www.shiitenews.comA 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.
Friday, December 6, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
EditorialA 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.
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.
The Baloch HalBy 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.
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.