Speaker of the People's Assembly, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham announced the results of Presidential elections, pointing out that Dr. Bashar al-Assad won the post of the Republic's Presidency for a new constitutional term, having the majority of participants' votes with 10.319.723 votes and 88.7% Al-Laham added that presidential candidate, Dr. Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri, got 500,279 votes with a percentage of 4.3% of the valid votes, while presidential candidate Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar got 372,301 with a percentage of 3.2% of the valid votes.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
It was never Russia’s intention to destabilize the situation in Ukraine or send its troops to invade the country’s south and east, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday in an interview with France’s TF1 channel and Europe1 radio station. “There are neither military personnel nor Russian instructors in southeastern Ukraine,” Putin stressed. When asked whether Moscow ever planned to absorb Ukraine or push it to the brink of a crisis, Putin said, “No, we never did or will ever do anything like that.” The Russian leader urged the government in Kiev to “engage its own people in a dialogue not with the help of tanks or aircraft but with the help of negotiations.” “People have rights regardless of where they live, and these rights must be guaranteed,” he emphasized in the interview taken during the French journalists’ visit to his Sochi home. The footage was released ahead of the president’s trip to Normandy, in France, where he will attend a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. While in France, Putin is expected to meet with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss joint measures aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Was Exchanged for Detainees at Guantánamo
The Taliban released a video on Wednesday showing their fighters handing over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to American forces, providing a direct look at a dramatic moment in the American military campaign in Afghanistan that is prompting sharp criticism in Afghanistan and the United States. The video also provided an important moment for the Taliban, and their push to refine their publicity efforts to support an argument that they are a legitimate state in exile. Within hours of the video’s release, the Taliban website where it was posted was overwhelmed with traffic and crashed, according to Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents. The video has since been uploaded in dozens of different versions on YouTube — a triumph for the Taliban’s efforts to get their message out, unfiltered, to a world audience. President Obama defended the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity after five years.Deal to Free Bowe Bergdahl Puts Obama on DefensiveJUNE 3, 2014 In the video Sergeant Bergdahl is wearing traditional Afghan robes, and his face and head appear to have been recently shaved. For much of the video, he is seen waiting in a silver and red pickup truck surrounded by Taliban fighters.As an American Black Hawk helicopter approaches, one of the insurgents is heard telling Sergeant Bergdahl: “Don’t come back to Afghanistan. If you do, you won’t make it out alive next time.” Other insurgents standing nearby laugh at the warning. Then the helicopter lands and Sergeant Bergdahl, clutching a plastic bag, is handed over to Americans who are wearing civilian clothes. The Americans quickly lead him away, patting him down and casually dropping the bag he was holding. They board the helicopter and fly off. But beyond the direct images, the framing of the video by the Taliban, and the commentary heard over it, all go to reinforce the group’s portrayal of the United States as a hated invader, and of the Taliban fighters’ role as banner-carriers for Islam and Afghan pride. The video opens with a narrator reading verses from the Quran, then, speaking in Pashto, one of Afghanistan’s two main languages, the narrator encourages Muslims to “fight these infidels.” The narrator quickly shifts to explaining the agreement to exchange Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay. For the insurgents, getting the five men back was “blissful news” and an “historic achievement,” the narrator says, which “filled up the eyes of all Muslims with tears of happiness.” When Sergeant Bergdahl “saw his American helicopter, he was very happy and wanted to rush toward them,” one Taliban member says in the commentary. He then expresses dismay with the Americans, who rushed through the encounter and did not stop to talk or exchange polite greetings, as is customary in Afghanistan, even during hostage releases. He complains that they had managed to shake hands with only two of the Americans, and that one of them had hastily shoved his left hand forward, considered a particularly rude gesture in Afghanistan. Those kinds of complaints about American behavior are common across Afghan society, not just among those who want the United States military to leave.
“We wanted to convey some messages to them via the interpreter, but they didn’t spend much time with us,” the Taliban fighter says, speculating that perhaps the Americans were too frightened to linger. “They even didn’t let us shake hands with the soldier and say goodbye, and they behaved in a very simple way,” the fighter says.
The video ends with the same warning that was delivered to Sergeant Bergdahl moments before his release. The words that appear on the screen contain a misspelling, but the message seems clear. “Don come back to Afghanistan,” it says. If the Taliban accounts heard on the video are accurate, they also add new detail to what had been reported about the transfer, which took place on Saturday in the eastern province of Khost. American officials said they were aware of the video and were reviewing it. “We have no reason to doubt the video’s authenticity,” said Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. “Regardless, we know the transfer was peaceful and successful, and our focus remains on getting Sergeant Bergdahl the care he needs.”
Much of the video clip’s audio track consists of an interview with one of the Taliban fighters who is described as having taken part in the transfer. He talks about the arrangements that were made with the Americans, and then narrates how the American forces arrived by helicopter, with warplanes circling in the sky above. At times, the camera shifts from the Taliban fighters and Sergeant Bergdahl to show the aircraft overhead. He describes an exchange he had with an American, presumably the commander of the team, as the two worked out last-minute logistical details of the encounter, apparently the first prisoner exchange between the United States and the Taliban in the 13-year war in Afghanistan.
The insurgent gives a more specific location for the handover — the Batai area of Khost Province — than American officials, who have said only that it took place in Khost, a mountainous province along the border with Pakistan that has been the scene of fighting throughout the war. There was some talk of where precisely to meet, according to the Taliban fighter, and the Taliban agreed to the American suggestion that the two sides link up 500 yards from the house of a well-known resident. There was also some last-minute confusion. The Americans initially wanted the Taliban to hold something green as they approached with Sergeant Bergdahl, but the insurgents did not have any green cloth and the two sides quickly decided a white sheet would suffice. The Americans then said three of them would jump from the helicopters, and that two Taliban should walk forward with Sergeant Bergdahl.
French President François Hollande should be building a healthy appetite ahead of Thursday when he is due to have one dinner with US President Barack Obama, followed immediately by a second with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Obama will be in France to mark Friday’s 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which heralded the start of the liberation of France and Western Europe from the clutches of the Nazi occupiers. But he is not the only head of state paying a visit to Paris before heading north to Normandy. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive policies in Ukraine have caused the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War, is also on the D-Day guest list and pencilled in for a gourmet treat with Hollande. According to the Elysée Palace, Hollande will dine with Obama at an undisclosed Paris restaurant at 7pm, and then squeeze in a "souper" (light dinner) at the Elysée with Putin two hours later. Hollande is likely to have a double dose of the same thorny topic at both meals: the crisis in Ukraine where the new pro-West Kiev government is battling a pro-Russian insurgency in the east of the country. Obama and Putin are not expected to cross paths until all invited leaders gather for lunch on Friday in Normandy at the Benouville chateau followed by the D-Day ceremonies at Ouistreham.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the world must "stand with those who seek freedom," as he drew parallels between reforms taking place in Ukraine today and the elections in Poland 25 years ago that marked the beginning of the end of Communism.
Speaking Wednesday at a Freedom Day event in Warsaw, Obama hailed Poland's first partially free election in 1989 as a "landslide victory for freedom." He said now the free world is united against what he called Russia's "dark tactics" in Ukraine, where in March Russian forces seized control of Crimea. "Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings," Obama said. "And the stroke of a pen can never legitimize the theft of a neighbor’s land, so we will not accept Russia’s occupation of Crimea or its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia," the president added. "We stand together because we believe that people and nations have the right to determine their own destiny — that includes the people of Ukraine," Obama said in Warsaw.
The president also restated America's commitment to its NATO allies. "An attack on one is an attack on all. ... We stand together, now and forever, for your freedom is ours," Obama said. “Poland will never stand alone. Estonia will never stand alone. Latvia will never stand alone. Lithuania will never stand alone. Romania will never stand alone," Obama added, naming the ex-Communist countries that - unlike Ukraine - have joined NATO and therefore enjoy protection as treaty allies. "These are not just words," Obama said. "They are unbreakable commitments backed by the strongest alliance in the world and by the armed forces of the United States of America: the most powerful military in history." Poland's 25-year history of democracy is an example to Ukraine of what could be achieved if a country is allowed to realize its aspirations, Obama said. But he noted another 25-year anniversary on June 4: the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. "The story of this nation [Poland] reminds us that freedom is not guaranteed. And history cautions us to never take progress for granted. On the same day 25 years ago that Poles were voting here, tanks were crushing peaceful democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on the other side of the world," he said. Meeting with Poroshenko Before the ceremony, Obama met with Ukraine President-elect Petro Poroshenko, and announced $5 million in non-lethal aid to help Ukraine's military forces in their effort to battle pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Obama flew to Brussels later Wednesday for a working dinner with leaders from the Group of Seven nations. They will meet for further talks on Thursday. The leaders quickly arranged the summit after deciding to boycott a Group of Eight meeting Russia was to host this week in Sochi. The boycott was in response to Russia's incursion into Crimea in March. Obama's three-nation trip will also include a speech Friday at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, during a ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the allied D-Day invasion against Nazi forces in World War II. Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko will all be at the Normandy commemorations - the first time they have been in the same location since the crisis in Ukraine began - though there is no plan at the moment for them to have a meeting. Germany and Britain, whose leaders will hold private meetings with Putin on the sidelines of the ceremony in France, both stepped up criticism of Russia's role in eastern Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to parliament in Berlin, urged Putin to use his influence to restrain the separatists and make them disarm and end occupations. “If this doesn't happen... we won't shrink from imposing further sanctions,” she said. The British Foreign Office accused Moscow of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine with “a torrent of disinformation” and of trying to intimidate Kyiv with a military buildup along the Ukrainian border.
Law passed in Sindh province shows that despite religious opposition, steps taken to outlaw child marriage are taking effect
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), one of Pakistan's most influential religious and constitutional bodies, has announced that girls are ready for marriage the moment they reach puberty. This is not the first time the CII has condoned child marriage. In April, it ruled that banning such unions was anti-Islamic. While the ruling does not have any bearing on policymaking, it could have a major influence on local religious leaders nationwide. But the CII's controversial statements should not detract from the progress made on addressing child marriage in Pakistan. In fact, a new law that prevents under-18s, irrespective of gender, from getting married was passed unanimously by the provincial assembly in Sindh, raising hopes for the future for girls like Mehwish. The law also punishes those who facilitate, contract or perform such marriages with up to three years in jail and a fine of 45,000 rupees (£455). Sindh has the highest rate of child marriage of any province in Pakistan. That such a law could pass in this region sets it out as a landmark piece of legislation. If the law is implemented in letter and spirit it will help to ensure girls' rights to stay in school and marry later. It will help to secure their right to choose. It is also my hope that the law will act as a deterrent against the customary practice known as vani or swara, where girls are given in marriage to compensate for the crimes of a male member of their family. The law also counters the religious misinterpretations that promote early marriage, as the CII recently put forward. We want to see similar action across Pakistan. A bill has been introduced in the national assembly to strengthen punishment against perpetrators of child §marriage but has met with opposition from religious parties. We may yet see change in Punjab, however, where a bill that raises the legal age of marriage and toughens sanctions is under discussion. Nationally there are glimmers of progress too. At the open working group on the sustainable development goals, a major intergovernmental process that will help shape the next set of international development goals, Pakistan proposed to end child, early and forced marriage by 2030. It is an ambitious vision, but it will not become a reality unless commitments turn into action. Take the example of Mehwish, who was just eight when she got married. A primary school pupil from a small town in Punjab, central Pakistan, she had no understanding of the meaning of such things. She was taken out of school shortly after her wedding day. But Mehwish was determined to get an education. After years of pleading with her husband to let her enrol again, she was finally allowed to return to the classroom – or so she thought. The education authorities would not let her back in: married girls, they said, would ruin the environment for the other students. Mehwish's story is not uncommon. In Pakistan, one in four girls is married before her 18th birthday, forced into adulthood while she is still a child. Early marriage often spells an abrupt end to a girl's education too. Every child needs to know the impact of early marriage and their right to say no. We need a national awareness campaign to make sure that families are aware that such unions are illegal. The Child Marriage Restraint Act states that no individual under 16 should be wed, but many families in rural areas are unaware of this fact. Families do not always understand the significance of having a national ID card and they often lack access to local government services to register their children at birth. The absence of such crucial information makes it difficult to verify the age of the bride and groom on their wedding day. Preventing child marriage is virtually impossible without a fully functional birth registration system and systematic age checks before marriage ceremonies. This requires Pakistan to invest in developing a local government network that is operational and fully equipped to provide critically needed services across the country. We also need to ensure that every child has access to education. When girls have safe, quality and accessible schooling, their parents are more likely to choose education over marriage.And the benefits are clear: just one extra year of secondary schooling alone boosts girls' earning potential by 15-25%, helping to break the cycle of poverty. And when mothers have at least seven years of education, their children are less likely to die before their first birthday (pdf). The future for girls in Pakistan can be bright if the government backs up its recent outspokenness on ending child marriage with action. We need strong laws that make marriage before 18 illegal and a comprehensive plan to make this a reality. Anything short of this will simply be lip service.
Hindu and Sikh citizens across Afghanistan participated in the April election and now eye this month’s runoff with anticipation. On Tuesday, leaders from the groups came forward to urge the two presidential candidates to consider minority rights a larger part of their platforms. The Afghan Hindu and Sikh Council has estimated around 5,000 Hindu and Sikh voters went to polls for the first round of this year’s presidential election. And top council members are confident their voters will turnout for the runoff. “We voted for a better future in the first round of the election,” Hindu and Sikh Council Deputy Rahul Singh told TOLOnews on Tuesday. “We have voting cards and will vote again,” he added. With just over a week left in the runoff campaign period, the two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdulla, have begun touring the country and promoting policy promises to key constituents. Without having received such attention yet, Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan asked candidates to formulate clear positions on minority rights. “We are asking for clear plans on various matters, but particularly addressing the rights of minorities and the return of Hindu and Sikh refugees to the country,” Afghan Hindu Senator Anarkali Kaur Honaryar said. While Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani’s stances when it comes to minority and refugee issues may not be entirely distilled, what is in front of their eyes is a significant, politically active portion of their constituencies looking for representation. “We are going to vote,” the head of Hindu Temples in Kabul, Meyar Singh, said. "We all - old and young - registered and got voting cards.” Meyar Singh’s wife said "we are voting for the future of our children.” After decades of war in Afghanistan, as well as the repressive regime of the Taliban, the quality of life for many Hindu and Sikh Afghans is desperately low. Many have had land stolen from them without the ability to seek legal redress. “We will vote for a person who can ensure our rights and give back our homes and lands that were grabbed,” a Hindu trader in Kabul named Rawunder Singh said. Afghanistan has around 7,000 Hindu and Sikh citizens living various regions of the country. Roughly 5,000 of them are eligible to vote.
The Express Tribune
Intelligence officials informed a high-level meeting held on Tuesday at the home department that Afghan nationals were involved in extortion, kidnapping for ransom and target killings in the provincial capital. Chaired by Secretary Home and Tribal Affairs Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, representatives of spy agencies told the Provincial Task Force (PTF) meeting that Afghan nationals, who have rented houses in urban areas, were involved in criminal activates, adding that spy agencies have set up a special cell to monitor such elements. They also informed that Afghan SIMs, with roaming facilities in the tribal areas, are being used for extortion, target killings and kidnapping for ransom. Police officials said the situation in tribal areas also affected settled parts of the province, adding that criminals had joined militant groups and were carrying out terrorist activities in the provincial capital. Police gave details on various criminal groups currently active in Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, DI Khan and Peshawar districts, read a statement issued from the home department. The statement read that directions had been issued to relevant officials to launch a special campaign against criminals and proclaimed offenders. Police officials were also directed to raid cells being run by militants in urban areas. It also directed that cases should be registered against those making inflammatory speeches and involved in inflammatory wall-chalking. The statement added that meaningful surveillance should be carried out against those placed under Schedule-IV of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
The officials of the intelligence agencies said on Tuesday that mostly the Afghan nationals were behind the extortion and target-killings in the provincial metropolitan. Briefing a meeting held in the Home Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an official of the Special Branch said security situation was quite discouraging due to sporadic terrorist activities in various parts of the province, particularly in the provincial metropolis. He said die hard criminals had joined terrorist groups and carrying out terrorist activities to disturb the peaceful environment. An official of the Intelligence Bureau said Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar, Bara and Qambarkhel were the potential threat to Peshawar. He said the militants in 25 villages of the de-facto area of Shabqadar tehsil in Charsadda district were involved in target killings, extortion and kidnappings for ransom. He said that mostly Afghan nationals who had hired houses in the urban area of Peshawar were involved in extortion, kidnappings for ransom and target killings. A representative of Inter-Service Intelligence informed the participants that terrorist activities had been curtailed to a great extent in the last few weeks. He confirmed the involvement of Afghan nationals in extortions, kidnappings for ransom and target killings while using Afghan SIMs through roaming facility in the tribal areas. The Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs) of police of KP also attended the meeting and informed the participants about the involvement of criminal groups with terrorist groups for extortion, kidnapping and target killings. The DIG (Operation) said that total 66 cases had been registered against extortion. He agreed with the ISI representative on the involvement of Afghan nationals in terrorist activities in Peshawar. After detailed discussion the following decisions were made in the meeting. The police would launch special campaigns to arrest the proclaimed offenders; the police would raid the hideouts of the militants in urban areas of Peshawar; cases should be lodged against those members of proscribed organizations who were delivering inflammatory speeches and involved chalking; efforts should be made to improve investigation and meaningful surveillance should be done against those placed under Schedule-IV of the anti-terrorism 1997.
The murder of Ahmedi Muslim Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar symbolizes Pakistan’s descent into self-annihilation
Tomorrow, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar — the Canadian/American doctor who was assassinated last month in front of his wife and child, while he was performing a humanitarian mission in Pakistan — will be buried at Maple Cemetary in Vaughan, Ont. His funeral has become a major rallying point for members of the Ahmadi Muslim community — which flourishes here in tolerant Canada, but which is murderously persecuted in Pakistan (that supposed national refuge for South Asian Muslims). In fact, the tragedy of Mehdi Ali Qamar’s murder serves as a sort of microcosm for the agony of Pakistan’s self-destruction as a functioning national entity, and it’s transformation into a base for the most violent and bigoted elements within Islam. The Ahmadiyya movement originates with the 19th-century prophet Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whose teachings challenge the mainline Islamic taboo against prophecies that purport to supplement or modify the teachings of Muhammad. Much as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are rejected by doctrinaire Christians for their analogous belief in 19th-century prophet figures, Ahmadis are viewed by Muslim fundamentalists as outright “heretics.”
Yet that word does not properly convey the obsessive nature of the hatred against Ahmadis in Pakistan — where the Constitution actually was amended to ban Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims. They cannot refer to their prayer halls as “mosques,” vote in elections alongside their Sunni neighbours, or even use common Muslim greetings such as “peace be upon you.” In neighbourhood feuds, non-Ahmadis can get their Ahmadi adversaries thrown into jail (or worse) merely by alleging that they recited a Koranic phrase. In some cases, this pathological hatred of Ahmadis is expressed in scenes of mass murder: In May 2010, Sunni terrorists massacred almost 100 Ahmadis in Lahore during their Friday prayers. And yet, many Ahmadis who fled Pakistani persecution — and who now live safe, prosperous lives here in the West — still return to Pakistan to see their families and perform humanitarian work. Mehdi Ali Qamar, a cardiologist who’d travelled to Pakistan to provide instruction to local doctors at a heart clinic, was one of them. Rabwah, the Punjab town where Mr. Qamar was killed, has a special significance to Ahmadis. During the birth of India and Pakistan in the late 1940s, amid the great tides of refugees that went in all directions, the Ahmadi spiritual leadership established Rabwah as a safe haven for co-religionists. Even following the flight of the movement’s spiritual leader to London in the 1980s, Rabwah has remained the center of Ahmadi civic and religious life in Pakistan. Many of the wealthiest and best-educated Ahmadis fled Pakistan in the second half of the 20th century. But since then, this disapora has fed money and humanitarian volunteers (Dr. Qamar was a perfect example) back into Rabwah. Despite the fact that the town sits in the middle of an impoverished rural area, Rabwah’s Ahmadi-run health clinics serve everyone. The Tahir heart institute (named after a former Ahmadi spiritual leader), where Dr. Qamar was helping train doctors, is renowned in the country. Indeed, in purely humanitarian terms, the choice of Dr. Qamar as a target by Jihadi murderers was horrifically perverse: They killed a man who had come to Pakistan to help save the lives of not just Ahmadis, but all local Punjab residents. His killing will discourage other doctors from making the same trip, and thereby make life in this impoverished corner of Pakistan even shorter and harsher. Some Pakistani politicians and diplomats have expressed regret and condolence for Dr. Qamar’s killing. But in the ways that matter, they do not really control their country. The Mullahs do — and many of them are more than happy to tell their congregants and Youtube viewers that killing an Ahmadi will get you into heaven. Even when the murderers are caught, they often are treated like kings in Pakistani prison, and get off with slaps on the wrist. In this way, the slaughter of Ahmadis in Pakistan is a species of “honour killing” — a symptom of a cruel, narrow-minded and spiritually addled society. What’s worse, many Muslim leaders in the West have become creatures of this Pakistani-fueled intolerance. In a recently published essay entitled Will The Real Moderate Imams Please Stand Up? U.S. Ahmadi spokesman Qasim Rashid notes that in April, “the Luton, England chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community published a two-page advertisement in the Luton on Sunday newspaper to mark our worldwide community’s 125th anniversary. In response, the imams of 22 British mosques, representing some 40,000 British Muslims in Luton, protested. They were offended that these ‘Qadianis’ (a derogatory term for Ahmadi Muslims) dared to publicly call themselves Muslim. Luton on Sunday subsequently published an editorial ‘completely disassociating’ themselves from ‘the Ahmadiyyas’ and telling ‘real’ Muslims that they did not mean to hurt their feelings.” It is not just Ahmadis who are at risk in Pakistan, of course. Daniel Pearl was abducted and killed in Karachi after being made to read out a statement that declared “I am an American Jew.” Earlier this year, a Christian man was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Muhammad. Shiite Muslim mosques are bombed during prayer services. Even ordinary, secular Pakistanis are at risk from Taliban killers who want to take the country back to the 7th century. The country’s problems are so enormous, its brutality so mindless and nihilistic, that it is difficult to comprehend — except microcosmically, in the faces and names of victims such as Mehdi Ali Qamar, a humanitarian hero gunned down in a country he was trying to help save.
Hypocritical Pakistani militants have been brazen enough to say that killing the innocent violates Sharia Law, but analysts label the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's denials of involvement in terrorist acts an unpersuasive public relations stunt.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)'s ostensible condemnation of the killings of innocent Pakistanis and denial of involvement in such attacks represent nothing more than a "pack of lies," analysts say.
"The Taliban just want to present themselves as virtuous and restore their dwindling popularity," said Khadim Hussain, who is involved with the Baacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation, adding that recent denials of guilt continue the long-standing trend of the Taliban trying to paint a rosy portrait of themselves. The TTP has denied being behind several recent attacks, including the April 9 bombing that killed more than 20 people at an Islamabad fruit and vegetable market. In a TTP statement, spokesman Shahidullah Shahid condemned the Islamabad explosion, saying that killing the innocent violated Sharia Law. Denials broadly rejected in Pakistan But most Pakistanis see through such statements. "Everyone knows very well that only the TTP has the ability to carry out such terror strikes," Hussain said, adding that the militants have put spreading terror at the top of their agenda and that the Islamabad bombing bears the stamp of the TTP's deadly handiwork. The TTP previously issued a fatwa justifying such attacks but switched to condemning them and "is hilariously making a mockery of its previous fatwa," Hussain said. Ordinary Pakistanis see through the Taliban's pretence of considering the slaughter of innocent victims a violation of Sharia, Muhammad Haroon, a political scientist at Abdul Wali Khan University, agreed. "The common people are mocking the Taliban for telling a lie, because it's obvious ... that the TTP introduced the culture of terrorism to Pakistan," he said. Local clerics too scoff at the TTP's attempts to distance itself from the murder of innocent people. "They're liars and enemies of the people," Maulana Mushtaq Ahmed, a prayer leader, said. "The Taliban will never give up militancy because they enjoy power through fear." Barbarity, savagery and cruelties are the hallmarks of the Taliban, he said. Taliban's true colours It's easy to reject the TTP's denials because the militants have a long history of disregard for human life, Hussain said. "There have been hundreds of attacks that have killed innocent people in markets, mosques, courts and political rallies as part of the TTP's agenda to assert its power," he said, citing an October 2009 bombing in Peshawar that killed almost 150 people, mostly women. TTP, al-Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) militants are largely responsible terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it doesn't really matter which group takes responsibility because they all share the same objective of terrifying society, foes of terrorism say. "It's a socio-psychological strategy to create more fear and to cow everybody," Hussain said, calling the Taliban's denial of involvement in public attacks a "pack of lies." The terrorists have denied their guilt before in connection with terrorist attacks, Haroon said, adding that those denials have no credibility. "The Taliban have killed soldiers, police, women and children for no reason at all," he said. "Killing innocent people is the Taliban's agenda." Society left to wonder about motivation of attacks The TTP's misleading denials also do nothing to help society understand why such attacks happen, senior journalist Aimal Khan told Central Asia Online. "The basic question – why? – is what people have been asking about the killing of innocent victims in Taliban attacks since 2005," Khan, a specialist on terrorism, said. He called on militants to admit what they do. "We need an answer to the public's question about why innocent people have been murdered," he said.
Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC have strongly condemned government of Pakistan and Interior Ministry of Pakistan to impose unannounced ECL for Pakistan Christians travelling to South Asia and South East Asian countries from all airports of Pakistan. Exist Control List ECL is issued by Interior Ministry of Pakistan to ban travel on persons wanted by law or of those who’s cases are being heard and taken as flight risk but immigration authorities in every airport of Pakistan are off loading Christians who have destinations to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. According to complains received by Pakistan Christian Post PCP from Christians travelers, more than three hundred Christians were illegally off loaded from their confirmed flights from Benazir Bhutto International Air Port Islamabad, Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore and Jinnah International Airport Karachi; After 2009, when incident of attacks on Christian life and properties rose to its peak in Punjab province of Pakistan and registration of blasphemy cases against Christians also rose up to 200% and none of Muslim culprit was punished, the Pakistani Christian were forced to flee from Pakistan to take refuge in South Asian and South East Asian Countries. According to PCP sources, there are more than 9,000 Christians in Thailand, more than 4,000 in Sri Lanka, more than 2,000 in Malaysia and hundreds in Singapore and Hong Kong, waiting for decisions on their asylum cases registered with UNHCR. There are dozens of so-called Christian Legal Aid, Social Welfare and Church based organizations in Pakistan who collect huge funds to fight cases of Christian blasphemy victims and other persecuted Christians but none of them have ever tried to safe those Christian victims. The World Vision in Progress WVIP is only organization which provides legal assistance to blasphemy victims and other persecuted Christians and rescues them by shifting them to other countries with its funds. As, government of Pakistan is using its Foreign Missions in Western countries to hire some members of Pakistani Christian Diaspora as its tools against any protest on incidents of persecution in Pakistan to safe its image; In same way, now government of Pakistan have engaged few Christian tools in Thailand to discourage Christian asylum seekers for which cash envelopes are distributed among them. The Christian tools of Pakistan Embassy in Bangkok are directed to launch a campaign against that NGO, named World Vision in Progress WVIP and its Founder Farrukh Saif that its “Rescue Pakistani Christian” mission may be damaged. Dr. Nazir Bhatti Said “on one hand government of Pakistan is off loading persecuted Christians from flights and on other hand have launched propaganda against WVIP which rescues victims is condemnable” Nazir Bhatti said that a complete report will be published about Christian tools of Pakistan Embassy in Bangkok who are working on Pakistan Government agenda to create confusion among thousands of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers that they may go back to Pakistan.
Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) Chairman Nasarullah Baloch has claimed that as many as 373 mutilated dead bodies of missing persons were recovered during one year rule of the incumbent government. Addressing to a press conference here at Quetta Press Club on Monday, he said that the said number of dead bodies excludes the number of dead recovered from the mass graves from Totak area of Khuzdar. He said that only 25 bodies could not be recovered out of the said number, adding that this proves the fact that the enforced disappearances and throwing of the mutilated dead bodies has not abated as least bit. He said that the appearance of the case of the missing persons could not be held on 6th of May this year for unknown reasons at Supreme Court and now after lapse of 2 weeks no hearing of the missing persons is held in the apex court which is causing anxiety among the family members of the missing persons. He said that Latif Johar has been on hunger strike since last 41 days and insists to continue it till death for the release of Zahid Baloch. He said that his life is under severe threat. He said that under such grave circumstances, the security forces wanted to give a protective shield to the unconstitutional, inhuman and heartrending acts. “We want government to take back its decision and make practical efforts against Pakistan Protection Bill.” He demanded of the government (provincial) to adopt a condemnation resolution against PPO like the Sindh Assembly did. “If it doesn’t go for it, we would consider provincial government a party to the crimes against innocent people,” he said. He said that the whereabouts of three persons arrested on the charges of being terrorist, Innayatulalh, Abdul Fetah and Basham, on 23rd May are still unknown which is making their families all the more apprehensive.
Members of the Baloch community in the Pacific Northwest region of North America held a peaceful demonstration here on Monday to protest latest disappearances in Balochistan. Gathered at the city’s busiest and central location – the West Lake Center – the protestors held pictures of political activists disappeared by Pakistani security agencies while holding placards and signs in support of the victims.
The protestors said their purpose was to highlight the plight of Baloch people in Pakistan and raise awareness about the human rights situation in Balochistan. Baloch Dorruazi, an organizer of the event, said the purpose of this demonstration was to bring to people’s attention the enforced disappearance of Zahid Baloch, a political activist believed to be in the custody of Pakistani security agencies. Mr. Baloch, who also heads the student group Baloch Student Organzation–Azad, was reportedly picked by the Pakistani security forces on March 18 in broad daylight and in the presence of several eyewitness. His whereabouts remain unknown. Meanwhile, another member of BSO–Azad has been on a hunger strike in front of Karachi Press Club since April 22. Lateef Johar, a young man in his early 20s, is protesting the disappearance of his leader and is determined to continue his protest until his leader’s safe recovery.
The participants of the Monday’s demonstration also showed solidarity with Mr. Johar. Local human rights activists believe Mr. Baloch’s life is in extreme danger, and there is a possibility that he might become a victim of Pakistan’s “kill and dump” policy. The Amnesty International has also shown concern about Mr. Baloch’s fate. In an urgent appeal asking people to write to Pakistani authorities, the group said that Mr. Baloch is at grave risk of ill-treatment, torture, or even death.
“Hundreds of other activists have suffered similar fates in the province over recent years,” it said in the appeal. “We are here to seek the help of human rights groups in bringing Zahid Baloch back,” said Abrahim Delwash, one of the protestors while holding a picture of Zahid Baloch. “If he has done anything wrong, he must be produced in a court of law.” This was the second protest held by the Baloch community in the city this year. In March, they had a demonstration to show solidarity with Mama Qadeer and other relative-activits of the missing Baloch who completed a 3000-kilometer long journey on foot from Quetta to Islamabad for the safe recovery of their loved ones.
Members of the BSO–Azad are among the majority of political activists who have become victim to “kill and dump” operations of the security agencies in recent years. “BSO–Azad is a peaceful political platform of Baloch students,” Mr. Delwash said. “It is unfortunate that it is being dealt with an iron hand by Pakistani security agencies.”
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned cowardly suicide attack on security forces on Fatah Jang road today resulting in the martyrdom of several including two military officers and injuring others. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a message paid tributes to valiant forces for fighting militants as they are savages and barbarians who want to impose by force their distorted ideology on the people. He said the people of Pakistan will never succumb before these militants and fight them to the finish. “Our martyrs are heroes and the nation is indebted to them”, he said. The PPP Patron offered heartfelt condolences to the grieving family members of those who lost their lives in the deadly blast and prayed for the early recovery of the injured.
Opposition parties in the Punjab Assembly (PA), including PTI, PPP and PML-Q have rejected the federal budget and called it an ‘anti-people’ budget, as no relief has been given to the poor despite 8 percent raise in inflation during the first fiscal of the PML-N government. Reacting to federal budget for 2014-15, Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and other PTI members, including Mian Aslam Iqbal and Sadia Sohail Rana, said that the government had given benefits to capitalists only and that no relief was provided to the poor. They said that all of the efforts of the PML-N government to boost up economy were favouring capitalists and that these efforts had no link with facilitating or giving direct benefit to the poor and common man. They also criticised the taxation policy of the federal government and said that inflation had risen more than 8 percent during one year and prices of necessary items had gone beyond the reach of common man. They also said that the law and order situation across the country was also very poor. PPP Parliamentary Leader Qazi Ahmad Saeed and Deputy Information Secretary Abid Sadiqui said that most of the Pakistanis have rejected this budget as no new thing in their favour had been announced in it. The PPP leaders said that the finance minister had just read out the budget speech written by someone else. They said that the budget was just a traditional jugglery of words to fool the poor and the middle class. They said that the people were not only facing high inflation but they were also facing the poor law and order situation, which was a big failure of the government. They said that agriculture polices of the government did not give any relief to farmers. PML-Q legislators Amir Sultan Cheema and Khadija Umar Farooqi rejected enhancing taxes and said that despite tall claims, the federal budget was just a ‘number-game’. They said that the budget was prepared on the basis of foreign funding; therefore, how the PML-N leadership could claim that it had broken the begging bowl. They said that only about Rs 3 per day had been added to the salary of lower classes, which could hardly help them meet their needs in the wake of unprecedented hike in prices.
The Sharif brothers will have to prove they can perform at a level to justify the ‘mandate’ given to them in the last election. We must see whether any heads roll in the aftermath of this shocking crime
Pakistan has not lost its ability to shock. The latest being the stoning to death of a pregnant woman in the hallowed compound of the Lahore High Court (LHC). This news has reverberated around the world and throughout Pakistan, raising questions about ‘Shining Punjab’, a province being run by the brother of the Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan. Doubts are thus created about the ability of both brothers to govern the country, and the province, if a gruesome murder can be committed in the capital city of the Punjab. This has turned the stomachs of all Pakistanis, and all Punjabis, as being against the sensibilities of all who managed to read or hear about this crime. For once the religious right was not involved. Perhaps the Taliban should be asked to give their exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of this crime. The father and brother should be executed in a befitting manner — perhaps similar to their own measure of rage. Maybe the medieval ‘hung, drawn-and-quartered’ could be brought out of the history books. The Sharif brothers have to reconsider their ability to govern. The crime, committed on the premises of the LHC, raises questions about the spectacle witnessed by hundreds of litigants with petitions in hand seeking justice from the same court. The effect of this behaviour on the persons present on the premises must have been extraordinary. Perhaps we do need a Taliban administration whose punishments are very similar, but only ordered and executed by the Taliban themselves. No one else is allowed to strike this terror; it is the exclusive domain of the Taliban themselves. It does give credence to the thought that the Sharif brothers have turned a blind eye to the spread of the Taliban into Punjab. The ‘stoning’ may just be the tip of Talibanisation or existence of the thinking that lurks beneath the ‘happy’ Punjab to reveal its ugliness and depravity. We will have to see how many of the people on the premises of the court who saw the murder, or even the judges who were busy dispensing justice at the time react. This was an insult to all of them. Let us see whether there is any outrage, or any action. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) would do well to have a dharna (sit-in) at the spot, maybe a monument to commemorate the deed in this the twenty first century. The Sharif brothers will have to prove they can perform at a level to justify the ‘mandate’ given to them in the last election. We must see whether any heads roll in the aftermath of this shocking crime. The talk show hosts are strangely silent, and even secular, modern Karachi is muted — a strange uncomfortable silence. Are the chattering classes and bleeding hearts not awake to what has happened in the ‘cultural capital’ of Pakistan? This silence is strange. The owners of the television channels must rethink their priorities, pay heed to the enormity of these crimes, and fulfil their duty to expose this bestial behaviour in our public. This cannot be condoned, nor can the silence of the media. Perhaps the media is too concerned about the defence of one of its own. It does expose a commercial bent to their collective agenda for there is no ‘news value’ to it and it cannot be marketed abroad. The shock to the Pakistani public is immense, and the people are waiting to see an appropriate response from the government. Its ability to govern has now been questioned, and should be followed by a cacophony of voices to clamour for an appropriate punishment. For this silence seems to admit a priority by the media, whose stifled outrage indicates an absence of marketable copy, not in keeping with the enormity of the crime. It has been carried by newspapers from Houston to Singapore, yet the story has died of suffocation here in Pakistan. Surely something is rotten in the state of the media? Maybe the media should examine their own selves and question their own priorities. The foreign media has picked up the story and played it for the horrific nature of the crime, and of course the Pakistan angle, which is always good copy. But for the Pakistani media and the talk show hosts this is inexcusable. As a Pakistani, and a reader of most newspapers, this is reprehensible.
It could not have been different. That terrorism will pull the country down was written on the walls, which we had chosen to ignore all along. We never prepared ourselves to face the music as a result. We had been refusing to accept the responsibility of the mess our intervention created in Afghanistan until the fire reached our doorstep. Even then our response was inadequate. Our security policies did little to protect the country or maintain the writ of the state. Currently, the surface peace owes more to the policy of retaliation than eliminating the terrorists altogether. We cannot ignore the Taliban’s reach into the urban areas of the country, especially Karachi. There they have made the city hostage to terrorism. Twelve years is a long period. Estimation of war-related costs, an exercise the economic team of the country does every year, is in fact a reminder that we had not been doing much to control the demons we reared and nurtured. Would that we had refrained from interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, Pakistan may have been spared its present and continuing agony. Having turned the country into a national security state in the early years and after adopting jihadi proxies as a foreign policy tool in the neighbourhood, we could not have expected to escape the blowback that has taken such a high toll in lives and economically. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014, every economic and financial indicator, be it exports, foreign direct and domestic investment, inflation, tax collection, etc, has been affected ruinously by terrorism. In the last 13 years the country has lost $ 102.51 billion in the war on terror. This does not include the loss the country incurred from the killing of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and its able soldiers. Over the years terrorism in Pakistan has morphed into sectarian conflict, making things more complicated for the government, again for lack of preparedness. Intelligence on most of the terrorist attacks, the bigger ones especially, such as the Bannu jailbreak, had been conveyed to the relevant governments, with no result. The government has done little to date to revamp its law enforcement and intelligence agencies to face the challenges it confronts. The police is inadequate. Its traditional modus operandi does not make it capable of fighting the war. A complete renewal of the commitment to fight terrorism is required whereby our house is set in order not through the policy of appeasement but through a combination of force and dialogue as and when required.