Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari calls on Hamid Mir

Pakistan People’s Party Patron in Chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on Hamid Mir at the private hospital where he is being treated and assured him of his support for freedom of press and his organization. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prayed for Mir's early recovery and added, that the PPP believed in the freedom of press and stands by Hamid Mir and Jang Group. Speaking to the media outside the hospital, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that the police were jointly working with other agencies to probe the attack. He added that some evidences have also been collected during the investigation. Memon expressed hope that the elements involved in the attack would soon be arrested. He further added that a case would be registered by Wednesday. Hamid Mir was injured in an armed attack in Karachi on Saturday.

Repeated shrine visits reflect Japanese politicians' infatuation with militarism

Despite fresh protests from Beijing and Seoul, a Japanese cabinet minister and nearly 150 lawmakers on Tuesday paid homage to a war shrine, showing their infatuation with militarism and aggravating regional tensions.
With U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo around the corner, the repeated shrine visits are also embarrassing for Obama and reflect the dwindling influence Washington has on Japan's right-wing politicians.
A response from Japan's neighbors or Washington over the shrine visit would be no surprise to Japan. Leader Shinzo Abe's visit late last year deeply soured Japan's relations with Asian neighbors and earned the country a diplomatic slap on the wrist from Washington, which said it was "disappointed" by the visit.
The shrine, which honors 14 WWII class-A war criminals, is a negative asset for Japan and has been repeatedly used by right-wing politicians to show their historical denialism and serve their goal of steering their country down a rightist path reminiscent of militarism.
The shrine visit is a provocation to Japan's neighbors, which fell victim to the country's aggression during WWII. The shrine has become a destructive factor in relations between Japan and its neighbors.
Rather than thoroughly reflecting on their view of history and correcting their acts, some Japanese right-wing politicians have resorted to double-faced tactics.
For example, politicians did not visit the shrine in person in order to avoid criticism from Washington and ensure the success of Obama's visit, but they dedicated trees or other offerings to the shrine with an aim to appease domestic right-wing forces.
The whole world should stay alert to some Japanese politicians' tactics and the country's future trend. It is in no country's interest to see Japan go down the rightist path.
It is fundamental for Japan to face up to and reflect on its history of militarist aggression and to make a clean break with militarism. The first step is to stop visits to the symbolic war shrine.

Video: Director finds the humor in the Israeli army

Talya Lavie debuts her new comedy ''Zero Motivation'' at the Tribeca Film Festival. Alicia Powell reports.

Pakistan: A eulogy for 2,100 bustards...Houbara bustard butchery by Saudi Bedouin Prince

On absorbing the final report on the massacre of wildlife in his region, I wonder if Jafar Baloch of the Balochistan Forest and Wildlife learned something important about the dynamics of Pak-Saudi relation: When a Arab country offers you $1.5 billion dollars, it becomes tremendously difficult to regulate its royals’ hunting activities in your reserves. Saudi Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was permitted to hunt a total of a 100 Houbara Bustards in 10 days, in Chagai, Balochistan. We fear our honorable guest may have somewhat overshot the limit by killing 2100 birds, an average of a 100 each day for 21 days. The Houbara Bustard is an endangered bird, whose meat is valued by the Arab falconers as an aphrodisiac. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has estimated the total global population of Houbara Bustards to be 110,000, declining at an average rate of nearly 25 per cent.
It may be a matter of pride for some to be personally responsible for slaughtering nearly 2 per cent of the world’s total population of a species of birds; and cause near-eradication of the bird’s indigenous variety in Pakistan’s nature reserves. Others, like me, find it appalling. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why the Saudi Prince and his hunting friends had been allowed to hunt any of these rare birds at all. This is, interestingly, the same bird whose migratory friends have sparked diplomatic rows with India in the past. These birds are known to migrate annually from Central Asia to India. Last year, our Eastern neighbour scratched its head over the diminished size of the incoming flock, and discovered that they were being poached in Sindh, on their way to Rajasthan. Whether this was negligence on Pakistan’s part, or some odd revenge plan for India’s attempts at restricting water flow into Pakistan, remains to be discussed in a humorous fashion. Enough pressure was mounted on Pakistan to halt the illegal hunting of these majestic birds, and so we did. But we’re always willing to make certain exceptions for our Arab guests and benefactors. We began granting them special permits to ‘poach’ on our land.
All of us who were outraged by news of the French restaurant denying service to Pakistani patrons and allowing only foreigners, will indubitably take offense at the idea of only foreigners being allowed to hunt a bird that locals are forbidden to harm. Saudis are not unaware of the rarity of Houbara Bustard. They have been conducting their own captive breeding program in the Mahazat as-Sayd reserve, recognising that the population of this species has been rapidly dwindling. The birds in our reserves are ostensibly fair game for the royal family. The Houbara Bustard also happens to be the provincial bird of Balochistan. With the region's human population in deep turmoil, it was only fitting for the glorious provincial bird to meet the same fate. The Prince’s actions are the equivalent of your house guest, repaying your warm reception by playing cricket in your living room; and grinning broadly as he poses for a picture next to a pile of broken furniture and fine china. The least we can expect is a formal apology from the state of Pakistan for issuing those special permits. For allowing such unspeakable, and potentially irreplaceable, damage to our wildlife.

Lenin's Popularity Highest in Years on Revolutionary's 144th Birthday

Support for the legacy of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin is on the rise, a poll published on the eve of the 144th anniversary of his birth showed.
Asked what they thought about Lenin's contribution to Russian history, 38 percent of Russians said his influence had been "mostly positive." The survey, conducted by the independent Levada Center pollster and published Monday, showed a steady increase in Lenin's popularity since 2006, when only 29 percent rated his influence as mostly positive. The figure had risen to 36 percent by 2012.
In a corresponding trend, the number of people who see Lenin's contribution as "mostly negative" has dropped from 27 percent in 2006 to 21 percent this year. Those who saw his legacy as "completely negative" also declined, from 9 percent in 2006 to 5 percent this year. The number of Russians who rated Lenin's legacy as "entirely positive" has remained steady for the past two years, at 13 percent. Lenin played a key role in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and is widely considered to be the architect of the Soviet Union. The poll was conducted among 1,603 Russians from March 21-24 in 45 Russian regions. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.

Putin restores rights of Crimean Tatars repressed by Stalin

Russia sees war with Ukraine as unlikely

War between Russia and Ukraine was unlikely, a senior Russian defense official said Tuesday. "I don't believe the Russians and Ukrainians will fight each other," Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. Antonov said Russian and Ukrainian military commanders continued to maintain contact, though this had reduced considerably. Among the issues the two defense ministries currently being discussed were returning Ukrainian weaponry left in Crimea and the return of servicemen recruited from Crimea to the Ukrainian army, he said. Crimea integrated into Russia on March 18 following a popular referendum not recognized by Kiev and Western capitals. Antonov also clarified that allegations Russia had beefed up its military presence in the border areas with Ukraine were false. "We conduct drills in those areas. But their scale does not require the invitation of foreign monitors and they don't exceed the limits set by the Vienna document (of 2011 on confidence and security-building measures)," he said.

Iraqi premier accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has slammed Saudi Arabia for supporting Middle Eastern terrorists, saying the policy has exacerbated the problems faced by Baghdad. Speaking in an interview with al-Manar TV on Monday, the politician stressed that Saudi Arabia's cherished dream to topple the regimes in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon will never come true.
Al-Maliki urged the country to stop funding and arming terrorists in Syria and warned that this policy will back fire on Saudi Arabia and its neighboring countries when the Syrian war bursts its banks and spreads to other regions. The Prime Minister also called on Saudi Arabia to stop meddling with Iraq's affairs and start respecting Iraqi interests.
Commenting on the Syrian crisis, al-Maliki stressed that the Syrian opposition was composed of criminals, terrorists and murderers and addressed the international community with a plea to help the Syrian government confront these terrorist organizations. According to the Iraqi Prime Minister, a peaceful solution is the only possible way out of the ongoing civil war in Syria that has claimed the lives of over 150,000 people and driven a third of its entire population from their homes.
Al-Maliki's relations with Saudi Arabia have always been strained. The Prime Minister has consistently come up with harsh remarks accusing Saudi Arabia with inciting and openly funding terrorist movements and seeking to destabilize Iraq. Abdullateef Al-Zayani, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, has repeatedly condemned al-Maliki's allegations against Saudi Arabia, calling them irresponsible and in defiance of political and diplomatic norms.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_22/Iraqi-premier-accuses-Saudi-Arabia-of-supporting-terrorism-7775/

Greek austerity has caused more than 500 male suicides – report

Spending cuts in Greece have caused some 500 male suicides since their implementation, according to a new study. The research found a positive correlation between austerity and suicide rates after other possible links proved to be unrelated. The 30-page study, titled 'The Impact of Fiscal Austerity on Suicide: On the Empirics of a Modern Greek Tragedy' and published in the Social Science and Medicine journal was authored by Nikolaos Antonakakis and Alan Collins from Portsmouth University. “Suicide rates in Greece (and other European countries) have been on a remarkable upward trend following the global recession of 2008 and the European sovereign debt crisis of 2009,” states the study’s abstract. Each 1 percent decrease in government spending resulted in a 0.43 percent rise in suicides among men, according to the study. Between 2009 and 2010, there were 551 deaths which occurred “solely because of fiscal austerity,” it stated.
“That is almost one person per day. Given that in 2010 there were around two suicides in Greece per day, it appears 50 percent were due to austerity,” one of the paper’s co-authors, Nikolaos Antonakakis, told the Guardian.
Antonakakis, a Greek national, said that he had been motivated to examine the link between austerity and suicide rates after watching media reports and hearing stories about friends of friends killing themselves.
While there had already been research into the impact of negative economic growth on health, there had previously been no studies linking austerity cuts with poor health and suicide.
“Our empirical findings suggest that fiscal austerity, higher unemployment rates, negative economic growth and reduced fertility rates lead to significant increases on overall suicide rates in Greece, while increased alcohol consumption and divorce rates do no exert any significant influence on overall suicide rates,” the study notes.
Antonakakis and Collins are both contemplating expanding their work by examining the link between economic austerity in other eurozone countries most affected by the crisis. This work could encompass Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland.
“These findings have strong implications for policymakers and for health agencies,” said Antonakakis. “We often talk about the fiscal multiplier effect of austerity, such as what it does to GDP. But what is the health multiplier?” he questioned.
The study identified some gender and age trends, finding that men in the 45-89 age bracket suffer the largest risk because of salary and pension cuts. There was no obvious rise in suicide rates among females.
“The fact we find gender specificity and age specificity can help health agencies target their help,” said Antonakakis.

NAHEED AKHTAR - Tumse Ulfat Ke Takaze

Pakistan: Moin Akhtar’s 3rd death anniversary today

The third death anniversary of legendary actor, comedian and host Moin Akhtar is being observed today. Akhtar proved his mettle and immense talent in the fields of Pakistani television, film and stage through his acting, play writing, direction and production. He made his debut for television on 6 September 1966, in a variety show broadcasted by PTV to celebrate the first defence day of Pakistan. He performed several roles in TV plays/shows and made an unforgettable trio with Anwar Maqsood and Bushra Ansari to entertain his fans. Unmatched comic timing and tasteful humour made Akhtar a beloved entertainer among the family audience. His most popular shows include Rozy, Half Plate, Such Much, Aangan Tehra, Loose Talk, Eid Train, Studio 2 ½, Studio 2 ¾. He also performed with Umer Sharif in stage shows Bakra Qiston Pe and Buddha Ghar Pe Hai in India. Akhtar also briefly hosted the Pakistani version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Kya Aap Banaingay Crorepati? He passed away on 22 April 2011 in Karachi after suffering from a heart attack.

Attempt on Hamid Mir’s life ‘an attack on media, democracy’: Manzoor Wattoo

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Mian Manzoor Wattoo has dubbed the murder attempt on anchorperson Hamid Mir as ‘an attack on media and democracy’. He also maintained that the attack was undoubtedly perpetrated by anti-Pakistan and anti-democratic forces, which must be exposed and brought to justice sooner rather than later. In a statement on Monday, Wattoo said that the PPP and its leadership’s commitment to democracy and freedom of expression were unequivocal and unflinching. He recalled that despite reservations of massive rigging, the PPP decided to accept the results of May 2013 elections just for the great cause of continuity of democratic process in the country.
While underscoring the importance of the freedom of media, Wattoo said that democracy and freedom of media were inseparable and were two sides of the same coin indeed. They co-exist and supplement the cause of each other for building a pluralistic society based on tolerance, equality and interfaith harmony, he added. “It is for this reason that the PPP considers democracy as non-negotiable,” he said and added that democracy must be protected at all cost come what may.
“The PPP stands for the empowerment of the people and so does the free media,” he said, adding that both were promoting the same cause in unison with each other.
He recalled that the PPP had launched a struggle for the freedom of press during successive dictatorships and that its workers and leaders were subjected to victimisation of the worst kind but that they upheld the beacon light of unfettered freedom of expression. He called upon the government to take all necessary steps to create an environment conducive for working journalists, who had become soft targets of maniacs.
It was so embarrassing that Pakistan had emerged as ‘the most dangerous’ country for journalists, he lamented.
He appreciated the overall role of the media for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions with sense of objectivity and said that only free media could assume this role effectively. The media had never lagged behind when the question of national interest was at stake, he added.

The chances of Modi echoing Vajpayee on Pakistan

By Ashok Malik
Each time a BJP government is seen as coming to office, a familiar question is heard: Could a BJP prime minister do a deal with Pakistan? The inevitable comparison is with Richard Nixon, the Republican president who broke the ice with China. This question is both valid and tiresome. It has found renewed mention in 2014, as opinion polls suggest Narendra Modi may become prime minister. The more optimistic (or excitable) are citing the precedent of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's outreach to Pakistan between 1999 and 2004.
So can Modi, should he become prime minister, achieve what Vajpayee did? To answer that, let us go back a decade and a half.
It is worth remembering Vajpayee's initial attempts to befriend Pakistan failed. In 1999, he travelled to Pakistan - the famous Delhi-Lahore bus yatra - and triggered heady emotions. Nawaz Sharif, then, as now, the prime minister in Islamabad, was receptive but the Pakistan army was cold. Within weeks General Pervez Musharraf had invaded Kargil. Next, in the summer of 2001, Vajpayee invited Musharraf to Agra. The Pakistani dictator misinterpreted the gesture as Indian surrender and the summit ended in a fiasco.
It was only in January 2002, a month after the terror attack on Parliament and following Indian troop mobilisation on the border, that Musharraf made a truly conciliatory statement. He agreed to dismantle the terror infrastructure and promised to neutralise the universities of religio-political extremism in his country. That he didn't - or couldn't - deliver is another matter.
Nevertheless a period of talks and negotiations began. Opening of trade routes was discussed, including between the two Kashmirs. The future of Kashmir itself was the subject of frank conversation. Visas became easier to get. All this culminated in Indian tourists going to a welcoming Pakistan and watching the 2004 cricket series. These were solid achievements and they carried into the early years of Manmohan Singh's government as well.
What caused the surly Musharraf of Agra 2001 to change, or least give the impression of change? There were three reasons. First, the events of 9/11 and the presence of American troops in the neighbourhood played a key role. The United States was then beginning a long military investment in Afghanistan. The George W Bush administration had good relations with New Delhi as well as Islamabad and emerged as an informal guarantor of good behaviour. Additionally, the war in Afghanistan became the greater jihad for south Asian Islamists. This took away pressure from India and Kashmir, which was relegated to the lesser jihad.
Second, by 2002, Musharraf was the undisputed leader of Pakistan. He commanded the army and had no political rival. In fact, he had a certain civil society popularity.
Third, the Indian economy was starting to shift gears. Investment, growth and job opportunities seemed to be rising. The middle class was optimistic. This gave Vajpayee the domestic political capital to venture a settlement with Pakistan even in ways that previously seemed impracticable.
Presuming he becomes Prime Minister next month, will this happy configuration be available to Modi? Analyse the strands.
In 2002, the US had just arrived in and committed itself to Afghanistan. In 2014, it is waiting to depart and its future role in the region is in doubt, as is the security situation on India's western frontiers. Also, unlike Bush, Barack Obama does not have a grand strategy that even remotely matches India's. His influence and leverage in south Asia is lower than that of any American president in some 20 years.
That apart, internal power equations in Pakistan are anything but clear. The ongoing friction between Sharif and the army chief, the threat from various factions of the Pakistan Taliban, the state of sectarian violence and unrest: this is a far cry from the relative predictability of Musharraf's early years.
Finally, in 2002-03, India was entering a decade-long boom; in 2014, it has just exited that boom. Without rescuing the economy and reviving the national mood, no Prime Minister will have the domestic political capital to risk diplomatic innovations, even if he wants to. Should he move into 7 Race Course Road, these factors will tend to influence Modi's Pakistan policy.

PAKISTAN: The AHRC condemns the attack on Hamid Mir and demands the suspension of the ISI chief until the inquiry is completed

A prominent journalist and television anchor person, Mr. Hamid Mir, was attacked by plain clothed assailants on April 19 while on his way from Karachi Airport to his television station, the Geo News. He was attacked twice at the Shahrah-e-Faisal, the busiest road of the city which goes from the airport to the down town area where Governor House and the chief ministers’ offices are located. Mir’s driver took him to the Aga Khan University Hospital, where he underwent emergency treatment. He was shot six times by two motor bike riders and one person standing under a bridge. At the time of the attack the CCTV camera, installed at that particular spot, was not working for reasons unknown. However all others were working at that time.
Mir had traveled from Islamabad to Karachi to cover the arrival of the former president and army chief, Pervez Musharraf, who landed in Karachi four hours after the attack on Mir. Musharraf arrived on a flight chartered from Karachi-based Princely Jets.
It is significant that the attack on Mir occurred during the period of the maximum security arranged for Musharraf’s arrival. This, and the fact that the security camera at the location of the attack was the only one not working speaks of the involvement of the ISI. The formation of the security protocol for such events is the sole responsibility of the ISI.
Musharraf was given a heavy protocol with many armed cars and guards from the Pakistan Rangers and Police. The high protocol arrangements were made at the Karachi airport from 2 pm and every person was searched on the way to the airport. Mr. Mir was attacked at 5 pm and assailants were given safe passage to run away.
Mir’s younger brother, Aamir Mir , his family members and other anchorpersons and journalists accused Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, the chief of the ISI, the notorious intelligence agency of the military, for involvement in the attack on Hamid Mir. They state that Mir had been receiving threats from the ISI and its chief for some months for extensively covering the issue of missing persons and the military’s involvement in the Balochistan situation, and also for criticizing the role of the military in the high treason case against General Musharraf by providing protection for him when he was hiding in the armed forces hospital.
In November 2012, an explosive device was planted in Mir’s car. It is not known whether this was an attempt to assassinate him or merely intimidate him. A right wing journalist by his writings Mr. Mir, an anchorperson of Geo news channel, accused some 'state actors' and some 'non state actors' of involvement in planting the bomb under his car.
Mir has also been under threat from the Taliban and other groups from Al-Qaida for some time now and on many occasions receives threatening calls from unknown persons believed to be from the state intelligence agencies. He has forwarded to the federal Minister for the Interior the telephone numbers from which the threats were received but no action or investigations have been conducted in the matter. Please see our earlier statement: PAKISTAN: Intimidation of journalists continues with the attempted assassination of Hamid Mir.
After the failed assassination of the famous journalist, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the Pakistan Military came out with a statement denying the involvement of the ISI or its chief in the attack. However, as a large number of media houses and journalists were openly accusing the ISI and its chief in the assassination attempt on Mir, the director general (DG) Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa said that they welcome the government’s commission to probe the attack. In the same tone he threatened the media houses that baseless allegations against government institutions will not be taken lightly and that stern action will be taken against the elements who blame the ISI. He said that Hamid Mir was attacked by miscreants who do not want peace to prevail in the country. He also said that pointing fingers at the military organisations is tantamount to defamation.
A report by Human Rights Watch states that the ISI has a long and well-documented history of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings of critics of the military and others. Those abducted are routinely beaten and threatened, their relatives told not to worry or complain as their release is imminent, and then when released they are threatened with further abuse if the ordeal is made public. Pakistani and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented the ISI's intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings, including those of many journalists. There were many complaints against the attacks of from ISI officers and their involvement in killings of the journalists.
In the case of Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, and for Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, disappeared from central Islamabad on the evening of May 29, 2011. His body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered on May 31, near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital. The circumstances of the abduction raised concerns that the military’s feared Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was responsible. In June 2011, the Supreme Court, at the request of the government, instituted a commission of inquiry into the killing. However, the commission’s failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. Mr. Saleem Shahzad had informed many media houses before his assassination that the ISI or secret agencies would kill him. He repeated his fears to the AHRC on many occasions.
There are examples of journalists like Hyatullah, Musa Khel and many from Balochistan who were killed after their disappearances by the powerful intelligence agencies of the army. A prominent journalist, Umer Cheema, was also abducted by the intelligence agency, the ISI, severely tortured and sodomised by army officials. But, as is typical where the military are concerned, no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted nor has any enquiry been concluded. Please refer to: PAKISTAN: Absence of rule of law provides impunity to military officials.
Mr. Umer Cheema, a senior journalist at The News International, a daily newspaper based in Islamabad, was kidnapped, tortured and humiliated for six hours on 4 September, 2010. He was picked up in cloak-and-dagger style in the early hours by men in commando uniforms and driven to a "safe house". Here unknown persons took over; he was beaten black and blue, humiliated beyond comprehension, he was made to strip off his clothes, hung upside down and remained in the illegal custody for hours. Finally, he was thrown out on the roadside at Talagang, 120 kilometres from Islamabad with a shaved head and a threatening message for Ansar Abbasi, the head of the newspaper's investigative section. Please see our Urgent Appeal: PAKISTAN: A senior journalist was abducted, tortured and kept incommunicado by the intelligence agencies.
In the murder of Hyatullah Khan, a judicial commission was formed which came out with the opinion that the secret agencies of the military were involved. However, the government has not made the report public and when the widow of Hyatullah Khan began to pursue the case she was also murdered and the ISI was given immunity.
Mr. Umer Cheema wrote in an article after the assassination attempt on Mir that the secret agencies have framed the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for their own convenience but their actions do not have any legal authority. Their officials believe in the notion that the agencies’ work starts where the law fails to deliver. With this thought in mind, they act with full impunity playing havoc with the lives of the citizens without any burden of guilt. But they do not forget to react if their wrongdoing is pointed out and any such aspersion is considered an attack on national security. Pakistan is one of the few democracies in the world with no mechanism of parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Even countries which were previously governed by military rule under authoritarian regimes have carried out intelligence reforms.
Umar Cheema was a 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellow. In 2004 during General Musharraf's government, he was deliberately hit by a moving car while doing a story on the international inspection of Pakistan's nuclear power installations.
Fifteen days before the recent attack on Hamid Mir he sent a recorded statement to the government authorities, his friends and his organisation, GEO TV. In the statement he said that he firmly believed that he would be attacked or eliminated in the coming days. He accused the chief of the ISI, Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, for responsibility of any such attack. In a recent visit to Dubai he also shared his apprehension with four other anchor persons. This was revealed by his friends.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has announced a three-member judicial commission to probe the attempted murder and asked the Supreme Court to nominate three judges. The PM knows himself that in the past, such commissions were formed and the judiciary failed to implement its own investigation because of the presence of the power intelligence agency. It is well known by all that any such commission is unlikely to produce any results. If by some chance results are found it is also well known that the government cannot go against the wishes of the ISI. It is also a fact that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power due to the invisible and unholy alliance between the ISI, the Taliban and ruling party, PML-N.
The AHRC urges the government to conduct a transparent inquiry by the proposed judicial commission, the ISI chief, Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, must be suspended from duty during the course of the investigation and a criminal case of alleged attempted murder must be brought against him. The AHRC also believes that an institution such as the ISI which conducts itself like a wild elephant must be disbanded as it is a burden on the state to which it brings only severe embarrassment.

Deutsche Welle correspondent target of possible attack in Pakistan

DW correspondent Abdul Ghani Kakar has reportedly been attacked in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. Observers say that Pakistani journalists are being increasingly targeted by both state and non-state actors.
According to Abdul Ghani Kakar,a freelance correspondent for DW based in Quetta, Pakistan, three armed men followed him on Sunday, April 20, and "rammed their vehicle" into his car in a possible assassination attempt. The unknown assailants fled the scene after attacking him, Kakar reported, adding that two passersby had been wounded and that he had received minor injuries.
The correspondent for DW's Urdu service said he had been getting "threatening phone calls" for the past few days.
Perilous Pakistan
Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world. According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, seven reporters lost their lives in Pakistan in 2013. A 2012 UNESCO report ranked Pakistan "the second most dangerous country for journalists the world over" after Mexico.
A day prior to the alleged attack on Kakar, Hamid Mir, a renowned Pakistani journalist and TV anchor, was shot three times in the southern port city of Karachi. Doctors say his condition is now stable.
he attack on Mir came less than a month after gunmen tried to kill a liberal journalist, Raza Rumi, who is known for criticizing the country's Islamists. Observers say these incidents highlight the risks the journalists in Pakistan are currently facing. Terrorism and Islamism are the most dangerous issues for Pakistani journalists to report on, says the non-governmental South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA). Kakar reports extensively on the Baloch separatist movement and human rights violations in Balochistan province for international and local media organizations. Experts say that Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province - which borders Afghanistan and Iran - is one of the most deadly places for journalists and reporters. Not only does the province face the challenge of a protracted separatist movement, it is also a hub for various Islamist militant organizations, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Kakar told DW that he had been receiving death threats from members of banned Baloch militant organizations.
Investigation begins
Muhammad Rafique, a local police officer, told DW the authorities were looking into Sunday's hit and run and were working to determine whether it was an attempt on Kakar's life or merely a road accident.
Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) has condemned the alleged attack.
"Thirty journalists have been killed in Balochistan in the past few years. The province's chief minister has finally promised to set up a judicial commission to investigate the murders after our protests," Irfan Chanda, BUJ president, told DW.
Threats from all sides
But the threat journalists face, according to experts, comes not only from various militant groups, but also from the government's security and intelligence agencies.
Imtiaz Alam, secretary general of SAFMA, told DW both state and non-state elements were against press freedom in Pakistan:
"So many journalists in Pakistan have been killed yet nobody has ever been brought to justice for these murders. The recommendations of the judicial commission investigating Saleem Shahzad's murder [a high-profile investigative journalist who was allegedly killed by the ISI in 2011] have never been implemented."
The relatives and aides of TV anchor Hamid Mir have blamed the military's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for the assassination attempt on the journalist on Saturday, April 19. The journalist has been critical of the country's intelligence agencies and military for their alleged role in the kidnappings of thousands of people in Balochistan. The Pakistani army has denied these allegations.
Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior columnist in Karachi, told DW that Pakistani journalists had to work under very difficult circumstances."Many journalists feel scared and threatened. Pakistani politics has been criminalized. It has become very difficult for journalists to perform their tasks freely."
Overall improvements in press freedom
Generally, however, experts agree that the Pakistani media enjoy a great amount of freedom to criticize the government, politicians, the military and its ubiquitous intelligence agencies, including the ISI, in such a way that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago.
"The struggle to report independently and objectively will continue," said Nasir Tufail, a senior producer at the private news channel, Geo TV. "What we have achieved is the result of our decades-long battle against suppression, and our longing for freedom."

Pakistan: The forgotten people of Balochistan

By Robyn Sundlee
Three months ago, a mass grave was discovered in Pakistan. More than 100 bodies were found in three different pits, decomposed beyond recognition. These casualties were not products of the war on terror or religious strife, as many might be quick to assume. Rather, they were victims of pure persecution. This is just the latest in a gruesome saga of conflict that has been taking place for a decade in Pakistan with little to no acknowledgment from the global community. In spite of all the carnage, there has been next to no coverage of the recent tragedy by major media news outlets. An occasional article in Al Jazeera or the Huffington Post was the highest attention the discovery garnered.
It is hard to believe that such an event went almost unrecognized by Western media, given the location of the mass graves. The bodies were unearthed in the province of Balochistan — a region that spans parts of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is at once one of the most desolate, conflict-ridden, resource-rich and poverty-stricken areas of the Middle East. Because of the strategic interest of the land, the Baloch people have long been subject to harsh discrimination by the governments of Iran and Pakistan. In 2005, Baloch nationalists launched a separatist movement, citing persecution and theft of resources as their motivations for independence.
Some of these nationalist groups are militant and have resorted to attacking civilians in an effort to destabilize Pakistan’s hold over the region. It is true that these particular groups are not innocent. They have claimed responsibility for several public bombings over the last decade and are recognized by the United Kingdom and the United States as terrorist organizations. Attacks on citizens are never permissible, but we must take into account the situations that led to these extremes.
Since the beginning of the separatist movement, the government of Pakistan has empowered the Frontier Corps, a shady paramilitary organization, to suppress Baloch nationalism. For years now they have been disappearing advocates for Baloch independence with impunity because of a dearth of media coverage and oversight. Baloch advocacy organizations have estimated that the number of individuals who have vanished at the hands of Pakistani paramilitary and intelligence organizations is somewhere in the thousands. The victims encompass Balochis from all walks of life, not just the perpetrators of violence. They include student activists, journalists and seemingly innocent men and women.
Those who have chosen not to employ violence are persecuted anyway. The Baloch Student Organization, a group based out of the University of Balochistan in Quetta, has been especially victimized. “When a student raises his voice or his pen (in support of our rights), he is imprisoned or killed,” Javed Baloch, the secretary-general of the BSO told Al Jazeera. He went on to explain the militant reaction as stemming from desperation. “We have tried all democratic routes — they have not worked. Our weapons are now our only defense.” Violence is inexcusable, but when family members are vanishing without a trace with no higher authority to turn to, it’s easy to see the motivations of the Baloch militants.
Why has there been so little outcry? These actions border on ethnic purging, for the victims are overwhelmingly of Baloch heritage. The truth is that there is something of a media black hole in this critical area of the world. Due to the number of conflicts in the region, it is especially dangerous for foreign journalists to enter. Those who dare to venture in risk expulsion from Pakistan at best and abduction and torture at worst. Reporting on these atrocities is even more perilous for local journalists, who have families in the area.
While it is difficult to acquire clear information about the events in Balochistan, this problem is compounded by the blatant lack of interest from the international media. Perhaps this apathy from the international community can be attributed to a sort of fatigue regarding Middle East conflicts. Reports of violence in the region are expected and no longer make for attention-grabbing headlines. This is unacceptable. The entire oil-using population has a huge stake in the security of Balochistan, and the media has an obligation to avoid oversimplifying or ignoring this conflict.
The lack of coverage has been a massive hindrance toward achieving justice for the Baloch people. International bodies such as the United Nations have declared that the dearth of information from the area has tied their hands. They will not intervene until they have more intelligence. What has resulted is a cruel catch-22 that reflects an abject failure by the international community to combat human rights violations. There is not enough credible reporting on Balochistan because of either the danger or lack of interest. Until it is reported on, international bodies will not get involved. Without the intervention of international groups, violence will not be quelled.
Malik Siraj Akbar, editor of the online newspaper the Baloch Hal, underscored the importance of intervention from international bodies such as the United Nations or the European Union in a Huffington Post interview last month. The distrust between the Pakistani military and the Baloch people is so severe that only an outside mediator will have any hope of coaxing the two sides away from their hard-and-fast stances. “Unless there are international guarantors, talks between the Baloch and the Pakistani state to bring peace and justice in Balochistan will not succeed,” Akbar said. But until the bloodshed slows, journalists cannot enter.
There have been a choice few who have been bold enough to report on Balochistan. Publications like the Baloch Hal, Crisis Balochistan and the Dawn all publish quality content on the ongoing strife within Balochistan and employ courageous journalists who routinely risk their safety to inform the world of the separatist movement. I urge readers to look up these publications and pass on articles to spread awareness of these events.
This vicious cycle cannot be broken until the rest of the world decides to care about the conflict between the Baloch people and the states of Iran and Pakistan. We must fight the temptation to dismiss violence and human rights abuses as normal in the Middle East and seek to understand the complexities of the region. We are profoundly invested in the ongoing events in the region of Balochistan, and the conflict between the Baloch people and the state of Pakistan is contributing to the region’s instability, allowing groups like the Taliban to flourish. We ignore the Baloch people’s plight at our own peril.

Pakistan: Journalist killed in Mianwali

A local journalist was shot dead in Mianwali town of Punjab. Motives behind his murder are yet to be ascertained, SAMAA reported. Police said Shahzad Iqbal and his brother were on their way on a motorbike when unidentified gunmen intercepted the bike and opened fire on them in Mianwali town. Shahzad suffered multiple bullet wounds and died on way to hospital while his brother was injured in the attack. Police was investigating motives behind the assassination.

Pakistan: FATA Christians Are Still Without Domicile

It has been 100 years’ of permanent settlement in Fata and local tribal customs are the hurdles in allotting domiciles to the Christian community resident there.
Chairman Christian Community Fata, Arshad Masih said “Our forefathers settled in Fata in 1914 after migrating from Sialkot and since then we are here and our many generations have grown up and passed away, but we don’t have the right to purchase even an inch of land and property in the area,”.
Describing the intolerant attitude towards the Christian community in FATA, whose population crosses the number of 3,000, Arshad also said as the community did not fall in any tribe, it was not issued domicile, which permits a citizen to purchase property in the area.
He further added “Due to not having a domicile, we can neither purchase property nor have a share in the 5% job quota allocated for minorities under the Constitution. In addition, we don’t have any share even in the development funds in the area,”.
He said Christian community had move toward all the authorities – including the subsequent governors, chief ministers and officials in Fata secretariat to resolve the issue, but all efforts were ineffective.
Arshad, however, added that Christians living in Fata were still committed to not leaving the region, but wanted the authorities to resolve the century-old issue.
“With the passage of time our population has increased and our requirements have also expanded and that’s why it is the need of the hour to amend the FCR to pave the way for us to have our own property and businesses,” he eminent.
He said it could be resolved in just an hour by bringing an amendment in the Constitution through an Ordinance.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/fata-christians-are-still-without-domicile/#sthash.LKgHIaie.dpuf

Pakistan: PTI failed to bring change in KP: Khurshid

Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah said here on Monday that Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf failed to bring changes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz could not meet its promises in the centre.
He claimed that people of Swat would reject candidates of both the ruling parties in the by-election that would be held on April 24.
Addressing a public gathering here at Charbagh, held in connection with election campaign, Mr Shah said that people were disappointed by the performance of government.
He said that those living in Bani Gala and in Raiwind could not realise the problems being faced by the people in remote areas of the country. He said that Pakistan People’s Party had always been with people at difficult times. He added that their politics was aimed at resolving problems of people.
Mr Shah said that they were playing their role in National Assembly actively as opposition. “We are striving to increase the amount of Benazir Income Support Programme up to 2,000 per month to benefit eight million deserving women in the country,” he added.
The PPP leader said that Swat was affected by militancy. “We never left the people of Swat alone at that time,” he claimed. He said that they would continue to support people in difficult situation as PPP was party of poor and it would struggle for resolving all kinds of hardships being faced by the people in any corner of the country.
Speaking on the occasion, PPP leader Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said that PTI and other parties made promises with the people, especially with the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Where is the change and tsunami,” he questioned and added that the ruling parties forgot all their promises.
He said that people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not see any change in their province. The change could not be brought by slogans only as revolution and change needed a continuous struggle, he added.
Mr Rabbani said that PPP gave identity to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Our party is sincere in taking steps for the uplift of people,” he added. He said that people of Swat knew better that it was PPP’s government, which approved Nizam Adle on demand of people of Malakand division and announced establishment of university and cadet college there.
Shahi Khan, the PPP candidate for the by-election, PPP provincial president Khan Zada Khan and Shazia Aurangzeb also spoke on the occasion.

Pakistan: IMF Woes And Worries

Initially expected to formally take up the case of Pakistan in its third quarterly review of the 6.78 billion dollar bailout packages under the Extended Fund Facility, IMF currently expresses its contention with the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Act 2014. The basic qualm arises with the government seeking to grant greater autonomy for the State Bank. Chief of IMF mission in Pakistan, Jeffery Frank, claimed that the issue lies within the amendment act itself. The IMF expressed the need to “revise” the legal changes made. In more bare terms, the government plans to seek full operational independence in its pursuit of financial stability and improved governance structure which includes internal controls. Something that doesn’t sit too well with an increasingly domineering IMF.
The stranglehold the IMF maintains over countries becomes most evident when states seek to implement more autonomy in their operations. In the case of Hungary, the government turned down a newly offered IMF loan in 2011 due to its onerous conditions and payment terms after its 26 billion euro expired in October in the same year. In addition to Hungary, Greece and Jamaica have desperately sought an exit plan that could save their economies from the IMF.
If the government chooses to show wisdom in this time, it will remember dearly that IMF harms more than it does heal. Massive debts have led developing countries to surrender their economies to international banks that have accumulated revenue thanks to their predatory lending policies sanctioned by private banks. A simple look at the “conditionalities” of the IMF should spell clearly who it seeks to empower and who it seeks to control. Privatization of state-run industries that lead to gigantic lay-offs without social security provision, currency devaluation, soaring costs of imports, land utilized ruthlessly for cash crops, a crippling reliance on international commodity markets to generate foreign currency needed to service debts - these are only some of the requisites IMF imposes.
Premised on vicious neoliberalism, the IMF functions by facilitating dysfunction in feeble economies. This expression of reservation should be seen as a blessing in disguise; now could very well be the time to free ourselves from the IMF that not only lacks transparency, threatens sovereignty but also forces taxpayers to help in poorly devised bailout programs. At the end of the day, once IMF is prescribed, it is the common man who bears the brunt of governmental negligence.

Pakistan: Senators call upon ISI to cooperate with probe

Senators called upon the country’s top intelligence agency on Monday to clear its name in cases of attacks on journalists and the matter of enforced disappearances.
The role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was brought up in the house as members discussed Saturday’s attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi and allegations levelled by his family against the head of the agency, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam.
Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch suspended the day’s routine agenda to allow for a debate on the issue.
Senators, mostly from the opposition benches, deplored the “ISI-bashing” that had ensued in sections of the media following the attack on Mr Mir.
They urged the ISI to avail itself of this opportunity and present itself before a newly-announced judicial commission to facilitate investigations and prove that it was not behind the unfortunate incidents.
Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said that though he had personally been critical of the ISI’s interference in the country’s political history, he believed no one should “jump to (any) accusations against an institution”.
“The ISI has a chequered history. It has fathered and mothered the jihad in Afghanistan. Its involvement was proven in the Asghar Khan case (manipulation of elections), Operation Midnight Jackal and the ill-planned Jalalabad operation of 1989,” he said.
“I was interior minister at the time of Operation Midnight Jackal and I personally took the ISI head on.” But, he said, care should be taken not to malign the entire institution before the judicial commission had a chance to probe the matter. “The ISI should take (these allegations) as a challenge and extend its assistance in the investigations,” MQM’s Nasreen Jalil said.
She said the ISI must also act to clear its name in the matter of missing persons.
ANP’s Haji Adeel alleged that in the past the ISI had “trained terrorists to send to Afghanistan and Kashmir”. Farhatullah Babar of the PPP said the judicial commission should investigate the allegations levelled by Mr Mir’s family. “This is an opportunity for the ISI to prove wrong all the allegations levelled against it.” The MQM’s Tahir Mashhadi termed the attack on Mr Mir a failure of the Sindh government, intelligence agencies and police. Hafiz Hammadullah of the JUI-F said the attack had taken place at a time when security was already on high alert as retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was also scheduled to arrive in the city merely hours later. Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q said that since the ISI was an institution of the state, it should not be left ‘defenceless’. “ISI and army-bashing must be stopped. Since ISI is part of the state’s defence infrastructure, it is the duty of the government to come to its defence,” he suggested. The house adopted a unanimous resolution expressing “deep concern over the series of attacks on journalists” and urging the government to take steps to protect them.
At the beginning of the session, reporters covering Senate proceedings walked out from the Press Gallery to protest the attack.
However, they returned after both treasury and opposition leaders promised to form a Senate committee which would look into a possible legislation for the safety and protection of the rights of journalists.
Conspicuous by their non-participation in the debate were senators of the ruling PML-N. Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq deplored the attack, but did not speak on the allegations levelled against the ISI.
He also announced the names of five members who, he suggested, would constitute the house committee. But due to reservations from other senators it was decided that the committee would be formed after consultations with all stakeholders and would consist of representatives of all major parties.

Pakistan: Senate moved against Council of Islamic Ideology

Three opposition parties, PPP, PML-Q and ANP, have moved a motion in the Senate against the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII’s) recent recommendations on matrimonial issues. The motion condemns the CII’s suggestions that could negate the physical and psychological development of women by giving more power to men over their lives. The Sindh Assembly has already passed a resolution against the CII’s ultraconservative position that could take Pakistan back into the dark ages. With no thought given to the new human needs of our time, the CII treads the familiar and less challenging path for lack of development in thought. Of late the CII has been recommending retrogressive laws for women. According to the Family Laws Ordinance 1961, a man cannot contract another marriage without the consent of his first wife. The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 lays down 16 years as the minimum age for a girl to get married and 18 years for a boy. These laws might not have been implemented fully but their mere existence provided a way out to those women who had the courage to fight for their rights. According to the latest observation made by the CII on these laws, a man does not have to ask his wife before remarrying. Similarly, laying down a minimum marriage age is considered un-Islamic by the CII. Earlier, the CII’s recommendations on not allowing DNA tests to become the primary evidence in rape cases had drawn strong criticism.CII is a constitutional body created in 1973 to help parliament ensure all laws are in accordance with Islam. The effectiveness of the CII as a vetting institution was considered relevant for ten years, after which it could have been disbanded through a constitutional amendment. The political crises confronting Pakistan did not allow attending to this important issue that now has become a blot on the face of a modern Pakistan. There is considerable pressure on the government from civil society and the liberal parties in parliament to disband the CII. Unless the government takes a decision in this direction, efforts are afoot to at least take the wind out of the CII’s sails to negate its influence on the national narrative on women. Pakistan’s statistics on human rights are dismal, and though the CII cannot force parliament to reframe laws, its anti-women position and ultraconservative take on human rights could be considered as a brake on modern discourse. Pakistan’s image being mullah-driven and sponsoring terrorism has already laid exceptional stresses on its economic, political and social posture internationally. CII’s unnecessary adventure could be the last straw on Pakistan’s fragile back. Therefore the sooner the anachronistic CII is disbanded the better.

Pakistan: Three killed, several injured in Charsadda blast

At least three people were killed and several others were injured in a blast near a police vehicle in Farooq Azam chowk of Tehsil Bazaar in Charsadda on Tuesday. Police said police van was targeted in the attack. The Charsadda police control room confirmed that the police van was attacked in the Tehsil bazaar situated on Nowshehra road. Police personnel and rescue teams immediately reached the site of the incident and started shifting the injured to District Headquarters Hospital. Those who were in critical condition were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar.

Pakistan: Five policemen among six killed in Peshawar firing

Six persons including five policemen were killed in firing on a police mobile in Peshawar on late Monday night, Geo News reported.
Police said unknown assailants attacked the police van in Badaber area, and as a result inspector and four other police personnel were killed while eleven others got injured.
While the ambulance was on way to transfer the injured to the hospital, the attackers opened fire on it that killed the ambulance driver and two others sustained injuries.
The injured were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital while the bodies were transferred to Khyber Hospital.