Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Phil Collins - One More Night

Saudi Arabia's role in latest events in the Middle East is not constructive

Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdullahian described as “not constructive” the role of the Saudi Arabia in the latest developments in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria. In an interview to al-Alam TV on Sunday, Abdullahian said the Saudi officials tend to issue media statements instead of holding a serious and transparent dialogue over issues of the region. He stressed that if any country was destabilized, all neighboring countries would not be safe or stable.

Xi: US, China Confrontation Would Be 'Disaster'

President Barack Obama Offered a Hit From a Joint Marijuana in Denver Colorado

Obama urges Congress to pass migrant funding request quickly

President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to pass his request quickly for $3.7 billion in funds to address the influx of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America crossing the U.S. border.
After meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry, Obama said he would consider deploying the National Guard to the border as Perry and other Republicans have requested.
Obama told reporters he urged Perry to press Texas lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to support the White House's funding request.
The president also rejected criticism that he did not visit the border during his Texas visit.
"This isn't theater. This is a problem," Obama said.

Pakistan seeks peaceful settlement to election crisis in Afghanistan

Pakistan on Wednesday announced its full support for peaceful democratic transition in Afghanistan and called for a peaceful and negotiated settlement of differences over the runoff election.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan following a statement said, “In this regard, we took several measures to enhance vigilance and security along the border, during the first and second round of elections on 5 April and 14 June 2014, respectively.” Tasnim Aslam, spokesperson for the Foreign Office, quoted in the statement said, “We have seen the announcement by the Independent Election Commission regarding preliminary results of the second round and noted the statement that these are not final and it is our earnest hope that all related issues would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, in a timely manner and within the framework of Afghanistan’s constitution and laws.”
“We would continue to support all endeavours that help advance the cause of peace, stability and development in Afghanistan,” she said. The call by Islamabad comes a day after presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah rejected the preliminary results, which has raised concerns about a looming political crisis.
Abdullah accused the government and electoral bodies for being invovled in massive fraud in favor his rival Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai who secured lead in preliminary vote results for the runoff election. The supporters of Dr. Abdullah and his close allies suggested that the massive fraud has paved the way for the announcement a parallel government.

Afghanistan's war takes heavy civilian toll, says United Nations report

Emma Graham-Harrison
Number of civilians killed or injured in first six months of 2014 rises by quarter, with more than 1,000 of those children
Afghanistan's war is getting deadlier for its civilians with the toll from crossfire and ground battles rising sharply, the United Nations has said in a report.
The number killed or injured in the first six months of the year rose by a quarter from 2013 levels to nearly 5,000 people, the bloodiest total since the UN began keeping records in 2009. Women and children are particularly badly affected.
It was also the first time that ground fighting has proved more dangerous for civilians than the often indiscriminate homemade bombs that have become a key Taliban weapon, a worrying sign that the conflict may only get more bloody as Nato forces head home.
The withdrawal of well-equipped and heavily armed foreign troops from most districts has made it easier for insurgent forces to infiltrate towns and villages, so battles more often take place among houses, shops or government buildings, the report says.
Both sides often use weapons like mortars and rockets that allow them to keep their distance from enemy fighters, but are very risky for civilians in the area, the bi-annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict says.
"In 2014, the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, public places and near the homes of ordinary Afghans, with death and injury to women and children in a continued disturbing upward spiral," said Georgette Gagnon, the UN's director of human rights in Afghanistan.
"More efforts are needed to protect civilians from the harms of conflict and to ensure accountability for those deliberately and indiscriminately killing them."
More than 1,000 of those killed or injured were children, about a third more than the previous year, and the number of women caught up in the violence rose by a quarter to 440.
Most of the casualties were caused by the Taliban, even though the insurgent group have officially ordered their fighters to avoid harming Afghans who are not fighting.
The UN called on the group to stop attacks from or in civilian areas including homes, restaurants and government buildings, and end the use of indiscriminate roadside bombs, the second biggest cause of death and injuries.
The government and its supporters have managed to nearly halve the civilian deaths they caused compared with 2009, to 158 people, mostly by being more careful when using air strikes, the report found.
The UN attributed three-quarters of the deaths and injuries to insurgent fighters and said just one in 10 were caused by Afghan forces or their foreign backers. Around 12% of victims were hit by unidentified attackers during battles between insurgents and government troops.
"The long-term trend shows that anti-government elements are responsible for an increasingly large share of civilian casualties in the conflict," said UN envoy Jan Kubiš, using the UN term for insurgent fighters.
"While all parties to the conflict – including Afghan national security forces – must do more to uphold their obligations under international law to avoid harm to civilians, the onus is clearly on the Taliban and other anti-government elements to reverse this trend."
The UN also said there had been a rise in the small but worrying number of attacks and abuses of civilians by pro-government armed groups, with 30 people killed and injured. There is a "lack of accountability" for human rights abuses by these groups, the report says, with local authorities turning a blind eye and "failing to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators".

Boko Haram beyond Nigeria: Girls’ education under threat

By Bina Shah
The terrible kidnapping of the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, a Nigerian armed group, has evoked disgust and condemnation from people all over the world. The incident happened more than a month and a half ago, yet nothing has happened to help these girls except for a Twitter hashtag campaign and the reported arrival of a British spyplane in Nigeria to help the Nigerian Army in the search.
While human rights activists and other informed commentators recognise the political roots of the conflict between Boko Haram, the Nigerian government and its innocent citizens, others, most notably Islamophobic online pundits, have wasted their time using the Boko Haram disaster to further their agenda of defaming Islam by quoting Quranic verses out of context to prove that Islam condones the shameful practice of sex slavery.
Instead of recognising that the right of girls to go to school is under global assault, they look at what life was like in seventh century Arabia and crow that Sharia or Islamic law promotes keeping girls and women uneducated and imprisoned by their evil Muslim overlords (read: fathers, husbands, brothers, sons). Educated Muslims have fought back against the blame game with their own responses, including Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, who made a public statement that Boko Haram had clearly “never read the Quran”, for if they had, they would understand that their actions are a violation against everything it teaches.
All of this rhetoric serves only to direct justifiable anger and ire in the wrong direction. It is a distraction from the reality that “Islamist” movements use the most powerful tool in their arsenal – not physical weapons, but the firm belief that their fight is sanctioned by God – to provide justification for their illegal, violent and deplorable actions. Not only do they direct this tool inwards to their own psychological delusions (witness the Boko Haram leader declaring in a videotaped statement that God had told him to “sell women”) but they direct this tool outwards, to the rest of the world watching them, in order to intimidate and silence everyone around them. What we see in these afflicted areas is the enactment of psychological warfare by Islamists on people’s sensibilities, playing on their fears and vulnerabilities as well as their genuine love for their religion.
Western observers and pundits who react to this provocation on the same level are just playing the opposite end of the game: They are taking the claims of Boko Haram and other extremist groups and reacting as if they are actually true, and shared by every Muslim in the universe. They do this to suit their own agendas outwardly and inwardly, to justify their own hatred of Islam and their labelling of Muslims as “the other”.
''Boko Haram in Balochistan''
Harming young girls who want an education and are willing to risk their lives in doing so has resonance for those of us in Pakistan who see similar threats being made against young schoolgirls in restive areas of the country. Everyone knows the story of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in 2012 for speaking up about education for girls, but even more recently, an extremist group called Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan has been making threats against educating girls in the Panjgur district of Balochistan. Writing in “Boko Haram in Balochistan”,journalist Yousaf Ajab Baloch reports: “This terrorist outfit has issued pamphlets warnings all private schools in the district to shut down girls’ education or to face the consequences. The pamphlets declare female education as haram, an Islamic term referring to things forbidden in Islam.” A bus taking girls to the Oasis School, a well-known private school in Panjgur, came under attack by the militants, who burnt the bus and subjected its driver, the school’s head, retired Major Hussain Ali, to a violent beating. In reaction to the attack, all private schools have shut down temporarily in the district.
This in turn echoes the grim situation facing girls when the Taliban had overrun the Northern Areas, particularly Swat. Schools were similarly shut down, girls forbidden from pursuing their education. In Balochistan, the location of a continuing conflict between the government and Baloch separatists, Islamist groups are seeing opportunities to gain power; they are doing so by attacking the most vulnerable population and robbing them of their chance to make a better future for themselves. As Baloch reports, they are “using religious extremism to push the secular and civilised Baloch society toward ignorance and backwardness through use of force”.
Despite an outcry by Baloch human rights and educational organisations, and an outcry by the parents of girls affected by the threats to the Panjgur schools, many of which have shut down out of fear of violent attacks, little international attention has been given to this alarming situation. If any comment is passed on similar trends anywhere in the Islamic world, it is only to assert that Muslims are silent, they secretly desire the most hard-core interpretation of Sharia to be enacted all over the world, and that only in the western world can girls truly find emancipation and education – all of which are patently untrue. When situations like the Boko Haram kidnapping, or the shooting of Yousafzai, or any other assault on the human rights of girls are used to drive home points about Islam’s deficiencies, we are playing a game in which there are no winners, only losers. Such commentary will not make Islam “reform” itself, nor will it chase away the grim spectre of Sharia being misunderstood by both Islamists and Islamophobes on every level.
Let’s not turn the kidnappings and assaults on young girls going to school into a debate that nobody can win. Instead, let’s focus on the issue and how to resolve it whether it is bringing home the Nigerian girls, or keeping Balochistan’s girls schools open, or keeping all children secure and in school. It’s not hard to see which avenue will be appreciated more by the girls of Nigeria and Balochistan and the entire Muslim world.

Pakistan: Father Complains Deobandi Seminary Trying To Send Female Student To ‘Jihad’ Against His Will
Relatives of a female student of Jamia Hafsa have complained against Islamabad’s said Deobandi seminary for forcing the girl student to jihad against the will of the parents.
Brother of a 26 year old female student had reached Jamia Hafsa to foil the bid of the management to send his sister to ‘jihad’ but the seminary’s administration tortured him severely. Islamabad police arrived to help but admin told them that they would produce the student in the court of law.
Shaikh Abdul Qayoom, father of the girl student, told reporters that he was dismayed because his daughter told him that her coffin was ready and she was to go to jihad. Hence, he lodged complaint against the Jamia Hafsa. Police has also registered complaint of torture on student’s brother.

Pakistan: Abduction And Forced Conversion Of Christian Women On The Increase

Abduction and forced conversion of Christian women on rise in the country according to local organisation.
According to a Pakistani non-governmental organization Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP), there has been a sharp rise in the incidents of abduction and later forced conversion of Christian women oftentimes by giving them in marriage to Muslims. There has been a caustic increase in gender based violence against the religious minorities. Women from religious minorities specifically Christians and Hindus are being targeted. The organization states: every year between 100 to 700 Christian women,usually between the ages of 12 and 25 are abducted, converted to Islam, and married to the abductor or third party.
The organization has prepared a report titled, “Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan.” The Movement for Solidarity and Peace has diagnosed a particular tendency. It says: in most of these abduction cases the parents of Christian victims file a police report, but in response the abductor’s relatives or friends file another police complaint on behalf of the abducted Christian woman, claiming that she wilfully married and converted to Islam, and that her parents are now “harassing” her unlawfully.
The report further points out: after kidnapping, these Christian women experience tormenting such as, “sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse.” Subsequently, when these victimized women are produced before the court and asked to testify if they were abducted, these women (and sometimes children) give a statement in favour of their captors for fear of threats to their life, and those of their family.
On the other hand, Movement for Solidarity and Peace says: the report is based on field research compiled by legal expert Emad Ansari during the summer of 2012; it includes numerous interviews with local CSOs, national policymakers and diverse stakeholders from amongst the Pakistani judiciary. The organization’s research has been markedly supported by nationally acknowledged daily newspaper “Dawn.” The news paper exposed an investigative account of one such incident: a Hindu girl whose parents filed a police complaint about her forced conversion. Hindus also suffer abduction of their women and forcible conversion to Islam.
The investigation shows that it is quite difficult to actually say whether the marriage was contracted with complete wilful consent.
However, this issue was also highlighted in a USCIRF report. The report underlined that Pakistani Christians are an afflicted and socio-economically deprived community, about 80 per cent of which leads life in miserable poverty. The report states that as a consequence of their lesser number and poor financial status they are subjected to human trafficking and sale through debt transfers, physical abuse, and economic exploitation. Under these circumstances, the abuse of Christian women is much easier and the crimes go unpunished with impunity. The report however, does not rule out wilful conversions due to socio-economic reasons.
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Muslim Terrorists: 'A taste of its own medicine'

When the US decided to resist Moscow’s occupation of Afghanistan during the Cold War, it was not Afghanistan that the US had come to save. It was just another move in Washington’s anti-communist worldwide campaign, the ill-advised Soviet intervention providing a heavan-sent opportunity. The US supported jihadi insurgents as a weapon to defeat the Soviet Union and communism generally. With hindsight, the jihadi seeds planted in that war eventually grew into the hopelessly crooked trees of al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and other terrorist groups.
This is exactly what has happened in Syria. Without learning any lessons from the Afghan conundrum, the US and its allies, both in the west and amongst Arab states, fed to the anti-Bashar al-Assad forces an uninterrupted flow of weapons. Al Qaeda affiliated groups were supported in Libya and Syria. This policy stoked a new wave of anti-American sentiments across the Muslim world and gave the Islamists another filip, thanks to the US and its allies. In a matter of a few years, the proxies fighting for the US broke up into various factions, each having its own agenda to pursue in the cauldron of the Syrian war. It then became difficult to either control them or know what to do about this simmering fundamentalist swamp. Now that it has been revealed that Muslims from Europe and the US were heading to Syria, Somalia to participate in jihad, the alarm bells have gone off.
European Union (EU) officials are increasingly worried about the stream of Europeans joining the extremists in Syria, where they are trained and radicalized in special camps. Some officials fear these freshly trained Europeans will return home as ticking time bombs. According to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, the foreign fighters in Syria are “very dangerous people”. EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kechove said even a small number of determined jihadists “pose a high security threat”. To stem the flow of home-grown jihadists, the EU has agreed to prevent young fighters from leaving and to monitor returnees.
Empires wage wars to expand their influence and strike terror in the hearts of weaker countries. They tend to operate on the wrong assumption that the sun can never set on them. The intoxication of power makes them do things that eventually become the reasons for their own downfall. The question is, will all this monitoring and laws prevent the west from receiving a taste of its own concocted medicine?

Sindh to train minority members to protect their worship places

The Express Tribune News
The Sindh Government has decided to recruit youth from minority community for the security and protection of minorities and their worship places.
Talking to a delegation of Christian community led by Haroon Mehraj at Chief Minister House in Karachi on Wednesday, the Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah said the provincial government has principally decided to recruit the youths from minority communities in Sindh Police and to depute them for the security of minorities’ and their worship places. They would be deputed after providing them with necessary training, said Shah.
During the meeting, the chief minister directed the Sindh police and all district administrations to provide security to all minorities including Christian’s community within their respective areas. “PPP represents minorities and its government will protect their rights at any cost,” said CM Sindh. The Provincial Minister for Minorities Gian Chand Esrani and Special Assistant to CM Rashid Rabbani were also present during the meeting.
Responding to the security concerns of the visiting delegation, Shah directed DIG Karachi East to resolve the security problem and ensure security to the Christian community at Essa Nagri, Gulishan-e-Iqbal Town Karachi. He also issued directives to commissioner Karachi for resolving the problems being faced by Christian community in Karachi.
The chief minister also said that he has already issued strict instruction to the higher authority of Sindh Police and all district administrations for providing security and launching other social upliftment programs within their jurisdictions.
The meeting was also informed that many development schemes have also been included in the current annual development plan 2014-15. The minister for minorities said that he would personally monitor the on going development schemes in the rural Sindh to get the first hand information about the problems being faced by minorities and ensures qualitative work and protection of the worship places.
He assured the Christians community that he would visit Essa Nagri to observe the issues that they faced first hand.

Zarb-e-Azb updates: 80% of Miramshah cleared, says operation commander
After a long period of speculation, which also included attempts at peace talks, Pakistan on June 15 launched a military operation against militants in the troubled North Waziristan agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). On its 15th day, a new phase of the offensive began, with the military launching a ground operation in Miramshah – the main town of North Waziristan.
As the Pakistan Army embarks on this critical mission, get all the updates of the operation, code-named Zarb-e-Azb, here. All stories relating to Zarb-e-Azb can be found on this trend page as well. Below is an interactive Google map of North Waziristan, which follows the Zarb-e-Azab Operation, and will be updated as information flows in.
Navigate military strikes and areas of influence from the key on the left. To get details of individual attacks, hover over the pins and click them. Zoom in for a closer look, change the display type or switch extra layers off . The yellow pins mark recent drone strikes that have occurred in the region, while blue pins mark suicide attacks.

Pakistan's Boko Haram: Learning English Is Dangerous

By Anna Mahjar-Barducci
Every country in the Islamic world has its own Boko Haram. As in Nigeria, where Boko Haram stands for "Western education is forbidden”, extremists in Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province, are saying "no" to education. Last May, the little-known armed group Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan (TIF) had warned all private schools imparting co-education and Western education to immediately shut down in the Panjgur district. The movement started an anti-West campaign, targeting 23 English-language learning centers to shut down and stop imparting co-education and teaching in English, which they say is "Haram (prohibited) in Islam."
Actually, according to TIF's rhetoric, not only should boys and girls be segregated in school, but they should not even learn English. The English language is perceived by the group as a vehicle to introduce Western values in Pakistan, and thus dangerous to learn. English is considered particularly dangerous for female students, as it can corrupt their moral principles. TIF actually invites parents to enroll their daughters in public schools, which teach only Urdu (Pakistan's official language).
The anti-West operation started last May, when the group's armed masked men barged into one language center. The men destroyed the school’s furniture and tore textbooks. A few days later, a bus taking female students to the Oasis School, a well-known private school in Panjgur, was attacked by the militants, who burned the bus and subjected its driver and the school's head to a violent beating. They threatened the owner with dire consequences if he did not shut down the school. Then they escaped, flashing victory signs in the presence of security forces. In reaction to the attack, all private schools have shut down temporarily in the district.
The Islamic extremists also circulated a threatening pamphlet warning parents to keep their daughters away from English language centers. The pamphlet read:
For 15 years, Western and European people have tried to promote their mindset and culture to Muslims, and have introduced private schools and English language centers[.] ... [This mindset] has led our daughters and sisters towards vulgarity[.] ... We have seized mobile phones from so-called teachers and in them we have seen girls' phone numbers and messages from them as well as offensive videos. So we request all parents to kindly keep their daughters away from such so-called schools. We strictly order van and car drivers not to take any girls to school from now on, and request that parents enroll their daughters in public schools rather than private schools. We also request these [private] schools' staff to stop teaching girls immediately. ... If anyone does not follow our requests, then they will be faced with a critical situation. Signed, Tenzeem Islami Al-Furqan.
U.S. officials identify Balochistan as a critical center of Taliban and al-Qaeda activity. In fact, in recent years, the province has experienced the exponential growth of Islamic radical groups, which have been mushrooming around the country. Moreover, many observers believe that high-profile al-Qaeda figures and ranking Taliban members, including Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, have fled Afghanistan or Pakistan’s tribal areas for sanctuary in Balochistan. The provincial capital of Quetta is believed to serve as a critical hub for financing and organizing Taliban and al-Qaeda operations.
Some rallies were organized in protest of the attacks on English centers. Girls and women marched in protest in Panjgur and other towns of Balochistan, asking to “break the silence.” However, these protests were hardly heard. According to Balochistan News, the core problem is that the presence of religious terrorists is encouraged by the same Pakistani authorities who are supposed to fight them. The Balochi media outlet stresses that TIF enjoys the protection of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), often accused of being behind jihadi-inspired groups in Pakistan.
Balochistan News says that the ISI's long-term plan is to create an illiterate generation in Balochistan, in order to curb the region's separatist demands. In particular, the ISI wants to minimize the role of women in the Balochi nationalist movements. Not allowing girls to learn English will make it easy to control them. They will manage to read only propaganda newspapers in Pakistan and won't be able to access foreign media outlets. Furthermore, in Pakistani public school, girls will be brainwashed with misogynist views. A Balochi English teacher at the Baam English Learning Centre in Panjgur, which shut down recently, explains the following: "English is essential for our girls’ future. You have to be able to speak it to go to college. Since our school opened in 2005, many girls received scholarships and went on to study universities all over Pakistan. Apparently, this threatens these men, who are surely uneducated and would prefer girls to be backwards."
Balochistan News writes that Pakistan and ISI are worried about the "growing educational consciousness" among Baloch youth. "Today, Baloch youth including girls […] are rejecting obsolete system of state and ISI backed feudal lords, but this is not acceptable to ISI because they see the involvement of Baloch females in Baloch national movement for independence as their demise."
English and women are elements of emancipation in the Balochi society. The international community should stand up – before Balochistan, which was known in the past for its entrenched secularism, is turned into another Islamist beacon.

Pakistan’s Woeful Record on ‘Honor Killings’

By Kyla Ryan
After a particularly shocking case, will Pakistan finally revise its laws?
In Pakistan, when a person is believed to have brought shame to a family’s name, they can be subject to what is known locally as karo-kari, or an “honor-killing.”
The majority of honor killing victims are women, for reasons such as committing adultery, marrying without the family’s consent, refusing to marry a man chosen by the family, and sometimes even for being a victim of rape. The United Nations estimates that perhaps up to 5,000 honor killings occur each year worldwide, with around 1,000 victims in Pakistan alone. In fact, the number may be even higher because most honor killings occur in rural areas, where they often go unreported.
A recent case that could trigger change in Pakistan occurred on May 27. Pakistani woman, Farzana Parveen was three-months pregnant when she was stoned to death by her family outside the high court of Lahore, the country’s second largest city. Her father called it an “honor killing,” because his daughter was planning to marry a man whom her family was against, bringing “shame” to the family. In fact, man she intended to marry had killed his previous wife in order to propose to Parveen.
An amendment to Pakistani law in 2004 held that honor killings should be treated as regular murders. However, under Pakistan’s Hudood Ordinance, adopted in 1979, the status of women remains inferior to that of men, putting women at serious disadvantage inside the justice system.
The Hudood Ordinance was adopted as part of the “Islamization” of the country, and is a set of laws that criminalizes adultery and non-marital sex. This blurs the line between rape and adultery, especially since under these laws a woman’s testimony is only worth half as much as a man’s. In court, a woman’s testimony needs to be backed by four men. Therefore, victims of rape can be accused of adultery or fornication if they cannot provide sufficient evidence of the rape.
Pakistan’s amendment to the law regarding honor killings also does not address the fact that the offender can make deals with the victim’s family, or be forgiven in the name of God, in which case the offenses are dropped, and the offender can go unpunished.
The Hudood Ordinance may have been adopted to establish an Islamic society, but it does not have universal support among Islamic authorities. For example, the Federal Shariat Court ruled in 2006 that a female should not be charged for adultery without evidence, and that this was not acceptable based on the Qur’an. Earlier, in 2002, the Council of Islamic Ideology recommended that the Hudood Ordinance be amended, arguing for instance that an offender should still be sentenced even in the absence of male witnesses.
Article 9 of Pakistan’s Constitution, “Security of Person,” states that no person should be deprived of their life or their rights unless as a consequence of the law. Article 8 states that the government cannot enforce a law that denies basic rights. Little wonder, then, that critics consider the Hudood Ordinance unconstitutional.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the stoning of Parveen “totally unacceptable.” It remains to be seen whether the atrocity will bring lasting change.