Monday, June 2, 2014

The Rolling Stones land in Israel

Storied rock band begins first-ever visit to Israel; preparations underway for Wednesday concert in Tel Aviv
The Rolling Stones touched down in Israel Monday night aboard their private plane, festooned with the band’s name and logo. The visit marks the band’s first in Israel, with the highlight expected to be a much-anticipated concert for 50,000 fans wednesday night at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.
The band arrived with a 70-person entourage, at least 100 more technical and other staff, and some 1,000 tourists who flew in Monday to attend the Wednesday concert. The arrivals were dubbed the Rolling Stones “airlift” by Israeli television news anchors.
Many members of the entourage, including many family members, are set to accompany the group for the entirety of their European tour.
Preparations for the large-scale performance began Sunday, ahead of what is expected to be one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated shows in Tel Aviv history. The stage will be decked with LED panels brought to Israel by the band, and a 34-meter (111-foot) catwalk will extend from the stage.
Tickets are still available for the concert, at NIS 700 apiece. At least 46,000 tickets have been sold so far. Doors are set to open on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. for the 9:15 p.m. show.
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Syria Set for Presidential Elections Tomorrow

15 million Syrian voters geared up Monday for tomorrow's presidential elections.
A "security plan" has reportedly been put in place in Syrian cities since Sunday, aimed at preventing possible attacks against voters and polling stations.
"Military and security forces are on maximum alert to ensure the security of Syrians who wish to vote," Al-Watan newspaper reported on Monday.
More than 9,000 polling stations have been "secured" across the country, the daily said, advising voters not to be concerned about their safety on election day.
The Syrian Interior Ministry dismissed all rumors on piercing ID cards, voting via internet in case voter could not reach an election center or blocking roads between the Syrian cities and their outskirts as "completely false", pointing out that these rumors aim at affecting the democratic atmosphere of the presidential elections, which are to be held tomorrow.
In a different context, member of the Russian Federation Council, Senator Igor Morozov, voiced confidence that the Syrian government will do all that is needed to ensure success of presidential elections.

‘Saudi spymaster Bandar injected with poison’
A Lebanese media report says Saudi Arabia's spymaster Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz has been afflicted with an incurable poison.
Some Lebanese media outlets quoting Saudi sources as saying that the prince was injected with an unknown kind of poison.
Prince was slipped into a coma and rushed for treatment to Morocco and the United States, the report added. Medical doctors say various methods of treatment have failed to restore him to health over the past few months, it noted. This is while, some Saudi officials say the 65-year-old sought medical treatment in the US and rested in Morocco after a surgery on his shoulder, adding that Bandar held several official meetings while in Morocco. The Saudi prince is known to have had close ties with former US President George W. Bush, and was an advocate of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bandar is also widely believed to be the key figure trying to increase Saudi weapons flow to the foreign-backed militants in Syria. However, Washington had demanded the removal of Prince Bandar from the Syrian file because of his mismanagement of the situation in the country, which has been grappling with a foreign-backed crisis since March 2011. Several media reports confirmed that Bandar had been pushed aside. Some unnamed Saudi security officials have recently said the prince would retake his position as intelligence chief and be in charge of dealing with Syria. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria. Over 160,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the Syria violence fueled by the foreign-backed militants.

Russia Says Ready to Cooperate With New Abkhaz Leadership

Moscow is ready to work with the future president and government of Abkhazia to develop and strengthen bilateral ties, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.
“The people of Abkhazia will have their say during the early presidential election in August. Russia will respect this expression of will. We will be ready to continue large-scale work together with the new leadership of the republic to develop and strengthen the Russian-Abkhazian ties, which were successful in recent years,” the ministry said.
Moscow has been following “with preoccupation and concern” the escalation of situation in Abkhazia, where “processes of internal political struggle transcended beyond the legal bounds” after May 27 rally, the statement added. The ministry also praised Alexander Ankvab, who resigned from his presidential post Sunday, for his role in “preventing the violent development events, which, undoubtedly, would have led to most tragic consequences.”
On May 27, an estimated thousands-strong opposition rally was held in the center of Abkhazia’s capital Sukhum. The activists were demanding the resignation of President Aleksandr Ankvab and the government. The protesters then took over the Presidential Executive Office, Government headquarters and the main television broadcasting buildings. Later on May 29 Abkhazia’s parliament passed a non-confidence vote to the country’s Prime Minister Leonid Lakerbaia. It has also repeated the opposition’s calls for Ankvab to resign.
In two days, the parliament elected its spokesperson Valery Bganba as an interim president and scheduled early presidential election on August 24.
On Sunday, Alexander Ankvab declared his resignation. Bganba said Monday that Leonid Lakerbaia had also resigned. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia following an ethnically tinged war in 1992-1993, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than a decade later, in 2008, Russia formally recognized the province as an independent state after a brief war with Tbilisi over another disputed Georgian region, South Ossetia. Many Abkhaz citizens have Russian passports.

Ukraine GRAPHIC: Video of militia fighter shot in head amid Lugansk fierce gunbattle

Cancer cost crisis forces tough choices

Pakistan:PPP Co-Chairman directs elected members to ensure speedy and transparent development
The meeting of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Members of Sindh Assembly under the chair of Co-Chairman PPP and Former President Asif Ali Zardari at Bilawal House today. The Patron-in-Chief PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also attended the meeting. The meeting reviewed the performance of Sindh Government’s past one year. The elected representatives briefed the party leadership about the ongoing development projects, schemes, law & order situation and other problems of the masses.
While addressing the meeting, the Co-Chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari said that PPP is an ideological party and party of down trodden class. “The poor people of Sindh has always expressed their trust and handed over the responsibility to the Party”, he added. The Party Co-Chairman further said that the PPP has always preferred the policy of reconciliation and strengthening the democracy and avoid political victimization in any tenure.
The Party Co-Chairman issued the directives to the elected representatives to spend most of their tines in their respective constituencies and ensure to make practical efforts to resolves the people’s problems. He added more that all the members should monitor the ongoing development projects and schemes personally and ensure the completion of projects on time transparently, and respect the mandate of masses. The Co-Chairman strongly directed the provincial ministers to visit each and every district of the province and to hold the open meeting (Khulli Kachheri) on regular basis.
On the occasion, the Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah including PPP MPs and provincial ministers were also present.

President Obama Is Ready to Be a New York Liberal Elite Again

President Obama is ready to trade in the dull policy debates in Washington D.C. for lofty philosophical debates in Manhattan. As Politico's "The Obama Paradox," and in-depth look at the West Wing, reveals, Obama is looking ahead to the end of his presidency — both his legacy and his next steps — while also doing more of what he wants while he's still in office.
Despite Obama's deep ties to Chicago, he's told friends that he wants to move to New York City. After his surprise trip to The Gap in March, Obama said he missed the city's streets and "was still talking about it weeks later." Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama misses the sense that anything can happen in New York. “What he cherishes and misses is the serendipity — you don’t know who you’re going to bump into or what they’re going to say,” Jarrett said. “He hungers for that.”
Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein's paint a picture of a president who has reached the limits of his patience with American politics. The "paradox" is that the president is both frustrated by the way congressional Republicans have controlled the political agenda, but excited by the freedom executive actions and a second term bring. That freedom means he can talk about and work on the issue's he's most passionate about, like climate change and race-related projects like My Brother's Keeper. It also means the president can play more golf. In 2012, he was criticized for playing his 100th round of golf, and in April the taxpayer cost of one of his trips drew complaints from conservatives. His golf game has become symbolic among his opponents for his ineptitude, but he and his aides are less worried about that kind of negative publicity.
Obama is also more willing to be seen with fancy — and wealthy — intellectual types. After visiting Rome and the Pope this year, the president attended a ritzy dinner with "renowned architect Renzo Piano, particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti, Fiat heir John Elkann and his sister, Ginevra," according to Politico. “He wanted to spend one evening talking about what is quite interesting in this country to talk about — art, science, community, architecture, cities and all that,” Piano told Politico. There was a time when Obama worried about being portrayed as an out-of-touch intellectual elite, but that was a time when he was running for re-election.

Freed US soldier celebrated Xmas, played badminton with captors

Freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl developed a love for Afghan green tea, taught his captors badminton, and even celebrated Christmas and Easter with the hardline Islamists, a Pakistani militant commander told AFP Sunday.
Bergdahl, the only US soldier detained in Afghanistan since war began in 2001, was released Saturday in exchange for the freeing of five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay, in a dramatic deal brokered by Qatar.
The army sergeant's almost five years in captivity saw him transferred between various militant factions along the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan border, finally ending up in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal district, according to militant sources.
A commander of the Haqqani network, a militant outfit allied with the Taliban with ties to Al-Qaeda, on Sunday painted a picture of a man who adjusted to his new life by engaging with his captors while clinging to aspects of his own identity.
"He was fond of kawa (Afghan green tea). He drank a lot of kawa all day, which he mostly prepared himself," the commander told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location in Pakistan's tribal areas. Over time, Bergdahl, now 28, grew fluent in Pashto and Dari, he said.
Unlike the militants, who were mainly ethnic Pashtuns known for their voracious appetite for meat, Bergdahl "liked vegetables and asked for meat only once or twice a week", the commander said.
While the militants attempted to teach the soldier about Islam and provided him with religious books, he preferred more earthly pursuits.
"He would spend more time playing badminton or helping with cooking," the militant chief said.
"He loved badminton and always played badminton with his handlers. In fact, he taught many fighters about the game," he added.
And the Idaho native made a point of celebrating the Christian festivals he was accustomed to back home, even inviting his captors to participate.
"He never missed his religious festivals. He used to tell his handlers they were coming up weeks before Christmas and Easter and celebrated it with them," he said. Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst, said the militants would have regarded Bergdahl as a high-value asset and harming him would have had a negative impact on their propaganda efforts. "These groups usually treat hostages that way," he said.
- Mystery still surrounds capture -
The insights into Bergdahl's life are the clearest to emerge since he was captured in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 and appeared in a Taliban video a month later. "I was captured outside of the base camp. I was behind a patrol, lagging behind the patrol and I was captured," Bergdahl said in the video, later growing distraught when discussing his family. According to the commander, Bergdahl then came under the custody of the late Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a key leader in the Haqqani network.
An Afghan Taliban source added that Bergdahl fell into the group's hands after initially being captured by a criminal outfit linked to the Taliban.
Militant sources disagree over the circumstances surrounding his capture, but several -- then and now -- described him as being "drunk".
The US military has never commented on the issue.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demurred Sunday when asked by reporters if Bergdahl had gone AWOL (absent without leave) or deserted his post, saying only that "other circumstances that may develop, and questions -- those will be dealt with later".
"Sangeen kept him in Paktika, Paktia and parts of Khost before bringing him to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border," the Haqqani commander said, referring to districts located in eastern Afghanistan.
Zadran was killed by a US drone strike in September 2013, after which Bergdahl was sent on to the Pakistani tribal zone of North Waziristan, where the feared Haqqani network -- known for their spectacular attacks on foreign forces -- are headquartered.
Following his capture, Bergdahl went on to appear in several more videos, sometimes appearing gaunt and taking a hostile line against the US-led war effort. Attention is now likely to focus on whether he was coerced into making those statements as well as unravelling the mysterious nature of his capture.
- Operation to 'save his life' -
The operation to free Bergdahl was launched after intelligence showed that his health had deteriorated, Hagel said. "We believed that the information we had ... was such that Sergeant Bergdahl's safety and health were both in jeopardy," he told reporters Sunday. "It was our judgement that if we could find an opening and move very quickly with that opening, that we needed to get him out of there, essentially to save his life." Some specifics of the operation "are classified and will remain that way", Hagel said. "Fortunately, as you know, no shots were fired," he told reporters of the handover, according to a Pentagon transcript. "There was no violence. "It went as well as we not only had expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have." Bergdahl will now remain at the Landstuhl centre in Germany while he continues his "reintegration process," the army said. Officials had said Saturday he was in "good" condition. "This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years," Hagel told NBC's "Meet the Press". "Let's focus on getting him well and getting him back with his family."

Afghan president fumes at prisoner deal made behind his back: source

The Afghan president is angry at being kept in the dark over a deal to free five Taliban leaders in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, and accuses Washington of failing to back a peace plan for the war-torn country, a senior source said on Monday.
The five prisoners were flown to Qatar on Sunday as part of a secret agreement to release Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who left Afghanistan for Germany on the same day.
The only known U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Bergdahl had been held captive for five years.
"The president is now even more distrustful of U.S. intentions in the country," said the source close to President Hamid Karzai's palace in Kabul, who declined to be identified.
"He is asking: How come the prisoner exchange worked out so well, when the Afghan peace process failed to make any significant progress?"
Karzai has backed peace talks with the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and has fought a bloody insurgency since then against U.S.-led forces in the country.
But they have come to little so far, and the group moved swiftly to dash hopes that the prisoner swap would rekindle negotiations between it and the Afghan government.
"It won't help the peace process in any way, because we don't believe in the peace process," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday.
The official close to the palace also said Karzai was worried about further deals being cut without his knowledge.
"It indicates that other deals could be negotiated behind the president's back," he said.
U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham, speaking to reporters in Kabul, said the Karzai administration had been made aware of the impending prisoners' swap.
"It's not behind the government's back. The government's known that we're trying to (do) this for a long time, and they agreed to it and they supported it," he said.
"The only thing that was not transparent to anybody was the actual timing – the fact that there was an agreement and the timing. It certainly doesn't undermine the government and they never expressed any concern to us that it would undermine the government."
Karzai has yet to comment publicly on a swap that is bound to deepen the mistrust of a leader who has been fiercely critical of the U.S. administration in recent years.
He is due to step down as president later this year, but many Afghans believe Karzai will continue to wield considerable influence over policy from behind the scenes.
Karzai's press office said in a statement that the U.S. deal to transfer five Taliban militants from a Guantanamo Bay jail to Qatar violated international law.
"No government can transfer citizens of a country to a third country as prisoners," said the statement, issued on behalf of the foreign ministry.
The prisoner swap has stoked widespread anger in Afghanistan, where many view it as a sign of a U.S. desire to disengage from the country as quickly as possible.
Washington has mapped out a plan to fully withdraw all of its troops by the end of 2016.
Under the terms of the deal, cut by Qatari intermediaries, the five Taliban detainees were released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they had been held since it opened in 2002, and flown to Qatar where they must stay for a year.
Senior officials at the Afghan intelligence agency said they believed the men would return to the battlefield and bolster the insurgency just as most foreign combat troops prepare to exit by the end of this year.
All five were classed as "high-risk" and "likely to pose a threat" by the Pentagon and held senior positions in the Taliban regime before it was toppled by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.
At least two of them are suspected of committing war crimes, including the murder of thousands of Afghan Shi'ites, according to leaked U.S. military cables.
The swap has similarly drawn protest from U.S. Republican politicians who have called it negotiating with terrorists and warned the freed men will likely return to battle.
While Bergdahl's release on Saturday was celebrated by his family and his hometown, and could be seen as a coup for President Barack Obama as he winds down America's longest war, Senator John McCain and other Republicans questioned whether the administration had acted properly in releasing the militants.
"These are the highest high-risk people. Others that we have released have gone back into the fight," said McCain, a former prisoner of war and Vietnam War veteran.
"That's been documented. So it's disturbing to me that the Taliban are the ones that named the people to be released," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation".
As the Obama administration sought to counter the criticism, Bergdahl was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for medical treatment. After receiving care he would be transferred to another facility in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. defense officials said, without giving a date for his return to the United States.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he hoped the exchange might lead to breakthroughs in reconciliation with the militants and rejected accusations from Republicans that it resulted from negotiations with terrorists, saying the swap had been worked out by the government of Qatar.

PPP Punjab demands funds for census in next budget
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab has urged the government to follow the constitution and allocate funds in the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2014-15 for a new census.
This is stated by the PPP Punjab Secretary General and former provincial finance minister Tanveer Ashraf Qaira in a statement issued here on Sunday.
He called upon the government to allocate funds in the forthcoming budget this year which is the constitutional requirement as well. Underscoring the importance of census, he maintained that its criticality was established practice the world over for formulating Planning and Development strategy reflective of the right priorities to be undertaken for a certain period of time. He added without credible census it was not possible to prioritize the budget allocation for development programmes based on the needs of the local population. Development for development sake cannot be justified in the contemporary times due to the imperatives of social justice, he said.
Qaira also referred to the necessity of undertaking census because it would also help in the compilation of authentic voter lists for holding elections in the country either at local, provincial or national levels.
He also said that elections held after the census would measure up the representative character of the elected institutions and the governments in the true sense.

Russia lifts embargo on weapons supplies to Pakistan

Russia has lifted an embargo from supplies of weapons and military hardware to Pakistan and is negotiating the delivery of several helicopter gunships Mil Mi-25 to the country, head of Russian state-run technologies corporation Rostec Sergey Chemezov said on Monday.
"The decision was taken and we are negotiating the delivery of helicopters," he said. The Rostec head noted that choppers Mi-35 were on agenda of talks.
Read more:

Washington Debates Terms of Bergdahl Release

Michael Bowman
A U.S. Army sergeant freed by the Taliban after nearly five years in captivity is receiving medical attention in Germany before an expected reunion with his family in the United States. The Obama administration is responding to criticism from some lawmakers over the release of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in return for Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom.
Hours after Bowe Bergdahl’s release near the Afghan-Pakistan border, President Barack Obama shared a moment of joy with the sergeant’s parents, Bob and Jani.
“I know that I speak for all Americans when I say we cannot wait for the moment when you are reunited and your son, Bowe, is back in your arms,” said Obama.
Bowe Bergdahl’s mother then expressed her gratitude.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported Bowe. He has had a wonderful team everywhere. We will continue to stay strong for Bowe while he recovers.”
But amid cheers, some criticize the price paid for Bergdahl’s freedom, and worry that dealing with the Taliban could embolden militants and put more Americans at risk.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz, speaking on ABC’s This Week program, was among those questioning the deal.
“I think it is very disturbing that we are releasing five acknowledged terrorist Taliban leaders in a deal with terrorists. Sergeant Bergdahl was fighting to capture these terrorists. Can you imagine what he would say to his fallen comrades who lost their lives to stop these people who were responsible, directly or indirectly, for threatening or taking U.S. civilian lives? I mean, that is why we sent our soldiers there (to Afghanistan),” said Cruz.
The Obama administration’s justification rests on a view that Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner of war, not a hostage. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that the U.S. has a special responsibility to freeing those captured in battle.
“We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who were taken in battle. And we did that in this instance. If for some reason we took a position now in the 21st century, when some of our adversaries are not state actors, that we would not do our utmost to bring our prisoners of war home, that would break faith with the American people and with the men and women who serve in uniforms,” said Rice, also speaking on ABC’s This Week.
On a visit to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel echoed Rice's argument, and did not rule out the possibility of other breakthroughs with militants.
Last week, President Obama announced a small residual U.S. force will remain in Afghanistan next year if the country signs a bilateral security agreement with the United States.

Ending of US Adventurous Mission In Afghanistan Follows With BUTs, IFs

Finally, President Obama certified the number of US forces post 2014 remain in Afghanistan according to an agreement. About 10,000 US forces will remain to train and equip the Afghan forces and then this number to be reduced gradually.
But that country is committed to strategic support of the security forces of Afghanistan. it is an important point for Afghan that finally the US ended its mission in Afghanistan sans taking steps toward peace in this country or the threat of Al-Qaida to be removed. Contrary to the assertions made by President Obama, the mission of the US in Afghanistan has not ended responsibly but, because, of being lengthy of the Afghan war the US mission in Afghanistan ended compulsorily. Obama has said that establishment of desired and stable Afghanistan is the duty of own Afghans, but it doesn’t reduce the bitterness of this reality that sans having a strong army equipped with sophisticated weapons, Afghanistan is vulnerable and weak before more threats. No doubt, the US is not he owner and in-charge of Afghanistan and finally Afghans themselves have final responsibility of all things. But releasing of the country before the danger of Taliban and interfering of Pakistan in domestic affairs of Afghanistan only ended with making further lengthy war and killing of innocent people.
The US and UK should proclaim as transparent the concern of their strategic ally before people and government of Afghanistan, till the people of Afghanistan know about the reality existed behind ending of war in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan are willing to know that Pakistan doesn’t interfere in domestic affairs of their country any more. The people of Afghanistan are willing to know that their country is not a threat for Pakistan. At the same time, Pakistan also should refrain from supporting of Taliban and terrorist bands.
The responsibly ending of war in Afghanistan is not possible, but the war of Taliban with Afghan security forces be stopped. It is possible in a time that the networks supported them in Pakistan be wiped out and the ring leaders of these groups to express their readiness for negotiation. The people of Afghanistan want from the US and UK to convince their strategic friend Pakistan that with wiping out of Taliban supporting network from its country pave the way for ending of war in Afghanistan. No doubt, continuation of war in Afghanistan has more reasons.
But, one of the important reasons is this that Taliban and their Pakistani supporters believe for final success in Afghanistan. They image that the government and armed forces of Afghanistan like the government and military forces of Dr. Najibullah would not continue for long time, so, they continue war and with exacerbation of continued attacks are making effort to collapse the moral and political and military structures of Afghanistan. Contrary to the assertions of President Obama that the missions of the US in Afghanistan had some achievements, still, Afghanistan is facing with challenges such as threats of terrorists, violation of human rights and constitution of Afghanistan by involved sides of war in this country, the linkage of economy to foreign aids, incomplete peace process, cultivation and smuggling of narcotics, non-access of people to justice and tens other cases that we don’t say the mission of the US in Afghanistan ended responsibly.
There is no doubt that the security forces of Afghanistan have more expenditure comparing Gross Domestic Product (GDP). No country is the future would be able to provide the expenditure of security forces in short and long time, because, these forces are planned and equipped on the basis of foreign aids. What is important for the people of Afghanistan and there is no any doubt is this that Afghanistan needs strong armed forces equipped with modern and sophisticated weapons to fight against terrorists and foreign military forces.
Because, continuation of war not only threatens modern Afghanistan but, paves the way for enforcement of world terrorism and these groupings make agenda internationally. It is mentionable that the US and Europe never see a weak Afghanistan that be a base for Taliban and Al-Qaida in their own benefit. If the US contributes Afghanistan economically and technically in upcoming decade, they become closer more to their goal i.e. responsible ending of their mission in Afghanistan. If zero-option means for liberals of White House withdrawal of last troops from Afghanistan, but for realistic politicians, it doesn’t mean forgetting Afghanistan and cutting of aids to its economy and military forces.

Human rights at risk in Afghanistan

By: Mirwais jalalzai
Afghanistan’s human rights situation remains poor, with deterioration in some areas, and growing concerns for the future, especially about rights of women and girls, human rights activists said.
Reports say, the Afghan government continued to allow warlords involved in human rights abuse and corrupt officials to operate with impunity. The rights of women and girls, which improved significantly after 2001, suffered rollbacks in 2014 due to security deterioration in several parts of the country, reports said.
Taliban and other insurgent forces continued to commit unlawful attacks targeting civilians and failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants.
“The future of human rights protection in Afghanistan is in grave doubt,” said Brad Adams human rights watch activist in the Asia. “Corruption, little rule of law, poor governance, and abusive policies and practices deprive the country’s most vulnerable citizens of their rights.”
By the end of this year, US-led foreign military forces will withdraw a huge number of their combat force from the country. Growing international fatigue with Afghanistan has reduced political pressure on the government to protect and promote rights, he said. Despite pledges of goodwill and support, international commitments to defending basic rights in Afghanistan have shrunk and are backed by less political pressure.
Cuts in international aid were already leading to closure of schools and health clinics.
Afghanistan’s justice system remained a potent threat to the rights of Afghanistan’s women.
As of spring 2014, dozens of women and girls were in prison and juvenile detention for the “moral crimes” of running away from home or sex outside marriage.
Large areas of Afghanistan still rely on traditional justice mechanisms that can subject women to gross brutality.
Although women have attained some leadership roles in the Afghan government and civil society since 2001, including as judges and members of parliament, Afghan women and girls continued to face everyday abuses. Many have been specifically targeted by the Taliban and other insurgent forces in provinces. “Afghanistan needs donors who will support women’s rights as a long-term priority,” Adams said. The Taliban and other insurgent forces continue to commit human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war. Warlordism and its attendant rights abuses remained one of the country’s most serious problems. The government has failed to prosecute high-level officials for corruption, criminal offenses and other abuses, while the 2005 Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice remains unimplemented.
The Afghan government should adopt strong measures to protect women’s rights in advance of the deadline at the end of 2014 for withdrawal of international combat forces.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Govt Has Failed To Protect Shias
The participants in a protest rally taken out by the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen against targeted killings of Shia scholars, doctors, lawyers, teachers and traders staged a sit-in at the Shaheen Complex traffic intersection on Sunday. They were chanting slogans against targeted killings of Shias, against the governor, the chief minister and the federal government. The roads leading to CM House were sealed off by placing containers which restricted the rally to the Shaheen Complex traffic intersection.
The rally was led by Allama Mohammed Amin Shaheedi, Allama Ahmad Iqbal, Allama Hasan Zafar Naqvi, Allama Ejaz Husain, Allama Mukhtar Imami, Allama Sadiq Raza Taqvi, Maulana Baqir Zaidi, Allama Kerbalai, Maulana Aqil Musa and others. Addressing the protesters, the MWM leaders said that until the targeted killings in the city were stopped, they would continue their protest.
They said if they were not allowed to stage their peaceful protest, they would take it to the second phase to all over Sindh, which ultimately would expand to the entire country.
They demanded an immediate crackdown on terrorists and there arrests and they were brought before media.
Their demands included that the MWM was taken on board regarding ongoing operation in Karachi; activities of the banned terrorist organisations were checked and their flags removed, and offices sealed; implementation of the Control of Loudspeaker’s Act was ensured; FIRs were registered against all those involved in delivering hate speeches; the heirs of victims of targeted killings were given Rs2.5 million per family compensation and the government bore expenses of the injured people and one of the family member was given government job and that the people belonging to the Shia community were recruited in the community police. Allama Hasan Zafar Naqvi claimed that the rulers had failed to provide protection to the Shia community.
If the government could not protect the Shia community, it should allow them to carry weapons, he said.
Allama Amin Shaheedi said that the government had so far failed to arrest not a single terrorist involved in targeted killing of Shias. The rulers nor had offered condolence to any bereaved family, nor had given any sort of relief to them, he added. Earlier, the participants in the rally, including women and children holding banners, placards and party flags, marched on MA Jinnah Road.
When the rally reached near the Shaheen Complex they found the road leading to the CM House blocked by containers. At the Shaheen Complex they staged a sit-in.

Pakistan: What’s the problem?

By Gul Bukhari
Farzana Iqbal was hit with bricks and beaten to death by ten to fifteen members of her family, on a very busy street just outside the Lahore High Court, in broad daylight. Unofficial justice was meted out at the doorstep of the official seat of justice. Beautiful. Just as it ought to be. This is all par for the course of course. She obviously got what she deserved. But curiously, many Pakistanis appear to be genuinely outraged. Their innocence would be shocking if it weren’t so laughable. I mean, seriously? Aren’t Pakistani women beaten in their homes all the time? Aren’t they killed for exercising their choice all the time? Aren’t they maimed and disfigured with acid all the time? Aren’t they buried alive all the time? A thousand a year die to save someone or the other’s honour. What’s the big deal if Farzana died too? She ought to have been just a statistic, if that. She’s only a woman, after all. And she was killed for ‘honour’, for goodness’ sake. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with everyone? It was her family - her father, her brothers, her uncles and assorted male cousins who killed her, for crying out loud. Why is everyone pretending to be so perturbed? Don’t you do it all the time? Don’t you slap or beat your wives, just because you can? Don’t you burn them, just because you can? Don’t you push them off balconies just because you can? Don’t you beat them to death, just because you can? Just because you can, and get away with it?
It’s called impunity. You know, when you can, and get away with it almost all the time. You shouldn’t be complaining at all you know. You sound as hollow as Iqbal, Farzana’s husband, himself. He proudly volunteered that he’d killed his first wife to marry Farzana. Get this: he says he killed his first wife (in cold blood), to marry Farzana but his son forgave him. And hence he is exonerated. He tells this to none other than the press, to be quoted around the world. You know why? Because Pakistani law allows next of kin/ heirs to forgive personal injury or murder. Indeed, the Qisas and Diyat laws allow victims or their kin the right to determine whether to exact retribution (qisas) or compensation (diyat) or to pardon the accused. The rest is not history, as they say, but a bloody circus. Literally bloody. The state leaves it to individuals to decide. No judge, no jury, just individuals. Individuals vulnerable to unbearable pressure, blackmail or threats; or individuals party to the crime to begin with. The state abdicates with grace and beauty in the garb of Islam. Exit left, as the dramatist might put it.
Farzana’s widower, Iqbal the murderer of his first wife, is currently running from pillar to post to obtain justice for Farzana, his poor Clementine. He pleaded with the police standing by to save her life. He is expressing his outrage to the media at the moment. Surely, he will go to court next. The irony has neither dawned on him and neither on you lot, the Pakistani men. These laws were enacted by you. Yes, you. And these laws are most often used to kill, honour-kill and maim women with impunity. Now kindly do not feign horror. Don’t you dare say a word against such killings to appear modern and civilized till you can rise and change the law. Do not dare sympathize with the plight of women till you can force your representatives to repeal the laws that make it right to kill, maim and rape with impunity. Do not dare to tut tut till you get some help and see women as human, with the same rights to life and security as yourselves. Do not dare to champion our cause till your honour lies between the legs of women.
Dear good Muslim Pakistani men, till you pluck the courage to change, at least be honest to admit it’s good – it’s alright to beat, kill, rape and burn wives, daughters, maids and sisters. Either that, or pass the domestic violence bills. Either that, or repeal Qisas and Diyat law.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’m sorry, you can’t be misogynistic and outraged at the same time. Forget the world, now Pakistani women are laughing at you. How does that feel for your ‘honour’? We moved the cheese. From between our legs to between our ears. You see the problem?

Pakistan: PML-N govt ‘fails’ to meets economic targets in first year

* Inflation registered at 8.7% against target of 8.5% * Growth rate of services sector stays at 4.3% against target of 4.6%, agri sector at 2.1% against 3.8% * FBR collects 16% more tax than last year
Official sources have revealed to the Daily Times, on the condition of anonymity, that the PML-N government could not meet any economic target except that of industrial sector during its first year of rule at the federal level. The sources said that the government remained behind targets it had set during the outgoing financial year, 2013-14. This disclosure comes as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar launches the Economic Survey of Pakistan for the outgoing fiscal year today (Monday). Giving details of the incumbent government’s failure in meeting the economic targets, they said that although the economic target was set at 4.4 percent, the government could achieve only 4.1 percent. Meanwhile, inflation rate remained above from the set target.
About the main points of the Economic Survey of Pakistan for the outgoing fiscal year 2013-14, the officials said that inflation during the first 10 months (from July to April) of the ongoing fiscal year has been registered at 8.7 % in comparison with target of 8.5 %, while food and beverages witnessed inflationary hike of 3 percent, while growth rate of agri sector was registered at 2.1 percent against the target of 3.8 percent. Also, the growth rate of services sector remained at 4.3 percent in comparison with the target of 4.6 percent during the abovementioned period. A 3.7 % increase was recorded in the production rate of important crops.
The budget deficit during the ten months of the ongoing fiscal year, 2013-14, remained at 3.2 percent, while current account deficit stood at Rs 2 billion and 60 crores, trade deficit at 16 billion and 10 crore dollars and remittances are likely to stand at 15 billion and 30 crore dollars. A senior official, who wish not to b named, informed this scribe that tax collection by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) during the first ten months of the running financial year was registered at Rs 1,745 billion, which is above 16 percent in comparison to the tax collection of this period of last fiscal year. The direct tax collection was recorded at Rs 658 billion, while collection of direct tax share remained at Rs 1,087 billion during the first ten months of the current financial year. “Interestingly, investment rate has been recorded at 14 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product) if compared with rate of investment and economic growth that was registered at 14.6 percent during last financial year. The official added that the annual per capita income has reached $1,387 against $1,329 last fiscal year, while total population of the country is 18 crores and 62 lakhs.
It is worth mentioning that the Economic Survey of Pakistan for the outgoing fiscal year 2013-14 is scheduled to be launched today, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will launch the pre-budget document, highlighting the overall performance of economy during the outgoing fiscal year. The survey covers the development of all the important sectors of economy, including growth and investment, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, fiscal development, money and credit, capital markets and inflation and debt and liabilities. It also highlights performance of education, health and nutrition, besides showing the overall population, labour force and employment, poverty, transport and communication.

Bilawal Bhutto pays rich tributes to Shaheed Governor Salmaan Taseer
May 30: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-in-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has paid rich tribute to Shaheed Governor Salman Taseer on his birthday and stated he would have become the voice against inhumane incidents occurring in our society, one recent example of killing of farzana bibi, who was stoned to death in court premises recently.
Bilawal Bhutto said if Shaheed salman taseer would have been alive, he would have continued his struggle in giving voice to the poor and down trodden masses of the society.
In a press statement issued here, the Patron-in-Chief PPP said that people like Salman Taseer are real heroes of Pakistani nation who laid down there lives for the protection of weak segments of the society and did not care about the threats to their life. “We are proud that Shaheed Salman Taseer and other brave leaders like him were the part of Pakistan Peoples Party, and its leaders and workers who cared little for their lives but gave sense of security to the toiling and innocent people of the country”, he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan and its peoples are indebted to its heroes like Shaheed Salman Taseer and they will never forget the sacrifices of the PPP leaders and workers to make our society an egalitarian one where the elements who want to impose their nefarious agenda on gun-point have no room.
PPP Patron-In-Chief further said that Shaheed Salman Taseer has always been the voice of the poor and downtrodden and his legacy shall live on.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto presses govt to end victimisation

The Express Tribune
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ratcheted up pressure on the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Sunday, renewing opposition Pakistan People Party calls for ending the ‘victimisation’ of its senior members.
The statement comes a day after former president Asif Ali Zardari criticised the government for what he termed as a campaign against former premiers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, and ex-federal minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who have been implicated in corruption cases.
In a veiled warning, Bilawal advised the government to deliberate over its policy before revisiting the era of political persecution.
The PPP chief said members of his party have defied persecution at the hands of dictators, who concocted baseless cases against them. “Facing jails and courts is nothing new for PPP workers,” he added.
He claimed that those who initiated false cases and references against PPP leaders in the past had later apologised.
Bilawal urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to disclose his stance on the policy of reconciliation initiated by Benazir Bhutto. Concluding his remarks, the PPP chief said that his party will never stop its struggle for the restoration of true democracy in the country and equal rights for people without any discrimination.