Tuesday, July 29, 2014
"The Palestinian people are our brothers and sisters -whether they are Muslim Arabs or Christian Arabs. Be assured we, the people and Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will never ever give up on them, we will never do anything to harm them, we will do all we can to help them in their rightful claim to their own homeland and return of lands taken illegally from them."Hardly was the ink dry on this official news release, when Prince Turki al-Faisal, Bin Nawaf's predecessor as UK ambassador, former intelligence chief and the brother of the current foreign minister wrote in al-Sharq al-Awast that Hamas was to blame for firing rockets and for refusing to accept Egypt's ceasefire plan (which would have disarmed them). This is Israel's and Egypt's view too. So which is it? Does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia support Palestinians in their resistance to the occupation? Or does it support the siege manned by Israel and Egypt, until Gaza is demilitarized? These are two clear policies -- support for the Palestinian resistance to the occupation and ending the siege of Gaza, or keeping the siege in place until all factions in Gaza are disarmed. Either Israel is engaging in genocide (strong words, Mr. Ambassador) or the resisters are terrorists who must be disarmed. Decide what it is you want the Kingdom to say. You can't say both. You can't swear allegiance to the Palestinians and give a nod and a wink to their killers. And are the kingdom's dealings with Israel really "limited to bring about a plan for peace"? You are privy to the cables, Mr. Ambassador. Tell us what passed between Prince Bandar and the Mossad director Tamir Pardo at that hotel in Aqaba in November last year. The Jordanians leaked it to an Israeli newspaper in Eilat. Were Bandar and Pardo: 1. soaking up the winter sun, 2. talking about the Arab Peace Initiative, or 3. plotting how to bomb Iran? And why are your new friends the Israelis being so loquacious? Why, to take the latest example, did Dan Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the UN 2003-08, say at the weekend that "representatives from the Gulf states told us to finish the job in Gaza time and again." Finish the job? Killing over 1,000 Palestinians, most of them civilian. Is that what you meant when you said "we will never do anything to harm them"? The carnage in Gaza at least gives the world clear sight of the protagonists. The wonder of it is that all are American allies, three have US bases on their soil and a fourth is a member of Nato. America's problems in the Middle East are more to do with their sworn allies than their sworn enemies. On one side, stands Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. They consider themselves the voice of reason and moderation, but their methods are violent -- the military coup in Egypt and the attack on Gaza have all happened in the space of 12 months. On the other, stands Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and its affliate Hamas. We should, however, talk of governments rather people, because one reason why the government of Saudi Arabia has such an extreme position on Hamas and the Brotherhood in general, is that it knows full well that its own people don't share their view. Saudi Arabia's leading pollster Rakeen found that 95 percent out of a representative sample of 2,000 Saudis supported the continuation of the Palestinian resistance factions. Only three per cent did not. Eighty-two percent supported the firing of rockets into Israel and 14 percent opposed it. The kingdom's hatred of Islamism stems not from the fact that it presents a rival interpretation of Islam. It is that it presents to a believer, a democratic alternative. That is what really scares the monarchy. The proof of all those secret Saudi-Israeli meetings is to be seen in the behavior of Egypt. It is impossible to believe that its new president Abdel Fattah al Sisi could act towards Hamas in Gaza independently of his paymasters in Riyadh. He who pays the piper -- $5 billion after the coup, $20 billion now -- calls the tune. Sisi sees Hamas entirely through the prism of the Muslim Brotherhood he deposed last year. Hamas is villified in the lickspittle Egyptian press as the enemy of Egypt. A trickle of aid has been allowed through the border crossing at Rafah, and it is sporadically opened to a few thousand wounded Palestinians. The Israeli Army is not alone in blowing up Hamas' tunnels. The Egyptian army announced recently they had blown up 13 more, a deed which earned them the title of being "a sincere neighbor" of Israel. Sisi is content to let Hamas and Gaza take a hammering, and make no efforts to get a ceasefire. The last initiative was not even negotiated with Hamas. Mubarak made a similar miscalculation during the 2006 incursion into Lebanon, supporting an operation which he believed would cripple Hezbollah. In the end he was forced to send his son Gamal to Beirut to express Egypt's support for the Lebanese people. Both the kingdom and Sisi know that dropping the Palestinian card is a risky business. Saudi Arabia is treading a fine line. According to my sources, Netanyahu's rejection of Kerry's peace initiative over the weekend was due in part to the full support of its Arab allies. Saudi Arabia's active support is keeping this brutal war going.
Taking down a party heavyweight has given the president clout not seen since Deng Xiaoping and energised his anti-graft fight, analysts sayWith the launch of the formal investigation into former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, President Xi Jinping has consolidated power in a way that eluded his predecessors. Xi would have needed a strong consensus among retired and sitting party elites before moving forward with the probe, which marks the first time a Standing Committee member or ex-member has been investigated for "serious violation of disciplines" since the opening up ear of the late 1970s.
Although the case sends a message the party will not hold anyone above the law, other past and current members of the committee were unlikely to become a focus of Xi's anti-graft campaign, analysts said. The president remains limited by the principle of collective leadership, which arose under Deng Xiaoping as a way to end the political chaos of the Cultural Revolution.
But a single case, especially one so high-profile, is enough for Xi, who is the general secretary of the party, to reinforce his message party stars can no longer use their power bases and state-owned firms to accumulate massive wealth - all with impunity. "The crux of the matter is that it shows how far Xi has consolidated his position as the leader of China," said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in England.
"Not quite a strongman like Deng Xiaoping , but certainly more than Hu or Jiang managed to achieve," he said, referring to former presidents Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin . "This puts Xi in a more powerful position than any leader since Deng." Xi would have needed a majority from the party elite before moving, and securing that backing might have delayed the announcement, Tsang said.
The South China Morning Post reported last August that retired and current leaders had agreed to the investigation at their annual seaside resort gathering in Beidaihe. But the delay in launching the official investigation suggests the complexity of the internal bargaining despite the downfall of one of Zhou's key allies, Bo Xilai , the former party boss of Chongqing . Analysts said the timing of the announcement indicated party elites had reached consensus on major policy issues before the Beidaihe meeting. "The announcement suggested leaders have finally agreed on major policy issues to be finalised at the summer summit at Beidaihe," said Zhang Ming, a professor of political science at Renmin University. The summit is used to discuss the agenda of upcoming fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee, which is said to focus on comprehensive law reforms to stamp out corruption and abuse of power. Analysts also pointed out that before the formal investigation was announced, the party had dismantled Zhou's power base, which spanned the oil industry, Sichuan province, the Ministry of Public Security and the legal affairs establishment.
Zhou was head of the China National Petroleum Corporation, then Sichuan party boss, and minister of public security before he was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee and put in charge of the police, courts and prosecutors.
The party's anti-graft agency has detained a dozen senior ministerial-level officials with close ties to Zhou. Analysts said the crackdown paved the way for Xi to revamp what he saw as the most corrupt sectors within the system - the state sector and security establishments. "It shows that politics has really changed in Beijing," said Dr Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney.
Brown said Xi might have felt the party's legitimacy was being eroded by members who treated official postings as an opportunity to get rich through their connections with state-owned companies. "I suppose rules always stand until the time when they are broken, and so just because there was this tradition of Politburo Standing Committee members never being prosecuted, that doesn't mean anything now," Brown said."Everything shows Xi regards using the party to make money for clans and networks with disdain. He seems to be operating with a higher political objective, so Zhou is very expendable on this reckoning … [as are the] retired, the networks already decimated by purges so far, and connected to a state sector dying from its own greed," Brown said. The question remains whether the Zhou investigation is a turning point in government accountability or intended merely as a warning to corrupt cadres." Only twice before has the Politburo Standing Committee targeted one of their own. In 1968, former president Liu Shaoqi was removed as deputy party chairman in a power struggle with Mao Zedong . Liu was replaced by Marshal Lin Biao, whom Mao stripped of power in 1971. Both Liu and Lin were ousted for political purposes, while Zhou is being investigated for serious violation of party disciplines. But for the 40 intervening years, the Standing Committee existed largely above the law. "If using the same criteria, other officials as senior as Zhou should be put under investigation," said Dr Xigen Li, an associate professor at the department of media and communication at City University of Hong Kong. Brown said Xi might feel it was precisely outsiders like Zhou with no family links to the history of the party who have corrupted and twisted its original mission and needed to be expelled. Overseas media have reported relatives of other party elites had amassed huge wealth. Last year, The New York Times said the family of then-premier Wen Jiabao controlled assets worth at least US$2.7 billion. Tsang said although Xi had built up immense political capital, he "very much doubted Xi is also targeting other leaders like Wen and Jiang at the moment". "If there is any real indication of that as a possibility, Wen would have worked closely with Jiang to block the detention of Zhou," Tsang said. "I do not expect other retired PSC members to be put in the same situation as Zhou." If that happened, Xi would be asserting himself as a strongman, violating the principle of collective leadership established in the post-Deng era. "Xi is asserting himself but he is not a strongman," Tsang said. Zhou's case sent a powerful message to rank and file members, as well as higher-up officials, that their positions and connections did not equal protection, said Dr Yuan Jingdong, a political scientist at University of Sydney. "This can also serve to divert or mitigate pent-up societal anger due to the growing gap between the rich and powerful, and the misfortunate and unfairly treated groups," Yuan said. "But to fundamentally redress the problems requires more than putting out fires; it requires introducing effective systems based on the rule of law, and a mechanism to monitor power."
July 2014 must be the darkest month in the aviation history. Three air disasters happened in eight days and 465 people were killed. Despite the varying circumstances of each crash, insufficient preventive measures is a common cause of the accidents. Zhang Qihuai, vice-president of Beijing Air Law Association, explained that frequent crashes are accidental, but with the development of civil aviation, the growth of the number of passengers and aircraft amortization may be the cause of aviation accidents. Zhang said that Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was aware of the typhoons and thunderstorms weather conditions, but instead of choosing an alternate airport, it carried out a forced landing. While the MH17 did not choose to avoid the war zone, and ICAO should also be responsible for not providing timely warning. Rainy season meets travel peak season "Weather and traffic are the important factors that affect fight safety," Zhang said. "July, August and September are travel peak season for students on summer holidays. With frequent rain and thunderstorms, they are the bad season for flight." With the increase in traffic, to ensure the normal operation, the airlines will also increase the capacity in two ways: extending the operational time of the current aircraft and putting the aircraft in maintenance into operation. "Some aircraft fly for an average of 16-18 hours a day, without stop. The probability of the accident has been largely increased," Zhang said. Lack of captains globally According to Zhang, there is a shortage of pilots, especially captains at global level. The captain and crew members are important to protect the safety of aircraft. "Shortage of pilots in peak season will result in the disorder in personnel arrangement. For example, we usually arrange a senior pilot to guide junior or fresh ones and choose the best pilots to fly over the difficult routes and areas. However we cannot apply it strictly during the peak season." In addition, Zhang thinks that fatigue of crews is also a problem. Some crew members have to fly three or four days without rest during the peak season. Flying overtime will also cause safety hazards.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on Kiev authorities to stop its military operation against independence supporters around the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday, citing a government representative. "The prime minister this morning called the Ukrainian president with a request to halt hostilities around the crash site," Jean Fransman said. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Rutte that he would take all measures “to allow investigators access” to the scene, according to the government spokesman. "Rutte expressed his concern about the fact it appeared the investigators may today yet again not reach the site. This is important because we want to get to the crash site as quickly as possible to get the victims and bring them home," Fransman said. Earlier in the day, a group consisting of Dutch and Australian specialists for the third time failed to reach the crash site near the city of Torez due to ongoing fighting in the region. On Monday, a spokesman from Ukraine’s National Security Information Center, Andriy Lysenko, claimed that the Ukrainian National Guard gained control over a number of cities in eastern Ukraine, including Torez. A total of 298 people, including 85 children and 15 crew members, died on July 17 as a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine. The tragedy claimed the lives of 193 Dutch citizens. The cause of the catastrophe remains unclear and the investigation into the circumstances is still underway, seriously obstructed by continuing clashes between independence supporters and the government forces in the region.
In the past two days Kiev’s forces have launched several short-range ballistic missiles into areas in east Ukraine controlled by self-defense forces, CNN reports, citing US government sources. The move “marks a major escalation” in the Ukrainian crisis, CNN said. “Three US officials confirmed to me a short time ago that US intelligence over the last 48 hours has monitored the firing of several short-range ballistic missiles from territory controlled by Ukraine government forces into areas controlled by the pro-Russian separatists,” Barbara Starr, CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, said in a live report. Short-range ballistic missiles can carry warheads of up to 1,000 pounds (450 kg) and are capable of killing dozens of people at a time, Starr said. A Moscow correspondent for another American television network, ABC, tweeted Tuesday that the Kiev forces fired three ballistic missiles at self-defense forces near the town of Snezhnoe (Snizhne in Ukrainian) in the Donetsk Region. According to Kirit Radia, this is what a US official told ABC’s Pentagon digital journalist Luis Martinez.
The CNN gave no details regarding the exact missiles’ launch and impact point. “In fact, the US is holding this information right now fairly tightly, officials say, because they are in an awkward position: these are, you know, the so-called ‘good guys’ firing ballistic missiles, Ukraine government forces,” Starr said on air.So far, there has been no official reaction from Kiev and Moscow. The question now is how Washington – which has strongly backed the Kiev government – will comment on the revelations, CNN’s correspondent said. Earlier this week, the US State Department released satellite images via email which it said act as “evidence” that Russia was firing rockets at Ukrainian troops across the border. Russia’s Defense Ministry stated in response that the “fake” images were created by American advisers “with close links to Ukraine’s Security Council.” “Will we see the satellite imagery of the Ukrainians firing against the separatists? That may be a very tricky political question for the US intelligence community today,” CNN’s Starr said. However, CNN’s correspondent in Donetsk, Nick Paton Walsh, said he had heard nothing of ballistic launches in the area and nothing of that kind has been openly discussed. He added, though, that it is no secret that both sides of the conflict were using “very heavy weaponry” against each other. Russian military experts say that if the Ukrainian military did use ballistic missiles, most likely they would be Tochka-U (NATO Designation SS-21 Scarab). Viktor Murakhovsky told RT that the military possibly used the missile against a fixed target, such as the militia’s staff headquarters. “I’m talking about the Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile on a wheeled chassis, which the Ukrainian army has in its arsenal. It’s a Soviet-designed and produced missile. It may have a high-explosive fragmentation warhead or a disintegrating warhead,” Murakhovsky said. Anatoly Tsyganok, the head of the Military Forecasting Center in Moscow, agreed that the Ukrainian army could have used the Tochka-U missile. The news broke amid growing tensions between Washington and Moscow over the ongoing violent confrontation in Ukraine. The US, giving strong backing to the Kiev government, has repeatedly accused Russia of supporting anti-government separatist forces in east Ukraine and supplying them with arms – an accusation Russia has strongly denied. Last week, US government officials claimed that Russia was firing artillery across the border into Ukrainian territory, but refused to provide any hard evidence besides some pictures captured by a civilian satellite, which were rebuffed by Russia’s Defense Ministry. So far the US has failed to back its statements with any trustworthy proof, mainly referring to some images, “commons sense” and social media. Charges and counter charges between the two powers have been boiling following the tragic accident with Malaysian Airlines Boeing-777 that crashed in Ukraine on July 17. The very next day after the incident, long before experts arrived at the scene and a probe was launched, President Barack Obama said that America had “increasing confidence” that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from militia-controlled territory. US intelligence said later that it found no direct link between Russia and the plane disaster. But, still, the blame-game continued with Russia being accused of “creating conditions” that led to the incident. A fresh bunch of accusations were thrown at Moscow on Tuesday, with Obama stating that Russia was not cooperating with the international investigation of the plane crash.
Russia on the contrary has been calling for a transparent and impartial investigation of the tragedy from the very beginning. Russia’s Defense Ministry presented its own evidence on the movements of Ukrainian military before and after the tragedy, including surface-to-air missile systems, and a fighter jet that had been tracking the civilian aircraft. During the press conference, Russian military posed a number of questions to Kiev and Washington answers to which could shed light on what really happened on that day and help the international investigation. Those questions however were left unanswered with western media and politicians instead blaming Russia of not willing to use its “influence” on anti-Kiev forces whom they accused of hampering the investigation despite the fact that it was Kiev’s forces who intensified the military operation in the direct vicinity of the crash site. On Tuesday however, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko finally said that Kiev is ready for a cease-fire at the MH17 crash site, as was demanded by the UN Security Council resolution on July 21. The local militia in the meantime confirmed they were ready to further cooperate with international experts investigating the crash.
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah said that if Federal Government cannot deal with 1.5 million people in capital city then they have no right to run this country. Government should take decision wisely rather to create chaos. Talking to media after performing Eid prayer, he wishes Eid to nation specially IDPs. He also showed his concern that who is behind Interior Minister he is unable to understand anything, we try to build good relations with government but Chaudhry Nisar ruined it every time, he added. Shah further said that If PTI chief Imran Khan wanted to register a protest along with his followers, let him do it as its his political right.
Talking about Article 245, he said it is made for extraordinary circumstances and applied when things get out of hands. Government should take all parties Talking about political hormony, opposition leader said that Governemt should take all the parties in confidence when these type of decisions need to be taken.
He predicted that the unbearable load shedding of electricity in the country would push government’s early demise because the people had lost all hopes of their ability to get rid them of the menace. He pointed out that the farmers in the country were most hit because they were paying more for the electricity which was not available and the agriculture produce had been suffering badly due to the water shortage. He said that the industrial sector especially the small entrepreneurs were devastated as the excessive and unscheduled load shedding had ruined their small businesses besides daily wage earners losing their jobs.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo said that during the PPP previous democratic government the it used to ensure three hours uninterrupted supply of electricity to the tube wells at affordable rates to meet the irrigation requirements. Now sporadic supply of one hour electricity to tube wells has caused acute water shortage and the resultant decline in productivity is like the economic murder of the farmers’ community, he added.
He said that the continuous shortfall of 7000 mw in the country was source of utter disappointment for the people of Pakistan because of the government had miserably failed to narrow down the gap between the demand and supply over the more than one year. It smacks of their claim of controlling it in months and not in years, he observed.
He pointed out that the present government had not added a single mw in the national grid and the Nandipur Hydel Power Project of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had proved the disaster of unimaginative proportion in terms of power generation and its competitiveness. He recalled that the PPP government added around 3400 mw in the national grid and the scheduled load shedding then was reduced to three to four hours. He asked the Punjab Chief Minister to compare the situation of his protest then near Minar-i- Pakistan by setting up a tent beating the heat with hand fan. His sense of righteousness is at stake indeed, he observed.
Those of you tanning or burning your skin this summer should stop — seek the shade, wear a hat and some sunscreen and, whatever you do, stay out of indoor tanning salons. It's a familiar skin-cancer prevention message, but it's coming from a new source: the office of the U.S. Surgeon General.
The call to action from acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, released Tuesday, says that skin cancer is a "major public health problem" and that too much exposure to indoor and outdoor ultraviolet light is a major cause. It comes just two months after the Food and Drug Administration announced it will soon require labels on tanning beds and lamps warning against use by anyone younger than 18. But more action is needed, because skin cancers in the United States, unlike many other cancers, continue to rise, the new report says. Nearly 5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancer each year, at a cost of $8.1 billion, the report says. About 63,000 cases are the most serious kind, melanoma, and about 6,000 of those cases are directly linked to indoor tanning, the report says. The report says ultraviolet radiation exposure from indoor tanning is "completely avoidable." In an interview, Lushniak said it is time for additional states to join the several that have banned indoor tanning by minors and the 44 with some kind of restrictions. The report also calls for individuals — of all skin colors — to follow the usual advice for minimizing sun exposure, including using sunscreen, hats and shade. It also says everyone from schools to businesses to urban planners have roles to play in providing shady spaces and making it easier for people to protect themselves. The report does not say we should all live in caves. "Enjoy the great outdoors," Lushniak says, "but take steps to protect your skin." There's some evidence some people are listening to some of the warnings: Indoor tanning use by teens dropped in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says 12.8% of teens younger than 18 admitted to indoor tanning in 2013, down from 15.6% in 2009. The World Health Organization called indoor tanning devices cancer-causing in 2009. The report "is a major step forward in the fight against the epidemic of skin cancer, but the value of this step will be measured in the follow up," says Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation. The Indoor Tanning Association did not immediately return a call for comment. In past statements, the industry group has disputed the WHO position that tanning devices cause cancer and has also said use by teens should be up to parents, not government.
Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Here's a small selection of the nasty things being said. On Monday, Israel HaYom, a Sheldon Adelson-owned free daily, published the following from Prof. Ron Breiman on its English-language Web site. Like a blind person groping for the ladder to climb down from the roof but instead falling down the chimney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the government he represents have not missed an opportunity to step in all the Middle Eastern potholes along their way. Kerry is imbued with good will, but this is not enough. Kerry and U.S. President Barack Obama suffer from a misunderstanding of reality in our region, as well as in other parts of the world. At Israel's leading liberal newspaper, Haaretz, Ari Shavit argued that Kerry had been reckless and suggested that any future Israeli ground operation should be named "Operation John Kerry": The Obama administration proved once again that it is the best friend of its enemies, and the biggest enemy of its friends. The man of peace from Massachusetts intercepted with his own hands the reasonable cease-fire that was within reach, and pushed both the Palestinians and Israelis toward an escalation that most of them did not want. That post came not long Shavit's colleague Barak Ravid published his take on Kerry's cease-fire plan, titled simply "What was he thinking?" Ravid tried to be kind to Kerry, but couldn't hide his anger at the article's end: If Kerry did anything on Friday it was to thwart the possibility of reaching a cease-fire in Gaza. Instead of promoting a cease-fire, Kerry pushed it away. If this failed diplomatic attempt leads Israel to escalate its operation in Gaza, the American secretary of state will be one of those responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled. On Sunday, Ynetnews the English-language Israeli Web site of Israel's most-read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, published an article titled "Obama's wars on Israel." The author, Guy Bechor, also singled Kerry out: This isn't the first time Kerry is caught smiling at Israel while inciting against it behind the scenes. But not just towards Israel. This is also a betrayal of the moderate axis of the Middle East – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – as well as encouraging and rewarding jihadist terror, and a betrayal of all the real American values. At the Times of Israel, a Web site that boasts of its independent politics, analyst Avi Issacharoff wondered if Kerry was "merely naive," or if the United States was now aligning itself with the Muslim Brotherhood. He pulled a dummy in the article's lede before launching into a criticism of Kerry: Despite the tendency to criticize US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts, credit should be given where credit is due. Over the weekend, Kerry did manage to facilitate something in the Middle East: unparalleled unanimity. Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were all in agreement that Kerry’s efforts were undermining the attempt to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as quickly as possible. Moreover, Kerry’s framework and the ideas he presented led to an extraordinary phone call taking place between a senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart, during which the two mocked the senior diplomat’s naivete and his failure to understand the regional reality. The Jerusalem Post's Herb Keinon noted that Kerry's ability to unite Israelis was really what was quite remarkable:
As Keinon noted, there were even reports that the Palestinian Authority had become exasperated with Kerry. An unnamed official was quoted in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper as saying that the PA leadership was angry with Kerry's attempt to “tamper with Palestinian blood and make it hostage to regional rivalries.” It all became so much that on Monday, the Obama administration was forced to push back against what it said was a "misinformation campaign” against Kerry. “It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Israel's ambassador to the United States spoke out too. “The criticism of Secretary Kerry for his good faith efforts to advance a sustainable cease-fire is unwarranted," Ron Dermer said Monday. But given that so many of the articles in the Israeli media mentioned officials speaking off the record, his attempt to distance the government may fall flat.It takes a certain artistry to irritate and annoy not only the Israeli left and the Israeli right at the same time, but also both Jerusalem and Ramallah.US Secretary of State John Kerry has found that artistry.
India and the United States will attempt to reset their ties during the upcoming visit by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. This week’s talks will be the first high level interaction between the two countries since a right wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge. For months, India-U.S. ties have grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons: Washington’s denial of a visa to the Hindu nationalist leader who is now India’s Prime Minister, and an ugly spat over an Indian diplomat’s arrest in New York last December.
But the mood is more positive as the Bharatiya Janata Party government prepares to host Kerry, for the fifth India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue which will begin later this week. The issue of the visa denial was set at rest after Modi’s election when the U.S. government reached out to him and invited him to visit Washington in September. Chintamani Mahapatra, a professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, , recalls that the foundation for a closer India-U.S. relationship was laid by a previous BJP government 15 years ago. He expects Modi, who is widely regarded as a pragmatic leader, to do the same. “Again the BJP is in power, they have history behind it, so they will improve relationship with the U.S.A with the sole aim of bettering India’s economic and defense capabilities and political credibility," he said. Indian leaders are expected to pitch for more U.S. investment and trade as they look to restore the economy to a high growth path. However, Manoj Joshi at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi points out that persisting disputes between the two countries over issues such as trade, protectionism and patents pose as roadblocks. “Indian expectations are basically on the development front, because the focus of the Modi government is really on the issue of economic development," Joshi said. "Right now India and the U.S. have a certain number of problems with regards to WTO (World Trade Organization) and issues of IPR (intellectual property rights) etc. Certainly the Indian side would be expecting that the U.S. can be more helpful in those areas.”
Observers like Professor Mahapatra remain optimistic. He says such differences exist between the best of partners. “These are going to be part of the process, they are not going to hurt, they are not going to break the relationship, but rather they will be part of the challenges that the two countries need to sort out through dialogue of the kind that John Kerry is going to hold," he said. In India concerns are also running high that the withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan could lead to a spike in terrorist violence in the region. Joshi says this is a potential problem for a government that is stressing the need for security in South Asia. “India has certain regional aspirations, certain regional policy, which the Modi government has been very active on," he noted. " I think certainly when it comes to countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the government of India would appreciate a U.S. policy which could promote stability in the region.” The venue for the India-U.S. Strategic dialogue was shifted from Washington to New Delhi to give American officials an opportunity to meet top leaders of the BJP government.
Most observers expect that the dialogue, to be held Thursday, will give some momentum to the relationship, but do not expect any quick progress.
President Obama participated at a Young African Leaders Presidential Summit Town Hall in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2014
By Muhammad Waqas When Sharif’s government came into power last year, it prioritized all efforts to overcome Pakistan’s nagging energy crisis. The worsening problem of power outages across Pakistan, lasting up to 18 hours in some regions, had crippled the economy and dampened manufacturing output, leading to industrial shutdowns and massive layoffs. Amid much fanfare, the government launched several new power initiatives that promised to pull out the country from shadows of darkness and revive economic growth. Some of these major initiatives included the Thar Coal and Dasu hydel power projects, and Bhasha dam. These projects were envisioned to increase the country’s power generation capacity in coming years and reduce its reliance on expensive, imported furnace oil for power generation.
However, recent media reports suggest that some of these projects are in a limbo. It has been reported that the commissioning of multi-purpose Diamer Bhasha dam has been delayed by about 17 years and it will now be completed in 2037. The project has been postponed as the relevant authorities failed to arrange required financing for its construction. Instead, a decision has been made to focus all efforts on early completion of Dasu hydel power project.
Given the imminent threat of acute water shortage and floods faced by Pakistan, the government’s decision may come as a big surprise. The Diamer Bhasha dam held strategic importance as it could have alleviated the country’s energy woes, while also averting floods and a famine-like situation due to water crisis. As a result of this delay, Pakistan may struggle to feed a rapidly-growing population, projected to touch about 260 million people by 2037. The country is already facing an acute level of ‘physical water scarcity’ and its mainly agriculture-based economy could face stunted growth in the coming years. It is feared that the project delay could prove to be a strategic mistake and pose an existential threat to Pakistan. The Nandipur Power Plant is another sorry tale of corruption and starting projects only to gain political mileage. At the time of inauguration, Sharif had launched a scathing attack on the ex-government for putting the project on backburner and termed its delay an “unforgivable sin”. Ironically, the project was shut down only after operating for five days and generating electricity at a record high cost. According to power regulatory authorities, the project did not meet technical and legal requirements for smooth operations and its premature launch was intended merely for political point scoring. Other recently launched projects such as the Guddu Thermal Power Station and a 1320MW coal-fired plant also suffer from gross mismanagement and not being fully utilized for power generation. Before the government signs further agreements to setup new power projects, it is advisable that focus is shifted to enforcing stricter controls and improving management of existing resources. In case the government fails to properly manage these projects, the country will continue to suffer from long spells of power outages and fail to turnaround its economy. The government should realize that any aggravation of the existing power crisis may put its authority and the country itself in a precarious situation.
Dunya News - ‘Green and Clean Peshawar’ claims... by dunyanews Claims of ‘Green and Clean Peshawar’ made by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK) have yet again been washed away by rain just before the Eid. Even the idea of cancelling municipality staff holidays has not worked. While the tradition of 2 Eids in Peshawar remains alive, heaps of garbage in the streets and roads of provincial capital also portray the same sorry picture. Garbage containers are filled beyond their capacity. It can be guessed by looking at these containers how long it has been that the municipality staff last visited them.
By Yousaf Ajab Baloch Threats to girls for abandoning education in Pakistan’s Panjgur district and in other areas of Makran, has unfortunately failed to gain media attention or response from International human rights organizations. Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan, is another Boko Haram in Balochistan, that has got forcibly closed down all private running schools and English learning centers in Panjgur district opposing coeducation and Western-style learning. In May 2014, Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan distributed pamphlets warning all private schools in the district to shut down girls’ education or to suffer the consequences. The pamphlets denounced female education as haram, an Islamic term referring to things forbidden. The intimidation by this militant group on May 7 has caused panic and closure of all private educational institutions for last two months in Balochistan’s southern district of Panjgur. The armed men of Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan attacked and burned a school van of the Oasis School carrying female students in Panjgur on May 14. The students remained unhurt but the attackers beat the school head Major (retired) Hussain Ali, who was driving female students to school. After this attack all private school owners had decided to shut down the schools for an indefinite time considering the lack of security Since the first day of receiving threats by militants, the students, teachers, human rights organizations and civil society are protesting against threats and demanding security. However, security officials made an announcement during a press conference in Panjgur on June 16 to reopen all non-government schools and English learning centers on June 23. Yet militants once again threatened to keep schools closed. Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan in terms of area but the least populated. Despite its natural resources, Balochistan is very backward; only 36 percent of girls are receiving an education and 44 percent of boys are enrolled in school. But Panjgur is marked with an outstanding position in Balochistan and Pakistan due to its quality education. This credit goes to around 30 private institutions, including schools and English language centers, in the district. Failure of government in reopening of schools and provision of security The government of Balochistan claims to have imposed an educational emergency in Balochistan. The government assured action against extremist elements threatening private schools in Panjgur. However, the teachers and students still fear vengeance from extremists. Even in a seminar held in Quetta, Balochistan, Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch vowed to fight terrorists. Senator of the ruling party Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo emphasizes that Balochistan’s issues can be resolved through education and he says that there is no restriction on girls’ education in the province. He underscores the need for at least 26,000 primary schools in the province. However, the reality differs with the senator’s statements when we see educational institutions being closed after threats by religious extremists and government fails to ensure security. Closure of schools a great menace The closure of schools by extremists is a great menace to the already backward region. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed this as the latest sign of extremism gnawing at the vitals of the country. HRCP in its official statement condemning the threats said, “These events intimidated most private schools — at least 35 private schools and 30 English language centers – and forced them to close their doors to about 25,000 students.” HRCP explains “The drive for stopping girls from going to school is not new in Pakistan – the attack on Malala Yousafzai is just the most infamous example – but it now seems to be spreading to parts of the country that had previously been spared. The Panjgur move is the latest attempt to deprive girls of education.” On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, an education and peace campaigner, faced a deadly attack as a result of her campaign for girls education in Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Answering a question to this writer on July 20, 2014 via email regarding school closures in Balochistan, Malala said “What is happening to girls in Panjgur, we faced in Swat from 2007 to 2009. When more than 400 hundred schools were bombed or burnt and girls were banned to be going to school. Children, especially girls need complete safety and security to continue their education. It is the responsibility of the government to make schools safe havens not a place of terror and fear. Both teachers and pupil must be protected from all terror and violence.”
Seventeen-year-old Malala has received the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. She has motivated thousands of women and leaders to educate women. Considering the issue a great threat Ziauddin Yousafzai, the UN adviser on Global Education urged: “We strongly condemn the closure of schools by the terrorist organization. The federal government, provincial government and the law enforcing agencies must take an action to ensure the girls come back to school and resume their studies.” Senior Baloch journalist Shahzada Zulfiqar wrote, “The people of Panjgur suspect that security forces are involved in supporting Islamist groups to punish the Baloch people, who are considered to have liberal inclinations when it comes to education. According to them, the military establishment believes that their liberalism is the root cause of the on-going separatist movement.” The rise of Talibanization and religious extremism in Balochistan is very alarming. The extremists’ moves against education – mainly girl’s education – are a great menace to the already deprived and backward land of Balochistan. It is the responsibility of the state to address the issue otherwise Balochistan may become Nigeria for another Boko Haram because the students and teachers’ lack security and are unable to continue their education. If the government, international community and human rights organizations keep silence over this burning issue and the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings regarding education remain uninterrupted, the moves of extremists will push Balochistan back to the Stone Age.
Recent weeks have proven that Afghans haven't quite embraced American democracy — or if they have, it’s the Florida-in-2000 variety.Afghanistan is, however, dealing with issues that are a bit more complicated than hanging chads. Right now the country is in the middle of a UN-supervised election audit that's the result of allegedly fraudulent votes cast during the recent runoff election between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. What’s clear is that the audit will decide the winner, who will be the next leader of Afghanistan. What’s not clear is what powers the winner will have, or what role the loser will play in the new government.
Under the plan brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the next president of Afghanistan won't have the same powers currently held by President Hamid Karzai, who enjoys the kind of dictatorial authority one typically associates with Nikita Khrushchev or Kris Kardashian. Instead, the next leader of the graveyard of common sense will share many of those powers with an additional executive officeholder along the lines of a prime minister. It’s a similar arrangement to what Vladimir Putin engineered in Russia so he could run for president a second time.
Given Karzai’s own ambitions, this approach could help him hold onto some measure of power. But whether or not that happens, the current arrangement isn’t a Karzai construct — it was orchestrated publicly by the United States. And while things may not wind up being as contentious between Kabul and Washington as they have been in recent years under Karzai, the days of an American puppet in the Arg are as done as Jose Canseco’s professional boxing career.Kerry’s latest deal in Afghanistan upends a key tenet of the current Afghan constitution: presidential power. Ratified in 2004 with the blessing of the Bush White House, the constitution gave Afghanistan’s senior elected official executive powers that would make Dick Cheney blush. Under the current constitution, the Afghan president has more executive authority than his American counterpart, part of an effort by the United States to control Afghanistan through its president. Which worked just fine — as long as the Afghan chief executive stayed pliable.
In 2004, Karzai was the best president American money could buy. But money corrupts and reconstruction money corrupts absolutely, and so everything had changed by 2009. Reports of corruption in the Karzai administration were becoming unavoidable, and the US decided Karzai had to go. Attempts to sway the election in favor of his main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, failed miserably, and America's relationship with Karzai was damaged beyond repair.Now it’s 2014, and the Americans are once again playing a central role in an Afghan presidential election. But this time, instead of helping to pick a winner able to wield his official power to shape the country in his image, the current deal reshuffles power in Afghanistan along more reasonable lines. What should result is a government more capable of compromise and less prone to cronyism; sharing power between the president and a chief executive lessens the sway of any single party. That's not to say personal power won’t play a role in the new government — it just won’t be as easy for one man to enact his own agenda.
Though the deal has been met with optimism, it’s too early to declare this an unqualified victory for Kerry and the Americans. Almost as soon as Kerry left the country, the audit process, meant to move Afghanistan forward into this new power-sharing agreement, hit the first of what promised to be many roadblocks — the latest popped up this past Saturday — as the candidates struggled to agree to terms for the voting audit. Last week, President Barack Obama urged both Ghani and Abdullah to publicly support the UN’s audit process, a not-so-subtle reminder of what had been agreed upon during Kerry’s discussions with the presidential hopefuls.Whether or not the Kerry-brokered agreement is going to be good for Afghanistan depends on what Ghani and Abdullah do next. If they agree with the audit results, regardless of who is declared the winner, there is the sense among Afghans that the country may be able to move past the American-engineered Karzai era. For Afghans, that's what this election has really been about, even though the story America wants to tell is that the election demonstrated Afghans are not afraid of the Taliban.
While Afghans see the value of the power-sharing agreement Kerry put together, they’re also concerned about American influence on the next Afghan president. And young Afghans in particular are not so sure that the next president will be any less corrupt than Karzai. There is a deeply held cynicism among many young Afghans, some of whom refused to vote because of perceived corruption. They don’t blame the current state of affairs entirely on the Americans, but they do insist that their country won’t be able to move forward on its own until the Afghan government is able to rely a little less on Washington for its survival.
President Hamid Karzai's powerful cousin, a close ally of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, was killed on Tuesday in a suicide bomb attack at his home, the governor's office in the southern province of Kandahar said. Hashmat Karzai was hosting an event for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at his home in the province when a man posing as a guest set off hidden explosives as Karzai greeted him, the governor's office said. The attack comes as the country is caught in a political deadlock over a disputed election to replace Hamid Karzai as president. A spokesman for the provincial governor said the bomber had been well dressed. "His style was very modern, everything was new, and when he came to talk with Hashmat Khalil and wish him a happy Eid, he blew himself up," the spokesman said. There was no claim of responsibility. Ghani, a former finance minister, and his rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, say the vote was marred by fraud, and the United Nations has sent a team of observers to oversee an audit of the ballot. The new president had been due to be sworn in next month. Major delays could complicate plans for an agreement to keep about 10,000 U.S. troops in the country after most troops leave at the end of 2014. Ghani, a former World Bank official, condemned the killing of his adviser. "(We) condemn this act, of the enemies of AFG, in the strongest terms," Ghani wrote on Twitter. No one else was killed and security agents were investigating, the governor's office said. The two candidates agreed to an audit of all the vote's cast in a second round run-off after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a deal, but the process is moving slowly, bogged down by frequent disagreements.
It was on a warm October day that human rights activist Noel Alfonce received a call. A man simply asked him to stop his work or his 10-year-old daughter would suffer the consequences. With a heavy heart, nearly six months later, he left his home and country behind for good. “I wouldn’t have been bothered had they threatened me, but when it comes to your children, you sometimes have to take harsh decisions,” said the balding man, speaking over the phone from a busy marketplace in Bangkok as Thai announcements blared in the background.
The ‘crimes’ that forced him out of the country were helping victims of forced conversions and their families and visiting the burned down and bullet-riddled churches after they were attacked. His actions irked the wrong people, and Alfonce, who had been working at the National Commission for Justice and Peace for the last four years in Karachi, had to wind up his work and leave.
Mass migrationThere are no official figures but community members and activists say that thousands of Christians have left Pakistan and are seeking asylum in other countries. From Karachi, many Christian families have fled silently; from Dastagir, Pahar Ganj, Mianwali Colony, Akhtar Colony and Essa Nagri. A majority of them opt for Thailand, which offers cheap airfare and easy access to tourist visas. “Apart from personal attacks and threats, the Badami Bagh incident in Lahore and the church bombing in Peshawar have led to an increase in migration of Christians. Unemployment and lack of security are making them leave,” said former parliamentarian and minority representative Michael Javed. But Alfonce, whose bike was riddled with bullets when he spoke against a church attack in Karachi’s Mianwali Colony in 2012 and received death threats in September of last year after he condemned the killing of a Christian accused of blasphemy, has no one to share his grievances with. “Who do I complain to? The government has no writ and it is the terrorists who are in control now,” he said. With a quivering voice, he added, “I don’t know what I will do when my savings run out next month. I don’t know how we will survive.” Preparing to move For several months, 40-year-old Aslam Masih, a sweeper at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, had made up his mind to emigrate. Last December, when a PMT crashed down near his house in Taiser Town, plunging the Christian colony into darkness, his decision was made. “We had no light, no gas, no water. We had no better jobs. We were living like animals,” he said, also speaking from Thailand over the phone. A pastor, Moazzam, who had helped several Christians move to Thailand, was contacted and paid Rs100,000 to arrange for the travel of six family members of Aslam; for their visas, their tickets and their documentations. In order to arrange the amount, Aslam sold the house that he had built on the plot he received from authorities after being relocated from Lyari. His father, Mahar Bahadur Masih, who decided to stay back in Pakistan, did not want his son to leave. “I tried to stop him but he would say to me, ‘Bhool jaye Pakistan ko [Forget Pakistan]‘. Now my other son wants to go as well. I have no incentives to offer them in order to try and stop them from going.” In the gutter-ridden lanes of Essa Nagri, Pastor Rafaqat Sadiq of The United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan has written five support letters and sent several emails to churches in Thailand. “I issue letters to the families that have migrated so that our churches there help them with accommodation and food,” he said. To strengthen their cases, asylum seekers sometimes also get fake cases registered at police stations, bribing officers Rs20,000 to do so, claimed Sadiq.
Life in Thailand is no bed of roses
Christian representatives in Thailand claim that there are 10,000 registered Pakistani asylum seekers, a majority of them Christians and the remaining mostly Ahmadis and Shias. But life in the country famous for its beaches and tourist spots is far from rosy for asylum seekers. Upon reaching Thailand, they file an asylum application to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and then wait patiently. They live in single-room apartments, or condos, often in cramped and crowded areas of Thailand.
“Life is not easy at all. We are stuck here. We can’t work. I have seen Pakistanis begging on the road, asking money from foreigners. The asylum process takes a very long time,” said Alfonce. The former human rights activist, who is volunteering at a church school, has an interview set with the UNHCR in February 2016. He has been lucky; people have been known to be given dates in 2019. “After the interview, the UN will decide whether we qualify for asylum in another country or not. Till then, we are to support ourselves on our own,” he said. With the visit visa lasting only two months, people often dodge the Thai police, or pay bribes, in order to avoid being arrested for illegally staying in the country.” Seventeen Pakistanis were arrested just last week and sent to an Immigration Detention Centre,” he said. But for some, the harsh conditions are still preferable to those in Pakistan. Aslam’s eldest daughter, Parveen, who has a technical diploma, said that she can easily go out with her sisters and travel freely. “There is no danger to our lives here. I feel safe here. I don’t want to go back,” said Parveen. Hoping for a better life With many of the minority’s migrants being social workers and pastors, a human rights activist, also wants to leave. “My husband faced a blasphemy case when the landlord accused him of discarding Islamiat books. The case was settled when our neighbours supported us. But this is scary and alarming. I want to leave now,” said the Christian woman, not wanting to be named. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Zohra Yusuf said that the state has failed to stand up for minorities. “It is unfortunate and sad that the minorities are leaving the country as they are being persecuted.” On the other hand, former parliamentarian and minority representative Michael Javed feels that incidents of Christians leaving the country are not being given importance. “When Hindu families were leaving Pakistan, everyone was raising the issue. But why are they silent over our migration? Are we not also citizens of the country?”
Human rights groups in and outside Pakistan are condemning as “brutalization and barbarism stooping to new lows” a mob assault on a minority Muslim community that left at least three people dead and burned many of their houses. Attacks against minorities have spiked in the country in recent months. Police in the eastern city of Gujranwala say the violence erupted late Sunday, after claims a member of the minority Ahmadi community had posted blasphemous material on Facebook. Local police say the dead included a 55-year old woman and her two granddaughters. Several other women and children are reportedly under treatment in a local hospital for “serious burn injuries.” A spokesman for the Pakistani minority community has rejected the blasphemy allegations as “completely false,” alleging “local police stood by and watched the massacre.” Police have denied the charges. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has condemned the incident as “shocking and disgusting.” It has demanded authorities conduct a thorough probe to find out why police failed to prevent the mob attack.
The commission added that torching women and children in their houses simply because of their faith represents “brutalization and barbarism stooping to new lows.” Mustafa Qadri of London-based Amnesty International says it demands that those responsible for the “deeply shocking” violence be brought immediately to justice.
“It seems like in this case either the police were unable to or unwilling to protect the community and because of that people died and many people were injured," he said. "And that just demonstrates firstly the failure of the Pakistan state to protect people from these situations, but also the risk of the blasphemy laws to the law and order and social cohesion in Pakistan.” Rights activist blame among other things the country’s blasphemy laws for growing violence, particularly against Pakistani minorities. They maintain the laws are used indiscriminately against Muslims and non-Muslims and violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and thought. Sunday’s attack is said to be the worst violence against Ahmadis in Pakistan since simultaneous extremist raids on their places of worship four years ago killed nearly 90 members of the community. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistan laws declared them non-Muslims in the 1980s, a primary reason observers cite for violent attacks against the community.
How a ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post led to the killing of this Pakistani family and why nothing stopped it
When the outcome is as terrible as this, it seems almost unfair to the dead to begin their story not with their demise, but at the beginning. Especially when the beginning involves something as trivial as a Facebook post. Sometime on Sunday, an image of a semi-nude woman atop a holy monument in Mecca materialized on the Facebook page of an 18-year-old man belonging to an Islamic religious minority, the Ahmadi. News quickly filtered through the majority community, the New York Times reports. The marauders first numbered in the hundreds, but soon swelled to encompass around 1,000 members who looted, threw stones and set multiple houses ablaze in the eastern Pakistani city of Gujranwala. The Facebook post, they said, was “blasphemous” — and someone was going to pay. But ultimately, it wouldn’t be the young man, Aqib Saleem, who was left unharmed in in the riots. It would be the women. It would be one Ahmadi grandmother. It would be her two Ahmadi granddaughters — one age 7, the other 8. They had been trapped inside one of the burning buildings and died there of smoke inhalation, according to the New York Times. It would be the unborn child of another Ahmadi woman, who had been pregnant seven months and miscarried during the riots. In a religiously intolerant Muslim country, where an accusation of blasphemy can loose riots against religious minorities, it was unclear Tuesday morning whether the mob had its facts right. Observers suspected the teen’s password had been stolen and someone had surreptitiously planted the “blasphemous” picture. “The people who were killed were not even indirectly accuse of blasphemy charges,” explained the chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in an interview with the Times. “Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalization and barbarianism stooping to new levels.” But there’s nothing necessarily new about such “brutalization.” Accusations of blasphemy play a dark role in Pakistani society, abetted by a politically popular law that prescribes death for insulting Islam. Often manipulated to suppress religious minorities and settle scores, human rights groups say accusations of blasphemy can lead to lengthy prison terms, a death sentence, and vigilante killings — regardless of evidence. Human Rights Watch reports that “thousands” have been charged under the blasphemy law since its implementation and 18 people are on Pakistani death row for it. Others, however, never make it to court. “There is a fanaticism and intolerance in society, and such people never consider whether their accusation is right or wrong,” Rashid Rehman, an attorney who has defended those accused of blasphemy, told the BBC earlier this year. Rehman, who reportedly for his efforts was shot dead at his office in May, said defending someone facing those charged was like “walking into the jaws of death. … People kill for 50 rupees. So why should anyone hesitate to kill in a blasphemy case?” Some will also not hesitate to kill to protect the blasphemy law itself, which General Muhammud Zia-ul-Haq passed in 1984 in an effort to unify the country under one religious banner. In 2011, an outspoken secular politician named Salman Taseer denounced the blasphemy law after one Christian woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy. “I was under huge pressure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy,” he would later tweet. “Refused. Even I’m the last man standing.” In early January, his bodyguard pumped several bullets into Taseer in daylight at close range as he climbed out of his car, killing him. Afterward, his bodyguard explained he did it because of Taseer’s opposition to the blasphemy law. Days later, Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani reaffirmed his support of the blasphemy law and said there would be no changes to it. In the years since, rights groups say, the number of blasphemy accusations have skyrocketed. According to Reuters, there was only one accusation of blasphemy in 2011, but in 2013, there were 68. Already this year, around 100 people have been accused of blasphemy. In that time, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore in northeast Pakistan was attacked by a mob following an allegation of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan. “Houses were set on fire and household goods looted and burnt,” the group reported. Then something strange happened that allegedly recurred again in Sunday’s tragedy. The police did nothing. “Police admitted that it had failed to assess the gravity of the situation, but said that as a precautionary measure it had evacuated the locality,” the group said. “When the aggressive mob moved toward the police officials they had to take refuge. … With police running for their lives, the mob had an open field to create havoc.” On Sunday, some residents said the police did little to quell the riots that would ultimately claim the lives of one woman and two girls. “A lot of policeman arrived but they stayed on the sidelines and didn’t intervene,” one resident told Reuters, though police dispute that. Police told the New York Times that they had registered cases against the 400 attackers, though it was unclear Tuesday morning what the next step would be. “As things stand, even an accusation of blasphemy can mean prison, death or exile,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, once said in a statement. “…Killers remain free while those engaged in peaceful expression are targeted by the state and extremists.”
http://pakobserver.net/The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has slammed the mob attack and killing of four members of the Ahmadi community in Gujranwala and burning of five houses as “brutalisation and barbarism stooping to new lows”. In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: “HRCP is shocked and disgusted at the killing of four citizens belonging to the Ahmadi faith in Gujranwala after a blasphemy allegation. Four other Ahmadis were reported to be hospitalised in a critical condition. As things stand in the country now, particularly in Punjab, a blasphemy charge, however unfounded, makes such cold-blooded killings somehow less repulsive. The people who were killed were not even indirectly accused of the blasphemy charge. Their only fault was that they were Ahmadi. Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalisation and barbarism stooping to new lows. “The community, rights respecting citizens and civil society would and must demand accountability of the mob that cheered as the deceased and injured cried for help. But if prospects for such justice were even remotely realistic, that might have deterred many in the mob from being a part of the heinous enterprise. There are many others who are so blinded by their hate and intolerance that they feel justified in cold-blooded murder, even of children, as was reported from Gujranwala. What agonises HRCP is that nothing concrete is being done to tackle neither of the two tendencies. That the mob was dancing for the TV camera after torching the houses of people who were not even accused of blasphemy proves that the whole episode had nothing to do with blasphemy but was aimed at further victimizing an already persecuted community. It should not be too difficult to imagine the feelings of members of the targeted community in Gujranwala, or anywhere in Pakistan for that matter. “HRCP calls for a thorough inquiry to find out why police failed to act as the mob went around a number of Ahmadi localities before they eventually chose the one that they decided to target. Members of the mob and the people who instigated them need to be identified and brought to justice. Most importantly, the biases and intolerance that led to the killing must be rooted out through proactive and meaningful steps if we are to survive as a civilised society.”
Should those who joined Pakistan of their own free will, and the Quaid-i-Azam welcomed those 'brothers from across the border', be treated as political orphans and step-children of the state? This question, however, remains unanswered. Since 1947, the seven agencies comprising the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata), have been ruled as a colonial era colony by retaining their repressive administrative and judicial structures. It has representation in the national parliament - 12 MNAs and 8 Senators - but they cannot do any legislation for the people they represent. Off and on there are discussions and debates at various national platforms to introduce reforms necessary to bring the residents of Fata into the national mainstream, but things remain as they are. Now when military action in North Waziristan Agency has displaced a large number of persons the issue of reforms for tribal areas has come to the fore. As if upstaging all other political parties who of late had endorsed an 11-point reform agenda the PPP submitted a draft resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat seeking powers for the parliament to make laws for Fata. The resolution is expected to be taken up next week when the house opens its next session. Not that the other parties were not interested in going for such a resolution but they were intrigued by the PPP's going alone. Maybe by being the first to support the reform agenda the PPP leadership wanted to deflect public notice from the Sindh government's not-so-warm welcome of the IDPs. But now that the first step has been taken in that direction its follow-up should be earnestly executed, for given the flow of events in tribal areas the time has come that this huge injustice to the people of Fata is undone once and for all. Once the military operation is over there would be the need to restore civilian administration, and an appropriate opportunity to wind up the more than one hundred-year-old colonial era governance system. Only by obtaining rule of law and extension of civil and political rights to the residents of Fata can the challenges of militancy, extremism and poor governance be effectively dealt with. The first step in that direction should be an amendment to Article 247 of Constitution which places the Fata agencies under the direct control of the President who 'may, from time to time, give such directions to the Governor of a province relating to the whole or any part of Tribal Area within the province as he may deem necessary'. The same Article also mandates that 'No act of Parliament shall apply to any Federally Administered Tribal Area ... unless the President so directs'. Ideally, the Fata should be declared as a province with its own elected assembly and independent administration, which may require a referendum to clinch the issue. Otherwise, it should be extended full provincial rights by merging it with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; and it may have its own members in the provincial assembly which should be fully competent to legislate for Fata. At the same time the notorious Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) 1901 should be repealed in its entirety, replacing it with Pakistan's Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in line with Article 8 of the Constitution which holds void any law inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights. The government should also dismantle the undemocratic system of patronage driven by political agents, empower the man in the street by introducing local government, and create and sustain environment for the people's economic betterment. The case of Fata brings to one's mind the remarks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who, in his The Valley of Fear, said: "It was a tall order, that; as the bridge was up there was no other way."
In yet another incident of religious violence in Pakistan, three members of an Ahmadi family were killed and at least eight others injured when an angry mob set fire to their houses in Gujranwala. The deceased include two children, eight-month-old Hira and five-year-old Kainat, and a woman named Bashira Bibi who was 30. Another woman of the family suffered a miscarriage. Allegedly, a male member of the community had shared a blasphemous picture on Facebook that started the episode which has become all too familiar by now. A member of the minority community is accused of blasphemy, religious zealots gather to deliver justice, the mob loots and plunders while law enforcement agencies watch with indifference, and finally the accused are either killed or forced to abandon everything and leave forever. Those who attempt to defend the victims of religious persecution often fall victim to the same barbarity. The murder of human rights advocate Rashid Rehman two months ago is only one of the many examples. It has taken a lot of work and effort for the country to discover one low after the other. Its people have undergone decades of consistent state-sponsored radicalisation. Its legislature has passed laws which have directly contributed towards marginalising communities and creating a favourable environment for witch-hunts and mob brutality. Its judiciary has chosen to reserve co-operation and justice mainly for the aggressors. Its law enforcement agencies have not only turned a blind eye towards heinous crimes against Pakistani citizens, but also lend a helping hand to the familiar perpetrators from time to time. Its armed forces have offered patronage to militants. Its media has offered unlimited space to hate-mongers. Its political parties have either provided cover to miscreants to gain their support or played deaf to the plight of targeted communities. When all of this has gone on for decades and is still prevalent, what happened in Gujranwala was inevitable, and it is bound to repeat itself. Editors, academics, human rights activists, judges, law enforcement personnel, politicians – no one enjoys immunity against mindless violence carried out by self-righteous bigots in the name of religion. The state has taken power from people and given it into the hands of their killers. Too many Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Shias, Ahmadis and others have been killed or forced out of the country. Pakistan cannot flourish in a culture of hate and discrimination. Its minorities cannot be allowed to be treated as lesser Pakistanis or lesser human beings. Blasphemy laws must be repealed to prevent further persecution. And those guilty of killing women and children in Gujranwala must be made to pay for their crimes no matter what their motivations or affiliations.