Thursday, April 10, 2014

Video: President Obama Speaks on Civil Rights

Blast leaves five injured in Lahore

At least five people have been injured in a blast at Pakistan Chowk in Achra area of the city, Geo News reported Friday. Our correspondent says a second blast was also heard in the area however it was yet to be known either it occurred due to explosives or electricity transformer caused the explosion. The rescue sources said five people were injured in the blast and shifted to a near by hospital. The sources said that some shops were partially damaged in the blast. Police rushed to the area following the explosion. They have yet to ascertain nature of the blast.

Putin tells Europe Ukraine gas debt 'critical', transit threatened

President Putin has written to 18 European countries, warning that Ukraine’s debt crisis has reached a “critical” level and could threaten transit to Europe. He also called for urgent cooperation, blaming Russia’s partners for a lack of action.
Among the countries who’ll receive the letter are major consumers of Russian gas such as Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland and Romania.
Given the accumulated $2.2 billion gas debt owed by Ukraine’s Naftogas, Russia’s Gazprom will be forced to ask Ukraine for advance payments, Putin said in his letter to European partners, referring to the 2009 gas contract signed between Moscow and Kiev.
“In other words, we’ll be supplying exactly the volume of gas that Ukraine pays for a month in advance,” as Itar -Tass quotes Putin's letter.
Putin added that introducing advance payments would be an extreme measure.
“We understand that this increases the risks of unsanctioned retrieval of gas flowing through the territory of Ukraine to European consumers. And it could also hinder accumulation of gas supplies in Ukraine necessary to provide for consumption during the autumn-winter period.”
Stable transit of Russian gas to Europe would require an additional 11.5 billion cubic meters of gas for Ukraine’s underground storages, which would cost $5 billion, Putin explained.
Aid from Moscow
Given all the discounts Russia has provided in the last four years, Moscow has subsidized Ukraine’s economy to the tune of $35.4 billion, coupled with a $3 billion loan tranche in December last year.
“I would underline – nobody except Russia has done this,” Putin wrote in the letter.
“And what about [our] European partners? Instead of real support for Ukraine – declarations about intentions. Promises without real action.” The European Union has traditionally used Ukraine as a source of foodstuffs, metals, mineral resources and as an export market for its machinery, chemicals and other highly-processed goods. This creates a trade deficit of above $10 billion, which is almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s 2013 current account deficit, the letter explained. “Russia should not and cannot any longer bear the brunt of supporting the Ukrainian economy alone, giving it gas discounts and forgiving debts. In fact, with these subsidies Russia pays for a deficit in trade between Ukraine and the EU member states.” Immediate consultations with European countries receiving the letter are the only possible way to resolve Ukraine’s crisis, Putin said. We need “to start coordinated action as soon as possible. And we urge our European partners to do this,” he wrote.
Russian gas in Europe
Russia’s biggest gas client is Germany which imports over 25 billion cubic meters of gas from Gazprom each year, about a third of its energy needs. Italy is another big importer, also relying heavily on Russian imports as deliveries from North Africa have proved unreliable. Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic import 100 percent of their natural gas from Russia.
Ukraine’s total debt to Russia, including the $2.2 billion bill for gas, now stands at $16.6 billion, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday. Gazprom has revoked all discounts and now charges $485 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, a price Ukraine says it will not be able to pay because it threatens Ukraine's ability to continue normal gas transit operations to Europe. Moscow cut off gas transit through Ukraine to Europe in the winters of 2006 and 2009 over similar unpaid bills to Gazprom, which left parts of Europe without heat. Moscow claims Ukraine illegally siphoned off supplies intended for Europe during this time, an accusation Kiev denies.

Bush Versus Clinton in 2016?

Could it really happen? What are the odds? Will voters really want to sign up for either a second Clinton presidency or a third Bush White House? A quick glance at the latest public opinion polls suggests it is theoretically possible at the very least. Hillary Clinton is far and away the favorite for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The sitting Vice President, Joe Biden, is not even close in the polls. The only question seems to be, will she run? It’s not likely we’ll know the answer to that question until late this year or early next.
As for possible Republican contenders for 2016, there has been a lot of talk and speculation of late about former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Like Clinton, Bush says he will make a decision later this year. But unlike Clinton, his path to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination is far less clear.
Bush has said he will only run for the presidency if he can do so “joyfully.” But you have to wonder how much joy could there be in running the gauntlet of Republican primaries and debates if the last few primary campaigns are any guide. Bush is a favorite of mainstream, establishment Republicans who worry that Tea Party conservatives have done serious damage to the Republican brand, especially in presidential election years when candidates need to appeal beyond the party base.
Pros and cons of a Bush candidacy
Jeb Bush would bring formidable political skills to a presidential run. As a former two-term governor of the swing state of Florida, Bush has experience in winning votes from beyond his own party and in the art of compromise once in office. He also has a track record of success in winning Hispanic votes probably unmatched by any other potential Republican contender not named Marco Rubio. Bush won 61 percent of the Hispanic vote when he was first elected governor in 1998 and suffered only a small drop off in his re-election victory in 2002.
On the other hand, the Republican Party has changed since he last ran for office 12 years ago. The rise of the Tea Party movement and the need for national candidates to be cautious about offending that group was on display in the Republican presidential primaries in 2012. Mitt Romney finally emerged victorious but only after fending off a number of challengers who seemed suspicious that he was a core conservative. Jeb Bush is already getting a taste of that following his recent comments about immigration reform that have sparked a conservative backlash within the party.
Bush spoke at George H.W. Bush’s presidential library and said many undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. out of what he called “an act of love” for their families. He went on to say that many of those who came into the country illegally broke the law but have not, in his view, committed a felony. “There should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
He didn’t have to wait long for a conservative response. Syndicated conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called his comments “kind of bizarre.” Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a likely White House contender in 2016, told CNN that it’s fine to celebrate the U.S. as a nation of immigrants, but “rule of law matters.” Even Karl Rove, who President George W. Bush referred to as “the architect” of his two presidential victories, said Jeb Bush’s comments were “inartful” on Fox News. “If he becomes a candidate this is going to be tossed back at him.”
This could portend a clash between Bush and the Tea Party should he run in 2016, something many mainstream Republicans would welcome. They have been more aggressive of late in taking on the Tea Party since last October’s government shutdown, which was inspired by Tea Party favorites like Ted Cruz but wound up hurting the Republican brand nationally. For those in the Republican Party establishment who want to push back on the Tea Party, a presidential run by Jeb Bush might give them the opportunity to make the case that the party can still appeal to moderate voters who wield big influence in presidential elections.
Beyond Bush’s potential problem with conservatives is another issue—the family name. The public approval ratings for his brother, former President George W. Bush, have only recently started to inch up. Some Republican strategists worry that ‘Bush fatigue’ remains a real issue for many voters and could hurt their chances in 2016.
Ready for Hillary
Hillary Clinton has been busy of late, giving paid speeches around the country and trying to duck the question of whether or not she’s running in 2016. During a recent appearance in San Francisco, Clinton said the hard question was not “Do you want to be president?” but rather “Why would want to do this?” and “What could you offer that could make a difference?”
Despite her attempts to keep a low profile there are fresh signs that Clinton would be a formidable contender if she ran. A recent poll in Iowa by Suffolk University found her winning the support of 63 percent of self-described Iowa Caucus goers. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was a distant second with 12 percent followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 10 percent.
In addition, the independent political action committee known as Ready for Hillary announced it has raised $1.7 million in the first three months of this year, another sign that Democrats would seem to be in a giving mood if Clinton decided to take the White House plunge. Ready for Hillary is not officially sanctioned by the Clinton camp but has already raised a total of $5.75 million in hopes of luring her into the race.
The media scrutiny will only intensify in the months ahead. Clinton’s new book on her time as President Obama’s secretary of state will be released on June 10th and publisher Simon and Schuster says it will include “candid reflections” about key moments during her tenure at the State Department and some “thoughts about how to navigate the challenges of the 21st Century.” Presuming the usual round of network TV interviews and media hype, it will vault Hillary Clinton back into the public spotlight and keep alive that favorite political parlor game known as, ‘Will she or won’t she?’
So what are the odds of a Clinton-Bush matchup in 2016? Clinton would seem to have an easier path to her party’s nomination that Jeb Bush. But don’t forget that Clinton was the clear favorite to be the party’s standard-bearer in 2008, only to be upset by a rookie senator from Illinois who captured the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and then went on to win a convincing victory that November over Republican John McCain.

President Obama Gets Surprise Visit From George HW Bush After Landing In Houston
President Obama had a surprise visitor upon landing at the Houston airport: former President George H.W. Bush Sitting in a wheelchair and clad in khakis and brightly striped socks, Bush greeted the president and Michelle Obama on the tarmac next to Air Force One.
Bush smiled broadly at the Obamas as they walked down the steps of Air Force One. They spoke with him for several minutes. Michelle Obama held Bush's right hand, and President Obama placed his hand on Bush's shoulder. There were lots of laughs and smiles.
"I just wanted to say hello to the president and the first lady. When the president comes to your hometown, you show up and welcome him,” Bush said.
Reporters said it was Bush's idea to come greet Obama.
George H.W. Bush has been back in the spotlight of late. Last weekend, a three-day symposium celebrated the 25th anniversary of Bush's presidency. Held at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex., it featured discussions of Bush's foreign and domestic achievements and, as is required, a Texas barbecue.
President Obama will head to Austin on Thursday, where he will meet up with another Bush: George W. Bush. Obama, Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will attend a Civil Rights Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. George W. Bush will speak Thursday evening.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Shia Taxi Driver Shot Martyred In Takfiri Terrorist Attack Near Parachinar A Shia taxi driver embraced martyrdom due to firing of Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of banned Taliban near Parachinar on Thursday. According to Shiite News, Mohammad Karam was driving his taxi when the Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of banned terrorist outfit TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) stopped him. When the terrorists came to know that he was a Shia Muslim, they pulled him out and killed him by sporadic firing upon him. The martyr was resident of Jallandar area of Kurrum Agency, FATA. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of Shia Muslim in Kurrum Agency, FATA. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of Shia taxi driver. They said that terrorists continued genocide against Shiites across Pakistan. They reiterated their demand that only a surgical operation by military to eliminate the terrorists would bring an end to ongoing terrorism.

Pakistan: BLA, LeJ have nexus with Taliban: Rehman Malik

Former Interior Minister, Senator Rehman Malik claimed today that the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have nexus with Taliban.
Talking to journalists in the Parliament House on Thursday, Malik said that the two militant organizations jointly carried out terror activities and claim responsibility for each other's bomb blasts. He said that BLA has suicide bombers and Jundullah and LeJ have close links with it. He claimed that a person named Siyal is head of LeJ in Balochistan.
Malik said that the peace negotiations between the government and Taliban seem to be failing, as different groups of Taliban are against the talks. He said that according to his information, Taliban and BLA will unite in future to carry out subversive activities. He said that army should be taken into confidence regarding the peace talks with Taliban.
The former Interior Minister said that terrorists of Ghazi force study in seminaries of Islamabad while Bara Kahu is going to be their stronghold. He said that 500 terrorists belonging to Ghazi force are present in Kohat. Speaking about the blast in Islamabad Fruit and Vegetable Market, Malik claimed that bomb was not placed in the fruit crate; rather it was already planted in the market. Malik also claimed that 2013 elections were rigged and demanded investigation. Rehman Malik further predicted a deal in the offing between ex-president Pervez Musharraf and the government, allowing the former dictator to leave the country. Malik said that he believes Musharraf's departure is imminent. Musharraf is currently on the Exit Control List (ECL), and is barred from leaving the country.

Pakistan: Two children injured by low intensity blast in Peshawar

The Express Tribune
Two children were injured by a low intensity blast in Dir Colony within the jurisdiction of Chamkani police station on Thursday night. Police said that the blast occurred near the residence of Jamaati-e-Islami (JI) MPA Saeed Gul, but that the target was his neighbour Syed Qayum Shah. “It was a low intensity bomb blast which damaged the gate of the house and left two children wounded,” said a police official while talking to The Express Tribune. He said that the children were inside the house at the time of the attack and they were rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital. It looks like another incident of extortion, he added.

Bilawal Bhutto Warns: Even PM may become victim of PPO

Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned Thursday that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may himself one day become a victim of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance if it is passed in its current form.
The controversial anti-terror law has become the topic of much debate in Pakistan, with critics and opposition members saying it gives sweeping powers to security agencies to infringe the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under the constitution.
Opposition parties have vowed to stop the legislation from being passed into law without significant amendments.
Meanwhile, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP said that the bill is under the review of the Senate, and that his party will try to amend the law.
Babar said that if the law is passed while retaining its current shape, it will provide legal cover to enforce disappearances, and extra-judicial killings would become the norm.
The bill was passed late on Monday amid protests from members of parliament and condemnation from international rights groups. The law empowers Pakistan's already powerful security forces to shoot terrorism suspects at sight, detain suspects for up to 90 days, conduct secret trials and transfer cases to special courts. The law is yet to be approved by the opposition-controlled Senate.

Pashto song dedicated to Dr Najibullah

Dr Najibullah's speech about Terrorist ISI Pakistan

PPP is the party of Martyrs & Masses: Bilawal Bhutto pays tributes to Shaheed Najeeb Ahmed
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has paid glowing tributes to Shaheed Najeeb Ahmed who was martyred by terrorists 25 years back in Karachi for putting stiff resistance against the anti-democratic forces and their armed puppets.
In a press statement on the 24th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Najeeb Ahmed, the former President of Peoples Students Federation (PSF), Karachi Division, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said PPP is a Party of Martyrs and Masses and it can never forget and ignore the two while it continues struggle for the goals our martyrs fought together. “PPP and its Jiyalas adore our martyrs in our hearts and homes,” he added.
He pointed out that Shaheed Najeeb Ahmed inspired the students contribution in nation’s movement for restoration of democracy and against the dictatorial rule and he was one of the prominent leaders of PSF who led the students community from the front and laid down his life for the cause of democracy and emancipation of people.
Patron-In-Chief said that PPP is the only Party in Pakistan where both leadership and workers sacrificed themselves and attained martyrdom for the dream of our founding fathers of a country with democracy as a political order and equal opportunities to all its citizens without discrimination of any kind and manifestation.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further said that PPP is the Party of all citizens and all segments of society in Pakistan right from students to labourers, peasants, youth, elders, artisans, social workers and hardcore political and democratic workers. “We are here to fight against all evils attacking and destroying the country. From terrorism to extremism, provincialism to ethnic politics, discrimination to exploitation everything that comes in the way of basic ideology of this nation will have to face our strong resistance,” he further stated.
PPP Patron-In-Chief said he wants revival of PSF to its glorious past and urged the student community to join the platform of PSF across the country and play their historic role in the struggle for democracy to tributes to Shaheed Najeeb Ahmed and several other martyrs of PSF Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, KPK, and AJK.
He instructed PSF leadership to start Awards for its most deserving members in memory of Shaheed Najeeb Ahmed, Shaheed Hisbani, Shaheed Alam Shoro, Shaheed Morai and others to acknowledge their sacrifices and also encourage the students to carry forward their struggle.

Pakistan Christian Couple Plea Over Death Sentence Verdict To Them.

A Christian couple verdict to death for blasphemy text messages last week by a Pakistan court has filed a petition in Lahore High Court, their lawyer said on Wednesday.
The couple was allotted the death sentence on April 4 in Toba Tek Singh in addition to a fine of Rs200, 000 after being accused of sending text messages insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
The sentencing went onward despite it transpiring that a SIM card presented as evidence by police was fake. It was the second case of blasphemy within two weeks after Sawan Masih, a Christian man from Lahore who was verdict to death sentence for articulating offensive statements against the Prophet Mohammed during a dialogue with his Muslim friend. News of the allegations generated rebellions in Lahore as crowds went about setting a Christian neighborhood of Joseph Colony on fire.
Mohammed Hussain filed the blasphemy case against the couple, he is a prayer leader in Gojra, who assumed that handicap Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kasuer sent religiously belligerent text messages to him and other Muslims.
The couple was arrested in July 2013 under Sections 295-B and 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code regarding blasphemy.The couple contested the offense, Advocate Eric John, one of the two lawyers while defending them.
“We have filed an appeal against the sentence in the Lahore High Court,” he said. “We remain hopeful that the high court will suspend the sentence and acquit the couple.”
John said that judges of the lower judiciary bench are easily influenced or forced by extremist elements in such cases. He said that around 15 lawyers were representing the petitioner and that they had daunted and harassed the judge.
According to Human Rights Watch World Report, the blasphemy law is frequently used in contradiction of religious minorities in Pakistan, often to settle personal clashes. Lots of people were charged with the crime in 2013. At least 16 people remain on death row for blasphemy, while another 20 are serving life sentences.
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CRM Apprehensive About Rising Religious Fanaticism In Pakistan

Coalition for the Rights of Minorities (CRM), an association of civil society organizations working for security of minorities’ rights, has articulated serious anxiety over a startling tendency of religious fanaticism and extremism in the country.
In a press statement issued by CRM National Coordinator Sameena Imtiaz said that the disturbing tendency of attacks on religious places poses grave risks to social interconnection and the religious freedoms visualized in the constitution of Pakistan. She said the actions were in strong violation of the PPC295 which explains injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class.
She said that the CRSS figures displayed that 13 places of Muslim and non- Muslim worship, including 2 mosques, a seminary, Tableeghi Markaz, Imambargahs, 5 sufi shrines and 3 Hindu temples were defiled during this passé.
Sameena Imtiaz demanded of the government that someone involved in destroying, damaging, or tarnishing any worship place, or any item held holy by any class of persons with purpose of offending the religion of any class of persons “shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both.” She said that culprits of utmost of these misconducts remained anonymous. However, she said that a Hindu has been identified for allegedly insulting the Holy Quran in Larkana. “Alarmingly, almost all religious parties and organizations, even those sitting in the parliament continue to stay silent on these faith-related murders and acts of desecration that are clearly covered by the blasphemy law and PPC295,” she pointed out.
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By Halimullah Kousary
Islamabad has been in peace talks with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) over last couple of months while the Afghan peace process remains derailed for years. A campaign is underway for a concerted insurgency in Afghanistan.
THE HOLDING of a largely peaceful presidential election in Afghanistan on 5 April 2014 and the taking over of security responsibility by Afghan forces from NATO in 2013, are acclaimed as significant milestones in Afghanistan’s security and political progress. However, the Taliban militancy remains a serious challenge for Afghanistan to tackle in seeking to shape the country’s long-term stability.
The US-NATO drawdown did not convince the Taliban to forego violence and enter into negotiation with the government. Just last month, they launched a bloody armed campaign targeting election rallies in a bid to disrupt the election and vowed to continue fighting the new government. Meanwhile the same Taliban pushed the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organisation of the anti-Pakistan militant groups, to negotiate peace with Islamabad. This indicates that a joint campaign is underway for waging a concerted insurgency in Afghanistan in the coming years.
Islamabad-TTP peace talks
Links between the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani counterparts can be traced back to the 1996-2001 period when the former was in power in Kabul. After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the Pakistani group split into two – one continuing fighting in Afghanistan and the other (TTP) targeting Pakistan in reaction to its alliance with the US in the war on terror. TTP was also involved in Afghanistan but its main area of operation remained Pakistan.
Secular forces in Pakistan perceive TTP as irreconcilable, an avatar of the Taliban against Afghanistan, and advocate decisive military measures as the only practical way forward. However, the government and the religio-political parties in Pakistan assume that TTP might come to negotiation – if the government dissociates itself from the US war on terror and remains neutral.
The current Islamabad government believes it has an advantage over previous governments through which it can play the card of disassociation from the war. Muslim League Nawaz, a conservative right-wing party, is leading the government. The party was out of power before war began in 2001 and remained out of power until May 2013 election – the year when the US-NATO drawdown was almost halfway through. The drawdown will be completed later this year and Pakistan will no longer be the frontline transit state for NATO and the U.S in Afghanistan.
The government also started with a strong campaign against the US drone strikes in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which was TTP’s one demand for negotiation. The drone strikes already derailed peace talks a number of times in the previous years while this time around the government seems to have urged the US to halt them at least during the peace process. Though it denies it, the US did not conduct drone strikes in FATA over the last couple of months. This unprecedented hiatus factored in bringing Islamabad and TTP to the negotiation table and holding face-to-face meeting for the first time since 2007.
TTP even agreed to negotiation within the parameters of Pakistan’s Constitution, making an unanticipated compromise on its declared goal of instituting Islamic Shariah across Pakistan. Such compromise leads to the possible conclusion that Shariah has not really been the reason for TTP militancy in Pakistan, but rather it was the latter’s axis with the US against the Afghan Taliban.
Afghan peace process hijacked
Afghanistan for years sought Pakistan’s assistance in facilitating peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. However, there have been no practical measures undertaken by Pakistan. What further complicated the peace process has been the assassinations and arrests of some Afghan Taliban leaders who are pro-peace talks. Neutralising these leaders has allowed the Afghan peace process to be hijacked and rendered the belligerent elements of the Afghan Taliban relevant in Afghanistan.
Another complication in the peace process is the Afghan Taliban’s willingness to hold talks with the US only, reasoning that the Afghan government has no legitimacy. Raising the question of legitimacy shows the significance of re-establishing an “Islamic Emirate” in Afghanistan in the thinking of the Taliban and its patrons.
The religio-political parties and even certain elements within government in Pakistan have openly predicted the possibility of the return of “the Islamic Emirate” to power in Afghanistan arguing that it was a regime “popular among Afghans”. However, the unprecedented voter turnout across Afghanistan on the 5 April presidential election has shown general defiance against the “Islamic Emirate” and the growing image of the Taliban as a proxy force.
Concerted insurgency in Afghanistan
Addressing the menace of Taliban militancy in the broader Afghanistan-Pakistan region requires a holistic approach – military or political, which should involve true cooperation from both Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the Islamabad-TTP peace talks and the Afghan Taliban’s constructive role in this regard indicate that a campaign is underway to address militancy in Pakistan and create a united Afghan-Pakistani Taliban front against the government in Afghanistan.
The peace talks with TTP has also overshadowed Pakistan’s claim of “no interference and no favourites” in Afghanistan. It appears mere rhetoric and the peace process carries a worrying prospect of intensity in violence in the coming years. The ongoing ceasefire between Islamabad and TTP has already led to an unprecedented spike in attacks in the Afghan provinces along the Durand Line and the trend could continue through the upcoming fighting season.

PPP opposes Pakistan Protection Ordinance: spokesperson

"The Pakistan Protection Ordinance is not meant to protect the country against militants rather it is license to the security agencies to continue kidnapping people and dumping bodies. "It is a devise to remove the inconvenience felt by law enforcers from being questioned by courts or parliament in cases of enforced disappearances which will be strongly opposed in the Senate."
This has been stated by Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar in a statement on Wednesday. He said the Ordinance violates the fundamental rights and is a declaration of war against our international obligations under various UN Conventions signed by Pakistan like the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of Civil and Political Rights.
By making the so-called confessions before police admissible in courts the Ordinance opens floodgates of torture in violation of the Pakistan's obligations under the UN Convention against Torture, he said. The absolute powers to law enforcers to shoot at sight, kidnap and dump with impunity, break open into bedrooms without search warrants and altering the paradigm from firing in self-defence to fire anyone anytime merely on the basis of suspicion have not been counterbalanced with even a semblance of check, he said adding "it is recipe to making the matters worse in Balochistan, Karachi and elsewhere where the trigger-happy law enforcers have already created havoc."
There already are tough laws to check political violence and the government need to focus on implementing those laws instead of thoughtlessly making further legislation. The government needs to faithfully implement those laws like the one enacted in March last year disallowing banned outfits from resurrecting under different names, he said. Unfortunately, some resurrected banned groups instead of being stamped out have been receiving official largesse in the name of charity.
Farhatullah Babar also rejected the notion that advanced democracies had also enacted tough laws to fight hardened criminals and militants. In advanced democracies the powers are scrupulously balanced with accountability and oversight but in Pakistan the law enforcers stoutly resist questioning and accountability, he said. Giving an example, he said last year the security establishment had the audacity to ask a Parliamentary Committee not to enlarge the scope of freedom of information law without a nod from it-a command that the Committee promptly rubbished.
Farhatullah Babar also said the PPP also opposed moving the courts at this stage as it was within the domain of the Parliament to debate, modify or reject the law. It is unwise to take parliamentary battle to other forums and invite their interference in matters that falls within the domain of the Parliament alone, he said.

ISI nailed in Kabul embassy outrage: 2008 bombing plan WAS hatched in Pakistan, new book claims

The role of Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence in the 2008 suicide car bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan is back in focus because of revelations in a new book, which says the attack was sanctioned and monitored by senior officials of the spy agency.
US and Afghan intelligence intercepted phone calls from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials in Pakistan, hearing them plan the attack with militants in Kabul days before the bombing on July 7, 2008.
At the time, intelligence officials monitoring the phone calls did not know what was being planned, but a high-level ISI operative's involvement in promoting a terrorist attack was clear, says The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2004, by journalist Carlotta Gall.
The evidence was so compelling that the US administration dispatched then CIA deputy chief Stephen Kappes to Islamabad to remonstrate with the Pakistanis. But the bomber struck before Kappes reached Pakistan, according to excerpts from the book.
Investigators found the bomber's cellphone in the wreckage of his explosives-laden car. They tracked down his Afghan collaborator in Kabul, a man who provided logistics for the attack.
In the book, released next month, Gall writes that the collaborator was in direct contact with Pakistan by telephone, and the number he called was that of a high-level ISI official in Peshawar. The official had sufficient seniority that he reported directly to ISI headquarters in Islamabad, according to the book.
Reports of an ISI role in the attack on the Indian mission in Kabul had also emerged weeks after the suicide bombing. At the time, sources had said an analysis of the explosives used in the attack by forensic experts of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan had concluded that they originated from the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) in the northern Pakistani city of Wah.
It is no small coincidence that some of the grenades used in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were also traced back to the POF unit in Wah. The grenades were manufactured by POF under licence from an Austrian firm. American officials also said at the time of the Kabul bombing that members of the Haqqani network, which is based in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, were involved in the attack. The suicide attack killed 58 people, including defence attaché Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta, Indian Foreign Service officer V. Venkateswara Rao, two Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel, and injured over 140.
Due to the alerts from US and Afghan intelligence, security at the Indian Embassy was strengthened before the attack. The suicide bomber struck just as the mission's main gate was opened to let in a car carrying Brigadier Mehta and the IFS officer. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had raised Pakistan's role in the attack with his then counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of a SAARC summit in Colombo in August 2008. After initially agreeing to look into India's concerns, Pakistan later contended there was "no evidence" of ISI's involvement in the attack. Gall writes in her book that the bombing of the Indian Embassy was not a "subtle attack needling an old foe" and the plan was to send "a message not just to India but to the 42 countries that were contributing to the NATO-led international force to rebuild Afghanistan".
Her book has already created a furore in Pakistan after an excerpt carried recently in The New York Times stated that the ISI ran a special desk to handle Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US raid in Abbottabad in May 2011. The book also claims there was regular correspondence between bin Laden and Pakistani jihadi leaders like Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. Pakistan denies these claims.
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Pakistan: The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2004... ''(Miffed at Carlotta’s gall)''

Dr Mohammad Taqi
“When the Taliban took Kabul days later, the first thing they did was drag Najibullah through the streets and string him and his brother up on Ariana Square...The first ring of Taliban fighters controlling the gawping crowds were Urdu-speaking Pakistanis. Some of them dark-skinned and wearing sunglasses, Abdul Waheed Wafa, a colleague who was there, told me. The ISI’s demand had been met,” writes Carlotta Gall, virtually indicting Pakistan’s intelligence agency for the murder of the former Afghan president who had asylum at the UN compound at the time. Pakistan is clearly miffed at the New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall’s new book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2004, that was just released.
Ms Gall’s account of Dr Mohammed Najibullah’s lynching, a war crime by any standard, matches what many Afghans and Pakistan’s Pashtun nationalist leaders have said all along. She also chronicles that the ISI gave orders to kill Dr Najibullah to a Taliban commander Mullah Borjan, who had travelled to Quetta before the imminent fall of Kabul in 1996. Borjan, like many other Taliban, was hesitant to carry out this particular order but confided to a Pakistani journalist that he had come from the ISI offices and that “They are insisting that the first thing we do is kill Najibullah. If I don’t, I am not sure what will happen to me.” Borjan’s Kashmiri guard killed him on his way back to Afghanistan. Someone clearly did not trust Borjan’s vacillation and had a backup plan in place to eliminate him and Dr Najibullah both.
Dr Najibullah was not the only Afghan leader that was killed. Ms Carlotta Gall, again like many Afghans, Pashtuns and analysts, has pinned the responsibility on Pakistan for commissioning a decapitation campaign against the Afghan leaders. She notes that the two Tunisians pretending to be journalists who killed the veteran anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud in a suicide bombing — the first ever in Afghanistan — two days before the 9/11 attacks, had been issued one-year, multiple-entry visas on forged Belgian passports by the Pakistan embassy in London. The assassins travelled from Pakistan to Kandahar to what was a high profile reception by the Taliban there. “The ISI undoubtedly knew of their trip,” Ms Gall has concluded. Ahmed Shah Massoud, like Dr Najibullah, had the appeal and national standing that stood in the way of Pakistan’s plans. Ms Carlotta Gall traces the tragic journey of another prominent Afghan, the former mujahideen commander Abdul Haq, back into Afghanistan right after 9/11 only to be assassinated on the direct orders of the Taliban interior minister Mullah Abdul Razzaq.
She notes, “His brothers blamed the CIA for pushing Haq into Afghanistan when conditions were still too dangerous. Those close to him claimed to see the hand of Pakistan in his assassination, too, since the interior minister was especially close to the ISI, and Haq was a strong charismatic leader who opposed Pakistan’s policies toward Afghanistan.” Ms Gall has accurately noted that Abdul Haq and his two associates were unarmed at the time. It may be worthwhile for her to probe into who denied arms to Abdul Haq starting in the settled areas of Pakistan, across FATA and in Afghanistan. Abdul Haq’s brother Haji Qadeer, who was a vice president under Mr Hamid Karzai, was gunned down nine months later.
The most recent victim of the decapitation spree against the Afghan leadership was Ustad Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former president of the country and the incumbent chair of the Afghan High Peace Council. Ustad Rabbani’s assassination in a suicide bombing was again blamed on the ISI, Ms Gall writes. This time around, Afghan intelligence caught the bomber’s accomplice and under interrogation he revealed that two Pakistani men in Quetta, whom he only knew as Mahmoud and Ahmed, had plotted the attack and sent him in with the suicide bomber. President Hamid Karzai himself has narrowly escaped several attempts on his life, including in his home province of Kandahar. Ms Gall is on the money that someone has clearly wanted the independent Afghan leadership eliminated or bombed into submission.
Ms Carlotta Gall makes a case, and has taken flak for it already, that Pakistan not only wanted these Afghan leaders dead but has all along harboured their killers, including Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. She writes that in 2005 Zawahiri crossed over from FATA into Kohat where “he negotiated to stay for one month in the governor’s home”. Her assertion that a special ISI desk handled Osama bin Laden’s sanctuary, including in Abbottabad, has already appeared in her article last month. She has a point that such operations are by design covert and planned for maximum deniability, thus precluding hard evidence of foul play, but it would have been helpful to see more supporting information in the book about both the al Qaeda leaders and Mullah Omar. It is unlikely though that she would convince any naysayer unless a directive signed in ink is produced, which obviously never happens in the murky world of clandestine wars. The onus, however, should not be on Ms Carlotta Gall to release more information but on Pakistan to officially release its own inquiry report into the raid that netted Osama bin Laden, which hopefully does not imply something more sinister than the incompetence plea Pakistan has taken. The terrorist lynchpin was found in Pakistan’s, not Carlotta Gall’s, front yard, after all.
The book is organised into 14 chapters that move in chronological order from the Taliban’s 2001 surrender through the ‘Pakistan protégés’ unleashing hell on Afghanistan courtesy the ‘suicide bomb factory’ that Pakistan’s tribal areas have become, to culminate in the people of Kandahar finally rebelling against the Taliban in 2013. Ms Gall, who has covered the region from Wakhan to Pashtunabad, Quetta, and has a Rolodex second to none, has stated at the outset, “I do not pretend to be objective in this war. I am on the side of the victims.” The account, delivered in a veteran war reporter’s flawless but unassuming language, stays true to the title drawn from the late US diplomat Richard Holbrooke’s concern that “we may be fighting a wrong enemy in the wrong country”.
The enemy, as the Afghans continue to lament, is not in the villages of Afghanistan but remains headquartered across the Durand Line in Pakistan. Why has the US failed to confront the actual threat is a question asked throughout the work. Squashing the vipers without draining the pit seems like a self-defeating exercise. Ms Gall’s conclusion, like President Karzai’s, seems to be that the US is reluctant to confront a nuclear-armed large country despite the latter’s continued backing of cross-border jihadist terrorism due to geopolitical expediency. She rightly resolves that the Afghans do not necessarily want the foreign troops but need continued assistance, training and support in both civil and military sectors if the second coming of the al Qaeda-Taliban is to be averted. Many in Pakistan are not miffed at Carlotta’s gall just for probing Zawahiri and bin Laden’s whereabouts but because she has chronicled their malicious, hegemonist behaviour pattern towards Afghanistan accurately.

A Reporter Analyzes the Driving Role of Pakistan in the Afghan War

On July 7, 2008, insurgents detonated a huge suicide car bomb outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 54 people, including an Indian defense attaché. The attack destroyed the embassy’s protective blast walls and front gates, and tore into civilians waiting outside for visas.
On one level, the attack was merely one among many that occur across this war-torn country, terribly unfortunate but numbingly frequent. But there was something particularly insidious about this one. According to United States intelligence assessments, agents from Pakistan’s chief spy organization, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were involved in planning the attack. After being briefed by American intelligence officials, President George W. Bush dispatched Stephen R. Kappes, the C.I.A.’s deputy director, to Pakistan.
The involvement of the ISI in such a high-profile attack illustrates one of the most ignominious undercurrents of the war in Afghanistan and the subject of Carlotta Gall’s new book, “The Wrong Enemy”: the role of Pakistan. Ms. Gall, a reporter for The New York Times in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than a decade, beginning shortly after Sept. 11, is in an extraordinary position to write this important and long overdue book.
At its core, “The Wrong Enemy” is a searing exposé of Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war, which Ms. Gall drives home in the book’s opening salvo. “Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy,” she pointedly writes. The book opens with the Taliban’s November 2001 defeat in Afghanistan, a striking blow to a group that had initially seized Kabul in 1996 with aid from the ISI and other Pakistan government agencies. By December 2001, however, some Pakistani officials began conspiring against the nascent Afghan government. In the Pakistan frontier town of Peshawar, more than 60 prominent insurgents and several well-known Pakistan military and intelligence figures met and plotted their revenge. “The Taliban leaders divided Afghanistan into separate areas of operations,” Ms. Gall notes. “The Taliban comeback was underway.” The Taliban then turned to the weighty task of building a base of operations. Many of their leaders settled in the bustling Pakistan city of Quetta, once an outpost of the British Empire that guarded the southern gateway to India from Afghanistan through the Bolan Pass. Eager to find Quetta’s newest squatters, Ms. Gall trekked there and found Taliban fighters willing to talk. Over the next several years, a sordid mix of Pakistan government officials, political parties and militant groups provided refuge and aid to the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents. According to Ms. Gall, the ISI even ran a special desk assigned to handle Osama bin Laden, a damnable accusation if true. (Ms. Gall credits an “inside source” and says she ran it by two United States officials who told her it was consistent with their conclusions.) This amalgam of support proved to be a lethal combination for the growing insurgency in Afghanistan that confounded United States policy makers.
According to a RAND study I wrote several years ago, insurgencies that received support from external states achieved their aims more than 50 percent of the time, while those with no support won only 17 percent of the time. But that’s not all. Insurgents have been successful approximately 43 percent of the time when they enjoyed a sanctuary. Afghan insurgents enjoy both outside support and sanctuary, a doubly difficult hurdle for the United States and its allies to overcome. Islamabad’s rationale for supporting Afghan insurgents is straightforward and, in many ways, understandable. Hemmed in by its archenemy, India, to the east, Pakistan wants an ally to the west. It doesn’t have one at the moment. Instead, New Delhi has a close relationship with the Afghan government. Feeling strategically encircled by India, Islamabad has resorted to proxy warfare to replace the current Afghan government with a friendlier regime. With its focus on Pakistan, “The Wrong Enemy” is a valuable contribution to a hefty body of work on the American war in Afghanistan that has become stale and somewhat hackneyed. It provides a raw, unvarnished and important look at one of the darkest and least understood parts of the Afghan war.
“The Wrong Enemy” is not the first book to grapple with Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. Others have done so, including Ahmed Rashid’s “Descent Into Chaos” (2008) and Barnett R. Rubin’s “Afghanistan From the Cold War Through the War on Terror” (2013).
But Ms. Gall’s treatment of Pakistan’s role is the most comprehensive. She does not, however, let the Afghan or American governments off the hook. She excoriates President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan for failing to offer the Taliban a serious peace plan after 2001. She also criticizes him for a litany of faults, from wantonly tolerating government corruption to unnecessarily micromanaging government decisions. And she disparages the United States military for conducting airstrikes that unnecessarily killed civilians and for detaining too many Afghans who were wrongly arrested, falsely accused by rivals, or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While Ms. Gall’s rich anecdotes from interviews with Afghan villagers, Taliban fighters and officials of many governments provide poignant realism to the book, they also highlight one of its few drawbacks. Unlike some of the pre-eminent books on the region, like Steve Coll’s well-sourced Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ghost Wars” (2004), “The Wrong Enemy” occasionally veers into reporting unsubstantiated second- or thirdhand accounts from unnamed sources without providing adequate context — or skepticism — when appropriate. On several occasions, for example, she cites unnamed Afghan security officials, who have a proclivity to blame Pakistan for everything, in highlighting ISI mischievousness in Afghanistan.
Still, “The Wrong Enemy” arrives at an auspicious time, just as the United States is ending its combat mission in Afghanistan. In a passionate plea, Ms. Gall argues in the final chapter that the United States is turning its back on Afghanistan because American leaders are tired of war and mistakenly view Afghanistan as lost. “That is the wrong way to look at the problem,” she writes with palpable emotion. “Pakistan is still exporting militant Islamism and terrorism, and will not stop once foreign forces leave” Afghanistan.
These words have a nostalgic ring. In 1979, the Pakistani leader Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq tellingly remarked to the director-general of the ISI that “the water in Afghanistan must boil at the right temperature.” As the United States ends its combat mission, the cold reality is that Afghanistan’s future hinges just as much on Pakistan as it does on what happens inside Afghanistan’s borders.

Pakistan: PPP blasts Ch Nisar over 'safe city' claim

National Assembly opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah on Wednesday severely criticised Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan for declaring Islamabad a “safe city”. Speaking to media in his Parliament House chamber, Shah questioned Nisar’s “safe city” claim for Islamabad. “If this is peace then what is insecurity?” he asked sarcastically. Shah advised the interior minister to “get rid of his egoistic attitude” and focus more on resolving pressing issues rather than running after the talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP). “How long we will see the dead bodies falling?” he asked. “Terrorists attacked the capital city twice in recent days, but still claims of peace have been made,” Shah observed and asked who was behind this heinous act. The opposition leader said that if the TPP is not involved in the Fruit Market terrorist attack then who is. Talking about the statement of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Shah said that it was neither against democracy nor a threat. He blamed the government for all the “mess”, saying it had made controversial statements that created a rift between institutions. Shah said that a confrontation between the state institutions is not a positive thing, and asked every institution to remain within its limit. He also advised the federal ministers to remain within their limits while speaking on the issue.

Islamabad Bomb Blast: Moving scenes at hospitals

Zahir Khan, 27, the only bread earner for his family Tuesday night went to the fruit and vegetable market Islamabad without knowing that he would never return home alive as he became victim of the Islamabad fruit market blast. The family of Zahir including parents and five brothers had migrated from war-ravaged Afghanistan to Pakistan years back and settled in a rented house in Fauji Colony.
“Today, our back-bone has been broken. The terrorists have shed the blood of our father-like brother in the bombing. Now who will feed us,” said Ubaid Ullah, the younger brother of Zahir Khan, who was sitting outside the emergency department at HFH, while talking to The Nation.
The little kids of Zahir were unaware about the fact that their father has left them for ever and would never return home to stamp kisses on their (kids) cheeks, said Ubaid with chocked voice. “I am thirsty. Please give me juice,” Ubaid quoted his brother as saying his last words on the hospital bed.
Earlier, the family of Zahir faced a lot of troubles in getting the dead body from the hospital administration as law enforcement agencies had started interrogating the family on suspicion that they might be terrorists. The miseries of the ill-fated family did not end here as the hospital administration and district government refused to provide them ambulances. Later, an ambulance was provided to the family, which transported the dead body to Peshawar. Similarly, heart-moving scenes were witnessed in HFH, Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH) and District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital and Railway Hospital, where scores of family members of the Islamabad blast victims were searching for their near and dear ones. According to Rescue 1122 and hospital sources, a total of three dead bodies and 37 injured were brought to the HFH. Most of them were hailing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who had been working as daily wagers in the fruit market for the last many years.
“Doctor Sahab my brother who was also there is not among the injured. I searched him in PIMS and DHQ but could not find him there,” requested Muhammad Ali, who was searching for his 25-year old brother. But nobody was taking notice of hue and cry of Muhammad Ali.
Yousaf Jan, whose young son Muhammad Bilal was working as vendor in the Islamabad fruit market and used to reach his work place by 3am daily, said, “My son was innocent. He never committed any crime. Why the terrorists have killed him.” The Rescue 1122 claimed they shifted four injured to BBH, 2 to DHQ while 1 injured to Railway General Hospital. Two were declared dead while four were in critical condition at the Intensive Care Unit. Besides, the Surgical Unit 1 and emergency wards were vacated for them after they were informed about the number of casualties.
“So far we have received 37 victims of which two were declared dead including an Afghan,” said Dr Arshad Ali Sabir, MS HFH.
Among the injured was 20-year old Ali Madad, said that he along with many others was standing at the auction site when suddenly a huge blast occurred. “I saw pieces of mutilated bodies hitting my face and chest. I fell on the ground and fainted. I don’t know who rushed me to the hospital,” he said. Doctors at SU-I said four injured were discharged after first aid. Some of the injured sustained multiple injuries on their upper parts of bodies making it difficult for their relatives to identify them.
Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi police put security on high alert in the city besides conducting search operations in various localities.

Pakistan: Times of terror

The price we are paying as a result of the terrorism that has over the years grown and seized hold of our country is a horrendous one. Within 24 hours we have lost at least 37 lives, 17 of them when the Jaffar Express was targeted at Sibi on Tuesday apparently by Baloch nationalist forces, at least another 20 when an explosion at the Sabzi Mandi near the Pir Wadhai area bordering Islamabad and Rawalpindi early Wednesday morning created yet more havoc. According to reports, a massive device packed with 13 kilograms of explosives was defused in the PECHS area of Karachi on Wednesday before it could create the mayhem intended. It is difficult to believe this was not somehow linked to the Islamabad blast, where five kilograms of explosives had been placed in a box of fruit. We are facing an onslaught that hits us from many directions simultaneously. A separatist group calling itself the United Baloch Army has claimed responsibility both for the Sibi train bombing and the Islamabad attack. One of the many shadowy entities that operate in Balochistan, the group says the attack was intended to seek revenge for a military operation that killed 30 militants a day earlier. As has been the case before innocent civilians have paid the price for this conflict that rages on.What began as unjustified attacks on Punjabi teachers and other professionals, derided as outside settlers within Balochistan, has now been expanded to include all civilian targets.The Taliban, while denying any role in the Islamabad attack and condemning it, said it is against the principles of Islam to target civilians, although that hasn’t stopped the militant group in the past. It has killed thousands of innocent people. There is no reason yet for us to assume it will stop doing so now because the UBA has entered the stage.
The response of the government to these multiple attacks leaves much to be desired. Rather than looking inwards, its first instinct is to wash away all responsibility. After the Sibi blast, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique blamed the attack on foreign elements. While it may be true, it does not exonerate the government from its failure to protect people. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, meanwhile, found a scapegoat in the last government saying that two scanners meant to detect explosives which were imported by the PPP government were not working. Even if that were true, he was unable to explain how just these two scanners would have been able to find a bomb in the haystack that is Islamabad. The Hyderabad blasts are most likely the work of the banned Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz group, which had also called for a strike after the murder of their activists, while just about anyone could be behind the Karachi attacks. The attacks themselves may not have anything in common but they do show how the legitimacy of the state has been slowly eroded by different groups seeking power through violence. The truth also remains that it is impossible to scan every foot of our country, to examine all packages loaded onto a train or every box of guavas off-loaded at a wholesale market. Essentially we have been caught inside a trap, cornered like an animal surrounded by hunters. The edifice of the state has been shaken by the storm. As a result we have grown far too accustomed to death; attuned to the fact that it comes in big doses again and again. This is not a good place to be at. We must find a way to escape, but, right now, no routes seem available to make a getaway from the bloodshed that has closed us in.

Pakistan:Sharif versus Sharif

The Express Tribune
By Saroop Ijaz
The statement from “Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon” was to become, perhaps, Karl Marx’s most quoted one; history repeats itself first time as a tragedy and second time as a farce. Analysis of Mian Sahib’s third term might have stumped the great German himself. Mian Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Army show a firm resolves not to learn or more accurately unlearn.
The case for why General Musharraf is to be tried is unchallenging and easy. He abrogated the Constitution and this falls squarely within the parameters of Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan. All the talk, most of it legitimate, of aiders and abettors being tried and starting from the original sin of October 1999 does not obscure the fact that he abrogated the Constitution and whereas the time period covered in the trial can be extended, accomplices tried, how does any of this exonerate the Commando for November 3, 2007? It does not, the rest is mostly obfuscation. Kudos to Mian Sahib for attempting to try an ex-dictator. However, Mian Sahib and his enthusiastic cabinet members keep the tradition of going way past their mark. Exhibit A is the generally, eminently reasonable Khawaja Asif. Khawaja Sahib has maybe lost the memo. Newsflash: Khawaja Sahib you, sir, are in power, the tyrant is gone. It was hard to tell hearing snippets from the defence minister’s speech, one could mistake him for addressing a sitting dictator. Musharraf’s trial will be judged on how it ends and not what is said and however forcefully during pendency. If the Commando goes, for which there are reasonable betting odds, it will make a mockery of a lot mighty talk. General Musharraf should be tried, and tried in court — the media circus needs to end. The General should be extended the due process that he denied others.
The “Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon” has another piercingly relevant insight; those who seek to learn a new language, out of habit, translate it back into the language they already know. The Pakistan Army has great command over one language, the language of force, the language of power. The army chief has responded to criticism with a thinly veiled threat. The morale of the soldiers should not dip; the army will defend its integrity, etc., etc. The 90s are gone (however, Mian Sahib is hard at work to bring them back). General Sharif, we are told is a “professional” soldier and is apolitical. Great news and confidence inspiring, with a minor caveat, the exact same phrase is used to describe every army chief in the recent history of Pakistan.
Side note: Why does the ISPR even exist? Why don’t the police or the district management group have PR wings? Shouldn’t the army route public statements through the ministry of defence? (Admittedly, bit of a problem, when the target of the army’s rage is the defence minister himself) Well, we are far away from seriously asking these questions and even farther from receiving real answers. As Sharif versus Sharif is on the brink of unfolding, the state erodes one “non-combatant” at a time. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s stated position is that the trial of Musharraf is nothing personal and is being done due to the reverence and obedience the Sharif government has towards the Court. In these desperate times, one wants to believe the prime minister. However, one cannot reasonably believe him. It is the same federal government which has unilaterally decided to release TTP captives kept in prisons, we are not told the names or offences of the lovely gentleman from the TTP who now breathe the fresh air. Respect for judiciary and legal system 101 for the federal government: anyone legally arrested and sent to prison or under trial can only be released through the courts, and not on the whims of the interior minister, certainly in the absence of presidential pardons. There lies the problem. There is a fundamental hypocrisy in the posturing regarding Musharraf’s trial. Mian Sahib does not care about respect for judiciary and all that jazz. Mian Sahib has a history of taking things personally and so does the army. The morale of the army will not or, at least, should not be shaken by the trial of General Musharraf, however, the unconditional and secret release of those who claim to have killed 50,000 of our civilians and soldiers will lower the spirits of the army and We, the people. The counterterrorism policy of the government cannot be to extrajudicially release prisoners and beg “our estranged brothers” for mercy. The army as the primary counterterrorism force has to be taken on board. On the flip side, the army has to stop threatening the elected government and channel the use of force or perhaps the threat of it, where it rightly belongs, against the militants.
Sharif versus Sharif is a zero-sum game and all of us lose in the end. Postscript: The latest talk on the media is that former DG ISI General Pasha apologised to former president Zardari on Memogate and took the defence plea that he did it on the orders of General Kayani. (Sohail Warraich, in his television show, recently claimed former president Zardari had told him this). If this is true, public apologies and embarrassments and more are in order. Generals Kayani and Pasha will probably have something to say on it very soon. One not-so-glorious undemocratic moment during the previous government’s tenure was Mian Nawaz Sharif donning a black suit and patriotically marching to the Supreme Court as a petitioner in the Memo case. Mian Sahib was trying to score “patriotic” points and maybe re-establishing his reliability credentials to the army. Well, so much for all that. If this is proved, one would expect Mian Sahib to publicly and unconditionally apologise for being part (even if inadvertently) of the charade. My Lords will not be thrilled either. One recalls the embarrassing ordeal of three of My Lords waiting for the clownish Mansur Ejaz to show up, who did not find it worth his time. Again, if this is true, this is enough to sufficiently lower the morale and dent integrity all around.

Pakistan: With blasts and killing unceasing, government has a lot to answer for
Whither ceasefire
The fondness of the government to resolve the issue of terrorism through talks alone has taken away its attention from vital measures that need to be undertaken to improve the internal security. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) which was to be the centerpiece of the government’s anti-terrorism policy remains marred in disputes caused by interior minister’s tendency to bring as many institutions under its thumb as possible. The Authority was originally visualised as an independent body answerable directly to the prime minister was subsequently brought under the interior ministry’s control. While this was rejected by the opposition, it also led to litigation. Reservations shown by senior officials of the interior ministry and intelligence agencies over the restructuring of NACTA have jeopardised the revival of the key organisation. The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO), another pillar of anti-terrorism policy, has yet to cross the hurdle of the opposition dominated Senate. Failure to revolve a consensus over the controversial Ordinance may lead to the Senate blocking it.
The government is totally depending on the sometimes-on, sometime-off talks with the TTP for the restoration of peace, little realizing that numerous terrorist groups are outside the network’s discipline. There is also a perception that some of the groups which continue to attack do so under a well thought out strategy devised by the TTP to extract more concessions from the government during the talks.
Blasts took place in two provinces and the federal capital on Tuesday with varying intensity and scale of damage. In Islamabad initially 18 people died when an explosion occurred in the Sabzi Mandi area of the Metro shopping center. It is the height of incapacity on the part of the Interior Minister who had vowed, within days of being sworn in, to turn Islamabad into a show case city vis a vis security and good administration. The attack has sent a wave of insecurity in the capital with people complaining that the government has failed to provide security of life to the citizens. The train blast in Sibi has already taken a toll of 16. In the case of Balochistan, the government has gone to the equally harmful other extreme of total reliance on force without any initiative of talks with the insurgent leadership. The United Baloch Army has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack also exposes the failure of the Railways Ministry to maintain proper watch and ward system at railway stations.
There were three blasts in Hyderabad, though no loss of life was reported. The mistakes committed by the LEAs in Balochistan are being repeated in Sindh through forced disapearances and extra judicial killings. This has to be stopped.
A progress report on talks with the Taliban needs to be presented before an APC. Ch Nisar must drop his abrasive attitude and take the opposition on board to update the policy on talks and terrorism in general.

Islamabad and Sibi Blasts: System in disarray

TWO major blasts on two consecutive days in Islamabad and Sibi have once more brought to the fore the helplessness of the state in the face of frontal assaults by militants. Both attacks involved soft targets — the Jaffar Express in Sibi and a vegetable market in the capital. The proscribed United Baloch Army, a separatist group, has claimed responsibility — reportedly as a response to security operations in different parts of Balochistan — for both incidents in which ordinary men, women and children died. While there is reason to doubt the veracity of the claim in the case of Islamabad, given that Baloch militants from various proscribed groups have so far limited their attacks to targets in Balochistan, if indeed the UBA is involved, it marks the advent of a dangerous trend: the war against the state by Baloch militants is being extended beyond provincial boundaries.
On the other hand, even though no claim has been forthcoming so far from religiously inspired militant groups, the possibility of one of them carrying out the Islamabad attack cannot be discounted. The outlawed TTP may have condemned the Islamabad blast, which took place a day before the Taliban-declared ceasefire ended. But going by other attacks that have occurred after the militants entered into talks with the government and that were claimed by extremist splinter groups, the likelihood remains that the market blast was the work of one of them. In fact in theory the attack could also be the handiwork of groups other than the Baloch militants or religious extremists.
In all this murkiness regarding the perpetrators and their motives, what is tellingly clear is the government’s inability to tackle militancy — from the first step of intelligence-gathering to coming up with measures to put an end to the growing violence in the country. No one in government is addressing the key questions regarding counterterrorism. Even the basics of counter-insurgency don’t appear right. For example, the National Counter Terrorism Authority— the front-line agency designed to deal with the terror threat — is tied up in legal wrangles and for all practical purposes is dormant. At the other end, the security establishment is not learning from its mistakes so that it could evolve an effective and cohesive counterterrorism strategy. The state is lurching from one incident to the other in confusion, which is not limited to strategy but also includes its muddled narrative regarding militancy. The state must now ask itself some hard questions: does the counterterrorism infrastructure have the capabilities to neutralise the threat, and if not what is being done to remedy this? In short, unless the state focuses on the terror threat with clarity, militants of various stripes will continue to run circles around it.