Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bahrain parl. fires MP critical of prison conditions

A Sunni MP has been dismissed from Bahrain’s parliament for criticizing conditions at a detention center where inmates are held over participating in anti-regime protests.
Parliament speaker Khalifa al-Dhahrani said on Tuesday that 31 MPs out of the 40-member chamber voted to sack Osama Mehanna.
Sources said Mehanna had a fierce argument with fellow MPs on April 29 after he criticized the situation at Jaw Prison in which mostly Shia protesters are kept in southeastern Bahrain.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters.
According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.
Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have “evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police” in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Amnesty International has also expressed concerns over the “continuing detention of prisoners of conscience and the harsh sentences” given by courts in the Persian Gulf country to protesters.

Turkey: US criticizes ‘apparent use of unprovoked violence’ in Soma videos

Washington has condemned the use of “unprovoked violence” against protests during a visit by officials to disaster-hit mining town Soma last week, in the wake of an accident that claimed 301 victims.
“We saw the range of videos that have emerged. We reject the apparent use of unprovoked violence against demonstrators and urge accountability according to Turkey’s rule of law,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on May 19.
Asked about footage that surfaced last week showing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan engaging in scuffles with protesters during his eventful visit to Soma one day after the mine blast, Psaki said Washington had seen those reports.
“I don’t have the specific language. Obviously, if offensive comments were made, we’d of course condemn those. But I think there’s some confusion on that front,” she said.
In one video, Erdoğan is seen singling out a protester in the crowd, telling him “if you boo the prime minister of this country, you deserve a slap.”
He is seen in other videos grabbing the neck of another man, and allegedly using a racial slur, though his exact words are difficult to discern due to the noise coming from the crowd. Other photographs have also emerged showing one of his advisers, Yusuf Yerkel, kicking a mourner.
Meanwhile, Psaki also said the United States was ready to provide assistance to Turkey, but added that no such request had been made by Ankara.
The Soma disaster has triggered debate on workers’ condition and labor regulations, and the first arrests have been made in the official probe into the accident.

China, Russia see forcible interference in Syria impermissible

China and Russia have stressed absolute rejection of forcible interference in Syria.
"Russia and China find any attempts at an external forcible interference in Syria impermissible," Presidents of Russia and China Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping said in a joint statement at the end of their talks in Shanghai on Tuesday.
The two presidents said in the statement “Russia and China support efforts taken by the Syrian government and the international community for a successful finalizing of the process of destroying the chemical weapons of Syria."
They voiced deep concern over the current humanitarian situation in Syria, calling for a non-discriminatory and depoliticized approach to soonest settlement of humanitarian problems in Syria and the issue of the Syrian refugees aboard with all norms of international humanitarian law observed.
President Putin arrived in China Tuesday morning for an official visit that is aimed at discussing relations between the two countries and other international issues.
In a relevant context, President Putin and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon affirmed the importance of political solution in Syria and Ukraine. Russia Today Website quoted Ki-Moon's Spokesman as saying that Putin has discussed with the UN chief the situation in Syria and the political settlement possibilities to the crisis in the country.

President Obama takes an unexpected detour — to a Little League game

President Obama took an unexpected side trip on his way to a fundraiser Monday night -- he stopped at a Little League game. Obama popped by Friendship Park in Northwest Washington and chatted with four co-ed Little League teams warming up before their games.
Obama was dressed in more of a Presidential than baseball uniform -- dress pants, white shirt and tie -- but he still played a bit of ball. He grabbed a baseball and lobbed it to home plate, where Danny Ringel, 10, caught it. "You saved me from grounding," Obama said. He then posed for photos with the very excited players.
"I don't want to break up the game," Obama said. "Let's get a picture quick." After yet another round of photos, Obama implored the players to "get back to drills" ahead of their games. But the kids might have trouble concentrating. "Omg, it's a dream come true," one player said of Obama's visit to another. Obama then headed to a fundraiser in Maryland, where tickets ranged from $10,000 to $32,000 per couple. That could buy a whole lot of goodies at a concession stand.

Pakistan: PEMRA suspends Geo, Geo Tez, Geo News licenses, recommends revocation

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)’s session comprising five key members suspended licenses of Geo News, Geo Entertainment and Geo Tez TV out of five TV channels owned and operated by Geo/Jang group and moved for revocation of licenses, Dunya News reported.
PEMRA member Mian Shams said that PEMRA’s today’s session comprised members from all over Pakistan. He said that PEMRA members have full authority as per PEMRA rules. He said that a committee will be formed in next session to assert the authority of the chairman. He also recommended immediate suspension and sealing Geo’s offices.
He alleged that Mir Shakil tried to influence PEMRA members and the due process. He said that PEMRA has also said the recommendations to Geo/Jang group seeking response by May 28 when the final decision will be taken. He alleged that Mir Shakil wanted private members of PEMRA to decide on the issue in order to influence the process and seek a favourable decision.
Another member Israr Abbasi alleged that Mir Shakil tried to call PEMRA members individually but he refused to answer the call. Earlier, Council of Complaints Karachi chapter also recommended revoking GeoTV’s license over airing of allegedly blasphemous content.
The recommendation was made by complaints council Karachi following the complaints and reports of allegedly blasphemous content on Geo’s morning show.
PEMRA had slammed Geo TV with a show-cause notice for allegedly airing blasphemous content, seeking immediate explanation. The show-cause notice was issued by PEMRA over the objectionable content broadcasted in Geo Entertainment’s morning show ‘Utho Jago Pakistan’. According to PEMRA spokesperson, over 10,000 complaints were received against the show. The complaints were sent to the Complaint Council for review, seeking apt recommendations.
It merits mentioning here that a session comprising 5 PEMRA members is underway in Islamabad deliberating over the issue. PEMRA member Israr Abbasi said prior to joining the session that he hopes the committee reaches a consensus over the issue.
Geo TV came under immense criticism following the allegedly blasphemous content in its morning broadcast. The aftermath saw several protests across the country and registration of dozens of cases pleading courts to invoke blasphemy laws against the accused. Following the orders of Islamabad Additional Session Judge Jahangir Awan, Margalla Police Station Islamabad registered the case against Geo TV under blasphemy law sections 295-A, 295-C, 298-A and seven Anti-Terrorism Court sections on May 17.

Pashto Song : Laila Khan and Shakir Zeb | Ta Shayer Ye Zama |

Bahrain steps up crackdown on anti-government protestors

Bahraini government forces have intensified crackdown on protests, clashing with mourners after the funeral of an anti-government protester on the island of Sitra.
According to reports on Sunday, at least one person suffered injuries after Bahraini forces fired tear gas to disperse the mourners. The mourners reportedly urged Manama to probe the cause of the death of Ali Faisal Al Akrawi.
Akrawi was killed in a blast near his home on Friday. He is believed to have been in hiding following an absentia prison sentence of ten years for his alleged role in protests against the Al Khalifa rulers.
Scores of Bahraini activists have been placed behind bars across the country, which is said to be supported by a number of Western countries, particularly the United States and Britain, despite its appalling human rights record.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on demonstrators.
According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.
Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

China suspends cyber working group activities with U.S. to protest cyber theft indictment

China on Monday decided to suspend activities of the China-U.S. Cyber Working Group as U.S. announced indictment against five Chinese military officers on allegation of cyber theft.
"Given the lack of sincerity on the part of the U.S. to solve issues related to cyber security through dialogue and cooperation, China has decided to suspend activities of the China-U.S. Cyber Working Group," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang regarding the U.S. Justice Department's announcement on Monday.
The US side announced on Monday indictment against five Chinese military officers on allegation of cyber theft. This U.S. move, which is based on intentionally-fabricated facts, grossly violates the basic norms governing international relations and jeopardizes China-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust, Qin said.
China lodged protest with the US side right after the announcement, urging the US side to immediately correct its mistakes and withdraw the "indictment", he said.
The position of the Chinese government on cyber security is consistent and clear-cut. China is steadfast in upholding cyber security. The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have "never engaged or participated" in cyber theft of trade secrets. The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is "purely ungrounded and with ulterior purpose," Qin said.
Qin said it is a fact criticized by other countries and global media that the US government and relevant departments have long been involved in large-scale and organized cyber theft as well as wiretapping and surveillance activities against foreign political leaders, companies and individuals.
China is a victim of severe U.S. cyber theft, wiretapping and surveillance activities. Large amounts of publicly disclosed information show that relevant U.S. institutions have been conducting cyber intrusion, wiretapping and surveillance activities against Chinese government departments, institutions, companies, universities and individuals, according to the spokesman.
China has, on many occasions, made serious representations with the U.S. side, Qin said, "We once again strongly urge the U.S. side to make a clear explanation of what it has done and immediately stop such kind of activities." Qin warned that China would react further to the U.S. "indictment" as the situation evolves.

Russia & China: ‘No to sanctions rhetoric, regime change in other countries’

Moscow and Beijing have rejected the imposition of sanctions as political tools and condemned attempts at “encouraging and financing” regime changes in other countries in a joint statement released during President Putin’s official visit to China.
Having faced economic sanctions and threats of more of to come from the West, Russia has turned to the East, seeking to boost business ties in a friendlier environment. An impressive package of deals on energy, business and infrastructure has already been signed in Shanghai.
More is yet to come, judging by the title of the joint statement by Beijing and Moscow, which promises “a new stage in full-scale partnership and strategic relations.”
Boosting mutual trade is not all there is to that “new stage,” as following the meeting with Xi, the Russian president shared expectations of closer cooperation between the countries in international politics.
“We have common priorities on a global and on a regional scale,” Putin said. “We’ve agreed upon closer coordination of our foreign policy steps, including those in the UN, BRICS and APEC,” he added.
Among attitudes Russia and China share is their mutual dislike of economic restrictions imposed for political reasons. “The parties stress the necessity to… reject unilateral sanctions rhetoric,” the joint statement reads.
Economic restrictions applied as punishment are no better than financial aid to forces that seek “a change in constitutional system of another country,” the Russian-Chinese statement says.
Moscow still feels bitter about the role it believes the US played in the Ukrainian coup. Russia has accused Washington of investing $5 billion in the regime change in Kiev.
A number of European politicians, meanwhile, acknowledged the EU might have been pressing Ukraine too hard to sign the integration deal which, according to German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, could have created “the impression in Ukraine that it had to decide between Russia and the EU."
The ongoing political crisis in Ukraine can only be resolved peacefully, Putin and Xi Jinping believe, calling on political opponents in Ukraine to switch from confrontation to dialogue. "The sides urged all Ukrainian regions and public and political groups to enter in broad nationwide talks, develop jointly a concept of further constitutional development of the country, envisaging full observation of universally recognized rights and freedoms of people," the statement reads.
News rules for cyberspace
Russia and China have called for creation of new “universal rules of behavior in information space,” citing concerns over some of communication technologies “running contrary to international stability and security, damaging countries’ sovereignty and violating personal privacy.” The ‘rules for internet’ comment comes amid scandal with US and China trading accusations of online espionage. On Monday, a grand jury in the United States indicted five Chinese military - allegedly officers of an elite cyber squad - with hacking into American computer networks and stealing sensitive business information from US companies. China dismissed all US accusations and published proof that Washington is actually stealing data from China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also summoned the American ambassador to China for an explanation, urging him to drop all charges against China’s military officers.

Video: New realities of China-Russia alliance

Afghans call on incoming government to improve health care

Afghanistan's healthcare industry is in shambles and requires immediate attention, citizens say.
KABUL – Afghan residents are looking forward to the next government coming up with reforms to fix the country's broken healthcare system as they head to the polls June 14 to choose a new president.
While international investment in machinery has given the healthcare infrastructure a boost since 2001, the country still has many hurdles and tasks ahead of it.
"Things have improved tremendously in the past 12 years or so, but the mission is far from accomplished," said Dr. Amir Hayat, a medico based in Kabul. "The fact that most Afghans head to other countries for treatment shows how littlethey trust their own hospitals here."
Hayat suggests upgrading the infrastructure and training doctors as the way forward. "The new government has to take it up with more seriousness than the previous government; it has to be a priority," he said. Medical care availability, shortcomings in Afghanistan The country has made improvements in the healthcare industry in recent years. About 2,170 healthcare centres operate across the country, according to the Ministry of Public Health, and they are more widespread than they were in 2001, when key cities had hospitals, but outlying districts had no real options.
About 75% of Afghans have access to healthcare services, up from the 9% who could get treatment under the Taliban's rule, Oxfam, a global anti-hunger NGO, estimated in its 2013 annual report.
And the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 has dropped to 99 per 1,000 live births in 2012, from 176 per 1,000 live births in 1990, according to UNICEF data.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN's public health arm, calls Afghanistan's health status one of the worst in the world with the per capita incidence of some of the indicators of ill health three- to five-fold higher than in neighbouring countries.
Insurgents also continue to attack healthcare facilities.
"Militants have destroyed the healthcare system in provinces like Kandahar, Helmand and Baglan," Kanishka Turistani, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, said. "They … don't care about the public." Lack of quality care The healthcare industry faces challenges, Mohammad Ishaq Fayaz, an industry observer, agreed.
"There are run-of-the-mill hospitals and dispensaries across the country, but the quality is missing," he said. "The focus must be on quality services and upgrades to healthcare infrastructure."
The next president, Fayaz said, should focus on standardising healthcare services and raising hospitals to a par with those in neighbouring countries.
A shortage of modern and sophisticated medical equipment makes the job difficult.
In remote areas, healthcare centres lack even basic equipment, forcing patients to journey to larger cities.
"The next government must appoint an expert committee to suggest how the problems related to poor health care can be immediately addressed," said Dr. Abdul Toori of Jalalabad. "The out-dated equipment must be replaced to start with, and medics should be trained in using it."
A multi-faceted approach to improving health care A wide-ranging strategy must be the hallmark of improving the healthcare system, Dr. Abdul Halim, former deputy education minister, said. He noted several factors that require attention, including the promotion of preventive medicine and availability of affordable treatment. But real improvement, he said, is rooted in better training for medical professionals.
"The new government should send healthcare professionals to advanced countries ... to help them improve their skills and learn how to operate the latest technological devices," he said. "Then they will be in a position to offer quality health care at par with other countries in the region."
The next government must develop healthcare infrastructure in villages and small towns, medical insiders agree.
"People from various provinces come to Kabul for treatment, but they are left dejected because for most of them the diagnosis is wrong," Dr. Muneer Azizi, a Kabul-based medico, said. "The new government should invest generously in villages, provide them clean drinking water and train young medicos to take care of patients there."

​Afghanistan Asks Pakistan For Security Help With Vote

Afghan officials have asked neighboring Pakistan to help provide security during the second round of the country's presidential election in June. Security cooperation was on the agenda of a trilateral meeting in Kabul between the Afghan Army Chief of Staff Sher Mohammad Karimi and his Pakistani counterpart, Raheel Sharif, as well as representatives from the NATO-led international forces. During the meeting on May 19, Afghan officials urged Pakistan to cooperate in strengthening security in border areas between the two countries. Afghanistan also asked Islamabad to stop firing missiles from Pakistani soil onto Afghan territory. Kabul has long accused Pakistan of backing militants who launch attacks inside Afghanistan. Pakistan denies the claim.

Four Christian Individuals Arrested Against Spreading Religious Disarray

Mirpur khas: Javed Jounis Masih and his wife, Nazia, Rose Marry and kiran have been taken into custody against spreading religious Disarray through pamphlets at Railway station Mirpur on Saturday afternoon.
A case was registered against four Christian individuals, accused of spreading religious disarray through pamphlets at railway station, and were then taken to judicial magistrate Mirpur khas police station. In addition, the case is under inquiry now. Hundreds of religious workers were gathered outside the police station and security was high alerted.
The incident was happened when javed jounis Masih and his wife, Nazia, from Sialkot, and two women Rose Mary and Kiran, from Hadyrabad, were distributing pamphlets based on religious disarray at railway station and railway platform. Police reached on incident and arrested them when a worker of an Islamic organization, Ahl e Sunnat wal Jammat, informed police. Police has registered a case against accused under (A-298-506(II- 295 for dishonoring and disrespecting religion. The case is under investigation and women have been transferred to woman jail Hyderabad under tight security. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/four-christian-individuals-arrested-against-spreading-religious-disarray/#sthash.Kt7ASHcX.dpuf

BALOCHISTAN: Underground Religious Group Warns Against Girls’ Education in Panjgur

The Baloch Hal News
An underground religious extremist group has warned all private schools in Balochistan’s western Panjgur district to completely shut down girls’ education or prepare for ‘the worst consequences as prescribed in the Quran”.
Several private schools have temporarily shut down while hundreds of girls have stopped going to school in the wake of threats issued by an underground religious extremist group that has called for a complete end to girls’ education at private institutions.
The hitherto unknown organization that calls itself, Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan, has circulated a list of the heads of the private schools in a threatening letter that has alleged them of corrupting the characters of the local girls by imparting western education.
“Private schools should completely stop girls’ education—both co-education and separate education,” warned the letter (pictured below), adding, “we also urge all van and taxi drivers to refrain from taking girls to schools. Otherwise, they will also be targeted.”
Local residents say Panjgur has become the epicenter of Baloch nationalist movement where the government is pitting Islamic extremist groups to counter secular nationalist forces.
The latest warning letter said any individual teacher or institution that defied the warning and continued with girls’ education would be deemed as an enemy of Islam and therefore punished.
Once ranked among the most educated districts of Balochistan, Panjgur, according to a local resident, had not seen such widespread panic among school administrators and the students.
Prior to this warning, unidentified people had attacked a private school in Washbood township last week which was then followed by another such attack on Ideal Public school.
“All these attacks seem to be a part of the fresh campaign against girls’ education,” said the head of a local school who also confirmed receiving threats on his phone. He said he had been instructed to shut down his school where hundreds of girls are currently enrolled.
“When I asked the reasons for their demand to stop educating the female students,” he revealed, “they spoke rudely and said they would teach me a lesson if I did not stop educating girls.” He added that over the past many years, his school had educated tends of thousands of girls and a sudden closure would be a ‘national tragedy’.
Meanwhile, representatives of various private schools met with the district administration officials on Monday to inform them about the warnings they have received from the underground extremist group.
“The local government did not offer us any assurances of protection from any future attacks,” regretted one participant of the meeting.
“We appeal to the provincial and federal governments, the non-governmental organizations and the media to take notice of the threats to girls’ education in Panjgur. If we are not provided timely protection, the academic lives of hundreds of girls currently studying at our schools will be disrupted,” said one head of a private school whose name has also been mentioned in the threatening mail.
The private schools in Panjgur have enjoyed a good reputation for churning out qualified female students who have successfully passed examinations at medical, engineering, law colleges and other provincial and federal services. Panjgur gained attention for the first time 15 years ago when Zahir Hussain, a U.S.-educated local resident, opened the first private school which was then called the American English Language Center. Former Balochistan Governor Amir-ul-Mulk Mengal visited the American English Language Center which was subsequently renamed as The Oasis Academy.
The Governor lauded the Academy and praised the services of Mr. Hussain, the founder of the institute. Led by Mr. Hussain, Panjgur’s educational change soon spread across Balochistan, particularly in the neighboring districts of Kech and Gwadar.
“The biggest contribution of Mr. Hussain was the opening of doors for girls education in this remote area,” said Amjad Ali, a social activist, “he set such a precedence that thousands of other girls started going to school.”
The warning letter from the underground group also included the name of Mr. Hussain, who has been widely revered as the pioneer of modern education in Mekeran.

Pakistan Seeks Chinese Drones?

By Zachary Keck
A new report suggests China may sell Pakistan armed drones. Indeed, it’d be surprising if it didn’t.
A new report says that Pakistan may be seeking Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
According to a report in the most recent edition of the National Journal, Pakistan has recently unveiled drones that some believe are derived from Chinese drones.
“Already, Pakistan has remote-piloted aircraft,” the report notes. “Islamabad uses surveillance drones to provide the military with a real-time picture of its restive border areas or counterterrorism operations. Pakistan unveiled two new drones in November: Burraq, named after the winged horse from the heavens that transported Islamic prophets, and Shahpar.”
The National Journal report noted that Pakistan had claimed that both drones were domestically built and that neither would be armed. However, the report also points out, citing defense analysts, that the drones bear a close resemblance to the Chinese-made Rainbow CH-3. The Rainbow CH-3 is able to launch missiles.
Pakistan’s desire to acquire armed drones is no secret. It has urged the U.S. to sell it armed drones for years, which Washington has refused to do. The U.S. keeps a tight lock on the export of its armed drones. According to the National Journal report, only the United Kingdom has been sold U.S. armed drones although certain other close U.S. allies—including France and Italy—may soon also fly American drones.
Israel also has armed drones but would be unlikely to export them to Pakistan given U.S. opposition and the fact that Islamabad is a Muslim country that has ties to some of Tel Aviv’s rivals in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East.
Islamabad’s need for such drones is also clear. Pakistan’s military would almost certainly use the drones to target inward-focused terrorists operating in Pakistan’s far western region. It has been widely reported that the United States has, at times at least, aided in this effort by using its own drones to eliminate targets at the behest of the Pakistani military.
Having its own armed drones would allow Pakistan to intensify this effort, especially given the strong reluctance on the military’s part to execute a larger counterterrorism operation in the tribal areas where most inward-focused terrorists are believed to be taking refuge. Furthermore, Pakistan could use drones in cross-border operations against Afghanistan where some of the Pakistani terrorists could conceivably find sanctuary in the future should they be driven out of the tribal areas by Pakistan’s military.
It’s also not at all unlikely that China would willingly sell Pakistan armed drones. As The Diplomat has previously noted, China is expected to be by far the fastest growing UAV producer over the next five years. Although most of these drones will be destined for the People’s Liberation Army and other domestic users, Beijing has a clear desire to also use its growing drone market to increase defense exports. In fact, as noted earlier this month, China has already sold Saudi Arabia drones.
Moreover, China’s relationship with Pakistan is far stronger than its ties to Saudi Arabia. This is especially true when it comes to arms sales. Indeed, by some estimates, Pakistan purchased some 55 percent of China’s total defense exports between 2008 and 2012. These arm sales most certainly include advanced aircraft. Indeed, one of the largest defense projects between Pakistan and China is their joint development of the FC-1 Xiaolong/JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter jet, which Islamabad hopes to begin exporting as early as this year.
Therefore, although the report remains unconfirmed at this point, it would be surprising if China didn’t sell Pakistan armed drones in the coming years.

Chinese Tourist Abducted in Pakistan

A Pakistani police officer says a Chinese tourist has been abducted in the country's northwest. A Taliban group has claimed responsibility. Officer Sadiq Baluch says the Chinese national's passport, bicycle and belongings were found on Tuesday. He says the man went missing on Monday from Dera Ismail Khan district. Baluch says the man had apparently entered Pakistan from neighboring India in April. He says the police were not informed about the man's presence in the district bordering Pakistan's lawless tribal region, which is home to local and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants. A Pakistani Taliban group commander, Abdullah Bahar, claimed responsibility. Bahar says the group will use the man to get his comrades freed from Pakistani custody. No one at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad immediately responded to calls for comment.

Narendra Modi: what does his victory mean for America, China and Pakistan?

Jason Burke
He has swept to power with the first majority the Indian parliament has seen in 30 years. But for many he remains a polarising figure. How will his triumph affect neighbouring countries and global powers? When Narendra Modi, 63, formally assumes the highest executive office in this simultaneously troubled, joyous, chaotic democracy of 1.25bn people, he will have to reconcile the ideological and the pragmatic.
His campaign has already achieved this. Throughout India's protracted five-week election, his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) carefully blended promises of economic development – reforms, better services, more jobs and security for all – with references that were both religious and cultural.
These ideas were rarely explicitly articulated, but were nonetheless clear in Modi's choice of Varanasi, the holy city on the Ganges, as a seat to contest and the occasional deity that appeared, in contravention of electoral codes, behind the stage at meetings. There were a series of statements by local BJP officials that appeared deliberately aimed at exploiting tensions between specific communities. There were also more assertive statements directed at neighbours Pakistan – with which India has fought four wars – and China – with which India has had one conflict – and a promise that Modi in power would create an India that no one could talk down to on the international stage. There was even an apparent threat to revise India's "no first strike" nuclear weapons policy .
All came together in the slogan "India First", which apparently resonated with 180 million people tired of an uninspiring and apparently uncertain Congress party-led coalition government and its dynastic leaders. It got Modi to power, with the first majority seen in the Indian parliament for 30 years. But no one is quite sure what it means in terms of this huge and often fabulously insular country's relations with the region, and the rest of the world.
Modi is a polarising figure. He has emerged from, and is supported by, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the hardline Hindu nationalist organisation. The BJP is intimately linked to the RSS, which has been banned three times by Indian authorities. The RSS is deeply distrusting (and worse) of other religious minorities in India, suspicious of former colonial powers and the US, and committed to economic self-sufficiency for India.
And while his supporters see a man with an established record of honest, efficient and effective government, critics accuse Modi of harbouring deep sectarian prejudices and of allowing, or even encouraging, violence in which 1,000 people, largely Muslims, died while he was in power in Gujarat state in 2002. Though a supreme court investigation has found insufficient evidence to support the charges – which Modi has always denied – concerns remain.
His foreign affairs in-tray is overflowing. There are major multilateral issues such as climate change to get to grips with. An election is underway in Afghanistan, with 2014 a critical year for Indian interests there. To the east, political strife in Bangladesh is subsiding but few believe any calm will last long. India has proved unable to protect its businesses even in the tiny Maldives and in Burma. Further afield, the whole aftermath of the Arab Spring presents huge difficulties. India needs lots of fossil fuels, and huge quantities of imported oil. Iran is a long-term ally but demanding. The history of the Gujarat riots and the RSS connection is not going to simplify diplomacy anywhere in the Islamic world. The relationship with Europeans is underperforming, with negotiations on a trade agreement taking so long they have become a stock joke of ambassador's receptions in Delhi. British ministers keep turning up, keen to stress how much they admire all things Indian, especially large contracts. With all his interactions internationally, there is one obvious questions: which will triumph? The job-creating, wealth-building pragmatist or the ideologue? The three big tests, experts agree, will be relations with Pakistan, the US and China.
Sitting in the back room of the BJP headquarters as the scale of Modi's win became clear, is Ravi Shankar Prasad, an ebullient lawyer turned politician whose vociferous style of argument is well-suited to the noisy shouting matches that pass as debates on Indian television. Prasad, deputy leader of the BJP in India's upper house and a key campaign strategist, is in a very good mood. India will be an "assertive power", he says, but one "with dignity, with responsibility and constitutional integrity".
However, Prasad explains, though India wants to dismantle the "wall of terrorism" that has separated Pakistan and India since partition, "the Pakistanis" need to be aware that "terrorism promoted from their soil" would no longer be tolerated.
The outgoing Congress government has struggled with the question of Pakistan. Manmohan Singh, the technocrat prime minister, was born in the neighbouring country before partition. But the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, when militants from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group killed 166 people in India's commercial capital, sent a relationship that was already cool into deep freeze.
Some now say Modi, who has no need to prove his conservative credentials, could bring about a breakthrough. Pakistan, also a nuclear power, is currently run by a conservative, pro-business government under veteran politician and industrialist Nawaz Sharif. His brother, Shahbaz, in a recent interview with the Guardian, blamed his nation's powerful military for the failure to generate greater commerce between the two nations. Modi's commitment to economic development could see him push hard to broaden these commercial links – or even attempt a more radical gesture.
"It could be that Modi is Nixon in China for India and Pakistan," says Professor Ashutosh Varshney, of Brown University in the US. "Hindu nationalist visionaries have typically been better in dealing with Pakistan."
Varshney's hopes are echoed by some Pakistani diplomats too. The precedent is the previous BJP administration of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who travelled to Pakistan in 1999 to sign a peace deal, a year after ordering nuclear tests that brought about international sanctions.
The other sticking point for Pakistan is the disputed territory of Kashmir, where a low-level separatist insurgency continues. The BJP is committed to withdrawing the special constitutional provisions that guarantee Kashmir a degree of autonomy within India. Concessions on this would be tough for Modi to envisage, let alone enact, experts say. On top of that, the region is evolving rapidly as the US and other remaining international combat troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Indian security officials fear this could result in a small army of unemployed militants who will head, or be directed, towards Kashmir or India itself, with the support of some elements of Pakistan's security establishment.
Even optimists such as Varshney admit that a major terrorist incident traced back to, or blamed on, Pakistan, could derail even the most committed effort to make peace. "Another Mumbai [attack] – which is unlikely but not impossible – would create serious pressure," he says.
Rivalling the relationship with Pakistan for complexity and potential for misunderstanding is that with the US. As protocol demands, Barack Obama called the Indian prime minister elect over the weekend to express his hope that his win would help "fulfil the extraordinary promise of the US-India strategic partnership". Crucially, and here no one would have missed the significance, "the president invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship," said a government spokesperson. This could occur as soon as the UN General Assembly in New York in September, when Modi could also visit Washington. The visit is likely to be an extraordinary event with Modi – a teetotal, celibate, ascetic outsider who has shunned the sophisticated salons of India's power elite – suddenly pushed on to the world stage, and into a gruelling round of diplomatic engagements.
The public boilerplate, as it so often does, hides a difficult and often acrimonious relationship. If he has been happy to welcome US investors to Gujarat over the 13 years he has governed the state, there has been little love lost between Modi and Washington. The administration of President George W Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 US law barring entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom". A boycott by senior US officials was only lifted earlier this year, when the US ambassador to India finally travelled to Gandhinagar, the state capital of Gujarat, to meet its chief minister. This, witnesses say, was a frosty occasion.
"I spoke to [Modi] a few years back about the boycott and whether he wanted me to push for it to be lifted," said one Modi aide, with international connections, last week. "He said: 'No, let them come to me. They will,' and he was right. They did."
Though Rajnath Singh, the powerful BJP president who is also close to the RSS, told the Guardian as the campaign opened, of the party's wish for better relations with the US, there is much repair work to be done. Trade is still significant. Last month, Nisha Biswal, the top US diplomat for South Asia, said that the US wants bilateral trade of $500bn a year, up from about $100bn currently.
But, after an improvement a decade ago, and a controversial nuclear deal, relations between Delhi and Washington hit a new low five months ago when Devyani Khobragade, the Indian deputy consul general was arrested for visa fraud in New York, strip-searched and held in police custody. She was eventually released and flew back to India but the affair prompted a vitriolic reaction to what Indians saw as disrespectful bullying by the "Ugly American". This in turn prompted US commentators to accuse India of oversensitivity and behaviour unbecoming of an aspirant future power.
Still, some experts are optimistic. Michael Kugelman, at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre in Washington says Modi may get a warmer welcome than some predict. He points out that the only US government agency to be critical of Modi for some time is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which warned of the impact a Modi-led government might have on minorities in India.
"Washington doesn't know him very well and I think that's the major concern. There was never any real hostility," Kugelman says. Indeed, Modi's backstory, the former tea seller who "pulled himself up by his bootstraps and then embraced capitalism and the free market and became seen as a decisive and confident leader", has much appeal in the US. "There are a lot of tensions in the relationship but they tend to revolve around economics and I could see him as a pro-investor and pro-trade leader saying: 'Let's try and make some progress'," Kugelman adds.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Modi on the world stage will be China. Few in India, where annual economic growth has dropped to less than 5% in recent years, now talk of catching up their neighbour. Indeed, for Modi, China may appear to be less a rival than an opportunity. He has been there four times on official visits – more than any other country – and, aides say, admires what has been achieved in the country. On his last five-day tour, Modi carried red business cards printed in Chinese.
Modi is also said to feel more at home among the technocrats of Beijing than in the west. Critics frequently accuse him of authoritarian instincts in his career so far, of muzzling the press, of creating a "climate of fear" and of sidelining those who disagree with him. If Washington sees a Horatio Alger, Beijing may see a figure who represents less an American dream and more an East Asian one.
But Modi will still come up against the fundamental tension between his nationalism and his desire to accelerate economic development. He may want to see Chinese investment in India's insufficient infrastructure – in trains, roads, power stations – but China has already proclaimed its ownership of the 21st century and Modi's victory speech pronouncement that the coming decades would constitute "India's century" is unlikely to have been well received in Beijing. Nor his attack, while on the campaign trail, on the Chinese "expansionist mindset".
The two countries frequently dispute their Himalayan border. "There is a [border] transgression every two days and some [such incidents] are critical," says Professor Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "A BJP prime minister will have a hard job to explain to the people why border transgressions are happening and he cannot do anything about it. As a nationalist leader, this sovereignty dispute will really test Indo-Chinese relations."
Kondapalli's prediction is that, for at least the first years of his term in power, Modi will put development before ideology but warns, as others warn of Pakistan, that the big test will come when India is seen to be provoked. This week, Modi will form his government and pick his foreign ministers. His choice will be a key early indication of which way the man, who until two years ago was boycotted by the US and most of Europe, is leaning. Will it be ideology or pragmatism? Nationalist pride and sovereignty first, or jobs and growth? Or perhaps a clever blending of both, like his campaign rhetoric?
Varshney believes Modi's landslide win will give him both a "long honeymoon" with voters and the legitimacy to hold the hardline nationalists at bay. He says: "So long as it is Modi's ambition to rise – not only on an Indian stage, but on a world stage – that drives him, he will discipline and restrain the extreme wing of the party. And as long as his driving force is the desire to reshape India and be remembered as the greatest prime minister since [independence leader] Jawaharlal Nehru, you will see a more pragmatic Modi."
But no one can be sure: either of Modi, or of his environment. In an unstable region, and in a vast country that is undergoing rapid social, political and cultural change, there are too many possibilities for anyone to be overly optimistic. The consensus among analysts is that it is not Modi's policy-making that could give cause for concern, but his potential response to a crisis – particularly if that crisis prompted a wave of nationalist indignation or anger.
After all, there are many in India who see Modi's victory as a sign of greater changes to come. One is Anuraj Dikshit, 40, a marketing executive who splits his time between Mumbai and Gurgaon. He talks of not of India but Bharat, a Sanskrit-origin word describing a Hindu civilisation.
"This is not about warmongering but about this country's culture," he says. "India has been there since 1947. Bharat has been there since time immemorial. Now Bharat has come back, validated and endorsed by the voters of this country."

Pakistan drops ammunition case against FBI agent

A court in the Pakistani city of Karachi has ordered that charges be dropped against a US FBI agent who was arrested for carrying ammunition.
Police told the court they were dropping the case after the government confirmed Joel Cox was authorised to carry arms for "personal protection".
Mr Cox was freed on bail earlier this month after being detained with bullets in his luggage at Karachi airport. The US government said that he was on a temporary mission in Pakistan. The FBI agent was held under anti-terrorism laws after security staff found 15 bullets for a 9mm handgun in his luggage ahead of a flight from Karachi to Islamabad.
He was bailed on a bond of 1m rupees ($10,000).
No weapon was found so Mr Cox could not be booked under the Illegal Arms Act, police said. He was in Pakistan in connection with a police reforms programme being run by the government, officials added. American agents operating inside Pakistan have been the cause of strained relations in the past and have fuelled anti-US feeling in the country. In 2011 there was furore when CIA contractor Raymond Davis was arrested for shooting dead two men following what he said was an attempted armed robbery in Lahore. Mr Davis was later released after the families of the dead men accepted "blood money". The United States and Pakistan co-operate in the global fight against Islamist militants, angering many Pakistanis.

PPP Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo terms Punjab Govt’s Ramazan package inadequate

Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, President Pakistan People’s Party Punjab, has described the Ramzan Package of Punjab Chief Minister as insufficient for providing relief to the poor people during the holy month of Ramzan.
In a statement issued from here on Monday, he said that the subsidy should be targeted and not to all and sundry adding provision of indiscriminate subsidy would only deny benefits to the needy who deserved it the most.
He called upon the provincial government that to ensure the targeted subsidy reach to the deserving the list prepared under the auspices of Benazir Income Support Programme should be used, which had been judged by third party as credible.
He also suggested that the number of items for giving subsidy should be minimum, which were strictly under the use of poor people consisting their staple food. It will increase the quantum of subsidy resultantly on such items thus directly benefitting the poor people at a satisfactory level.
He observed that the inclusion of hundred of items in the list would proportionately deprive the impoverished people of the society from the relief that was critical for ensuring the food security during the holy month of Ramzan. He criticized the preparation of long list of items for subsidy presumably to oblige the cronies who would be supplying such items to the market on behalf of the government as contractors. The chipping of the middle man will thus probably get the major chunk through the connivance of the government functionaries, he maintained.
He added that the pilferage of the subsidized items would be another curse as most of the stock was likely to end up in the open market and the traders and favorites would be stuffing their pockets with the tax payer’s money.

Karachi’s Tuesday begins with seven people dead before noon

Seven people were killed in different incidents of violence in the metropolis. Two brothers were gunned down near Football Chowrangi area of Orangi Town. The victims, identified as Ameen and Amaan were members of Sunni Tehreek. In Bahar Colony of Lyari, a woman was shot dead while another person was killed in a gun attack in Khyberabad, Orangi Town. In Manghopir, unidentified men stormed in to the house of prayer leader Qari Barkat and stabbed him to death. Two bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in Rizviya society. They were shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.