Saturday, May 3, 2014
Lebanon’s former president, Emile Lahoud, says Saudi Arabia has been exerting its influence in Lebanon’s politics by bribing politicians over long years, Press TV reports. Lahoud said in an interview with Press TV that many Lebanese politicians switch sides because they have pledged allegiance to foreign countries. He said after he was appointed as Lebanon’s commander in chief, the then president of the republic and chief of intelligence approached him with “a suitcase full of USD 100” bills. They “said this is half a million dollars that we give every month to the commander in chief who goes along our policy,” Lahoud added. “I said why don’t you give it to the government and the government gives it to the army. He said no…. He said this has been done since 1982,” the veteran politician further noted. “I said who is doing that. He said Sheikh Rafei and that he brings them from Saudi Arabia,” he added. Lahoud stressed that Lebanon must have strong resistance backed by its national army to overcome problems. The country needs to replace its sectarian-based electoral law with a national law to get rid of foreign-backed politicians, he added. People in Lebanon have staged several demonstrations to slam what they called the divisive role of Saudi Arabia in the region. Protesters accuse Riyadh of fueling unrest and sectarianism in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. They say the Al Saud regime has been using its petrodollars to finance al-Qaeda-linked and Takfiri groups with the sole aim of destabilizing the region.
Kiev’s government and its western allies bear full responsibility for the recent bloodshed in Ukraine, Russia’s presidential spokesman has said, adding it is now impossible to convince people in the region to disarm because their lives are under threat. Spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, released an official statement following the tragic events in Odessa. 39 anti-government activists have died in a fire at the Trade Unions House there, after the building was set ablaze by pro-Kiev radicals. Some anti-Kiev protesters burned to death, while others suffocated or jumped out of windows, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said. Peskov expressed deep condolences for the families of those who died in the tragedy on behalf of President Vladimir Putin and said the Kiev government and the West had blood on their hands. “The authorities in Kiev not only bear direct responsibility, but are complicit in these criminal activities. Their arms are up to the elbows in blood,” Peskov said. He said the tragedy in Odessa was the product of “the connivance of those who consider themselves the authority in Kiev.” “They allowed extremists and radicals to burn unarmed people alive. I stress that these people were unarmed.” Peskov condemned the position adopted by Washington and a number of European countries as motivated by cynicism. “It is the highest manifestation of cynicism. The people who justify this punitive operation are the same ones that did not allow the legitimate President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, to bring order to the country,” said Peskov, referring to the special operation being carried out in the East of Ukraine at the order of the Kiev government. The latest escalation in the fighting in eastern Ukraine has made it impossible for any nation to convince people to disarm in the region because their lives are at risk, said Peskov. “In spite of consistent attempts to encourage dialogue, Russia has hit against provocation not only from Kiev, but also its Western sponsors," he said, stressing that Russia could not find a solution to the current conflict on its own. Addressing the Ukrainian elections that are set to take place later this month, Peskov said the prospect of such a vote was “absurd” while violence continues to rage in the country. The president’s spokesperson announced on Friday that Kiev had effectively destroyed the last vestige of hope for implementing the Geneva agreement on de-escalating the Ukrainian crisis by unleashing a ‘punitive operation’ in eastern Ukraine. Russia views the operation as criminal and has urged the Ukrainian government not to use force against unarmed civilians. However, the EU and the US have both supported the Kiev government’s operation. President Barack Obama called it “a move to restore order,” while EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said "the state's monopoly on the legitimate use of violence needs to be respected." “Our colleagues in the West are basically trying to justify the large number of murders we are seeing,” said Peskov, calling Ashton’s statement “monstrous.” When asked how Russia would react to the escalating conflict in Ukraine, Peskov said he was unable to answer that question at present. “This is unknown territory for us,” said the presidential spokesperson, adding that the Russian government has received thousands of calls from southeastern Ukraine, demanding Moscow’s help. “Desperate people call, they ask for help. The vast majority want Russia’s help,” said Peskov. “All of these calls are reported to President Vladimir Putin.”
Officials in Afghanistan say they have given up hope of finding any more survivors after 2,100 people were killed following a landslide in the northeast of the country. More than 4,000 are homeless and all efforts are being made to help them.
http://www.chinatopix.com/A United States senator, who was one of the first major politicians to announced support to the presidential ambitions of Barack Obama, has urged Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016. Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, told a South Carolina Women's Democratic Council breakfast that he will support Clinton's candidacy if she decides to run for president in 2016.
http://www.khaama.com/President candidate Gul Agha Sherzai on Saturday announced his support to Dr. Abdullah Abdullah for the second round of election.
Afghan officials gave up hope on Saturday of finding any survivors from a landslide in the remote northeast, putting the death toll at more than 2,100, as rescuers turned their attention to helping the over 4,000 people displaced. Officials expressed concern the unstable hillside above the site of the disaster may cave in again, threatening the homeless as well as the U.N. and local rescue teams that have arrived in Badakhshan province, which borders Tajikistan. "More than 2,100 people from 300 families are all dead," Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial governor, told Reuters. Villagers and a few dozen police, equipped with only basic digging tools, resumed their search when daylight broke but it soon became clear there was no hope of finding survivors buried in up to 100 meters of mud. "Seven members of my family were here, four or five of them were killed ... I am also half alive, what can I do?" said an elderly woman, her hair covered in a pink shawl. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said the focus was now on the more than 4,000 people displaced, either directly as a result of Friday's landslide or as a precautionary measure from villages assessed to be at risk. Their main needs are water, medicine, food and emergency shelter, said Ari Gaitanis, a spokesman from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. The impoverished area, dotted with villages of mud-brick homes nestled in valleys beside bare slopes, has been hit by several landslides in recent years. PLEA FOR HELP The side of the mountain above Ab Barak collapsed at around 11 a.m. (0630 GMT) on Friday as people were trying to recover belongings and livestock after a smaller landslip hit a few hours earlier. Hundreds of homes were destroyed in the landslides that were triggered by torrential rain. Officials worry another section of the mountainside could collapse at any time. The Afghan military flew rescue teams to the area on Saturday, as the remote mountain region is served by only narrow, poor roads which have themselves been damaged by more than a week of heavy rain. "We have managed to get one excavator into the area, but digging looks hopeless," Colonel Abdul Qadeer Sayad, a deputy police chief of Badakhshan, told Reuters. He said the sheer size of the area affected, and the depth of the mud, meant that only modern machinery could help. NATO-led coalition troops are on standby to assist but on Saturday said the Afghan government had not asked for help. "I call on the government to come and help our people, to take the bodies out," said a middle-aged man, standing on a hill overlooking the river of mud where his village once stood. "We managed to take out only 10-15 people, the rest of our villagers here are trapped." FREEZING Hundreds of people camped out overnight in near freezing conditions, although some were given tents. Officials distributed food and water. At least 100 people were being treated for injuries, most of them by medics who set up facilities in a stable building. Seasonal rains and spring snow melt have caused devastation across large swathes of northern Afghanistan, killing more than 100 people before this latest disaster. U.S. President Barack Obama said American forces were on standby to help. "Just as the United States has stood with the people of Afghanistan through a difficult decade, we stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster, for even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure," he said. About 30,000 U.S. soldiers remain in Afghanistan, although that number is falling as Washington prepares to withdraw all combat troops who battled Taliban insurgents by the end of this year. Police said they had provided a security ring around the area, which has been relatively free of insurgent attacks. The Taliban said in a statement they were also willing to provide security.
A recent attack on celebrated Pakistani news anchor, Hamid Mir, illuminated the dangerous reality for journalists working in Pakistan, and legal experts say journalists should be protected.For years, Pakistan has been one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. From feudal landlords to Taliban fighters, to sectarian groups to separatists, there are constant deadly threats to reporters. The recent attack on celebrated news anchor, Hamid Mir, illuminated the dangerous reality for journalists working in Pakistan. Unknown gunmen opened fire on Mir. Wounded by three bullets, he managed to survive but not everyone is as lucky. In the past few years, local as well as foreign reporters in conflict areas have been routinely killed across the country. Experts say regional conflict is to blame for cultivating such a dangerous situation. "War on terror is the main cause. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it is living under the shadows of that war. The terrorist groups, they are organised here,” Mujeeb Ur Rehman Shami, senior journalist and political analyst, said. “We can't say that one force... is threatening -- there are so many groups. Some people say some agencies are doing it, some people say some ethnic groups are doing it. As far as non-state actors are concerned, the real threat is from them but most of the journalists are not prepared to name them." This lack of information and prevailing fear to name attackers has led the Committee to Protect Journalists to name Pakistan as one of 13 countries on its Impunity Index -- a country where journalists are targeted and their murders are most likely to go unpunished. Umar Cheema, a reporter who had been tortured, said: "In Pakistan, journalists are free to speak, write and say anything but they have to do it at their own risk. There is no state power to help them. There is no law to offer them protection, so it's up to the limit they define for themselves." Journalists are often forced to report without any training or safety, and while attacks may be difficult to prevent, legal experts say journalists should be protected. Senior lawyer Nasira Iqbal said: "There must be some form of group insurance so that they are protected whenever they are in a situation like this and loss happens. Then at least their families are compensated and they can get legislation requiring the state to do certain things to protect journalists." Violence aimed at censoring media coverage and gagging opposing voices remains largely unchecked. While President Nawaz Sharif has suggested he is open to implementing better safety measures for reporters, there is much to be done to safeguard the fourth pillar of the state.
A Jang Group spokesman has given the following response to the allegations leveled by PTI chief Imran Khan in a press conference on Friday. Allegation 1: GEO rigged the 2013 elections along with Chief Justice, bureaucracy and the PML-N. GEO announced PML-N as the winner at 11:05pm when only 19% of votes had been cast. GEO influenced the returning officers to swing the elections in favour of PML-N and showed Nawaz Sharif announcing himself as the winner at 11:23pm.GEO’s Response 1: Rigging can’t take place during vote count as votes are counted in front of party representative at each polling station. Rigging takes place before vote counting during the actual voting process. Voting finished between 5-6pm. There is no way GEO or any media could influence rigging or be involved in rigging at 11:05pm which was 5 hours after voting had closed. Kamran Khan and GEO News name shouldn’t be tarnished just because Kamran Khan showed partial results at 11:05pm. In fact, Ayaz Khan of Express News said the following during Express News election transmission at 10:21 pm. Mey yeh dekh raha hoon ke PML-N centre mein hukoomat bana sakti hey or Punjab mey unki government banegi aur Sindh mey PPP government banaey gi or mein yeh dekh raha hoon ke opposition bhi PPP ki hi hogi. Nawaz Sharif’s speech was shown by all channels and in fact GEO News was not even the first channel to show the speech. Regarding showing partial results, whether based on 19% or 30% polling station results, a frequent was flashing on screen and being repeated verbally by our newscaster letting our viewers know that these are non-official and partial results. All over the world partial results are given in elections and in our case we were also showing per constituency what % of the polling station results have come in. This was not a projection but actual results that we were getting from our correspondents of 11,000 people that day who were getting polling station results directly from polling stations and returning officers and Election Commission sources. All channels were airing partial results and the same was done in 2002 and 2008. The method that was used to announce results was consulted by Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani (Gallup Pakistan) and Salman Naseer Danish (PTI) and was statistically safe. This is verified by comparing the result that GEO had given to other channels and final election results announced by the Election Commission. The difference between all channels was less than 10% though GEO was airing the results first due to its larger network and experience. If GEO had rigged the elections, were all top 5 news channels also involved as they were airing similar results? All local and international poll projections had also predicted similar trend as of the elections, does that mean they were also involved in rigging the elections with GEO? Mudassir Rizvi, CEO FAFEN which was the largest network of voter monitoring and fraud monitoring, told GEO News on camera yesterday, “Geo News is not responsible for rigging, we can only hold those responsible that had position of authority. We had an information sharing agreement with GEO which aired much of our data regarding rigging.” GEO News also received a note of appreciation for our contribution for elections 2013 transmission from FAFEN. Iftikhar Ahmad, Director Elections at Jang Group and senior anchorperson, has challenged Imran Khan to an open debate to prove his allegations and provide evidence. Iftikhar Ahmad also said, “Why these allegations were not part of the white paper that was released by PTI on elections rigging? Why is GEO being attacked now? And if Khan wants to improve election reforms then shouldn’t it be one year before the next elections, why now? I think Khan needs to be more mature and realise why he actually lost and show more sportsman sprit.” However at the same time we do want to acknowledge that rigging did take place and it is most unfortunate. GEO would support any positive reforms PTI would like to recommend that will help stop rigging. In fact, GEO aired hours of footage on rigging and exposed it from morning of the elections day. At least two hours of rigging footage that went on air can be provided if required. Hamid Mir, Iftikhar Ahmad and Sohail Warraich did programmes on rigging the same night of elections. Hamid Mir did a two hours show of rigging allegations of Dr Alvi of PTI. Allegation 2: PTI and Imran Khan have also falsely accused Jang/GEO group of receiving special favour by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to acquire rights for the cricket series against Sri Lanka through its Chairman Mr. Najam Sethi who also hosts a programme on the Network. Khan said this was done as a favour for rigging the elections. GEO Response 2: We have already in writing told Imran Khan that the whole process was conducted in open and transparent manner and was witnessed by both bidders (GEO Super and Ten Sports) and a bid committee comprised of Ehsan Mani as chairman legal department of PCB, retired judge, member of BOG, COO, CFO of PCB and independent international auditors (Price Waterhouse and Coopers). In fact Ehsan Mani is also board member of Shaukat Khanum and a friend of Khan. We had requested please consult with Ehsan Mani if he agrees with your allegation or meet the auditors? Ten Sports won the South Africa series rights through the bidding process and GEO Super won the Sri Lanka series rights due to higher bid amounts. Ten Sports is a 100 percent Indian owned company and yet no one raised an eyebrow against them or wrote articles one after the other. Due to interim appointments, the Supreme Court, at that time, did not allow the PCB to enter into any long-term sale of rights that is why the bidding for the matches was for two series only and not 5 years. Also Khan has alluded that we had rigged the elections and in return we got one 14 day match rights? GEO and Jang Group have lost over 600 crores for supporting the lawyers movement fighting a military dictator. Jang Group had also been shut down by Nawaz Sharif in 1998-99 and was boycotted by PPP as well in previous government who had banned all advertising to the largest media group. If GEO didn’t sell out then why would it do now, and that too for Pakistan vs Sir Lanka rights? Allegation 3: Zara Sochiye of Geo had received sponsorship of 20 million pounds, and Aman Ki Asha was sponsored by Indians through Doordarshan. This was in the Supreme Court Media Commission report. GEO Response 3: Yes this was in the Media Commission report but it was not part of the main report but as part of minutes with PEMRA, which GEO had been suing because of its partiality. In fact Supreme Court had asked the government to confirm these allegations and after receiving a response asked chairman PEMRA to prove these allegations after which chairman PEMRA denied the charges and also apologised in writing. It is interesting to note that all these allegations have been raised in past and categorically denied with evidence and a clarification. Aman Ki Asha has been praised by Imran Khan in Parliament. Regarding Indian funding, why would RAW want Pakistan to want peace with India? Jang Group would also like to put on record that Aman Ki Asha and Zara Sochiye (education effort) was started after consultation and feedback of senior most members of the Armed Forces. Aman Ki Asha is an independent project conceived by Jang Group to promote peace with India while respecting our core interests. Zara Sochieye education campaign has been declared openly and its sources of funding (majority of which is funded by Jang Group related companies) have also been shared and its accounts audited by Price Waterhouse Coopers. The campaign to promote education reform was appreciated by all political parties and education related NGOs including scores of PTI representatives. All editorial control and project conception was done by MKRF, local NGO affiliated with founder of Jang Group. Zara Sochieye campaign was aired on PTV, and four regional channels and 4 radio stations apart from GEO channels. Imran Khan seems to be alluding to foreign funding as an evil. One can ask him if PTI government itself in KP accepts 100s of millions of dollars’ worth of aid from US and UK governments. Recent polio campaign was also funded from international sources and PTI itself is funded in part by US, UK, Indian citizens. Most of these funds are used for good purposes and have done a lot of social good. Imran Khan also in previous interview suggested GEO has taken foreign funding and in return maybe doing campaigning against peace negotiations with the Taliban and Government of Pakistan. Imran Khan should note that GEO has done several transmission called Aman Kay Liye Kardalo where Jang Group and GEO have openly been supporting negotiation to operation as a policy. Allegation 4: Group aired Voice of America from a fund for supporting democracy. GEO Response 4: Again Khan seems to be alluding to American influence. Geo is a part of the Jang Group of Publications, Pakistan’s media powerhouse with a proud history. Geo has no connection with the USA, either financial or political. Geo had sold air time to the Voice of America under a transparent commercial contract which total value was less than 3%-5% of its revenue at any given time. GEO made sure that the VOA logo is on screen throughout its broadcast. A disclaimer stipulates that the views expressed in the broadcast are not GEO’s. There was no attempt to camouflage the VOA broadcast and its contract was given to PEMRA also. GEO’s senior management also asked General Musharraf and General Shuja Pasha if they had any problem with us airing the programme and they both said no at the time. However GEO decided on its own to stop airing the programme when drone attacks frequency increased in Pakistan and has not aired the programme for over 3 years. VOA programme had aired on PTV, Express and Aaj TV but surprisingly Imran Khan has not suspected them of any wrongdoing. It should be noted that GEO has aired (Fahrenheit 9/11, bush’s Brain, Loose Change, Cartoons about Bush, Obama, and frequently makes fun of American presidents and leadership in Hum Sub Umeed Se Hein. At the same time it has also educated viewers about the strengths of the US democratic traditions by covering the US elections, dubbing in Urdu the presidential debates and confirmation hearings. This is in line with our policy of learning from best practices. Geo has been critical of the drone attacks, questioned US policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and exposed excesses like those taking place in Guantanamo and Abu Gharaib. In Khuda Ke Liye, released by GEO Films, American torture techniques and atrocities were openly shown and debated in a dramatic fashion. Late Ambassador Holbrooke, who was known for his abrasive side, in his stiff unemotional tone scolded the GEO reporter once on his trip to Pakistan. After telling the reporters how much USA is doing for Pakistan, Holbrooke looked towards GEO reporter and said, “US has given half of the support pledged by (the world). Please make sure that GEO reports that! GEO has reported a lot of anti-US stuff. Now you should tell the truth to the people of Pakistan that US is on your side”. In Wikileaks it was revealed that US Embassy has written a cable to Washington saying GEO is working against the interests of the USA. It complained that Hamid Mir had done a programme exposing that Blackwater was in Islamabad among other things. We would like to ask Imran Khan why he doesn’t ask owners of a channel that aired in India, which earns a lot of money. It is pertinent to mention that when no Pakistani TV channel is allowed to be aired in India, then how come that particular group manages to run its transmissions there. The particular TV channel and its anchorperson also tried to label us traitors by terming a genuine investigative story on Ajmal Kasab as propaganda. We stand by our story and believe that the truth, no matter how bitter, is more patriotic than a lie, no matter how sweet. Another competitor who was in smoking business makes most of its money from business partnerships which are with American and Indian companies. Similarly they have an agreement with an American media outlet, whereby they provide a foreign newspaper along with their daily newspaper, which is owned by Jews, with their own local newspaper. Will Khan ask why Shireen Mazari will never ask them any questions? Will she tell Khan that three mainstream news channels bureaus in Washington DC were paid by US State Department funds and GEO News is the only one that funds its own bureau in Washington DC, NY and London. We would like to clarify here that we are not against any such business partnerships as long as they are legal and transparent but are mentioning this only to underline double standards. We request our viewers and readers to ask why is that you will not see a single conspiracy theory about these other media groups in social media but only bashing of one media group? What has GEO and Jang Group been doing that it gets punished for? Zara Sochieye. Lastly and sadly we had approached Imran Khan through Asad Umar and Jehangir Tareen in writing to please arrange a meeting with Imran Khan. After this couldn’t be done and Khan was still attacking GEO we gave the following offer on 20th February 2014- “Kindly please form a committee that will investigate the accusations against us, please give it a 30 days deadline, and let the committee review all the contents and they can ask us any questions or hear our point of view as well and then if it feels we are guiltily we will give you an hour of our prime in which PTI can make its findings shard with our audiences. Our request would be that that committee contains only neutral people and not people have a known biased against us.You need to know that these allegations are serious and personal for us.” But instead of confronting us with questions and evidence Shireen Mazari has convinced Imran Khan to attack us through press conferences and certain sections of the media with competing interests.
Journalists in Pakistan live under the constant threat of killings, harassment and other violence from all sides, including intelligence services, political parties and armed groups like the Taliban, Amnesty International said in a new report today. ‘A bullet has been chosen for you’: Attacks on journalists in Pakistan, describes how the Pakistani authorities have almost completely failed to stem human rights abuses against media workers or to bring those responsible to account. Amnesty International has documented 34 cases of journalists being killed in Pakistan in response to their work since the restoration of democratic rule in 2008, but only in one case have the perpetrators been brought to justice. But these killings are just the most brutal statistic – many more journalists have been threatened, harassed, abducted, tortured or escaped assassination attempts in the same period. “Pakistan’s media community is effectively under siege. Journalists, in particular those covering national security issues or human rights, are targeted from all sides in a disturbing pattern of abuses carried out to silence their reporting,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. “The constant threat puts journalists in an impossible position, where virtually any sensitive story leaves them at risk of violence from one side or another.” The report is based on extensive field research into over 70 cases and interviews with over 100 media workers in Pakistan. It examines several recent cases where journalists have been targeted for their reporting by a range of actors. Numerous journalists interviewed by Amnesty International complained of harassment or attacks by individuals they claimed were connected to the feared military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). While some are featured in the report with names changed, others could not be included even under a false name because they feared for their lives. The spy agency has been implicated in several abductions, torture and killings of journalists, but no serving ISI officials has ever been held to account – allowing it to effectively operate beyond the reach of the law. Human rights violations against journalists by the ISI often follow a familiar pattern that starts with threatening phone calls and escalates into abductions, torture and other ill-treatment, and in some cases killings. Journalists are also victims of human rights abuses by non-state groups across the country. Aggressive competition for media space means that powerful political actors across the country put severe pressure on journalists for favourable coverage. In Karachi, supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) religious group and others stand accused of harassing or killing journalists they consider critical. In conflict-ridden regions in the northwest and Balochistan province, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and ethnic Baloch armed groups openly threaten reporters with death and attack them in retaliation for seeking to highlight their abuses or not promoting their ideology. Journalists in Pakistan’s heartland of the Punjab have also faced threats from the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-linked groups. Despite the wave of violence and attacks, the Pakistani authorities have largely failed to hold perpetrators to account. In the overwhelming number of cases researched by Amnesty International, authorities rarely adequately investigated threats or attacks or brought those responsible to justice. Only in a handful of high-profile cases have more thorough investigations been carried out, and only after public outrage has made it impossible for authorities not to act. “The government has promised to improve the dire situation for journalists, including by establishing a public prosecutor tasked with investigating attacks against journalists. But few concrete steps have been taken,” said David Griffiths. “A critical step will be for Pakistan to investigate its own military and intelligence agencies and ensure that those responsible for human rights violations against journalists are brought to justice. This will send a powerful signal to those who target journalists that they no longer have free reign.” Media enterprises operating in Pakistan must also ensure they provide adequate training, support and assistance to journalists, in an important, practical step towards addressing the risk of abuses while they are at work. “Without these urgent steps, Pakistan’s media could be intimidated into silence. The climate of fear has already had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the broader struggle to expose human rights abuses across Pakistan,” said David Griffiths.
KNOWN more for generating asylum-seekers than receiving them, Sri Lanka is providing shelter to growing numbers of would-be refugees from Pakistan. Twice a week the pews of the Holy Rosary church in Negombo, just north of Colombo on Sri Lanka’s west coast, are filled with Pakistanis attending the country’s only Urdu mass, conducted by a Sri Lankan priest. More than 1,000 Christians flock there on festive occasions, says Father Eric Lakman, who worked in Pakistan for 15 years.
The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, reports an increase in asylum-seekers arriving from Pakistan to 1,489 last year, up from just 102 in 2012. Most are Christians or members of Ahmadiyya, an Islamic sect that is regarded as apostate by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan.Sri Lanka’s attraction for the asylum-seekers is that they can enter the country on 30-day tourist visas, obtainable online, and stay on after registering with the UNHCR, while their cases are examined. Sri Lanka does not allow them to settle, but the process often takes up to two years. The UNHCR in Colombo, which has to record and cross-check each applicant’s story, is ill equipped to handle so many cases. To date, only 125 have been recognised as refugees. Barred from working, and with their children out of school, many Pakistanis rely on handouts from churches and mosques. Every week the priest at another Catholic church in Negombo supplies needy Christians with biscuits, rice, noodles and other provisions. It is not enough for families such as that of Jameel Parvaiz, a 48-year-old Methodist pastor with eight children, who fled Pakistan 15 months ago. His wife, who has a bullet in her leg from 2012, when gunmen attacked their prayer centre, recently suffered a stroke. Sri Lanka’s government gives the asylum-seekers no financial help. Pakistan maintains they are economic migrants fabricating stories. And the churches and mosques cannot keep supporting the increasing numbers. Already some are working illegally for a fraction of local wages. In April Iftikhar Ahmad Ayaz, a London-based human-rights activist and Ahmadi scholar, met asylum-seekers in Negombo and urged them to discourage any more Ahmadis from coming to Sri Lanka until the UNHCR clears the backlog of asylum applications. In the meantime, as more Pakistanis arrive, residents are beginning to doubt their tales of persecution.
By Yasmin Eliaz
The Pashtun people who live in Afghanistan and Pakistan have common historical, linguistic and cultural similarities with Jewish people.we can look for similarities that originate from the Torah or from the Bible that do not have necessarily something in common with the Pashtunwali. There are some recognized stories of Pashtun practices virtually identical to Jews: Lighting candles on Friday night, separation of meat and dairy, and covering graves with stones. Moreover, some Pashtu names derive from Hebrew. For example, Asif, Assaf, Binyamin, Kenan, and Barak (Barak is the name of the known Barakzai tribe, which traces after Barak son of Avinoam, officer- warrior of the ancient Israeli Kingdom. Barak means glance, sparkling, flash. The other names mentioned in the Torah: Asif (harvest in Heberew), Assaf (gather in Hebrew), also known as the compositor of the Levi’s (Liwan tribe) choir, Binyamin (fool of power), the 12th Israeli tribe, and Kenan (lamenter in Hebrew) the fourth generation of the humanity. These names are quite ordinary in Israel and in Pashtun areas. Names that do not originate from the Torah, like Tameer (high in Hebrew/hideen in Aramaic) and Timor (carved decorating shape of palms found at the Jewish temple), are also common among the two groups, as well as Shir and Sahar. Religious names and tool share common characteristics. In Pashtu, names of God are known as Khudai; while in biblical Hebrew God is referred to as (El) Shadai. The Jewish prayer shawl (talit) issue also has a great resemblance to the Pashtu/Urdu word tolia which means towel. Many Pashtun wear scarves which look like a talit: a wide white scarf decorated with blue stripes on both sides of it. The only thing that is missing in the knotted fringes (tzitzit) attached to its four corners. Saturday in Pashtu is called Shanbay and Hebrew, Shabbat – the holy day of the week for Jews. During Shabbat, Jews are commanded to abstain from labor and reflect. Shabbat is the Jewish symbol of loyalty for God. In Pashtu, Sabat means loyalty, and on Shanbay work is also not allowed. Furthermore, Pashtu and Hebrew prefixes originate from the ancient Semitic language Aramaic. For example, the prefix “De” which used in Hebrew and Pashtu literature means “from” or “of.” There are probably more common words, names and phrases between the Pashtu, which belongs to western Iranian language group, and Hebrew which belongs to west Semitic language group. And yet both groups still have much in common, as the Pashtuns originate from the lost tribes of Israel.
http://balochwarna.com/Baloch families mostly women and children took out a protest rally in Pasni area of Balochistan on Wednesday against military operation and abduction of around a dozen people by Pakistani forces. The businesses and educational institutions remained closed in the city in protest against the arrests. At least 15 men have reportedly been arrested from ward six of Pasni town in Balochistan. Their whereabouts remain unknown since their arrest and disappearance three day ago. The abducted men have been named as following: Abdul Rasool S/o Ghulam Rasool, Ghulam Rasool, Mastir Riaz Testi, Arshid, Zarif , Baba Mir Rahmat , Yaseen Mir Rahmat, Haji Hahmat, Faisal Haji Rahmat, Zobair Haji Rahmat, Janzahib Ameen, Junaid Ameen, Ali amen, Zafaar Malang and Zafar. According to locals, a heavy contingent of Pakistani security forces surrounded the area from five o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock and carried out an offensive military operation. The residents complained that women and children were beaten up and harassed during the operation. Meanwhile on Thursday large number of Baloch women and children took out a protest rally in Balgatar area of Balochistan to demand immediate release of BSO-Azad leader, Zahid Baloch who was abducted on 18 March 2014 from satellite town area of Quetta. A CC member of BSO-Azad has started a hunger strike till death on 22nd April at Karachi Press Club to demand the release of his organization’s leader. Despite appeals from Baloch social media activists, Baloch intellectuals including Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, Dr Badal Khan Baloch, Hafeez Hasanabadi and veteran Baloch activist Abdul Samad Ameeri to end his hunger strike – he has refused to end his strike and vowed to continue the protest till death or the release or discovery of Zahid Baloch.
http://thefrontierpost.com/Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) patron-in-chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday said that his party would not tolerate any compromise over freedom of expression (FoE) and added it would stand steadfast with the journalist community in case of any attack, Local TV reported. In a statement issued on the World Press Freedom Day, Bilawal Bhutto recalled that PPP and the journalist community together had faced the martial law curbs on freedom of expression during the last four decades. He said that free media has played a key role in strengthening the democracy and upholding the constitution. Bilawal Bhutto said that PPP has always condemned any maltreatment to journalists. He said that the Kalashnikov culture of General Zia era still haunting every peace professing segments of the society.
Another blast in Swat injured three members of the security forces on Friday, though this is only to be expected, considering that attacks from the terrorists did not abate even while the ceasefire was ongoing. The government has now received intelligence reports about militants planning to use the Indus River to transport arms, people and equipment between provinces. This means they would be able to avoid security checkpoints on highway routes. Amidst all this, a tribal Jirga arranged by the JI in FATA, made another call for ceasefire by both parties, and blamed corruption, unemployment and America, naturally, for all of Pakistan’s problems. Their call for ceasefire with a non-state actor which blatantly refuses to accept the writ of the state and refuses to hold by the terms of the ceasefire is astounding, considering that the ceasefire was also nothing more than a farce. As for the worrying news about the Indus River as a possible militant route, it should be noted that only three checkpoints exist throughout the entire channel, and those too, purely to protect reservoirs. There is no real high security check post on any part of the river, and arrangements will have to be made. The mere size of the river is perhaps the most daunting part; still it will have its logistical disadvantages that the government can use against militants. Apart from the speed of travel by boat, just how much these supply runs will be able to transport is an added obstacle that challenges efficiency. Perhaps it is not yet time to panic. It must be said however, that any security arrangements that the government and the security forces make will need to be vigilant. What exactly will “river security” entail? How many checkpoints are sufficient on waterways? Where will they be installed, and how expensive and practical will the exercise be? The greatest problems will be logistical, for both the terrorists and for counter-terrorism procedures in place. On the other hand, the “talks-fight” strategy, is more than purely logistical. It is ideological, and it is political. It reflects the national attitude of “anything goes” which is prevalent in every social and state institution of the country. Anything goes, no matter how many die, no matter how many are dying, no matter how many hideouts we bomb or how many negotiation committees we draw up. Anything goes. It is time perhaps, to call this sham for what it is; an exercise in futility, an incoherent, destructive marriage with the devil.
During the month of April 2014, security situation in the country increasingly became volatile in which upsurge in violent incidents in Balochistan played a major part followed by expiry of ceasefire deadline by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on 10th of April. According to the Conflict Monitoring Centre (CMC) statistics, a total of 209 violent incidents related to anti-state militancy and counter-insurgency operations from security forces were reported in which 271 people were killed and 412 others injured. While security forces arrested 218 suspected militants, 54 were kidnapped by militants. There were 72 security forces operations in which 85 people were killed including 79 militants and six civilians while 36 people were injured including 12 security forces personnel, 20 militants and four civilians. As many as 218 suspected militants were arrested by the security forces. Out of total 209 incidents, there were 137 militant activities across the country in which 186 people got killed and 376 others injured while 54 persons were kidnapped. As compared to the previous week, there was almost 19 per cent increase in militant activities, almost 41 per cent increase in casualties while almost 53 per cent increase in injuries. Highest numbers of incidents were reported from Baluchistan where militants carried out 38 attacks in which 50 people were killed including two SFPs, seven militants and 41 civilians while 78 people were injured including five SFPs, one militant and 72 civilians. Sindh and KP witnessed 35 incidents each. In KP 35 militant attacks, 33 people were killed including 10 SFPs, eight militants and 15 civilians while 88 people were injured including 25 SFPs, one militant and 62 civilian. In FATA, 25 militant attacks were reported in which 58 people were killed including three SFPs, 4 Razakars, 48 militants and 3 civilians while 33 people were injured including 6 SFPs, 5 Razakars, 11 militants and 11 civilians. The only incident in Islamabad was the deadliest of all the incidents of the country, in which 24 people were killed and 115 others were injured in blast in fruit market. In three incidents in Punjab, no causality was reported. On the other hand, security forces actions came down from 89 to 72 in April. Numbers of casualties in security forces actions went up as compared to that of the previous month as 85 people were killed (including 79 militants and six civilians) as compared to 17 in the previous month while 36 people were injured as compared to 10 in the previous month. Thus, a decrease of almost 19 per cent was witnessed in number of operations, however, number of casualties and injuries went up with a percentage of almost 400 per cent and 260 per cent, respectively. Security forces arrested 218 suspected militants as compared to 1078 in the previous month. Two suicide attacks, 53 bomb blasts, 28 physical militant assaults were also reported during the month. Armed clashes between rival groups of TTP in Waziristan claimed at least 49 lives in 8 reported incidents.
Reporters Without Boarders announced '100 Information Heroes' a day before World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The list of journalists which has been issued for the first time also included Pakistan’s senior journalist and Geo News anchor Hamid Mir who survived an assassination attempt last month in Karachi. The non-profit international organization described Hamid Mir as Star Reporter. Besides the assassination attempt in which Mir sustained six bullets a bomb was also found under his car in Islamabad last year.
Brushing aside Imran Khan’s allegations against Geo News, Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Chief Executive Mudassir Rizvi has said that the TV channel was not involved in poll rigging in last year elections. The FAFEN chief executive said that only an organization having authority could be involved in election rigging.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Mian Manzoor Wattoo has said that Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif should become a foreign minister as he spends most of his time on foreign tours, leaving the province of Punjab at the disposal of his sons to run it. In a statement on Friday, Wattoo said that it would be appropriate if the largest province of Pakistan was administered by a full-time and dedicated chief minister to immediately address pressing issues pertaining to law and order, power outages and heinous crimes that had registered unprecedented surge more recently. Himself a former chief minister, Wattoo pointed out that the incumbent chief minister was unable to provide leadership to the province because of his ‘other preoccupations’; therefore, he should be given responsibilities measuring up to his ‘new interest’. He said that members of the ruling party were equally allergic to the treatment meted out to them by the chief minister as they were hardly taken into confidence on matters relating to their constituencies or other important national or provincial issues. He said that treasury members were annoyed over the obstinacy of chief minister that was unfortunately limitless also. He said that Shahbaz Sharif’s chief ministership was confined only to Ferozepur Road in Lahore while the rest of the province was suffering due to his indifference to carrying out development in other regions.
In a hopeful sign, the weakened workers’ trade union movement put on a better show than has been the case for some years in its rallies this May Day. Naturally, the pivot for most of the rallies was the large cities hosting the bulk of industry, commerce and the professions. The slogans, demands and pledges were not anything new though. Repetition of more or less the same demands every May Day reflects the stubborn continuing sameness of the problems that afflict the working class but also inevitably lend a ritualistic air to the proceedings. May Day commemorates the sacrifices of the 1886 Chicago martyrs killed by police firing for taking part in a working class rally demanding an eight-hour working day. The day is marked as a holiday in about 80 countries, and informally celebrated in many others. Two significant exceptions to the traditional labour rallies currently are Turkey and Iran, in both of which May Day rallies are banned. For the first time since the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Russia held a May Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Throughout Europe, the day found the greatest traction in rallies protesting unemployment. In Pakistan, a Labour Policy was enunciated by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government in 1972 amidst the first flurry of reforms introduced by him. The Policy provided for social security, old age benefits, and set up a Workers Welfare Fund. The 1973 constitution too upholds labour rights in various Articles. In addition, there is no dearth of labour laws. However, the present struggle of the much weaker working class movement is for legislation in areas where there are gaps, but even more for the implementation of the existing laws, which are practiced more in the breach. Various ILO conventions have been signed by Pakistan, some are still to be signed, but here too the implementation part is far from satisfactory. The incremental rollback of workers’ rights since General Ziaul Haq’s reactionary regime have been exacerbated in recent years by the ‘attack’ of the employers. To overcome the effects of socialisation of the workers through concentration in large factories and learning class solidarity in struggle, employers have managed over the years (with help from successive governments) to circumscribe the right of collective bargaining by placing limits on trade union formation (any workplace employing less than 50 workers is disallowed a union), a contract labour regime through labour contractors, depriving the workers of all protections, outsourcing production to home-based workers, etc. Domestic labour goes unrecognized, unprotected, abused, even murdered. Child labour remains widespread despite its abolition in the early 1990s. If anything, its incidence has steadily risen in the middle of the recession. How can the well-meaning universal school enrolment drives succeed in the face of this rising phenomenon owed to increasing poverty? The minimum wage of Rs 10,000 remains a fiction confined to paper, especially in the private sector. Safety and working conditions issues have become an increasing concern in recent years, with the Baldia Town fire that consumed 250 workers’ lives bringing us as a society to a new low. All this and the lived experience of the working class from day to day inevitably compels the May Day rallies to once again raise voice against unemployment, inflation, utilities’ load shedding, terrorism, lawlessness, privatisation, gender discrimination and the exploitation of the working class generally, but especially in the agricultural and informal sector. The long standing demand for working class representation in parliament seems like pie in the sky given the wealth-based game elections are. This demand can perhaps only be fulfilled by reservation of seats exclusively for the working class in parliament. The ‘triumph’ of capitalism in the Cold War has left the world without a coherent alternative to unbridled capitalism. The result is owners of wealth are able to drive down wages (even more so in the current recession because of lack of jobs) and deprive, through various manipulations, the workers of their legally given and inherent rights as human beings. Capitalism triumphant has bared its ugly fangs and swallowed up generation after generation of the poor, marginalised and oppressed working masses all over the world. Unless the workers of the world overcome their weaknesses, including disunity based purely on rivalries and ambition, they will prove no match for the vastly superior resources and cunning of the capitalist class. In Pakistan in particular, a return to the heyday of working class resistance to exploitation is only possible if principled unity and the bigger cause inform the thinking and practice of the working class.
AS the country went through the motions of celebrating May Day on Thursday, representatives of labour groups across the country had a very different and painful story to tell. Unemployment, under-employment, job insecurity, denial of workers’ rights, a state indifferent to the working class — the list of woes is long and seemingly intractable. Yet, as labour representatives have argued, the trouble for employees of public-sector enterprises may only just be beginning with the PML-N’s determination to push ahead aggressively with its privatisation plans. Any debate about privatisation breaks down along predictable lines: one side argues that the state should not be in the business of business; the other side argues that only the state can run businesses efficiently and it also has an obligation to provide employment to the citizenry. Yet, it is how those respective ideological positions are translated into action that is more problematic. In allegedly getting the government out of the business of business, the PML-N appears to put the rights of wealthy investors ahead of the infinitely less well-off middle- and working-class employees. As for the PPP, it appears to treat public-sector enterprises as little more than a means of disbursing patronage through granting employment to political supporters. So now that a PML-N government has followed a PPP one, the PML-N can argue that it is the PPP’s poor policies that have left it with little choice but to sell off public-sector enterprises. Lost in all of this is the balance between the need to have a healthy job-creating economy and looking after the vulnerable sections of society. What makes the PML-N’s line on privatisation difficult to accept is the focus on efficiency and best practices — but not across government, just when it comes to particular businesses that it wants to sell off. For example, a bitter bureaucratic war over the country’s largest social protection scheme, the Benazir Income Support Programme, has been allowed to play out without much concern for its impact on the running of the programme itself. Or while so focused on privatisation, the government appears to have little interest in creating a reasonable regulatory environment, paving the way for monopolies and oligopolies that hurt the public interest. True, entities like the Steel Mills and PIA have too many employees and the workforce will eventually need to be rationalised. But how much money do the vast majority of those employees really cost the state and how do those sums stack up against the extraordinary waste, corruption and leakages elsewhere in government? Would not the withdrawal of just a handful of tax SROs that favour wealthy and politically connected special interests more than compensate for this great loss the state suffers from? But those are issues the PML-N would rather not talk about.