Monday, June 9, 2014

Turkish inflation at its 'worst' before expected slowdown

Turkey’s consumer inflation rose 0.4% from April to May, bringing the year-on-year increase to 9.66%, the highest level in 25 months. The data, announced earlier this week, was hardly a surprise since the Central Bank had already warned that May inflation would be the “worst.” The markets had even braced for 9.78%, but a 1.35% monthly decrease in food and non-alcoholic beverages amid declining fruit and vegetable prices contained the rise. Prices of green pepper, tomato, sweet pea and eggplant, for instance, fell by 25% to 52%. 1
The monthly inflation in producer prices was down 0.52% in May. Core inflation — known also as “real inflation” for being stripped from seasonal and external effects — increased 1.5% in the same period, bringing the year-on-year rate to 9.77%, the highest in the last seven years. Inflation is expected to start slowing down in June and reduce pressure on interest rates. Central Bank Gov. Erdem Basci, briefing the Cabinet on June 2, said interest rates would be lowered in line with the positive inflation forecast, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists the following day.
“The Central Bank said the interest rates will go down. We’ll see,” Erdogan said. Despite the briefing, he continued to publicly bash the bank: “I totally disapprove of their stance on interest rates. I don’t accept it. The interest rate is the cause and inflation the effect. The high interest rate is the reason behind failing efforts to bring inflation down.” Erdogan’s remarks indicate the Central Bank will be under close scrutiny in the coming days. The Sabah newspaper, known to be close to the government, claimed Basci had been given a sort of “grace period” of three months. “Basci, who presented a 53-page defense at the Cabinet meeting, was told by Prime Minister Erdogan, 'You care only about inflation, but we think of the whole economy.' Sources said the Cabinet endorsed an idea to give Basci a grace period of another quarter. Depending on the Central Bank’s monetary policy over the next three months, Plan B will be put into play,” the daily wrote.
Inflation data riles Erdogan
The Central Bank has struggled to achieve its inflation targets since Basci was appointed governor in April 2011, and that’s what Erdogan is using as a trump card in his attacks on the bank. In 2011, year-end inflation hit 10.4%, almost double the bank’s target of 5.5%. In 2012 and 2013, the 5% target was revised, but still year-end inflation reached 7.4% last year. This year, too, the Central Bank has revised the target from 5.3 to 6.6%. But even that figure seems out of reach.
Rate cut prospects
Under Erdogan’s pressure, the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee is likely to announce an interest rate cut, if only a symbolic one, at its next meeting on June 24, despite “the year’s worst” inflation rate. Pundits expect a cut of 25 or 50 base points before the cuts begin to increase gradually in July and continue until the end of the year. The June meeting will be a hard one for the Central Bank after the record inflation figure. Yet, market trends are on its side. The bank’s policy rate — the weekly repot rate — stands at 9.5%, but the bond market's benchmark yield is already below 9%, indicating that investors have already bought the prospect for a cut of 0.5 percentage points.
In comments on Bloomberg HT TV channel on June 3, Phillip Capital Research Director Ozlem Bayraktar Goksen said she saw no likelihood of a cut beyond 50 base points. Yet, fluctuations on the foreign exchange market under the impact of developments in the United States and Europe may still matter. According to Goksen, a rate cut could become even harder if the inflation rise impacts exchange rates and the Turkish lira slides to 2.20 against the dollar by June 24.
What if the lira remains on an upward course? That would play into the hands of the Central Bank. The record-breaking but still better-than-expected May inflation, the prospect of slowdown in June and a retreating exchange rate will all make it easier for the Monetary Policy Committee to lower interest rates. The government, however, would not like to see the Turkish lira advance too much against the dollar. Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci insists that a lira-dollar ratio in the 2.15-2.25 range is the best for exports.
So, the government wants both a cheaper currency and lower interest rates.
Cutting interest rates before beefing up foreign exchange reserves could lead to sharp fluctuations in the currency’s value. Hence, the Central Banks is seeking to boost its reserves. On May 23, the reserves stood at $130.6 billion, up by $1.57 billion from the previous week and at their highest level since Dec. 27.
The Central Bank is taking precautions also for the prospect of a stronger lira. Starting from May 9, it halved the amount of its daily dollar selling auctions to $20 million. If the lira continues to advance, the bank may completely halt the selling auctions and turn to buying to bolster its reserves. In another important factor, repayment of Eximbank loans will begin in June, also contributing to boosting the reserves.
In its latest review of Turkey last month, Standard and Poor’s cautioned that a decrease in reserves owing to interest rate cuts would have a negative impact on the country’s credit rating. The Central Bank appears to be paying attention to the warnings. The drive to bolster reserves seems to be a preparation for a rate cut.
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Hundreds of minor students in Bahrain jails: Al-Wefaq

Bahrain’s main opposition group says hundreds of minor students remain incarcerated in the jails of Al Khalifa regime amid an increasing crackdown on dissent.
The al-Wefaq National Islamic Society said on Sunday that more than 200 students under the age of 18 are still in Manama regime’s jails and are deprived of their right to education.
The group added that the number has doubled since the beginning of the school year in 2013.
Al-Wefaq further noted that the youngest prisoner is 11 years old.
An earlier report by the group also said more than 7,300 people have been arrested since last year.
It lists rights violations related to arbitrary detention, judicial prosecution of activists, torture and degrading treatment as well as unnecessary use of force. The report also refers to demolition of religious structures and restrictions on religious freedoms.
Bahrain has been the scene of anti-regime demonstrations against the Al Khalifa regime since February 2011.
Manama’s heavy-handed crackdown on dissent has left scores of people dead and hundreds of others injured since the beginning of the uprising.
Over the past years, Bahrain’s human rights record has come under scrutiny over its handling of the anti-regime demonstrations across the country. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have repeatedly urged the Bahraini regime to free protesters and other activists.

Obama moves to ease student loan burdens, urges Congress to act

President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order making it easier for up to 5 million people to pay off college tuition debt, and scolded congressional Republicans for opposing legislation that would lower student-loan borrowing costs.
Obama signed an executive order allowing more people to limit repayments of federal student loans to 10 percent of their monthly incomes. The action will not take effect until December 2015.
The administration will also try to lower student costs by renegotiating government contracts with companies like Sallie Mae that service student loans, he said.
The president said Congress should also take steps to ease debt burdens on students, 71 percent of whom earn bachelor's degrees with debt, which averages $29,400.
Senate Democrats have proposed legislation that would allow millions of Americans to refinance both federal and private undergraduate student loans at lower interest rates.
The bill is unlikely to overcome the opposition of Republicans, who say the measure would come at too high a cost for the government. Obama said Republicans were not doing enough to support students, arguing that it should be possible for graduates to get a lower interest rate in the same way homeowners are able to.
"If you're a Big Oil company, they'll go to bat for you," he said. "If you're a student, good luck."

Video: Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez crowned Miss USA 2014

Pakistan: What's behind Karachi airport attack?

By Imtiaz Gul
The brazen terrorist assault on Pakistan's largest Karachi Airport that began near midnight Sunday left almost everybody stunned. It was the Pakistani Taliban's biggest strike on state security apparatus -- in terms of human casualties -- and is a reminder of the massive security challenge that comes from affiliates of al Qaeda holed up in the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border terrain.
Of the 28 dead, 10 were attackers who were killed during a firefight which latest several hours. Almost all of the suspected gunmen were reportedly wearing suicide vests, devices usually worn by terrorists on termination missions. Military officials said two of the terrorists had detonated suicide vests.
By putting down the attackers, the security forces most probably preempted a big hostage-taking too; reports the terrorists had foodstuffs like dates, chickpeas, hand-grenades and petrol bombs suggest they came for the long haul. What was the motive for the attack?
As usual, the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the Karachi carnage. "This was revenge for Hakimullah Mehsud's martyrdom" (Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in November, 2013), and a warning against the impending military operation the government is preparing against the "helpless and innocent tribes in Waziristan," a TTP statement sent to media via email said.
In an earlier message on their Facebook page, the TTP said: "The biggest reason for attacking Karachi airport is because it serves as the biggest air logistics center supplying goods for the Crusaders' war in Afghanistan and Pakistan," referring to the Karachi Port which handles the Afghanistan-bound U.S.-NATO cargo.
Is the first such assault
TTP made a similar claim following a dramatic raid on Peshawar's Bacha Khan International Airport on December 15, 2012.
The group also took responsibility for similar commando raids on the Pakistan Navy airbase PNS Mehran near Karachi in May 2011, followed by a deadly assault on a Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra, 70 kilometers north of the capital, in August 2012. All three resulted in damage to several air-surveillance and combat aircraft, including a multi-million dollar Saab 2000 surveillance aircraft.
The TTP justified the three attacks as "revenge" for the May 2, 2011 secret U.S. raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound.
At the early stage of investigations, a number of questions and theories can be raised.
Were attackers trying to discredit Pakistan? The TTP again appears to be at the center of a terrorist pattern that ostensibly aims to hurt he country's economic interests and isolate it internationally.
Following a brazen daylight attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009, for instance, all foreign cricket teams refused to visit Pakistan, thus bringing an end to international cricket in the country. "The only message flowing from these strikes is that foreigners and foreign airlines should not fly into Pakistan," Talat Masood, a retired general told me.
He also recalled the coldblooded execution on June 23, 2013, of 10 foreign tourists in an unprecedented attack in the Himalayas of Nanga Parbat, one of the highest peaks in the world.
The nighttime raid at a height of over 4,000 feet killed three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, one Lithuanian, two Chinese, one Chinese-American, one Nepali and their Pakistani guide -- in what was the worst attack on foreigners in Pakistan in a decade.
What was the role of foreign fighters in the Karachi attack? Major General Rizwan Akhtar, the head of the paramilitary outfit Rangers, who led the operation, hinted at the possible involvement of Uzbek militants in the deadly attack.
"From their appearances they look like Uzbeks but we will wait for DNA tests to say something with authority," Akhtar responded when asked whether foreign terrorists carried out the assault. And this is not the first time officials named Uzbeks as part of an extremely well-coordinated strike.
The TTP appears to enjoy active support of fighters that belong to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a dissident group that escaped persecution in Uzbekistan and settled down in the mountainous region of Waziristan between Pakistan and Afghanistan following the Taliban regime's defeat in December 2011.
Particularly since the killing of its leader Tahir Yuldashev in an August 2009 drone strike, the IMU has increasingly gravitated towards al Qaeda central and acted as its militant arm against the Pakistani security apparatus, which it sees as the major stumbling block in its fight for survival in Pakistan.
Did the attackers have inside information?
TTP and its foreign affiliates draw support from "the enemy within." "Such a coordinated attack is not possible without inside information," Jalam Hussein, a former Pakistan Air Force commodore told me.
"We really have to think very seriously of purging the security apparatus of such inside supporters," he said.
What was the influence of recent peace talks?
The recent breakdown of TTP talks with government also revived a new string of attacks against security and strategic targets; despite a several week engagement, the talks offered by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in an attempt to improve internal security led nowhere.
The government and the security forces found it impossible to accept TTP demands like enforcement of Sharia across the board, withdrawal of the army from the tribal regions and a peace zone for itself. And soon after the stalemate became evident, the army began pounding IMU and Chinese Uyghur hideouts in the Waziristan mountains, where the TTP provides them social cover.
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) represents Uyghur Muslims who want an independent Xinjiang and have been reportedly waging a war on Chinese interests from the Pakistan-Afghan border region. Was the attack linked to a "proxy war?" Some officials tie the TTP-led terror campaign to the proxy war that both Pakistan and India have been involved in for quite some time.
Some Pakistanis accuse the TTP of being an Indian proxy, while among the Indian and Afghan establishments there are those who treat Afghanistan's Taliban, particularly the Haqqani Network, as Pakistani proxies. Often, Indian officials blame attacks on Indian interests on the Pakistani spy agency ISI, including the suicide strike at India's consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat last month.
What does the attack reveal about security in Karachi?
Lastly, the Karachi attack, too, exposed the weaknesses in the early warning capacity of the Pakistani security apparatus; while forces on ground managed to engage and neutralize the attackers within five hours -- restoring air traffic by noon -- questions loom over the intelligence.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent security commentator based at Lahore, wonders as to how such a big number of attackers remained undetected.
This requires a deep introspection and represents a huge challenge for the government and the entire security agencies. Counter-terrorism would require extremely close coordination, which could possibly help in early warning as well, he said.

Bilawal Bhutto visits JPMC
Discarding security advices, Pakistan Peoples Party Patron-In-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari drove to Jinnah Post-graduate Medical Center (JPMC) to personally inquire about the injured security personnel and common men injured in the last night’s terrorist attack on Karachi Airport.
Joined by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and others, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited the injured at their hospital beds gave them bouquets, inquired about their health conditions and medical treatment being provided by the Sindh government. PPP Patron-In-Chief was glad to see the brave posture of the injured people and relatives present at the hospital and their will to fight the disease of terrorism, which has plagued the entire nation.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the doctors at the hospital to extend best medical treatment to the injured and play their role with utmost dedication when the nation is under attack from terrorists who have shunned human values and turned beasts against the humanity.

24 rockets fired by Iran into Balochistan: FC

The Express Tribune News Network.
Iranian border forces fired 24 rockets that landed two kilometres west of a Frontier Corps (FC) post in Washuk, Balochistan, an FC official said on Monday. No casualties have been reported, confirmed FC spokesperson Khan Waseh. According to him, over two dozen rocket launchers were fired from the Iranian side, which landed in an area 60 km south east of Mashkel tehsil of Washuk district. FC troops fired mortar rounds and LGM fire in retaliation. Earlier in the day, Iran closed its border with Pakistan for an indefinite period following an attack in Taftan, which claimed the lives of 30 Shia pilgrims.


By Ajit Kumar Singh
In an attack symbolic of the deteriorating security environment across Pakistan, more than 10 terrorists, equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers, infiltrated the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, at mid-night on June 8-9, 2014, engaging in an extended firefight against Security Forces (SFs), that had resulted in 24 deaths till the time of writing. The dead included the 10 attackers, and at least another 14 people, including 10 members of the Airport Security Forces and a flight engineer with Pakistan International Airlines. Explosions and gunfire that rang out across the airport through the night, ended just before 5am [PST] on June 9, after a five hour siege, when the last of the 10 attackers was killed. However, the military later stated that the operation had been re-launched, as gunfire had resumed. The operation continues at the time of writing.
The Chief Minister of Sindh Province, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, admitted, “They were well trained. Their plan was very well thought out.” Indeed, one senior Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that some of the terrorists tried to hijack a plane, but were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, claiming responsibility for the attack, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ‘spokesperson’ Shahidullah Shahid declared that the attack had been planned much earlier, but had been ‘postponed’ due to the peace talks.
Karachi, the port city which has been on the boil since long, had been on tenterhooks for last three days after the British police arrested Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM), the city’s biggest political party, who lives in London, on suspicion of money laundering on June 3, 2014. Hussain was, however, released on June 6, but remains under investigation.
Pakistan’s fragile security environment was equally evident in another attack on June 8, 2014, which occurred in the neighboring province of Balochistan, in which at least 23 Shia pilgrims returning from Iran were killed in a terrorist assault on two hotels – Al-Murtaza hotel and Hashmi hotel – located in Taftan tehsil (revenue unit) of Chaghai District, near the Iranian border. The terrorists attacked the pilgrims when their convoy of 10 buses stopped at the two hotels. Four of the attackers were later killed by the Levies Forces, after a heavy exchange of fire. A banned outfit, Jaish-ul-Islam, claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 1,895 people, including 859 civilians, 759 terrorists and 277 SFs have been killed in 593 incidents of killing in the first five months and eight days of the current year. Of these, 593 incidents of killing, 152 were major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities), resulting in 1312 deaths. The number of suicide attacks and resultant fatality during this period stands at 18 and 12, respectively. These fatalities occurred in incidents of explosion, sectarian attacks and other terrorist violence, across Pakistan.
The violence is all pervasive, with Sindh, primarily Karachi, being the worst hit, recording at least 389 civilian fatalities, followed by Balochistan, at 192 civilian fatalities; and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 166 civilian fatalites. In terms of overall fatalities, FATA was at the top, registering 594 fatalities (including 477 terrorists).
Despite this unabated terror within Pakistan, there is an ongoing attempt at the highest echelons of power in the country, both in the military and the civilian establishment, to appease the ‘good terrorists’. A series of talks have been held between a faction of the TTP and the civilian Government in the recent past, even as terrorist violence has persisted. The talks have now been suspended, but a claim made by a former Chief of Army Staff, Gen (Retd.) Mirza Aslam Beg, once again confirms that the military-mullah combine remains at the core of terror in Pakistan, and any respite from this menace can only be achieved, if ever, by rupturing this bond. In a media interview, Beg stated, It [the talks] were troubled as irrelevant people were holding talks. It will bear positive results when the army and the Taliban, who are the actual parties to the conflict, will meet to resolve their issues. There was no justification for talks between the Government and TTP as it was bound to yield no results.
More interestingly, referring to a suicide attack targeting the SFs in which two senior Army officers were killed on June 4, 2014, Beg claimed this was a retaliatory assault by the TTP, adding, “That is not the first time the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have killed Army officers to avenge the military’s strikes. Both the Army and the Taliban have been killing each other during the last 10 years in retaliation. Such acts by TTP will not hinder the peace talks.”
Astonishingly, for a military establishment that displays such a wide tolerance for acts of murder by the TTP, the spectrum of tolerance for dissent and criticism from the media has been starkly narrow. There have been relentless attempts to silence the media, with the civilian Government expectedly toeing the Army’s line.
Significantly, top Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir (47) was seriously wounded in a targeted shooting in Karachi on April 19, 2014. Mir’s car was ambushed as soon as it left Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport and was on the way to his Jang group-owned Geo TV’s office. Mir had earlier told his family, friends, colleagues, Army and Government officials in writing that he would hold Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. General Zaheerul Islam responsible if he was attacked. Indeed, Mir’s younger brother and journalist, Amir Mir, claimed, “Hamid Mir was on ISI’s hit list since Ahmed Shuja Pasha was its chief. Zaheer-ul-Islam continued the policy of his predecessor. The ISI personnel are always present at airports. They knew his movement from Islamabad to Karachi and blaming terrorists for this act is just nonsense.” ISI and the military establishment, said to have been unhappy with Hamid Mir’s talk shows on Balochistan’s insurgency, ex-president General (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial and the military’s interference in politics, were infuriated by these public denunciations. Soon after the attack on Hamid Mir, and Amir Mir’s accusations, the Defence Ministry demanded that Geo TV’s broadcast license be suspended. Despite Geo TV’s public apology on May 26, 2014, that “we have concluded that our coverage immediately after the tragic and unnerving attack on Hamid Mir on April 19 was excessive, distressful and emotional”, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), on June 6, 2014, declared that it had formally shut down Geo TV for 15 days and imposed a $101,500 fine. On the same day, Geo TV issued a statement observing, “Geo and Jang Group (have) served legal notice on the Ministry of Defence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for defaming and maligning the group.” Given the might of the military, in a country where journalists are under constant threat, the outcome of this confrontation is not difficult to predict. It is useful to recall that, according to a recent report by Amnesty International titled “A Bullet Has Been Chosen for You”, at least 34 Pakistani journalists have been killed as a direct result of their work, just since 2008.
Despite the sheer quantum of bloodshed in terrorist depredations within Pakistan, the state continues with its patronage to the entrenched terror industry, and to the strategic export of terrorism from Pakistani soil. Pakistan’s support to various Taliban factions operating in Afghanistan, and a range of terrorist groups acting in India, has been repeatedly documented. Most recently, on May 23, 2014, gunmen armed with machine guns and RPGs attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat Province in Afghanistan. Personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Afghan SFs killed all four attackers in an encounter that lasted 10 hours. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai later confirmed, “According to information given to us by a Western intelligence agency, the perpetrators of the Herat attack belonged to the LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba]. This was mentioned in writing in the report shared with us”.
It has long been an open secret that LeT is the ISI’s ‘most trusted’ ally in its terrorist enterprises. Waziristan, the lawless tribal region of Pakistan, has for long served as a safe haven for terrorist groups operating in India and Afghanistan, among other countries. A number of Central Asian terrorist groupings, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) of Kazakhstan, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Jama’at Ansarullah (Society of Allah’s Soldiers) of Tajikistan, and Al Islambouli Brigades of al Qaeda, continue to receive protection on Pakistani soil. Recent reports indicate that a new terrorist formation, Ansar Al-Tawheed fi Bilad Al-Hind (The Supporters of Monotheism in the Land of India), has been established in this region.
While the Army remains reluctant to sustain operations in terror infested FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the enthusiasm for operations, including ‘kill and dump’ actions against activists and their families, in Balochistan, continues to increase. On June 5, SFs in the Province launched another operation, killing at least 30 Baloch rebels in the Dera Bugti District of Balochistan. Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti said the militants were members of the Baloch Republican Army (BRA). One SF trooper was also killed and another eight were injured during the exchange of fire. Again on June 8, 10 Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) militants were killed in the operation. Conspicuously, SATP shows that Balochistan has recorded at least 3,176 civilian fatalities since 2004. 294 civilian killings (192 in the South and 102 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations such as the United Baloch Army (UBA), BRA, BLA and Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT). The Islamist and sectarian extremist formations, primarily Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) claimed responsibility for the killing of another 502 civilians, all in North, mostly in and around Quetta. The remaining 2,380 civilian fatalities – 1,457 in the South and 923 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’. A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan).
Pakistan persists in its perverse policy of cultivating its ‘loyal’ terrorist formations, which are used both for external strategic extension and domestic political management, even as it seeks to suppress groups that have turned renegade, or that have raised the banner of revolt against Islamabad. It is, however, the spaces created for ‘friendly terrorists’ that are being progressively occupied by groups inimical to the state, in a blowback that threatens to snowball beyond the state’s capacities of ‘management’. The attack on the airport in Karachi is just another in a long chain of devastating terrorist strikes against Pakistan’s critical infrastructure and security establishments. With a military and political establishment that refuses to relinquish the instrumentalities of terrorism as instruments of state policy, Pakistan can only continue its accelerating hurtle into chaos.

The Killing of Pakistan’s Journalists

By Kiran Nazish
The impunity with which journalists are attacked is having a devastating effect on Pakistani democracy.
Like the grimalkin, bitter, evil and old are the forces that lie behind the threats to free speech in Pakistan. These forces threaten teenage girls like Malala and veteran journalists like VOA reporter Mukkaram Khan Atif. The threats are more severe and more frequent. Brave journalists do still continue to report the issues, but they often do so knowing that they are placing their lives on the line. The culprits meanwhile operate with almost complete impunity.
“If you ignore what we say, you’re picking a fight with us,” said the intimidating voice. “We will come for you again.” Mukkaram Khan Atif had been threatened and followed before, but these calls were becoming more and more regular at the time I began to meet with him in Peshawar in 2011.
Khan held strong views on journalistic freedom, but was nonetheless feeling the pressure. “It’s so hard to know something and not report about it. I feel dishonest when I do that. Thank God I don’t have children to worry about if I am killed,” he told me, his tone a mix of sorrow and relief. “And I surely know they will win, because they are armed and I am not.” Still, Khan continued to do his job.
On January 17, 2012, the Pakistani Taliban shot and killed Mukkaram Khan Atif during Friday prayers.
Khan’s murder sent a message to other journalists in Peshawar and across the country. It was a message from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP): Report on us, and we will kill you.
A similar message was sent with the killing of Saleem Shahzad, whose reporting exposed the connections between al-Qaeda and the ISI, naming Navy personnel and their proximity to al-Qaeda. The Inter-Service Intelligence has been implicated in his death, although the agency denies any involvement. The truth may never be known: The commission set up to investigate his murder concluded only that the culprit could not be named. This despite emails and statements by Saleem’s close friends and human rights groups he had alerted before his murder, pointing to the involvement of Pakistani intelligence services. This impunity sent another message to journalists: Take on the State, you will be killed and your killers will never face justice.
Since Shahzad’s assassination, nobody else has been able to report on the interactions between state and non-state actors that continue in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the attacks continue. In the last few weeks alone, three high-profile journalists have been targeted.
Among them, the attack on Hamid Mir has created a huge media storm, with Mir’s critics accusing him of overly abrupt finger-pointing. Although the attack did raise some important questions about the ethics of his employer, GEO News, the overall climate of censorship remains the overriding issue.
As an intelligence officer once jokingly said to me when I was investigating Saleem Shahzad’s murder in 2011, “One voice muzzled, silences a lot of noise” (Urdu:“Aik ka mun band karo, saraa shor kam hojata hia”). Although the remark was off the cuff, it was a chilling insight into the psychology of Pakistan’s intelligence community, and indeed into the mindset of the forces that threaten journalism in the country today. Pakistan remains one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists, and impunity for the attackers remains almost absolute. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) records 54 journalists killed since 1992, of which it defines 30 as having been murdered, 28 with impunity. The only two journalists whose murderers have been charged are the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl and more recently GEO news reporter Wali Khan Babar. However, very reliable sources who were close to the investigations tell me that the actual murderers are still at large. A recent report from Amnesty International gives 34 journalists killed since March 2008, and at least eight murdered since the election of Nawaz Sharif. For his part, Sharif has pledged that he will find a solution to the attacks on journalists, yet recent weeks have been some of the deadliest for journalists in the country’s history.
Many – although not all – militant groups take credit for their attacks on journalists. It is, however, altogether more difficult to investigate the involvement of political, military or intelligence forces, when the state is involved in intimidation. Even when the media is being intimidated by non-state actors – banned militant groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba (the group behind the Mumbai attack), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (responsible for recent sectarian violence), Sipah Sahaba, the Pakistani Taliban, and factions of Al-Qaeda such as Jaish-e-Osama – many journalists believe the state benefits. And even if it is militants who are responsible for the attacks, the government is failing in its duty to preserve a free press. Rather than doing their job, Pakistan’s security forces are demanding that media groups be shut down.
A silenced press has broader implications. For instance, journalists are kept out of North Waziristan, where the U.S. has been concentrating its drone strikes. Washington says these strikes are killing mostly militants, and are nearly always effective operations. Islamabad claims that large numbers of civilians – including children – are being killed. The two governments present very different numbers. Without journalists to investigate, who is to say where the truth lies? Censorship has always been present in Pakistan, but it is the impunity with which journalists are intimidated, attacked and killed that is the most immediate concern. The climate of fear becomes more oppressive with each year. The media is not the cause of this, but collectively it must be part of the solution. Pakistani media organizations need to come together and pressure the government to hold the culprits accountable. This would be a first step. For its part, the state needs to stop taking umbrage at every accusation and start earning trust by investigating and holding accountable the forces of intimidation.
A free media is not only critical for Pakistani society; it has an essential role to play in the regional fight against terrorism and militancy. After all, how can Pakistan be considered a player in the fight against terror, if as a state it cannot preserve one of the pillars of its own democracy?

Former President Asif Ali Zardari condemns terrorist attack in Karachi, Taftan and Miranshah
Former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned terror attacks at Karachi airport and Taftan on Sunday and on security convoy in MiranShahon Monday in which according to reports dozens of security personnel, Innocent citizens and airport staff have been martyred.
According to reports Karachi airport was attacked by about a dozen terrorists who were confronted by our valiant forces and 20 security personnel and airport staff reported to have lost their lives, Pilgrims were attacked in a hotel in Taftan and 24 innocent citizens lost their lives., ten terrorists were also killed. In Miranshah a security convoy was attacked killing three soldiers and injuring nine.
In a statement former President said that there are no strong words for condemnation of this series of heinous attacks in which our brave soldiers and innocent civilians have been martyred and injured. These attacks will never weaken the nation’s resolve to fight these barbaric terrorists till their last defeat. He said that our valiant forces have been offering supreme sacrifices in the war against terrorism and the entire nation salutes them. He urged the nation to unite and rise up against these vicious and wicked terrorists that are out to destroy our country.
Asif Ali Zardari prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of injured and offered sympathies to the bereaved families.

Taftan Attack: Iran Closes Border With Pakistan

Following the deadly incident of sectarian violence in Taftan area in Balochistan on Sunday night, Iran has closed its border with Pakistan for an indefinite period. Deputy Commissioner Chagai Saifullah Khetran told media today that the Iranian officials have closed Zero-Point gate on Pak-Iran border and all the activities pertaining to travelling and trade have been suspended. At least 28 Shia pilgrims returning from Iran were killed and 25 others injured when armed militants attacked their convoy in Taftan area last night. Eight buses carrying Shia pilgrims stopped at a hotel when four masked assailants, equipped with hand-grenades and guns, opened fire on the pilgrims. The assailants later rushed into the hotel and threw hand-grenades, killing several other pilgrims and leaving the hotel building badly damaged. Four assailants were also killed in counterattack of Levies paramilitary troops and police. Earlier this morning, home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti had confirmed the killing of 23 pilgrims but it rose to 28 after five more persons succumbed to their wounds in the hospital. Several injured are still said to be in critical condition and causality toll is likely to climb further. - See more at:

Iran condemns attack on Pakistan Shia pilgrims

Iran's Foreign Ministry has condemned the recent deadly terrorist attack against Shia pilgrims in the northwestern Pakistani town of Taftan.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the terrorist action against innocent people of any ethnicity and religion and hopes for required steps to be adopted to prevent the repetition of such terrorist measures against defenseless people,” the ministry’s spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, said in a Monday statement.
On Sunday, unknown gunmen attacked a bus transporting Pakistani pilgrims returning from a visit to holy Islamic sites in Iran, killing at least 23 people and wounding seven others.
According to Pakistani officials, the bus had stopped at the border town when the attack happened. They added that some security personnel were among the casualties. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.
Pakistani troops have been fighting against pro-Taliban militants in recent months.
Numerous attacks have been carried out against Pakistani security forces and civilians by militants in the country. Militants have managed to spread their influence in various regions of Pakistan, despite sporadic offensives by the Pakistani army.
Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in bombings and other militant attacks since 2001, when Pakistan entered an alliance with the United States on the so-called war on terror.
Thousands more have been displaced by the wave of violence and militancy sweeping across the country.
The administration of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached a ceasefire agreement with Tehreek-e-Taliban militants on March 1, only to be broken one month later.

Perspective: Pakistan's war on conscience

Thomas J. Reese and Daniel I. Mark Pakistan is complicated, and U.S.-Pakistan relations are fragile. Yet the United States has worked closely with the Pakistani military throughout the country's history.
The sentencing to death last month of a Sudanese woman, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, by a court in Khartoum for apostasy garnered international attention. It is almost unthinkable that a court would hand down such a decision in the 21st century.
Sadly, this is not as unusual as some would think: Death sentences on issues relating to religious freedom are a common occurrence in Pakistan, yet most of the world barely notices. Given its longtime relations with Pakistan, the U.S. government should take key steps today to improve the situation.
In 2014, Pakistani courts already have sentenced four people to death for violating Pakistan's blasphemy law, and another has received a life sentence. They join at least 13 others on death row and 19 serving life sentences. Last month, a major television station was charged with blasphemy, and authorities also charged 68 lawyers with blasphemy after they protested police abuse. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which we recently joined, has found that Pakistan has jailed more people for this "crime" than any other country.
Pakistan's blasphemy law also emboldens militants, who commit violence against perceived transgressors. Note the killing just last month of an Ahmadi American, Mehdi Ali Qamar, who was gunned down in front of his wife and small child while visiting Pakistan for volunteer medical relief work. Recall the fate in early May of Rashid Rehman, a member of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission. A brave and well-respected legal expert, Rehman was defending a high-profile blasphemy case. It cost him his life.
Such actions confirm the finding of our 2014 Annual Report that religious freedom conditions in Pakistan have reached new lows, with religious minorities suffering accordingly.
Besides its blasphemy law, the government imposes what amounts to an apartheid-like system on Ahmadis through both its constitution and criminal law that penalizes basic acts of their faith. The government also tolerates violence by mobs and extremists whom it fails to bring to justice. Hundreds of minority Shi'a Muslims have been killed at the hands of militants who attack their processions, pilgrimage routes, and gathering places. The vulnerable Christian community has endured vigilante and terrorist attacks, such as the horrific September 2013 assault on the All Saints Church in Peshawar. Ahmadis regularly are killed in drive-by shootings. Hindus continue to flee the country due to violence and forced conversions, with the recent attack on a Hindu shrine a further example of that community's continuing vulnerability.
What can be done?
Pakistan is complicated, and U.S.-Pakistan relations are fragile. Yet the United States has worked closely with the Pakistani military throughout the country's history. It is time for a similarly steadfast engagement on freedom of religion and conscience. It is time to help Pakistan combat a growing climate of impunity and lawlessness that undermines the security of all citizens so Pakistanis, regardless of their beliefs and religious affiliations, can live without fear.
For starters, USCIRF recommends that the State Department designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern" (CPC) for systematic, egregious, and ongoing violations of religious freedom or belief under the International Religious Freedom Act. The State Department's own reports highlight the fact that Pakistan's repressive laws violate religious freedom. Pakistan currently represents the world's worst religious-freedom conditions among nondesignated countries. Naming Pakistan a CPC is long overdue; the case for designation is overwhelming.
At the same time, USCIRF also recommends comprehensively engaging Pakistan to encourage reform. The United States must urge Pakistani government ministries to address religious-minority concerns, including textbook reform, and prioritize much-needed legal reform and the prosecution of those who perpetrate violence. Combined with a CPC designation, these constructive measures would have a greater impact.
After one year in office, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken steps to promote interfaith harmony and denounce attacks. But such steps are dwarfed by the government's relentless enforcement of the blasphemy law and its failure to respond effectively to violence against the vulnerable. By designating Pakistan a CPC, the United States would bear witness to the plight of Pakistan's persecuted religious minorities and shine a spotlight on these terrible abuses.
The United States must do more to persuade Pakistan's government to address the escalating war on religious freedom. A CPC designation is the place to begin.

Pakistan Taliban claim deadly airport attack

The Pakistani Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for a brazen five-hour assault on the country's busiest airport that saw gunmen disguised as police guards storm the international terminal in Karachi, set off explosions and kill 18 people.
The Taliban said the assault on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province, was in revenge for the killing last November of the militant group's leader in a U.S. drone strike.
The claim further diminished prospects for a resumption of government-led peace talks with the Taliban. Those talks floundered in recent weeks and the Taliban have called off a cease-fire they declared during negotiations. Since then, Pakistani troops have carried out airstrikes in the country's troubled northwest to target militant hideouts, killing dozens of suspected militants. Residents claim several civilians were also killed in the strikes.
The Karachi assault started late Sunday when 10 gunmen, at least some disguised as policemen, opened fire with machine-guns and rocket launchers, triggering a gunbattle with police during which all the attackers were killed, said Rizwan Akhtar, the chief of Pakistan's elite paramilitary Rangers.
Heavy gunfire and multiple explosions were heard coming from the terminal, used for VIP flights and cargo, as militants and security forces battled for control. A major fire rose from the airport, illuminating the night sky in an orange glow as the silhouettes of jets could be seen. As dawn broke Monday, smoke could still be seen billowing in the air.
Authorities diverted incoming flights and suspended all flight operations.
An Emirates flight in Karachi bound for Dubai had to be cancelled and passengers were escorted off the plane because of the fighting.
"The passengers and crew disembarked the aircraft and were taken to a secure area of the terminal," the Dubai-based carrier said. It didn't say how many passengers were onboard. The airline is by far the Middle East's biggest and operates multiple daily flights to Karachi and other Pakistani cities. It said the airport's closure would continue to affect other flights into Karachi. Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, said Monday it was delaying its own flights to Karachi and would monitor the situation.
Akhtar said no planes were damaged during the attack but a cargo building was left completely gutted by the fire and the explosions.
Just before dawn, Pakistani security forces regained full control of the airport. Akhtar said some of the attackers appeared to be Uzbeks but officials were still investigating to determine their identity and nationality.
"The terrorists entered the terminal in two groups. They were foreigners, and some of them seemed to be Uzbeks," Akthar said.
The Civil Aviation Authority said security forces had given them back control of the airport.
Dr. Seemi Jamali from Karachi's Jinnah Hospital said 18 bodies were brought to the morgue, and 11 of them were of airport security personnel. The bodies of the attackers remained in police custody.
At least some of the gunmen wore the uniform of the Airport Security Force, said an official at the scene near the terminal. All the attackers wore explosives vests, some of which were detonated when they were shot at by the police, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
After storming into the airport grounds, gunmen hunkered down for the shootout with police in two sections of the airport, said senior police officer Ghulam Qadir Thebo. Local news channels reported that intermittent gunfire could still be heard on Monday morning, though it was not clear what the source of that shooting was.
The Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said the attack was to avenge the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban chief who died in a drone strike last November. Shahid, who speaks for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as the Pakistani Taliban are known, said the attack on the Karachi airport had been all planned out before the peace talks started and was put on hold during the negotiations. He also warned of more attacks to come.
Security officials in Karachi had feared that if the peace talks broke down, their city would be a likely spot for militant retribution.
The Pakistani Taliban and their allies increasingly are gaining a foothold in Karachi, the country's largest city and the site of frequent militant attacks in the past. It is the country's economic hub and any militant activity targeting its airport would likely strike a heavy blow to foreign investment in the country.
In May 2011, militants waged an 18-hour siege at a naval base in Karachi, killing 10 people in an assault that deeply embarrassed the armed forces.

Karachi airport reopens for general public

Karachi airport has reopened for flights several hours after a blatant attack in which around 30 people were martyred, Samaa reports.
Officials said that airport is now opened for passengers and flights will resume soon as airport control is handed over to the Civil Aviation Authority. The announcement came following clearance given by the security agencies. “Final Clearance of entire Airport completed. Airport handed over to CAA/ASF, likely to open at 1400hrs,” DG ISPR Maj Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a twitter message. PIA announced that first flight PK308 will take off at 1600 hours following the resumption of flight operations.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Death toll from Taftan bombing rises to 30
The death toll from last night’s suicide attack on a hotel hosting Shia pilgrims in Taftan rose to 30 on Monday, Express News reported.
The death toll was earlier reported as 23 with many injured but 7 more victims succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. Tahafuz-e-Azadari Council has announced a three-day mourning period following the attack. On late Sunday night, a suicide bomber had entered Al Murtaza Hotel in Taftan, a district on the border with Iran, and detonated explosives strapped to his body in the midst of Shia pilgrims, security sources had told The Express Tribune. Levies and Frontier Corps personnel had engaged the attackers in a gunfight. FC spokesperson Khan Wasey had claimed in a statement that one of the bombers was killed by the paramilitary troops. A banned outfit Jaishul Islam had claimed responsibility for the attack. A purported spokesperson for the group, Azam Tariq, had called Quetta-based journalists from an undisclosed location to claim credit for the deadly attack. Sources had said that intelligence agencies had warned of possible attacks on pilgrims one month ago, but the authorities had failed to put in place adequate security to thwart Sunday’s attack. The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Hazara Democratic Party, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqa-e-Jaferia and Tahaffuz-e-Azadari Council had condemned the attack and called it failure of the government.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemns terrorist attack on pilgrims in Taftan
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned the brutal attack on the innocent pilgrims in Taftan, which resulted in martyrdom of two dozen people. “Monster of terrorism is attacking the nation from all sides. It is time to call a spade a spade and shun the theory of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ terrorists,” he said. PPP Patron-In-Chief expressed sympathies with the grieved families of victims and prayed for them adding he understands their pain being the son of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who was martyred by the terrorists. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said best possible medical treatment should be ensured for the injured in the terrorist attack in Quetta, or in Karachi if the need be.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari praises commanders of Karachi Airport Operation
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has appreciated Inspector General of Police, Director General Rangers and Corps Commander, Karachi for personally commanding their forces in the operation against the terrorists who attacked Karachi Airport.
“Let us salute the members of law enforcing agencies and armed forces for display of bravery during their engagements with the ruthless and blood-thirsty terrorists armed with heavy weapons and suicidal vests,” he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also praised Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah for personally monitoring the situation on site and encouraging the morale of the law enforcers fighting the terrorist gang.
He also paid rich tributes to the security personnel who laid down their lives for protection of the citizens, passengers and others adding nation takes pride in having such brave martyrs and salutes them.

Pakistan: Terrorists planned to destroy all aircraft parked at Karachi airport: report
Final report of attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport attack has been presented to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the state media reported on Monday.
According to the report, the terrorists entered the old airport from two different sides and attempted to paralyze the civil aviation network. They wanted to destroy all the aircraft parked at the airport. The Airport Security Force demonstrated bravery and stopped the terrorists from entering Quaid-e-Azam terminal. The personnel of ASF, Army and Rangers by sacrificing their lives safeguarded the precious assets of the nation. In the joint operation, security forces killed all the terrorists.
The report said the flight operation will resume by this evening. On the directions of the Prime Minister, passengers will be facilitated in every possible manner.
Nineteen people including several ASF personnel, Rangers man, 5 PIA workers and a worker of private airline were martyred in the attack, Dunya News reported.
More than 25 injured people were rushed to Jinnah Hospital.
The attack at Jinnah International Airport in Pakista's biggest city began just before midnight Sunday and raged until dawn, when the military said that all 10 attackers had been killed after they had stormed two areas equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group said the attack was in revenge for its late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.
Taliban militants have carried out a series of similar raids since rising up against the Pakistani state in 2007 in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. In 2011, Taliban gunmen attacked the Mehran naval base, which lies close to the Karachi airport, destroying two US-made Orion aircraft and killing 10 personnel in a 17-hour siege.
The group also carried out a raid on Pakistan's military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in 2009, leaving 23 dead including 11 troops and three hostages.

Pakistan: The secret agreement between Facebook & Pakistan telecommunications Authority

Yasser Latif Hamdani
There is a secret agreement between the PTA and Facebook to block pages the PTA deems unfit for consumption by Pakistani audiences
So the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has started banning pages that do not fit the moral worldview of some of its more conservative office bearers. None of these pages are blasphemous by any stretch of the imagination but they do not fit the agenda that is being imposed by people sponsored by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) who have infiltrated every organisation, every regulatory body and indeed every institution of the state since the 1980s. Laal Band’s Facebook page was banned at the PTA’s request for two days and for what exactly? Was it the poems of Faiz Ahmad Faiz that caused offence? Faiz Ahmed Faiz who amongst other things was appointed the first editor of Pakistan Times by the father of the nation before partition and who was later sent to Kashmir to secure the accession of that state to Pakistan? Was it Habib Jalib’s poetry that was offensive to a certain Director General (DG) of the PTA (who by the way still has to provide verification for his foreign degree after 15 years of employment)? If Jalib’s revolutionary poetry of the 1960s is so offensive, surely someone should have sent that memo to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who often uses his poem Dastoor in his speeches? The PTA of course says it did not ask Facebook to ban the page. This is just hokum, an utter and absolute lie that only the most dishonest and corrupt official of an intellectually and morally bankrupt organisation can muster. In an email response a high-up at Facebook wrote: “We followed up on the press story with the PTA and they lifted the block on the laalpak page so I have the instruction for the block to be lifted last night” (Emphasis added).
There is a secret agreement between the PTA and Facebook to block pages the PTA deems unfit for consumption by Pakistani audiences. It is not that secret. One representative of the PTA admitted as much during the course of the Youtube case, while explaining how Facebook had been chastened by a ban on it four years ago. Now here is the problem. I have scanned through the entire Pakistan Telecommunications (re-organisation) Act 1996 and have found nothing that clothes the PTA with the authority of moral policing on the web. Such powers under law in any event have to be explicitly conferred on an executive authority or a regulator such as the PTA. How then is PTA deciding what web pages to block and what web pages to allow — and it must be said every sectarian web page promoting hatred amongst the people of Pakistan, including those like Anjem Choudhary’s ‘Sharia4Pak’ page which calls for the complete genocide of every Pakistani, Muslim or Non-Muslim who disagrees with Choudhary’s worldview, is easily accessible. I know the PTA Chairman, Dr Ismail Shah, to be a fair and honest man. It is indeed a great blessing that he is at the helm of affairs in that decrepit cesspool, which he is trying his best to clear up. Therefore I ask him to look into this sorry state of affairs — a consequence of the JI mafia in the PTA. This particular DG, who for now I shall not name but who I refer to above is well known within the organisation. To allow an unbalanced and self-evidently dishonest person like this particular official to ride roughshod over civil liberties, fundamental rights and the law is criminal. I therefore call upon Chairman Dr Shah to take immediate action and bring to book these rogue elements within the PTA.
One must also ask Facebook why it seeks to deviate from its terms of service to satisfy rogue elements within errant organisations, which are operating outside even the scope of Pakistani law. Facebook must stop this appeasement now and if its higher-ups are unable or unwilling to do so, some of us will be left with no choice but to take this matter to a court of law in Palo Alto, California. Facebook is complicit in the denial of our fundamental rights and freedoms here in Pakistan but then our fundamental rights have never been of any concern to ruthless corporate organisations such as Facebook. Well there are several legal theories about the First Amendment to the US Constitution one is just itching to test and there are many US citizens of Pakistani origin living both in that country and this who would willingly move the court there. It is a tricky business navigating legal systems for a realm such as cyberspace. For Facebook, Google, Twitter and other giants of our time, would it not be better then to stick to principle and not the dictates of corporate interest? After all as tools these giants have transcended the categories of mere corporations and have become part and parcel of daily life and whose curtailment has grave implications for the rights of life, privacy and freedom of expression worldwide. Machinations by rogue officials within the PTA will be defeated sooner or later for theirs is a futile attempt to arrest the march of humanity. As for Facebook, it must decide now whether it wishes to stand with those who seek to curtail freedoms worldwide or those who fight against oppression. Please let us know so that we can also proceed accordingly.

Balochistan: Death toll from Taftan bombing rises to 30

The Express Tribune News
The death toll from last night’s suicide attack on a hotel hosting Shia pilgrims in Taftan rose to 30 on Monday, Express News reported.
The death toll was earlier reported as 23 with many injured but 7 more victims succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. Tahafuz-e-Azadari Council has announced a three-day mourning period following the attack.
On late Sunday night, a suicide bomber had entered Al Murtaza Hotel in Taftan, a district on the border with Iran, and detonated explosives strapped to his body in the midst of Shia pilgrims, security sources had told The Express Tribune. Levies and Frontier Corps personnel had engaged the attackers in a gunfight. FC spokesperson Khan Wasey had claimed in a statement that one of the bombers was killed by the paramilitary troops.
A banned outfit Jaishul Islam had claimed responsibility for the attack. A purported spokesperson for the group, Azam Tariq, had called Quetta-based journalists from an undisclosed location to claim credit for the deadly attack. Sources had said that intelligence agencies had warned of possible attacks on pilgrims one month ago, but the authorities had failed to put in place adequate security to thwart Sunday’s attack.
The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Hazara Democratic Party, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqa-e-Jaferia and Tahaffuz-e-Azadari Council had condemned the attack and called it failure of the government.

Karachi Airport terror and Taftan shia genocide: same day same deobandi Taliban

by Taj
24 Shia pilgrims (as many as 200 by some reports) bombed again in Balochistan by Deobandi ASWJ-LeJ. Parts of Karachi airport captured most probably by the Deobandi Taliban. Time for Right wing Jamaatis and Good Liberals to get busy ……. In obfuscating the details. For attack on Shia pilgrims, its best to misrepresent it as an ethnic issue – even if the ASWJ-LeJ boasts consist of faith-based “Rationale” for their continued Genocide. So replace the “Shia” faith identity of the victims with their “Hazara” ethnicity. Make sure to remove the crucial detail that the Shias were returning from a Sufi pilgrimage from Iran. Better yet, get prominent Good “European” liberal Ejaz Haider to write a dense, verbose article whose main focus is to denigrate the Shia victims and paint them as Fifth Columnists ala Aurangzeb Farooqi LeJ style. He has done it before and then too Good Liberals rallied behind him to shout down and abuse differing opinions.
For the Karachi airport attack, make sure to obscure the obvious links between the Deobandi terror groups operating under various combinations and permutations of the English and Urdu alphabets. Makes sure there is no talk about the connections between ASWJ-LeJ, TTP, PML N, Judiciary, media and the Deobandi madrasahs and mosques. If you really have to, mock Imran Khan – But NEVER the actual Governing Party, the original Taliban Romantics- which is the PML N and their Pro Taliban “anti establishment” leader Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz Sharif is said to be “generous” to the media. DO NOT mention the Army’s continual policy of supporting the Taliban. If anything, get that “progressive” cleric to WEIGH in and barter another deal between the Army and its Taliban children. The Capitulation policy worked well with General Kiyani. While you are it at, get the same “progressive” cleric to chide Shias for being critical of Caliph Yazid Bin Muawiya- blaming the Shia victims a time honored tactic of Pakistan’s Good Liberals. Make sure all dissenting opinions are squashed – dissent is against the Pakistani Good Liberal Ethos. Once this is done, go back to showing your concern for human rights in India, Burma and Burkina Faso.
- See more at:

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: 23 Shia Pilgrims Martyred In Bomb Attacks Near Pak-Iran Border
At least 23 Shia Pilgrims have been martyred and dozens were injured in two back to back bomb attacks carried by terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhagvi on pilgrims buses near Pak-Iran border, Taftan on Sunday late night, The Shia Post reported. According to Balochistan’s Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani that 10 buses carrying Shia pilgrims had entered Pakistan from Iran. “There were explosions after the buses were parked outside the hotels known as Hashmi hotel and Murtaza hotel, where the pilgrims were going to stay over night before they commenced their journey back the following day,” Durrani said adding that the blasts were followed by intense firing. He feared the casualties will continue to rise.
Pro-Taliban LeJ terrorists carried out continuous firing from the ground till 15 minutes. The attackers easily managed to flee from location before reaching the security officials on the incident’s site. Pro-Taliban groups have launched a violent campaign against Shia Muslims and appear to have widened their terror campaign in major Pakistani cities.
Several Shia religious gatherings have been targeted in different parts of the country over the past few months.
Shia Muslims in Pakistan say the government must take decisive action against the forces involved in the targeted killings. They also accuse Islamabad of failing to provide security for the Muslim community. The killing of Shias has caused an international outrage, with rights groups and regional countries expressing concern over the ongoing deadly violence.
Shias make up about a third of Pakistan’s population of over 180 million.

Pakistani Govt Double Standards on Freedom of Speech , Banning Shia Media

The Terrorism , Injustices and the Oppression against the Pakistani Shia community has given birth to the The Shia Media which is in its Infancy stage in Pakistan , But the Government is so Much afraid of it that it is Banning and Putting it behind Closed Doors .
The Latest of Such events is the Banning of the Shia News Website “ “ and its allied Face Book Page even , this is in line with the earlier similar attempts , in which , as even earlier “ ” , was also banned from viewing within Pakistan By Pakistan Telecommunication Association , Under the Pretext of “ Undesireable Content ” .
We Like to remind our subscribers , that the Present Govt is the same , which is the Same Champion of Freedom of Speech and access to the News when it comes to the Circle of their Loyal Friends and Defenders of their Sponsors ,which are the Saudi and the US Govts. , as in the Present Scenario of Geo News , they have given their statements that they are the Torch Bearer of Freedom of Speech , and uptil to this Height that , If the GEO NEWS , who on Air for atleast 8 Hours of its transmission , Kept on accusing the DG ISI , in the attack on one of its Most Loyal Anchor Hamid Mir , without of having any Proofs or any Documented Evidence , and still , they support the News Group , in the Name of Freedom of Speech , as Dictated by their Saudi and US Masters that they didn’t want to Ban it completely . Rather they Insist that their Hidden apologies should be accepted , and they have resisted and even Let down the appeal from the Armed forces of Pakistan to Ban the Group , and to Punish , which is even Protected in the Constitution of Pakistan.
And this is not the End , as even the Pakistani Successive Govt and the So Called Main Stream Print as well as Electronic Media Groups , who claims to be defenders of Freedom of Speech , Expression and access to News have their Lips sealed on the same Issue ,when it comes to the same Bans and the Shia Media , which is raising the voice against the Oppression and Terrorism , and Injustice against the Shia Community of Pakistan.
ON the Other Hand the same So called Free Media , Rather Foreign Sponsored Media Give their Prime time to the Hate Mongers and the People who Advocate Sectarianism , and The Group Head of the Banned Organisations, Like Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan , and even the Terrorist Groups are been given the Prime Time on Air by the Media Houses , who are Part and Parcel of this Infested Terrorism in Pakistan , But at the same time No Authority or Regulatory Body takes any action against them .
Hamid Mir the Renowned Columnist and the TV Anchor is the same Person , who had the Privilege to Interview Osama Bin Laden , in the Remote area of Undisclosed Location , who was wanted by the US and the World Intelligence Agencies , but even after they being well equipped and well trained for the Job , to Hunt Down Osama Bin Laden , who was Wanted Dead or Alive , but Unfortunately they could not reach him , but the Great Hamid Mir , can go to his Private Bunker and Interview him , and come safe and victorious . And No Question is being asked with him , that how did he manage to reach the Most Wanted terrorist of the World , and even after his Interview , he Lived in Peace for Years , but still he could not be traced by the Intelligence agencies of the World , who was in the Reach of the Pakistani Media Group , Anchor .
But the Action is only being taken one sided against the Shia Community Media , which is even on very small scale , but as it is being giving the facts and figures of the Injustices of the Govt, and the show the real face of the Govt , who can control this terrorism , if concrete steps are taken against the terrorism and the sponsors of the terrorism, but rather is unwilling to control , and as this So called very small shia Media is trying to uncover these facts , therefore they are being Penalized for showing the real face of the government , which is nurturing terrorists and terrorism , on the orders of their Foreign Sponsors.
But People in the Power Corridors should not forget the The History as it has a Big list of events , when the Injustices of the Rulers has crossed the Limit , the Revolutions has taken over By Default , and the same Rulers are now remembered as the Traitors of the Nation , and the Dictators ,who have Looted the Public Money and Resources , have gone down the Drain , whether it was the French Revolution , the Latest Irani Revolution , or the Iraqi Revolution.
And at the same time we would also request our Dedicated subscribers and especially the Shia Community Members , that they should even Play their due role in supporting to Raise your Voice in their support , standing with them in the Hour of Need , and even supporting financially ,these Shia Media Groups and Organisations , as it is their Social as well as their Religious Duty to support the teams working in the Back Ground, as they Not only Risk their Lives and Valuable Belongings but also face Many other hardships to Keep the Community well aware of the Hidden Dangers , Sorrows , Current Affairs , and things that may shape up their Lives in the coming days. As they are their ears and Mouth to communicate their sufferings and to claim their Due Role in the Society , as if they are wiped out the whole community will be in a complete Black Out , and finding the Right Path in the Dark is not Only Dangerous , but in some cases it is as Good as a Suicide.