Friday, January 3, 2014

Bahrainis hold anti-regime rally near Manama

Bahraini demonstrators have held an anti-regime protest in the village of Shakhora, west of the kingdom’s capital city, along with the leader of the country’s main opposition party. On Friday, Sheikh Ali Salman, who is the head of the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, also attended the protest to condemn jailing of photographers and activists by the Al Khalifa regime. The rally came a day after Bahrainis held protest rallies across the Persian Gulf kingdom, calling for the downfall of the regime. Over the past months, the Bahraini regime has stepped up its heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful protesters and activists in the country. In late December 2013, a court in Bahrain sentenced five opposition protesters to 15 years in prison on charges of being behind two bomb attacks, including one during the 2012 Formula One race. Reports say the protesters told the court that they had confessed under duress. On December 24, 2013, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights censured the Al Khalifa regime for arresting and torturing the youth and keeping them in detention for long periods. Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, calling for political reforms and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests. In October 2013, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “The [Bahraini] authorities simply slap the label 'terrorist' on defendants and then subject them to all manner of violations to end up with a 'confession'.”

Waging war on Russia: Looking into Volgograd terror blasts

Eric Draitser
The heinous terrorist attacks in Volgograd in recent days are merely the latest chapter in a terrorist war aimed at destabilizing Russia politically and economically, while tearing at the very fabric of Russian society.
As the families of the more than 30 dead mourn their loved ones, details of the incidents are beginning to paint an all-too familiar picture for anyone who has followed the development of jihadi groups in the Russian Caucasus. A suicide bomber detonates explosives inside a crowded railway station, killing at least 17 and wounding many more. Another bomber strikes an electric trolleybus, killing 14 and critically wounding many more, including several small children. Such scenes of carnage are nothing new to the Russian people, who have endured nearly two decades of terrorism and paid a heavy price in lives and resources.
While it is always important to take time to remember the innocent lives lost, it is equally critical to examine these incidents in the broadest political and geopolitical context in order to understand how and why these tragedies occurred.
Specter of Terrorism in Russia
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian people have been repeatedly victimized by acts of terrorism emanating from the Caucasus region. Beginning in 1999, with the infamous apartment bombings that killed more than 300 innocent people in several cities including Moscow, there have been a number of high-profile attacks all across the country, including the bombing of airports, marketplaces, trains and bus stops, targeted assassinations of community and religious leaders, as well as the infamous Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002. These incidents are far more than mere national tragedies to be understood in isolation from one another. Rather, they represent a continuing campaign of terror by internationally connected jihadi organizations, based in the Russian Caucasus, who are intent on waging war against the Russian people and the Russian state.
While the facts surrounding the most recent bombings are still being gathered, investigators have noted that the tactics – a suicide bomber in a crowded public space – are characteristic of the terror organizations of the Caucasus, either directly or loosely affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In fact, it seems that this recent attack simply replicates the tactics of a similar attack which killed a prominent Muslim cleric in the Russian republic of Dagestan in 2012. Such incidents have become all too common in the troubled region, particularly as jihadi organizations take root in places like Syria, a mere 800 miles from the Russian Caucasus. When analyzing jihadi terrorism in Russia, the name Doku Umarov and his Imarat Kavkaz organization, will undoubtedly appear. Umarov has a long track record of organizing terrorist operations in Russia, including kidnappings, bombings and assassinations. His propaganda outfit, known as Kavkaz Center, has an extensive history of supporting and legitimizing terrorist actions throughout the region, rationalizing atrocities committed in the name of “resistance.” In fact, Kavkaz engages in perpetual upside-down logic, referring to Russians as “terrorists” and terrorists as “heroes.”
This type of Goebbels-esque propaganda is the hallmark of Western imperialist projects; most recently in the conflict in Syria in which the Western corporate media and the like refer to terrorism and subversion as “rebellion and freedom-fighting.” Additionally, it is essential to note that Imarat Kavkaz (Umarov’s terrorist organization translated as “Caucasus Emirate”) has been listed by the United Nations as an organization associated with Al-Qaida. Kavkaz Center has been described by Umarov himself as “the official information organ of the Imarat Kavkaz.” This, of course, supports the claims made repeatedly by Moscow of the connection between Chechen and other extremists in the region and Al Qaeda, a claim which, until recently, Kavkaz Center continued to deny.
Geopolitics of Terrorism in Russia
One cannot simply focus on Umarov or any other individual terrorist group, for that would be not seeing the forest for the trees, missing entirely the larger context within which such acts of terror occur. As a world power, Russia finds itself at the forefront of some of the key geopolitical conflicts in the world today. Whether playing the role of peacemaker in Syria, oil superpower, or weapons/defense manufacturer, Russia is perpetually in conflict with Western powers who seek to further expand their hegemony throughout Eurasia even if takes form of a ‘missile shield’.
In examining possible connections between the recent terror attacks and world events, the continuing conflict in Syria immediately comes to the fore. Not only has the war in Syria dragged Russia, along with other world powers, into a political conflict, it has also energized the terror networks of the Russian Caucasus. As the Huffington Post, along with a number of other mainstream media sources, has documented, Chechen (and other Caucasian) fighters constitute a sizeable contingent among the jihadi elements waging war on Assad and the Syrian people (though this has been denied by Chechnya’s leadership). Groups such as the Muhajireen Brigade, led by their commander known as Abu Omar al-Chechen, have been instrumental in maintaining the fighting in the face of the defeat of many of the Syrian and regional jihadi groups.
Although terrorists from the Caucasus are having a major impact on the ground in Syria, perhaps the greater threat is their ability to freely travel back to their places of origin. Keeping in mind that Syria is only about 800 miles from the Russian Caucasus, the danger is self-evident: battle-hardened fighters returning from the war in Syria bring with them their newly acquired expertise as killers, only to turn their attention back to their perceived great enemy: Russia. Of course, the question of proximity to Syria is important for another, perhaps more frightening reason – the closest major Russian city is Sochi, site of the Olympics next month. Naturally, many have speculated that the Olympics were a motivating factor for carrying out the attacks in Volgograd, that they were intended to send a message to both Moscow and the world on the eve of the games. While the extent to which Sochi was a motivating factor is up for debate, what is undeniable is that Russia occupies a precarious space in global politics, one that often leads to conflicts, both overt and covert, with other nations and global powers. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel, all part of the greater US-NATO sphere of influence, have a vested interest in ensuring that Russia does not cement its dominance of energy supplies to Europe in the coming decades.
Any conflict between Russia and these countries, as we see currently playing out in Syria, should be understood as merely one aspect of a larger geopolitical and strategic conflict between Russia and the West (US-NATO-GCC-Israel primarily). As the Russian Caucasus has become a critical part of Russian energy delivery infrastructure, it has taken on an added importance. The South Stream Pipeline, along with a number of other projects, has positioned Russia as a principal energy source for Europe, thereby weakening the position of Western energy interests who would love to monopolize the flow of oil to Europe. As long as Saudi Arabia and other US clients continue to be a primary source of energy, their interest will always be the destabilization of Russia.
Terror Lobby
Although one might be able to pinpoint the terrorist group that carried out the atrocities of recent days, this is merely the first step. Far more important in the long term is an understanding of how such organizations operate and how they survive. In the Russian Caucasus, Doku Umarov and similar leaders only exist because of an elaborate network of financiers and influential policymakers who portray their war of terrorism as a “liberation struggle.” Terrorists such as Umarov are best understood by their connection to the various organs of Western intelligence.
One such entity that bears scrutiny is the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (ACPC), previously known as the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. As reported by Right Web at the Institute for Policy Studies: “The ACPC was founded in 1999 by Freedom House, a neoconservative organization that has worked closely with the U.S. government, receiving funds from the National Endowment for Democracy and other US democratization initiatives.” This intimate relationship between the ACPC and the US State Department indicates not merely a confluence of interests, but rather a direct relationship wherein the former is an organ of the latter.
The paternalistic role of the US intelligence establishment in the ACPC is made all the more evident when one examines some of the more well-known members of the ACPC, including former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle and other top neocons such as William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman and Robert Kagan. What becomes apparent in even a cursory analysis of these figures is that, despite the preponderance of neoconservatives, the top members of the ACPC are pulled from both the liberal and conservative establishments. Therefore, one can see how the ACPC represents a bipartisan consensus within the US ruling class – a consensus of aggression against Russia.
The ACPC has taken the lead in championing the cause of separatism and terrorism directed toward Russia, both tacitly and overtly. After having championed the cause of former Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov in his quest for asylum in the United States – subsequently granted along with a generous taxpayer-funded stipend – ACPC member Zbigniew Brzezinski went so far as to write the foreward to Akhmadov’s book “The Chechen Struggle.” The alliance between political figures such as Akhmadov and terrorist leaders in the region demonstrates conclusively the partnership between the various terror networks and the ruling class in the West.
Situated between Syria and Central Asia, and straddling the energy-rich Caspian region, the Russian Caucasus has become a flashpoint in world affairs. The geopolitical realities are brought into stark relief by the unimaginable grief of the families of innocents killed needlessly by these horrific acts of terrorism. In mourning the dead, we must come to understand more clearly, and on a systemic level, how international terrorism operates, and how it is used as a weapon by the forces of empire.

Russia's new terror threat: Ethnic jihadis

The suspected involvement of converts to Islam in Russian suicide bombings points to the growing reach of jihadists far beyond the Muslim provinces of Chechnya and Dagestan, where insurgency and separatism have simmered for two decades. Russian news media say the authorities suspect an ethnic-Russian convert to Islam may have been behind one of the two suicide bombings that killed a total of 34 people in the past two days in Volgograd, a southern Russian city.Another convert is suspected of building a bomb used to kill seven people in the same city two months ago.
The attacks came half a year after two Chechen brothers who had lived in Dagestan became the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three Americans, sign that a conflict once seen as remote by the West could have consequences far afield. Security experts say that insurgents have used ethnic Russians to carry out attacks in other parts of Russia, both because of the symbolism of their conversion to radical Islam and because Slavic appearance could help them avoid detection.
"This is a new strategy that we have been seeing more often lately. It's a massive problem for law enforcement agencies," said Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia's security services.
Pavel Pechyonkin, named by Russian news agencies as a possible suspect in the first of two attacks within 24 hours - a suicide bomb that killed 18 people at Volgograd's railway station on Sunday - was a paramedic from the Mari El region in central Russia. An ethnic Russian on his father's side, he converted to Islam, his mother's religion. He left home in 2011 to join insurgents in Dagestan, his parents said earlier this year in a video message posted on the Internet, appealing to their son to lay down arms. In response, Pechyonkin recorded his own video message, saying he was following God's will. "Here Muslims are being killed and kidnapped ... Why should we follow those Christian commandments, when Allah urges us to fight those kafirs? Why shouldn't we leave their children orphaned?" he said, wearing a green tunic and skull cap. Authorities also believe an ethnic Russian from the Moscow suburbs, Dmitry Sokolov, built a suicide explosive belt detonated by his Dagestani wife in a bus bombing in Volgograd in October, law enforcement sources in Dagestan said. The two met on online Islamist chat rooms. Sokolov was killed by Russian security forces in November, alongside four other militants in a house in Dagestan.
Vladimir Putin crushed separatists in Chechnya when he rose to power 14 years ago. But an Islamist insurgency spread to neighbouring Dagestan and remains the deadliest conflict in Europe. Fighters have recruited to their ranks from as far afield as Canada. Yekaterina Sokirianskaya, a Caucasus expert at International Crisis Group, says many new converts adopt a fundamentalist form of Islam that often puts them in conflict with their families and makes them more prone to "radicalisation".
"They are very attractive to insurgents," Sokirianskaya said. "The last attack could have been carried out only by a Slavic man, this is clear, because security measures were tightened and a women in a hijab would have been noticed."
Heavy security around Sochi means an attack on the Black Sea resort city where the Olympics will be held in February would be extremely difficult, security experts say, but the greatest potential threat is from a suicide bomber.
"This is very effective tactic. It requires very little preparation and very little money, but it is very hard to stop," Alexei Filatov, deputy head of the veterans' association of the Alfa anti-terrorism unit.
Russian police have launched a security operation making no secret that they are targeting migrants from Muslim areas. A bomber recruited from another part of Russia, preferably with a Russian-sounding name, would have an easier time reaching a target than one with a Muslim name whose identity documents were issued in Chechnya or Dagestan. More than 120 people have become suicide bombers during Putin's rule, Grigory Shvedov, editor of website, which tracks the unrest. A harsh crackdown on adherents of the strict Salafist strand of Islam practiced by militants has added fuel to the insurgency, Shvedov and other experts say. "Although brute force is being used in the North Caucasus now, they (the authorities) cannot build a wall thick enough to prevent terrorists from slipping out," Shvedov said.
Local militant groups in Chechnya, Dagestan and other North Caucasus provinces united in 2007 under the leadership of Doku Umarov, a former Chechen rebel, whose Caucasus Emirate group says it was behind suicide bombings that killed 37 people at a Moscow airport in 2011 and 40 on the Moscow subway in 2010. He urged his fighters in a video posted online in July to use "maximum force" to prevent Putin staging the Olympics.

Video:Bad weather woes for Europe and U.S.

Severe snow storms in the U.S. and flooding in Britain is causing havoc for families and businesses, while Germany and France are enjoying exceptionally mild temperatures. Hayley Platt talks to meteorologists to find out what's behind the extreme variations and if this is the pattern we should get used to.

Over 1,800 flights cancelled in US due to snow storm

US airport officials report on Thursday that over 1,800 international and local flights have been cancelled and almost 3,000 delayed in a number of northern and eastern states due to heavy snowfalls.

U.S.A: Blizzard blasts Northeast with snow, wind and bitter cold

The heavy snow falling along much of the mid-Atlantic Coast into New England is expected to taper off Friday as a nor'easter heads into Canada, leaving bitter cold in its wake, the National Weather Service said.
By early morning, the snowfall was nearly finished in the nation's capital; it was expected to stop by late morning in New York City, where 6 inches were covering Central Park, and by early afternoon in Boston, which got socked by nearly 15 inches. North of Boston, residents of Topsfield, Massachusetts, got nearly 2 feet of snow.The combination of cold and winds gusting more than 30 mph was expected to lower wind chill temperatures to less than 10 degrees over the mid-Atlantic and into the teens in New England.
And not just the Northeast will be hit, forecasters said. About one-third of the nation -- approximately 100 million people in 22 states -- is in the path of this storm. Snow was also predicted from the Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes, with as much as 8 inches expected in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and additional snow possible along a cold front that extends through the Midwest and into the Central Plains, the service said.
Across the country, the weather has snarled travel plans for many., which tracks cancellations due to weather and mechanical problems, said more than 2,000 flights had been canceled for Friday within, into or out of the United States. That's after more than 2,600 U.S. flights were canceled Thursday. Flights were expected to resume later Friday in much of New England, though delays were predicted at some airports. Ticket holders were urged to check with their airlines. Barb Plooster had planned to fly Friday from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Grand Rapids, Michigan, but her flight was canceled. She told CNN affiliate WICU that she was on the phone with United Airlines for five hours trying to find a way to get home but has concluded that she will have to wait until Monday. "We got a warm place to stay, get to visit the kids, the grandkids, so it's OK," she said.
New York and Long Island
A winter storm warning was to remain in effect across the five boroughs until 1 p.m., with wind gusts dropping wind chills to as low as 15 below, the mayor's office said. "This has been and remains a dangerous storm," newly sworn-in Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday in a prepared statement. "The best things people can do are to stay off the roads so we can clear them as fast as possible, and to check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbors who might need help this morning." Watch live radar New York City had gotten nearly 10 inches of snow by the time it abated late Friday morning, de Blasio told reporters. "It's hard to drive out there," he said. "If you do not need to travel today, please stay home." Sanitation workers were on 12-hour shifts to clear the city's 6,200 miles of roadways, he said. Long Island will be under a blizzard warning until 1 p.m. Friday, with wind chills as low as 10 below zero and sustained winds of at least 35 mph. Flight operations resumed late Friday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport; they were continuing -- despite hundreds of cancellations -- at LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. Temperatures in the single digits were predicted for Saturday morning. New York City public schools were closed Friday. Upstate, the capital city of Albany could get buried under 14 inches of snow, with wind chills of 15 to 25 below zero, the National Weather Service said. The weather had its fans. In Rochester, New York, CNN iReporter Blake Sampson, 29, took a picture from his apartment window. "I grew up in Minnesota, so I'm used to it," he said. "I like how quiet things get when there is a fresh blanket of snow." Massachusetts That blanket covered Boston, which expected to see 10 to 18 inches of snow and temperatures as low as 6 degrees below zero by Friday night. But limited flights were continuing into and out of Boston's Logan Airport. The state's emergency management agency predicted up to 2 feet of snow on parts of the North Shore, South Shore and Cape Cod. Students in scores of school districts were told to stay home Friday. "I guess Mother Nature wanted to give me one more gift," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said Thursday, one of his last days in the office he has held since 1993. Blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of nearby Essex and Plymouth counties -- including the communities of Gloucester, Brockton and Plymouth -- as well as Cape Cod. The state warned that midday high tides could produce "significant flooding" along the coast. The towns of Scituate and Duxbury requested voluntary evacuations of certain low-lying areas.
Connecticut and Delaware
Wind chills in parts of Connecticut were expected to range from -5 to -20 degrees Friday, and the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for most of the state through Friday morning. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged residents to take it slow and give themselves extra time for their commutes Friday. He said he expects delays but not cancellations in public transit. Delaware said state offices were closed for all but "essential employees." Chicago and points beyond In the Windy City, wind chills Friday will creep down to minus 12, with more snow possible over the weekend. The arctic blast was expected to be the coldest in 17 years, with temperatures predicted to drop below zero Sunday evening and not return to positive digits until Wednesday. Though snow in Chicago in the winter is a common event, it "can still wreak havoc on daily routines," city emergency director Gary Schenkel said. Next week could be no better for some U.S. residents. A new shot of colder air will start to move into the northern Midwest by Saturday and will dive south Monday and Tuesday, carrying zero-degree cold as far south as Nashville. "That's the coldest air we've seen that far south in several years," CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. The cold air will kick off a new storm Sunday into Monday that could affect a number of NFL playoff games this weekend. In Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers will give a cold welcome to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, when temperatures could bottom out at -17.
The U.S. weather had international implications, too: All meetings were canceled Friday at the United Nations headquarters complex on New York's East Side.

Viewpoint: Afghanistan has more to worry about than US bases

The fierce debate between the US and Afghanistan continues over when - and under what terms - President Hamid Karzai will sign the agreement to give US forces basing rights after 2014. Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid argues that the current impasse is distracting attention from far more important issues, which will actually determine the future course of stability in Afghanistan.
Nobody knows for sure what will happen in Afghanistan after 2014. The speculation is enormous, the range of optional scenarios mind boggling and the ignorance stretches from the US state department to the mountains of Khost. However, it has been the military transition and the issue of how many US forces will stay on and under what terms that have preoccupied Washington and Kabul.
The truth is that the military transition is probably easier than resolving other issues.
Critical factor
At present there are some 87,000 Western troops in the country, down from 150,000 last year. By next spring there will be fewer than 40,000 and at the end of the year 2014, zero - except for the tiny training force that the US is expected to leave behind. The most critical factor in the next 12 months is the political transition and whether the presidential elections next April will be relatively free and fair and produce a legitimate government that is acceptable to most Afghans. Caution is paramount when talking about elections in Afghanistan. On that hangs the future stability of the country - not the intensity of Taliban attacks or how many US troops remain. President Hamid Karzai, who cannot stand again, will doubtless pick a favourite to support among the 11 candidates who are so far standing.
Mr Karzai will want to make sure to choose the candidate who can best protect him and his extended family, especially from corruption charges.
The most likely candidates to gain his support are his brother, Qayum Karzai, or his Foreign Minister, Zalmai Rassoul. The difficulty is that Afghanistan's 2009 polls were so widely condemned as rigged, almost fomenting a civil war in the process, that the 2014 process - and expected result - will lack credibility. If things are even half as bad as last time, all bets are off for future stability.
Pressure points
How Mr Karzai plays the ethnic card will be of vital importance. In 2009, he claimed to have won a slim majority with the support of his fellow Pashtuns in the south and east, where the largest amount of ballot-box-stuffing took place. The non-Pashtuns - the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other ethnic groups in the north and west - refused to accept the results, claiming they had won, until US mediators intervened and the northern candidate Abdullah Abdullah willingly stepped down from contesting a second round. That scenario could well be repeated again next April with far more devastating results. This time round the non-Pashtuns will not back down if they think Mr Karzai has rigged the elections. The West has no levers or pressure points it can apply on the regime to make it compromise - and it is unlikely to use aid as a weapon.
The biggest mistake over the past two years has been the surrender of any controls that were exercised over the last electoral process by the US, the UN, Nato and other Western bodies.
Equally lacking is an economic transition. Despite the $100bn ($61.1bn, 72.4bn euros) spent on social services in the country since 2001, the West has failed to build an indigenous economy that can provide jobs for the youth and revenue for the state. The thousands of educated and pro-democracy Afghans who have worked for foreign forces will be out on the street with no prospects. Many of them will flee abroad and become illegal migrants. There is inadequate focus by Washington or Kabul on preparing for possible economic chaos once Western forces leave and aid packages are cut back. That US and Nato promise of providing $8bn (£4.9bn, 5.8bn euros) a year for the army and the economy may well dry up within a year as few in the US and Europe are in a mood to foot more bills, especially if the civil war continues.
There is also no or little attention being paid to a regional transition - the diplomatic effort needed to get neighbouring countries such as Iran, Pakistan, China, the Central Asian republics and important near neighbours such as India, Russia and Saudi Arabia to forge an agreement not to interfere in Afghanistan's affairs. And not to arm and fund their favourite warlord proxy as they did in the 1990s, which led to the devastating civil war. These transitions need, above all, reconciliation with the Taliban and agreements that bring them into the political system rather than leave them out in the cold as enemies.
The focus on reconciliation earlier on in the year has subsided.
Talks could resume if there is a new president in April who is seen to have wide support and whom the Taliban could trust. But are the Americans and Nato ready to help in such talks? If these important issues are not discussed with Mr Karzai now, the consequences could be terrible. A rigged election and a continuation of the war with the Taliban could lead to thousands of casualties, tens of thousands of refugees, a humanitarian crisis and international terrorist groups returning to Afghanistan. The world will have no will to intervene once again, and the neighbouring states will pour in money and arms to try and control some of the warlords. As the Americans leave and in order to highlight these outstanding problems, what is needed is a genuine neutral mediator who can help all the elements in this complex equation reach the right conclusions. The United Nations or the European Union or individual, non-controversial countries such as Norway or Germany could play such a role. The tragedy is that the US and Nato-led war has emasculated the potential peacemakers and mediators. We need to prepare for the Western withdrawal now by building a major Western diplomatic initiative that will replace Western military force.

Bilawal Bhutto: Wait and watch what I do from Parliament
Pakistan People's Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose posts on Twitter have been creating a storm, today cautioned his opponents that he would do much more once he is elected to parliament. "If my tweets freak you out so much wait and see what I can do from parliament," the scion of the Bhutto family said in a tweet. He became eligible to contest parliamentary polls when he turned 25 in September.
Bilawal's tweet yesterday on former dictator Pervez Musharraf missing a court hearing due to health problems had led to a war of words on the micro-blogging site. He demanded the setting up of an independent medical board to verify Musharraf's heart ailment, hours after the former army chief was admitted to a military hospital. "All medical excuses must be verified by an independent oard of doctors. I have an ouchy is no excuses (sic) to skip your treason case," the patron-in-chief of the PPP tweeted. "I can't believe this coward ever wore the uniform of our brave and courageous armed forces. Disgrace," he said, launching a scathing attack on the 70-year-old Musharraf.
Bilawal has been increasingly voicing his views on various issues in recent weeks and has announced that he and his sisters, Aseefa and Bakhtawar, would become part of mainstream politics before the next general election in 2018. On the other hand, Aseefa tweeted: "Hope for Musharraf's speedy recovery so he can finally enter the court."
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Bilawal Bhutto calls for medical board to examine Pervez Musharraf's ailment

Pakistan Peoples Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday demanded constitution of an independent medical board to verify Pervez Musharraf's heart ailment, hours after the former military ruler was admitted to an army hospital.
"All medical excuses must be verified by an independent board of doctors. I have an ouchy is no excuses to skip your treason case," the 25-year-old Patron-in-Chief of the PPP tweeted.
"I can't believe this coward ever wore the uniform of our brave and courageous armed forces. Disgrace," Bilawal said, launching a scathing attack on Musharraf.
The 70-year-old former president's international spokesperson retaliated to Bilawal's remarks, tweeting, "How dare you make such insinuations against General Musharraf. Don't forget your father while in office was airlifted to Dubai." Bilawal has been increasing voicing his views on various issues and has announced that he and his sisters, Aseefa and Bakhtawar, would become part of the political mainstream before the next general election in 2018.
Bilawal's sister Aseefa tweeted,"Hope for Musharraf's speedy recovery so he can finally enter the court". Musharraf who had to appear before the special treason court was rushed to a hospital on Thursday.
He left his heavily guarded farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad to attend the treason case hearing but on his way he complained of chest pain. Musharraf's convoy was immediately diverted to Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in Rawalpindi for a medical checkup after which he was admitted. Aasia Ishaque, spokesperson of Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party said, "He suffered a severe heart attack while he was on his way to the court."

Pakistan: Musharraf’s dilemma

General Pervaz Musharraf has been unable to appear before the court yet again on January 2. This time it wasn’t any bomb laid in his way that prevented the former military ruler from reaching the court. It so happened that a sudden pain appeared in Musharraf’s chest and his car had to be diverted towards the combined military hospital. He was admitted in the intensive care unit. A medical board has been constituted to diagnose him and to decide whether he should be treated in Pakistan or abroad. Musharraf’s trial under Article 6 has so far passed through unusual impasses, creating suspicion about the entire case, especially over the possible role of the intelligence agencies in getting the matter delayed. Musharraf on the other hand has been suspicious of the government’s intentions. He considers the creation of a special court, the selection of judges and the choice of the prosecutor a ploy to take revenge from him. Lately he has said that as a military man his case cannot be heard but in a military court. The question is that when Musharraf took over the reins of power, was this in the civilian sphere or the military? He has been donning the hats of both the president and that of the chief of army staff. He got his presidency ratified from his self-designed parliament through an amendment in the constitution. However, upholding the sanctity of the office of the president and Chief of Army Staff, the court has refused to issue his arrest orders. The case has also been adjourned until January 6 due to his indisposition.
Though it is all hazy and nothing could be said for certain if Musharraf will be tried at all or not, if the government had shown even an iota of political will this case would have had a different feel. A feel of justice and not what is being called a vendetta. Resurrecting the spectre of November 3, 2007, and keeping the skeletons of the 1999 coup hidden shows that a deliberate case is being created to single out Musharraf. This atonement for others’ sins by one person might not go down well internationally. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud-al-Faisal is arriving in Pakistan on January 6. He might be coming with some proposal to get the former military ruler out of the country. Saudi Arabia has been instrumental in getting Nawaz Sharif out of hot water after the 1999 coup that toppled his government. Musharraf had listened to Saudi Arabia then in favour of Nawaz Sharif. It might now be Nawaz Sharif’s turn to listen to the kingdom’s voice in favour of Musharraf.

Pakistan: Government did not ask Samiul Haq to hold peace talks: Sources

The government did not task Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) Chief Maulana Samiul Haq to revive peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), sources told Express News on Friday. Express News correspondent Aamir Ilyas Rana reported that sources clarified that the influential cleric had asked for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s time, and after meeting him, unilaterally announced that the government had given him the task to hold peace talks. On December 31, it was reported that Nawaz was looking to mend broken communication links with TTP, naming Haq as the government’s point man and ice-breaker in the proposed negotiations. The recently-initiated dialogue process had collapsed after the TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack on a North Waziristan compound. Background It should be noted that JUI-S was not invited in the All Parties Conference in 2013, which was convened to chalk out a plan to tackle terrorism. Samiul Haq was not made a part of the government’s plans of starting dialogue with the TTP after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed his reservations over Haq’s inclusion. Haq is nicknamed the ‘Father of the Taliban’ and runs a madrassa where several Taliban leaders were educated.