Monday, December 16, 2013
Russia has never threatened Ukraine with sanctions over a cooperation agreement with the European Union, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday. But Moscow did warn Kiev in advance that Ukraine could lose its favorable status in trade relations with Russia, Lavrov said. “We have not blackmailed anyone,” the minister told Rossiya 24 television after a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels. “We are not talking about sanctions, we are simply saying that we would return to normal trade relations with Ukraine or any other country that would choose this way [association with EU].” Lavrov said that the sides agreed that Ukraine’s sovereignty should be respected and that people should have a free choice as to how they want their state to develop. “Any decision as to how to develop its economy, how to build relations with its leading partners… must be taken without external interference, in line with the country’s national interests,” he said. Both the EU and Moscow have accused each other of using strong-arm tactics to secure economic ties with Kiev. But Lavrov said that the meeting in Brussels showed that a large number of EU countries believed the crisis in Ukraine should be discussed in a “tripartite format”. Russia’s views had been heard “with understanding” by EU members. The talks focused on prospects for political dialogue between Russia and the European Union on Ukraine and other issues including the civil war in Syria. Kiev turned its back on a widely expected Association Agreement to strengthen trade links with the EU last month, saying it would harm economic relations with Russia. President Yanukovych is expected in Moscow Tuesday for talks with President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine’s rejection of the EU deal has prompted mass demonstrations in protest and thrown the country into a political crisis as hundreds of thousands of people attend rallies demanding the dissolution of the government and early elections. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said last Wednesday that Kiev would return to talks on the agreement with the EU in the spring. Brussels suspended negotiations on Sunday after the EU’s enlargement chief Stefan Fuele dismissed the Ukrainian government’s arguments as having “no grounds in reality.”
President Obama is set to meet with several tech executives on Tuesday to discuss the administration's efforts to address problems with the federal online health care exchange as well as the fallout that national security leaks have had on their companies, according to the White House. Among those expected to take part in the White House meeting are Apple's CEO Tim Cook, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
The North Korean army stages a massive rally to pledge its loyalty to the Kim dynasty, as the reclusive country prepares to mark the second anniversary of the late leader Kim Jong-il's death.
Victory Day is one of the biggest national celebrations across the country, and despite the ongoing political turmoil, a lot of programmes are scheduled for the day, including some unique attempts. One of the most elaborate programmes of the day is being chalked out by the Gonojagoron Mancha. Titled “Bijoy 2013”, a wide array of programmes will be held at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan. Starting at 11:15am, noted artistes and groups will perform at the stage, followed by a ‘Concert for Freedom’ beginning at 2:30pm. After a cultural presentation by the Sector Commanders’ Forum at 3:45pm, a ‘documentary act’ on the surrender of the Pakistan army will be held at 4:10pm, followed by a choral singing of the National Anthem at 4:31pm, the exact time of surrender by the Pak army in 1971. A token oath-taking and flag handover to the second-in-command of the Liberation War Air Vice Marshall (retd) AK Khandaker and a performance by artistes of Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro, a fireworks display is scheduled for 5:20pm, after which the concert will resume. At the National Parade Ground, Telecom Company Robi Axiata Limited is attempting to break a World Record by making the largest human flag in the world, titled “Laal Shobuj’er Bishwa Joy”. A staggering number of 30,000 people are expected to take part in holding up the largest human flag ever made. The event will begin at 10am and is scheduled till 2pm. Channel i is also holding a daylong Channel i Bijoy Mela at its office at Tejgaon today. Freedom Fighters, cultural and literary personalities along with editors of the national dailies will be present at the inaugural session. As part of the Bijoy Mela, artists will take part in a painting programme. The event will include songs, recitations, plays, interviews and reminiscences on the war. There will also be several documentary screenings, and photography exhibitions on the Liberation War. Senior programme manager Amirul Islam and Shahidul Islam Sachchu will direct the event. Apart from that, Sammilita Sangskritik Jote will continue their scheduled cultural programmes at 12 venues in and around the capital, in Gendaria, Bahadur Shah Park, Hajaribagh, Motijheel, Shaheed Minar, Dhaka University premises, Dhanmondi Rabindra Sharobor, Rayerbazar memorial, Uttara, Dania, Pallabiand Mirpur. As part of the Liberation War Museum’s programmes, it will hold a children’s cultural programme featuring various cultural organisations and schools at its premises from 10am, while a separate programme at Mirpur’s ‘Jolladkhana’ memorial will feature cultural performances by various groups. The National museum’s two-day Liberation War-based Film Festival will also see its final day from 2pm, screening films “Stop Genocide”, “Not a Penny, Not a Gun” and “The Birth Pangs of a Nation”. Udichi Shilpi Goshthi has also chalked out three-day programmes on the occasion. Today’s programmes will feature a children’s painting competition at 3pm at the Hakim Chattar of Dhaka University, a rally, book fair, photography exhibition, cultural programme and film show. Dhaka University Film Society’s Victory Day celebrations will include a wall painting session at TSC at 6:30pm, followed by a film screening. BUET is also organising a daylong fair and photography exhibition, followed by a cultural programme and an orchestral performance in the evening.
http://nation.ittefaq.com/The nation celebrates the 43rd Victory Day today, paying rich tributes to the three million martyrs for their supreme sacrifice for the country and with a renewed call for executing all the verdicts against war criminals. On this day in 1971, Pakistani occupation forces surrendered after a nine-month war resulting in a free, independent and sovereign Bangladesh. The day bears a special significance this year as it is going to be celebrated four days after the execution of war criminal Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah. He was hanged on Thursday night. The day is a public holiday. Different political parties, socio-cultural organisations and educational institutions have drawn up elaborate programmes to celebrate the Victory Day. The day will be heralded with 31 gun salutes. However, no parade will be held this year as law enforcers are currently busy ahead of the national election. President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia will place wreaths at the National Mausoleum at Savar in the early hours to pay homage to the martyred freedom fighters. People from all walks of life will also place wreaths at the National Memorial. The national flag will be hoisted atop all government and private buildings, while the government and semi-government buildings and other public places will be illuminated and roads and islands will be decorated with flags and festoons in all cities of the country on the occasion. National dailies will bring out supplements. The state-owned and private televisions and radios will broadcast special programmes highlighting the significance of the day. Special prayers will be offered in mosques, temples, churches, pagodas and other places of worship seeking divine blessings for the peace and progress of the country. The President will accord a reception to freedom fighters at Bangabhaban in the afternoon. The destitute children will be allowed to visit the children park in the capital on the day free of cost. Improved diets will be served in jails, hospitals, orphanages and vagrant homes across the country. Bangladesh missions abroad will hoist the national flag and organise discussion, cultural function and reception. The ruling Awami League has chalked out elaborate programmes to mark the day. National and party flags will be hoisted at the party's central office at Bangabandhu Avenue at dawn. Awami League leaders and workers will place wreaths at the National Memorial at Savar at the same time. The ruling party leaders will also pay tributes to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing wreaths at his portrait at Bangabnadhu Bhaban at Dhanmondi in the city in the morning. Besides, the party leaders and workers will place wreaths at the graveyard of Bangabandhu at Tungipara in Gopalganj district. The ruling party will also bring out a victory rally from Suhrawardy Udyan in the afternoon. The main opposition BNP will celebrate the Victory Day with various programmes across the country. BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia along with her party leaders and activists will place wreaths at the majar of late President and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman at Sher-e-Banglanagar in the capital around 8am. The party will also hold a discussion meeting at the Jatiya Press Club in the afternoon, marking the day. Meanwhile, President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia have issued separate messages on the occasion. In his message, the President urged all irrespective of party affiliation and opinion to work together with a view to reaching the benefit of the independence to the doorsteps of people. The Prime Minister in her message said, "We're determined to build a hunger - and poverty-free, prosperous and peaceful Golden Bangladesh by 2021 as dreamt by the Father of the Nation." She also underscored the need for maintaining the continuity of the development and democracy to achieve the target. The opposition leader, in her message, said, "We must forge a national unity imbued with the spirit of the Liberation War to save our beloved country, its independence and sovereignty from the hands of the evil forces and make the democracy free from danger."
In the year since a brutal gang rape took the life of a young woman and made the entire country stand up and say enough is enough, there has been a 125% jump in the number of rape cases in Delhi. Molestation cases are up a massive 417%. That may not necessarily be a bad thing. It’s because more and more cases are being reported and registered, the police say. A tough new law now holds the cops directly accountable, with refusal to lodge a case inviting a two-year jail sentence. But how long can the police sustain this, that’s the big question. The force deals with very real constraints - a severe manpower crunch that has sees one cop handling as many as 18-20 cases at a time, and a lack of forensic testing facilities that is crucial for evidence collection and analysis. These constraints impact the quality of investigation. "An internal examination showed that only 60% of such complaints could withstand judicial scrutiny," an officer admitted. Till November this year, the Delhi Police registered 1,493 cases of rape against 661 in the corresponding period last year, 3,237 cases of molestation against 625 in the same period, 852 cases of harassment against 165. "Safety of women is our top priority and all necessary measures to ensure it are being taken," said commissioner BS Bassi. Every complaint is converted into a first information report, each of which is then taken up for scrutiny on a regular basis for the filing of a charge sheet. "All cases of sexual assault are monitored on a monthly basis," said Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of police (law and order). "Our endeavour is to file charge sheets in every single case within a month of its being reported." But with just one forensic facility currently at their disposal, supplementary charge sheets are the best the police can do in most cases, they say. The 80,000-strong city force already has a backlog of 10,000 cases with new ones coming in at an alarming rate. Lawyers, however, feel differently. "The police are duty-bound to register cases as and when received and the total number of complaints does not matter under the criminal procedure code. A closure report can be filed if investigation proves a false complaint. However, there’s enough manpower in the form of personnel serving in district lines who can be utilised for patrolling, if not investigation," said high court advocate Vikas Garg.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, insisting on the early conclusion of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), has said the deal could be inked either by President Hamid Karzai or his successor. Speaking to ABC television on Sunday, Kerry hinted for the first time at some flexibility in the Obama administration's stance on the issue and said the agreement could be signed even by President Karzai's successor after the April 2014 elections. Refusing to give a clear cut-off date, the secretary said: "I believe that Hamid Karzai, either he or his successor will sign this. Now, I think he needs to sign this... And the reason he needs to sign it is because of the planning that is necessary..." The BSA should be in place as soon as possible because more than 50 nations had been involved in the ongoing mission and they all had budgets and planning requirements, he argued, asking Karzai to recognise the importance of signing the pact. He replied in the negative when asked if the Afghan leader had to sign the accord by January. "We have an agreement that's been negotiated and he has said to me personally, and as recently as a day ago, reiterated through his minister that the language is fine." With the consultative Loya Jirga having endorsed the BSA, Karzai wanted guarantees of a halt to raids on civilian homes and US support for the peace process, the diplomat said, hoping that the two sides would still achieve a breakthrough. "I believe that it’s possible to work this through and I don’t think, uh, you know, we’ve reached the point of throwing up our hands…" Kerry remarked.
President Hamid Karzai’s visit to India, possibly his last before elections scheduled for April 2014, marks a critical moment in the development of the relationship between India and the new Afghanistan born amid the bloodshed of 9/11. India has been a partner in the process, but Mr. Karzai came asking how much more it might be willing to do. In the spring, the International Security Assistance Force which has provided the backbone of the state since 2001 will begin to return home. Although there are substantial international aid commitments in place, Mr. Karzai has been seeking a reassurance that the country’s most trusted partners will stand by it if things go wrong. He received some comfort from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Following more than a year of deliberation, India has finally committed to providing Afghanistan with the military assistance it seeks under the Strategic Partnership Agreement binding the two allies. The assistance will, for now, be modest. Indian-made light helicopters will join Afghanistan’s fledgling air fleet, while its army will receive transport and logistics equipment. This comes on top of a substantial programme of civilian assistance. Indian engineers have, despite credible Taliban threats, brought the Salma hydro-electric dam near Herat to within a year of completion. Indian experts have been involved in setting up an agricultural university at Kandahar, which Afghans hope will prove an incubator to rebuild livelihoods across the troubled south. India provides over a thousand scholarships every year to Afghan university students, and is building its new Parliament building. Preliminary plans exist for iron ore mining at Hajigak. India’s investments, measured against overall international aid, are not huge. However, the reservoir of goodwill the assistance has generated is illustrated by the fact that all the competing presidential candidates in 2014 are vocal in their support for a deeper relationship. The reasons are rooted in history. Before 9/11, India, along with Iran and Russia, was at the heart of the small coalition of states which nurtured the struggle against the Pakistan-backed Taliban and al-Qaeda. India provided aid to the resistance. India has clear interests in helping build a democratic Afghanistan. The alternative is the empowerment of jihadist organisations which threaten peace and stability in the region. For a decade now, India’s low-key partnership has piggy-backed on the western presence in Afghanistan. The day may not be far, though, when India, with others, finds itself called on to do more. New Delhi must start considering the challenges that lie ahead.
Shia Muslims in Pakistan have held demonstrations in condemnation of the killing of a prominent Shia cleric in Lahore. Allama Nasir Abbas, the leader of Tehreek Nifaz Fiqah-e-Jafaria, which is a banned organization in Pakistan, was gunned down by unidentified armed men on Sunday night, on his way home after addressing a religious gathering in the capital of Punjab Province. “It is a targeted attack. The gunmen shot him from close range when he was driving home along with his driver and a friend,” said Lahore police chief Chaudhry Shafeeq. “Abbas died on the way to hospital. His driver and friend were unhurt.” The followers of the cleric gathered at the hospital after hearing the news and held a protest. Chanting slogans against the Pakistani government, the protesters said they will not bury his body until police arrest the killers. Groups of Shias also demonstrated in front of the Punjab governor’s house early Monday to demand officials to bring the attackers to justice. Three days of mourning have been announced in Lahore to honor the assassinated Muslim leader. The latest killing comes more than a week after the assassination of Maulana Shamsur Rehman, the leader of the Sunni organization of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, near a mosque in Lahore. Shia groups have condemned the December 6 killing of the Sunni leader. Shia Muslims, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million population, have been the target of sectarian violence in recent years. On November 19, gunmen killed a senior Shia university director along with his driver in Lahore, while another Shia leader and his guard were killed in Karachi early December. More than 800 Shia Muslims have been killed in attacks in Pakistan since 2012, according to Human Rights Watch.
http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/Last year 20 cases against Ahmadis were registered, up from 10 cases in 2009. A bank clerk was arrested for wearing a ring with a Koranic verse and an entire family was charged for writing a Muslim greeting on a wedding invitation. A 72-year-old British doctor is in prison in Pakistan for "posing as a Muslim", charges that reveal an escalating ideological fight that often spills over into violence. Masood Ahmad is a quiet, reserved widower who returned to Pakistan to open a pharmacy in 1982 after decades of working in London to pay his children's school fees, his family said. He is also an Ahmadi, a sect that consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims, and Ahmadis can be jailed for three years for posing as a Muslim or outraging Muslims' feelings. Some mullahs promise that killing Ahmadis earns a place in heaven. Leaflets list their home addresses. Three years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks on Friday prayers in Lahore. There have been no mass attacks since then, but targeted killings are rising: last year 20 Ahmadis were killed, up from 11 in 2009. And legal prosecutions are on the rise, say Ahmadis, some of which they say are linked to property grabs. Ahmad was arrested in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore last month when two men posing as patients questioned him about his faith and used mobile phones to secretly record him reading a verse from the Koran. "He (the patient) said you are like a father to me, please help me with some questions," said the doctor's older brother, Nasir Ahmad. "When (my brother) answered, they began beating him and dragged him outside by his neck." One of his accusers, Islamic teacher Muhammad Ihsan, told Reuters that Ahmad had preached to them illegally. Last year 20 cases against Ahmadis were registered, up from 10 cases in 2009. A bank clerk was arrested for wearing a ring with a Koranic verse and an entire family was charged for writing a Muslim greeting on a wedding invitation. Mullahs have twice sought the arrest of an entire town of Ahmadis - 60,000 people - for holding religious celebrations. Residents were serving food, giving out sweets and displaying bunting, the complaints said. "We would not have a problem with them if they did not use the name of Islam and the symbols of Islam," said Tahir Ashrafi, head of the powerful Ulema Council of clerics. "We are against the killing of any innocent, Qadiani or Shi'ite or any non-Muslim. Such attacks are not acceptable or allowed, but if they break the law, we have a right to go to the police," he said, using another term for Ahmadis. "HIS CHILDREN WATCHED HIM DIE" There are about half a million Ahmadis in Pakistan, their leaders say. Many only feel safe in Rabwa, a town they bought when Pakistan was created in 1947. On its main streets, banks of security cameras monitor fruit vendors and dozing dogs. Near the playing fields, blocks of flats house families that fled other parts of Pakistan after loved ones were murdered. Rafiatta, who asked her last name not be used, moved to Rabwa after gunmen killed her husband in 2010 in front of their young children. "He was just a hard-working man who loved his family," she said. The family fled after two Ahmadi neighbours were also killed and men tried to kidnap Raffiata's young son. The Ahmadi are also targets outside Pakistan. In Indonesia, a gruesome YouTube video recorded a mass lynching in 2011 as police looked on. Ahmadi publications are banned in Bangladesh, where a festival site was torched earlier this year. In Britain, Ahmadi buildings have been vandalised and leaflets have appeared forbidding them to enter shops and urging Muslims to kill them, British media have reported. But Pakistan is the epicentre of persecution. JAILED WITH NO BAIL Last April, a 25-year-old hospital clerk and his father were at home in Lahore reading an Ahmadi newspaper when a crowd of mullahs broke down their door, the clerk said. They beat the two while a crowd looted their home. Then a gunman forced the pair into a car without license plates, the clerk said. He asked not to be named for fear of retribution. Their kidnappers went free but the two were eventually charged with impersonating Muslims in special anti-terrorist courts designed to combat the Taliban. The clerk was released after a month, but his father, who has not yet been convicted, has been in prison for nine months. The family has since fled their home and the man now occupying it is refusing to pay them for it. "Nobody has the courage to give him bail or dismiss the case," the clerk said. And that's what Masood Ahmad's family fears. He has had three bail hearings. One was picketed by scores of mullahs chanting anti-Ahmadi slogans and his frightened lawyer skipped the next two. British authorities are giving him consular assistance. His son, one of seven children in Britain and Australia, said the family suspected someone was trying to steal his father's dispensary. "I feel so angry because I can't do anything from here," said 39-year-old Abbas Ahmad, a cab driver in Glasgow. "It's awful to know that people were plotting against someone you love."
http://balochwarna.com/The organisation representing families of enforced-disappeared Baloch launched its second phase of long march from Karachi to Islamabad on Friday. The convey consisting of hundreds of Baloch youth, children, elders and women headed by Mama Qadeer Baloch, father of murdered Jalil Reki, and Farzana Majeed Baloch, sister of abducted Baloch student leader Zakir Majeed Baloch, left to Islamabad on 13 December 2013 from Karachi Press Club. The people in convoy marched ten miles to reach Baloch Colony where they rested for a while and then restarted their journey in the evening.
http://newsweekpakistan.com/MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN WHO HAD MARCHED FROM QUETTA TO KARACHI HAVE NOW SET OFF FOR ISLAMABAD TO DEMAND JUSTICE. Relatives of people who have gone missing from Balochistan province set off on a grueling 1,200-kilometer march from Karachi to Islamabad on Saturday, hoping to recover their loved ones. The more than two-dozen men, women and children had camped in the commercial hub for nearly three weeks after walking 700 kilometers from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, where a violent insurgency against the Pakistani state has raged since 2004. The latest leg of their journey will take them from Karachi, which lies on the Arabian Sea, to the capital city in the foothills of the Himalayas. They hope to gain public support so they can pressure the government into freeing relatives who have disappeared, allegedly at the hands of Pakistan’s security services. “Our main objective is to secure release of our loved ones but unfortunately we have not received any help from the government so far,” said Muhammad Qadir Baloch, leader of the march. Baloch, 70, who also heads a non-governmental organization, Voice of Missing Baloch Persons, said: “Our next destination is Islamabad where we will finalize our future course of action.” Tired of waiting for justice—or even news of the fate of their brothers, sons, and husbands—the men and women undertook the unprecedented march from Quetta to Karachi. Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but least populous province. It is also the least developed, which has exacerbated a long-running ethnic Baloch separatist movement that wants more autonomy and a greater share of its mineral wealth. The latest armed insurgency rose up in 2004 and separatist groups still regularly carry out attacks on Pakistani forces. Rights groups accuse the military and intelligence agencies of kidnapping and killing suspected Baloch rebels before leaving their bodies by the roadside. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people have suffered this fate—known as “kill and dump”—in the province since January 2011. The security services deny the allegations and say they are battling a fierce rebellion in the province.
The Express Tribune
http://www.thefrontierpost.com/A remote-controlled bomb blast in Peshawar Monday killed three officials of the bomb disposal unit (BDU), Local TV reported. According to the police, the remote-controlled explosion occurred in the Sheikh Mohammadi area of Badhber and targeted the vehicle of the BDU. Three officials, including the BDU in-charge, were killed in the blast. Police and other security personnel have cordoned off the Sheikh Mohammadi area and another bomb, containing four kilograms of explosive materials, was defused after a search operation went underway. Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, lies on the edge of Pakistan's tribal areas which have been labelled by Washington as the main sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country. The city has seen frequent attacks by militants in the past few years, with targets ranging from civilians to policemen and other law enforcement personnel.
Three officials of bomb disposal unit including the in-charge were killed in a blast at Sheikh Mohammadi in the outskirt here on Monday, Geo News reported. Sources said that a minor blast had occurred last night at Badaber in the outskirt here and a bomb disposal unit in-charge Abdul Huque and other personnel of the team were on way to the scene of incident early this morning, when a roadside planted bomb near Sheikh Mohammadi went off and destroyed the vehicle, which resulted in the death of three personnel on board the vehicle including the BDU in-charge Abdul Huque and two injured. Later, the injured were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital, where they are being given treatment. Hospital sources said that the injured are still in critical condition.
A prominent Pakistani Shi'ite Muslim cleric has been shot dead in an apparent reprisal attack following the murder this month of a Sunni Muslim leader, police said on Monday. Sectarian violence has been on the rise in Pakistan, adding to the list of concerns for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a time when security forces are already stretched fighting an escalating Taliban insurgency in the northwest of the country.Allama Nasir Abbas, leader of Tehreek Nifaz Fiqah-e-Jafaria, a banned Shi'ite organisation, was shot by unknown gunmen on a motorbike as he drove home after addressing a religious gathering in the city of Lahore on Sunday evening."It's a targeted attack. The gunmen shot him from close range when he was driving home along with his driver and a friend," Lahore police chief Chaudhry Shafeeq told Reuters. "Abbas died on the way to hospital. His driver and friend were unhurt." On December 6, Maulana Shamsur Rehman, the Punjab province leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a Sunni organisation, was shot dead as he left a mosque in Lahore. Shi'ite Muslims make up about 20 percent of Pakistan's 180 million population. More than 800 Shi'ites have been killed in attacks in Pakistan since the beginning of 2012, according to Human Rights Watch. But tit-for-tat sectarian killings are relatively rare in Lahore, the political and cultural capital of Pakistan and Sharif's home town.