Tuesday, May 27, 2014
President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a plan to maintain 9,800 military personnel in Afghanistan after the American combat mission ends there this year, pledging that he will bring the war there to "a responsible end." "This is how wars end in the 21st century: not through signing ceremonies, but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who are trained to take the lead and, ultimately, full responsibility," he said in remarks at the White House. After the long war launched in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Obama said, "now, we are finishing the job we started." Obama said that the 9,800 figure would be cut in half by the end of 2015, and the American contingent would be reduced to “a normal Embassy presence in Kabul” by the end of 2016, as he is close to leaving office. The president also said that the United States will focus on two narrow missions after 2014 — training Afghan forces and supporting operations against al Qaeda. "The bottom line is it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," Obama said. The plan assumes that Afghan leaders will sign a security agreement with the United States. Both Afghan presidential candidates have committed to signing it if they are elected, the official noted. The presidential runoff is next month. Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai frustrated American decision-making by refusing to sign a security agreement. The president spoke to Karzai Tuesday morning to discuss his decision, according to a senior administration official. Republicans offered mixed responses to the president's announcement. In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner offered early praise for the move but added that "input from our commanders about the conditions on the ground should dictate troop decisions, and not an arbitrary number from Washington." But, in a joint statement, Sens.John McCain or Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire slammed the decision. "The President's decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy," they said. "This is a short-sighted decision that will make it harder to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly."
Russia respects the will of the Ukrainian people expressed in Sunday’s presidential election, but urges Kiev to fulfill all its commitments under the Geneva agreements to halt violence in the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday. “The election was held. We respect the results of the Ukrainian voters’ will, but believes that it is absolutely necessary and without any delay to fulfill the agreements reached in the framework of Geneva declaration of April 17, and to stop violence,” Lavrov said. The Russian foreign minister added that Moscow was concerned not only by the fact that the election was held regardless of ongoing military actions, but by president-elect Petro Poroshenko’s statement calling for their intensification immediately after the voting process. “Task number one and probably a test for the endurance of Kiev’s authorities, taking into account the results of the election, is to immediately halt military actions against civilians, and stop any kind of violence by all parties,” Lavrov said after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu. Ukrainian troops have resumed the Kiev authorities' special operation in the east of the country, which had been suspended for Sunday’s presidential election, acting Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema said Tuesday. After claiming victory in the election, Poroshenko said the special operation in eastern Ukraine should continue and become more effective. The statement came as Lavrov warned Monday the resumption of the special operation in eastern Ukraine would be a tremendous mistake. He expressed hope that Poroshenko, as Ukraine’s new president, would do his best to prevent extremist and radical views from becoming widespread. On April 17, top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US met in Geneva to agree on a number of conditions that urged the coup-imposed regime and its opposition in Ukraine to refrain from violence, extremism and provocations, to disarm militants and launch a national dialog on constitutional reform. Despite the agreement, Kiev launched a special operation in mid-April to crack down on pro-federalization protests.
President Obama plans to remove all American combat troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, drawing to an end more than a decade of American military engagement in the country following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Under the plan, which Mr. Obama will announce Tuesday afternoon, the United States would leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2014, and reduce that number by roughly half in 2015, according to the official. By the end of 2016, the United States would have in the country only a normal embassy presence and a small security assistance force similar to what now remains in Iraq. All of these deployments hinge on the United States signing a security agreement with Afghanistan, which the administration has not yet been able to do.
Banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) was behind the attack on the Indian consulate at Herat, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said on Monday. In an explosive interview to Headlines Today, Karzai did not mince his words when he said that it would be in Islamabad's interest to uproot the sanctuaries and safe havens which terrorists have on Pakistan's soil. President Karzai was in India to participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony. "According to information given to us by a western intelligence agency, the perpetrators of the Herat attack belong to the LeT," he said. He also praised the Indo- Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel and the Afghan National Security Forces for their prompt response in neutralising the terrorists in the May 23 attack in which all the four gunmen, who had stormed the consulate in Afghanistan's Herat province, were gunned down. "Herat (attack) was very clearly a terrorist strike on Indian and Afghan interests," Karzai said. In response to a query on Afghanistan and India both being victims of Pakistansponsored terror, he said, "Both Afghanistan and India hope that relevant authorities in Pakistan will react and uproot the source and sanctuary of terror there." President Karzai is scheduled to meet Modi at the Hyderabad House on Tuesday morning and is expected to discuss issues confronting both the countries. Talking about Indo- Afghan ties, President Karzai said, "India has been a great friend of Afghanistan and has stood by its people in the last 12 years. We have given a weapons wish list to the Indian government, some have been accepted and delivered to us and we are confident Prime Minister Modi will consider it (the rest) favourably." Looking ahead, President Karzai said that he doesn't see 2014 as a drawdown but "as an opportunity to build on our strengths and show the world that the nation is now self-reliant, of course with support and guidance from friends like India". Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/hamid-karzai-interview-let-hand-in-herat-attack/1/363829.html
Kunar Chief of Police Abdul Haseeb Syedkhaili on Tuesday reported that Pakistani military has increased mortar shelling on some regions of eastern Kunar province in recent days. Thus far, Pakistan has fired at least 300 missiles on Shigal and Dangam districts of Kunar. According to local officials in Kunar, the attacks have killed one civilian, injured fourteen others and displaced 120 families. "Since the beginning of the year, districts located alongside Durand Line have been targeted," Syedkhaili said. "The attacks have been doubled in the past two day." Some senators have criticized the government's silence over the issue and argue that the Afghan government has not yet retaliated properly. "I call on the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Directorate of Security to file a complaint to the UN," Kunar Senator Ali Baba said. "We cannot remain silent if diplomatic channels are unfruitful." Moreover, Chairman of the Senate Fazel Hadi Muslimyar said that the government must take action against the Pakistani violation because the issue will leave damaging consequences on the bilateral relations between Kabul and Islamabad. "The border regions of Kunar province have been under Pakistani mortar and rocket shelling several times," Muslimyar said. "It is not clear whether the government does not have the capability to respond to the issue or it does not want to respond the same way as Pakistan." The Pakistani military has been targeting some regions in eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan for about three years. The issue has led to more tensions in Afghanistan and Pakistan's already rocky relationship.
So far above 20 FIRs have been registered under Pakistan’s blasphemy law and Anti-Terrorism Act, including against the owner of the Geo Channel, a well-known television anchor, Dr. Shaista Lodhi, and an actress, Veena Mailk in different parts of the country.
Geo’s prominent TV anchor, Shaista Lodhi, in her morning show ‘Utho Jago Pakistan’ on May 14 had apparently disrespected the family members of Prophet Muhammad by celebrating the wedding of a controversial actress Veena Malik. The cases have been filed against all of them involved under 295, 298, 499, 34 and 1295 of Pakistan Penal Code and 7 ATA in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Multan, Okara, Vehari, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Nankana Sahib and some other districts of Punjab province. Geo media group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman has already been living in Dubai while Malik along with her husband Asad Khatak also moved to Dubai almost immediately after the controversy break out. According to sources, Lodhi too has also moved to Dubai dreading the anger of extremists. Since the matter came to forefront there have been protests demonstrations across the country wanting a ban on Geo and stern action against the blamed. Currently Jammat-ud-Dawah and PML-Q held demonstrations in Nankana district, some 80 kilometres from Lahore, against Geo TV for planning propaganda against the ISI chief and airing a blasphemous show. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) which served a show-cause notice on Geo Entertainment network for broadcasting blasphemous content and Geo News for accusing the ISI chief for the shot attack on journalist, Hamid Mir, has yet to take action. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/20-blasphemy-cases-registered-against-pakistani-personalities/#sthash.3Xb9AEU2.dpuf
Hundreds of workers of political parties, human rights activists and members of civil society protested here on Monday against the closure of private schools in Panjgur and Turbat districts. The protesters, including women and female students, carrying banners and placards inscribed with their demands, gathered in front of the Quetta Press Club.
The Pakistan Sikh Council has warned the government that the community will launch a countrywide protest movement if the all the culprits who had desecrated their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, are not arrested by May 31. Speaking at a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Monday, PSC patron in chief Sardar Ramesh Singh demanded that a judicial commission be instituted to investigate how and why all of a sudden such incidents started happening across Sindh. He said that all the culprits be arrested, tried and awarded stern punishment so that it could act as a deterrence to other unscrupulous elements who might be planning similar acts in future. He demanded that security be provided to the religious places of minority communities. Giving details of the incidents in which the copy of their holy book was burnt, he said that the incidents were reported from Dal Darbar in Pano Aqil, Guru Nanak Darbar Mehar in Dadu district, Samadha Ashram, Sajal Sher Jhulelal Darbar and Khatwari Darbar in Shikarpur district. Only this month, similar incidents were reported from Bhagnari Temple in Karachi’s Lea Market and Jai Ram Das Darbar in Madheji, Shikarpur, on May 6 and 7, respectively. He said that the Sikh community had been living in peace and harmony with other communities in Sindh for centuries and such incidents had never happened in the past. He said the community believed that certain unscrupulous elements in society wanted to create unrest by hurting sentiments of other communities. He said that Sikhs were as much patriotic as other communities living in Pakistan and did not want to stage protest that could create embarrassment for the country internationally, but they had been pushed to the wall and it was the government’s responsibility to recognise Sikh community’s religious sentiments and provide safety and security to the community and arrest the culprits. He said the community had also approached the chief justice of Pakistan who had directed the advocate general and additional DIG (legal) on May 13, 2014 that FIRs of all such incidents under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code be produced in court on the next hearing and the culprits be arrested. He said that community representatives had met Sindh Minister for Religious Minorities Giyan Chand and Senator Hari Ram besides other legislators who had assured them that a meeting of the community leaders with the chief minister would be arranged. However, he added, no such meeting had been arranged so far. Mr Ramesh expressed the hope that the federal government would keep the promise to the Sikh demonstrators, who had entered the parliament in Islamabad a few days back, that the culprits would be arrested, tried and punished sternly in accordance with the law. Sardar Karan Singh Rai, Sardar Manjeet Singh, Sardar Saran Singh, Sardar Arjan Singh, Sardar Manmohan Singh and Sardar Bhola Singh were also present at the press conference.
Pakistan is being torn apart by one of the greatest evils known to man: a slow genocide instigated by hate and warped religious ideology. Ratcheting up our attacks against the typically docile Ahmedi community, the latest fatality comes from Chenab Nagar, Punjab, where a renowned heart surgeon, the 50-year-old Dr Mehdi Ali, was gunned down by ‘unknown’ assailants while visiting the cemetery containing graves of his family members. What was his crime? Being a visible part of the Ahmedi community. Dr Mehdi Ali was settled in the US and was on a volunteer visit to Chenab Nagar — also known as Rabwah, the traditional hometown of the Ahmedi community — to help heart patients at a local state-of-the-art hospital he had helped build. He leaves behind his wife and children, forever scarred by the truth: Pakistan is no place for good men. We are now entering a very dark and fearful point in our history where man is murdered for his beliefs and blasphemy charges abound for every slight. Religious and sectarian rifts have become so deep that right and wrong, and the actual teachings of our peaceful religion have become blurred and meaningless. The hospital in Chenab Nagar, built by the Ahmedi community, is known to be well-equipped and leagues ahead of the government (and many private) hospitals across Pakistan. So much so that reports have indicated that some members of the clergy in the area, usually so hateful of the Ahmedi community, have sought treatment there for themselves and their families while pleading with the hospital’s doctors not to reveal their ‘sin’. Hypocrisy knows no bounds here it seems. This daylight murder of the good doctor comes only days after another Ahmedi was shot dead in a police station, again in Punjab. These attacks are becoming all too frequent and much more sinister. Where deviants would be satiated with death threats and having Ahmedis jailed for the gall to call their houses of worship mosques or greet each other with the typical Islamic greeting, they are now moving on to murder in almost every scenario. There has to come a time when the government stops dragging its heels on this issue and starts taking affirmative action against this ‘religious’ cleansing. The Ahmedis, despite being declared by the state as non-Muslims, deserve the protection of the state and to have their rights as citizens fully protected. The culprits must be found and punished, not allowed to get away scot-free as they usually do. The blasphemy law, which is often used against the Ahmedi community in false cases, must be amended in the very least to offer safeguards against those who are falsely accused. We cannot just sit back while innocent people die because of a sick ideological mindset. The Ahmedis are hard working, peace-loving citizens; they deserve much better than this.
Pakistan launched a fresh polio vaccination drive in the tribal areas Monday, but officials warned that nearly 370,000 children are likely to miss out because of security problems. At the start of May the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global ‘public health emergency’ after new polio cases began surfacing and spreading across borders from countries including Pakistan. A three-day vaccination drive began on Monday in four tribal areas, a senior government official in Peshawar told reporters, with more than 620,000 youngsters on course to receive polio drops. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned that children in three of the four targeted areas “would not be able to receive polio drops because of the militancy and opposition to the immunisation”. Violence has badly hampered the campaign to stamp out polio in Pakistan, where Taliban with strongholds in tribal areas see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage. “A total of 369,039 in three districts would not receive polio drops because of the law and order situation,” the official said. The three districts in question are North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Mohmand, the official said. Part of the fourth district, Khyber, would also be affected. Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic, and is responsible for 80 percent of polio cases diagnosed around the world this year. Some 56 people including health workers and police officials providing security have been killed in attacks on polio vaccination teams in Pakistan since December 2012. There are also long-running rumours about polio drops causing infertility. Two senior health officials confirmed the latest drive and figures and told AFP that WHO and UNICEF was helping and providing logistic support in the polio campaign. The semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border are the epicentre of the country’s polio cases and the government has set up checkpoints to ensure anyone leaving the belt is immunised.