Friday, December 20, 2013

December 28,2013: Saudi Women Plan New Day of Defiance Against Driving Ban

The campaign against Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving has shifted tactics to increasingly challenge the law ahead of a new nationwide day of defiance on Dec. 28
Women activists are now driving weekly and documenting their confrontations with law enforcement on social media to increase pressure on the conservative monarchy and keep the issue in the public eye. The campaigners are also trying to discern subtle but mixed signals from the secretive monarchy for encouragement that change may be afoot. They said authorities have used different tactics with different drivers, creating some uncertainty over where the government stands.
"I kind of feel that the government wants us to drive, but at the same time it doesn't want to make it official yet because it doesn't want to face the religious establishment," said Tamador Alyami.
She spoke by phone after riding in the passenger seat with another woman driving in the coastal city of Jeddah on Dec. 12. Ms. Alyami said she planned to drive on Dec. 28 and doesn't think the government will take drastic measures to stop her.
"I think they got the message," she said.
In a video of her Dec. 12 drive posted on YouTube, the two women chatted nervously, scanning for police cars that soon converged upon them. The sound of Talal Maddah, a late Saudi singer, came from the car stereo: "My beloved country, you are the land of pride and a beacon of shining light." Seven police patrols surrounded the car, stopped it, then towed it away. Authorities had the women sign a pledge not to drive again and released them. A day earlier, two other women drove for half an hour in the capital Riyadh, before police stopped them. They were held in the police station for 10 hours until they and their male guardians signed similar pledges. But their car wasn't towed. While Saudi police continue to stop those who defy the ban, no woman has been jailed for driving since 2011. When activists announced a first driving day on Oct. 26 in the revived campaign, the Interior Ministry came out with a strongly worded statement saying women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Authorities detained a man who wrote in support of women driving, but have stopped short of more politically sensitive arrests of female drivers. With no hint of a change, women drivers and their supporters make weekly visits to the Shoura advisory council, the royal court, and cabinet ministers with petitions and reports. In one key meeting, women's rights activist Hala al Dosari and another activist managed to book a meeting with powerful Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. They were in the same complex, but met by videoconference—standard practice for ministry meetings with females. The prince told the women that a decision wasn't in his hands—something they had heard before from other Saudi officials, Ms. Dosari said. The prince assured them the driving ban "was on the table" with the proper authorities, she said, adding this was the same answer Saudis pushing for change always get.
"Just a vague response to keep us satisfied," she said.
The ministry didn't respond to requests to comment. But even the religious establishment appears split. Sheik Abdulatif al Alsheikh, head of the feared religious police, said in September that Islamic law doesn't have a text forbidding women from driving. The country's grand mufti, Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, said last month, however, that the ban protects society from "evil."
More than 22 years have passed since Saudi women first demanded the right to drive. Nevertheless, some remain upbeat that change could come soon. But change in the kingdom comes from the top down.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, often seen as a cautious reformer, announced in 2011 that women will be allowed to vote and run in local elections, and this past February, he appointed the first 30 women to the advisory Shoura Council. The nonagenarian monarch told American journalist Barbara Walters in 2005 that it will be possible to lift the ban on women driving. But he said the "issue will require patience."

New York Protest Demands Justice for Indian Housekeeper

Domestic workers protested outside the Indian consulate in New York on Friday, calling for justice for a housekeeper allegedly mistreated by a Indian diplomat and demanding an end to slavery. More than 30 workers and their allies took part in the spirited but peaceful protest on a sidewalk outside the mansion house used by the Indian government in New York. "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Slavery has to go!" chanted the group of mostly women wrapped up against the cold in hats and puffer jackets on behalf of the maid identified as Sangeeta Richard.
"Free, free domestic workers! End, end slavery!"
They called on the Indian government to recognize that the housekeeper had been "verbally abused" and called on all countries to create minimum legal standards of work for maids. They held up homemade placards carrying slogans such as "does immunity protect human rights violations?" "justice now" and "hold diplomats accountable, justice for domestic workers."
"There are diplomats trafficking domestic workers all over this city," shouted one of the organizers. "It's been happening for years with impunity."
"We demand that the Indian government recognize that her rights were violated. We demand respect and protection for the family of this worker in India," said another.
India on Friday angrily brushed aside fresh efforts by the United States to defuse the row over the December 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general in New York. She was taken into custody and released on bail for allegedly defrauding a visa application, lying to U.S. officials and underpaying her housekeeper. Revelations that she was stripped by U.S. Marshals and subjected to a body search have caused outrage in India, whose government wants Washington to drop the case and offer an apology. The protesters condemned that Khobragade was strip-searched, but said it was a disgrace that, in one of the richest cities in the world, a housekeeper was paid as little as $3.31 an hour.
They called for justice for the maid, including a fair trial and compensation, and an end to labor trafficking.
India is trying secure full diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its U.N. mission in New York, although such a move needs State Department approval.
One of the protesters, Meches Rosales, told Agence France Presse that she estimated around 70 percent of domestic workers in New York City suffer from some kind of problems related to their employers.
"I would never survive on $3.31 an hour. Enough is enough. We need to end exploitation," she said.

Turkey: Questions that will hound Erdoğan

Life has all of a sudden become difficult for Prime Minister Erdoğan at the very moment he considered his political future secure. The pro-government media is rallying now to discredit the corruption investigation which involves a large number of detentions, and which includes the sons of three government ministers, one mayor from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and prominent businessmen and bankers.
Everyone is wondering now what is behind this operation, and the first “suspect” to come to many minds is the Islamist Gülen movement. Tensions between this group and the AKP have been rising over the years, and boiled over recently due to the prep-school issue - a matter that has received wide media coverage. The Gülen movement denies this but the vitriol flying between daily Zaman, which is close to Gülen, and Yeni Şafak, which is staunchly pro-AKP, is enough to give one a sense of the bitter struggle involved.
The former is emphasizing the rule of law now while the latter is talking about a conspiracy against Erdoğan, including the not surprising claim that Israel is somehow behind this investigation. No doubt the coming days will rake up all sorts of claims, and the rumor that the investigation covers a government minister who allegedly took a 1.5 million dollar bribe shows how ugly some of these will be.
All of this is disastrous for Erdoğan who has tried to build his political reputation on combating corruption. All the lofty remarks he made on this score, especially against governments before the AKP, are now in the air.
His own Minister for Interior Muammer Güler, whose son is among those detained, remarked not so long ago, in connection with Gezi Park protests, that the police would not arrest anyone without reason. The pro-Erdoğan media constantly seconded this opinion at the time, praising the police that were brutalizing demonstrators.
The same police force is being vilified now by this media. Many also wonder whether Güler still feels the same about police arrests now that his son has been taken in. It is not hard to imagine how bad it looks for Erdoğan to see not just the son of his interior minister, but also the sons of his economy minister, and housing and environment minister under arrest. Nothing has been proven yet and legally everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But this is Turkey where judgments, whether justified or not, come instantly. Because of this, loaded questions are flying in the air now. Many are asking if these three ministers were aware their sons were using “daddies’ influence” to line their pockets. They are also wondering if these three ministers will resign.
Then there is the question of just how much Erdoğan knew about this investigation, which is said to have been going on for more than a year. If he knew about it why did he not act? If he did not know, and the charges leveled by the prosecutors are proven true, then what does this say about his competence as a party leader who is supposedly keen to combat corruption?
Many are also wondering what Erdoğan and his ministers will say or do about the prosecutors in charge of this case. They cannot have them fired because they are led by the same man who initiated the Ergenekon investigation which pleased the AKP so much at the time. And finally, what political damage will all this have done to the AKP in the lead-up to crucial local elections? This question is particularly important because some of the major allegations in the current investigation involve shady dealings in the building sector, which technically cannot put one brick on another without municipal and government approval. Call it a hornet’s nest that he has walked into or a political banana peel he has stepped on, what is clear is that Erdoğan is not a very happy man today, especially when it is clear there are scores of questions that will hound him for days, weeks and months, if not years.

NGOs censure Bahrain for torturing journalists

Ten international human rights groups have sent a letter to the United Nations, denouncing the arrest and torture of Bahraini journalists by the Al Khalifa regime.
The letter, which had been signed by the Media Legal Defense Initiative and the International Federation for Human Rights, among other rights groups, was sent to UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression Frank La Rue, and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez on Friday.
The rights groups called for a probe into the arrest, detention and capture of three Bahraini journalists Mohamed Hassan, Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zain al-Deen.
The three have been in the regime’s custody since August and face trial on charges related to their coverage of the anti-regime demonstrations across the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.
Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Obama says 'we screwed it up' on health law debut

President Barack Obama on Friday defended his administration's decision to delay for some people the requirement to buy medical insurance under his healthcare law, but acknowledged that the botched rollout of the policy was his biggest mistake of 2013.
"Since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up," Obama said at his year-end news conference.
Officials said late on Thursday that people whose insurance plans were canceled because of new standards under the law may claim a "hardship exemption" to the requirement that all Americans must have coverage by March 31, or face a penalty. The sudden change was announced four days before the federal government's deadline to sign up for coverage that starts on January 1 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010 and set up online exchanges, or marketplaces, for enrollment. Republicans seized on the latest announcement as further proof that the law known as Obamacare is unworkable, but Obama said it was just a bump in the road.
"I've said before, this is a messy process," Obama told reporters before leaving for Hawaii for the holidays.
Obama said he did not think the waiver for "a relatively small number" of people would shake confidence in the law. "This is essentially an additional net in case folks might have slipped through the cracks," he said. Obama, whose public approval numbers have dropped to historic lows over the health law's debut, focused on a surge in enrollment in December that was a big improvement on the months since the website opened on October 1. He said that more than 1 million people have signed up so far for new coverage under Obamacare through, which serves 36 states, and 14 state-run marketplaces. More than half of the signups came from the federal website during a December rush, he said. "The basic structure of that law is working. Despite all the problems, despite the website problems, despite the messaging problems, despite all that, it's working," Obama told reporters. Still, there are lingering problems. Consumers were unable to access for a few hours on Friday, a critical time before the December 23 deadline. Officials said they needed to repair a website error that occurred overnight.
Part of the backlash against the policy came when millions of people received policy cancellation notices, forcing Obama to apologize for a promise he made that people who liked their insurance policies could keep them under the reforms.
U.S. officials estimated that fewer than 500,000 people would be affected by the new delay in the so-called individual mandate. The mandate is a core part of the law that aims to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. The announcement raises fairness questions, however, because it gives a subset of Americans relief from the requirement to buy insurance. "It is the beginning of the end of the individual mandate," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Republicans have opposed the healthcare law as an unwarranted expansion of the federal government.
Insurance industry trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, criticized the change that could divert more consumers away from the new plans offered under Obamacare. "This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers," AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said in a statement. Legal experts said it was unclear whether the change would spawn successful legal challenges. Nicholas Bagley, law professor at University of Michigan, said he doubted individuals who are ineligible for the exemption could sue, claiming it was unfair that others received the break.
"You can't usually complain that someone else received a benefit that you didn't get and that caused you injury. That's not how courts typically rule."
Still, the change adds confusion for consumers so close to the December 23 sign-up date, a deadline that could triple demand and strain enrollment systems.
The deadline has already been complicated by the decision from a handful of states who run their own insurance marketplaces to extend the sign-up deadline past the December 23 date set by the federal government. MNsure, the insurance marketplace in Minnesota, said on Friday that consumers would have until December 31 to select a plan for coverage beginning January 1.
In the law, there are 14 categories of "hardships" that can be used to get an exemption from the mandate to buy insurance, such as a recent eviction or bankruptcy. But this is the first exemption prompted by the administration's botched rollout of the law after months of insistence that there would be no delays in implementing the individual mandate. The administration has already pushed back by one year the mandate for employers. The change announced late Thursday was suggested by a group of Democratic senators, some of whom face difficult reelection campaigns in 2014.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the senators that those people who receive the exemption will have the option to buy "catastrophic" insurance plans - cheaper insurance with a minimal coverage level that, under the law, is normally available only to people under the age of 30.

U.N. Rights Office Protests Treatment of Saudi Reform Activist

The United Nations' human rights office raised concerns Friday over the treatment of a Saudi activist punished for advocating a constitutional monarchy in the conservative oil-rich kingdom.
"We are deeply concerned about the intimidation and sometimes prosecution of individuals in Saudi Arabia for exercising their right to freedom of expression," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
A closed-door court hearing last week reportedly sentenced Omar al-Saeed to four years in prison and 300 lashes, and banned him from leaving the desert kingdom for a further four years after his release.
"Charges against him included defaming the king, preparing, storing and transmitting material prejudicial to the public order, and disseminating defamatory information on the Internet, apparently in relation to a Tweet in which he reportedly advocated for a constitutional monarchy," Shamdasani said.
The 23-year-old was also charged with membership of an unregistered organisation, she added. Shamdasani said that al-Saeed appeared to have been targeted because of his work on civil and political rights with the Saudi campaign group HASEM.
"We have received reports that several other members of HASEM and other activists have already been jailed in similar circumstances or are under investigation by the national security agency, Mabahith," she said.
"We call on Saudi authorities to immediately release all those imprisoned for exercise of their fundamental human rights."
Shamdasani noted that the reported treatment of al-Saeed suggested that his rights to due legal process may have been breached.
"The use of corporal punishment amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and can even amount to torture under international human rights law," she added.

West admits Assad heading Syria is better than terrorists - Lavrov

The West has started admitting that Bashar Assad heading Syria is not that dangerous as terrorists could be in case they take control over the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview. Read more:
"Both in private conversations and public comments some western politicians have started voicing their thoughts that given that Jihadists and terrorists who are building up their influence in Syria, occupying territories, immediately introducing Sharia law after it, massacring minorities and burning people alive only because they are adherents of a different faith, Bashar Assad being the leader of Syria is a lesser threat for the country than terrorists taking over it," the Russian Foreign Minister stated.
Assad didn’t ask Russia to grant his safety in case he steps down
Syrian President Bashar Assad hasn’t asked Russia to grant his safety in case he steps down, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview.
"We have received no such requests either from Assad or anyone in Damascus," the Minister said answering a query from a journalist. Lavrov also reminded that Assad "repeatedly said he wasn’t going to leave his country and wished to stay with his people and fulfill his duties".
According to the Russian Foreign Minister, Assad might run for presidency next year. "Indeed, he said he didn’t exclude the possibility of running for presidency once again next year. He will make a decision closer to an election and it will depend on whether he would feel the support from the people," Lavrov underlined. Russia ready to discuss EU-Ukraine association agreement at summit in January 2014 - Lavrov Russia is ready to discuss the issue of an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine at a Russia-EU summit in January 2014, Russian Foreign Minister said in an interview.
"We’ll be ready for it. We were ready for it before, amid the tensions in Ukraine. Everything will depend on EU readiness to solve the problem taking into consideration the best interests of Russia and member countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership project," the Minister stated. He also reminded that it was Ukrainian authorities who set out the proposal to hold trilateral consultations between Russia, Ukraine, and the EU.
"The proposal to hold trilateral consultations in order to fairly consider trade terms existing between Russia and Ukraine, Ukraine and the EU, Russia and the EU, hiding nothing from each other and without trying to deceive one another, was a very good one. President Putin backed it immediately, but the EU rejected it or European officials rejected it, to be exact. When I was in Brussels a week ago and met all the 28 EU Foreign Ministers, some of them said that the proposal of trilateral consultations was a good one. They said it was a right and constructive way, not the confrontational one. So European bureaucrats seem to have taken upon themselves a bit more than EU member countries would want them to take. And I reiterate that the proposal of consultations is a good one," he concluded.
Western nations have indicated to the Syrian opposition that peace talks next month may not lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, adding that he must remain in power to prevent an al-Qaeda takeover of the country. "Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue," said one of the senior members of the Syrian National Coalition at a meeting of the anti-Assad
Friends of Syria alliance in London last week
Western diplomats confirmed the shift, saying that the rebels have been warned that any "transitional administration" would have to include a major presence from Alawites, and that Assad could stay as president with "diminished powers."
If the rebels reject that plan "they will lose most of the West," one diplomat said, reflecting the dwindling confidence in the secular rebels’ ability to accomplish anything on their own. The shift in Western priorities, particularly the United States and Britain, from removing Assad towards combating Islamist militants is causing divisions within international powers backing the nearly three-year-old revolt, according to diplomats and senior members of the coalition.
Read more:

President Obama willing to extend deadline on U.S.-Afghanistan security deal

President Obama is prepared to extend a Dec. 31 deadline in a concession to Afghan President Hamid Karzai aimed at getting him to approve a security agreement that would permit U.S. forces to stay in Afghanistan past 2014, aides say.
The White House has warned for months that all U.S. forces will be withdrawn unless a deal is reached, and top advisors to Obama are increasingly comfortable with that prospect. At least two senior officials say the so-called zero option is strategically viable and politically acceptable, although it still isn't the preferred outcome.
Support among Obama's senior staff has grown for a full withdrawal despite objections from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and at the Pentagon, who warn that hard-won gains by U.S. forces over the last 12 years could be reversed amid the still-bitter insurgency.
Both sides point to Iraq, which has fallen into sectarian violence since the White House withdrew all U.S. forces in 2011 after the government there refused to sign a similar deal. But the bloodletting in Iraq has barely been noticed by an American public relieved to leave the unpopular war behind. Obama remains committed to the Afghan security agreement and wants the strategic planning to begin now. But several aides said he had agreed in principle to let the Dec. 31 signing deadline slide for several weeks.
Some in Obama's inner circle are so exasperated with Karzai that they are willing to wait until the Afghan presidential election is held April 5, as Karzai has demanded, hoping his successor will then sign the pact. That option remains under consideration, but Obama is unlikely to wait that long.
"The election is not for several months, and could take time to play out" if a runoff is required, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. "That timeline doesn't work for us."
Waiting for the election "is not the preferred view," the official said, "but we haven't closed the door on it entirely."
The shift in U.S. thinking comes after weeks of internal debate about how to persuade the mercurial Afghan leader to sign the deal. Both sides have sought to gauge whether the other is bluffing in its demands and threats. In public, the White House continues to call for Karzai to sign the deal as quickly as possible.
"There are no changes that are going to be made to that agreement," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. "It can either be signed or not signed, and we believe the message is clear, emanating from Washington and from our representatives in Kabul, that it's time to sign this agreement."
The moving deadline is meant to leave flexibility for the Afghan government, aides to Obama say.
Some U.S. officials warn that without U.S. troops to conduct counter-terrorism operations and assist the Kabul government, Afghanistan could revert to the kind of ethnic warfare and political instability that provided a haven for Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
But other experts say the terrorist network and its allies now pose a far greater threat in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and North Africa, and that 12 years of war and drone strikes in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan have killed nearly all the core leadership, leaving a local insurgency that doesn't threaten American interests.
The security agreement doesn't specify how many Americans would remain after 2014. Some administration officials have suggested that a few thousand, including special operations forces, would be sufficient, while military commanders have suggested that 10,000 to 12,000 are needed to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. The accord also would provide the Afghan government with billions of dollars in military and economic aid, and give U.S. troops legal immunity from prosecution under Afghan law.
Administration officials do not agree on how quickly the deal must be approved for the Pentagon to adjust its plans. Some suggest early 2014 is a crucial period, while others argue that the Pentagon can draw down the remaining 47,000 U.S. troops and recalibrate later, if a deal emerges, to leave a residual force in place. After a year of tense negotiations, the agreement was brokered last month and Karzai presented it to a traditional assembly of civic and tribal leaders, known as a loya jirga, for approval. The 2,500 members overwhelmingly did so and urged Karzai to sign it by Dec. 31, as the White House had requested.
But Karzai unexpectedly issued new demands, saying he would sign only if U.S. forces agreed to end night raids on Afghan homes and if Washington did more to help forge peace with the Taliban. He also said he wouldn't sign before the April 5 election.
The administration's timetable is driven in part by domestic politics. Polls show a majority of Americans favor speeding up the U.S. withdrawal, and support for getting all American troops out as quickly as possible is especially strong among Democrats. The Afghan war has claimed the lives of 2,300 Americans since U.S. forces invaded in late 2001. Some analysts question how America's future commitment to Afghanistan is being decided. Anthony Cordesman, a former State and Defense department official now at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Karzai's willingness to sign the agreement shouldn't determine whether a complete U.S. withdrawal is acceptable to policymakers. The administration shouldn't set "artificial deadlines and red lines" if it doesn't mean them, he said. More important, he said, the administration has not laid out its strategic plan and a cost-benefit analysis that justifies keeping a long-term force in Afghanistan. "The problem in assessing the zero option is that there are zero plans, zero real debate over the issues that matter, and therefore zero substantive credibility," Cordesman said.

Afghan Policewoman, Pregnant Teacher Kidnapped, Hanged

Afghan police are investigating the kidnapping and brutal killings of a female police officer and a pregnant teacher in the southern province of Oruzgan. Provincial government spokesman Abdullah Hemmat told RFE/RL that policewoman Feroza, 27, and her sister-in-law, 22-year-old teacher Malalai, were apparently hanged first and then shot in the head. Hemmat said the women's bodies were found on December 18 on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Trinkot. Family members told the authorities the women had been missing since December 16. There have been no claims of responsibility for the killings.

Hamid Mir sides with Yazidi terrorists by proposing change of Chehlum route
Hamid Mir, an Islamabad-based journalist who is known for his pro-Taliban reporting, has again sided with the Yazidi terrorists by proposing that Shiites should change the route of anniversary of Chehlum of Imam Hussain (AS) in Rawalpindi.
He argued that in view of security threat, route of the mourning procession of Chehlum anniversary should be changed. But, he forgets that for the first time in the history, organizers of Masjid-e-Zarrar that sponsored an organized attack on Ashura procession has announced holding a conference on Chehlum.
Rule of law requires the government of Pakistan to ensure the security of the route that has been endangered again by the Yazidi nasbi Deobandi fanatics whose malafide intention is proved by proposed conference on Chehlum. That means they have again planned to attack the mourning procession like they did on Ashura.
Hamid Mir had contributed an exclusive interview of Osama Bin Laden in which he claimed to posses nukes. That interview was also a disservice to Muslim Ummah because Bin Laden was an agent of the U.S. and that stance made the global public opinion believe that Osama was planning nuclear attacks from inside Af-Pak region.
Relatives of Colonel Imam and Mr. Khwaja have said that Hamid Mir got them assassinated through Taliban terrorists. Both were kidnapped and killed in the captivity. So, some quarters dubbed him as double agent.
However, Shiites of Pakistan rejected his proposal saying that suicide bombers attacked Shia namazis inside mosques and mourners inside Imam Bargah and murdered Shia doctors in their clinic and other professional in their offices and on roads. They went on to plant bombs in their cars. Should these attacks be deemed justifiable for demands that Shiites should not go to their mosques, imam bargahs and offices?
So security threat exists everywhere and no saner person will propose to such persons to live their lives inside their homes and never dare coming out. It is logical and justifiable to demand that the terrorists and fanatics should be eliminated and crushed to remove the security threat. Army personnel, police cops continue to wear uniforms and perform duties despite several attacks on them, would Hamid Mir like to propose to them not to perform their duties and not to wear uniforms to avoid attacks of the terrorists. Should they change their deployment in view of security threat or should they establish their writ by eliminating terrorists.

Pakistan likely to pull out of Asia Cup, World Twenty20 in Bangladesh due to security issues
Pakistan Cricket Board has raised concerns over the growing anti-Pakistan sentiments in Bangladesh and says it will wait until January to take any decision.
The Pakistani cricket authorities might be maintaining a diplomatic stance on their national team's participation in the forthcoming Asia Cup and World T20 events in Bangladesh, to be held early next year, but chances of a pullout are looming large. A source told PTI that there are concerns in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) about the situation in Bangladesh and the growing anti-Pakistan sentiments. "We are monitoring the situation but we are waiting to see what the International Cricket Council decides in January whether to hold the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in March-April or shift it somewhere else," he said.
"If the ICC shifts the World T20 from Bangladesh then the Asia Cup (in Feb-March) will also be called off in Bangladesh and postponed for the next few months until a feasible window and host is found for the tournament," he said.
The official said that since both events were multi-nation tournaments, the PCB would wait to see how the Asian Cricket Council and ICC react to the situation in Bangladesh. But he didn't rule out the possibility of Pakistan independently deciding to pull out of the events if the situation in Bangladesh deteriorated. "That is an option always open to us because if we feel it is not secure for our team in Bangladesh or if we get advice from the government then we will have to act accordingly," the source said. Protests against Pakistan have grown in Bangladesh since the Pakistan parliament passed a resolution against the execution of a Jamaat-e-Islaami leader in Bangladesh, who opposed the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 and was treated as a war criminal.
Yesterday, protesters demanded that the Bangladesh government sever all diplomatic relations with Pakistan.
The Pakistan foreign office has also said it was monitoring the situation in Bangladesh and would advise the PCB in due course of time.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Cricket Board has said they were hopeful that things would settle down after the elections in January.
Relations between the Pakistan and Bangladesh boards deteriorated in the last two years after Bangladesh twice pulled out of short tours to Pakistan despite making commitments.
"Yes, there is a anti-Bangladesh lobby in the PCB and if the situation does not improve, there could be a pullout," a source in the board said.
He pointed out that Pakistan was aware that the ICC was also in a tight spot as 25 per cent of their revenues from the World T20 were dependent on the Pakistan and India opening match of the tournament.

Bangladesh: Journos urge UN for action against Pakistan

Journalist leaders today urged the United Nations to take steps against Pakistan for its reaction over the execution of war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah.
Leaders of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) also expressed solidarity with the 20-hour ultimatum of the Gonojagoron Mancha, known for spearheading a youth movement for trying suspected war criminals.
Gonojagoron Mancha, known for spearheading a youth movement for trying suspected war criminals, yesterday issued a 20-hour ultimatum to the government to suspend diplomatic ties with Pakistan until the country sought Bangladesh’s pardon for its stance over the execution of Jamaat leader Mollah.
The Shahbagh youths issued the ultimatum to the government to suspend diplomatic ties with Pakistan until the country sought Bangladesh’s pardon for its stance over the execution of Jamaat leader Mollah. “The United Nations should take steps against Pakistan for adopting the resolution in its National Assembly,” said journalist Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, also the prime minister’s media adviser.
Addressing a protest rally in front of the Jatiya Press Club, Iqbal Sobhan also asked the main opposition to clear its stance against the Pakistan NA resolution.
He also asked the Pakistan high commissioner in Dhaka to apologise for his country’s reaction against the Bangladesh’s internal affair or leave the country closing the embassy here.
Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul, president of BFUJ, also echoed Iqbal Sobhan.
Pointing to the Pakistan high commissioner in Dhaka Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi Qureshi, Bulbul said, “Taking the shelter of the Jamaat you want to hatch conspiracy against Bangladesh even while you are staying here? I warn you that people of the country won’t tolerate it. You better shut down your embassy and leave the country,” he stated. The seasoned journalist also thanked the Pakistani journalists as well as people who protested the resolution over the execution of the war criminal.
Omar Faruque, president of the DUJ, also condemned Pakistan’s reaction and said, “When the nations across the world are praising Bangladesh for the execution, only Pakistan reacts in shelter of Jamaat.”

Bangladesh: Hasina joins outcry against Pakistan
As nationwide protests in Bangladesh continued against Pakistan’s criticism of the hanging of Jamaat leader Quader Mollah, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has joined the outcry, denouncing Islamabad for “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs.
The Pakistan National Assembly resolution and a senior Pakistani Minister’s assertion that Mollah’s execution was “judicial murder,” has incensed public opinion in the country.
The Prime Minister said: “Pakistan has proved that it never accepted the victory of Bangladesh in the Liberation War in 1971, and it still has allies in Bangladesh.”
People of all ages and political faiths have held rallies, organised processions and burnt the Pakistani flag in all major city centres including Dhaka, and even in villages.
In the capital, thousands of slogan-chanting people marched towards the Pakistan High Commission for the second day on Thursday demanding cancellation of diplomatic ties with Pakistan.
Gonojagoron Mancha, which had staged a unique movement early this year to demand capital punishment to the war crime convicts, has already issued a 20-hour ultimatum to the government to suspend diplomatic ties with Pakistan “until the country sought Bangladesh’s pardon” for its stand on the execution.
Thousands of activists of the Shahbag youth movement proceeded to the city’s Gulshan diplomatic area to lay siege to the Pakistan embassy, but the police did not allow them to proceed, and baton-charged them, injuring several including Imran H. Sarkar, the convener of the Mancha.
Ms. Hasina, who is facing a violent agitation being spearheaded by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami, told a meeting of the alliance on Wednesday that the Pakistani army, in collaboration with the war criminals had killed innocent people, raped women, ransacked and looted houses in 1971. She added, “but we compelled them (Pakistan army) to surrender.”
The daughter of the country’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman also blasted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan for his remark that “Quader Mollah was innocent.”
Fans and leading Bangladesh cricketers have expressed their surprise at the Pakistani cricketer-turned politician’s remarks, since Imran Khan only recently pleaded for Pakistan’s apology to Bangladesh for its Army’s brutal campaign in 1971. Kamal Hossain, eminent jurist and opposition ‘Gono Forum’ president, has dubbed the Pakistani stand as tantamount to “meddling in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.”

Pakistan: Former President Pervez Musharraf speaks out

Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has spoken publicly for the first time since he was put under house arrest earlier this year.
In interviews given to two television channels on Thursday night, he defended his actions during his nine-year rule. The former president faces charges of murder and restricting the judiciary. He has been granted bail in all cases, but has been summoned to a court hearing next week to face another charge of high treason. Mr Musharraf has remained confined to his residence in Islamabad because of security concerns. He is on a list of individuals not allowed to travel abroad.
The treason accusation relates to his decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule shortly before the Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president while still being head of the army.
"I will inshallah (God willing) get out of this pressure because I am pretty sure I did not commit any wrong thing. Whatever I did was for the betterment and welfare of Pakistan and its people," he told Pakistan's private ARY television channel. "I will face all cases... I will not run away,"
Resurgent judiciary
Gen Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999, and remained president until 2008 when a democratically-elected government forced him to resign. He went into exile soon afterwards, apparently to avoid possible imprisonment by a resurgent judiciary whose judges he had sacked during his rule.
He also faced threats from Pakistani militants who blamed him for ordering the storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque in 2007 in which more than 100 people, many of them militants, were killed.
He returned to the country in March to stand in elections, but was barred from contesting by the courts. Soon afterwards he was put under house arrest on a slew of charges, including the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the killing of a tribal Baloch politician, placing judges under house arrest and ordering the Red Mosque operation. In his first television appearance in months, Mr Musharraf defended himself against those charges and the treason allegations. Correspondents say that so far the cases against him have proceeded slowly, veering from adjournment to adjournment with little clear progress apart from the granting of bail. In November the government ordered the 70-year-old to appear before a special court on 24 December to face the treason charges. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that it will be the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military ruler will face trial for treason.
But Mr Musharraf said on Thursday that he was ready to face the trial.
"These are all [fraudulent] cases which lack any substantial evidence," he said.
"Whatever I did, I did for the people of Pakistan keeping the state's best interests in mind," he said. The former president also spoke about the Taliban threat, saying unless terrorism was controlled Pakistan would neither see investment nor a sound economy. "The Taliban are our people so we should speak to them, but we shouldn't beg them," he said.

Balochistan: Blast near girls' college in Chaman

The Express Tribune
An improvised explosive device (IED) blast took place near a girls’ college in Chaman on Friday. No loss of life was reported in the blast. “Bomb was planted in a motorbike which was parked on the main road near the college and the railway station,” said District Police Officer (DPO) Atif Ikram. Police and security forces reached the site of the blast and cordoned off the area. The DPO added that “the blast took place right after vehicles of security forces passed by the college.” “It is possible that target of the blast was the security forces,” the police officer further stated. According to Bomb Disposal Squad, two kilogrammes of explosive materials were used in the blast.

Pakistan: For better or worse, cluelessness as leadership

By Ayaz Amir
We all know this government has no policy on terrorism - unless dithering passes for policy. Yet in the name of combating terrorism it has managed the impossible: a near-revolt in the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) Punjab. PSP officers haven’t come out on the Mall holding placards. But their mental state is little short of rebellious.
The cause of grievance: a half-baked move on the part of the prime minister’s secretariat to set up a new-fangled counterterrorism division, banking heavily upon the induction of army personnel and bypassing the regular police force.
I went and saw things for myself, over a hundred police officers (the PSP being the officer cadre of the police) gathered in the Central Police Office where the inspector general (IG) sits, minus the IG of course against whom there is a good deal of ill-feeling for having let the force down by not standing up to the government’s ill-conceived move (ill-conceived as they see it). I thought they would be guarded in their comments but there was no reticence at all, the mood very defiant.
PSP discontent is not the same as army discontent. It does not mean the march of the Triple One Brigade on Islamabad. But it’s serious nonetheless. As if we didn’t have enough problems already…and this at a time when the country is virtually in a state of war, or should be, against the forces of zealotry as exemplified by the Taliban.
But this is a self-created problem and a wholly gratuitous one. And I can bet anything that it comes from the District Management Group (DMG) whizz-kids in the PM’s Sectt. There are some DMG samurai there perfectly capable of such harebrained ideas. To be sure, the principal secretary, Javed Aslam, again from the DMG (there being no escaping this nuisance) is a sensible guy. How did he allow such a proposal to get through?
Nothing will come of it, I am reasonably certain. The Sharifs keep getting such brainwaves, mostly tutored by their DMG advisers on whom they seem to excessively rely (there is a treatise on psychology here waiting to be written). It’s like that great brainwave about digging a tunnel through the Margalla Hills and creating another Islamabad on the other side of the mountains, the idea riding the prime minister’s imagination soon after coming to power. Terrorism, the Taliban, energy crisis, state of the economy…all these paled before the vision of that feat of engineering. Where is it now? In that great dustbin reserved for bizarre ideas. Judging by that yardstick, the fate of this police scheme is likely to be no different. But needless damage has been done. And the IG has been made to look like a pliant instrument in the government’s hands. Doomed command. Will his officers look up to him anymore? None of this is earth-shaking stuff but it does reflect a bigger problem: a lack of capacity at all levels of government. Institutional reform we find difficult. So we go for shortcuts. Some bright DMG officer close to the PM or the chief minister Punjab prepares a working paper. There is little political input because no one has time for that and with this government there is little political input to begin with. Only this time a wishy-washy idea has struck the hard rock of PSP resistance and the government doesn’t know what to do.
The Sharifs have a presentation problem, and something to do with the English language as well. A good presentation is eye-catching and DMG boys are good at this. I have seen it myself…the promotion and adoption of a measure no matter how fanciful and unrealistic, provided the presentation is skilful. And DMG unity is exemplary, officers protecting each other’s flanks and covering for each other.
All the dumb ideas mooted in Punjab in the last five years – sasti roti, sasta tandoors, daanish schools, aashiyana housing schemes, etc – schemes barely mentioned nowadays, came about in this manner, the intellectual seeds scattered by the mostly young officers around the CM. The Punjab governance got away with all this because on the other side we had the disaster which was the PPP. Anything looked good, even heroic, in comparison. Another thing to note: between the DMG and PSP exists a rivalry for one-upmanship and supremacy more bitter than Indo-Pak rivalry. The DMG is no good looking after its own work – revenue, for instance, and other departments which come under its purview – but as a tradition it is eloquent at pinpointing the failings of the police. I am no admirer of the PSP. No man in his right mind can be an admirer of any government department (save perhaps the Post Office which used to work so well but we’ve managed to destroy it, even as we managed to destroy our railways). The last district police officer in Chakwal was a talkative clown, given to the kind of bootlicking of dumb politicos that an average thanedar would have found beneath his dignity. But then I have seen district coordination officers (usually from the DMG) keeping goats and buffaloes in their official houses and having men from the agriculture department looking after them. From personal knowledge I can say that DMG officers are not above getting cuts and commissions, ingeniously to be sure, from the line departments, like road-building, etc. Call this the steel-frame of any empire? Whatever name we give to this state of affairs it doesn’t entitle any DMG officer to cast stones at the police department. In their respective spheres both luminous services are about equally corrupt and incompetent (which doesn’t make the journalist or the politician any better but that’s another tale to tell).
As pointed out by Ejaz Haider on this page, the Punjab police is a large force, at over 170,000 in its ranks equal to about three corps of the Pakistan army (the strength of the British army today is 80-90,000). You can’t keep interfering in the working of this force and then expect it to perform like a well-oiled organism. What if regimental and brigade commanders in the army were appointed on the advice of politicians. Would anything be left of the army? Similarly, if an IG is not master of the force he commands and the CM’s secretariat keeps interfering in its working all the time how does anyone expect him to deliver? These are the things that need looking into.
It would also help if half the Lahore police were not employed guarding so-called VIPs. If there was one residence to guard that would be different. But when there is an extended family and hangers-on and different wives and so on, and a string of establishments to protect, people start talking and that’s not good for any organisation, least of all a supposedly disciplined one, especially when ordinary cops and thanedars and even police officers die in the line of duty, victims of terrorism, and the priorities at the top are different instead of making the fight against terrorism the number one priority.
Tailpiece: After only six months not even the government’s wildest detractors would have brought up the subject of mid-term elections. It just wouldn’t sound right. Trust Ch Nisar, this government’s gift to brevity, to mention the unthinkable and make it a familiar topic of public conversation. But the opposition walking out of the National Assembly when Nisar uses the word ‘tamasha’ to describe their performance…since when was this a word of abuse? Walkouts should be for exceptional things, not variations of language. The art of the riposte, the telling counter-attack, when will our heroes learn that?
Tailpiece Two: Considering the frequency with which the new army chief is calling on the PM, and the PM looking so pleased when he meets him, the army chief may consider having a permanent office for himself in the PM House.

Pakistan: Take decision on Taliban issue soon or situation will worsen

Leader of the opposition Syed Khurshid Shah Friday said that the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan must take back his word ‘Tamasha’ uttered in the parliament, which the opposition parties consider it to be contemptuous remark against the opposition.
Talking to Geo News here, Syed Khurshid Shah said that he would be seen standing with the government in every difficult time, but insisted for taking back the word ‘Tamasha’ uttered by Chaudhry Nisar in the parliament. He said that Chudhry Nisar was in the habit of heating up the environment of the assembly through his speeches.
Referring to the dollar weakening against rupee, he said it augurs well and added he would not make the government target of criticism.
As regards local bodies elections, he said that the success of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in Karachi hinged on the voters’ leanings.
Leader of the opposition, Khurshed Shah said that the government would have to take a decision on the Taliban issue soon or the situation would deteriorate.