Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Islamists Crimes Against Humanity: ‘Slaughtered like sheep’: Eyewitnesses recount massacre in Adra, Syria

New details of atrocities carried out by Islamist rebel fighters in the town of Adra, 20 kilometers north of Damascus, continue to pour in from survivors of the massacre there, in which reportedly at least 80 people lost their lives. "The decapitators" is how the Adra residents, who managed to flee the violence there, now call the people who currently have the town under their control. Adra, a town with a population of 20,000, was captured by Islamist rebels from the Al-Nusra front and the Army of Islam last week, following fierce fighting with the government forces. The town’s seizure was accompanied by mass executions of civilians. Following alarming reports of the massacre, RT contacted international rights groups including the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). However, none of them were able to provide any information. While the HRW told RT that it “cannot comment at this stage as our research is still ongoing and it has been very difficult to get accurate information about what is happening in Adra and who is responsible for the abuses,” the ICRC said they “don’t have access to this area and can neither confirm nor deny any information circulating.” RT Arabic has managed to speak to some of the eyewitnesses of the atrocities. Most of them have fled the town, leaving their relatives and friends behind, so they asked not to be identified in the report for security reasons. An Adra resident said he escaped from the town “under a storm of bullets.” He later contacted his colleagues, who described how the executions of civilians were carried out by the militants. “They had lists of government employees on them,” the man told RT. “This means they had planned for it beforehand and knew who works in the governmental agencies. They went to the addresses they had on their list, forced the people out and subjected them to the so-called “Sharia trials.” I think that’s what they call it. They sentenced them to death by beheading.” A woman, hiding her face from the camera, told RT of the beheadings she had seen.
“There was slaughter everywhere,” she said. “The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.”
It’s been reported that 80 civilians were killed in the massacre. The death toll could still grow, as currently the information coming from Adra is scarce. The town has been surrounded and isolated by the Syrian army, who have been trying to force the extremists out.
“Civilians told us that the workers of an Adra bakery were all executed and burned during the first hours of the attack. Whole families were massacred. We do not have an exact estimation of the number because we are unable to get into the town, but the number is high,” Kinda Shimat, Syria’s Social Affairs Minister, told RT.
Details of the executions are trickling out of the town as eyewitnesses tell their stories.
“They killed everyone at the Adra Ummalia police station,” another fugitive from the town told RT. “And they killed everyone at the Adra Ummalia hospital where my sister works. She stayed alive only because she didn’t show up for work that day. There are about 200 people at the police station. They are civilians. The militants are hiding among them, using them as a shield to prevent the Army from bombing the police.”
The events in Adra are a further example of the shift that has taken place within the Syrian rebel forces which has lately been dominated by Islamist extremists, according to Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Centre for Research on Globalization. “The so-called moderate opposition forces are virtually non-existent from the military standpoint,” Chossudovsky told RT. “The only force which has funding and weapons are the Islamists, particularly Al-Nusra. And their rebel brigades are the ones committing atrocities. The divisions are occurring precisely because segments of the opposition realize that these terrorist brigades do not belong to the so-called opposition movement.” Both the Adra massacre and the latest Aleppo bombing have signaled the escalation of violence in the war-torn country ahead of the UN-mediated continuously postponed peace talks on Syria, now set to take place in Geneva on January 22. On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire ahead of the talks.
"We must have a cessation of hostilities before we begin political dialogue on Syria in Geneva," he said.
More than 100,000 people have died during the three-year-old civilian war in Syria, according to UN estimates.

Russia to bail out Ukraine for $15 billion

Russia agreed a $15 billion bailout for Ukraine and slashed the price of gas exports on Tuesday under a deal that keeps the cash-strapped country in Moscow's orbit but fuelled street protests in Kiev. Vladimir Putin's lifeline to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was a triumph for the Russian leader in a geopolitical battle with the Europe Union. But the deal saddles Russia with a heavy financial burden and he failed to lure Ukraine into a customs union with other ex-Soviet republics. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Kiev within hours of the agreement and accused Yanukovich of selling his country to the highest bidder after walking away from a trade deal with the EU. "He has given up Ukraine's national interests, given up independence and prospects for a better life for every Ukrainian," Vitaly Klitschko, a protest leader and heavyweight boxing champion, told crowds on Kiev's Independence Square. The United States said the deal would not address the concerns of the protesters, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Kiev should not be forced into allying itself with Moscow or the EU, to the exclusion of the other. "At the moment it seems to be an either-or proposition. ... We need to put an end to this. Ukraine can't do this alone. Europe and Germany must continue to talk with Russia," she told ARD TV. "A bidding competition won't solve the problem." The leaders of Ukraine and Russia clinched the deal at talks in the Kremlin that appeared to begin frostily but ended with them rubbing shoulders and laughing at a ceremony where documents were signed on reducing trade barriers for Ukraine. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow would tap the National Welfare Fund, a rainy day fund, to buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds. The deal boosted the price of Ukraine's dollar debt, a sign of investors' confidence. Underlining the urgency of Kiev's problems, Interfax news agency quoted Siluanov as saying Russia may buy $3 billion in two-year Ukrainian bonds as soon as the end of this week. Moscow also offered relief on the gas price. Ukraine's Naftogaz energy company will pay Russia's Gazprom $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, on which it is heavily dependent. The previous price had been about $400. "Ukraine is our strategic partner and ally in every sense of the word," Putin said after the talks, with Yanukovich sitting beside him in a gilded Kremlin hall. "This (assistance) is not tied to any conditions," he added. "I want to calm you down - we have not discussed the issue of Ukraine's accession to the customs union at all."
Ukraine had been seeking help to cover an external funding gap of $17 billion next year - almost the level of the central bank's depleted currency reserves. Investors said the deal would stave off the immediate threat of default or a currency crisis but said there were also risks for Russia, whose own economy is stuttering. "This is a rescue. Without that money, Ukraine would have defaulted sometime before the middle of next year ... And the cheap gas will provide a significant stimulus," said Chris Weafer, senior partner with consultancy Macro-Advisory. "The next move is for the protesters in Kiev." Ukraine, which had fears fuel supplies could be hit during the financial crisis, is caught between Western powers, keen to anchor the country in a friendly embrace on the EU's borders, and its former Soviet masters in Moscow. Yanukovich has been seeking the best possible deal for his country of 46 million but faces calls to resign at home and has been criticized in the West after police used force against the protests in the heart of Kiev. The deal appears to preclude Ukraine looking West in the near future, though its leaders say they still see building ties with the EU as a possible long-term goal. Commentators saw the bailout as Ukraine's reward from Moscow for scrapping the planned pact with Europe last month. "This refusal had a cost, and Russia has paid," Russian former economy minister Andrei Nechayev told Ekho Moskvy radio. Moscow now has a financial hold over Ukraine: If it withdraws its money and alters the gas price, it could pull the plug on its neighbor. Putin appeared to underline this by saying the agreements on the gas price and $15 billion investment were temporary. Russia also agreed to resume oil supplies to a refinery in Ukraine following a three-year break, traders said. But Putin will be disappointed if he cannot bring Ukraine into the Eurasian Union he plans to build with Kazakhstan, Belarus and other former Soviet republics to match the economic might of the United States and China. Ukraine is by far the most populous ex-Soviet republic after Russia, and with its large market, mineral resources and borders with the EU, is vital to that project. Yanukovich may be withholding Ukraine's membership to seek more concessions. People at anti-government demonstrations in Kiev that have at times attracted hundreds of thousands fear Ukraine will now be stuck in Moscow's orbit, more than two decades after the fall of Soviet communist rule. "With what has been signed now in Moscow, we can forget about Europe. Yanukovich made a massive mistake. He'd better not come back here, he'd better stay in Moscow," said Deni Deyak, a businessman at the pro-Europe protest in Kiev.

Bilawal Bhutto strongly condemns Rawalpindi blast

PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the blast occurred near a Imam Bargah in Gracie Line, Rawalpindi. The Patron-in Chief of PPP expressed profound grief over the loss of precious lives of innocent people and injured in the blast. He further expressed sympathy with the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He also stressed that special arrangements should be made for timely treatment to all those injured in the blast.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Three killed, several injured in Rawalpindi blast

At least three persons including a police sub-inspector died and several others injured in a blast near Imambargah in Gracy Lane here on Tuesday. According to police, the suicide blast occurred near a procession that was being taken out from the Imambargah. A number of vehicles and motorcycles were also damaged in the explosion. Law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area and rescue teams and Bomb Disposal Squad reached at the site of the incident. The injured were shifted to hospital for treatment. Police have started investigation into the incident.

Bangladesh: Pakistan asked to shut up

Information Minister Hasnanul Haq Inu has asked Pakistan to refrain from making comments on the execution of war criminal Abdul Quader Molla, terming the hanging Bangladesh’s internal matter.
He communicated Bangladesh’s position a day after a resolution was passed in Pakistan’s National Assembly, expressing concern at Molla’s hanging and calling him a supporter of the ‘United Pakistan’.
Bangladesh would formally react to the resolution passed in Pakistan’s Nationl Assembly, Inu told reporters on Tuesday. Senior Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta also on Tuesday urged the government to lodge a formal protest with Islamabad over the resolution passed on Monday. Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami took to the streets following the execution of Molla on Thursday night. Jamaat-e-Islami’s National Assembly member Sher Akbar Khan on Monday tabled the resolution. The lower house of Pakistan’s Parliament also sympathised with Molla’s family. Later at an unscheduled press conference at the Secretariat, Inu said, “By speaking up for Quader Molla, Pakistan proved that it is yet to correct itself and have not deviated from their 1971 policy.” “They did not admit their mistake. I hope they will stop walking their wrong path and stop poking their nose into Bangladesh’s internal matter.” In a statement Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had expressed grief over the execution of Molla, according to a report published in ‘The Dawn’ newspaper of Pakistan. “Till the very end before creation of Bangladesh, he (Molla) remained a supporter of a united Pakistan and today every Pakistani is saddened and grieved by his death,” he had reportedly said. However, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) opposed Jamaat-e-Islami’s resolution passed with majority, according to Geo News. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Abdul Sattar Bachani said the execution of Molla was “an internal matter” of Bangladesh and Pakistan “should not interfere in the internal matters of an independent and sovereign country”. MQM leader Abdul Waseem said “we should learn from the tragedy of 1971 and ruminate how to avoid national tragedies in future”. But Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s Chairman and former cricket captain Imran Khan claimed Molla was “innocent” and charges against him were “false”. Inu, however, hoped that Pakistan would seek apology for their infamous role in 1971 and help the trial of war criminals. At a discussion at the Institute of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh on Tuesday, Suranjit also condemned the passage of the resolution in Pakistan's National Assembly. He said, “We must say the strong judicial system of sovereign Bangladesh delivered this verdict (on Molla). Other countries have no rights to decide on it.” “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should protest against it.” “Our foreign ministry should tell the whole world that this verdict was delivered after a prolonged hearing and by following all judicial proceedings and through the Appellate Division.” “The ICT (International Crimes Tribunal) law was formulated in line with the Tokyo (war crimes) trial and Nuremberg Convention.” The foreign ministry was preparing to lodge a formal protest, said Information Minister Inu. “The issue on which they commented is related to the dignity of Bangladesh. It is unfortunate and against the diplomatic norms.” Protesting against the Pakistan ministry’s speech, Inu said, “The penalty was executed through the judicial process of the highest court.” “Trial was not held in haste. Pakistan’s words are misleading and not based on correct information.” Suranjit, also a Liberation War organiser, said, “Pakistan is terming the verdict on war criminal Quader Molla a judicial killing.” “We strongly protest this. They did not express remorse even once for killing three million people and violating 0.2 million mothers and sisters.” Inu hoped Pakistan would extend help in continuing war crimes trials by providing information and data. “Bangladesh will continue the trial of war criminals no matter how many conspiracies take place at home and abroad.” Suranjit condemned the attacks on the minorities and the acts of sabotage carried out by activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing across the country following the hanging of Molla. “Why minorities in Satkhira be victimised if anybody is convicted for war-time genocide?” The veteran politician urged the government to take stern steps against Jamaat-Shibir violence unleashed following Molla’s execution.

Bangladesh protests Pakistan Parliament resolutions

Bangladesh has lodged ‘a strong protest’ against the resolutions Pakistan’s National Assembly adopted on Monday, summoning its High Commissioner in Dhaka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Mian Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi Qureshi was summoned on Tuesday evening. Secretary (bilateral) Mustafa Kamal conveyed the government’s protest and handed the High Commissioner an “Aide Memoire”.
According to a media release, the foreign ministry said Hashmi Qureshi was called to lodge the protest against the resolutions adopted by the Pakistan National Assembly and the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
Dhaka also protested the remarks made by a senior Cabinet Minister of Pakistan on the verdict of the war crimes tribunals in Bangladesh. The Secretary conveyed in “unequivocal terms” that the war crimes trial in Bangladesh was “an internal matter” and as such “the uncalled for resolutions on the verdicts of the war crimes trial tantamount to interference in the domestic affairs of Bangladesh”. The Pakistan national and provincial assemblies adopted resolution expressing concern over the hanging of Bangladesh’s war crimes convict Abdul Quader Molla. Molla was executed last Thursday night for his crimes against humanity including mass murder during the war of independence against Pakistan. Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971 after nine months of bloody war. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami of which Molla was a leader had sided with Pakistan during the war. Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami earlier opposed the execution saying Molla was hanged to death because “he was loyal to Pakistan and supported Pakistan army during the 1971 war”. The resolution was moved by the Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami. Pakistan interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also expressed “deep grief” and concern over his execution. Newspaper ‘Dawn’ earlier reported that the minister in a statement said: “Till the very end before creation of Bangladesh, he (Molla) remained a supporter of a united Pakistan and today every Pakistani is saddened and grieved by his death”. Secretary Kamal reminded the Pakistan High Commissioner of the campaign of genocide launched against the peaceful and innocent Bangladeshi by its army and its cohorts which consisted of convicted war criminals like Abdul Quader Molla on March 25 midnight in 1971 and the reign of terror unleashed in the subsequent months. He said that the establishment of the war crimes tribunal was Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s 2008 election campaign pledge.
“The war crimes trials are not being conducted with any specific intention to rake up memories of 1971 as misconstrued by some quarters in Pakistan but to put a legal closure to the injustice and pain suffered by the victims’ families and the Bengali nation as a whole,” he said.
He also conveyed that this had been the “longstanding demand and aspiration of the people of Bangladesh”. Taking questions from the media later, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said it was not right for Pakistan National Assembly to interfere in the war crimes trial issue which was internal affair of Bangladesh.
He said Bangladesh had now reached a stage where “we are not afraid of anyone”.

Afghanistan aircraft crash kills six US soldiers

Six U.S. soldiers serving with the NATO International Security Assistance Force were killed when their Sikorsky UH-60 'Black Hawk' helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said. The cause of the crash is under investigation, NATO said in a statement. NATO did not disclose the nationalities of the victims but a senior U.S. defense official said they were American. There were no reports of enemy fire in the area the when helicopter went down, the NATO statement added. The helicopter crashed in the Shahjoi district of the Zabul province, according to its deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar.

Bilawal Bhutto: “Sufi culture is the answer to rising evil of extremism”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party stressed on the need of spreading message of love, peace, human fraternity to the farthest corners of the world besides truly following in our country. “Let the world know about the saints and philosophers, we so fondly revere and their oceans of wisdom,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated this in his message on 270th annual Uris of great saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai starting at Bhit Shah tomorrow.
He said the best way to pay tributes to our Sufi saints and their legacy is to make their teachings of love, peace, brotherhood and humanity as practicing traditions. Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetic wisdom and philosophy forms one of the best parts of our heritage. Indeed, it is continuity of our beautiful Indus Valley civilization because we are still unable the language of our ancestors buried under the debris of Mohen-Jo-Daro 5000 years ago, he added.
PPP Patron-In-Chief said Sindh’s Sufi culture is the answer to rising evil of extremism, which is raising its monstrous head in the country and many parts of the world.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his idea of Sindh Festival scheduled for two weeks in February 2014 is meant to preserve, protect and promote our heritage and tell the world that whenever we pray for our own self and land, we do send prayers for well-being of entire world as well.
“Saeenm, Sadaeenm, Kareen Mathy Sindh Sukar
Dost Mitha Dildar, Aalam Sabh Abad Kareen” (Bhittai)
“May Lord bless Sindh along with entire world”

Afghanistan: Mission accomplished is a 'dangerous' phrase

UK troops can come home from Afghanistan knowing it was mission accomplished, Prime Minister David Cameron has said. He met forces stationed at Camp Bastion in Helmand, a year before the last British combat forces are due to leave Afghanistan. Mr Cameron, who ate breakfast with troops, said they could "come home with their heads held high''. Professor Michael Clarke of the Royal United Services Institute said while British army personnel had done ''a pretty good job'' talk of a mission accomplished was politically ''very dangerous''. ''Whether Afghanistan will succeed after 12 years of involvement is something that we really can't do very much about, and that's not really a strategic success,'' he said.

Afghanistan: How to break the BSA impasse?

The stiff resistance by President Hamid Karzai, the haughtiest demands by the Obama-administration, and pro-BSA feelings among Afghan citizens, has put an armlock on Karzai. However, he is in no mood to give in. The impasse has reached its extremes and the United States has tested all possible ways, then what is left to opt for? Zero option or to wait for a right time—after April 2014 presidential polls? For many, the right option is to wait until 2014. When Hamid Karzai will transfer power to his successor, the US will have not obstacles in getting the BSA signed as almost all the presidential candidates have been calling on the government to sign this highly beneficial security deal. As the deal impasse has been becoming a toughest challenge to deal with, capital flight has taken place. The Afghanistan Banks Association (ABA) said Monday the BSA deadlock has caused capital flight from the country. According to the ABA chairman, Khalil Sediq, an uncertain situation has prevailed across the country that is worrying banks’ authorities and creating challenges for them. As people’s confidence has sagged, the issue of capital flight and a sharp decline in investments must have quivered the nerve of the government, but when Karzai and his administration have been clinging to their set of demands, at least the United States should wait until a right time to come. It will not only be fruitful for the people of Afghanistan but also for the United States, because if the country goes back to square one, whose loss will it be? Of Afghans or of Americans too? Because we have some shared objectives in fighting terrorism. Is the BSA worth it that Afghanistan should make a descent into chaos? If no then why the United States has been too stubborn in asking Kabul to sign the agreement promptly? Or Obama-administration doesn’t know about this adage that “haste makes waste”, then why to pursue haste. This haste has been responsible for the impasse as Karzai while in New Delhi said Saturday that he no longer trusts the United States. Karzai blamed Americans for saying one thing and doing another. Karzai has been famous for being an outspoken president, but he never has reached this extent in the past, which clearly shows relations between Kabul and Washington have reached their lowest ebbs. His reaction that he wouldn’t be intimated into signing the BSA speaks about how much the situation has become tense. Being a major player in the war on terror, and spending billions of dollars in this war-wracked country, the United States will have to take this bitter medicine of “wait until a right time comes”. If the US takes this route, it will not only embank Afghan citizen’s sagging confidence, our fledgling economy, but it will send a powerful message of sincerity in rebuilding this country and proving to the world that Washington kept its promises. The promise of democracy, human rights, elimination of terrorism, and rebuilding Afghanistan. If the US shows impatience, obduracy and a bossy nature, then the pro-American opinion, held by majority, will start eroding. When public opinion is in America’s favor then why to be anxious? Nonetheless, if we look at what Karzai has been telling his nation and the world, his words don’t seem to be irrational. He says when Obama writes to him that he will respect the sanctity of Afghan houses, they should prove it practically. He says Obama should implement what he wrote to him in the letter. Karzai also demands there shouldn’t be bombings on Afghan houses and of course launch the peace process publicly and officially. So, there seems to be nothing objectionable in what Karzai says, then why to hold Kabul responsible for the delay in the agreement. When the situation has become so much critical the US should make a win-win situation where no party should feel humiliated and defeated as Kabul has no strength to create a war-like situation with Washington.

Bilawal: Scion of Bhutto dynasty makes political pitch as defender of Pakistani traditions

Jon Boone
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari steps out of mother Benazir's shadow by launching festival in Pakistan People's party's Sindh heartland
The heir to Pakistan's grandest political dynasty has seized on kite-flying, livestock races and Valentine's Day concerts in a bid to stake out an identity for himself as a defender of traditional culture against the rising tide of religious extremism in the country.
The activities are among more than a dozen events that will form part of a two-week cultural festival in February organised by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 25-year-old son of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The Sindh festival is being seen as the first major initiative undertaken by a young politician who until recently was little more than a symbolic figurehead for a party that reveres the Bhutto name.
Plans for the festival were announced at a glitzy event in Karachi on Monday night that owed more to a Silicon Valley gadget launch than the traditional rallies and campaign speeches that have made the Bhutto family's Pakistan People's party (PPP) a power in the land since his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, set it up in 1967.
To a backdrop of computer graphics put together with the help of friends from his university days at Oxford, Zardari paced across an outdoor stage at Karachi's Mohatta Palace gleefully taunting the religious right, which has campaigned against Valentine's Day and regards the ancient kite-flying festival of Punjab as inflected with Hindu tradition.
He warned that the growing influence of hardline Islamic sects originating in the Middle East was leading to people "passively accepting the Talibanisation of Pakistan".
"They are surrendering our culture, our history, our identity and our religion based on a lie cloaked in an imported, fictionalised version of Islam," he told the crowd.
Other plans include horse and cattle racing, which the government ended in 2006, and celebrations of Sufi music, which many hardline Muslims regard as counter to Islam with some extremists even attacking the shrines of Sufi saints.
The opening ceremony will take place at Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient ruins of one of the world's first cities.
Hosting a large kite-flying event in Karachi, the southern port and capital of Sindh, the PPP heartland, will also be seen as an affront to Lahore, the Punjabi metropolis that is the seat of the Bhuttos' great political rival, the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League controlled by the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Despite long being renowned as the home of Basant, a springtime celebration marked by thousands of kites flown from the city's roofs, Lahore banned the popular event in 2005 following deaths and injuries caused by kite strings that some over-competitive enthusiasts coat with glass powder to cut their rivals' lines. Zardari vowed to strictly control kite-flying in Karachi, which will only be allowed with officially sanctioned kites on the city's long beachfront. The festival is being seen as a statement of independence and intent of a young politician who has yet to fully stamp his authority on a party that fell into the hands of his father, the former president Asif Ali Zardari, after his mother was killed by assassins while campaigning in 2007. Father and son have reportedly had disagreements in the past over party strategy and the former president stayed away from Monday's event. One senior PPP member close to Zardari said there was nearly a state of "civil war" within the family and that some of the party's old guard were uneasy about the young man's occasionally brash style. It's hard to imagine any other politician ripping open their shirt, as Bhutto did on Monday night to reveal the Sindh festival's logo – a Superman-style "S". Others might have shied away from his plan to finance some of the cost of the events by selling "heritage cards" for the chance of wining cash prizes – a lottery in all but name and therefore open to legal challenge.
In recent months Zardari has become increasingly vocal, speaking out against soaring inflation and against the government's far-reaching plans to privatise state-owned companies.
He has also become a pugnacious presence on Twitter, and could be seen Tweeting from his phone during his presentation on Monday, which he co-hosted with his sister Bakhtawar.
Although he qualified to stand for election on his 25th birthday in September he told the Guardian that he would remain outside parliament until 2018 – the likely year of the next general election.
The Oxford University graduate has been criticised before for his weak command of Urdu and his habit of spending much time outside Pakistan, where he is obliged to live under suffocating security in his family's fortress-like home in Karachi's Clifton district. One senior diplomat recently wondered whether Zardari was "too westernised" to become an effective leader of the party, which shot to power on its platform of socialist populism for the first time in the 1970s. On Monday he spoke to the invitation-only crowd in English, something organisers said was a deliberate decision to give himself more freedom and deny political opponents video clips that could be used against him in the campaigns to come.
Later this month he will revert to a more traditional style of politics when he addresses thousands of the party faithful who are expected to flock to the Bhutto family shrine in their hometown of Larkana to mark the sixth anniversary of his mother's death.

Pakistan's polio workers targeted for killing

Thirty-one people have been killed in attacks on health workers since July 2012.
Since July 2012, 31 people have been killed in Taliban-led attacks on anti-polio campaigners in Pakistan.
Most recently, two policemen providing security to polio vaccinators in Swabi were killed when gunmen on a motorbike attacked them. In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen opened fire on polio workers in Peshawar, killing one.
One and a half million children are at risk of polio in Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where the virus - which spreads from person to person - remains endemic.
Gulnaz Nighat, the health official in charge of the anti-polio campaign in Karachi's Gulshan-e-Buner district, vividly remembers the day her sister-in-law, Fehmida; and niece, Madiha - both health volunteers - were killed. On the morning of December 18, 2012, two men on a motorbike exchanged a quick "salaam aleikum" with the imam of a mosque in the area. Having brought their four-year-old cousin to get vaccinated, they asked for the polio workers. The imam pointed towards Fehmida and Madiha, who were administering oral polio vaccines to children at a house nearby before disappearing into the mosque. Ten minutes later, two shots were fired. The imam ran out to see Madiha fall to the ground as Fehmida ran inside the house. The two men chased her inside and gunned her down as well before escaping on their bike. Pakistani Taliban targets polio vaccination team in attack Gulnaz heard the shots but didn't make anything of it because she lived in an area where violence is rampant. A few minutes later, she heard police and ambulance sirens. "That is when I got worried. I called my niece's cell phone five times but there was no answer." Donning her abaya, she raced to the scene. "The moment I saw Fehmida and Madiha's bodies, I wanted to scream but not a sound would escape me. I kept arguing that they must have fallen asleep. I couldn't grasp the reality of what had just happened."
Many expected Gulnaz to abandon the programme out of fear, but instead the killing of her relatives only emboldened her.
When asked whether she feels afraid, Gulnaz told Al Jazeera, "Allah has given me strength. We are doing this for the future of this country. We need to move towards light, not disappear into darkness." After pausing for a moment, she softly stated, "Whenever I go in the field, I feel that my niece and sister-in-law are walking right beside me. It makes me stronger to know that they didn't die in vain. It is my duty to finish what we started together."
Security threats
In 1994, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto launched the Lady Health Workers Programme under the auspices of the Ministry of Health in an effort to introduce essential health care facilities to vulnerable communities. Today, Pakistan has approximately 110,000 Lady Health Workers in the field.
Despite running one of the largest community health-care programmes in the world, Pakistan's polio eradication efforts are troubled. Dr Elias Durry, the head of the World Health Organisation's Global Polio Eradication Initiative, told Al Jazeera that "security concerns and negotiated access are the two major problems facing polio elimination. The good news is that there have been no cases from [Pakistan's western province of] Baluchistan, and the polio epidemic is now confined to certain pockets. The bad news is the polio ban in certain areas, the killing of the workers and the lack of access that leads to missed children."
This year, Pakistan has reported 75 cases of polio, with 52 cases occuring in its federally administered tribal areas. With security concerns high, polio vaccination teams lack access to the North and South Waziristan regons, meaning that close to 290,000 children have been prevented from receiving vaccinations. Nationwide, 90 percent of polio cases occur among ethnic Pashto families, many of whom live in Pakistan's northwest.
Ayesha Bibi, a Lady Health Supervisor in the northwestern city of Peshawar, argues that the level of security provided by the government is severely inadequate in the country's high-risk areas. "There have been numerous killings and the girls are very scared. Volunteers have dropped out of the campaign and even the policemen are afraid," she said. Ayesha told stories of changing cars and license plates to avoid Taliban monitoring but claims that she continues to receive death threats.
"This issue is very politicised," said Saira Tarrar, minister of state for national health services, regulation and coordination. "We need two policemen per team, and that would mean about 3,600 policemen. Given our security constraints, that is impossible. I also monitor the prime minister's Polio Cell. We can only provide technical support and advise on security but cannot implement it. It is not our job."
Refusing the vaccine
According to information obtained from the WHO, Pakistan's National Immunisation Day in November aimed to vaccinate 34 million children. But some polio workers boycotted the initiative. They earn just $2.50 a day, yet many have not been paid for the past six months. On top of that, they face tremendous risks in their day-to-day work. As a result of the boycott and the security risks, the National Immunisation Day was delayed in 70 districts across the country. Official statistics released by the WHO show that 2.34 million children were missed during this campaign - of whom 47,099 children were not immunised because their families refused the vaccine.
Pakistan's polio fight faces new setback
Apart from the inaccessibility of certain areas and the presence of polio "reservoirs" like Karachi, "security concerns and army operations also lead to a great movement of people. If we don't vaccinate children, they can quickly become the main carriers of the disease," said Durry.
Some Pakistanis refuse to have their children vaccinated because they believe that it is "un-Islamic" or could be an American ploy to sterilise children. After news emerged that the US' Central Intelligence Agency employed a doctor to run a fake hepatitis B vaccination programme in an effort to find Osama bin Laden, conspiracy theories about health workers' activities have abounded - such as claims that vaccinators mark houses to be targeted by US drones. Polio workers have been accused of being CIA operatives, and the campaign has suffered incalculable damage.
However, according to Nasir Nawaz, a district health communication support officer in Sindh province, vaccines are most often refused by Pakistanis living in very poor areas, where basic needs for water, food and electricity are unmet. In such circumstances, polio workers who bring vaccines instead of food and clothing are promptly, and aggressively, turned away. Durry told Al Jazeera, "The real heroes of this campaign are the vaccinators who keep doing their jobs in high-risk areas without fear. They are not soldiers who are trained to battle. They are just there to do the right thing. If there is anyone who deserves to receive the Nobel Prize, it is the health workers."
Health workers like Ayesha refuse to leave the campaign despite the threats and the lack of pay. "We play with our lives every day, but we do this for our country. What will happen to our children if we stop? We can't give into Taliban threats." Pausing for a moment, she says proudly: "I am a woman from FATA [Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas]. I am not one of those scared ones."

Pakistan: Twin blasts in Parachinar

Two people were killed and four others were injured in two separate blasts in Parachinar, Kurram Agency on Tuesday, Express News reported. The first blast took place on Hamzai Road, killing two people and injuring three others. “A vehicle hit a landmine in Pewaar leaving two dead,” a local intelligence official told AFP. Another local intelligence official also confirmed the incident. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital for medical attention. Police cordoned off the area and started their investigation. The second blast took place in the Yousaf Khel area, injuring one person. There has been a rise in sectarian violence in the country after November’s deadly clashes in Rawalpindi. Previous blast On July 26, two suicide bombings, hardly a minute apart, had tore through two busy marketplaces in Parachinar killing at least 48 people and injuring nearly 200 more. The death toll from the twin suicide bombings had risen to 57 as nine more people had died of their wounds at different hospitals a day later.

Pakistan: Ahmedi doctor again denied bail on 'posing as Muslim' charge

Ahmadiyya Times
An additional district and sessions judge on Monday dismissed the after-arrest bail petition of a doctor accused of preaching Ahmedi beliefs and distributing books containing derogatory remarks against some prophets. Dr Masood Ahmed said he had been implicated in a false case for ulterior motives. Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, counsel for the complainant, said Dr Ahmed had been nominated in an FIR with a specific role and the complainant had audio and video evidence to back his allegations. Chaudhry said Dr Ahmed had preached Ahmedi beliefs to a patient and given him books containing blasphemous material. Earlier, a magisterial court had previously dismissed Dr Ahmed’s post-arrest bail application. The magistrate had said that prima facie, sufficient material was on record to connect Dr Ahmed with the offence. Thus he was not entitled to bail at that stage. The FIR registered under Section 298/C at the Old Anarkali police station on behalf of Maulana Muhammad Ehsan states that when he and some friends visited Dr Ahmed’s clinic a few days back the doctor preached Ahmedi beliefs and gave them some books containing derogatory remarks against some prophets.

Pakistan: The Baloch Long March

The Baloch Long March from Tarek Fatah on Vimeo.

Pakistan: Woes of Balochistan’s coalminers

In the vast expanse of Balochistan there is an arid area, its topography marked by low hills whose stones have been worn smooth by the millennia. Settlements are few and far between, the vegetation is sparse, and links to modernity next to non-existent — except, that is, for the dozens of trucks that ply the rough roads, billowing diesel fumes and thick black dust into the air. This is Spin Karez, a 30-minute drive from Quetta and a hub of activity for labourers and truckers; deep under the earth lies coal. Spin Karez is where some 60 trucks a day are loaded to take to other parts of the country the coal that is increasingly in demand in a gas-starved nation.
The bustle of the loading station masks a world of inequity. In the coal mines of this area, hundreds of lives are put into daily jeopardy both by an exploitative system and the state’s silence.
One such miner is the grey-bearded Asmatullah. Face stained black, he spends his days in the dark, deep underground, digging for and then transporting coal. The working conditions for him are pitiful, severely compromising his health and quality of life. But “we earn in the day so we can eat at night,” he tells Dawn. “It is a very hard job, but poverty brought me here. What choice do I have?”
Like Asmatullah, hundreds of miners labour over 10 hours a day to earn their bread. Indeed, coal mining has become a family business: once too sick to work, the father is replaced by the son who is in due course replaced by the grandson. Most of the miners come from the Swat district, or from volatile southern Afghanistan. They start off in this line of work as young as 13 but their expected working life is only about 20 years — young miners with unpolluted lungs are always sent into the deepest part of the mines. By the age of 30, most have tuberculosis and can no longer work long or deep.
The beneficiaries are the owners of the mine; the miners themselves work for a pittance, with no safeguards in place. More than 40 miners died in a blast inside a mine on March 20, 2011, and official sources acknowledge that more than a hundred miners have died in such explosions over the past three years alone.
According to Iftikhar Ahmed, an official of the Balochistan Mines and Mineral Development Department and a former chief inspector of mines, there are about 250 coalmines employing over 12,000 people. This figure is disputed by labour leader Pir Muhammad Kakar, who puts the number at about 50,000. Other estimates put the number of mines at about 400 and the workers at over 100,000. Kakar alleges that official records show a low number of miners since most are uninsured and are not registered with employees’ old-age benefit institutions. What there is no dispute about is that lives are risked every day even though — on paper — a supervisory system is in place. Ahmed claims that mines’ inspectors are bound to visit each mine 10 times a month. “Their job is to check the working conditions of the miners,” he says. “In case of violations, the inspector has the power to seal it.” Nevertheless, he admits that mine-owners are influential people and the government department often faces political pressure over the closure of a mine. And the story told by the miners themselves puts into serious doubt the effectiveness of the supervisory system.
Miner Muhammad Shafi, for example, says that even over the course of a year, inspectors will not be seen at a mine. “Officials only show up if there’s a blast,” he says.
Alongside the men looking aged beyond their years are children collecting and transporting coal. Ten-year-old Azizullah says that he earns Rs200 a day, and goes to a mosque in lieu of school. The same story is told by 9-year-old Sher Ali, who has been working in Spin Karez for the past two years. There are dozens like them, mostly from Afghan refugee families. What their future will be like can be gauged easily. Even leaving aside the brutal manual labour, coal mining is extremely hazardous. “The dust enters their lungs and results in several diseases, most commonly the inability to take a breath,” says chest-physician Dr Shireen Khan.
The Geological Survey of Pakistan says that coal is amongst the 106 minerals found in resource-rich Balochistan. But that matters little to the miners, in whose experience officialdom is unconcerned about the violation of labour laws and the abysmal working conditions in coalmines.
The trucks from Spin Karez lumber away to supply coal to industrial cities that have been badly hit by gas shortages; meanwhile, there is criminal silence over the exploitation that produced it.

Gas pipeline: Iranian firm offers to finance Pakistan’s side

The Express Tribune
An Iranian firm has expressed interest in completely financing and constructing Pakistan’s segment of a gas pipeline that will come from Iran, an offer that comes after cancellation of a $500 million loan by Tehran earlier. According to sources, Pakistan has got the offer from Jahanpars Engineering and Construction, which could undertake entire engineering, procurement and construction work and provide $1.8 billion for the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project. The company has expertise in engineering works and has the capacity and reputation to engage in mega infrastructure projects. However, the gas pipeline is a project between governments of the two countries, which will be implemented through their nominated entities. Therefore, Pakistan has asked the management of Jahanpars to contact government authorities in Tehran to press on with the plan.
“Working groups of the two countries will consider the financing and construction offer from the company,” a source said. Earlier, the two sides had agreed to give the pipeline construction contract to Tadbir Energy of Iran, which in response would provide a $500m loan for laying the pipeline in Pakistan. However, Pakistan insisted that the contract price negotiated with Tadbir was higher and the contract could not be awarded to it. During a visit of a Pakistani delegation to Tehran last week, Iran also refused to provide the $500 million loan. When approached, former adviser to prime minister on petroleum and natural resources Dr Asim Hussain, who had pursued the project, said they had convinced the Iranian government to provide $500 million for the pipeline. “We had also left $470 million in the national exchequer to fund the project,” he said, adding now the new government should develop required infrastructure.
“Although the contract price was higher, there was no other option. This is not a time to scrap the deal,” Hussain remarked. In the long term, the deal would have a positive impact on the country’s economy when compared to consumption of furnace oil, he added. According to a report prepared by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, if furnace oil-based power generation is replaced with imported gas, it will lead to annual savings of $2.4 billion. It said IP gas would cause just 20% increase in the average gas basket price in the country if 750 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) is imported. Under the project, Pakistan will import 750 mmcfd, which could be increased to one billion cubic feet. The Balochistan government seeks 250 mmcfd for consumption at the Gwadar Port and the Centre can go for increased supplies to meet the needs of the province.

Pakistan: Ch Nisar,The minister speaks again

It has been more than six months since the government of the PML-N came to power but we are still waiting for some sign that it has a grip on things, more so now since Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s press conference on Sunday at the Punjab House. Apparently, the press conference was intended to instil confidence in the people that the government was busy building a framework to counter the rising menace of terrorism. He was especially proud of the fact that a first draft had been made of the new National Security Policy (NSP). That is it? A first draft? After half a year in office and the spectre of terrorism growing more ominous by the day, for the interior minister to proudly boast that a first draft, which still requires the necessary approval from the federal cabinet, had been finalised seems to be slightly lacklustre and lazy on the government’s part. According to Mr Nisar, the NSP will be divided into three parts: one will be secret, one strategic and the third operational. One does not completely understand the need to keep a section of the NSP ‘secret’ from the masses that are being targeted by the militants on a daily basis but, as always, the authorities may be given the benefit of the doubt. However, one finds it hard to get over the fact that we are still only at the first draft stage with the minister saying that complete implementation of the NSP will still take a full one year. What is this government waiting for? We cannot be lulled into ill-found complacency especially after the fact that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike and it is believed that the militants must be aching to leave their signature card in a big way strewn across the land once again. The government still seems to be banking on the prospect of talks with the TTP, which seems like a misconceived way to ready oneself for militant ire. While Chaudhry Nisar has spoken of negotiations and peace being favoured options in the fight against terror, it would serve him and the PML-N government well to remember that the militants do not seem interested in any sort of peace and we should not gratify them with any sort of appeasement. The NSP must lay more emphasis on alternative, more aggressive methods to deal with the scourge of violence and bloodshed that has been engulfing this country for too long.
The minister also spoke at length of the recent controversies concerning the chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and how the whole hoopla concerning the issue of voter thumb impression verification was being handed over to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from under the authority of NADRA. Whatever the truth about the whole scandal in which the chairman of NADRA was sacked by the provincial government only to be reinstated by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) just one day later, only one thing remains starkly clear: the PML-N government, in making hasty decisions, is losing credibility. The whole sacking saga has unleashed a messy can of worms in which the federal government is being accused of bipartisanship and trying to cover up the truth, whatever that may be. The PML-N has to proceed with caution. The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed the admission of the PTI’s petition concerning checking for electoral fraud in four constituencies. This just goes to show that there really is no end in sight at the moment for this election verification episode. If the PML-N has nothing to hide, it should let all due processes play out naturally without interference. Transparency, whether in tackling terrorism or sorting out allegations of election fraud, must be adhered to for the benefit of all concerned.

Pakistan: Damning mollycoddling

Is this the way to fight terrorism? For more than once have the top city cops stated that activists of political parties and religious outfits are involved in Karachi's ravaging violence and that the government would be asked to approach those organisations to hand them over. Why? Isn't it the law-enforcers' bounden duty to nab them and put them in the dock? Why their organisations have to be approached and begged? Does the police go to a criminal gang when its thug has to be arrested? Why indeed this damning mollycoddling of political parties and religious outfits? Aren't they accomplices if their activists are involved? And aren't they then equally culpable as are their activists? And hasn't the time come when the ghost of vile charade of a few black sheep must be buried once and for all? Doesn't even a babe know that all manner of political and confessional entities are wholly embroiled in a no-holds-barred war to capture the beleaguered port city and make of it an exclusive preserve? So which joker is it who thinks that when approached the outfits would be quite obliging and part with their murder squads happily? Won't they protect them as have they so far? And isn't it top cops' sheer foolhardiness if they think the government would be all forthcoming and start contacting the outfits to surrender the culprits? After all, the government itself is made of the political cadres who too are in public pillory for patronising the criminal elements. The city cops have thus to come out of their self-serving jiggery-pokery and stand up straight bravely to take on the criminals who have crippled the nation's key city with their vileness and shenanigans. They have to show zero tolerance for criminals and criminality, not in words but with actions and deeds. If in the process they have to tread on some political, ethnic or confessional toes, so be it. The crucial city's peace, tranquility and security is by far critical and in no condition could be subjugated to considerations of any sorts. The outfits have not to be cajoled or begged to give the custody of their gunmen, murderers and brigands. Their killer squads' masterminds, handlers and guides have to be grilled to find out the wanted culprits' whereabouts. And it necessarily has to be a shock-and-awe act. For, surprise and toughness are two elements that essentially make for a security campaign's effectiveness. And that truism was infringed damagingly right from the outset when the ongoing months-long pacification operation was launched in Karachi. For weeks before mounting the campaign, both the political hierarchy and security apparatus kept screaming that they had a list of criminals ready to pounce on. None took a pause to know the blunder this shrill was leading up to. None cared to think that this would alert the criminals and make them to escape into some safe havens. And it is not unimaginable if this was done knowingly, given the undeniable reality that the city police force itself is deeply infested with elements recruited on partisan considerations, be those ethnic, political or confessional. In any case, for this shrill, no sitting ducks were to be found to pounce on and net. And none was found, not any surprisingly. Almost the whole lot had vanished into lairs outside the city. Quite a lot escaped to havens just outside the country. Only foot soldiers, at best, were caught. Their commanders slipped into hideouts at home and abroad. And same is sure going to happen with terrorists and target killers the city cops assert they have now listed. None is going to be a sitting duck, accosting the law-enforcers to come and get him. They all will escape, if they already have not. The city's top cops have to stop fiddling, if they really mean business. They have to get out of the evasive and diversionary tactics like asking the government to intervene and get them their wanted criminals from the political and confessional outfits. Catching criminals is their inviolable duty by every canon of law, not of the ruling political hierarchy, which may even be loath of it for its own vested interests. The cops have to do their job. If they have the leads, they must follow these to reach their wanted criminals. If they don't have the leads, they must put their hounds on the trail to track them down. They may even publicise the wanted criminals' photographs, appealing to the public to help them find out, on the condition of confidentiality, the fugitives' whereabouts. The police top brass has, nevertheless, to do away with the mollycoddling of political or confessional entities. It is this stupidity that has turned this once a heavenly peaceful place now into a living hell of insensate bloodletting and dreadful violence. That foolishness must now stop. It is not mollifying or appeasing these dragons of mayhem that is needed. It is showing them the stern face of the state that is necessarily called for. That face must be shown them now. They must be put on notice to surrender their thugs on the pain of exemplary punishment. With this alone, the top city cops can show they are really worth the uniform they are wearing.

Bilawal Bhutto to Organise Basant Festival in Karachi

Pakistan People's Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has made arrangements for hosting the popular festival in this port city in February. For the first time in years, Karachi will host Basant on the beach as part of a "Sindh festival" aimed at promoting, protecting and preserving the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Speaking about his plans, Bilawal mentioned how Basant was banned by the PML-N government in Punjab.
"We are promoting the culture of peace, while terrorists want to impose their culture through the barrel of a gun," the patron-in-chief of PPP said.
"I have realised that Pakistan is gradually moving towards becoming 'banistan'. If we find someone offensive on YouTube, we ban the website. If we can't compete with the Indian cinema, we ban movies," he said at a ceremony here last night.
The PML-N banned Basant on the ground that the glass-coated twine used to fly kites during the festival had caused many deaths. Civil society groups say the ban was influenced by pressure from right-wing and extremist groups which claim the festival has "Hindu overtones". Despite requests from civil society groups and associations representing thousands of kite-makers, the Punjab government refused to lift the ban.
Bilawal's sister Bakhtawar is also involved in planning and organising the festival.
Bilawal announced that opening ceremony of the Sindh Festival 2014 would be held in Mohenjodaro.
"Let's bask in the glory of Indus civilisation. Let's live in the Pakistan we want to see. Move away London 2012, we have Mohenjodaro 2014," he said.
Bilawal said that Pakistanis were being dragged backwards, towards "more regressive dark ages".
"We have been taught distorted history about our culture and religion by military dictators like Zia-ul-Haq, and his proteges. They want to put a gun to our heads and impose their rules on us. But we won't let them," Bilawal said.
Introducing the events to be held during the two-week festival, Bakhtawar said it would have "best of what Sindh and Pakistan has to offer". She said the festival would have a cattle race, grand Mushaira, donkey cart race, deep sea fishing tournament, among others. It will be held in various parts of Sindh and Karachi, Bilawal said. "Our heritage is under threat," Bilawal said. A 'fictionalised and imported' culture is being imposed on Pakistan "despite the fact that the country has its own rich cultural heritage", he asserted.
"Terrorists want Pakistan to have a primitive society ...It is up to us to preserve our own history and culture," he said.
"I'm proud to be a Sindhi, Muslim and Pakistani...Let's preserve, protect and promote Sindh. Let's preserve, protect and promote Pakistan's heritage," he added.
Bilawal stressed that the Sindh festival would be an 'apolitical' festival. He said that every citizen of Pakistan, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, Imran Khan and members of all political parties are invited to the Sindh festival.

Bangladesh: Khaleda a Pakistani agent: Hanif

The joint general secretary of the ruling Awami League, Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif, on Monday alleged that the BNP-Jamaat coalition, under the leadership of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia, was conspiring to turn the country into a failed state. He was addressing a pre-procession rally in front of the Institution of Engineers in the city. The AL joint general secretary alleged that the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami staged the Gayebena Namaj-e-Janaza for the execution of Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, which makes it clear that they are still conspiring to destabilise Bangladesh and that BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia is playing the role of a Pakistani agent. Hanif said: “The BNP is killing people, hurling bombs on them in the name of enforcing a political programme when we are observing Victory Day. So it is clear that the BNP–Jamaat alliance wants to turn the country into Pakistan.” Referring to the war crimes trials, the AL leader said the rest of the verdicts of the war crimes trials would be executed under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to free the nation from the curse of the country’s 30 lakh martyrs. “We promised the nation that we would try the war criminals who committed crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. We went a step ahead in fulfilling our commitment by executing war criminal and Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah,” Hanif claimed. Vowing to build up a ‘Rajakar’-free Bangladesh, the AL leader said: “We got the country after millions sacrificed their blood and we shall save the country, sacrificing our last drop of blood, if necessary.” The AL leader said BNP-Jamaat’s anarchy would not be tolerated any more. The leaders and workers of the AL-led 14-party alliance would resist their destructive activities across the country.
Among others, Dhaka city AL acting president MA Aziz, Awami League central leaders Shahara Khatun, Jahangir Kabir Nanok, advocate Qamrul Islam, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Ahmed Hossain, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and Asim Kumar Ukil were present at the rally. Meanwhile, as in previous years, thousands of Awami League supporters, including many from its frontal organisations, brought out a victory procession carrying banners, festoons, placards and portraits of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from the vicinity of the Institution of Engineers shouting the slogan ‘Joy Bangla… Joy Bangabandhu’, to observe the 43rd Victory Day. With a vow to resist anti-liberation forces, the leaders and workers of the ruling Awami League marched through the city’s main streets, throwing traffic out of gear, to converge at Dhanmondi 32.