Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that U.S. sanctions will take relations with Russia to a "dead end" and damage U.S. business interests in his country. "Sanctions have a boomerang effect and without any doubt they will push U.S.-Russian relations into a dead end, and cause very serious damage," he said to reporters on a visit to Brazil. The U.S. government on Wednesday, because of what it views as Russia's interference in Ukraine, imposed its most wide-ranging sanctions yet, on key players in the country's economy, including Gazprombank and Rosneft Oil Co, and other major banks and energy and defense companies. Putin said he needed to see the details of the sanctions to understand their full scope. But he added that he was sure the sanctions would damage the national interests of the United States in the long run. "This means that U.S. companies willing to work in Russia will lose their competitiveness next to other global energy companies," he said. Putin said the sanctions will hurt Exxon Mobil Corp which has been given the opportunity to operate in Russia. "So, do they not want it to work there? They are causing damage to their major energy companies," he said. The new sanctions also target senior Russian officials, including the deputy head of the State Duma, or parliament, the minister of the Crimea, a commander of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and a Ukrainian separatist leader, several of whom had already been targeted by the European Union. The sanctions, posted on the U.S. Treasury Department website, stopped short of targeting Gazprom, Russia's biggest gas company, which provides much of Europe's energy supplies.NAW
Daniel Rugg Webb, a 32-year-old cashier at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, had been hearing the rumor all day on Thursday: President Obama was stopping by. He and his co-workers didn’t give much credence to the idea—that is, until eight secret service agents, and then some, walked into the restaurant in the afternoon. “[They] frisked everybody, which was kind of my favorite part,” Webb recalled in an interview with BuzzFeed Saturday night. “Then he just showed up.” Webb, who is also a comedian and retired musician, wasn’t about to miss his opportunity to say whatever he wanted to a sitting president. So, after he had introduced himself and the president was signing a reportedly $300 bill, he slammed his hand on the counter.
Emerging powers agree details of US$50 billion lender to rival the IMF
Leaders of the five BRICS nations agreed on the structure of a US$50 billion development bank by granting China its headquarters and India its first rotating presidency. Brazil, Russia and South Africa were also granted posts or units in the new bank.
The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa also formalised the creation of a US$100 billion currency exchange reserve, which member states can tap in case of balance of payment crises, according to a statement issued at a summit in Fortaleza, Brazil. Both initiatives, which require legislative approval, are designed to provide an alternative to financing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, where BRICS countries have been seeking more say. "The BRICS are gaining political weight and demonstrating their role in the international arena," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said after a signing ceremony. Until the eve of the summit, India and South Africa had vied with China to host the headquarters of the bank, dubbed the New Development Bank.
The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. As the largest foreign investor in Iraq's oil fields, China will naturally be affected by the situation.
Influence in the short-term
The impact of the Iraq crisis on China's energy security is very limited, despite China's growing reliance on imported oil resources. China's overall imports of Iraqi crude oil represent less than 1% of China's total energy demands. There are more than 10 000 Chinese citizen working for Chinese companies. They are generally in safe areas - southern and eastern Iraq, controlled by Shiites - where most Chinese investments are located. The Chinese government has announced that it attaches great importance to the security of Chinese citizens and companies, as well as the protection of their legitimate rights in Iraq. It has demanded that the Chinese embassy in Iraq and the Iraqi side both take effective measures to protect them. It has transferred its Chinese staff from relatively risky areas to safer areas.
The continuation of the volatile situation in Iraq and other areas in the Middle East will affect the creation of the economic belt on the Silk Road of China in the long term. The strategic alliance between China and Russia has facilitated the establishment of an economic belt on the new Silk Road. On this basis, the preservation of peace in the Middle East will help China to open new markets and enhance cooperation with Europe across the Middle East. It will also help China to break the U.S. 'siege' on Asia. However, continuing long-term chaos in Iraq will increase the power of extremist forces. If the Iraqi crisis continues to spread into surrounding areas, the establishment of the economic belt on the Silk Road will face significant challenges. Thus, the impact of the current situation in Iraq on China will not be immediate, but in the future. Based on this fact, China must refrain from direct interference in the current problems in Iraq; otherwise it will be dragged down into the swamp. However China cannot simply watch the growth of extremist groups in Iraq and let the current chaos in Iraq expand to Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and even to China This will have a very negative impact on China's development in long term. The Chinese government will support the efforts of the Iraqi government to achieve stability and territorial integrity. China will provide financial support and equipment to the Iraqi government through special channels, while at the same time encouraging Iran, Russia and other countries to increase their support to Iraq, in order to help restore stability and promote political reconstruction and national reconciliation in Iraq.
Fifteen Ukrainian servicemen were hospitalized on Wednesday in Russia's Rostov Region and received qualified medical treatment after being wounded in firefights with armed militia in eastern Ukraine, the regional branch of Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service said. “Fifteen wounded have been placed in hospitals in the town of Gukovo,” the service said in a statement. The wounded were transferred to the Russian side on emergency request by Ukrainian border guards in late afternoon at the Chervonopartyzansk border crossing connecting Ukraine’s Luhansk Region and Russia’s Rostov Region. A representative of the Russian Health Ministry told RIA Novosti that two other Ukrainian border guards are to be operated on after they were wounded as a result of a shelling. One officer reportedly received injuries to his abdomen, while the second one has severe splinter wounds and burns. Both are in a critical condition. Vasily Malayev, a spokesman with the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) in the Rostov region, said Russian border guards at the Kuibyshevo border crossing were informed about two their Ukrainian colleagues in need of urgent medical treatment at about 2 pm Moscow time (10:00 GMT). They were immediately transported to a local clinic in the city of Kuibyshev. As of 7:30 pm Moscow time (15:30 GMT), one of the Ukrainian servicemen has been undergoing surgery, Malayev said. Running artillery battles continue between the pro-Kiev troops and self-defense forces in the east Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions. On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry invited military attaches from 18 countries, including the United States and Germany, to assess the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border that has been hit multiple times by Ukrainian artillery. This came after at least seven artillery shells landed in southern Russia near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, leaving a man dead and two women injured. Russian investigators are currently trying to determine those responsible for the shelling.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked a Shiite mosque in Istanbul last week, a human rights association has claimed in report, refuting official statements about the incident. On July 8, a fire caused significant material damage at the Muhammediye Mosque in the Esenyurt neighborhood of the city. Three Qurans and a 300-volume hadith collection were destroyed in the fire at the mosque, which belongs to the local community from the Ja’farite school of Shia Islam. Turley’s Human Rights Association (İHD) prepared a report on the incident based on the testimonies of witnesses and official statements. The findings of the report were announced to the public on July 15 in a press conference at the İHD headquarters in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu neighborhood. The report quoted Seçkin Çengeloğlu, a local police chief, who ruled out the possibility of arson. He described the fire as “a coincidence” that occurred during a burglary in which the clock of the mosque was stolen by a local drug user acting alone. However, citing the testimonies of witnesses, including the imam of the mosque, İHD Istanbul head Abdulbaki Boğa said the report concluded that the fire was a “planned assault,” contradicting the official police statement. Imam Hamza Aydın was quoted in the report as saying that an individual between the ages of 25 and 30 had visited the mosque with two teenagers 10 days before the fire, asking him which Islamic sect he belonged to. “You’re Shiite, you have no right to live, we will burn you,” the person reportedly told the imam after getting an answer. The report concluded that ISIL was behind the fire, without presenting direct evidence linking the incident to the militant group. “ISIL is in Istanbul now. We knew it, but this is their first attack against a belief group in Turkey,” claimed Hulusi Zeybel, a central executive board member of the İHD. “The attack against Ja’faris is an attack with a political message,” Boğa added.
Bahrain's main opposition group has revealed a series of documents, shedding light on the Al Khalifa regime's harsh crackdown on dissent across the Persian Gulf Kingdom.
Juan Mendez, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, has repeatedly confirmed that Bahraini judiciary has issued harsh sentences against peaceful protesters and activists. Mendez says he had received complaints of torture, coerced confessions and denial of medical treatment. The Bahraini regime has also blocked requests of visits by Mendez and other international rights officials. In June 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights censured the Manama regime for human rights violations. A total of 46 members of the international body expressed deep concern over the Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown on peaceful protesters. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling on the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. In March 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to help Manama quash the anti-regime protests. Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.
The Bahraini regime troops imposed massive security alert and flew helicopters at low attitude in the area of Damstan as pro-regime websites circulated news about shooting a police station, with no injuries recorded.
Students of a school in Rajasthan today held out their plates to be served by Bill Clinton. The former US president doled out "rotis" to over two dozen children of a government-run school in Jaipur. He was joined by Avi Glazer, the businessman who owns the football club Manchester United. The meal was special in more ways than one. Along with their khichdi staple, the children today got cake. In return, they performed a folk dance for Mr Clinton, and ran to him for autographs soon after. Asked about his favourite sport as a student, he replied, "Basketball." The children responded with the chorus of "cricket!" Mr Clinton is visiting India as part of the Clinton Foundation's initiative to collaborate with NGOs related to education and malnourishment. One of these programmes is the "Akshay Patra", which provides mid-day meals to 1.3 million children in more than 10,000 schools across India. "I love the midday meal programme because it helps keep kids involved in schools, it prevents dropouts and improves learning," the former president told NDTV. "In my last year as president I secured 300 million dollars to give to 20 countries to provide meals in schools and I know what happens. The involvement goes up and dropouts go down, learning improves." Mr Clinton announced a two million dollar donation from Caterpillar, a US based company that will support a similar mid-day meal programme in Lucknow.
Just days after Secretary of State John F. Kerry brokered an end to Afghanistan’s election crisis, the deal has run into trouble because of disagreements among the two rival presidential candidates. The agreement was intended to resolve a weeks-long impasse that had threatened to split the country. But implementation of the deal has been held up by confusion over whether Afghan or international institutions will lead the inspection of the 8.1 million votes cast in a June 14 runoff that was marred by fraud. The electoral dispute has raised alarm that conditions could deteriorate further in a country already battling a resilient insurgency. Highlighting the country’s fragility, a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives killed at least 45 people in a crowded market in the southeastern province of Paktika on Tuesday, a spokesman for the provincial governor said. The Afghan Defense Ministry said 89 people had been killed. The conflicting death toll reports could not immediately be reconciled. The White House had dispatched Kerry to Kabul last week to forestall possible violence after candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s threats to declare his own government. An ambitious deal to recount the votes and form a national unity government was clinched in marathon talks that ended Saturday. But on Monday, the audit of the ballots, meant to begin within 24 hours of the announcement of the accord, was postponed indefinitely to addresstechnical disputes, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said. Western officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said they expected the vote counting to begin Wednesday or Thursday.
The campaign of former foreign minister Abdullah — who last month accused the IEC of helping rig the vote — said it was promised that international bodies would take charge of the audit. The team of the opposing candidate — former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani — says no such stipulation was included in the deal. According to Afghan law, the IEC is required to carry out the audit. The United Nations can play only a supervisory role, Ghani’s campaign says. “There was an agreement in the discussions that there would be an international audit, not an Afghan-led audit,” said Mohammad Mohaqiq, one of Abdullah’s two vice-presidential candidates and a former warlord who commands strong support among Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara community. “If the IEC is in charge of this audit, then all of these efforts will translate into nothing — a zero.” It was not clear Tuesday why the two sides had such differing accounts of what the agreement involved. But a senior U.S. official said Monday that although the IEC “technically conducts the audit, it’s being done under the auspices of and the supervision by the U.N.” “Obviously something of this complexity is still being worked out,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. “There will be many, many moving parts of this over a period of at least another month.” On Tuesday, a senior State Department official said that “all parties continue to meet together” to discuss the process. “We’ve seen nothing to indicate that there’s any walk-back from commitment” to the deal, the official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity.
But that such a high level of uncertainty over the process has cropped up so soon after negotiations underscores the polarized nature of Afghanistan’s political landscape. The first round of elections was held April 5. Abdullah won the most votes but fell short of the majority needed to take the presidency. In the second round, elections officials said, Ghani secured 56 percent of the votes, according to a preliminary count. But authorities acknowledged that the results were tarnished by vote tampering. The new president’s inauguration was initially scheduled for Aug. 2. But the United Nations requested that President Hamid Karzai postpone the date to allow for the audit and negotiations over a national unity government to take place. Should the rift over the audit process remain unresolved, it could endanger one of the central goals of the accord: the formation of a consensus government that would eventually choose a prime minister, transitioning Afghanistan from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government. Right now, Karzai possesses extensive powers. The new political framework would immediately create a chief executive post subordinate to the president, Mohaqiq said. The chief executive position would be a prototype for the prime minister job. The hope is that a parliamentary system would ease ethnically based grievances by enshrining a more even distribution of power, U.S. officials said. There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing in Paktika. But Afghan forces are struggling against a Taliban-led insurgency that has killed a growing number of the country’s soldiers and civilians. According to a U.N. report released last week, civilian casualties here rose by 24 percent during the first half of the year.
Foreign troops under the command of the International Security Assistance Force are scheduled to withdraw by the end of 2014, a rapidly approaching deadline that has Afghans and international observers worried that the country could face increasing Taliban advances or the kind of ethnic bloodshed that tore Afghanistan apart in the 1990s. Abdullah, of mixed Tajik and Pashtun heritage, enjoys the backing of the country’s Tajik community in the north and west. Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, is popular among Pashtun populations in the east and south. The United States is eager to leave behind a more stable Afghanistan, having invested hundreds of billions of dollars since 2001, when U.S. troops invaded to topple the Taliban government.
By Zahir Shah
Militant sexual abuse of the boys they recruit to join their cause apparently is rife in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the months after a Central Asia Online exposé about the Taliban's sexual assault of boys, Afghan and Pakistani officials have discovered instances of such abuses among other militant groups. "I was dressed in women's clothes and was raped over four nights," Samiullah, a teen victim who was recruited by the Haqqani Network, said in a video statement posted last year on YouTube. "A friend of mine named Muhammad was also raped." NDS evaluates Samiullah's case Samiullah was 16 and had been working at a restaurant in Khost city, Afghanistan, when a man named Hamayun recruited him to join the Haqqani Network. After going through training in Pakistan's tribal region, militants sent Samiullah on a mission to assassinate the governor of Khost Province, but security officials caught him before the suicide bombing was carried out. During his interrogation, Samiullah detailed some of the tactics the militants used during training, the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) said. "Haqqani Network commanders are sexually abusing teenage boys who are being trained to carry out terror acts," the NDS statement said in a December statement. NDS officials recently told Central Asia Online they take such allegations seriously, especially when a boy provides specific information. Samiullah, for example, named Haqqani Network commanders Musa and Mohammad Kaleem, who are brothers, as two who raped him. Long-term effects Sexual assaults are a social issue that needs to be dealt with, psychiatric specialists said, because the ramifications can be far-reaching for society. One concern is the spread of disease, but more worrying, psychiatrists said, is the lasting mental anguish that can destroy families and the social fabric. "Children passing through the agony of abuse start hating males, even the male members of their family," psychiatrist Khalid Mufti said. "The trauma can even influence marital life later." Sexual abuse can also lead to anger issues, he said, where the victims will view violence as the best way to solve problems. And the reported cases likely represent only a fraction of the violations, psychiatrists assert. Not a new practice Samiullah's case is not an anomaly. Naematullah, a would-be suicide bomber arrested in Herat Province, told officials that he and many others were sexually abuses during militant training, according to an NDS statement. And the allegations of sexual abuse are not new. The Taliban in the 1990s were accused of sexually abusing boys, University of Peshawar professor Dr. Sarfaraz Ahmed said. "It's a deep-rooted phenomenon … [that has] always happened in the war that has been going on the Pak-Afghan tribal belt." Indeed, the concept of such paedophilia is so commonplace it is colloquially called bacha bazi, or "boys for pleasure." Militant abuses are condemned But the idea that the problem has been going on for years – and sexual abuse of youth in general being such a long-standing issue – makes it no less condemnable, Ahmed said. "It's the criminalisation of the society that the religious extremists were playing in the name of religion and also involved in such gruesome acts," Prof. Ijaz Khan of the International Relations Department, University of Peshawar, said in agreement. Recently, though, a broad spectrum of society has been calling for justice. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has also urged that urgent steps be taken to stop the sexual abuse and slavery of young boys, according to Khamma press. And activists in Pakistan are stressing that it is the state's responsibility to protect the children. "It’s really a dangerous trend," former Awami National Party (ANP)-affiliated Pakistani parliamentarian Yasmin Zia said. "The Taliban or any warlord involved in such acts of inhumanity must be punished as abuse is a major sin and there are clear-cut punishments for its perpetrators." "If we can't protect our children, then it's our failure," she said.
A large number of Pakistani Christians are leaving Pakistan preferring asylum in foreign countries.
According to a latest report sent to Fides by a Pakistani NGO- World Vision in Progress claims that about 14,000 Pakistani Christians have sought asylum in foreign countries. The World Vision in Progress clarified that as a result of the increasing terrorism, insecurity and harsh living conditions the religious minorities are abandoning Pakistan. In the past year for instance about 14,000 Pakistani Christians have sought asylum in Asian countries but also in Western countries, in Europe and America. Farrukh H. Saif- Executive Director of the World Vision in Progress stated: The situation is serious; minorities, especially Christians and Hindus are being targeted for acts of terrorism, mass violence and abuse of the blasphemy law. Because of this situation an increasing number of families choose to leave Pakistan. Thousands of Pakistani Hindus seek refuge in India, while Christians, Ahmadis, Shias and other religious groups have reached East Asia and South Asia and have registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), hoping to be able to settle in a country where they can enjoy equal rights. He continued: flight of Christians began in 2009, when Christian neighborhoods and villages in Punjab were attacked by Muslim extremists. Hundreds of homes were burned and hundreds of Christians from Gojra and Korian took refuge in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Also in March 2013 Islamic fanatics attacked the ‘Joseph colony’ Christian area in Lahore. According to our investigations, last year 14,000 Pakistani Christians sought asylum in countries of East Asia and South Asia. He noted: in order to stop the exodus, the Pakistani government should stop terrorism and provide security to Pakistani Christians and other religious minorities. A few months ago – he continues – Pakistani authorities intercepted a thousand Christians who were travelling to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong and stopped them. In the second week of June, the Sri Lankan police launched an operation against Pakistani Christians seeking asylum, and arrested them; an action contrary to the rules and international principles. In fact, a host country cannot arrest refugees if they are registered under the auspices of the UNHCR. World Vision in Progress has appealed to the international community to help curb the suffering of religious minorities in Pakistan. The NGO has also urged the countries in which refugees seek asylum to respect of humanitarian law and the rules of international law concerning the refugees. World Vision in Progress strives to bring to end religious minority discrimination in Pakistan and to uphold respectable living conditions for them in the country. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/14000-pakistani-christians-left-pakistan-in-2013/#sthash.GU8i8cbV.dpuf
The country is facing an ‘education crisis’ which, if not tackled now, can become insurmountable. But, given political will and resources, a reformed education system can still produce a tolerant citizenry accepting religious, ethnic and cultural diversity, and help Pakistan return to its moderate roots. This is the crux of a report on “education reforms” in Pakistan recently released by the International Crisis Group. In its major conclusion, the Brussels-based NGO working to prevent conflict worldwide says: “If Pakistan is to provide all children between the age of five and 16 years free and compulsory education, as its law requires, it must reform a system marred by teacher absenteeism, poorly maintained or ghost schools and a curriculum which encourages intolerance and fails to produce citizens who are competitive in the job market.” It says that curriculum reform is essential and overdue and urges the provincial governments to ensure that textbooks and teachers no longer convey an intolerant religious discourse and a distorted narrative based on hatred of imagined enemies – local and foreign. “The working-age population will continue to grow in a country with so many young people. Without substantial and urgent efforts to improve access to quality schools, illiteracy and poor learning outcomes will result in rising levels of unemployment and under-employment, hampering economic development and – if the most attractive jobs are available with the jihadi forces and criminal groups – contributing to violence and instability. “The rot can still be stemmed by reversing decades of neglect of the fast failing, under-funded education sector and opting for meaningful reform of the curriculum, bureaucracy, teaching staff and learning methodologies,” it says. According to the report, poorly qualified and poorly trained teachers and rote pedagogy discourage learning. Improvements in methodology have yet to make it to the classroom, and what is taught is problematic. An unreformed curriculum continues to promote religious intolerance and xenophobia as do madressahs which flourish in the absence of a credible public education sector. Private schools are flourishing but few, except those which cater to the elite, provide quality education. Attempts are being made to harness private sector support, including through partnerships and philanthropy, but the scale of the challenge requires a government-led approach and political ownership of reform. “To counter the challenge posed by private schools and madressahs, which fill the gaps of a dilapidated public education sector but contribute to religious extremism and sectarian violence, the government will have to do far more than just increase the number of schools and teachers, it says. Since the 18th Constitution Amendment devolved education to the federating units, provincial governments have taken some steps to meet their obligation to educate children. Yet, not all provinces have the required legislative apparatus, rules and regulations in place. Budgetary allocations, despite increases, are insufficient to meet growing needs. The report deplores that millions of five- to 16-year olds, now entitled to free and compulsory education, are still out of school and the quality of education for those enrolled remains abysmal. Nepotism and corruption permeate the system, including in the employment, posting and transfer of teachers. It points out that militant violence and natural disasters have exacerbated the dismal state of education. Earthquakes and floods have destroyed school buildings, disrupting the education of hundreds of thousands of children. More than nine million children do not receive primary or secondary education and literacy rates are stagnant. The country is far from meeting Millennium Development Goals of providing universal primary education by 2015. The primary school enrolment rate in 2012-13 registered a mere one per cent increase from the preceding year. There are significant gender disparities and differences between rural and urban areas, the report notes. The combined federal and provincial budgetary allocation to education is the lowest in South Asia, at two per cent of GDP. It all shows how grave the education sector is in Pakistan.
The ruling Sharif clan may not know that the time is running out, and running out very fast. The public discontent with it is skyrocketing with not just the day but by every hour of the day. Of course, incumbency is a very deadly monster that ruins and ransacks even promising ruling hierarchies. But then the Sharif coterie does not even figure on that scale any where remarkably. Its spin doctors may be weaving yarns after yarns to show it up as a performer par excellence. But a screaming public tells that all that is a big, big lie. In fact, ever nook and cranny of the land is crying out shrilly that the people never had had as worst of time as are they having on its watch. But once in the saddle, the hierarchy started gradually to backtrack on what it had promised the electorate. As the shortages stay now as persistent and unrelenting as in the past, some of its grandees have now even taken sheepishly to apologising to the people for betraying them with false, deceptive and misleading promises of obviating power load shedding immediately after ascending the Islamabad throne. So obviously, it had been using the ploy of inaugurating of power plants and foundation-stone-laying of new projects by the prime minister to impress the public with its efforts to deliver on its poll promise of shooing off power scarcity from the land. But the trick has not worked. Rather, the people are livid that the Sharif ruling clan is taking them for a ride with such contrivances. But the people's discontent with the Sharif ruling clique is not due to the power scarcity alone. It runs far deeper and far inflammably on many an other account. Indeed, the utter collapse of this coterie in alleviating the people's biting travails on account of increasingly unaffordable food prices and a galloping unemployment has taken away all the people's trust and confidence in it. Even those who once were its fond supporters have now turned against it. And on the street, it is all anger that is dancing giddily against this Sharif coterie. It really is so astonishing that the incumbency has flung in so early to gore this ruling clan. It had stridden into office, bragging deafeningly that it had had the experience of governance as well as an experienced team to tackle the adversities tormenting the people so woefully. But just in a year's time, it has become just dust on the street. And quite perilously. One knows not how the people would respond to the calls of Imran Khan for a people tsunami and Tahirul Qadri's people revolution. But a storm is brewing up on the street. And if the Sharif ruling clique doesn't act at once and wisely to mitigate what really is making the people's miserable lives a living hell, a real people's tsunami is sure to break out from some obscure niche of the street to flare up and engulf the whole land with unforeseen consequences. The Sharif clan as also its peers in various political comps must know that the so-called democracy which in effect is a patent plutocracy may be their darling baby. But on the street it has no takers left. The people's patience with this sham system has run out. None out there in the street would stick his neck out to be chopped off for this spurious system that serves the needs of a privileged oligarchy of landed aristocrats, waderas, landed pirs, sardars, chieftains, robber barons and the moneyed upstarts. Not the people's. They have no love lost for it; not at all.
COURT RULED AGAINST ZULFIQAR ALI FOR WRITING BLASPHEMOUS SLOGANS ON WALLS IN A SUBURB OF LAHORE.
An Additional District and Sessions court on Tuesday sentenced a man to death after he was convicted under controversial blasphemy laws, according to his lawyers. Pakistan has strict laws against insulting Islam, which can sometimes carry the death penalty, but rights activists say they are often misused to settle personal disputes. Zulfiqar Ali, aged in his 50s, was arrested in April 2008 in Lahore and accused of writing blasphemous slogans on walls. Ali’s lawyer said his client was insane but Judge Naveed Iqbal passed the death sentence on Monday, said prosecution lawyer Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa. The country has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by court martial. “Accused Zulfiqar Ali has committed the act of blasphemy by writing the abusive sentences toward Islam’s Prophet on the walls of Nehru Park, Islampura,” the judge said in his ruling, seen by AFP. “He was caught red-handed. Police came there. He was also used to utter derogatory remarks on hearing the call for prayers.” Ali also must pay a fine of Rs. 1 million, otherwise he will have to spend one year in jail before going to the gallows, the order said. Defense lawyer Kashif Ali Bokhari said Ali was brought to court from the psychiatric ward of the jail. “I pleaded in the court that he was insane but this plea was ignored,” Bokhari said. The judge in his order said he checked Ali and found him mentally competent. Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the majority of the 180 million population is devoutly Muslim. Even unproven allegations can provoke a violent public response. A recent report from a U.S. government advisory panel said Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world. It listed 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.
During a raid in South Waziristan, the Pakistani military reportedly captured Adnan Rasheed, a Taliban commander who was broken out of prison in 2012. An al Qaeda commander known as Mufti Zubair Marwat was also arrested in the raid. Rasheed, Marwat, and two guards are said to have been captured on July 10 in the Shakai valley in South Waziristan, according to Dawn. Rasheed is thought to have been wounded. Marwat "is the brother of Mufti Sajjad Marwat - an al Qaeda spokesman for Afghanistan and Pakistan," Dawn reported. The reports of their capture has not been publicly confirmed by the Pakistani military, however. If Rasheed's capture is confirmed, he will be the first big-name Taliban commander to have been killed or captured by the Pakistani military since it launched an offensive in North Waziristan on June 15. The Pakistan military has claimed to have killed more than 400 terrorists, but has not named any of them. Rasheed is currently the emir of the Ansar al Aseer Khorasan ("Helpers of the Prisoners"), a group that includes members from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Taliban and was founded to free jihadists from Pakistani prisons. Rasheed has a long history with Pakistani terrorist groups as well as al Qaeda. He was involved in the Dec. 14, 2003 assassination attempt against then-President Pervez Musharraf. A member of the Pakistani Air Force, Rasheed was sentenced to death for his role in the assassination attempt, but the sentence was never carried out. While in prison, Rasheed owned several cell phones and frequently communicated with journalists. He also got married while in prison and fathered a child. Rasheed worked for Amjad Farooqi, the Pakistani terrorist who engineered the two assassination attempts against Musharraf in December 2003 at the behest of al Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al Libi; Farooqi is suspected of involvement in other terror attacks as well. Farooqi was a member of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan; the Harkat-ul-Ansar and its successor, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen; Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami; and Jaish-e-Mohammed. He served as a close aide to Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. In addition, Farooqi served as the group's representative to al Qaeda's International Islamic Front, which issued the 1998 fatwa that declared war on the US. On April 15, 2012, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan launched a successful operation to free Rasheed and nearly 400 prisoners, including an estimated 200 Taliban fighters and jihadists, being held at a prison in Bannu. The operation was directed by Hakeemullah Mehsud, the former emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the group's former emir for South Waziristan (both Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman were killed by the US in drone strikes). More than 150 fighters assaulted the prison. Rasheed was later featured in a videotape celebrating the jailbreak. Since the Bannu jailbreak, Rashid has featured in several Taliban propaganda tapes. In January 2013, he appeared in a joint Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan video that announced the formation of the Ansar al Aseer. The video also featured Yassin Chouka, a wanted German commander in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; and Abdul Hakeem, a Russian IMU member. In March 2013, Rasheed released a video in which he claimed to have formed an assassination squad to kill former President Musharraf. Rasheed said the "death squad" is split up in groups of "fedayeen, sniper team, special assault team, and close combat team." The term 'fedayeen' is often used to describe suicide bombers. Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/07/taliban_leader_adnan_rasheed_r.php#ixzz37bzMtBj2
Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya The act of condemning an individual or a particular group for following ‘certain religious practice’ in the name of kufr – blasphemy – has intensified the acts of violence in Pakistan. In the latest blasphemy case the police in Jhang district of Punjab Province said on May 13 that they had filed blasphemy charges against a group of 68 lawyers. Reportedly the main architect behind the incident is Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, leader of the banned group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and the lawyers mostly belong to the Shia sect of Islam. Interestingly enough, Ludhianvi’s group was banned in the year 2012 and is infamous for inciting sectarian and extremist violence with its stronghold in Jhang district. Lately, in Pakistan the ‘pretext’ of blasphemy is devised not only to persecute the religious minorities but also prominent political figures, as has been evident in the case of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti the then minister for minority affairs. Both were brutally murdered in 2011 for raising question on such violent acts. During the year 2013, 19 cases for offences relating to religion were reported against 24 Muslim citizens. Five of the accused were charged under the blasphemy provision, 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). In addition a total of nine cases were lodged against 14 Christian citizens on religious grounds. Nine Christians were also arrested in these cases. Four Christians, including two women, were arrested for allegedly sending blasphemous messages. While one was awarded life imprisonment. Three Christians were sentenced to death upon conviction in two blasphemy cases. The partial data provided by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) further states that in 2013, there were 275 such cases in Punjab, followed by 14 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two in Balochistan. Moreover, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Annual Report of 2014 at least 17 individuals are on death row and 19 more serving life sentences [for blasphemy]. Many others have been charged and await trial. As is well evident from the above mentioned data, the targets in these cases of violence are mostly minorities both within and outside the realm of “Islam” often preached by the clerics to instigate and cause divide in already fragmented Pakistani society. Pakistan is one of more than 30 countries that have blasphemy laws, which are usually enacted under the auspices of promoting religious harmony. However, human rights groups say the law, instead of promoting communal harmony, is frequently used to settle personal disputes, disproportionately targeting religious minorities – Christians, Hindus, or members of minority sects of Islam. According to the 2013 Asian Human Rights Commission Report, the known blasphemy cases in Pakistan show that from 1953 to July 2012, there were 434 offenders of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, and among them 258 were Muslims (Sunni/Shia), 114 Christians, 57 Ahmadis, and 4 Hindus. Attacks on religious minorities have been exacerbated by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which have fostered a climate of religiously-motivated violence and persecution. Accusations of blasphemy have frequently resulted in the murder of both Muslims and members of religious minorities. Since 1990, at least 60 people have been killed outside the Pakistani justice system in cases relating to blasphemy, according to the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). In the initial phase of Pakistan as an independent state, there was no legal provision on religious discrimination. However, changes occurred during the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq (1978-1988) and accordingly, the Blasphemy Law was promulgated in 1985, and in 1990 the punishment of life imprisonment under this law, which sought to penalise irreverence towards the Holy Quran and insulting the Holy Prophet, was included. In 1992, the government went a step ahead and introduced death penalty for a person guilty of blasphemy (strangely under the democratic government of Nawaz Sharif), under Article 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The law is very dangerous as blasphemy related “crime” does not require proof of intent or evidence to be presented after allegations are made and does not include penalty for false allegation. Making the situation worse legally, in September 2013 the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) ruled that there is no need to amend the blasphemy law but its misuse needs to be stopped. The CII is a constitutional body that advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam. Tahir Ashrafi, a member of CII and also chairman of the Ulema Council of Pakistan, said: “We will not allow anyone to touch this (blasphemy) law”. Further in December 2013, the Federal Shariat Court ordered the government to delete life imprisonment as a punishment in blasphemy cases, stating that death was the only sentence in case of conviction and awarding any other punishment would be unlawful. The blasphemy law, while purporting to protect Islam and religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority, is vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities. The 2013 Asian Human Rights Commission Report further critically states that alleged incidents of blasphemy by religious minorities is often used to fuel mob violence, targeted sectarian killings, looting, burning of houses, burning of places of worship and holy books, land grabbing etc. It won’t be inappropriate to say that the prevailing blasphemy law is consuming Pakistani society from within. In a way, these laws provide legitimacy to commit heinous crime and human rights violation in a country that is ranked 157 out of 162 countries in the 2013 Global Peace Index. It is an all-purpose tool in the service of intolerance. The law has often been used against religious minorities, but Muslims are paying the price as well. Unfortunately, there is hardly any possibility to repeal the law.
There is no end to the miseries that seem to be descending upon hapless Pakistani citizens in the holy month. Not only are they observing their fasts at a time when the prices of essential food items have risen astoundingly, they have the added burden of suffering through prolonged hours of load shedding. The situation has gotten so bad that many localities are being subjected to as much as eight to 12 hours of electricity load shedding every day — and that is the urban centres; one shudders to think about the misery rural inhabitants are going through. It is being reported that the electricity shortfall has risen to a mindboggling 7,000 MW. The federal government seems dumbfounded and unable to give a solid answer to its grave failure in fixing the energy crisis. The latest statement coming out of the PML-N camp is that the national grid is ill-equipped to handle the excessive overload of electricity in these hot summer months — reaching as much as 20,000 MW — and that is why load shedding has increased. This is a far cry from the promises we heard before Ramzan where we were ensured that iftari and sehri times would be load shedding-free. Not only are people keeping and breaking their fasts in pitch darkness, they are also suffering from the bane of voltage issues and ‘tripping’ whereby the electricity comes on for hardly a minute or two and then disappears again, with this exhausting cycle being repeated frequently, causing not just household appliances to burn out but also bring life, work and industrial production to a complete halt. There is no way the PML-N government can pussyfoot its way around this one. After the spectre of terrorism, the energy crisis is the most devastating issue in the country, one that must be dealt with on a war footing. For all its promises, election campaign speeches and the many power projects it boasts of initiating, the woes of the masses have not been addressed — in fact, they only seem to be getting worse. Any power project that is inaugurated today will not see the ‘light’ until a good many years; till then, what are the masses supposed to do? Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif went as far as saying that he would change his name if load shedding did not finish three months after their win in the elections. There is only so much baloney the people will swallow. If the power crisis is not addressed, the PML-N government may face the fiercest protests from the public it has ever seen.
The Express Tribune News
A drone strike in North Waziristan’s Datta Khel tehsil killed 15 people and injured four others, Express News reported on Wednesday. The unmanned aircraft targeted a house and a vehicle. Four missiles were fired in this latest attack.
Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stands by its co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari ‘s statement regarding votes recounting in four constituencies, adding that establishment did not let PPP-led government function when it was in power, Dunya News reported. Gilani claimed that there was General (retd) Pasha and General (retd) Kayani were on one hand and Nawaz Sharif went to court while wearing black blazer on the other hand. Talking to the media on an Iftar party, former Prime Minister said that the parliament is very weak at this time whereas other institutions are very powerful. He said Prime Minister should do his part to strengthen the institutions, adding that the country cannot afford any clashes. He said the party is with Zardari over his statement regarding four constituencies against whom Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has been demanding a vote recount. He claimed that the establishment did not let the party function when it was in power. He said PPP-led government also had to face former president Pervez Musharraf and former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Gilani said his party took Hussain Haqqani’s resignation over the memogate issue within three days. He said Nawaz Sharif went to the court even when the memogate issue had been resolved.
Former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has called upon the government to give up its “callous attitude” towards the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan who are stranded in camps in Bannu and gear up the relief efforts on war footing. In a statement on Monday, PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar quoted the former president, saying, “The IDPs are our national heroes in the war against terror and neglecting them in this hour of trial is a criminal and callous act that will not be condoned under any circumstances. According to the statement, Zardari said that the government’s “neglect” of the IDPs and reports that defunct militant groups are secretly engaged in indoctrinating the displaced people under the cover of philanthropy is a sure recipe to turn the IDPs into sympathisers of militants and extremists. The former president recalled that the IDP crisis faced by the PPP-led coalition government in 2009, as a result of military action against anti-state elements in Swat, was resolved within a few months. He added that there was no reason why the challenge posed by the displacement of people from NWA cannot be handled. The PPP co-chairman that in the wake of floods and huge displacements caused by it in 2010, the PPP government had invited UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who had launched a global appeal to help the flood victims. He said that the war against terror is a global fight and the international community should not be barred from rehabilitating the IDPs in accordance with the recognised principles of such assistance. “The government should shed its ego and mobilize the entire nation to assist in the relief and rehabilitation of the IDPs,” he said.