Sunday, July 27, 2014
Israel and Hamas have resumed fighting despite tentative offers to extend a humanitarian truce since the end of an initial 12-hour temporary ceasefire on Saturday.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Hamas of violating a ceasefire that it had itself called and vowed that Israeli operations in Gaza would continue. "They are violating their own ceasefire. Under these circumstances, Israel will do what it must do to defend its people," Netanyahu told the news network CNN. Earlier, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas agreed to halt firing from 11:00 GMT in response to a request from the United Nations. Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Gaza City, journalist Jesse Rosenfeld said a Hamas spokesman had told him that the movement had accepted the latest truce specifically because it had been brought to them by the UN, which had not been the case before. However, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his group could not coexist with Israel as long as it occupied Palestinian land.
"We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews," he said in remarks broadcast Sunday. "We fight the occupiers."
"I'm ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs," he said. "However, I do not coexist with the occupiers."
On Saturday night, Israel endorsed a separate ceasefire plan promoted by Egypt that has not been accepted by Hamas, but Netanyahu was dismissive about Sunday's latest UN truce call. Netanyahu told CNN that Israeli forces would continue operations to attempt to dismantle Hamas' cross-border tunnel network and destroy its stocks of rockets. "Israel is doing what any other country would do and the US would do if any percent of your country were under fire and you have 60 or 90 seconds to get to a bomb shelter." "I would say we want to stop firing rockets for sure. We want to dismantle the tunnels, the terror tunnel network we uncovered," he said. " I don't know if we'll have 100 percent success. Our soldiers are dealing with it now." Rosenfeld said bombardment by Israel's air force and navy was continuing on Sunday afternoon. "It seems there is no more ceasefire," he said from Gaza City. Conditions for truce FRANCE 24's Jerusalem correspondent Gallagher Fenwick remarked that recent diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the latest fighting, which has left more than 1,000 people dead after 19 days, had failed to include the main actors in the confrontation. "There were no Egyptians, no Palestinians, and no Israelis" at Saturday's meeting of international foreign ministers on the Gaza crisis in Paris, he said. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has leaked the latest ceasefire proposal, drafted by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris. "Many Israeli papers are condemning it, saying Kerry has turned its back on Israeli demands and acceded to Hamas's," Fenwick reported.
On the Hamas side, tactical considerations may have dictated the preference for the terms of the UN-sponsored proposal of a daytime truce. "This would allow people to get out, resupply, let out some steam and hunker down again" during the day, said Jesse Rosenfeld in Gaza. "The fact is that Hamas has been striking far more Israeli casualties at night," he added. "It is more beneficial to them to have ceasefires during the day, than it is during the night when they carry out a far more intense guerilla campaign."
The Israeli army on Sunday confirmed firing a mortar round into a Gaza UN shelter where 15 people died on Thursday, but denied killing anyone at the site. Briefing journalists on the findings of an internal military enquiry into the incident at a UN school in Beit Hanun, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said militants "in the vicinity" of the school fired mortar rounds and anti-tank rockets at Israeli forces. The army responded with mortar fire, sending a stray round into the compound. "A single errant mortar (round) landed in the courtyard of the school," he said. "The courtyard was completely empty" at the time of the incident, he added. "We reject the claims that were made by various officials immediately following the incident, that people were killed in the school premises as a result of (Israeli army) operational activity," he added. Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 15 people died in the blast and at least another 200 people were injured. "Many have been killed -- including women and children," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement, adding that he was "appalled". Lerner suggested the victims may have been hit in fighting raging elsewhere and "brought to the compound after injury" for first aid or shelter.
For months, the West has struggled to take a strong stand against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine. And while Europe's leaders are acutely aware of the threat to peace on their Eastern flank, the countries with the most at stake have, time after time, seemed unable to present a united and resolute front. But the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has become a game changer -- a watershed moment which most concede would be too dangerous to let go.
And now, as Europe prepares to finally take decisive steps, its chiefs will have to recognize that, if they are to be effective, they will also have to hurt their economies. As a block, the European Union exports about 100 billion euros worth of goods and services to Russia and takes in roughly 200 million of the latter's imports. That is money that matters, for sure, but it's not Russia's role as a consumer that would affect Europe most. Rather, it's Russia's function as a major supplier of energy. Should Russia cut its gas to the West in response, the loss in European production would more damaging than the hit its trade balance would take. Just as the region is trying its best to revive a stagnant economy, attempting to mend a fragile debt market and tackle high unemployment, alienating a major trading partner next door is a risk Europe's ministers are understandably loath to take.
And some countries have more to lose than others.
With its billion dollar contracts for Mistral warships -- a deal which keeps some 1,000 Frenchmen and women employed in a country with a 10% unemployment rate -- France is Europe's largest supplier of arms to Russia. Will victims' families ever get justice? The UK also provides more minor military hardware and sells cars to Russia. With its own gas fields in the North Sea and the potential in future years to harness its shale oil, the UK does have other energy options. However if the EU hits Russian state-owned banks, London's financial center would suffer while its luxurious residences in the capital would also become less appealing to the swathe of oligarchs who have relocated to Britain of late.
For Germany, curtailed trade with Russia could really bite. And considering as the former is Europe's biggest economy the implications would be felt well beyond its borders.
More than 6,000 German firms operate in Russia, pouring in billions of dollars in foreign direct investment. Some 300,000 German workers depend on their country's trade with Russia for their livelihoods.Sectors like the automotive industry, defense and engineering which have haemorrhaged jobs since the 2008 crisis would be hit hard once again.
So, are such sanctions really worth it and would they work?
To answer this question it depends on what Europe hopes to achieve. Russia's economy was already headed for a recession before Europe and the U.S. started talking tough. Some $90 billion of capital is likely to flee its markets this year, according to the conservative estimates of Russia's central bank which was forced to pull a recent bond auction due to unfavorable market conditions. By tightening the noose over Russia's banks, Europe hopes not only to turn the country's key industrialists away from president Putin but also to limit the Kremlin's ability to fund its banks on the international markets, meaning Russia would have to dig deep into its currency reserves and undermine the value of the Ruble -- a currency which has up until now been surprisingly unruffled. In the longer term -- say in three to five years-- bans on equipment and so-called sensitive technologies to the energy sector could hamper Russian plans to further exploit its massive oil and gas reserves. Presumably the EU hopes that for everyone's sake the crisis surrounding Ukraine will be solved by then. But in the meantime, if the EU intends to send the strong message it needs, its leaders must reconcile their wish to make a point with the potential to lose a few points off of their GDP.
A top aide to President Obama said it's possible that Obama could be impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner's decision to proceed with a lawsuit against the president has "opened the door" to the third presidential impeachment in the nation's history, Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a Friday breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "Impeachment is a very serious thing that has been bandied about by the recent Republican vice presidential nominee and others in a very un-serious way," he said, referring to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. "We take it very seriously and I don't think it would be a good thing." Pfeiffer was quick to add that "no one has alleged anything that is even six universes from what is generally considered" to be an impeachable offense. Boehner has dismissed calls for Obama to be impeached. His spokesman, Michael Steel, called Pfeiffer's comments "a fundraising exercise for Democrats." "We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals," Steel said. "It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border." Later, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said "prominent voices in the Republican party" have called for impeachment, but was hard-pressed to name one other than Palin. "I think there are some Republicans, including some Republicans that are running for office, hoping that they can get into office so they can impeach the president," he said. A CNN/ORC poll released Friday shows 35% of Americans favor impeachment, which is about the same support for efforts to impeach Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Pfeiffer noted that a majority of Republicans -- 57% -- favor impeaching Obama. Impeachment is the bringing of charges against a president or federal judge by the House of Representatives. A president can only be removed after a trial on those charges by the Senate. Boehner has chosen a less drastic approach with a plan to sue Obama over his decision to delay enforcement of a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to provide health insurance. That plan passed the House Rules Committee Thursday, clearing the way for a vote on the House floor. Pfeiffer said the lawsuit won't have an impact on how the president uses his executive authority. In fact, he said, the threat of lawsuits validates that Obama's executive actions are "far from the small ball that some have accused it of being."
http://www.voanews.com/U.S. President Barack Obama has criticized what he calls "a small but growing group" of big corporations that are fleeing the country to avoid paying taxes. The U.S. leader said in his weekly address Saturday the companies are keeping most of their business inside the United States, but they are "basically renouncing their citizenship," declaring they are based somewhere else to avoid paying "their fair share" of taxes. Obama said a loophole in the tax law makes this action "totally legal." The president called on Americans to embrace "economic patriotism" that lowers the corporate tax rate and closes wasteful loopholes. In the Republican address, Congressman Steve Daines of the western state of Montana said President Obama is waging a war on the middle class. Daines called on the Senate to pass House-approved jobs bills. The White House and Senate are controlled by Democrats; the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans.
Approving a bill that has already passed the Senate, the House of Representatives has given its consent to legislation that lets U.S. consumers "unlock" their cellphones, rather than having them remain linked to specific service providers. President Obama says he will sign the bill into law, applauding Congress today for taking "another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cellphone carrier that meets their needs and their budget." The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., was passed by a vote of 295 to 114 Friday; the Senate version, championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was approved 10 days ago. The legislation repeals a recent ruling by the Library of Congress that found copyright laws could be strictly enforced over "locked" phones because of evolution in the cellphone marketplace. But critics had said the rule hurt several groups of consumers: those who wanted to link their phones to overseas carriers when they traveled; those who wanted to switch carriers; and those who wanted to sell phones they've bought through a wireless company. After today's House vote, Laura Moy, staff attorney at advocacy group Public Knowledge, said the new law would boost competition in the wireless market and "improve the availability of free and low-cost secondhand phones for consumers who cannot afford to purchase new devices." She also said "it will keep millions of devices out of landfills." The new law would re-establish an exemption to a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that prohibited unlocking a phone. The bill also directs the Librarian of Congress to review whether the exemption should apply to tablets and other devices as well as phones. In February 2013, a public petition to legalize "unlocking" phones blew past the White House's 100,000-signature threshold that requires a response; later that year, President Obama asked the Federal Communications Commission to legalize the practice. As NPR's Laura Sydell has reported, the FCC agreed on terms with wireless carriers in December, in a deal that would require companies such as AT&T and Verizon to unlock a phone from their networks, but only if a customer asks them to — and only if their contract has ended.
The destruction in the Strip is striking, but will it achieve deterrence or a thirst for revenge?I’ve known Ashraf for 14 years. When I began working as a reporter on Arab affairs, he accompanied me on my journeys to Gaza until, in 2007 if I’m not mistaken, Israeli reporters were forbidden to enter the Strip out of fears for their safety. Still, in those seven years we managed to accumulate quite a few shared experiences. There were cases in which my life was in danger, when Ashraf always knew how to steer me to safety, along with lighter experiences, visits to his family’s home in Beit Hanun, Iftar meals and more. In the past few days we had been in continuous contact and he told me his family had left their town near the Israeli border for fear of being hit and, like tens of thousands of others, had moved to a different neighborhood deeper in the Strip. On Saturday, several hours into the humanitarian truce, I hoped he wouldn’t call me. Somehow I knew that if he called during those hours, it meant something had happened to the house. And the call came.
“The house is gone,” he said. “My house is gone and my sister’s which was next to it. They’ve destroyed it completely. Completely.”I heard the sorrow in his voice and didn’t know what to say, how to console him. “Where am I going to go back to? I have no idea what to do now. We’re here at a friend’s house and I have nowhere to go back to. Everything that was in the house is gone: the furniture, the bedroom, the mementos, the children’s playthings. Do you understand? It’s all in ruins. I have nothing to do now. I’m in the street.” “Ten days ago the Israeli army told us to leave for Gaza City. I heard the message, took my wife and nine children and moved to an UNRWA school. The entire family, 60 people all told. My parents, myself, my sister, my brothers, their children with their grandchildren and my children with my grandchildren. At the UNRWA school we sat for three days but the agency had nothing to give us. So I moved south. For ten days I was far away from the house. Last night I heard the army had hit the al-Masri family area hard in bombings. Today they said there is a truce. So I went out there and found it all destroyed. Nothing’s left. All three stories are gone. It looks as if the house was hit in a bombing and then a bulldozer came and finished the job. All of our things were there. Why did they destroy my house? In the first war [Operation Cast Lead in 2009] and the second [Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012] we left the house but no one came to shoot from near our homes because they knew not to mess with us. If someone did it this time, why am I being punished? I blame Israel. No one else.” “I don’t have the ability to rent a house now. I can’t buy or rent one. We have no money for food. We are peaceful people, we’ve never had a problem. I’ve worked with Israeli and foreign reporters for many years. You know me, you’ve been at our house. Why did they destroy our house?” Dahiyeh in Gaza And indeed, the pictures that reached us Saturday from Shejaiyah, Beit Hanun, and the rest of the other neighborhoods confirmed what we already knew: Palestinian civilians are paying the heaviest price during this adventure that Hamas chose to embark upon. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of bodies were discovered in the ruins, and tens of thousands of families were left without homes, without shelter. It looks like an earthquake. The residents, as stunned from the horror as the journalists who reached the area, are trying to digest, to understand, to figure out what to do now. If Israel wanted to create the “Dahiyeh effect,” modeled on the bombing of the Hezbollah stronghold in Lebanon in 2006, then it has succeeded, perhaps even more than expected. The problem is that deterrence is fluid, abstract. At a certain point, if you strike the enemy too hard, he can become indifferent to the suffering, and may just develop a deeper hatred and desire for revenge. With close to 1,100 dead and 5,700 injured, according to Hamas’s health ministry, the consciousness of Gaza has indeed been seared. The Gaza population (a big portion of which, it must be said, supports Hamas) curses the day this escalation began. It is possible that the mass destruction will cause Hamas to think twice before it embarks on another armed conflict against Israel in Gaza. But the extent of the damage could lead to public pressure on Hamas not to stop fighting until it receives something tangible in return. Hamas seems more apathetic than Israel about the suffering of people in Gaza. The head of the organization’s political branch, Khaled Mashaal, who lives in Qatar in a fancy hotel, preaches from his distant perch that the military wing, and the people in Gaza, should continue fighting. He went further and said he was ready to die to make sure the siege on Gaza doesn’t continue — easy to say when you’re far from the Israeli shells and the danger, and close to the mini-bar and the waterpipe. There was a reason, it seems, that Mashaal chose not to stay in Gaza after his visit in December 2012. In Gaza, the organization does not look on this kindly. Last Tuesday, according to Palestinian and Arab sources, the Hamas leadership agreed to a ceasefire according to the American parameters. What held up the organization’s response, and ultimately led to the rejection, was Mashaal. Senior Hamas officials in the Strip, it turns out, knew that Mashaal’s speech on Wednesday would be extreme and would reject Kerry’s offer of a seven-day ceasefire. In their despair (and possibly because of technical reasons unrelated to Mashaal’s pronouncements), they turned to a well-known Hamas member, who tried to convince Mashaal not to be over-zealous. That didn’t work either. The individuals who have been in touch with Mashaal in the past week tell a sad story of a corrupt and hedonistic leader who pushes his people not to agree to a ceasefire, all with Qatar’s backing and encouragement. Up to this point, the perception had been that the military wing is the problem, and didn’t want to accept a ceasefire. According to Palestinian and Arab sources, however, it is Mashaal, or “Abu al-Walid,” along with the Qataris, who has been preventing a stop to the fighting. Read more: The earthquake in Gaza | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-earthquake-in-gaza/#ixzz38ftOsp6S Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook
A top Pentagon intelligence official warned on Saturday that the destruction of Hamas would only lead to something more dangerous taking its place, as he offered a grim portrait of a period of enduring regional conflict. The remarks by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came as Israeli ministers signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day-old conflict in the Gaza Strip appeared remote. At least 1,050 Gazans - mostly civilians - have been killed, and 42 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died. Flynn disparaged Hamas for exhausting finite resources and know-how to build tunnels that have helped them inflict record casualties on Israelis. Still, he suggested that destroying Hamas was not the answer. "If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse," Flynn said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS," he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an "Islamic caliphate" in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. Confined in the crowded, sandy coast enclave of 1.8 million, where poverty and unemployment hover around 40 percent, weary Gazans say they hope the battle will break the blockade that Israel and Egypt impose on them. Israeli officials said any ceasefire must allow the military to carry on hunting down the Hamas tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border. Flynn's comments about the conflict came during a gloomy, broader assessment of unrest across the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq. Flynn said bluntly: "Is there going to be a peace in the Middle East? Not in my lifetime."
35-year-old Noor Jehan, an acid attack survivor lies on a bed in Quetta’s largest medical facility, the Bolan Medical Complex Hospital. Only a few days ago, her misery made headline news when armed militants sprayed acid on her face in Quetta’s Killi Kamalo area. Dressed in the traditional Balochi dress, she speaks in measured sentences to narrate her ordeal. “I was shopping for Eid when suddenly somebody sprayed acid on my face,” Noor Jehan tells Dawn.com as her voice breaks. At least six women were injured in Balochistan in two separate acid attacks in Quetta and Mastung three days back. Like Noor Jehan, the other victims, including two teenage girls, are also admitted to BMC’s Burn Ward. “Thank God my dress saved me from the acid,” she said. Surrounded by their grief-stricken parents and frightened family members, the acid attack victims had covered their faces. According to doctors, three per cent of Noor Jehan’s face was damaged in the attack. She had agreed to speak to Dawn.com after covering her face and declined to be photographed. “Now I pray for immediate recovery,” Noor Jehan said, asking whether “the treatment will bring back my identity”. The acid had burnt her shawl and clothes. An eye witness, who requested anonymity, told Dawn.com that the women cried for help in the aftermath of the attack. “The terrified women were screaming in the market after the acid attack,” he recalled. He revealed that some other women also suffered acid wounds but they preferred not to make it public and come to the hospital for treatment. “The shopkeepers selling cosmetics pulled down their shutters,” he said. The tortured movement still haunts Noor Jehan and other acid victims. Besides, burn injuries, they also suffer from psychological traumas. “I cannot forget that horrific moment,” she said. Growing radicalisation and militarisation in society has undermined women's rights in Balochistan, plagued by growing sectarian violence and an on-going insurgency. Balochistan, Pakistan’s least developed province, has remained under the grip of violence for over a decade and has claimed thousands of lives. There has been no claim of responsibility for the two acid attacks, while law enforcement appears to be clueless about the identity the assailants. “This is a barbaric act and the perpetrators must be brought to book,” Home Minister Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti told Dawn.com. "Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Malik Baloch has ordered an inquiry into the acid attacks. A team comprising of senior police officers have been tasked to probe into the incidents," said the home minister. “Such barbarians will not be spared,” he said in a statement issued to the press. Bugti said there was no room for such kinds of incidents in Islam and under Baloch traditions and norms. The attacks have drawn severe criticism from women and human rights groups who have expressed outrage over the unfolding events in Balochistan. Visibly, the entire society was shaken in the aftermath of twin attacks at women shopping for fast-approaching Eid in Balochistan. “Fundamentalists want to intimidate and terrorise us,” said Agha Hassan Baloch, the Central Secretary Information Balochistan National Party. He expressed these views during a protest demonstration inside the hospital where the women were being treated. Dozens of Baloch nationalists gathered inside the hospital and chanted full-throated slogans against government and law enforcement agencies for their failure to protect the women in Balochistan. “We are a secular society, fundamentalism is being imposed on us,” Baloch lamented. Activists said that during the last three years in Balochistan, there have been seven acid attacks on women. “It is an alarming situation indeed,” Haroon Dawood, the Resident Director of Aurat Foundation, a non-government organisation said. In all incidents, the attackers used a syringe to spray acid on the women's faces. Dawood stated that women were injured in acid attacks in Kalat, Dalbandin and Quetta earlier. “The assailants are still at large”, he added. In all cases, the victims’ families have dispelled the impression of any personal dispute or enmity. “We have no dispute with anyone,” Manzoor Ahmed, the brother of one of the victims told Dawn.com. Ahmed sits along with other grief-stricken relatives outside the Burn Ward of BMC where their loved ones were admitted. “My sister is innocent and she had covered her face while shopping,” Ahmed said. Mercifully it appears that the injuries sustained by those targeted are not of a very severe nature. But the message is terrifying for women, who are being made fair game if they choose to venture independently into the public domain. Ahmed stated that unknown militants had distributed pamphlets in Killi Kamalo where the women were attacked, warning the women not to come out of their homes. “Nobody considered it a serious threat,” he added. “Their faces are partially injured,” Dr Hidayatullah, a doctor on duty inside Burn Ward of BMC told Dawn.com. However, the facilities inside the ward were not up to the mark. Poor cleanliness coupled with inefficient staff was further compounding the problems of patients. Such incidents have spawned horror among the women in Quetta and other restive parts of Balochistan. Women in Mastung, Kalat and some parts of Quetta were forced to cover their faces or get accompanied by a male family member while walking in markets in the incidents aftermath. Attacks such as these have now forced women to be confined to their homes in troubled areas of Balochistan.
The district administration on Saturday sealed Cineplex, the only cinema in the federal capital located at Centaurus Mall, and arrested five of its employees for screening movies at ‘Iftar time’. The administration closed the cinema for an indefinite period under the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance, which prohibits screening of movies during Iftar and Taraveeh. The fun-starved people of the federal capital expressed their fear that they would be deprived of entertainment during Eid days as Islamabad has no other cinema. “Following a complaint by a citizen, we raided the Centaurus shopping mall and sealed Cineplex for showing film during Ramazan,” said Abdul Sattar Esani, additional deputy commissioner general. Sources said during the raid fear and panic gripped the people visiting the Mall for Eid shopping. It is relevant to note here that it was only entertaining place for around two million citizens of the federal capital. “At the moment, I can’t say when the cinema will be reopened. Besides fine, the cinema could be sealed for a maximum of six months under the ordinance,” Mr Esani said and added that cases against the arrested employees of the cinema would be registered under the ordinance. Islamabad used to have three cinemas: Nafdec, Melody and Sitara Market, which were closed due to various reasons, including riots, in which the Melody Cinema was burnt. “Being a citizen, I have serious concerns about the closure of the cinema. I will request the authorities concerned to open the cinema for Eid, as in the federal capital we have no alternative source of entertainment,” said Mohammad Ishtiaq, a frequent customer to the Centaurus Shopping Mall. Despite repeated attempts, the Cineplex administration could not be approached for comments.
Independent Election Commission (IEC) Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani announced on Saturday that the audit process would be suspended until the fourth day of Eid because an agreement has not been reached between the two candidates regarding the criteria to be used for recounting and invalidating votes. Nuristani said that the United Nations (UN) is responsible for resolving the candidates' disputes over the audit criteria proposal and then send it to the IEC. The UN went ahead and submitted its proposal for criteria to be used during the audit earlier this week after the candidates failed to agree on a mutually acceptable version. The camps of both Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah have talked about submitting their own suggestions for the UN's proposal separately. Earlier on Saturday, before the Eid delay was announced, Abdullah's team ordered a halt to the auditing process over what they claimed was the negligence of the IEC in selecting its audit staff, excluding foreign observers and failing to clarify articles 12 and 16 of the invalidation criteria. "The 12th article talks about the similar markings, but we don't know how many similar markings we will find in a bundle of 50, to make us question the ballot box," explained Aman, a member of Abdullah's campaign. "The 16th article states that the ballots of each candidate should be compared to the first round of the elections, which means it is the responsibility of the IEC to provide the ballots from the first round of elections," he added. For Abdullah, who caused a stir in the election process originally back in June when he accused election officials and President Hamid Karzai of engineering fraud in favor of his opponent, the importance of foreign oversight of the auditing process could not be overstated. However, for Ashraf Ghani's team, moving the process forward quickly seems to be the top priority. "Whether foreign observers are there or not, we want the process to continue," said Said Sadat Naderi, an audit observer representing Ashraf Ghani. Nuristani appeared in a press conference right afterward to announce the delay in the auditing process in light of the campaigns disagreements. "The IEC Commissioners decided to stop the process until both candidates have reached an agreement," Nuristani said. Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) claims that both candidates have agreed to the UN proposal despite their having some concerns. UNAMA submitted the proposal to the IEC and urged the commission to approve it and implement it right away. "The proposal is acceptable to us, but first both candidates need to accept it, we don't have any problem," Nuristani said. The current runoff process has seen one delay after another, having dragged out for over a month now and still far from over. Yet many experts see the auditing criteria as a tool for future elections as well, so the painstaking process of approving is possibly a longterm investment.
Asked for figures on the latest security force casualties this year, both ministries refused to provide data or confirm accounts from local officials. But there are signs that the casualty rate is already likely to be at least as bad as it was last year.
In one important indicator, the United Nations reported a 24 percent rise in civilian casualties for the first half of this year compared with a similar period from 2013, hitting a new peak since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began tracking the data in 2009. More significantly, for the first time, the highest number of those casualties came from ground fighting between the Afghan forces and insurgents rather than from roadside bombs.The United Nations found that more fighting was taking place near populous areas, closer to the district centers that serve as the government seats. Ground violence also seemed to increase in areas where coalition bases had been closed, as the Taliban felt more emboldened to launch attacks without fear of reprisal. One important effect of those gains, particularly where police forces are being driven away, is that the Taliban are establishing larger sections of lawless territory where they can intimidate local populations. They become safe havens, and staging grounds for more ambitious attacks against Kabul and other major cities, like the militant assault on Kabul’s airport on July 17. In the immediate vicinity of the country’s main cities, the Afghan military was still holding up well, according to American and Afghan commanders. But as more marginal districts have come under unexpectedly heavy attack, the military planners’ expectations have been tested. One widely accepted prediction was that soon after 2014, the Taliban would gain in rural areas and traditional strongholds, as the government made tough decisions about what to fight for and what to let go. Places of no strategic value in remote areas of the south and east, some officials said, could afford to be forgotten. But heavy attacks, and some territorial losses, are already happening in those places, earlier than predicted. On July 9, the Taliban overran a district center in Ghor Province, a rugged and violent area close to the center of the country, which left Afghan forces scrambling to reclaim it and smarting from the embarrassment. On Saturday, militants stormed Registan District in Kandahar, killing five police officers, including the district police chief, in a battle that continued into the evening.
The heavy fighting earlier this summer in northern Helmand Province, long a Taliban stronghold and a center of opium poppy production, was mostly expected. But the breadth of the Taliban assault, which is now said by locals to extend to four districts, has surprised many, and foreshadowed a more ambitious reach for the insurgents. The efforts of this fighting season have not been solely in the countryside, or traditional strongholds like those in Helmand. The Taliban have made strides in Nangarhar Province, home to one of the most economically vibrant cities in the country and a strategically important region. Surkh Rod, a district that borders the provincial capital Jalalabad and was safe to visit just three months ago, has become dangerous to enter.
“The difference is that five months ago there were more government forces here; now it is the Taliban,” said Nawab, a resident of Shamshapor village. Bati Kot District, too, has become more dangerous. Outside the district center, residents say, the Taliban dominate a crucial swath of territory that straddles the main highway leading from Kabul to the eastern border with Pakistan. Villagers living in the district say the Taliban force them to feed and house insurgents, and threaten to kill them if they refuse.
Much like Nangarhar, Kapisa is connected directly to Kabul, presenting a troubling threat for the government as it struggles to safeguard the security corridor around the capital. Trouble in three districts has been the focus of a concerted American Special Forces campaign to ferret out the insurgents, who many say appear more trained and disciplined than the average Taliban.
The command and control is incredible,” said one American Special Forces officer who has fought with his men in insurgent-controlled valleys in Kapisa. “They have found an awesome safe haven.” The biggest fear for the province stems from Tagab and Alasay districts. Though there is an entire battalion of Afghan soldiers in the area, the vast majority of the fighting and dying are done by the police forces. Two weeks ago, in the Askin Valley area of Alasay, insurgents surrounded a village where the local and national police had only recently taken root. Tribal and interpersonal rivalries fueled the animosity toward the police, but the consequence was clear: The government was not welcome. An estimated 60 insurgents surrounded Askin Valley and engaged in a gunfight with about 35 local and 10 national police officers in the area, according to police officials. The two sides fought for more than a week, with coalition aircraft entering the area to offer support for the beleaguered security forces. Eventually, the police were forced to retreat, along with hundreds of villagers. Two police officials in the area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, relayed the account. One, a local police officer, said the Taliban’s reach permeated the entire district, and the security forces were consigned to their bases, trying to stay alive. “The Afghan security forces are controlling the bazaar for one in every 24 hours,” the commander said. “From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., the police, army and local police come out of their outposts and buy what they need, then they go back to their bases.”
http://balochwarna.com/The Vice chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Mama Qadeer Baloch, appealed the Baloch nation and other human rights activists to join the protest on Eid Day. Qadeer Baloch said that the protest rally will start off from Quetta Press Club at 2pm on Eid Day. He requested the families of abducted Baloch and Baloch martyrs, political activists, student organisations and members of civil society to join the protest of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. Qadeer Baloch said: “This is an excellent opportunity to show our solidarity with families of abducted Baloch and those who have been killed & dumped by Pakistani security forces.” It is worth reminding that families of abducted Baloch have been protesting on every Eid Day since past many years to express their outrage over abduction and custodial killings of Baloch political activists by Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies. Voice for Baloch Missing Persons is a Human Rights Organisation comprised of family members and relatives of abducted Baloch activists. According VBMP Pakistani forces have abducted least 19000 Baloch since 2000 when Pakistani military dictator General Pervas Musharraf initiated military offensive in Balochistan which still continue unabated.
Qari Muhammad Ahmed Faridi said that he had led several campaigns against Ahmadis in the area and had served time for killing an Ahmadi person.Guests at an iftar party in Ferozewala village in Sheikhupura on Saturday (July 19) turned on their hosts, accusing them of blasphemy, and handed them over to the police on Tuesday. Police said that they had registered a blasphemy case (under Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code) against five people to placate a charged mob that staged demonstrations against them in front of the Ferozewala police station on Sunday and Monday. On Monday, police said the mob even broke fast in front of the police station. Advocate Kamran Naseem Batalvi told The Express Tribune that initially the police were unwilling to register a case but the mob forced them to do so. He said on July 19, Muhammad Aslam of Ferozewala village and his cousins organised an iftar party at his artificial jewellery workshop. Aslam had also invited Qari Muhammad Qamar who delivered a speech on the occasion and allegedly uttered derogatory remarks against Allah and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). He said after the iftar, Maqsood Ahmed, who was also invited, got together around 50 people and accused the hosts of committing blasphemy. Batalvi said the men forced entry into the workshop and beat up Aslam and other people there with sticks and clubs. Latif Ahmed Awan, one of the men being beaten up, tried to run away and someone from the angry mob shot at him. Elders in the area intervened and locked the victims in a room to keep them safe and called the police. He said the mob grew unruly and the police barely managed to take the men away with them.
Ahmadiyya TimesThe protesters marched on to the police station and demanded that the SHO register a case against the men under Section 295-C of the PPC. The SHO however told the mob that he would decide the matter after consulting the superintendent on Monday. The protesters were also joined by Qari Muhammad Ahmed Faridi, who had been performing aitekaf during the last 10 days of Ramazan. Faridi left the aitekaf and arrived at the scene. He told The Express Tribune that he had left the aitekaf so that he could eloquently argue the case for the mob before the police. He said that he had led several campaigns against Ahmadis in the area and had served time for killing an Ahmadi person. Faridi said that he had previously managed to shut down a school run by Awan’s brother-in-law Arshad. He said that people in the area had requested him to leave the aitekaf as the situation was dire. “I managed to have the FIR registered,” he said. He alleged that Latif was heading a sect introduced by Captain (r) Masoodudin Usmani in Ferozewala and also ran a school in the area. Faridi said that he would get that school shut down on the basis of the FIR. Rehmat Bibi, mother of Shabbir Ahmed, one of the suspects, told The Express Tribune that they were Muslims and had arranged an iftar party in good faith. She said the assailants had accused them of being Ahmadi and later said they were Parvaizis. She said, “We are Muslims and believe in one God.” She said six members of her family of 10 were in police custody after being severely beaten by the charged mob. She said first the guests attended the event and had dinner but later returned and attacked the hosts. She said he son Shabbir was on his way home from the market and had more than Rs50,000 with him. She said the mob snatched the money during the scuffle. She said among those arrested were Razzaq, Mansha and Usman Ali, who were nephews of her husband. She said Aslam and his father Muhammad Umar, Muhammad Qamar, Muhammad Qasim and Latif Awan were also among those arrested. Some officials at the police station said that the SHO had shifted the detained men to an undisclosed location and had not placed their arrest on record. SHO Rana Muhammad Azam told The Express Tribune that they were investigating the matter. He said they would bring on record the arrest of those found guilty. He said no one had been arrested or detained so far.
by Ali Abbas Taj
July 23rd, 2014 was a typical day for Shia Muslims in Pakistan. A senior lawyer and relative of prominent Shia intellectual, Talib Jauhri, was shot down by Deobandi terrorists on his way home in Karachi. A Shia family shot at in another part of Karachi where the mother succumbed to her wounds while her husband and son are holding on for dear life. In the outskirts of Karachi, another Shia business owner gunned down.
If this was not heart rending enough, a Shia youth was gunned down near a graveyard in D. I. Khan in KP. As per this twitter clip by Anser Abbas, Akhtar was the 27th member of his family killed by the Deobandi terrorist group ASWJ-LeJ and their allies, the Taliban! At this point in time, some of us have just run out of tears. But we must not stop our protest!
For decades, Pakistan’s intelligentsia, both right-wing Urdu writers as well as pseudo-liberal English writers have worked hard to obfuscate the ongoing Shia Genocide in Pakistan at the hands of Deobandi militants. Pakistan’s targeted Shia community, along with the Sunni Sufi, Barelvi, Christain and Ahmadi communities should not depend on this compromised and bigoted “intelligentsia” and their urban flatterers to inform the world about their suffering. They cannot expect this sectarian intelligentsia to be clear on the Deobandi identity of the perpetrators of this violence. Even a cursory look at Pakistan’s deeply biased and mostly pro Taliban media highlights how the Shia identity of the victims and the Deobandi identity of the perpetrators is carefully wiped out. Every institute in Pakistan, be it the politicians, the army, the judiciary and a mostly pro Taliban media is complicit in this. It remains to be seen if the army has rectified the course that has lead to this situation. The governing PML N is firmly aligned with the Deobandi terrorists of ASWJ-LeJ-TTP who are wreaking all this havoc. And they have the judiciary, media and most of the intelligentsia in their pocket. Civil society is more concerned about Gaza and most oblivious to what is happening in its own backyard. Meanwhile Pakistan’s Shias who are 15% of the country’s population continue to mourn their dead. - See more at: http://lubpak.com/archives/318224#sthash.KEgac0JQ.dpuf
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari patron in chief Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has expressed grief over demise of Majeed Nizami the most senior journalist and head of Nawa-i-Waqt group of publication and offered heartfelt condolence to the members of the bereaved family. In his condolence message, Bilawal said services of Majeed Nizami would always be remembered as he introduced new trends in journalism and raised the standards of the field in Pakistan through hard work and creativity. His death is a great loss to Pakistani media, he added. Bilawal prayed to Almighty Allah to rest the departed soul in heavenly abode and grant courage and fortitude to the members of his grieved family to bear this irreparable loss. staff report
The Express TribuneA cloth merchant in Madayan Bazaar has received leaflets purporting to be from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) warning him to shut down his shop and leave the area immediately. The leaflet also warned local women not to visit the markets and bazaars. According to local sources, the letter on a TTP letterhead was signed ‘Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah’. It was put up at the shop in the night by unknown persons. The businessman was told to ‘get ready for death’ if he failed to heed the warning. Locals in Swat say they have received threatening letters and leaflets, reportedly from the TTP, warning them to pay money or prepare for death. However, local activists and Village Defence Committee (VDC) members say some criminals are using TTP tactics to extort money. “Even if these letters are from the Taliban, it will not discourage our cause of keeping the peace here,” said VDC member Sher Ali Khan, a resident of Banr. “Now Swat is peaceful and no terrorist can enter it and if any terrorist dares to enter, he will be dealt with,” Khan said.
Over a year has passed since 3000 people looted and torched Joseph Colony, a Christian community in Lahore, over suspicion of blasphemy allegedly committed by a single inhabitant, while the police stood by and watched. Sawan Masih, the man the mob was after, was sentenced to death in a Sessions Court on the basis of the blasphemy charge. The government condemned the incident, promised compensation of Rs. 500,000 per family, and moved on. 190 families lost everything but their lives in a single instant, and even after a year, 30 families have not been compensated. The orchestration of blatant vandalism, and Sawan Masih’s “guilt” alongside it, were established on the basis of hearsay. Sawan Masih’s lawyer will appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but it won’t make a difference. Even if the allegations are proved baseless, his life will be under constant threat from people like those in the mob who destroyed the lives of the inhabitants of Joseph Colony. In a report released recently by the US government, Pakistan was found to use the blasphemy law more than any other country, with 14 people on death row for blasphemy charges. The government’s silence and inaction is perceived to be tacit approval, if not an active endorsement. And now, with so many victims of the Joseph Colony attack still left without compensation, there are questions that must be asked, and asked forcefully. Why has the then president’s word not been honoured as of yet? What conceivable delays could the government have run into? Officials have cited verification delays, but the verification of what exactly? How hard can it possibly be, how long can it possibly take, to verify the authenticity of victims’ claims; people who have lost all they had in barbaric acts of violence the state was helpless to stop? As the petition hearing filed by waiting victims is adjourned till mid- September, one is painfully aware that it is already far too late for a compensation that is fair.
Whatever its eminences and minions may say, the ruling hierarchy's decision to hand over Islamabad's control to the army for three months is absolutely unacceptable. This indeed is a wholly indefensible and an irresponsible act by every reckoning. The constitution may be allowing the hierarchy to call the army in aid of the civilian administration. But none of the conditions permitting this is obtaining in the federal capital presently. And not even the hierarchy's spin doctors with all the sophistry at their command can convince a deeply sceptical citizenry that the move was justifiable at all in any manner except for political impulsions. That is too apparent to take anybody with even a modicum of sense for a ride. And, then, our people are no simpletons or nincompoops. The hierarchy would really be stunned to know that not even the most gullible on the street has bought its touted mantra for taking this extraordinary step. Each and all over there are convinced that the hierarchy has been prompted on to this unadvisable move just to deal with Imran Khan's planned long march on the federal capital on August 14. And this has alarmed enormously not just a whole lot of the thinking people, but the commoners on the street as well. As he as yet stands adamant to go ahead with his intended march in any event, this could potentially put his political rally at cross swords with the army, if the hierarchy does go ahead with its plans to deploy the military at high-security zones and sensitive installations. And his planned venue for the rally does fall into this category. Yet more disconcertingly, quite a lot of the citizens view this in the context of the assertions coming out from various ministerial quarters of the hierarchy, alluding vaguely, though not so vaguely, that Khan as also Tahirul Qadri are acting the way they are at the behest of some powerful forces. What that means is not hard to know. It is all clear like daylight to the citizenry from one to all. Hence, not illogically, many a citizen senses a deep sinisterly-laid-out stratagem in the whole move, even as it is generally felt that the army may not be all forthcoming in its response to the hierarchy's call for the obvious politically underpinnings of the move. Surely, the army is all for fighting against the terrorists, militants and insurgents for the security of the country and for the safety of its people. But in all probability it will be deadly opposed to getting embroiled in the political fracas of our politicos, whether in office or in opposition. In any case, this hierarchy's call has drawn deep concern and apprehensions from all around. Its move is predominantly being viewed as wholly irrational, insane and potentially very baneful. Indeed, the very panicky way with which this hierarchy is reacting to Khan's intended rally is beyond comprehension. One is simply flabbergasted why it is in such huge jitters when it lays claims to a heavy mandate day in and day out. Perhaps, it is time for the hierarchy to understand that it is not a ruling clan that itches for tumultuous times. That doesn't suit it in any manner. It is only the opposition that looks for turmoil and turbulence, which do level up the ground for it to possibly reap political gains and dividends. For the rulers, it is peace, calm and tranquility that stand them in good stead to serve the masses and harvest tremendous political profits consequently. Furthermore, this ruling hierarchy must know that it is only in regimented polities and despotic autocracies where the people at the top of the state apparatus can have their way as they like. Not in a polity that is not under jackboots. And in such a polity, it is accommodation, compromise and consensus that work. This hierarchy should get out of its fond fantasy, propagated no lesser by sections of our equally pretentious and pseudo intelligentsia and commentariat, that the army has to live like a valet in subordination of the ruling political leadership. Not even in entrenched democracies the armies function like that. Nowhere are they voiceless and powerless entities. They have their roles as potent as all others have in their respective domains. And their voice is very decisive in security matters as well as in foreign policies all over. If this ruling hierarchy comes to terms with this pulsating reality, it will be at great ease, and so would be the polity at large. And one would have though very much wanted Khan not to make the august Day of Independence as the day of controversy, contention and division. Yet the ball is in the ruling hierarchy's court. It can let him have his rally where he had originally planned. And if the hierarchy is so intent to have a public rally of its own, it should choose some other venue. Why to put confrontation against confrontation and stridency against stridency? Let the day pass peacefully and harmoniously. His public rally would definitely pull no heavens down, if the ruling hierarchy is really so sure of its heavy mandate.
The government’s stated justification for invoking Article 245 and calling up the military to assist with security in Islamabad for three months is to prevent any retaliatory militant attacks. But there are reasons to be sceptical. One cannot just chalk up to coincidence the fact that this action has been taken at a time when Imran Khan is ready to descend on the capital for his Long March and Tahirul Qadri is threatening to bring down the government. While one is not privy to the intelligence the government may possess about imminent threats and there is certainly every reason to fear that the militants may strike at any point, surely the rest of the country is as susceptible to attacks. Yet the government has not felt the need to call in the army in Karachi or Lahore. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was quick to point out that Islamabad isn’t being handed over to the military and that troops will merely be assisting existing law-enforcement agencies. Even if that is the case, this action is an admission on the part of the government that civilian agencies are not up to the task of protecting us. Surely the government should be spending more on recruitment and training rather than relying on the military. Article 245 is a constitutional clause better left unused since it has truly frightening implications for democracy. The clause prevents high courts from exercising jurisdiction over any area in which the military is aiding the government. In theory the military could be used to use force against the PTI and its protesters under the cover of security and be shielded from facing any consequences for their actions. The PML-N needs to immediately vow not to do any such thing. After the killing of Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers by Lahore police in Model Town, the government should proceed with extreme care and wisdom. Having the armed forces patrolling streets is always an unwelcome sight and, as has been shown by the involvement of the army in the Karachi operations of the 1990s, it has the prospect of causing more damage than it prevents. The three-month deployment of the military in Islamabad seems excessive. Any benefits stemming from the decision may be outweighed by the likely problems it will cause.
With an increasingly tense security atmosphere in the country, the government’s decision to deploy the army for security in Islamabad is giving rise to speculations, apprehensions and very serious questions across the political and civil spectrum. The government formally asked the military to assist with Islamabad’s security on Friday under Article 245 of the Constitution that specifies that the armed forces, “subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so”. The Article also says that under these circumstances the directive cannot be questioned in any court and that high court jurisdiction of the subject area shall remain suspended until the military returns to barracks. Despite that, the deployment has been challenged in the Islamabad High Court. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has specified that the army had not been handed Islamabad’s security indefinitely but would be deployed for a period of three months under the supervision of the district management, though it would play the leading role in security operations with the support of the police. Chaudhry Nisar has recently been almost invisible after he complained of interference from other ministers in the workings of his interior ministry and the failure of peace talks with tribal areas terrorists left him isolated within the government and reportedly furious about being sidelined from important decisions. He now faces renewed criticism in the wake of the announcement for the government’s perceived failure to use the civilian law enforcement apparatus to ensure security in the capital. The PPP was especially critical of the decision, which they say is unconventional and unnecessary given that Islamabad is not under any more threat than other parts of the country. Their objections should also be seen in the light of the country’s past experiences with military involvement in civilian affairs. The military has not commented on the matter. It was ordered to secure the capital and it has, but if it has been ordered for political reasons, it seems unlikely it will allow itself to be dragged into the middle of the ongoing political rivalries. The timing of the decision is also responsible for setting off a veritable storm of speculations, coming as it does just days before Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is set to march on the capital on August 14 for a ‘final confrontation’ with the ruling PML-N. It is equally strange that contradictory statements have been issued by government representatives like Minister for Railways and Transportation Khwaja Saad Rafique who — in a clear reference to the rally — alleged that the army was deployed to prevent fasad (strife), while Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the decision was made “only to deal with terrorists and not to stop any political activity”. These contradictory stances have led to wild and inflammatory speculation at a time when the country faces multiple existential crises. One perspective is that the government is choosing to send a message to the PTI that it has the military’s support. If so, this is an exceptionally provocative and unwise way to do so. They forget Imran Khan is a stubborn man. The military has begun cordoning off and establishing check posts in the capital and the prospect of clashes between military personnel and PTI marchers is a new factor to be calculated into the increasingly risky August 14 scenario. In all of this, the government and the PTI seem to have forgotten that the country is fighting a war in which 60,000 people have been killed, and that just a few weeks ago terrorist attacks were bringing the country to its knees. A slight improvement in the security situation seems to have engendered undue confidence. The government has been conspicuous by its absence in governing the country but is very conspicuously playing politics and may be using the state’s resources to cement its own position, while Imran Khan and other detractors cannot seem to stop drooling at the prospect of greater power for themselves by hook or by crook. This pathetic state of affairs is as dangerous for the nascent democratic process as it is for the average citizen. Only time will tell if these shortsighted political polemics will result in greater tragedy than the country can bear, but they are unlikely to lead to anything positive.
BY now, it has become apparent that neither is the PML-N government particularly good at explaining what it does, nor does it seem to be too concerned about its lack of necessary communication with the public it represents. But that does not mean that opaque decisions taken by the PML-N are not of great significance to the public and more should not be done to induce its leadership to explain controversial decisions. With little warning and absolutely no debate, at least in public, the PML-N has opted to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution to give the army the maximal legal space to operate in the federal capital. But what has triggered the need for army-led operations at this point in the capital? Neither the generic — unspecified security threats — nor the specific — blowback from Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan — that has been offered so far is nearly close to being adequate. The questions are plentiful and serious. Why is only Islamabad specifically among all the cities and towns of Pakistan under the type of threat that requires such a dramatic escalation? Compared to the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence resources in many parts of the country, Islamabad surely has civilian resources that are reasonable. If the capital’s civilian resources are still inadequate, what has the PML-N done after 14 months of being in charge of Islamabad and nearly a year since a lone gunman humiliated the city’s law-enforcement apparatus by parading before TV cameras for hours near parliament? And what of the PML-N’s recent plan to draft in Rangers and special police squads from Punjab who can be seen patrolling the streets of Islamabad even now? Has the PML-N failed to protect Islamabad or has the threat escalated even further? There are few answers to be had at the moment, particularly since the once-again-active interior minister is loath to answer questions and the prime minister is on an extended summer break. Yet, there is another dimension to the army-in-Islamabad question that simply cannot be avoided in the circumstances: the politics of the PTI’s rally in Islamabad on Aug 14. Like it or not — and it is difficult to see how politicians such as the PML-N can boast of in its upper ranks can ignore the obvious — the political narrative surrounding the invocation of Article 245 for Islamabad will entail speculation about whether the PML-N is trying to pull the army close and use it as a buffer between itself and the charging PTI. Whether the speculation is true or not, surely, at the very least, the PML-N ought to have been more forthcoming about the size, scope and duration of the army deployment and the specific responsibilities it would have. Else, there is just speculation of politics trumping security.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday rejected Pakistan Muslim League-N’s call to bring in army in aide of civilian security set up, terming it a failure of the latter towards maintaining the law and order. In an official statement issued here today, the PTI’c Core Committee stated that it will not, under any circumstances accept the PML-N government’s invoking of Article 245 to invite the army in support of the federal government in Islamabad. “Democratic sitting govts do not resort to Article 245 as it effectively signals an admission of failure to govern and maintain law and order to protect the citizens,” it said, adding, ‘it is also a clear sign that the PML-N government is, in desperation, trying to hide its rigging in May 2013 elections and PTI's expose of the same, by seeking to use Article 245.’ The statement further said that if the PML-N government was seeking to place the PTI's Azadi March in direct confrontation with the army, that was a dangerous tactic. “PTI has always had a culture of peaceful protests and Marches.” “The army is a national institution not a tool for the PML-N to use against its political opponents,” it said and added that if the government thinks of using Article 245 again for Islamabad on August 14, PTI reserves the right to approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan. PTI's Core Committee, also pointed out that the PML-N's own Long March took place just before the Swat Operation and they then claimed it was their democratic right. No Article 245 was invoked at the time.