Friday, June 6, 2014

Bahrain activist says regime’s kids detention incomparable in world

The high number of detained underage political prisoners in Bahrain is incomparable with other parts of the world, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist tells Press TV.
In a Friday interview, Nabeel Rajab, who was recently freed from jail after serving a two-year term, attested to the presence of hundreds of students and children in prisons, adding, “I do not think you will find any other country than Bahrain that high percentages of children are behind bars.”
He expressed concern over the high percentage of prisoners of conscience in Bahrain and said, “Ninety percent of people in jail in this country, over 90 percent are political prisoners.”
“When I was detained… two years ago there was around 1,500 political prisoners. Today, [there are] over 3,000 political prisoners. When I was detained, in the compound where I was detained there was four to five [jail buildings] but now there are ten buildings,” the activist said.
According to a Thursday report by Bahrain’s main opposition group al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, in the course of 2013 Manama regime forces in the country arrested more than 200 children during raids on homes and schools.
Over the past few years, the Manama regime’s human rights record has come under scrutiny over its handling of the peaceful protests across Bahrain. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the ruling Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured in the Manama regime’s heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

Syria: Elections Are a Battle Won, But the War Goes On

It is hard for even the West to deny that the recent election was a huge success for the government in Damascus, stamping out the illusion of a divided Syria. The country is mired in protracted conflict not because of a “popular uprising,” but because of a premeditated proxy war organized by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia (and involving other NATO-GCC members) as early as 2007 – this confirmed in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 New Yorker report titled, “The Redirection.”
The proxy war is admittedly lost – but it would be a mistake to say the West has completely lost. Their goal was indeed, ideally, to overthrow the government of Syria. By failing to do so and in the process exposing their insidious methods, the West has lost immense credibility and momentum they will never recover. However, their secondary objective was destroying Syria and leaving it in a weakened, diminished state – denying Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and most importantly, Russia a strong regional ally. This, for now, the West has absolutely succeeded in accomplishing. Reconstruction & socioeconomic recovery will be as important if not more so for Syrians in the coming months and years, than defeating NATO’s proxy forces on the battlefield. Bringing Syria back to or exceeding its economic and defensive posture before the war will be when Syrians can truly declare victory over the West. The goal of “bleeding” Syria if regime change failed, was documented by US policy makers in Brookings Institution’s “Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change,” which stated:
“The United States might still arm the opposition even knowing they will probably never have sufficient power, on their own, to dislodge the Asad network. Washington might choose to do so simply in the belief that at least providing an oppressed people with some ability to resist their oppressors is better than doing nothing at all, even if the support provided has little chance of turning defeat into victory. Alternatively, the United States might calculate that it is still worthwhile to pin down the Assad regime and bleed it, keeping a regional adversary weak, while avoiding the costs of direct intervention.”

AAA / 「Wake up!」Music Video

Video: D-Day Anniversary: The First Few Hours Of The Normandy Landings

Putin, Poroshenko meet on D-Day sidelines, call for end to E.Ukraine bloodshed

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko have briefly spoken on the sidelines of the D-Day anniversary celebrations in Normandy. They called for both sides to "stop violence and military actions" in eastern Ukraine.
Both leaders “have spoken for a prompt end to bloodshed in southeast Ukraine as well as for an end to military actions from both sides – from the side of the Ukrainian armed forces and the supporters of federalization of Ukraine,” said Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.
Putin and Poroshenko also agreed that there is “no alternative” to “peaceful political means” to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.
Apart from his conversation with Poroshenko, Russia’s president also held meetings with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“On the margins of a lunch on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings of Normandy’s allies, President Putin had a short talk with Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko,” Peskov said.
The brief negotiations were followed by a short meeting between Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Barack Obama. According to a White House official, their informal meeting lasted 10-15 minutes, Reuters reported.
"Despite that there was no separate meeting [scheduled], the leaders of the two states had an opportunity to share their views on the situation in Ukraine as well as on crisis in the east of the country. Putin and Obama have spoken for the necessity to reduce violence and military actions,” Peskov said.
On Thursday, the Russian president also spoke with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The two met at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris, where they arrived ahead of the D-Day commemorations.
“Putin and Cameron discussed ways to resolve the situation in Ukraine and the prospects of revitalizing the Russian-UK dialogue,” Peskov said. “In the course of the conversation between Putin and Cameron, various issues of bilateral relations were discussed, including the topic of revitalizing the Russian-British dialogue, which is currently in a frozen state.”

Obama, Putin come face-to-face in France at D-Day event

A much anticipated encounter between President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, came on the sidelines of a lunch held Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. But a conversation between Putin and Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko may have been more fruitful. Putin and Poroshenko's conversation included plans to discuss a cease-fire in the coming days, the office of French President Francois Hollande said. During their informal aside, Obama told Putin that to reduce tensions in Ukraine, Russia must recognize Poroshenko as the country's legitimate leader and stop supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. Obama also told Putin that Russia must stop the flow of weapons across the border into Ukraine, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said. Working with the Ukrainian leadership is the only way to reverse Russia's increasing isolation, Obama said, according to Rhodes.
The talk lasted 10 to 15 minutes.
Speculation had been brewing that the American and Russian leaders would meet, despite apparently elaborate steps taken by Hollande to avoid a tense encounter.
On Thursday, he dined with Obama before hosting a separate dinner with Putin. The pair were also seated well apart for the D-Day lunch. With Hollande and the queens of Britain and Denmark between them, the two seemed unlikely to have to converse unless they wanted to. The World War II commemorative events also brought Putin and Poroshenko together in their first face-to-face meeting. They talked briefly before the leaders went to the D-Day lunch. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood with them as they spoke. Putin and Poroshenko shook hands before their informal exchange, Hollande's office told CNN.
No interaction was seen between Obama and Putin at that point. The leaders will all attend an international ceremony at Sword Beach later on Friday, one of the beaches where the historic allied invasion was staged.
'Lane of international law'
Speaking Thursday in Brussels, Obama said he and Putin were likely to cross paths in France, although no formal meeting was planned.
Obama said then that if they spoke, he would give Putin the same message on Ukraine that he has given him in phone calls over past weeks and in his public statements.
Putin "has a chance to get back into a lane of international law," he said. Obama said Putin could start by recognizing Poroshenko, stopping the flow of weapons over the border into Ukraine and ceasing Russian support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Putin, in an interview with French television station TF1, did not discount the possibility of meeting with Obama. "As for my relations with Barack Obama, I have no reason whatsoever to believe he is not willing to talk to the President of Russia," he said. "But ultimately, it is his choice. I am always ready for dialogue, and I think that dialogue is the best way to bridge any gaps."

Obama salutes veterans on D-Day's 70th anniversary

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande gather on the beaches of Normandy under clear blue skies to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two's D-Day landings.

عبدالله عبدالله له ځانمرګي بریده روغ ووت

مشال راډیو
امنیتي چارواکي وايي، چې د ولسمشریزو انتخاباتو د کاندید ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله په انتخاباتي کمپاین د چاودنې له امله د ښاغلي عبدالله د دوو ساتونکو په ګډون ۶ تنه وژل شوي او ۲۲ نور ټپیان دي.
امنیتي چارواکي وايي، چې د ولسمشریزو انتخاباتو د کاندید ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله په انتخاباتي کمپاین د چاودنې له امله د ښاغلي عبدالله د دوو ساتونکو په ګډون ۶ تنه وژل شوي او ۲۲ نور ټپیان دي. د کابل د امنيې قومندانۍ ویاند "حشمت ستانکزي" مشال راډيو ته وویل چې برید د غرمې په شاوخوا دولسو بجو د کابل لوېدیځ میرویس میدان کې شوی چې په کابل اریانا هوټل کې تر یوې انتخاباتي غونډې وروسته د جمهوري ریاست کاندید عبدالله له هوټله د وتلو په حال کې و. په عین حال کې د ډاکټر عبدالله د ټيم ویاند فاضل سانچاره کي، هم مشال راډيو راډيو سره په خبرونو کې وویل چې په دې پیښه کې د ډاکټر عبدالله دوه ساتونکي وژل شوي او یو شمیر نور ټپیان دي. له بلې خوا د ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله انتخاباتي سیال ډاکټر اشرف غني احمدزي پر خپله ټویټر پاڼه کې دغه برید غندلی او دا یې د افغانستان د دښمنانو کار بللی دی. په پام کې ده، چې د ولسمشرۍ د دویم پړاو ټاکنې د جوزا په ۲۴ نیټه ترسره شي.نن د جمعې پر ورځ په کابل کې د ډاکټر عبدالله عبدالله پر ټاکنیز کمپاین چاودنه شوې ده.

Afghanistan: Female Elites Back Abdullah

A number of elite Afghan women and female legislators announced their support for presidential runoff candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Thursday.
Among the prominent women who backed Abdullah was the running mate of former presidential hopeful Dawoud Sultanzoi, Ms. Kazimia Mohaqeq.
"As a university lecturer and as a student of law, I announce my endorsement of Abdullah," she said on Thursday.
The endorsements come at a critical time in the election process, with just over a week left until voters head to the polls and choose between Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
"Today, we the Afghan women reiterate our promise to vote to Dr. Abdullah and will show up on June 14," MP Fawzia Kofi said.
Abdullah welcomed the endorsements and promised to promote the role of women in the next government if he is elected. He also discussed combating violence against women.
"The protection of women's rights marks on of our top working priorities, and we will combat violence against women practically, not just in rhetoric," Abdullah said.
Additionally, the Badakhshan People's Council announced support for Abdullah on Thursday. Addressing the council at a gathering, Abdullah pledged to help reconstruct and develop Badakhshan.
On Thursday, Abdullah also attended the 3rd Commemoration Ceremony of slain General Dawoud Dawoud and Shah Jahan Noori, the former Takhar Police Chief. At the ceremony, he spoke out against ethnic politics in the election.
"No one can get votes from the people under the pretext of ethnicity," Abdullah said.
His comments come just days after a top member of Ashraf Ghani's campaign team demanded voters' support on the basis of ethnicity.
Abdullah also called on the government and electoral bodies to strive for a transparent and credible election process.
Only five days remain until the end of the campaigning period for this year's runoff.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah survives bombing

The front-runner in Afghan's presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, has survived a suicide bomb attack targeted at his convoy in Kabul.
Police told the BBC that six people were killed - including one of Mr Abdullah's body guards - and at least 22 injured when two blasts hit a rally.
He appeared live on television to reassure his supporters that he was unharmed in the attack. The run-off round of the presidential election takes place next week.
No group has said it carried out the attack but the Taliban have repeatedly threatened to target the poll campaign. The first blast was detonated by a suicide bomber in a car, a Kabul police spokesman told the BBC's Bilal Sarwary. The spokesman said the second explosion was probably caused by what he described as a "sticky bomb" but our correspondent says details about it are still unclear.
The dead and injured include policemen and civilians.
Correspondents say that this appears to be the first attack on a presidential candidate since the campaign began. Both the two presidential candidates are holding several rallies daily in Kabul and across Afghanistan.
Attack condemned
The attack took place as Mr Abdullah was leaving an election gathering in a wedding hall. Eyewitnesses described scenes of panic and chaos after two loud explosions were heard. Our correspondent says that Mr Abdullah and his colleagues narrowly escaped. "Thank God, we have not suffered any injuries.," Mr Abdullah told national television. "However, regrettably, a number of security guards were wounded.
"Thank God, they are not in serious condition."
The run-off is set to take place on 14 June after neither candidate managed to secure more than 50% of the vote needed for an outright victory after the first round of voting in April. The winner of next week's vote will preside over the withdrawal of coalition combat troops.

Pakistan's ferocious blasphemy Law : Appeal of Asia Bibi Disappeared From Lahore High Court

A Pakistani court that was scheduled to hear the appeal of Asia Bibi, poor Christian woman of five children who faces death sentence under blasphemy, has been ordered not to proceed with the case, the catholic world news service reports
After a number of rescheduling, the Bibi appeal has vanished from the docket of the Lahore high court. Lawyers defending the accused woman, are determined to follow the appeal and win the case of her release from prison. They say they will “do everything in our power so that justice is done.”
Asia Bibi was allegedly accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad in an extremely doubtful trial, with no clear and strong evidence introduced to support the allegations. Since 2009 she has been imprisoned, with militant Muslims putting substantial pressure on the courts to support her conviction and carry out the procedure of her execution.
- See more at:

Pakistan: Islamabad Protests

On Wednesday, two different protests were disrupted by the Islamabad police. One, orchestrated by clerks and teachers from the public sector protesting against their salary increments in the new budget, was baton-charged by the police, when the protesters allegedly tried to cross through to the red zone. Over 1500 katchi abadi dwellers protesting against the eviction drive in slums in the capital were barred from attending the second protest by the police. The police also surrounded the ground outside the National Press Club, the venue for the start of the protest, citing the protest of public workers as the motive behind their actions.
Protests are central to the democratic process, and apart from the right to vote, are the only legitimate means for the people to express their opposition against the policies of a sitting government. This right needs to be preserved at all costs, in the interests of holding the regime accountable throughout its term.
Law enforcement agencies claim that the protesters on China Chowk violated a pre-arranged agreement when they decided to march towards the red zone. Does this pre-arranged agreement take on visual form? Who was representing the protesters? Even if the answers to both questions gives weight to the state’s side of the story, the use of batons, rubber bullets and tear gas bombs against unarmed teachers and clerks is absolutely barbaric and unjustifiable. Truly, a dark stain on the democratic process. The katchi abadi protest was made irrelevant because around a third of the protesters were not even allowed to get to the venue. Using the other protest as an excuse and then quashing both is reflective of the government’s inability to cater to opposing ideas. Protesting the budget was akin to protesting the very first real measure of the government’s campaign promises, and this reaction reveals the extent of government insecurity and weakness. Democracy is not an elite principle reserved for angered engagement by the upper echelons of government; it is a common principle, it is grassroots, ground-ridden, and belongs to the teachers, the clerks, and all the ordinary Pakistanis trying to live decent, dignified lives in this land. They deserve far more respect.

Pakistan: Putting an end to pipedreams

Realistic approach is the key to ending terrorism
The two terrorist incidents on Wednesday are the latest testimony to the bankruptcy of PML-N’s policy of peace talks with the TTP. Early in the morning, Mullah Fazlullah’s men operating from Kunar in Afghanistan fired on Pakistani posts in Bajaur Agency, killing seven soldiers. Within hours a suicide bomber killed two serving Lt Colonels on way to Tarnol from Rawalpindi in a vehicle. The later incident raises questions about the working of the security agencies. What needs to be probed is how the terrorists managed to get real time information about the officers’ itinerary and the exact timing of the travel. The leakage reveals that the agencies have yet to set their house in order.
The government has wasted enough time pipe dreaming about peaceful resolution of the issue of militancy. It is high time it understands that it is futile to make the terrorists realise the importance of peace before they have been thoroughly defeated, deprived of safe havens and made to feel that they are at the mercy of the state. That the prime minister attended the funeral of the two army officers was commendable as it showed that the government stood by the troops as they fought the Pakistani Taliban. What is needed is to rally the entire nation against the terrorists.
It is relatively easier to sort out the TTP leaders inside the tribal agencies. To deal with those who have set up headquarters across the border in Kunar and Nuristan provinces is a much more difficult task. The group led by TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah and an equally unscrupulous and cruel Omar Khalid Khorasani has kidnapped and decapitated soldiers, conducted the roadside bombing that killed Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi and launched three cross border attacks in Bajaur over the last ten days. Besides, the group is also responsible for the abortive attack on Malala Yousafzai. The military cannot cross the border to attack the group which has set up camps visible from Pakistan’s side. This underlines the regional dimension of terrorism which requires regional solutions. The group has been launching attacks since 2012 but neither the Afghan Taliban nor Haqqani network, long nurtured as assets, have extended any help to remove the threat. To destroy Fazlullah’s nest the government has no realistic option other than reaching out to the Afghan government. This will require quid pro quo. Both the government and the army have to realise that it is more important to secure Pakistan than gain influence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan: Citizens protest against delay in issuance of polio certificates

People have voiced a strong protest against the alleged delaying tactics being used in the issuance of polio certificates at the Holy Family Hospital. The polio certificates are issued to the passengers during day time shift and on the other hand, the influential persons are issued these certificates during night shifts too. The citizens said that they have to wait for the medical superintendent (MS) for 5 to 6 hours after having been administered polio drops. The MS is always stated to be in a meeting whenever inquired from the staff. This way the citizens have to suffer mental agony while standing in long queues for hours. The sources said that the polio certificates have been issued during night shifts on the recommendations of the politicians. Holy family Hospital MS Arshid Ali Sabir said that certificates are issued during day time and added that the certificate can be issued at any time in case of an emergency. People have appealed the Punjab chief minister to ease up the process of the issuance of polio certificates.

Pakistan's Ahmedi Muslims Under Attack: ''A dead nation''

Syed Kamran Hashmi
All of us in our community have had one or more incidents like this in our lives where people turn against us without giving a proper reason. Suddenly, they just stop talking to us
Besides being boarded for Toronto instead of Ohio this time, I am also able to stretch my legs and lay down straight on my back in the airplane. It feels like business class: comfortable, dark, quiet and cold. But, it is not; instead, I am lying in my coffin dead, travelling back to meet the rest of my family in Canada. Most likely, brother will receive me at the airport, and for the first time in our lives I will not hug him back or respond to his greetings. How am I going to handle those emotions? My idea is simple: I intend to just watch him shed his tears without showing any of mine. In the next few days, when he buries me in my grave and says the final goodbye to me, I know he will be very sad and upset, wishing he had done enough to hold me from visiting Pakistan, so I would still be alive. However, I am not upset. I am much more peaceful here than I had ever imagined in my life. There is no pain, no anxiety, no one around to find out my religion here, no fear of persecution, no concerns about being looked down upon and no apprehension about my safety. I feel free of all my fears in this seven-foot-long and two-feet-wide dark and cold place.
I decided to leave my body probably after the third bullet when blood started gushing from my chest. I could not stay there any longer, although it was not my plan. The plan was to stay in it for a few more decades and watch my two-year-old son grow older, graduate from college and build his own career. I wanted to encourage him to help others like I do, support his community like I have, and build a bright future for Pakistan like I always wanted to. But, the people who shot me did not think that way. For them, I, my wife, my two-year-old and my whole community are all blasphemous and we do not have the right to live. I cannot say that I did not know about them at all, the extremists who would like to rid Pakistan of all minorities. We, Ahmedis, are well aware of them; rather I should say that no one is more conscious of them than us in the country. We live under their threat all our lives, fearful of being killed anytime. Long before we can even remember our name or gender, they tell us that we are not true Pakistanis. We are the enemies of the state, Islam, and maybe the Ummah (Muslim nation) too. I am not sure what Ummah means and who would be included in it, but I do not intend to dwell on it today and would leave that discussion for another time. Because of that, as we grow up, we learn to hide our faith from others, keeping our guard up on the issue of religion. It is tough; but we do it anyway because it ensures our physical wellbeing but more than that, it also preserves our emotional fettle. We realise that even our closest friends would abandon us for a single slip of our tongue. And in the worse case scenario, they may indeed turn out to be our worst enemy, the source of misinformation and propaganda about our religion, our family lives, financial resources and our ‘anti-Islam’ agenda. All of us in our community have had one or more incidents like this in our lives where people turn against us without giving a proper reason. Suddenly, they just stop talking to us, do not respond to our greetings, refuse to shake hands and do not like us to participate in any activity with them. We are outlawed as if we have contacted leprosy and need to be quarantined or put to sleep. There are only a few, a minority in society, who still want to maintain a normal relationship with us; the majority considers them non-practicing, sinful and superficial Muslims too, but Muslims nonetheless.
In our case, we are not considered the followers of Islam at all. No matter how pious we are, how helpful we want to be, how polite and forthcoming our behaviour is, and no matter how well we have served the country, we are still non-Muslims and unpatriotic Pakistanis. Even the constitution declares our heresy. Now if we want to raise that issue, the religious extremists would label us as traitors since we question the most sacred law of the nation. They would equate our objection with the ideology of the Taliban or military dictatorship that either do not believe in it altogether or abrogate it to come into power through force respectively. Being a non-Muslim, if I ever got killed by an extremist group I have always known — which has turned out to be true as well — that there would be no one in the Pakistani media or politics who would raise a voice of concern for me. I know the reason for their silence too: their souls have been possessed by fear. Their lips are sealed, their tongues tied and their hearts desensitised. They believe a single sentence of support is all it would take to make a fanatic declare them blasphemous, which is a certain death sentence nowadays. And for Ahmedis no one wants to jeopardise his life. “We have no problem in taking a risk for a good cause, where we can be honoured as heroes. But how would we be remembered if we lost our lives for Ahmedis?” they might ask. Even if in private they sympathise with us, they will not stand up in public for our right to live. “If they can kill Salmaan Taseer, who am I to resist them?” they will add later. In response, I can only tell them that when fear takes over the voice of a nation, that nation is already dead like I am.

Pakistan: The Budget and the poor

Stung by criticism that the Budget 2014-15 is tilted in favour of the rich and offers only scraps and crumbs from the table for the poor, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was at great pains to defend the Budget as not anti-poor during his post-Budget press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. However, persistent questioning by media people on the concessions and relaxations to the business community and the impact, for example, of the withdrawal of subsidies on the electricity tariff put the minister on the mat. Dar admitted that over 50 percent more than 90 million people are below the poverty line of an income of $ 2 a day some estimates put this figure at 69 percent. He claimed his government was committed to raising this huge mass of people out of poverty. However, the consensus on the Budget is that it is business-friendly, with hardly any relief for the poor, the youth loan schemes, Benazir now National Income Support Programme and educational facilitation for deserving students notwithstanding. Laudable as these schemes are in themselves, they are a drop in the ocean of poverty that laps our shores.
Admittedly, the straitened finances of the state leave little if any room for meaningful interventions, innovations and creative measures to offer the people groaning from inflation, unemployment and insecurity anything meaningful except token sops. Dar threatened those intending to increase prices using the excuse of the budget with strict measures “iron fist” to control prices. It is strange to hear an advocate of the market economy as the panacea for all our woes speak in this language. How would this ‘iron fist’ control the market and its inherent dynamic was left to the imagination. The claim that the fiscal deficit, which panned out at 8.8 percent of GDP last year, would be incrementally reduced over some years to four percent was not fleshed out, while critics point out that the raise in salaries and pensions was likely to act in the opposite direction, with resort to borrowing to meet the gap the most likely course, having its own implications for inflation.
The measure to impose higher taxes on non-registered non-filers of tax returns is both a punitive step as well as an incentive to document the informal economy, a laudable objective that seeks to broaden the tax net, a badly needed policy to raise revenues and lighten the burden as far as possible on the honest tax payer being treated as the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. Large scale retailers such as shopping malls and smaller retailers in the bazaar have been dealt with by imposing the condition of electronic sales registers for the former and a presumptive tax based on electricity consumption on the latter. Parliamentarians have been put on notice, quite rightly, that they would be deprived of all allowances if they fail to file tax returns by June 10.
The finance minister may have bent his back to defend the budget from charges of being pro-business and anti-poor, but the reactions of the respective communities says it all. The business community has been full of praise for what they call a growth oriented budget, while the working classes see nothing in it for themselves. That perhaps is why the clerks and teachers protesting against the budget were dealt with harshly in Islamabad on Wednesday (beaten black and blue according to accounts. The trade unions are up in arms, the agriculture sector feels it has been treated like a poor relative and the apprehension that without some relief to the masses the government may face more than its share of protest over the coming fiscal year cannot be dismissed lightly. The problem with the government’s approach is that it still adheres to the theory that the business class will pull the economy out of the doldrums and the discredited trickle down theory will do the necessary for the people at large. A perceived business-friendly government may have the luxury of indulging in such flights of fancy that recent history belies even in stronger economies than ours. But the government will have to burn some midnight oil to find ways and means to lighten the crushing burden of the masses or face increasing trouble on the streets ahead.

The case of Pakistan's vanishing Facebook pages

It’s lamentable that our people are not unaccustomed to things magically disappearing, and a few missing leftist pages on Facebook naturally sink to the bottom of our priority list. But that doesn’t mean we are unfazed by the latest trend of snapping one’s fingers and making all that which doesn't agree with the status quo, vanish into thin air.
Pakistan’s political arena is majorly a battlefield, stretching exclusively from the far-right to the center. Leftists, liberals and seculars dare each other to touch the boundaries – like children challenging one another to enter a ‘haunted’ house – and perform a victory dance when they return 'unshot'.
They have taken some solace in existing, if not openly in the real world, then on the internet; using the social media to keep their side of the discussion alive. Quite bafflingly, even that appears to be ruffling far too many feathers.
The last few days were a tumultuous period for the embattled liberals on social media, as they discovered that many of the secular, left-leaning pages on Facebook had been removed. It’s particularly ironic that some of these pages, ardently protesting to bring back the missing Balochs, have themselves gone missing. Whoever’s responsible for their disappearance, could not have sung these pages a more fitting swansong; one that allows their owners and their legions of followers to turn to Pakistan and say.
See what we’re talking about?
I do not use the word ‘legions’ casually. ‘Laal’, one of the missing pages, had over 400,000 followers, supposedly making it the largest leftist Facebook page in South Asia. Others too enjoyed sizeable audiences.
So where did they all disappear?
Facebook has a contentious history of blocking profiles and pages that needn’t be, while allowing some obviously offensive pages to remain operational (especially, if they post in languages other than English). A good example of the latter, is the outrageous amount of time, and a vehement campaign by concerned Pakistan Facebook users, it took for the social media giant to take down a page posting compromising pictures of young boys with unconscionable captions. Facebook admits that the decisions are not always made in accordance with its own judgments. It periodically receives demands from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information Technology to block access to pages with blasphemous content or “criticism of the state”; demands that Facebook occasionally honors.
The owners and followers blame PTA for the assault on their freedom of expression; some claiming that the organisation has itself confirmed that it did so. The move does fit well into this body’s usual work pattern. The very mention of PTA, to the social media cognoscenti, invokes the image of an internet monarch with a bear pelt around his shoulders, banning whatever he subjectively deems harmful or offensive.
Did they expect us to not notice, or request a formal explanation?
Do the hundreds of thousands of followers of these pages spontaneously combust?
Or do they come around even more determined and sagacious, to form new groups and pages?
It’s time Facebook overcomes its identity crisis, and clearly defines what it stands for. It isn’t becoming of an entity that spearheaded the social media revolution to be silencing the expressions of private citizens for being indigestible for their authorities.
Does Facebook, then, exist merely to serve the whims of governments around the world? Is it just as enslaved to the Big Brother as most of our countrymen today or could it be the impartial voice-for-everyone platform we so desperately need in these times of repression?
As for the PTA, it must realise that its regulatory powers have to have some restrictions when dealing with people’s speech on the internet. Or at least, it should mirror the same determination in managing the constellation of pages supporting extremist elements and spewing vitriol against Pakistani minorities.
List of Facebook pages blocked:

Pakistani TV channel Geo news sues powerful spy agency for defamation

A Pakistani television channel is suing the powerful spy agency for defamation over accusations of being anti-state, it said on Friday, in a move unprecedented in a country where public criticism of the military is taboo.
Geo News, part of the privately owned Jang Group, has also given the ISI spy agency 14 days to issue a public apology.
"Geo and Jang Group (have) served a legal notice on the Ministry of Defence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority for defaming and maligning the group," the channel said in a report published in a newspaper owned by the media house.
"More than 8,000 journalists, workers and professionals attached to the group and their families are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across Pakistan."
In April, Pakistan's Defence Ministry had demanded that the licence of Geo News be suspended after it reported that the ISI was behind the shooting of one of Pakistan's most famous journalists.
Since the dispute began, Geo News has been taken off the air in several parts of the country or been moved to obscure slots on the channel lineup by the cable operators, allegedly under pressure from the military, according to the lawsuit.
Distribution of the parent group's newspapers has also been disrupted.
Last month, the channel apologised for the allegations in an attempt to resolve an issue that has added to tensions between the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the all-powerful military.
But temperatures have failed to cool and in a lawsuit the channel has now asked the powerful spy agency to retract its defamatory statements, publicly apologise and pay $500 million in damages.
A spokesman for the military was not immediately available for comment.
April's shooting of Hamid Mir, a journalist anchoring Pakistan's top political news talk show, sent a chill through the journalism community weeks after television anchor Raza Rumi was attacked in the city of Lahore. Rumi survived but his driver was shot dead.
Although Pakistani media have become increasingly vibrant in recent years, with stories exposing corruption or injustices appearing frequently on the pages of the country's many dailies, public criticism of the army or the ISI is largely taboo.
No one has claimed responsibility for the recent assaults, although the Taliban, holed up in mountains on the Afghan border, have made repeated threats against domestic and foreign reporters for portraying the insurgency in a negative light.

Pakistan:Treason charge: Geo/Jang Group serves Rs50 bn notice on govt, ISI, Pemra

Notice demands public apology for levelling baseless allegations; no proof of charges provided despite requests; baseless charges maligned Jang/Geo, incited violence against it, its journalists, caused huge financial loss; its TV transmission blocked, newspapers burnt; info ministry, Pemra have failed to restore Geo channels
Pakistan’s most popular and most loved media group Geo and Jang Group has served a legal notice on the Ministry of Defence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for defaming and maligning the group by accusing it of working on an anti-Pakistan agenda, inciting and fuelling violence against the group, pressuring cable operators to black out Geo channels, the failure of Pemra to get the Supreme Court order to restore Geo channels implemented, and has asked all to publicly apologise within 14 days and pay damages of Rs50 billion.
In its legal notice, the group — which played a role in the Pakistan Movement, in the creation of Pakistan and came into existence much before these institutions — has alleged that because of the uncalled for, baseless allegations of being traitors and furthering an anti-Pakistan agenda, more than 8,000 journalists, workers and professionals attached to the group and their families are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across Pakistan.
Geo and the Jang Group have served the notice on the Federation of Pakistan and the ISI through the Ministry of Defence and on Pemra and have demanded that all must publicly apologise to the group and all its workers and their families for levelling absolutely baseless, wrong and shameful allegations without any proof and endangering the lives of thousands of professionals attached with the group.
The lawyers of the Geo and Jang group have made it clear in categorical and the strongest terms in the legal notice served on the ISI and Pemra that the group shall initiate appropriate legal proceedings against all of them in a court of competent jurisdiction for direct damage to repute caused to their clients (Geo and Jang Group and its workers) and also actual losses that they are suffering on a daily basis.
The legal notice served by Geo and the Jang Group on the Ministry of Defence, ISI and Pemra on June 5, 2014 reads;“Legal notice under section 8 of defamation ordinance, 2002.”“We, on behalf and instructions of the Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited (IMC), Independent Newspaper Corporation (Pvt) Limited (INCL), News Publications (Pvt) Limited (NPL), Independent Music Group (Pvt) Limited (IMG), (hereinafter referred to as ‘our clients’) are writing to address you as follows:
“1. That together all our clients along with dozens of other companies from the ‘Jang/Geo Group’, the leading electronic and print media group of Pakistan broadcasting TV channels with the highest rating namely ‘Geo News’, ‘Geo Entertainment’, ‘Geo Tez’, ‘Geo Kahani’ and ‘Geo Super’. The Jang Group also publishes newspapers having the widest circulation in Pakistan namely “Daily Jang” and “The News”.
“2. That our clients are actively involved in the field of journalism, making and broadcasting national/international news, articles, interviews, mega events and current affairs and are considered as the most reliable sources of information by the public at large and enjoy an incontrovertible, overwhelming, unequivocal and an unparalleled reputation both at the national and international level.
“3. That on 19.4.2014, one of the leading columnists and anchorpersons of Pakistan, Hamid Mir, who is associated with our clients, was attacked in Karachi. In the environment of extreme tension and under tremendous pressure of the family of Hamid Mir, our clients’ channel Geo News broadcast a statement of Hamid Mir’s brother Amir Mir.
“4. That subsequent to the above, ISI sent a complaint to the Ministry of Defence which without even providing any evidence/proof, contained baseless and untrue allegations that “Geo Network has a history of acting illegally in furtherance of anti Pakistan agenda.”
“5. That upon receipt of the complaint of ISI, the Ministry of Defence immediately without verification of the allegations levelled in it, forwarded the said complaint containing the allegations regarding our clients having a history of acting on an anti-Pakistan agenda, as it is, to Pemra seeking immediate suspension and cancellation of Geo News’ licence.
“6. That after receiving the above complaints from the ISI through the Ministry of Defence, Pemra too, without seeking any proof/evidence of anti-Pakistani activities of our clients, issued a show cause notice to our clients, accusing them of being involved in anti-Pakistan activities.
“7. That the show-cause notice of Pemra was distributed all over Pakistan including the media of Pakistan that has caused great reputational loss to our clients.
“8. That despite our clients’ various requests to the ISI, the Ministry of Defence and Pemra to provide them evidence on the basis of which such a heinous allegation was levelled by them against our clients, no proof/evidence has been provided to them so far.
“9. That all of you have thus defamed our clients by levelling such false statements to injure their reputation, to lower them in the estimation of others and to reduce them to ridicule, unjust criticism, dislike, contempt or hatred against which this statutory notice is being served to all of you.
“10. That in addition to the reputational loss that our clients have suffered at your hands, this false and malicious allegation due to the current tense political situation in the country, was deliberately aimed at provoking and inciting the masses to engage in physical violence against our clients and thousands of their employees including journalists, putting all their lives at serious risk. You have succeeded in achieving the purpose of the false allegations as soon after having levelled them a smear campaign against our clients has also been started on the ground that our clients are traitors/anti-Pakistan.
“11. That due to your illegal threats and pressure on the cable operators of the country, they first shuffled/showed on last number of the spectrum, the transmission of our clients’ channels, ‘Geo News’, ‘Geo Entertainment’, ‘Geo Kahani’ and ‘Geo Tez’ and now the transmission of these channels have been completely suspended throughout the country.
“12. That similarly, distribution of our clients’ newspapers has also been disturbed/banned in different parts of the country. The newspapers’ distribution vans of our clients are being set ablaze on a daily basis and the employees of our clients have also been threatened and tortured in various parts of the country, on the pretext that our clients are Anti-Pakistan.
“13. That despite our clients’ repeated requests, Pemra and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in utter violation of the statutory provisions have failed to restore the transmission of Geo News and other channels of our clients on their previous position.
“14. That in the above background, our clients have approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan. On 26.05.2014, the Supreme Court disposed of our clients’ application on the basis of Pemra’s counsel, Ibrahim Satti and Pemra’s head legal department, Zahid Malik’s undertaking that Pemra “shall abide by the terms of order dated 13.08.2012 passed in Constitution Petition No 51 of 2010, by which the report of Javed Jabbar, the mediator, was made part of the said order and that the Pemra will ensure that there is no shifting of the channels contrary to or in violation of the order dated 13.08.2012.
“15. That it is, however, regretfully noted that despite clear direction of the Supreme Court, Pemra has till to date not ensured implementation of the SC order in letter and spirit which shows that all of you, in collusion to each other, are bent upon damaging our clients.
“16. That due to your illegal actions, our clients are on a daily basis suffering huge financial loss as transmission of their channels has been illegally suspended and distribution of their newspapers has also been disturbed due to which they are not receiving any advertisements.
“17. That we on behalf of our clients request you to immediately provide our clients all the documentary evidence/proof in support of your allegations that our clients are involved in anti-Pakistani activities.
“18. That in view of the foregoing, our clients having no other option hereby call upon all of you to do the following within 14 days of this legal notice:
i. To stop levelling such defamatory statements;
ii. To broadcast or publish retraction or clarification for accusing our clients as traitors or anti-Pakistan;
iii. To publish an apology in a newspaper and make one through a TV interview in the same manner and in the same prominence;
iv. To restore the transmission of our clients’ channels ‘Geo News’, ‘Geo Entertainment’, ‘Geo Kahani’ and ‘Geo Tez’ to their previous positions all over Pakistan;
v. Not to harass cable operators to illegally suspend the transmissions of our clients’ channels;
vi. Though the defamation caused is immeasurable in monetary terms however, to pay our clients direct reputational damage and actual damage that come around almost to be Rs50,000,000,000 (Fifty billion rupees only).
“20. That if you fail to do the above within 14 days from the date of this legal notice, we have strict instructions from our clients to initiate appropriate legal proceedings against all of you in a court of competent jurisdiction for direct reputational damage caused to our clients and also actual losses that they are suffering on daily basis.
“21. That this legal notice is being served to you without prejudice to all the rights that our clients may be enjoying against you under the prevailing laws.”

Pakistan:Jang group vehicle attacked in Rawalpindi

Vehicles of the Jang group continue to be targeted across Pakistan. In the latest attack a vehicle carrying the group’s newspapers was first hijacked and later burnt in Rawalpindi.
The incident took place at 2:00 AM on Murree Road. The attackers hijacked the vehicle and the driver was assaulted. According to the driver Muhammad Razzaq he was delivering newspapers to Islamabad when his vehicle was stopped by four armed men. Razzaq said he was blindfolded and was told he would not be allowed to deliver the papers. After being assaulted, Razzaq was left on the roadside. The driver reached the Jang building in Rawalpindi and the hijacked vehicle was recovered at 9:00 AM. The attackers had set the vehicle and newspapers on fire. The newspapers were reprinted and sent for delivery. This is the latest in a series of attacks targeting Jang group newspaper delivery vehicles. On May 25 a vehicle was attacked in Lahore. Attacks have also taken place in Karachi and Rawalpindi.

Policy matters: Pakistan advised to stay neutral in Afghan affairs

The Express Tribune News
By Peer Muhammad
Senate commit­tee discus­ses the outcom­es of possib­le US withdr­awal from Afghan­istan.
Pakistan should prepare itself to tackle any adverse fallout from the uncertain future of Afghanistan by dealing the country as an autonomous friend and neighbour rather than handling it as its province.
These views were expressed at a public hearing on the withdrawal of US Forces from Afghanistan and its implications on Pakistan, which was organised by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations.
The open hearing was attended by present and former diplomats, policymakers, parliamentarians, journalists and representatives of civil society, who agreed on the point that Pakistan should have a neutral policy about Afghanistan and should take extra measures to handle the fallouts of the situation — as experienced after the disintegration of USSR in the 90s.
“Afghanistan is an independent country and not a province of Pakistan. Our military and civilian establishment should have a neutral foreign policy about the neighbouring country,” said Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations chairman Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel.
“The Afghans should be allowed to decide their own fate as an independent nation.” Any attempt to indulge in their internal affairs would not only leave a negative impact on Afghanistan but Pakistan itself will also suffer from such policies, he maintained.
Senator Adeel suggested that there should not be any policy on the basis of likes and dislikes, in fact transparent diplomacy should be maintained with whosoever comes in power in Kabul.
Former diplomat Dr Maliha Lodhi said that Pakistan should work with the international stakeholders eyeing the best-case scenarios but should also be prepared for the worse. She urged the need to learn from history, “Pakistan should carefully assess what might happen across its western border and promptly take appropriate actions.”
We failed to take these steps 25 years ago, when the Russians were withdrawing from Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan in an awkward state which it was not prepared to deal with, she said. “We ignore the lessons of history at our own peril.”
Dr Lodhi described how Pakistan, with such a high stake in the success of Afghanistan’s transition, has offered to extend whatever help Kabul may want to support its transition of power.
Former ambassador to Afghanistan Qazi Hamayun suggested that Pakistan should secure itself from any fallout from the Afghan scenario by remaining neutral in the Afghanistan’s internal issue. He noted that Afghan peace is a fragile matter and Pakistan should assess the situation to check any fallout.
Former ISI chief Asad Durrani, however, defended the Pak-Afghan policy during the 80s against the USSR, saying that Pakistan had also an option to remain silent, but whatever it did was in the better interest of the country as the region was under war and Pakistan could not be remain a neutral in such a situation. “Every policy was based on good intention and its results could be different”, he added.

"Honor killing" attempted when woman chose to marry her love

An 18-year-old Pakistani woman survived being shot and thrown in an irrigation canal by her close family members for choosing to marry the man she loved, a senior Pakistani government official told CBS News Thursday.
The case, which adds to other so-called "honor killings," highlights increasing attacks on Pakistani women by their close family members. Women's rights activists for years have protested cases across the south Asian country where women have been killed to protect their family's honor after they wanted to marry out of choice.
Western diplomats who spoke to CBS News said the trend has been fueled by male members of families seeking to retain the family's wealth within their households by forcing their single, young female relatives to marry their cousins rather than allow them to marry someone outside the family.
Last month, Farzana Iqbal, 25, was killed when her father and two brothers along with more than 20 of her relatives stoned her to death outside the provincial high court in Lahore, capital of the populous Punjab province, after she married a man of her choice.
Her killing drew condemnation from within and outside the country as a case that highlighted the failure of the country's authorities to provide adequate protection to women under threat.
A senior government official in Lahore who spoke to CBS News Thursday on condition that he would not be named said the latest case involving 18-year-old Saba Maqsood took place near the city of Hafizabad in the Punjab. Though the exact timing of the incident was not clear, the official said, it took place either Wednesday or Thursday.
"Saba was taken to a canal near Hafizabad by her father, uncle and brother along with one or two family members," the official said. "They shot her, tucked her in a sack and threw her in a canal."
He added that the woman survived and managed to swim out of the canal before being taken to a government hospital, where she was treated and later gave a statement to the police.
"It is a miracle that this woman has survived," the official said. "She has claimed in her statement that her father, brothers and a few other family members tried to kill her because she married someone out of her own choice."
Babar Sattar, a respected lawyer and commentator on legal affairs, said attacks on women from impoverished backgrounds also highlighted the degree to which ordinary Pakistanis often have no protection under the country's legal system.
"Unless there is someone very powerful involved, the state will not protect them," Sattar told CBS News.
Legal experts say widespread corruption across the police and the judicial system often means that low-income individuals practically receive no protection. Others, however, said the inroads made by militants across Pakistan have encouraged many individuals to take the law in their own hands. Farzana Bari, a women's rights campaigner and professor of gender studies at Quaid-e-Azam University in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, told CBS News that the country must take short-term steps to immediately begin tighter enforcement of laws along with longer-term steps to beat back militant trends. "Unless there is a combination of steps involving immediate protection followed by educating ordinary people, the situation will not improve," said Bari. "Such criminality is unfortunately an outcome of militancy in our country, but these cases involving women as victims are often ignored."
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a widely respected independent watchdog, there were nearly 900 cases of honor killings involving women in 2013.