Malala, who is now at school in Britain, said in a statement. "He belongs to the whole world because he is an icon of equality, freedom and love, the values we need all the time everywhere. His long, long struggle is a great demonstration of humanity," she added."I have learned so much from Nelson Mandela and he has been my leader. He is a perpetual inspiration for me and millions of others around the world. "Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on a school bus in October 2012, an attack that drew worldwide condemnation. She underwent surgery in Britain, and since her recovery has become a leading educational campaigner. In recent months Malala has won a series of prizes including the EU´s Sakharov prize for human rights, which Mandela also won, while she missed out on the Nobel.

Pakistan: PML-N put on back foot

The summary dismissal of Nadra chief Tariq Malik and his equally prompt reinstatement - all of it just in one day, amply suggest that while the country's political elite remains stuck in the groove of dirty politics, others have much changed for the better. That somebody holding a statutory position should be shown the door in utter disregard of rules and regulations is certainly not expected of those whose electoral promise was a 'new dawn' when rule of law would prevail. That was not to be. Hardly six months into power that dawn is neither here nor there. The winner of the day, PML-N, refuses to be anything different from what it was in the past - riding roughshod over all that was neither to its liking then, nor now. No warning, no explanation, no show-cause notice, no hearing - he was sacked through a three-line midnight notification as he learnt of his dismissal from the media. By the time he reached Islamabad his chair was occupied by one of his juniors. However, it's not that he was completely in the dark about what awaited him. He was receiving threats to behave - some of it delivered to him in person by a bigwig in Lahore. What sort of 'behaviour' on his part was expected, he was being asked not to expose what looks like massive rigging in election to five provincial and national constituencies of Lahore, all won by the PML-N candidates. It was not that he was on it on his own; an Election Tribunal had asked him to verify the thumb imprints on the ballots cast at the polling for NA-118 won by the PML-N's Riaz Hussain Malik. The Nadra chief was yet to give his findings, but the riggers of votes feared the truth in the matter, and were determined to win him over by hook or by crook. Tariq Malik lost his job, but he knew he was right, a standpoint vindicated by the Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi who restored him to his position with immediate effect by suspending the notification. The relief provided to Tariq Malik is in line with the superior judiciary's constitutional powers to ensure that the government's administrative decisions are not in violation of rules and regulations.
The May 11 elections were declared as more free, fair and transparent than ever held before in Pakistan. But that doesn't seem to be the case given the resistance being offered by the parties in power to the election tribunals that are tasked to hear and decide complaints of alleged rigging in certain constituencies. Nadra comes in when a tribunal wants it to verify if the thumb impression on the ballot paper is of the same person whose vote was cast. According to media reports, Nadra had found quite big chunk of votes cast for the PML-N candidates were bogus as the thumb imprints on the ballot papers didn't match with those with it. So the powers-that-be in Lahore wanted Tariq Malik to withhold the facts, if he couldn't change them. He refused pointblank, earning the ire of the party's top leadership. This indeed is a very frustrating situation and may vitiate atmosphere for the local bodies' election. Even more frustrating is the kind of attitude of the PML-N that was expected to act as a role model having won democratic right to rule the country for five years. But if this is how it won the May 11 election and came to power then not only it is a clear loser in the eyes of the public but the democratic process is equally a bad loser in Pakistan. Of course, the Election Commission of Pakistan is expected to look into this opprobrious development, mainly by standing by the position taken by Tariq Malik. But more than the ECP, it is for leadership of the PML-N to come clean on it. The time and the age when riding roughshod over functionaries in other institutions for enforcing its dictate possible for the political governments have passed. The PML-N too should move out of that grove of highhanded governance; the alternative would further speed up its downhill slide that is so much in evidence all-around.

Pakistan: Karachi weeps again

A brief lull in violence was once again broken on Tuesday when Karachi witnessed a string of attacks on people with marked religious distinction that gave a sectarian overtone to the entire mayhem. A Shia scholar and political leader was gunned down along with his bodyguard while three members of the Tableeghi Jamaat including two Moroccans were shot outside a city mosque. In other incidents at least 12 people were killed. The entire city fell silent as academic institutions were closed down, traffic remained suspended and businesses were shut down. As the Rangers-led operation in Karachi continues, the backlash from those on its receiving end could not be ruled out and this new wave of violence could certainly be a part of that reaction. However, a deliberate sectarian hue to the violence is a matter of concern and calls for attention. Since the sectarian spark is potentially combustible and could engulf the entire country in its flames, there is an immediate need to address the situation by arresting the offenders without delay. There could be other parts of the country also falling victim to this reactionary behaviour. Those who are involved in sectarian killings are spread across the country. We even know they are ensconced in southern Punjab. Some of the groups had flaunted their targeting of the Shias. In the presence of ample evidence it should not be difficult for the government to arrest and punish those who are at the helm of these sectarian groups. Already the big fish have fled Karachi, therefore the net of the intelligence-led police operation in different parts of the country is required to be spread far and wide if the situation is to be brought under control. Karachi has been in the throes of political violence for years now. The nature and reasons for the violence have changed form. It is terrorism, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, sectarianism, all converging into one bloody mess. Many groups have crossed over to criminal activities to reinforce their presence and make money. Therefore the entire city cannot be cleansed in one brief operation. Nor can we take other parts of the country as immune from the presence of culprits operating in Karachi. The ongoing operation has yielded some results but it needs to be sustained for a considerable period of time, especially in the light of the eruption of this new streak of violence. The Sindh government has to change its approach in dealing with Karachi. The firefighter approach can quell miscreants for some time but for a consistent and prolonged improvement, a proactive investigation and law enforcement strategy is required.

Pakistan: Halting NATO supplies

It seems the overly jingoistic leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Imran Khan is bent upon putting a strain on relations between Pakistan and the US. His band of PTI supporters and party members, who have now turned into rogue activists, have made the transfer of NATO supplies from Torkham to Karachi virtually impossible due to their blockades and protests. They have been threatening to, and have, roughed up the drivers of these trucks, leading the US to take some very drastic action indeed. The US and NATO have halted the transfer of their equipment from Afghanistan through Pakistan in the light of these roadblocks. The US has specifically stated that it wants to ensure the safety of the drivers contracted to move the equipment. As the 2014 US withdrawal date looms that much closer, the US must, no matter what the cost or condition, move NATO supplies out of Afghanistan, and the belligerence of Mr Khan will not stop that from happening. That is why the US, while optimistic about this situation being resolved soon, has hinted at using the Central Asian states, also known as the northern route, for the transfer of its supplies. This route is a lot costlier and more time consuming than the route through Pakistan but this statement of halting the use of terrain speaks of one worrisome fact: the US, it seems, is no longer dependent on us for one of the most critical agreements that we, as allies, had come to with the US. While the US is being very gracious about the ruckus raised by the PTI hooligans for almost a week now, we should make no bones about the fact that the superpower will remember this turn of ‘friendship’.
The US is no stranger to our tactics; in November 2011, when US fighter jets gunned down 24 of our soldiers at the Salala check post, we resorted to the complete shutdown of NATO supplies. This caused a stalemate in the relations between the two countries. The Salala incident was one in which the national consensus seemed to be to teach the US a lesson for it was our own on the receiving end of the firing line. However, the fact that NATO supplies have forcibly been suspended due to the PTI’s inisistence that drone strikes be halted does not strike a chord with public opinion. All those killed in the Hangu drone strike were, reportedly, militants. Hakeemullah Mehsud, the dreaded TTP leader, was also killed in a drone strike recently. For the PTI activists to resort to manhandling drivers and making the transport of supplies impossible because militants and terrorists were killed just does not add up to a united public opinion in support of Imran Khan’s jiyalas. This is increasingly looking like a case of the provincial government trying to vex the government at the Centre — and the federal government should not take this lying down. While provincial law and order is the responsibility of the provincial government, the fact that these actions are hurting our foreign policy and relations with an ally matters at the national level. Our shutting off NATO supplies after the Salala matter allowed the US to prepare for our yo-yo act and to lay down all possibilities for a route for supplies that does not have Pakistan in the picture. The northern route, while being a hard nut to crack, seems to have been made an option by the US. Imran Khan is going on and on about how this halting of NATO supplies is a ‘tactical success’ but little does he seem to care about the consequences this ‘victory’ may have for the country. Once we pass the 2014 withdrawal date, we will not be an asset any longer. Do we really need to sour relations with the US after more than a decade of war and loss?.

Breaking News: CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son Arsalan planning father’s retirement at the cost of PIA
It is a well-known fact that whoever is in power in Pakistan, abuses it for personal gains. Unfortunately, it is the political class which gets the bad name while the holy cows belonging to establishment in general and armed forces in particular enjoys the benefits. In the last eight years, the judiciary under Ifitkhar Muhammad Chaudhry has become another holy cow that cannot be touched. The vindictive Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has left no stone unturned to gobble up power and benefits for himself and his family. Be it jobs, postings and transfers for his son, the highly capable Arsalan Iftikhar or demanding protocol be given to him for his traveling and even using his position to get his children married off in rich and connected families, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has done it all. Last year in June 2012, Malik Riaz of Bahria Town came out with proofs against Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s son, Arsalan about the money and benefits he had obtained from Malik Riaz. Malik Riaz is on record calling Arsalan a “don” of Pakistan’s judiciary who can get any verdict delivered in your favor or against.
Nepotism and blackmail can only remain strong if you remain attached to power. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has done the same. In this most exclusive report, it has come to be known that post victory of Nawaz Sharif in the general elections, he brought about major changes in the aviation sector in general and PIA in particular to stabilize the company and eventually privatize it. One of the efforts was to appoint Shujaat Azeem as his Advisor on Aviation in June 2013. Sweeping changes were made to the Board of PIA. Unfortunately, the one eyed monster Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry hounded him so much for he was dual citizen of Canada and also had been court martialed while serving in Air Force that Shujaat Azeem was forced to resign. Off course the case was in relation to the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport which then went off on a tangent leading to removal of Shujaat Azeem.
But the real story that has been going on is that Arsalan Iftikhar with the current Acting Chairman of PIA, Syed Muhammad Ali Gardezi, had maneuvered the removal of Shujaat Azeem to send a message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that leave PIA alone as a few shady deals had to take place before the end of tenure of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. As a case in point, just read the news dated July 3, 2013, around the time of hearing of cases against Shujaat Azeem. The highly capable Arsalan was accorded a royal carpet welcome by PIA at Lahore Airport. The likely reason was that the PIA management knows the man in power and his maneuverings.
According to inside information, PIA is currently wet leasing various planes in which up to USD 2 million per month are being netted as a cut by Arsalan and Gardezi. After this, a deal for 5 planes is currently being planned in which PIA is expected to purchase 2005 model planes at USD 47 million each which is quite an inflated figure. One can get 2013 models of the same planes at USD 60 million each. It is expected that easily USD 23-25 million per plane will be made by the parties involved. Question remains, why is PIA buying such old planes and even if it is, why is this being hastily pushed. The answer remains that Arsalan is forcing the deal to be completed and money to be transferred before 11th December, 2013, a day before his father finally by the Grace of Almighty Allah retires. He knows that his power will reduce substantially after the one eyed monster retire and hence the desperation. Such was the power of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that an earlier Board constituted by the Government comprising of heavyweights like Mian Mansha, Arif Habib, Aslam Khaliq etc was not allowed to be constituted. Apparently, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allowed this high handedness of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to save the ignominy of hearings on the payment to power companies in which more than Rs. 500 billion were paid out. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry could have demanded the money be returned by the power companies. In essence, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry twisted the situation for the gains of his able son.
We would like the mainstream media to highlight this matter as much as possible and stop this major act of corruption and high handedness of Arsalan Iftikhar at the behest of his father, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The Prime Minister should also take steps to stop such transactions else anything good which could be expected from him will never see the light of the day.
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Pakistan: Blasphemy Trial Of Sawan Masih: Final Prosecution Witness To Testify

The blasphemy affair that resulted in more than 150 houses of Christians living in the Joseph Colony of Lahore torched by a fuming mob on March 9 earlier this year. Due to fear of counteraction the Christians of Sawan’s locality had earlier fled from their homes, as a result of which there were no causalities. Sawan Masih was booked by police under blasphemy law a day before the arson; however the row seems to have been close to a verdict as the final prosecution witness in the blasphemy trial of Sawan Masih bear witness on December 7.
This decisive prosecution witness is the former investigation officer for this case, SP Syed Ameen Bokhari, who was later on transferred to the Balochistan Constabulary in Quetta. The trial court wrote to the Balochistan Constabulary requesting that Syed Ameen Bokhari be sent to testify in the case on December 7.
Sawan Masih is a sanitary worker, and is said to have outraged the Muslim community by making reviling remarks about Prophet Muhammad. These accusations came from a local barber and Sawan’s friend, Shahid Imran who claimed that,” Sawan Masih had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad; during a private conversation three days prior to these acts of ruination. “
It was on March 9, 2013 an outraged throng of about three thousand launched an extrajudicial attack at the Christian neighbourhood where Sawan lived, burning two Churches and about 200 Christian homes and causing 10 to loose their lives. In past few months, the government of Punjab pledged to recompense the Christian families and to rebuild the demolished houses, but the issue of distribution becomes an open wound.
Sawan Masih was charged under 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code which states: Use of derogatory remarks etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: – who ever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation innuendo, or insinuation, directly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable for fine.
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Balochistan:An Immortalizing March

The Baloch Hal
By Mariyam Suleman Baloch
An influential attempt for the nation’s abducted missing people’s recovery, commencing in October from Quetta finally reached Karachi in the last week of November. The extensively exhausting journey of 756 kilometers by fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons of the either missing or martyred Balochs holding the photos of their loved ones, walking constantly with blistered and swollen feet in seek of justice, kept on moving on their way to Karachi.
The peaceful and civilized demonstration along with people of different ages generates painful chronicles hidden behind each participant. Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch, Sammi Baloch, Bibi Gul, Samina Baloch, Ali Haider Baloch only ten and noticeably hundreds of other Baloch families suffering with heart-wrenching stories, where as many of them waiting or mourning for their loved ones. Their sorrows obliged them to take the initiative to be a part of the marching rally. These are the same people who have sat in the hunger-strikes numerous times in front of the high court and the Supreme Court struggling from four years seeking for the peaceful recovery of their loved ones but their voice was still unheard or ignored. According to the participants of the Long March by Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, the trusts over the national media and institutes have ended and they only want to appreciate BBC and Vsh news for their coverage.
“We decided this Long March for the attention of International Community. United Nations Organization should take notice of on-going human rights violations in Balochistan” said a participant.
Leading the convention and addressing to the 20,000 people according to Vsh news in Karachi, Mama Qadeer the father of slain Jaleel Reqi said “The struggle has not ended here. We will march to UN headquarters or find some other peaceful but effective way to continue to raise our voice.”
Abductions of 18,000 people from different areas across Balochistan, along with 1500 abducted men have been killed under-custody and their bodies have been dumped in different areas of Balochistan and Karachi. Mama Qadeer Baloch added: “Most of the victims of target killing were highly conscious and educated members of Baloch society including lawyers, doctors, students, poets, university lecturers, teachers and other professional people.
Full of hardships, but with strong will, they marched with obsession committing to continue the struggle. Gaining overwhelming momentum, the Long March finally reached Karachi where more people joined the march. The march which began with a few people was followed by hundreds and the participants were warmly welcomed by thousands of people. Apart from Baloch activists a great number of Sindhi and other human rights and political activists also come to support the march. Having importance, this march is a symbol of the injustice going on from decades and shows that certainly something is bothering the province today. On the other hand governor of Balochistan Mohammed Khan Achkzai declares that everything in the province is going well. Without a doubt, we can assume how well-informed our governor is. On the other hand, Dr Malik named it a “seasonal march” while it’s an unforgettable historical march of Baloch nation.
The abhorrent silence over the issue will not keep this matter in dark any longer. The sacrifices and efforts of the participants will remain everlastingly. Categorically this march possesses immense significance not only for Baloch nation but for all those people who stipulate humanity and are anti human rights violation.

Four councillors and two candidates abducted ahead of local government polls in Balochistan
Two candidates of National Party for local government elections have been abducted from Turbat on Wednesday whereas four unopposed councillors were seized on Thursday. According to details two National Party ward councillors were abducted at gun point from Dasht Khadan area of Turbat. The abducted councillors have been named as Zaffar Haider and Rauf Taj Baloch. Another four councillors who were declared winner unopposed have been abducted on Thursday from Balnegwar area of Dasht. According to Business Standard, a Levies official, who asked not to be named, said 13 suspected militants kidnapped the four men from Dasht area of Kech district. “Since morning, we are clueless about the whereabouts of the kidnapped men,” he said. The abducted councillors have been identified as Javid Iqba, Abdul Qadir, Saleem Baloch and Behram. Meanwhile the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) in a statement claimed that it has taken into custody some LB polls candidates from Dasht Negwar on Wednesday and Thursday, who are being investigated by the organisation. BLF spokesman Gwahram Baloch appealed the Baloch people to stay away from the parliamentarians and avoid signing the ‘document their slavery’. The spokesman further warned: “Those who try to expand the state system will be on target. Nation should boycott elections on the two days of vote [local body’s polls].”

Malala awarded 2013 UN Human Rights Prize

Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt last year, has been awarded the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize, an honour previously given to icons like late Nelson Mandela in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights.
The prize is awarded every five years and has previously been bestowed on Amnesty International and former US president Jimmy Carter.
"The Prize is an opportunity not only to give public recognition to the achievements of the recipients themselves, but also to send a clear message to human rights defenders the world over that the international community is grateful for, and supports, their tireless efforts to promote all human rights for all," the Office of the high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) said in a statement.
Apart from Yousafzai, the other five winners of the award are son of freed slaves who works to eradicate slavery Biram Dah Abeid of Mauritania, campaigner from Kosovo for the rights of short statured people Hiljmnijeta Apuk, president emeritus of the World Federation of the Deaf Liisa Kauppinen, former president of the Morocco Association for Human Rights Khadija Ryadi and Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice.
The award ceremony would take place at the UN headquarters on December 10 as part of the annual commemoration of Human Rights Day, which would this year include the observance of the 20th anniversary of the creation of OHCHR and the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said human rights are increasingly permeating all corners of the work of the United Nations, and that is fundamentally changing the way the UN works with national authorities and the international community.
"The key now is to implement the laws and standards to make enjoyment of human rights a reality on the ground. Unfortunately, too often, the political will, and the human and financial resources, to achieve this are lacking," she said.
The high commissioner said the 20 years since Vienna have seen many setbacks and a number of tragic failures to prevent atrocities and safeguard human rights. "In several instances where deplorable, large-scale violations of international human rights law were occurring, the international community was too slow, too divided, too short-sighted or just plain inadequate in its response to the warnings of human rights defenders and the cries of victims. We can and we must do better," she added.

UN chief pays tribute to life and legacy of Nelson Mandela

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his profound sadness at the passing of Nelson Mandela, extolling the life of the late human rights lawyer, prisoner of conscience, international peacemaker and first democratically-elected President of post-apartheid South Africa as an inspiration for all.
Madiba, ” as Mandela was affectionately known, passed this afternoon at his home in Johannesburg. He was 95. Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration, the secretary-general said at UN Headquarters in New York.
“On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of South Africa and especially to Nelson Mandela’s family, and indeed our global family.” Ban noted that many people worldwide were greatly influenced by Mandela’s selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. “He touched our lives in deeply personal ways. At the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.”
“Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us ” if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity,” the Secretary-General said.
“His moral force was decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid,” said Ban.
“Remarkably, he emerged from 27 years of detention without rancour, determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and reconciliation.” Mandela devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity, and he did so at great personal sacrifice, said the Secretary-General, who said he was moved by the late leader’s “selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose” when the two men met in 2009.
“Let us continue each day to be inspired by his lifelong example and his call to never cease working for a better and more just world.”
Recalling his memories of meeting Mandela, the Secretary-General said he had been deeply touched and inspired. ” When I praised him for his lifelong contribution to end apartheid he said ” It is not only me, but hundreds and hundreds of known and unknown people that contributed. “That has stuck with me ever since.”

World mourns Mandela

In a symbol befitting a nation in mourning, a dark gray cloud swept over Johannesburg on Friday as news spread that international icon Nelson Mandela is dead. Under overcast skies that threatened rain any minute, South Africans draped in flags and images of Mandela gathered on the streets to sing and dance.
Others wept as they lit candles near his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton. Children spelled out "we love you Mandela" on the grass using rocks. Nearby, stuffed animals and flowers sat in a heap. In Soweto township, where Mandela lived before he was thrown into prison for 27 years, giant posters of his face adorned walls. Residents surrounded his former red brick house on the busy street and crooned freedom songs.
Mandela, 95, died Thursday. The former president battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations. "It was a surprise. I was asleep so I didn't know when President (Jacob) Zuma announced his death," said Wilson Mudau, a cab driver in Johannesburg. "I woke up and was shocked when I saw it on television. It's sad, but what can we do. Let him rest in peace. It's time ... Madiba has worked so hard to unite us." South Africans affectionately refer to him as Madiba, his clan name.
Man of complexities
Mandela helped South Africa break the shackles of racial segregation and do away with white minority rule. Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid, he emerged determined to unite the nation. Instead of anger and bitterness at the white government that imprisoned him, he chose forgiveness and reconciliation. "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison," Mandela said after he was freed in 1990. His call to avoid vengeance inspired the world. It also set him on a path of evolving roles, from freedom fighter, to prisoner, to South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression. But one role remained dominant: father of modern South Africa. And four years after he left prison, he became the nation's first black president, cementing his place in the consciousness of the nation and the world. But the recent bouts of illnesses prepared many for the worst.
"We all knew he'd leave at some point," said Tony Karuiru, a Johannesburg resident. "But we were hoping that he would be with us during the festive season. It's the holidays, we're all expecting bonus. I just wish God would have given him a bonus of a few more days as well. "
Thomas Rabodiba, 38, said even though Mandela's death was expected after so many years of illness, he's having a hard time accepting it.
"I'm so sad. I couldn't believe the rumors that he was no more," he said. "There have always been rumors of him dying, and I thought it was the same thing. After I heard the president announcement that the old man has departed, I started believing he's gone."
Mandela will be remembered for many things, but his message of forgiveness and reconciliation will supersede.
"Mandela's biggest legacy ... was his remarkable lack of bitterness and the way he did not only talk about reconciliation, but he made reconciliation happen in South Africa," said F.W. de Klerk, South Africa's last white president before giving way to Mandela, the country's first black leader.
His casket will lie in state for several days in Pretoria. Next week, it will be flown to his ancestral hometown of Qunu for a state funeral and burial, sources said. Until that funeral, Zuma has ordered flags around South Africa to be flown at half-staff. The United States and United Kingdom followed suit.
"We must pay tribute to Mandela, the best state leader of all time," said Zaid Paruk, 23. Mandela last appeared in public during the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa.

Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela dies

Former president Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his home in Johannesburg, surrounded by his family last night, President Jacob Zuma said.
“Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss,” Zuma said addressing the nation on television.
“His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.” He sent condolences to the anti-apartheid icon's wife Graca Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, his children, his grand-children, his great grand-children and the entire family. Zuma said this was South Africa's moment of “deepest sorrow”.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” he said.
“Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together, and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”
He said Mandela would be given a state funeral and he ordered that all flags be flown at half mast from today and to remain like that until after the funeral.
“As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified,” Zuma said.
“Let us be mindful of his wishes and the wishes of his family.”
He asked that people, wherever they were gathering in South Africa and the world, recall the values which Mandela fought for and strive to not rest until his vision of a truly united South Africa was realised.
“We will always love you Madiba. May your soul rest in peace.
“God Bless Africa. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika.”