Wednesday, June 18, 2014
LANDMARK proposals for the creation of an independent Scottish state were launched yesterday with Scots being urged to seize the “historic opportunity” to help shape the new country. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the draft Scottish Independence Bill and said the people have a unique chance to create a “truly home-grown, free-standing constitution for their state”. But the proposals provoked controversy with pro-republican campaigners urging Scots to use the consultation process to ditch the Queen as head of state. The bill paves the way for the “foundations of the state” if there is a Yes vote in the referendum, providing an interim written constitution from the first day of independence, with a permanent written constitution to be established in the longer term. It sets out where the powers and duties lie in the state, the rights of its citizens, and the underpinning laws. It proposes an obligation to advance towards nuclear disarmament and the strengthening of human rights protection. Ms Sturgeon said the legislation will be the “constitutional platform” for the government of Scotland from independence day, in the event of a Yes vote. “The fundamental principle underpinning the bill is that, in Scotland, the people are sovereign,” she said. “This core truth resonates throughout Scotland’s history and will be the foundation stone of Scotland as independent country.” Scots are now being urged to get involved in the four-month consultation on the interim constitution. A proposed Constitutional Convention would be established to devise a permanent constitution and senior legal figures last night welcomed the guarantee that this would be independent from the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament. Alistair Morris, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “It would allow people from across Scottish society to be involved in the historic act of drawing up a new permanent written constitution for a newly independent Scotland. “This is vitally important. After all, part of the strength of the existing Scottish Parliament is that its basic structure and operation came, not just from politicians and political parties, but from those with a wide spectrum of backgrounds in the Scottish Constitutional Convention.” The UK is the only country in the European Union which does not have a written constitution or Constitution Act. The Scottish Government has suggested the constitution could include provisions to provide a right to free education and a home, as well as public services and a standard of living that secures “dignity and self-respect.” There would also be controls on the use of military force which could only be done after going before the Scottish Parliament, a ban on nuclear weapons, as well as protections for the role of local government. The interim constitution proposes retaining the Queen as head of state, but anti-Monarchy group Republic called on Scots to oppose this. Some Nationalist MSPs are supportive of ditching the Queen as head of state, but Ms Sturgeon insisted yesterday there is no widespread appetite for this. The Deputy First Minister insisted the process of creating a constitution should be an “energising” one which ensured the people of Scotland were “centrally involved in designing and determining a written constitution as the blueprint for our country’s future”. She told an audience at the University of Edinburgh the “opportunities” provided by having a written constitution were “an important part of the argument for independence”. She said: “We believe that Scotland should have a written constitution, rather than the quilt work of statutes, precedent, practice and tradition that make up the constitution of the UK. “A written constitution provides certainty and security for the citizens of a state. It defines and constrains the organs of the state. It describes where powers lies and how those who wield it are chosen and scrutinised. As is well known, this is not always clear in the UK.” Opposition leaders dismissed the proposals. Labour’s Jackie Baillie said: “The people of Scotland would be more interested if the Nationalists had set out what the start-up costs of independence would be, what would replace the pound, how our pensions would be paid or what would happen to the money available for our schools and hospitals if we leave the UK. Keeping these details from Scots simply isn’t credible.” Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The Scottish Government appears to be confusing a country’s constitution with an SNP wish list. Many of the lines included do not reflect public opinion, such as the SNP dislike of Trident. “Instead of plotting fantasy constitutions, the Scottish Government would be better working out some hard and fast costings of separation, which astonishingly has not been done yet.” Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie said the proposals set out plans for a “modern, compassionate democracy” where “power is held to account”. The interim legal framework of an independent Scotland after independence would have two elements. These comprise the Scotland Bill and an overhaul of the existing Scotland Act which would shift all powers which are currently “reserved” at Westminster back to Holyrood. Ms Sturgeon said a written constitution for an independent Scotland could embody the values of the nation, secure the rights of its citizens, provide a distinction between the state and the government and “guarantee a relationship of respect and trust between the institutions of the nation and its people”. Referring specifically to its section on nuclear disarmament, she said: “This provision would place a binding duty on the Scottish Government to negotiate towards the safe, speedy removal of Trident from our shores.” Ms Sturgeon added: “A written constitution is an important part of a nation’s identity – it defines who we are and sets out the values that we hold dear. It would be our ‘Scottish Declaration of Independence’, founded on the principle that in Scotland, the people are sovereign, not the government or the parliament.” KEY POINTS • The Scottish Independence Bill would be passed at Holyrood after a Yes vote, in time for Independence Day in March 2016. • Most of the bill sets out the “interim constitution” for the new state that would be in place immediately after independence. • A Constitutional Convention would be established to draw up a permanent constitution. • The current Scotland Act would be overhauled to shift all the currently “reserved” powers from London to Holyrood, or a new Westminster Act would be passed to enable this.
cotland will face a new climate of austerity if there is a referendum No vote, MSPs were warned yesterday. Finance secretary John Swinney said all the main UK parties are signed up to further hardline spending cuts if voters reject independence in September’s vote. But pro-Union parties insisted leaving the UK would “impoverish” Scotland, with public services such as hospitals and schools suffering the brunt of a massive funding black hole. The row comes in the same week that the Better Together parties signed a “joint guarantee” that Holyrood would get new powers in the event of a No vote. Mr Swinney signalled earlier this week that he is ready to borrow billions of pounds after a Yes vote in order to avoid another climate of austerity. And he told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament yesterday: “It’s not if they decide to slash public expenditure in the future – the Labour Party and the Conservatives and the Liberals have all signed up to austerity to slash public expenditure in the United Kingdom. “What will that do? As a consequence of the Barnett formula, it will reduce the block grant in Scotland and place further pressure on health and education. “That’s the price of staying in the United Kingdom – we need to get out of austerity and we need to use the resources of Scotland for the maximum benefit of the people of our country.”
The finance secretary accused the pro-UK side of being obsessed with what Scotland “can’t do” in the referendum debate. The SNP government has set out plans to use the tax system after a Yes vote to improve country’s economy, with capital allowances being used to boost manufacturing, as well as measures to encourage smaller firms to export more to international markets. He added: “Scotland is capable of resolving these issues and determining a better future.” But Labour leader Johann Lamont said expert analysis shows an independent Scotland would face a deficit twice the rate of the UK by 2016 and this would have to be met by more borrowing, tax increases or spending cuts. She said her SNP opponents were living in a “fantasy world”, making pledges on public services which cannot be delivered. “Here is the central deceit at the heart of the Nationalists’ campaign for independence – their belief that the land of milk and honey is possible simply with a Yes vote,” she said. “Every day the SNP’s offer grows larger and larger, suspending the rule of arithmetic with every promise and pledge.” Ms Lamont continued: “If Scotland were to vote Yes, not only would the first government of this newly independent country not be able to deliver the litany of wonderful things Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues promise every day, they wouldn’t even be able to deliver what we have now. “Rather than improving public services in an independent Scotland, they would be worse if we cut ties with the UK.” She added: “The truth of the matter is that the Nationalists think they will liberate Scotland, but instead they will impoverish Scotland. “Scotland’s public services face two futures in 2014. The future after a Yes vote where all the experts agree we will face renewed austerity over and above what we already face, and cuts to schools and hospitals as a consequence. Or we could face a different future if Scotland votes No.” Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown said SNP claims about the prosperity of an independent Scotland were based on overly optimistic forecasts of oil and gas revenues. Scottish Government projections for the sector were £4 billion higher than those from the UK Office for Budget Responsibility, he said. Mr Brown said: “For John Swinney’s projections to come true we need oil to stay high every single day and we need production to remain high and not to go down. And they rely upon investment costs and production costs being lower than those that are projected. “We need to roll a six with every roll of the dice on oil for John Swinney’s projections to come true.” Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said Holyrood is in line for more powers if Scots reject independence. Mr Rennie said: “People need to know if they vote No in September they are not voting for more change but for more powers.”
The governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are very loudly blaming the “sectarian and exclusionary policies” of Nouri al-Maliki for the violence in Iraq. They’re not wrong, but this also deflects from an issue they’d rather not discuss—the role of wealthy funders in the Gulf in helping ISIS rise to prominence.
Qatar has officially stopped giving aid to more radical groups under U.S. pressure, and Saudi Arabia has also backed off its support of the rebels, a process the culminated in the removal of spy chief and Syria point man Prince Bandar bin Sultan earlier this year, but private donations from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states—notably Kuwait—have likely continued. For the last few months, the Saudi government in particular has been attempting, somewhat awkwardly, to both continue to fund non-extremist groups fighting Assad while combating the growth of al-Qaida and its affiliates and offshoots. The kingdom has good reason to fear the revival of an al-Qaida-like group with wide territorial ambitions. The government claims to have broken up a terrorist cell in May that had links to both ISIS and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. ISIS has also reportedly launched a recruitment drive in Riyadh. Maliki has accused both Saudi Arabia and Qatar of directly supporting the group. The Gulf monarchies would certainly prefer to see his Shiite-dominated government replaced, but in addition to the risk of blowback against their regimes from ISIS terrorism, the geopolitical situation in Iraq seems unlikely to work itself out in their favor. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has watched with growing alarm in recent months, and relations between the U.S. and Iran have begun to improve. Now, thanks to the Iraq crisis, we’re seeing the nearly unprecedented possibility of U.S.-Iranian security cooperation to help resolve the situation.
None of the likely outcomes in Iraq—a prolonged period of violent chaos in Iraq giving extremists a new base of operations, unilateral Iranian intervention, U.S.-Iranian cooperative intervention—is going to be viewed very favorably across the Gulf. I doubt the plan to fund the Syrian rebels is working out quite as anticipated.
US observers, who monitored the June 3 presidential election in Syria, have said that President Bashar al-Assad’s victory is legitimate, and an expression of the people’s will. Members of the Independent US Observer Mission, Paul Larudee, Joe Iosbaker, Judy Bello, Scott Williams and Jane Stillwater, made the remarks on Wednesday during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The group was part of an international observer mission with delegates from 32 countries. The observers described the election in Syria as successful, free and transparent. They endorsed the poll as an affirmation of the will of the Syrian people. They further noted that the massive turnout at the election showed Syrians want peace, democracy and self-rule. "I’d like to say that I found the Syrian election to be an extraordinary affirmation of the will of the Syrian people. Although the outcome was never in doubt, the Syrians abroad overwhelmed their embassies or flew thousands of miles for the opportunity to vote,” said Paul Larudee, a member of the Independent US Observer Mission. “In Syria, they came to the polls in vast numbers to demonstrate their support. Clearly, the Syrian people intended to send a message that they support their current government. Well, we got their message,” added. Joe Iosbaker, another member of the US mission, said that the Syrian election is “a defeat for the United States, for NATO, for the Zionists, and [Persian] Gulf states, and a victory for the Syrians.” On June 4, it was announced that Assad won 88.7 percent of the vote in the presidential election. Following the announcement, crowds took to streets throughout the country to celebrate the victory of the incumbent president. Assad, MP Maher al-Hajjar, and businessman Hassan al-Nouri were competing for the top post. Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. Over 160,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by the foreign-backed militants. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
China and Vietnam pledged on Wednesday to rein in maritime tensions during the highest-level direct contact between the countries since relations worsened in May over a Chinese oil rig operating in the South China Sea. Analysts welcomed the talks, but stressed that tangible progress can be made only after Vietnam stops harassing Chinese vessels. State Councilor Yang Jiechi told Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh the countries should stabilize the situation as soon as possible through political and diplomatic efforts. "We should also try not to exaggerate, complicate and internationalize the issue," Yang said. Yang, China's top diplomat, outranking the foreign minister, was in Hanoi for an annual meeting. Before leaving in the evening, he also met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. Vietnam should be held responsible for "the difficult situation" in relations, Yang told Minh, who is also foreign minister. Yang stressed that the Xisha Islands are an inherent part of Chinese territory, adding that Beijing will "take any necessary measures" to protect its sovereignty and maritime interests. The rig's operational area was 31 km from the baseline of the Xisha Islands' territorial waters and between 246 km and 289 km from the Vietnamese coast. In the past month, Vietnamese vessels had rammed Chinese ships safeguarding the rig 1,547 times as of Friday, Beijing said. Yang urged Vietnam to stop harassing Chinese vessels and to ensure the security of Chinese citizens in the country. Both countries said they cherish their long-established ties and are willing to improve relations. Minh said Hanoi is willing to work with Beijing to show the two neighbors are "capable of solving disputes peacefully". Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Hanoi has to build consensus first and show its determination to solve the problem. The meetings came as US President Barack Obama's nominee to become the next US ambassador to Vietnam said on Tuesday it may be time for Washington to consider lifting a ban on the sale and transfer of lethal weapons to Hanoi. Ted Osius said, "There's really no better time than this year, given the Vietnamese interest in a deepening partnership with us." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chun-ying said on Wednesday that any relationship between two countries "should not target third parties". But Ruan said, "The United States and Vietnam will not get too close in the short term, given their entangled history." Jia Yu, deputy head of the China Institute for Marine Affairs, said if Washington is really concerned about navigational freedom as it claims, it should first ask Hanoi to clear obstacles, including large fishing nets, that it has placed around the Chinese oil rig.
Saudi Arabia has sentenced twenty-six people to death on such charges as giving speeches critical of the Al Saud regime and participating in protests against the ruling family, Press TV has learnt. Among those sentenced to death is the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was attacked, injured and arrested by Saudi security forces en route to his house in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on July 8, 2012. He has been charged with disturbing the country’s security, giving anti-government speeches, insulting the Saudi king in Friday Prayers sermons, and defending the political prisoners. Shia activist Kamel Abbas al-Ahmed, who has been in detention after criticizing the regime and fighting for religious freedom and against religious discrimination, is another convict. In 2009 Ahmed had rejected the remarks of Adel al-Kelbani, the Imam of Grand Mosque of Mecca, who had alleged Shia Muslims are unbelievers. Following Kelbani’s comments, Ahmed joined a group of political activists comprising writers and intellectuals who issued a statement saying the Saudi authorities are responsible for sectarian discrimination against Shia Muslims in the Kingdom. Fazil Halal al-Jami’ and Hassan Ahmad al-Saeed are two others handed the death penalty on charges of acting against national security, staging anti-regime demonstrations and strikes, and making petrol bombs to be used against Saudi forces during protests. Ali Jalan al-Jaroudi has been also condemned to death over participation in anti-regime rallies, connection with the Arabic-language news network Al-Alam and preparing banners and placards in condemnation of the Al Saud regime and using them in anti-regime demonstrations. Others include Mukhallaf Daham al-Shemri, Mortaji Abu Al Saud, Hossein Ali al-Barbari and Al-Seyyed Mortaji al-Alawi, who brought down the Saudi national flag raised on a school roof. International rights organizations say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly in defiance of international criticism. Peaceful demonstrations and gatherings are banned and many people have been jailed merely for posting messages critical of the ruling authorities on social media networks.
At least 356 people, including 257 civilians, have died since the beginning of the “anti-terrorist” operation in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, according to UN calculations. There were 14 children among the dead.
The results prepared by the UN special commission in Ukraine have been presented by Gianni Magazzeni, head of European Department of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. According to Magazzeni, the final body count includes 257 civilians (of them 14 children), 11 more died in Mariupol plus two staff members of Voda Donbassa company . The remaining 86 victims are the servicemen of Ukrainian army, including several dozen paratroopers and nine crew members of Ilyushin-76 who died in the recent plane crash not far from Lugansk airport. The results prepared by the UN Special Commission in Ukraine have been presented by Gianni Magazzeni, head of the European Department of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
According to Magazzeni, the body count includes 257 civilians (and among them, 14 children), while 11 more died in Mariupol, plus two staff members of the Voda Donbassa (Donbass Water) company . The remaining 86 victims are the servicemen from the Ukrainian army, including several dozen paratroopers and nine crew members of Ilyushin-76 who died in the recent plane crash not far from the Lugansk airport.
arlier Wednesday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said that over 100 civilians have been killed, 200 injured and hundreds of homes destroyed in Kiev’s military campaign in eastern Ukraine. The Investigative Committee intends to launch an investigation against the governor of Dnepropetrovsk, Igor Kolomoysky, and the Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov.
According to the Investigative Committee’s information, starting from April 12, Avakov and Kolomoysky organized and managed the military operation carried out by the Ukrainian military, the National Guard and Right Sector armed fighters, and the Dnepr special forces of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, created and financed by Kolomoysky.
The Express Tribune News
Lahore police and Establishment Division officers have tampered with the medical reports of those injured in clashes between Tahirul Qadri supporters and police on June 17, Express News reported on Wednesday. According to sources, doctors are being pressurised to change the medical reports of those with bullet injuries to those of physical violence. An officer of the Establishment Division from Islamabad arrived in Lahore today and was seen pressurising the medical superintendent of Jinnah Hospital to change the reports of those admitted after the clashes erupted. The Establishment Division official said that he was visiting a patient. However, along with DSP Aftab and suspended SP Model Town division Tariq Aziz, he had taken over the medical superintendent’s office. Doctors, requesting anonymity, confirmed to Express News that they were asked by police to add names of police personnel injured in the incident as well. However, they said there was no police personnel currently admitted in the hospital, as they had been discharged at night. Furthermore, police stopped doctors from treating the 51 injured and did not allow them to take their rounds in the ward. However, while speaking to Express News, medical superintendent of Jinnah Hospital Dr Abdul Rauf said that he was not present in his office when police officials came to the hospital. He went on to add that injured police officials came for a medical check-up and special care is being provided to the injured. Government stance Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while taking notice of this incident, asked health secretary and police officials for a report on the alleged tampering. Speaking to Express News, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said records of the injured cannot be tampered with and police went to collect the records as evidence for the case. He further added that Gullu Butt, who is responsible for smashing windscreens and windows of vehicles during the clash, is not a member of the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) as claimed. Later in an interview on Express News, Qadri expressed gratitude to the media for exposing the “barbaric act of state terrorism” that was carried out. He further said that he does not have faith in the judicial commission and the number of those killed in the incident has risen to 11. Police caught stealing during clashes While PAT protestors and the police were caught in a scuffle, other members of the police were caught on CCTV footage in an act of theft. The footage showed the policemen stealing money, fruits and canned goods from shops located in Model Town.
The registration of the tribesmen displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan is continuing as the IDPs (internally displaced persons) are approaching the registration points in large numbers to get themselves registered and the consequent shifting to the relief camps, setup around the agency. The district administration has made adequate arrangements for ensuring clean drinking water, fans, electricity, washrooms and others basic necessities of life at IDPs camps and registration Centres. It is noted that most of IDPs preferred to stay with the relatives in parts of the province while some hired rented houses in Bannu district after their registration at the check post and registration points. According to officials details, the curfew was relaxed for Mir Ali and Razmak tehsils of the agency, enabling the locals to get themselves registered at the specified points and their shifting to safer places. The curfew would be relaxed for Ghulam Khan and Miranshah tehsils on June 19 (Thursday) to enable local tribesmen to shift to government relief camps and registration. Similarly on June 20, the local tribesmen of tehsil Datakhel and rehsil Boya will be allowed to move towards relief camps and others safer places during relaxation of curfew. So far, over 8000 families comprising over 70,0000 individuals have moved out of North Waziristan agency to the relief camps. Some of the IDPs preferred to stay in mosques and hujras of local influential people. The officials said most of the IDPs have opted to hire houses on rent and a such the rent of the houses in Bannu district have jumped to Rs 30,000 from Rs 5000. Due to lack of transport facilities in the curfew-hit areas, the tribesmen are moving towards safer places by foot.
The Sindh chief minister, in his capacity as the leader of the House in the provincial assembly, requested the apex court on Tuesday to review its verdict wherein former prime minister and a member of his party, Yousuf Raza Gilani, has been convicted and disqualified as a parliamentarian. “The decision in his [Gilani’s] case is highly lamentable; wouldn’t his case be reviewed? Aren’t there similar cases in the past that were reviewed?” Qaim Ali Shah said while speaking on floor of the provincial assembly in the presence of Gilani. The former prime minister attended the provincial assembly proceedings accompanied by former federal law minister Farooq H Naek and other aides after appearing before the Federal Anti-Corruption Court in the city. On Gilani’s arrival in the governor’s gallery, the treasury lawmakers gave him a standing ovation while opposition lawmakers also thumped their desks. The regular agenda for the day’s proceedings was set aside and for almost an hour, MPAs from both the treasury and opposition benches delivered welcoming speeches for Gilani. The regular debate on the provincial budget was also cut short. “On behalf of this House, I earnestly request the independently working judiciary to review the decision in this case as we would highly appreciate this act by the apex court,” the chief minister said in his speech. Shah said the former prime minister had submitted himself before the apex court in total disregard of the consequences of being convicted or sentenced and did what he considered was right proving his loyalty towards the Pakistan People’s Party. “The former prime minister did well during his tenure despite given its shortened duration and served the people of the country amid crises such as unemployment and unsatisfactory economic conditions,” he added. He said Gilani had visited Sindh several times during his tenure as the prime minister and helped the province when it was facing the calamity of heavy floods and rains. Senior Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said this was for the second time that a sitting or former prime minister had visited the Sindh Assembly. Earlier, he added, Benazir Bhutto during her first tenure as the prime minister had visited the provincial legislature. Khuhro said Gilani had become the democratically-elected prime minister of the country in 2008 after around nine years of autocratic rule in the country. “The former prime minister has once again appeared before the court showing his complete respect and honour for the judiciary,” he added. PPP MPA Sharmila Farooqui said leaders of her party were again being subjected to political victimisation by the rulers of the country, similar to what had happened in the 90s when Benazir Bhutto had suffered the ordeal of facing court cases and her husband Asif Ali Zardari was put behind bars for several years. Works and Services Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, who was a federal minister in Gilani’s cabinet, said the former prime minister had set commendable parliamentary traditions by following rules and regulations. Syed Sardar Ahmed, the parliamentary leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement in provincial assembly, praised Gilani for appearing before a court again showing courage and his respect for the judiciary. Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s Muhammad Shaharyar Khan Mahar, the leader of the opposition in the House, welcomed Gilani and said the former prime minister had never resorted to victimising political opponents. He added that the Sindh government should follow in Gilani’s footsteps and shun the practice of victimising activists of opposition political parties. Syed Hafeezuddin, an opposition MPA belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said he had observed the political passion and steadfastness of Gilani when he had met with him while he was serving his sentence in Adiala Jail. Other lawmakers also praised Gilani for his contribution in several matters including the devolution of power to provinces, strengthening of the parliament and the elected representatives of the people through the 18th Constitutional Amendment and the adoption of the National Finance Commission Award for the judicious distribution of resources among the provinces.
By Hafizullah Gardesh and Mina Habib Afghanistan’s presidential run-off election followed a similar pattern to the first round – reports of high turnout and relatively good security, but claims of electoral fraud, too. In the June 14 vote, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah stood against ex-World Bank economist and finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, after the April 5 election failed to produce an outright winner. Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) told a press conference that over seven million voters took part, 38 per cent of them women. This early estimate would, if confirmed, be similar to the 60 per cent turnout recorded in the first round. Nuristani said the fact that the election was run and policed by Afghans “increased the credibility of the process” at home and abroad. Officials hailed the day as a historic success. Casting his vote, outgoing president Hamed Karzai predicted that Afghans would “come out and rescue [their] land from its need for foreigners, and from destruction”. Rahmatullah Nabil, who heads Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, described the day as a momentous accomplishment, and a defeat for the Taleban. “Even if the enemy still has a physical presence, it must realise it has been eliminated morally,” he told reporters. Nabil said his agency had carried out over 60 counter-terrorism operations in the past ten days, and foiled “73 enemy plots”. The high turnout seen on April 5 was attributed in large part to the Afghan security forces’ success in preventing insurgent attacks, although that vote was marred by complaints about polling stations running out of ballot papers as well as allegations of electoral fraud. Fahim Naimi, spokesman for the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), a leading poll monitoring group, said the failings of the first round was repeated in the second. Live television broadcasts tracked progress across the country from the moment voting began at seven in the morning. By mid-morning, there were already reports that ballot-papers had run out at polling stations in a number of provinces and even in the capital Kabul “As in the first round, most polling stations opened late,” Naimi said. “There was a shortage of ballot papers. Observers weren’t allowed to enter premises to watch. Fraud was committed in various ways. Reports by our observers also indicate that force was used in some cases.” He said FEFA had not yet completed its investigations, but would issue a final report with its findings in due course. After polls closed, both candidates asked the IEC to deliver a fair result when preliminary figures were announced on July 2. Abdullah, who won 45 per cent in the April election, told a Kabul press conference that this would guarantee the success of Afghanistan’s future leadership. “Ensuring election transparency is an obligation for the IEC and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission,” he said. “Transparency and legality will increase public confidence in the democratic process, and in these commissions.” Ashraf Ghani, who came second in April with 32 per cent of the vote, made similar comments. “It is now the IEC’s duty to count the votes responsibly, and to reveal the results to the people responsibly,” he told reporters. IEC head Nuristani thanked the Afghan security forces, media and civil society groups for the respective contributions to the election, but noted that allegations of interference had been made against some state and security officials. “Reports of fraud and intimidation have been received from some areas,” Nuristani continued. “If the offenders are part of the state, we will refer them to the government. If they aren’t, we will identify them and refer them to legal and judicial institutions.” According to local media reports, army personnel in the Barmal district of Paktika province and the Andar district of Ghazni province forced locals to cast their votes for Abdullah, while in the Hesarak and Dara-ye Nur districts of Nangarhar province, local commanders were said to have filled ballot boxes with fraudulent votes for the same candidate. Supporters of Ashraf Ghani were alleged to have engaged in electoral fraud, as well. A spokesman for the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission, Nader Mohseni told a news conference the day after the vote that fewer grievances had been recorded than in the first round. Mohseni said that 275 complaints had been registered from Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, most of them claims of bribery or intimidation. In 29 cases, the complaints involved IEC employees, he added. One of the most high-profile incidents involved the arrest of IEC Secretary Zia ul-Haq Amarkhel on election day. Kabul province’s police chief Zahir Zahir said his officers detained Amarkhel who was transporting “electoral materials” (ballot papers) from Kabul to the Sorobi district. “He wanted to commit fraud and we stopped the vehicles,” Zahir said. Abdullah called for the IEC official to be suspended, but Amarkhel denied any wrongdoing. “I wanted to transport the materials to centres where there was a shortage,” Amarkhel said, accusing police of obstructing an essential task. Announcing an investigation, Afghan interior minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai told a news conference, “I believe a misunderstanding has taken place between these two individuals. I have appointed a commission to investigate. We will inform the public of the results later.” Daudzai insisted that police remained impartial throughout the second-round vote. “We succeeded in meeting the promises we made to the public. This success was achieved through people’s cooperation,” he said. “We received hundreds of calls from the public during these days, which helped us arrest our enemies and foil their conspiracies.” The minister said fewer attacks took place than on April 5. However, there were cases where insurgents cut of voters’ inked fingers – a sign they had just been to the polls. “In the past 24 hours, including polling day itself, 11 policemen, 15 national army soldiers, one IEC employee and 20 civilians were killed,” he said. “We have a number of injured people as well. Also, 60 insurgents have been killed and that number may increase, because we are still receiving reports.” Confrontations between supporters of the rival candidates’ camps were reported at polling stations around the country. Aziz Gul, from the Butkhak district in Kabul province, described one argument that he witnessed. “An armed clash happened between men associated with Maulavi Tarakhel, a member of parliament who supports Ashraf Ghani, and followers of Allah Gul Mujahid, a parliamentarian who supports Abdullah,” he said. “As a result, one man from Tarakhel’s side was wounded and one from Mujahed’s side was killed and two others injured. Also, Maulavi Tarakhel’s men seized vehicles and heavy weapons from Allah Gul Mujahed’s men.” Aziz Gul said the two groups dispersed when Afghan National Army forces arrived on the scene. In Jalalabad, the main city of Nangarhar province, bodyguards of local lawmaker Ghafar were accused of shooting at people who were chanting slogans in support of Ashraf Ghani, killing two and injuring others. Political analyst Abdul Ghafur Lewal said the second round had been a major success, but criticised some aspects of the performance of the security services. “Although I thank the security forces for their bravery and courage, there was, unfortunately, more political interference by the security forces in this round. Not only did they interfere, but they also failed to prevent armed individuals who interfered in the process and injured and killed children,” he said, in a reference to the Jalalabad incident. Lewal also criticised the arrest of Amarkhel, saying, “Interference by the police chief of Kabul province caused thousands of people in the country to be deprived of their votes, and is something that must be taken seriously.” Despite some cases of electoral fraud, Lewal emphasised that this was not so severe as to undermine the legitimacy of the process. “The surprising thing this time is that people in unsafe provinces came out and went to the polls. That was something that seemed inconceivable,” he said. In this two-man race, many voters said it came down to the candidates’ backgrounds. Kabul resident Safia said she voted for Ashraf Ghani because he was educated and had no history of corruption or bloodshed. “My husband said that our votes were of no value and that whatever the strongmen people and America wanted would happen,” she said. “I still went [to vote] and said it was my responsibility to do so.” Rahman, a student at Kabul university, said that Abdullah and his supporters had a troubling history of links to past violence. “They do not have plans or programmes,” he continued. “For this reason, Abdullah got out of attending a debate. What should the nation expect from him, then? Ashraf Ghani is a man of work and action. His programmes are good for everyone.” Supporters of Abdullah countered that his past association with the anti-Soviet mujahedin qualified him for the job. “Abdullah is a jihadi,” said voter Abdul Matin. “The people are Muslims and their leader must be a Muslim and a jihadi.” For other voters, ethnicity played a part in the final choice. Ashraf Ghani is Pashtun, and although Abdullah is half-Pashtun, he is widely identified with the mainly Tajik northeast parts of Afghanistan. That was what swung it for Sharifa, a resident of Khair Khana in Kabul, who said, “I voted for Abdullah only because he’s Tajik and handsome.”
More than 2,000 civilians have fled the Pakistani military’s offensive against the Taliban stronghold in the north-west of the country, pouring over the border into Afghanistan, officials said on Tuesday. The army on Sunday launched an offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, after years of international pressure to move against militants. “At first we were suspicious that they might be insurgents in civilian clothes that could post a threat to us,” said Sahira Sharif, an Afghan parliamentarian from the eastern province of Khost. “But when we visited them, we were sure now that they are genuine refugees,” she said. Her province, along the border, has seen around 2,000 refugees, officials said, and the number has been increasing. “The government is conducting a survey and our people are helping them with food and shelter,” she said. An insurgent attack on Karachi international airport this month that killed scores was a key factor in the decision to launch the military’s offensive, according to officials and analysts. “Despite the international pressure, the military never took the fight to the militants before,” said Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, General Mohammad Ayoub Salangi. “Now that they face direct and deadly threats from them, they have launched the operations.” Afghan authorities have always said that terrorist sanctuaries along the border in Pakistan were the main reason for the continuing deadly insurgency in Afghanistan. The jihad in Afghanistan is led by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, as well as the Haqqani network, which is based over the border in North Waziristan. In that region, there are several foreign jihadist groups, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, involved in some of the deadliest attacks on both sides of the border. The military says the operation, which has killed nearly 200 militants since Sunday, is not affecting any civilian areas, but the locals are still fleeing in droves. “More than 600 families or 2,000 people, mostly from North Waziristan, have come to Gurbuz and Tani districts due to military operations launched there,” said Abdul Wahed Pathan, deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Khost province. “We have requested the government and NGOs to assist us to provide first aid like shelter and food for them,” Mr. Pathan said. Mokhles Afghan, an official from the neighbouring Paktika province, said that some of the refugees had gone to Khost through Paktika. “We do not have any refugees living here but they are still coming from the North Waziristan,” he said. “The refugees decided not to stay in our province because of the harsh summer.” “Afghanistan takes this as a humanitarian responsibility,” said Shekib Mostaghni, spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry. “We will try to find aid for them.” The largely porous border is no stranger to the flow of refugees, but usually travelling in the opposite direction. For more than three decades, Pakistan has been home to millions of Afghan refugees fleeing conflict at home. The invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Union in 1979, the civil war between 1992 and 1996, and the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, sent waves of Afghan refugees into Pakistan and Iran. Since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, some 3.8 million people have returned home. But there are still around 2.9 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and some 1.9 million in Iran, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported in 2012. Some Afghans fear the Taliban will also flee over the border to escape Pakistan’s military. But the officials said measures are in place to stop them crossing over. “The refugees who have stayed in Khost won’t be a threat to Afghans. Our security forces are active in the area, not only in Khost but across the country,” said General Ahmad Jan, the spokesman for 203 Military Corps, based in neighbouring Gardez city. “Security-wise we have taken all measures so that the insurgents could not enter our soil,” deputy interior minister Salangi said. “We believe that our intelligence agency will work seriously in this regard.” Ahmad Jan alleged the Taliban fighters have always trained on the other side of border to launch insurgency attacks in Afghanistan. “But I believe the refugees are not the ones who will commit an attack,” he said.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Raja Riaz said today that his party rejected the judicial inquiry into Lahore violent incident. Talking to journalists, the PPP leader demanded immediate arrest of the people involved in the incident. Riaz also said that more information could be received if the D.I.G would have been arrested. Yesterday, at least eight people, including a policeman, were killed and over 60 injured when workers of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) clashed with police over removal of barriers outside residence of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri in Lahore.
As noted at The Long War Journal in yesterday's initial report on the Pakistani military operation in North Waziristan, called "Zarb-e-Azb," it appears that the military is focused exclusively on foreign fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party, as well as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The Inter-Services Public Relations, the public affairs arm of the Pakistani military, noted today in a press release that "most of those killed [in yesterday's operation] are Uzbeks." "Many ETIM [Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party] terrorists and their affiliates have also been killed in the strikes. It was a massive blow to the terrorists and one of their main communication centre has been dismantled," the ISPR statement continued. The military also said it targeted six "hardcore Terrorists hideouts in Shawal, North Waziristan" and killed 27 "terrorists." Eleven Pakistani soldiers were also killed in the fighting over the past 24 hours. The military has claimed it conducted operations in Shawal, Boya, Ghulam Khan, and Datta Khel, and has cordoned the towns of Mir Ali and Miramshah. These are some of the same towns where has the US frequently targeted top al Qaeda, IMU, and other jihadist groups in drone strikes in the past. None of the military's statements released so far name the Haqqani Network or Hafiz Gul Bahadar's Taliban groups as targets of the operations. Unless the Pakistanis take on Bahadar and the Haqqanis, the operation is merely Pakistan's version of whack-a-mole. Without removing the support base that these two so-called "good Taliban" groups provide for al Qaeda, the IMU, TIP, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and a host of terror groups operating in North Waziristan, the Pakistani government is addressing only a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/06/pakistani_forces_focus_on_fore.php#
By Sanchita Bhattacharya
The Pakistani air force has pounded militants’ sanctuaries in North Waziristan, killing scores of Islamists. But analysts say the military is targeting only foreign fighters whereas home-grown militants are being spared.
Many in Pakistan have heaved a sigh of relief as the country's powerful military began a "comprehensive operation" against militant Islamists in the country's restive northwest. According to officials, military jets struck militants' safe havens in the tribal North Waziristan region on Monday, June 16, killing at least 10 insurgents and taking the tally to over 100 in the past three days. But most of those killed are fighters from Uzbekistan, claims the Pakistani army. Pakistani media and rights activists have reported a number of civilian casualties and a mass exodus from the region which borders eastern Afghanistan. Both the Taliban and Pakistani security forces have been accused of committing grave human rights violations in these conflict-ridden areas. The Taliban have been waging an insurgency in the Islamic republic for around a decade and want to impose a stricter Islamic law in Pakistan as well as in neighboring Afghanistan.
The United States has for years complained to Islamabad about its failure to go after launch an offensive in the area which Washington considers to harbor the country's most dangerous militants. The US believes the region is being used by al Qaeda and Taliban operatives as a base to strike international troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, had previously refused to comply, telling Washington that the time was not right to start a full-scale military operation against the militants.Attacks and repercussions
Last week, on June 8, militants attacked Pakistan's biggest airport in the southern city of Karachi, besieging the Jinnah International airport for several hours. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) - an umbrella organization of domestic Islamists - and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Observers say that Islamabad's decision to go after the Islamists is a reaction to the Karachi attack in which more than 30 people were killed, including soldiers and Islamist fighters.
By using North Waziristan as a base, these terrorists have waged a war against the state of Pakistan and had been disrupting our national life in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth and causing enormous loss of life and property," the military's Inter-Services Public Relations department said in a statement. The nuclear-armed South Asian nation is on a high-alert following the military operation. The Taliban said they would avenge the Waziristan strikes. "We hold Nawaz Sharif's government responsible for the loss of Muslims' lives and property as a result of this operation," Shahidullah Shahid, a TTP spokesman, said. "We also warn all foreign investors, airlines and multinational corporations that they should immediately suspend their ongoing dealings with Pakistan and prepare to leave the country otherwise they will be responsible for their own loss," he said in a statement.Selective operation
Despite the recent airstrikes against extremists, some security experts doubt the Pakistani government intends to curb terrorism. Nizamuddin Nizamani, a political analyst and researcher in Karachi, says the military operation in North Waziristan "should not be viewed as a proper military offensive and hence not be mistaken for a change in policy." The analyst told DW he believes Pakistani leaders are still not clear about how to counter terrorism.
But many in Pakistan are ready to give their security forces another chance. They hope the civilian government and the military mean business this time. "I completely support the operation against terrorists," Mohsin Sayeed, a journalist, told DW. "We should be prepared to pay the price as militants will strike back in the cities. We are in a state of war now. This is our war of survival. We need to support our government and the army in these tough and testing times," he added. However, Abdul Agha, an Islamabad-based analyst, is not as optimistic as Sayeed: "Islamabad is killing only the 'bad guys' - the ones that have turned against the state, or who don't agree with its long-term plans vis-à-vis Afghanistan. The government is also going after Central Asian warriors because they are creating problems for Pakistan's ally, China. They will eliminate some and will preserve some for the future." The Pakistani establishment, analysts say, still considers the Taliban an important ally and representatives of the majority Pashtun Afghans who it thinks should be part of the Afghan government after the NATO pullout in the coming months. Observers say that the Pakistani military hopes to regain the influence in Kabul it once enjoyed before the United States and its allies toppled the pro-Pakistan Taliban government in 2001. "In the past, the military launched several offensives against the, Taliban but we know that the terrorists are still active in the country," the analyst says, adding that until the Pakistani state abandons its pro-Islamist narrative, military actions won't yield positive results.
By Zahid Hussain
THIS will indeed be the most critical battle in Pakistan’s long war against militant insurgency. Ending its prolonged dithering, the government has finally ordered a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan rightly described as the centre of gravity of terrorism. Thousands of ground troops backed by air force jets have moved into action after the announcement of the offensive to reclaim control over the strategically placed territory. No doubt, the decision to eliminate the terrorist den was imminent after the collapse of peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, but the bloody siege of the international airport in Karachi last week proved to be the proverbial last straw. The Sharif government was left with no choice but to declare an all-out war against those responsible for the brazen assault on the state. The incident shook the country and the demand for action became ever louder. There was certainly no other option but to face the challenge head on. A lot of time has already been wasted because of indecisiveness on the part of our national leadership. The endless talk about talks delivering peace had exposed the weakness of the state. Despite the decision, however, the prime minister still appears unwilling to take charge and has left it to the military to run the show. While immensely critical, the latest campaign is much more complex than any other undertaken by the security forces so far in its decade-long war in this treacherous mountainous territory. Despite the fact that the military is now much more experienced in fighting insurgency and battle-hardened, this asymmetric war was never easy. One thing is certain — it is going to be a long haul. The latest military campaign is far more complex than any other undertaken by the security forces so far. This will not be the first time the Pakistan Army is carrying out an operation in North Waziristan. The earlier expedition, launched in 2004, ended in a peace deal with the tribal militants after two years of fierce fighting. The truce allowed the militants to not only regroup, but also strengthen their positions. It will be even more difficult to dislodge them now. The biggest of the seven tribal agencies North Waziristan is a haven for a lethal mix of foreign and local militants presenting an existential threat to the country. Many of the terrorist attacks in other countries also have roots in the region. The number of foreign fighters in the territory is roughly estimated by the intelligence agencies to be around 8,000. More than half of them — some 4,800 — are reportedly Uzbek. They have not only been involved in the Karachi airport attack, they have also participated in other high-profile attacks eg, Bannu jail, Mehran and Kamra air bases. Apart from the Uzbeks there are other foreign militant groups such as networks of isolated Chechens, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Chinese Uighur militants of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Reportedly, the majority of Arab militants have either been killed by US drone strikes or left the region. Thousands of Punjabi militants also moved to North Waziristan over the years, and established training camps in the restive border region. The battle for control over this lawless region has assumed much greater gravity with the approach of the endgame in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda-linked groups present a worrying, long-term security threat for Pakistan, in fact, for the entire region. A major concern for Pakistani security forces pertains to terrorists crossing over to Afghanistan as has happened in the past, and the use of the sanctuaries for cross-border attacks. The Pakistan military has requested the Afghan security forces to seal the border on their side to facilitate the elimination of terrorists who attempt to flee across the border. But that may not work given the tension between the two neighbours. There is certainly a greater need for cooperation and a joint strategy between Kabul and Islamabad to fight militancy. The security of the two countries has never been so intertwined as now. The militants’ sanctuaries on either side of the border will have serious consequences for the region, particularly, after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Surely a major objective of the offensive is to secure the control of the lawless territory. But military action alone does not offer a long-term solution to an extremely complex problem. The government needs to take urgent measures to end the alienation and backwardness of the tribal region as well. The ongoing military operation provides a great opportunity to push for the long-delayed integration of the region with the rest of the country in order to end its ambiguous semi-autonomous status. The military operation in North Waziristan is only one dimension of the wider battle against militancy and violent extremism in the country. The militant groups have strong networks across the country. For a long-term solution, the government needs to develop a coherent and overarching counterterrorism strategy in order to strengthen the capacity of the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. There is also need for closer coordination among the various intelligence agencies and strict enforcement of rule of law. What is most positive is the evolution of a wider political consensus on the war against terrorism. Almost all political parties with the exception of some right-wing Islamic groups such as the Jamaat-i-Islami are united in their support of the military campaign. But that unity can only be sustained by developing a strong internal security narrative. One must learn from past military operations in other tribal regions. A major flaw in the approach was that after clearing the areas, no effort was made to establish a proper administrative system. As a result, the state’s control over those areas remained tentative. Swat and South Waziristan present glaring examples of battles not fully won. The presence of the military does not provide permanent solutions. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a formal civilian system along with the military operation. Without that, the objectives of the operation will never be fully achieved.
The much awaited military operation in North Waziristan has finally begun. In a way the beginning of operation Zarb-e-Azb is abrupt. The immediate reason is the recent assault on Karachi airport inflicted by militants said to be of Uzbek origin. These teenage militants must have born in Pakistan’s tribal belt after 1991, the date marking the end of the Cold War. For the past several months, a persistent pattern of attacks had been observed on one airport after another, and in all cases teenage attackers of Uzbek features were said to have been involved. Perhaps attacking airports was their forte. What the militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) could not do, these young Uzbeks of Pakistani birth have successfully done: they have finally brought the fight to the terrorists’ heartland, North Waziristan. It was the Pakistan Army that made up its mind to launch the operation. The attack on Karachi Airport left the government with no choice but to give in to the plea of the army to launch an operation. To elaborate this point further, it was quite apparent that till 2013 the Pakistan Army was quite reluctant to take on North Waziristan. One reason was the expanse of the area while another reason was the preference of the army to look after Pakistan’s eastern border. What made the army change its mind were the attacks on its convoys, officials and personnel, claiming the lives of many officers and soldiers. This time at the helm of affairs is a different commander, General Raheel Sharif. General Sharif must have considered it a matter of prestige for the army and a challenge to his soldierly blood to be unresponsive and nonchalant. The incumbent government was also not disposed to take on North Waziristan. One reason was the fear of expenditures of conflict while another reason was the fear of backlash on the civilian population. The government was in no mood to subject its people to the onslaught of suicide bombers coming in droves from North Waziristan or sleeper-cells that might be activated in several cities. The government resorted to negotiations with the terrorists to give peace a chance. It was expected that the terrorists would cash in on that opportunity and get a few of their terms accepted but they failed to do so. The terrorists might have considered the negotiations a victory. However, either the terrorists continued sporadic attacks or they could not stop affiliated groups from attacking the military and civilians. Each time the terrorists or any associated group claimed responsibility for any untoward incident, the government came under pressure to let loose the army to teach them a lesson. The attack on Karachi airport revealed the resolve of the militants and dwarfed the significance of negotiations taking place, despite hiccups, between the terrorists and the government, though it was known at the outset that the negotiations would be fruitless. The government gave all chances for peace to take root. One may argue that another congregation of political parties should have been convened to take their consent for military action. However, the government had perhaps run out of both options and patience. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) may revolt against the decision of the government to take on the militants’ hideouts in North Waziristan. One of the strengths of the PTI is that it is vociferous; one of the weaknesses of the PTI is that it is impractical. The PTI has failed to persuade the militants hailing from its area of influence to desist from attacks on the mainland of Pakistan. The main excuse the PTI used to give was that the drone strikes were creating militants, yet drone strikes remained halted for the past six months and despite that attacks continued. Hence, the PTI was left with no justification for opposing the military operation. Conducting a military operation is no doubt an arduous task because of two reasons: first, the region is quite large and has a forbidding physical terrain; second, there are several hideouts of local and foreign militants who have taken refuge in the area for years, who might have constructed ditches and caves, and who are well acquainted with the region. The abrupt air strikes on them must have taken them by surprise. They are not fully aware that the combination of guerilla warfare and mountainous terrain is unsuccessful in this age in the face of drone technology, which has changed the landscape of war. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the beginning of the end of the supremacy of the militants. The operation indicates that both the government and the military are ready to break with the militants whose fighting spirit endeared them to Pakistanis during the Afghan war (1979-1991). No doubt, it is expected that a fierce battle may erupt once the air strikes subside and the ground troops move in, and it is also expected that the spate of suicide bombings will escalate in civilian areas; however, it is also known that the militants will suffer defeat. The army must be aware that conflicts can be won by bleeding the enemy to death (through drone strikes) without even putting boots on the ground. There is no hurry in getting the results. The army must bide its time. The operation also indicates that Pakistan is coming out of Cold War associations and shedding its dependence on non-state actors to do its bidding. Similarly, Pakistan has decided to tell the militants that Pakistan was a product of a democratic decision and any kind of authoritarian decisions will be unable to rule over it. Moreover, Pakistan has finally decided to preserve its way of life instead of acquiescing in the militants dictating a medieval way of life. Nevertheless, the people of North Waziristan should review their tribal traditions of hospitality and offering refuge to the weak and innocent, which are exploited by foreigners to the detriment of the locals.
Few in this country would agree with Tahirul Qadri’s politics but fewer would support the police brutality against the PAT workers on Tuesday. Early last year Qadri called upon the PPP government to accept his demands or quit. Many thought the PAT chief wanted to sabotage the elections. Despite Qadri’s irresponsible demands, followed by a road march from Lahore to Islamabad, the government maintained restraint. Attempts were made to persuade Qadri to allow the government to hold the elections peacefully. When all other ways failed and Qadri’s protestors entered Islamabad, the government sent a delegation of important cabinet members to hold talks with him in his air conditioned container parked near D Chowk in Islamabad. The move succeeded and the PAT leader called off the protest. The marchers dispersed peacefully without a drop of blood being shed. The Punjab government however resorted to brutal methods to disperse the PAT protestors all over Punjab. In Lahore the police used force to remove barriers from outside Qadri’s establishment. When the PAT workers resisted, the police used force. In the fighting that subsequently took place at least eight people, including two girls, were reportedly killed. Never since 2008 has one seen such brutality committed against protestors. People had started to hope that with the passage of time politicians had become more tolerant of dissent. The PML-N government has disproved this through theie action. Every political party has a right to hold peaceful protests. Had the police not resorted to high handedness, the PAT warming up exercise would have continued peacefully till the arrival of Tahirul Qadri. At a time when most of people are focused on the military operation, few would have taken interest in the activity. Some would have even condemned it for striking an altogether dissonant note at a time when all political parties were expressing solidarity with the army. It is condemnable on the part of the PAT activists also for injuring several policeman. Tahirul Qadri should have seen to it that the leaders of his party were present at the protests to keep the workers under control. It is callous to use workers as gun fodder while Qadri is himself cooling his heels in Canada. If the idea behind the ruthless suppression of the PAT protest was to demoralise the workers, the killings are likely to do the opposite. When political activists are killed in ruthless police actions, they invariably arouse public sympathy and put a new life in unpopular causes.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo has condemned what he called “brutal” action of the Punjab Police against innocent and non-violent workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) in Lahore on Tuesday. Expressing his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, the former chief minister said that the Punjab government’s action was an attempt to weaken the unity of the nation in support of military operation against terrorists in North Waziristan. He said that almost entire political leadership was behind the decision of the government to take the terrorists head-on but that the abhorrent incident in Lahore had hurt that unity very badly. He pointed out that the action against unarmed workers of the PTI started at 11pm on Monday night and that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice of the incident next morning only when people started falling. He recalled that PAT Chief Dr Tahirul Qadari staged a sit-in in front of the Parliament House last year but that the PPP never thought of resorting to use of force. The situation returned to normalcy as a result of negotiations and no damage was done to democratic process, he added. He said that he did not recall any occasion when PAT workers had resorted to violence. Wattoo lauded the stance of PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who was consistent in maintaining that terrorists had to be defeated on their turf and said that the operation ordered against terrorists in North Waziristan had vindicated Bilawal’s stance.
That seven(11 update) demonstrators, amongst them women and a 16 year old, were shot and killed by the police in Lahore’s upscale Model Town, sends shockwaves even in a country accustomed to police brutality. That dozens more have bullet injuries, have been wounded, whipped, gassed and beaten, supersedes any political motivation the protestors might have possessed to be where they were on Tuesday. Time, place and circumstance are never irrelevant, but in this scenario, it is belittling- almost undignified- to squander over the logistics of the crowd gathered outside Tahir ul Qadri’s Lahore residence. The facts are these: That the protestors did not pose an existential or other threat to the police or residents in the area. That every fatality occurred from bullet wounds. That the activists resisted police presence, as impassioned demonstrators are often likely to do. That the police went on firing for a length of time, which safely excludes the incident from the convenient justifications of “error in judgment.” If Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is to be believed, we have on our hands now, a police apparatus that acts on its own and has evolved out of control. Which might be worse, than if the CM had directly ordered the shooting of PAT demonstrators. Though the anti-terrorism bill passed earlier this month gives law enforcement agencies the dubious power to shoot on sight, this was no anti-terrorism operation. So, on whose instruction did the police resort to shooting and killing unarmed civilians in the heart of the Punjab, in the centre of Lahore, the prized wonder-city of the Sharif establishment? Not to mention, in the very same locality where the Sharif family home is situated? For a Chief Minister notorious for micro-managing affairs of the province, it is almost inconceivable to think that a crowd of civilians was indiscriminately fired at a few km from his home without his knowledge. Why wasn’t he aware of it? How quickly was he made aware of it? And how quickly after the matter came to his knowledge, was police violence ceased? The friction between the PAT and the PML(N) is no state secret, especially with allegations of the former liaisoning with the army to push forward an anti-government agenda. But this government has hardly cemented a trigger-happy reputation. For a year, it has been accused of negotiating with terrorists, militants and murderers. And though brutal force by the police has occurred numerously on its watch, this is a new low from which there might be no coming back.
Opposition in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday took the government to task over killing of several people during a clash with the police in Model Town while Law Minister Rana Sanaullah adamantly announced that such police actions would continue in future as the government would not allow anyone to establish any “no-go area” anywhere in the province. General discussion on 2014-15 budget was in progress on Tuesday when the news about brutal attack of police on the residence of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri in Model Town reached there, prompting the opposition to burst into severe protest. The law minister was not present in the House at that time so the speaker, gauging the sensitivity of the issue, assured the House that he would call the law minister to attend the session and reply to concerns exhibited by members. Meanwhile, Labour and Human Resource Minister Raja Ishfaq Sarwar stood on his seat and said that the government was not denying the facts and that it was not interested in resolving the issue either. When the opposition heard these remarks that the government was not going to resolve the issue, they resorted to sloganeering against the government and police. However, the law minister joined the session at that point of time and informed the House that the police took action against PAT members in order to remove barriers installed or erected outside Dr Qadri’s residence. He said that they had received intelligence reports that suspicious activities were going on there and that oath on the Holy Quran was being taken from workers according to a text statement that, he said, was against the state of Pakistan. He further said that the government would not allow anyone to establish any “no-go area” anywhere in the province and that the government would take action against any such moves across the province. He gave assurance to the House that the government would hold a judicial inquiry into the incident and would also take serious action against the culprits. He said that the government had actual footage of the incident where armed people opened fire and took anti-state oath on the Holy Quran and that the government would present it to the nation very soon. He alleged that Dr Qadri had no services for democracy in Pakistan but that the PAT chief was instrumental only in spreading anarchy; therefore, he could not be tolerated. He made it clear that the government would launch action against the people, who would establish no-go areas anywhere in the province. On another point of order, the opposition leader said that the PML-N leaders were themselves involved in derailing democracy in 1999 after which they ran away to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). He said that the Sharif brothers had not learnt any lesson from their exile and that they wanted establishing their kingship again and that they were also not on the same page with the army, which was conducting operation against terrorists in Waziristan Agency. He said that democracy had once again come under threat by this act of the government. Members from all of the opposition parties, including the PTI, PPP, PML-Q and JI, collectively protested against the police operation and chanted full-pitched slogans against the government and the police. Earlier, when the assembly met on Tuesday at 11:33am with Speaker Rana Iqbal in the chair, one of the treasury members on a point of order demanded offering prayer for army men martyred during operation against the Taliban. The speaker, however, promptly hushed the legislator and switched his microphone off. MPAs Mian Aslam Iqbal, Dr Naushin Hamid, Shamila Aslam, Hina Pervez Butt, Bao Akhtar, Nighat Sheikh, Madiha Rana, Rana Arshad, Chaudhry Ashraf, Tariq Gill, Chaudhry Sarfraz Afzal, Syed Sabtain Raza, and Tahiya Noon took part in the general debate on budget. The House will resume budget debate today (Wednesday).