Wednesday, July 30, 2014
China’s Special Envoy for the Middle East Wu Sike affirmed that finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria will contribute in spreading peace and stability in the region and the world as a whole. Chinese News Agency (Xinhua) quoted Wu as saying in a press conference that the deteriorating situation in Iraq threatens all other countries of the world, adding that what is happening in Iraq could not be separated from the crisis in Syria. He called on the international community to abandon the double standards regarding countering terrorism.
The Chinese official also called for supporting Iraqi government, stressing that China is confident in Iraq’s various sides’ ability to boost cooperation to overcome the current difficult conditions.
A strong desire to leave a legacy comparable to that of Deng Xiaoping and a sense of crisis over the survival of the Communist Party are driving President Xi Jinping's relentless fight against corruption, say people connected to the party's inner circle. The president will use the crusade against corruption to sweep away resistance to his ambitious reform agenda, as entrenched interest groups have become too powerful and are reluctant to change, they say. Xi, who greatly admires Deng, wanted to become a leader in a similar vein, who could lead China into a new era of reform and growth, said sources including senior officials and "princelings" - the children of former high-ranking leaders. They said Xi identified himself strongly as a member of the princeling group and saw it as his mandate and mission to revive the party, whose ruling bases have been eroded by rampant corruption and bureaucracy. "Xi is inspired to claim his own place in history as one of the party greats. To achieve this, he needs to consolidate power and weaken the resistance to reforms," said a princeling who has known the president for decades. "He [Xi] could take it easy by finishing his time in office without making any major change, just like his predecessor [President Hu Jintao ] did. "But he chose a more difficult path because of his strong sense of responsibility as a son of the revolutionaries." The president's father, Xi Zhongxun , who died in 2002, was a party elder who helped establish the People's Republic in 1949 and later led the vanguard of Deng's economic reforms in the late 1970s. While both his predecessors launched anti-corruption campaigns in the early days of their presidencies, Xi's drive is unprecedented. On Tuesday, China broke the decades-old political taboo of not prosecuting the highest-ranking officials for corruption by publicly announcing a probe into former security tsar Zhou Yongkang . Just a month ago, the leadership under Xi expelled a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou , from the party for corruption.
The release of a video allegedly showing a group of jihadists gathered for prayer in the rural part of Istanbul has sparked concerns in Turkey.
The video has prompted deputy Sezin Tanrıkulu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to question whether the gathering took place upon consent from both the police department and the Gendarmerie Command.
“Is the claim that the group alleged to have been the Turkey-branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] has been allocated a campground or other places in Istanbul? Who is this group? Of whom does it consist?” asked Tanrıkulu in a motion filed to the parliamentary speaker’s office on July 30 in order to be answered by Interior Minister Efkan Ala.
Tanrıkulu asked for the locations of the camps if the claim was true and added: “Where is the field where the group, alleged to be the Turkey-extension of ISIL, used for holiday celebration that it organized in Istanbul on July 28, to which hundreds of people attended, as openly seen in the photographs?” The related video was released through a Turkish website administered by a group apparently close to ISIL. According to the website, the group gathered in the rural part of Istanbul for prayer and celebrations on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, July 28. Tanrıkulu also asked whether it is true that the group “declared jihad in Turkey on July 28,” and whether the field in the footage was being used by the group for military training.
“Did the organization ask for permission, arranged in the name of holiday celebrations? Which authorities granted the group official permission? Why weren’t these people directed to mosques for Eid prayer, but were let to organize a holiday celebration in a field? What were the Istanbul Provincial Police Department and Provincial Gendarmerie Command doing during the hours when the group, which is the extension of the ISIL terrorist organization, was calling for jihad in Istanbul? Is it true that Istanbul Provincial Police Department and Gendarmerie Command were ordered not to interfere when the group, the extension of a terrorist organization, was calling for jihad in Istanbul? Who gave these orders?” Tanrıkulu asked. ISIL recently renamed itself simply as the Islamic State (IS). The IS stormed the Turkish Consulate-General on June 10 and has since been holding all 49 there hostage, including Turkey’s Consul General Özturk Yılmaz.
Soldiers of the Iraqi army have been engaged in heavy fighting with the militants on different fronts and have so far been able to push back militants in several areas. Maliki has said Saudi Arabia and Qatar are responsible for the security crisis and growing terrorism in his country, denouncing the Al Saud regime as a major supporter of global terrorism.
An Islamic State fighter, who is in Ankara for medical care, told a Turkish journalist that since the war in Syria began, the “AKP government has helped us a lot.” The Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor of MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) exclusively provided The Jerusalem Post with a report on Tuesday based on an interview of the fighter by journalist Deniz Kahraman from the left liberal Aydinlik and the OdaTV website, in which the fighter says that Turkey had a crucial role in the group’s advance. The Islamist AK Party is headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place. It [Turkey] showed us affection. Large number of our mujahedeen received medical treatment in Turkey,” said the Islamic State fighter. “We do not have the support of Saudi Arabia, but many Saudi families who believe in jihad do assist us. But anyhow, we will no longer need it, soon,” he said. "We will build the Islamic state in the territories from Tigris to Jordan and Palestine and to Lebanon. Sunni Law will rule,” he added. The Islamic State fighter explained his personal history, how he has been fighting with jihadist groups for the past 12 years, first taking part in fighting against the Americans in Fallujah, Iraq. He told the Turkish journalist how he had established a relationship with al-Qaida in Iraq and trained in small groups, learning to fight, gather intelligence, Islamic jurisprudence, and politics. “I joined the system of cells in 2010 and moved into Syria in 2011. At that time, all groups fighting against Assad were joining forces. We fought on multiple fronts with different groups and under different commanders,” he said according to MEMRI. “But when the lack of faith among the Free Syrian Army became apparent, we changed our paths,” he said adding, “When ISIS [precursor to the Islamic State] declared itself, we started fighting under its banner. I participated in 12 operations against the Kurds, and personally directed the three raids into Kamishli.” The fighter went on to assert the intelligence services of many countries “are making attempts to contact us,” pointing out that France, German, and the Dutch have been especially interested as of late. “Rather than being interested in what we do in Syria or Iraq, these countries want to learn about our mujahideen's activities in their countries.” The jihadi added that the Islamic State currently has mujahideen from 21 countries, not all Muslim ones, including from Europe and Russia. He also said that there were fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey.MEMRI report on interview of jihadi: 'We will build the Islamic state in the territories from Tigris to Jordan and Palestine and to Lebanon. Sunni Law will rule.'
Istanbul’s Sevda Tepesi (Love Hill), which has belonged to the king of Saudi Arabia since 1984, has returned to the agenda after the main opposition said a construction permit for the hill was granted only after Saudi Arabia sent $100 million to a charity that counts the prime minister’s son as one of the board members. Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted a parliamentary question yesterday asking if the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), a charity NGO that includes Bilal Erdoğan, son of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, among its board members, had received $99,999,900 donation in its account at Vakıfbank on April 26, 2012, in return for a construction permit for Saudi King Abdullah’s plot of land on the shores of the Bosphorus. The permit was given only two months after the money transaction sent by chief of the Royal Protocol, which conducts protocol and agreements for the king, the CHP deputy added.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç confirmed at the time that TÜRGEV had received $99,999,900 in aid from abroad between 2008 and 2012. Tanrıkulu also asked if the king had formally applied for the permission to conduct construction and, if so, its date, as well as why the permit was not given.
The property was reportedly purchased by King Abdullah in 1984.
Hundreds of Turkish women posted pictures of themselves laughing on Twitter on Wednesday to protest against comments by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc who had urged women not to laugh in public to “protect moral values.”Melda Onur, a lawmaker from the main opposition party CHP said on Twitter Arinc's comments portrayed laughing as a dishonorable act and left women exposed to violence.
Opponents accuse Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government of ruling in an increasingly authoritarian manner and meddling in people's private lives, which has long been a source of conflict between the country's secularists and Erdogan's conservative supporters.
Erdogan is running to become the first directly elected president of predominantly Muslim Turkey.
Arinc's comments, in which he also criticized television soap operas for promoting decadence, also drew criticism from opposition presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu who tweeted: “Our country needs our women to laugh and to hear everyone's joyful laughter more than ever.”
Moscow is concerned by reports that Ukraine’s government troops have used ballistic missiles against independence supporters in the country’s east, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko Tuesday confirmed the country’s readiness to provide access to international experts to the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Donetsk Region, declaring a unilateral ceasefire within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius. “Now, unfortunately, actions suggest the opposite: Donetsk, Luhansk and other villages in these regions are being shelled with Grad rocket launchers, artillery and tanks.” On Tuesday, citing US officials CNN reported that Ukraine’s government troops used short-range ballistic missiles in the east. The weapons have a range of about 50 miles and pack warheads of up to 1,000 pounds. These missiles could have been fired from a Tochka short-range ballistic missile system (NATO Designation SS-21 Scarab), the report said. If the reports are accurate, these are “the most deadly missiles to date used in the conflict,” CNN said. “All this is concerning, and everything is happening amid allegations that Russia and the militia are impeding inspectors’ access to the [Boeing] crash site,” Lavrov told a group of young Tajik diplomats. The military governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Grachev, said earlier Tuesday eastern Ukrainian militia forces have found what appears to be a ballistic missile warhead in Luhansk Region. A spokesman from Ukraine’s National Security information center, Andriy Lysenko, rejected the report, saying that Ukraine has no such missiles. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the Kiev government intensified military operations against its own people after getting support from Western countries. Moscow has described the ongoing military action as a punitive operation and has repeatedly called on Kiev to put an immediate end to the bloodshed.
http://abbtakk.tv/Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon has said that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) is afraid of declaring Taliban as Terrorist adding that government is trying to create conflicts between army and political parties.
Addressing the press conference in Hyderabad the Minister said Prime Minsiter Nawaz Sharif has been given wrong advices by his ministers. He suggested Premier to act wisely.
He demanded that Government should withdraw its decision regarding calling army in the capital. Sindh Information Minister said the government is trying to create conflict between political parties and army as political thinking is lacking in the government’s approach.
Sharjeel opined that Punjab government’s act in the Model Town Incident was barbaric.
By Raffaello Pantucci
The appointment of a former ambassador to Kabul and New Delhi by China to the role of Special Envoy for Afghanistan highlights China’s thinking of what it can do in Afghanistan.China is not seeking a leadership role in the country, but is rather looking for regional partners to support its efforts. A key partner is being sought in New Delhi where the Narendra Modi administration has welcomed Xi Jinping’s early overtures for a closer broader relationship. The opportunity presents itself that Afghanistan’s two largest Asian neighbours might be on the cusp of closer cooperation to help the nation onto a more stable footing. It is clear that there are issues with Sino-Indian collaboration on Afghanistan. First among these are differing perceptions on Pakistan and its responsibility and role in Afghanistan’s current predicament. For China, Pakistani security forces are trying to deal with a monster within their country with links across the border. For Indian authorities, it remains a Frankenstein’s monster of Pakistani construction that is, therefore, fundamentally theirs to address. China’s particularly close relationship with Pakistan plays into this divide, raising concerns in New Delhi as well as complicating China’s approaches to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, all three sides (China, India and Pakistan) seem to have found some way of working through these concerns, as there has been considerable movement and public discussion (including this project the author has been working on) between China and India in particular about their future collaborations in Afghanistan. All of this highlights how divergent views on Pakistan aside there remains substantial scope for cooperation between the two in Afghanistan. In particular, both sides agree that terrorism in Afghanistan is a problem that needs to be addressed and a part of this is through the strengthening of Afghanistan’s security forces. Neither power is going to send forces, but there does seem to be the possibility of some agreement to increase their security training contribution. While this has to be managed carefully, it is clear that there is a need to do something to support the Afghan National Security Forces post-2014, and in particular with the more than 100,000 men under arms who will become unemployed in line with the Chicago declarations of shrinking the ANSF from 350,000 to around 228,500. One idea would be that China and India step in to find a way to support the transformation of some of these men into a ‘mineral protection corps’ or some other paramilitary role that means they will continue to retain jobs rather than becoming unemployed men with arms and military training. This is a logical lead for China and India given it is most likely to be their national firms that are coming in to rebuild Afghanistan and profit from its mineral wealth.
Beyond this, the most obvious strand of cooperation between the two in Afghanistan lies in focusing on developing the country’s economy and building the nation’s technocratic infrastructure. This works through governments ensuring their state-owned firms (those most likely to be investing substantially in Afghanistan’s economy in the future given their higher risk threshold and capacity to make major infrastructure investments adjacent to mineral extraction projects) maintain a certain level of coordination when building infrastructure and that they agree to not go below certain thresholds of corruption when entering into deals within the country.Given it is state-owned firms that make the most investments in Afghanistan, it is more likely that governments in either country will be able to drive policies forwards in this direction. They can further consolidate this with support to Afghanistan’s bureaucratic future through the creation of a large pool of scholarships at their technical universities for young Afghans. This will have the effect of building a soft link between the nations as well as provide Afghanistan with the needed technocratic capability that will help it build institutions to confidently rebuild the country. The net result of these efforts is likely to be incremental. Neither China nor India are going to take the lead in Afghanistan having watched the West flounder for the past decade. At the same time, both have an interest in rebuilding Afghanistan and have many of the necessary levers of power to make a difference. The longer-term benefit of this cooperation is a tangible result for the increasingly warming Sino-Indian relationship — something that will only strengthen the hands of both powers in Asian affairs. Afghanistan could become the starting point of a new Asian order, increasingly led by billion-person giants China and India.
On Wednesday the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced their acceptance of the United Nations (UN) proposition on the recount and invalidation of ballots, but the presidential candidates have not yet agreed. The UN proposal includes a total of 13 points that outline the invalidation of ballots and ballot boxes. Five points are in regards to the invalidation of ballots and the remaining eight are the criteria for the cancellation of ballot boxes as a whole. The IEC confirmed their agreement to the UN plan at the IEC headquarter in Kabul in the presence of Ján Kubiš, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The audit process was postponed until the third day of Eid, but on Wednesday IEC said that the audit procedure will commence on Saturday. Meanwhile, all the election observers will be trained in accordance to the audit criteria until then.
THREE airless aluminium warehouses, shaped like giant armadillos, sit hunched on the outskirts of Kabul. Inside hundreds of volunteers and international election observers have been bustling around in stifling heat, arguing over the shape of tick-marks on individual ballots. During Ramadan the lack of food and drink made the stale atmosphere inside the godowns all the more draining. The Ramadan fast has since broken, but the counting goes on. Until it has finished, the presidential election that was supposed to replace Hamid Karzai hangs in suspension. After a surprising reversal of fortunes suddenly favoured Ashraf Ghani in the second round of the presidential elections, his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, cried foul. Alleging fraud, several of his powerful supporters threatened to establish a breakaway government. It took an emergency agreement brokered by John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, to keep the process alive, but the deal is starting to show some of its inherent flaws. Mr Kerry has moved on and the two presidential hopefuls are now left to wrestle over its shortcomings.
To prevent Afghanistan from splitting down the middle, the candidates committed themselves to a two-pronged agreement: a full, internationally supervised audit of all 8m votes cast; and the formation of a government of national unity. Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah were induced to hug each other before Mr Kerry and the cameras on July 12th. Since then the mood has soured. One dispute is over the national-unity bit of the deal. Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah agreed to divide power between the president and a “chief of the executive council”, to be nominated by the losing side. In two years’ time, a loya jirga (a gathering of tribal elders, local power-brokers and elected officials) is to vote on the option to turn the new executive role into the post of prime minister.
To this extent, both sides agree. The balance of power, however, is a matter of debate. Mr Abdullah is pushing for something close to a 50-50 division of power. Mr Ghani however, perhaps feeling confident that his contested lead will stand up in the face of the audit, seems reluctant to put too much “share” in power-sharing. Referring to the Afghan constitution, his side insists that the real power must remain in the hands of the president. “Nobody can push the president,” as Abbas Noyan, a member of Mr Ghani’s team, puts it. He says Mr Ghani is committed to the agreement, but that “further details about the national-unity government will be discussed after the announcement of the audit result.” Mr Noyan claims that positions in the unity government must be based on merit, not simply on whomever the losing side chooses to introduce. And that the leader of the opposition is supposed to be someone who is loyal to the government of the president. A prime-ministerial post may be established, Mr Noyan allows, “but we will not change the system to a parliamentary one.” It becomes unclear exactly what power will be left to the executive council—Mr Ghani’s side says that its chief will be “responsible for implementing government policies”.
A decade ago it was widely thought that democracy in fissiparous Afghanistan could only work with a strong central authority. But Mr Karzai's unsatisfactory and increasingly whimsical rule, under which cronies flourished, has underlined the disadvantages of an overstrong presidency. When the Kerry deal was announced, Mr Karzai called it “a bitter pill”. As it turns out, some Afghan voters are finding it hard to swallow. “They don’t respect our votes,” said Lutfuddin Osmani, a 28-year-old NGO worker. “Why did they have to spend so much money on the elections, if [the candidates] are going to share the power anyway?” As a result of this dispute, talks behind the scenes have stalled. Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah have met only twice since Mr Kerry’s visit, most recently on July 18th. The technical part of the agreement also provides grounds for disagreement. As the audit limps along, the agents of both candidates are arguing strenuously over minor details. Should they void only individual votes that appear spoiled? Or should they dump the whole of any contaminated ballot box? In what cases does a sharp increase in voter turnout warrant suspicion? Can a fingerprint stand in for a tick mark? Initially scheduled for four weeks, the audit was suspended for the third time on July 26th, and will not resume until after Eid. At its current pace, Afghanistan will not have a new president to inaugurate until December. Mr Kerry’s mission to Kabul left many Afghans feeling relieved. He appeared to have salvaged an election in which Western donors had invested over $130m. But neither of the rivals seems to have accepted the basic fact of the contest between them: one of the two must lose more than the other. Stalling and prevarication are the only outcomes on which they seem to stand in agreement.
The Chief Minister of Balochistan time and again expresses his determination to promote education in Balochistan. According to Chief Minister of Balochistan his Government has imposed educational emergency. He claims that the educational budget has been raised from 4 per cent to 25 per cent. We also hear about the efforts to provide all the modern facilities to the younger generations for ensuring them quality education and facilitated life to the masses in the fields of education, health and other fields. However, the above mentioned quotations seem not less than exaggerations when we see teachers demanding for their salaries in different parts of Balochistan. The overstatements of educational revolution in Balochistn become unsound when we see number of hurdles confronting education sector in Balochistan, where one of them is no payment of salaries to the female teachers appointed mostly in primary schools in different districts of Balochistan. Currently more than 150 Teachers are demanding for their salaries who were appointed in last five years by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Recently, more than dozens of female teachers held a press conference in Khuzdar and said that they were forced to starve due to no salary for more than ten months. According to them through an agreement between government of Baluchistan and UNICEF’s education section they were appointed and it was agreed that they would be regularized after three years; however, since UNICEF concluded its project in Kalat division they were not being paid. They added that after UNICEF‘s project conclusion government of Balochistan was responsible to pay their salaries. The teachers’ appealed government of Balochistan to recognize their plea so that they continue their services to the nation. They said that if they discontinued teaching as protest so it would affect educational career of thousands of students. The teachers from Khuzdr demanded that government should prove itself as education welcoming and fulfill their demands. A group of teacher from Kalat district also informed The Balochistan Point that all Joiner English Teachers appointed by UNICEF have been deprived of their salaries, therefore, to pressurize the government and responsible authorizes they have decided to boycott taking classes at their schools. They further said that if they were not paid salaries and be regularized soon they would prolong their protest for their right. No doubt, despite huge amount of funds allocated for educational development no remarkable changes have been witnessed. Numbers of schools are still with no facility, even the books have not been provided to the students required in the middle and high sections in the schools. It is need of the time government should be sincere in its promises and rather than doing its own hyperboles it should make tangible measures. Governments’ first and foremost priority should be provision of salaries to the female teachers, assurance of facilities and protection of teachers in the already backward Balochistan. If possible theses teachers, who have been serving for more than five year should be permanent so that government’s sincerity is proved regarding the dream of educated Balochistan.
An acid attack in Pishin district of Balochistan inflicted wounds on six women. This is the third acid attack on women in Balochistan during last 10 days.
According to the district administration of Pishin, the brutal attack took place in Tang area of Pishin district. Four assailants entered a house and sprayed acid on faces of women. The assailants managed to flee the crime scene without any problem. The acid attack victims were rushed to the nearest hospital. Luckily, the acid didn’t damage the faces of the women and only their feet were damaged. Deputy Commissioner of Pishin, Bashir Bazai, ruled out the involvement of religious extremists in the acid attack. An old personal enmity was the reason behind the acid attack, added Deputy Commissioner. It must be noted that government officials are quick to declare personal enmity the reason behind any criminal activity. This transfers the blame away from the government officials to some extent. The statement by Deputy Commissioner should be taken in the same context. In Baloch and Pashtun society there is no perception of attacking women in tribal or family feuds. So, the claim that perpetrators of the acid attack were motivated by family feud is absurd at best. Third acid attack on women in Balochistan within last 10 days has put serious question marks on governance of Dr. Malik. No action has been taken against the perpetrators of the first two attacks and it’s less likely that the attackers of Pishin attack will ever be apprehended.
By Kashmala Chaudhry Pakistan has finally launched a military offensive against militants using its land for terrorism. The operation Zarb-e-Azb has been going on since mid-June with its full pace in the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan, from where local and foreign militants were not only operating against Pakistan but were aiming at international targets as well. So far the operation is going on successfully in Mirali after clearing Miranshah, Boya and Degan areas of North Waziristan Agency from terrorists. More than 500 terrorists have been killed, and dozens of hideouts wiped out. Tons of armor, numerous improvised explosive device (IED) making factories have been recovered along with notebooks with clear English handwriting and formulae for explosive materials. All of this depicts how once considered strategic assets are now playing in hands of foreign forces. The operation, however, is aimed at eliminating terrorism from Pakistan and according to the premier it could bring peace to the motherland. In this wake, Pakistan army has pledged not to spare any militant be it local or be it a foreign militant. Although security institutes are determined at driving all the terrorists out of the country yet the question that remains integral to address is will this operation alonebe enough to eliminate terrorism from Pakistani soil. Especially when internationally declared terrorists organizations like Jammat ud Dawa are still operating freely in the rest of Pakistan and are even alleged to have the support of the state. The question is when we are going to learn from our mistakes.
We nurtured the Taliban, though it is considered as a requirement of the time by some to secure our western borders because there were no other options to stop the proceedings of the then USSR. Today, these Taliban have become tools in the hands of foreign forces and are used against Pakistani soil. They have done irreparable damage to the country economically, socially, and in terms of precious lives that cannot come back ever. They have damaged the country’s image too. Yet we haven’t learnt from this mistake and are giving protection to groups like Jamat-ud-Dawa. On the one hand the state is carrying out an operation against Taliban and like-minded organizations in one part of the country, and on the other hand it is allowing these groups to move freely in the main centers of Pakistan and to recruit our youth to fulfill their agenda. Hafiz Saeed the head of JuD with a 10 million bounty on his head by the US has huge fan base in Pakistan and his gatherings attract massive crowds. Though at the moment Saeed might not seem as a threat to Pakistan — like the Taliban were once considered friends of Pakistan – however, history shows that such groups with extremist mind-sets cannot be trusted. As Hussain Nadim maintained in 2013, Saeed, a reformed militant acting on the behalf of the state, is considered a key figure by the security establishment who would either assemble militants and mollify their enmity against Pakistan or would evolve them into political actors. History, however, shows that these extremist groups cannot be trusted. Appeasing them and molding them in favor of Pakistan is not going to work. Because time and again it has been experienced that no agreement can bind them to remain faithful towards the state. And if these militants converted into political actors they again could not be considered safe because their mindset and ideology would remain the same. To eliminate terrorism, this mindset needs to be defeated. Reforms and rehabilitation policy is required at massive scale and at national level. In this regard not only curricula revision and madrassa transformation is required, but all those Dars centers which are operating as established institutions or from homes should be closed. These Dars centers are preaching extreme interpretations of religion and are attended by hundreds of women. These women are responsible for running the institution of their families. If the mindset of these women is inclined towards extremism, then growing up their children as balanced individuals who can turn down the fancy calls by such radical jammats would become difficult. And most important of all the state should abandon all such organizations which could again become a threat to Pakistan in the future.
The government has also kept close tabs on the spread of perceived blasphemy online, initiating monitoring services for sites like Google and Yahoo in 2010. Facebook was also temporarily banned that year in advance of an event called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” which was a response to censorship of a South Park episode in which the Prophet Muhammad was visually obscured by a black box.
The recent violence was condemned by a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, who alleged that the accused individual in question had his Facebook password stolen, which resulted in the image being posted. A representative of the Ahmadi Muslim community did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. Nor did the Embassy of Pakistan in the United States. Taha Siddiqui, the Pakistan correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, told me that he spoke with other members of the Ahmadi faith who had been targeted with violence as well. “So I spent an evening with some Ahmadis tonight in Karachi where I’m visiting my own family for Eid,” Siddiqui said in an email, referring to the ceremonial breaking of the fast after Ramadan. “Met a guy who was shot thrice and survived. He says he was targeted because of his faith.” This is by no means an isolated incident, according to Pakistani lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani, who also suggested that anything that goes online could draw the unwanted attention of extremists. “Ahmadis have been persecuted by the Sunni majority increasingly over the past few years,” Hamdani, known for his advocacy for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, told The Daily Beast. “As a lawyer I would say that there is no protection for content produced on social media. Pretty much any content produced can land you in trouble and it has in the past.” The rise in Islamic extremism has been widely reported in Pakistan, creating a situation so dangerous in recent years that even those who choose to defend individuals charged with blasphemy are putting their lives at risk. Rashid Rehman was assassinated in his office earlier this year after defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy. “It just tells you how deeply felt and how dangerous this law can be in terms of motivating people towards extra-judicial violence,” Kine said. In 2011, then Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani asserted that there would be no changes to the controversial blasphemy law, even after another politician and former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer was killed for denouncing the strict legal code. With social media being increasingly used as a method of discussing and protesting religious beliefs, it seems like there is no discernable end in sight for prosecution of blasphemy in Pakistan. “The immediate aftermath has been shock and expressions of outrage but soon it will die down and be forgotten as inevitably any tragedy in recent years has in this country,” Hamdani said. “For the Ahmadi Muslim community it has been another incident in a long list of violent outrages against them in the last four years.” And despite persistent efforts from human rights groups, the law doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
“The key is the state stepping up, the Pakistani government stepping up and realizing that this law is facilitating some of the extremely negative and extremely violent tendencies of a very small minority,” Kine said. “All I can tell you, is it’s a very, very uphill fight.”
Pakistan is currently at the center of the global effort to eradicate polio. Although the country has reported only about a hundred cases this year, that's more cases than in all other nations combined. Eliminating the paralyzing disease is a major logistical operation in Pakistan. More than 200,000 vaccinators fan out across the country, several times a year, to inoculate millions of children. The government also deploys tens of thousands of armed security forces to guard the workers. All this is happening while Pakistan is fighting against the Taliban — and that militant group continues to threaten polio vaccinators and parents who immunize their children. The polio campaign is costing Pakistani lives, national pride and precious health resources. Some health leaders are starting to question whether the focus on polio is worth it. "All the immunization workers have been redirected into the polio campaign, which has resulted in another disaster: Our routine immunization has gone down to as low as 30 percent or less," says Dr. Raza Jamal, of the National Institute of Child Health in Karachi. "So that has resulted in epidemics of measles, diphtheria, cases of pertussis — which we had stopped seeing for a long time." Jamal supports the polio eradication effort. But, he says, it has become a national obsession and has taken a huge toll on Pakistan's already overstretched health system.
Polio is only one of many challenges facing the poor country. People lack access to jobs, sanitation, decent housing, clean water and electricity. Criminal gangs terrorize the slums of Karachi. Pakistan has a major terrorism problem. Last month, militants in suicide vests fought a five-hour gunbattle with security forces at the Karachi airport, which left 38 people dead. On the same day, 22 Shiite pilgrims were attacked and killed near the Iranian border. Amid all this, Western health officials have pushed polio to the front of the country's national agenda. Mazhar Nisar coordinates anti-polio campaigns for the Pakistani Ministry of Health, but even he thinks the constant drumbeat on polio can be a problem. "There is a serious fatigue factor in the parents," he says. "There is a serious fatigue factor among the providers."
Coordinating the mass immunization drives all across the country is a major logistical operation for the health department. And parents have started to question why the government is directing so much attention to this one disease, Nisar says.
"They [parents] said, 'When we go to the hospital, we don't get the medicines. We don't get the proper treatment. My child is dying of diarrhea. My child has measles. And yet every four or six weeks, you come with the polio vaccine,' " he says.
But being one of the last nations on Earth with polio — even if it's just a hundred cases — is an embarrassment for the government. "There are people at the highest level [of the government] who've told me they start their day with polio, they end their day with polio, as if this is the only priority," says Zulfiqar Bhutta, a professor of pediatrics at the Aga Khan University in Karachi. Bhutta has worked on polio for decades. Polio eradication is very important, he says. But it's unclear how long Pakistan can stay focused on mass immunization drives. "What we need to go and try to do is something a bit more holistic," he says, "rather than trying to focus on a single intervention and a single program that bears very little relevance to the lives and livelihoods of people." Pakistan should work to improve its basic health services, Bhutta says, so kids get immunized for polio along with everything else; and sanitation should be upgraded so the polio virus can't contaminate drinking water. But projects like those take even more time — and more resources — than the current barrage of polio immunization campaigns.
Epidemiology can be all about geography—and that’s especially true when it comes to polio. If you live in the U.S., where polio was eradicated in 1979, the specter of the disease has faded almost entirely, though pockets of infections can occur among the unvaccinated. In Pakistan, however, things are moving in precisely the opposite direction, and have been for a while now.
One of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic (the other two are Nigeria and Afghanistan), Pakistan had been close to joining the world’s polio-free nations, with only 58 infections in 2012. But thanks to bans on vaccinating—and deadly attacks on polio fieldworkers—by the Pakistani Taliban, the caseload rose to 93 in 2013. In 2014, the total reached 99 by July 18—a figure all the more alarming compared to this point last year, when there had been just 21 cases.
“It’s a scary number,” says Aziz Memon, Pakistani chairman of Rotary International’s polio eradication campaign. “Children in North Waziristan have been trapped for three and a half years without a drop of polio vaccine, and that’s what’s causing this.”The folks at Rotary know what they’re talking about. Since launching their polio eradication effort in 1985, they have been responsible for the vaccination of 2 billion children in 122 countries. Along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The Gates Foundation and others, they have helped slash the global infection rate from 350,000 cases per year in 1988 to 416 in 2013.
That’s indisputably good news, but polio is an exceedingly sneaky virus, with 200 symptom-free carriers for every one case of the disease. That fact, combined with the anti-vaccine forces in Pakistan, not to mention the porous borders cause by war and unrest in the overall region, has caused the disease to leak out from the three endemic countries, with stray cases turning up in Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In a handful of other countries, the virus has been detected in sewage, but it has not led to any cases of the disease—yet.It’s Pakistan though that’s considered ground zero, and Rotary has announced that it’s now deploying some very simple weapons in what has always been a village-to-village, door-to-door battle. To improve surveillance and tracking—a maddeningly difficult job in a country in which so many people live off the communications grid—Rotary has distributed hundreds of cell phones to midwives who circulate through communities, canvassing residents to find out who has received the vaccine and who has been overlooked. Information on the unvaccinated kids—the “missing children” in the fieldworkers argot—is entered into the phones and uploaded to a central spreadsheet, allowing later vaccinators to target their efforts more precisely.
“The midwives also track pregnant mothers,” says Memon. “And when their children are born they can continue to maintain complete health records, not just for polio but for other vaccines and basic health care as well.”
Rotary has also worked with The Coca-Cola Company to build what’s known as a reverse osmosis water plant—essentially a sophisticated filtration facility—in the town of Malin, within the city of Karachi. Polio is a disease spread almost entirely by human waste, and once it leeches into the water system it can spread nearly anywhere. The Malir plant, which was constructed near a school to give polio-age kids the first access to the newly filtered water, is a relatively modest one, with just 20,000 gal. (76,000 liters) of clean water on hand at any one moment, and cost only $40,000 to build. But as a pilot project it represents a very good start. “We can’t build a massive plant like the government can,” says Memon. “This is a small plant for a small community.” One thing, paradoxically, that’s working in the vaccinators’ favor is the increased number of displaced people in Pakistan. A recent push by the Pakistani military to flush the Taliban from its safe havens has broken the vaccination blockade, and already 350,000 children have received at least one dose of the polio vaccine. But 1.5 million refugees are scattered around the country. Rotary has dispatched field workers to refugee camps and transit points to identify the children and few adults who need the polio vaccine and administer it on the spot. “The government did not have any idea about what the numbers of displaced people would be,” says Memon. In the refugee camps, he adds, there are at least 40,000 pregnant women, whose babies will have to be vaccinated shortly after birth. The diabolical thing about polio—and indeed any disease science hopes to eradicate—is that even one case is too many. As long as any wild poliovirus is out there, everyone needs to be protected. It is only when the last scrap of virus has been found and snuffed, that the protective push can stop. That has happened once before in medical history—with smallpox. In the case of polio, it’s tantalizingly close to happening again.
Do we take morbid pride in calling ourselves Muslims and butchering the innocent people of our own country in the name of religion? Who gave us the authority to play God? Is it just illiteracy or did our hearts really turn as cold as those of the Jews we see in Israel today?Being a Muslim in Pakistan, uploading posts and pictures on social media about the freedom of Gaza is fairly easy but when it comes to saving your own country and making things right for it by practically standing up against the ‘dark forces’, the whole nation goes silent. It is simple! Nobody wants to clean up their own mess. Today, Pakistanis are killing each other in the name of religion. Be it Ahmedis, Christians or Shias who are the victims of this never-ending violence, there is chaos everywhere despite the fact that Pakistan is a so-called ‘Muslim country’. Many Pakistanis, especially those who sit online, are feeling repugnant towards the Israelis. We are calling them cruel, insensitive, soulless and every other bad name we can think of. We are sharing the pictures of burnt Palestinian children online, we are tweeting every hour about the plight of the Palestinians and how remorseful we are about what is happening but have we taken a minute to ask ourselves how remorseful we should be about our own country? Do we take morbid pride in calling ourselves Muslims and butchering the innocent people of our own country in the name of religion? Who gave us the authority to play God? Is it just illiteracy or did our hearts really turn as cold as those of the Jews we see in Israel today? Today, every contact I have on Facebook is standing up for Gaza but will they ever stand up for Pakistan? Will they stand up for every victimised person of this country regardless of the sect he/she belongs to? We are not willing to make things better as a nation because it is difficult to step out of our comfort zone when we are not the victims of these brutal attacks. We are Muslims and we only stand up when we are the targets of sectarian violence. We only stand up when it is our children who get killed. We only stand up when it is our own houses that get burned. And if we are not the victims, then we are safe enough to continue our lives by sharing posts on Facebook and feeling satisfied at the so-called effort we are making. Maybe today, if we had resolved the sectarian conflicts in our own country, Gaza might have gotten some real help from us. If today we had realised what being a human actually is, we might have saved Gaza along with Pakistan. We are failing our country every day. We are failing because we have forgotten the law of karma. Karma awaits us all. Today, no matter how many Jewish products we boycott, we are no different than them. Today, Pakistan is divided into two forces in which half of the people are playing the part of the Palestinians and the other half have taken up the responsibility to portray the role of the cruel Zionists. The one thing we have all forgotten is that, first and foremost, we should be human. We have lost the essence of our human nature. Are we killing each other because we do not approve of each other’s choice of religion, way of faith? We are humans when we are born. Religion is a choice. And only God can judge a person on the choices they make. The only choice worth making here is between violence and peace. Any sensible human being would opt for peace. Today I am not proud to be a Pakistani because my own countrymen are killing each other every day. Today, I do not want to stand up for Gaza because my own country is acting like the aggressive Israel. We are becoming what we hate. Today, I just hope that we extinguish the fires of hate that dwell in our hearts before it is too late. It is about our country, about our people. Save both of them before you head out on a mission to save Gaza.
Now that Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan has deigned to inform the public about his government’s alleged thinking behind the invocation of Article 245 of the Constitution, it is worth examining the substance of what Mr Nisar has claimed.
According to the interior minister, the decision to draft in the army to augment the law-enforcement resources of Islamabad was taken before the launch of Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan and was done keeping in mind past experience with counter-insurgency campaigns and counterterrorism operations in the cities.
In addition, not only was the army consulted before the federal government invoked Article 245, but had been involved in the decision to invoke it.
To begin with, now that Article 245 has been invoked and the army is to be drafted in to boost the security of Islamabad from Aug 1, there are two aspects of its operation that ought to be clarified: one, the specific duration — and it must be limited — that the army will be deployed; and two, that fundamental rights and the operation of the superior court’s suo motu powers will not be curbed.
If neither of those two conditions hold, then everything that flows from the invocation of Article 245 will be questionable and poisoned by illegitimacy as far as the public interest is concerned. But consider also the total inadequacy of the justification for invoking Article 245 offered by the interior minister.
If there was a weeks-old understanding that Islamabad was under acute threat both because of the operation in North Waziristan and the growing presence of militants in the city, then why has it taken until now to act? And even now, why is Article 245 only invoked from Aug 1? What possible tactical sense could it make to give the terrorists and militants a public warning of several days to either melt away or attack immediately when, in the government’s own telling, the capital’s defences are not as strong as they ought to be at present?
What also about the rest of Pakistan’s cities and urban areas, several of which have suffered much more violence over the years than Islamabad? To talk about the need for army-led security reinforcements in one city with already significant civilian law-enforcement and intelligence resources while the rest of the country where the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus is known to be much weaker simply makes no security or policy sense.
There is another aspect to the latest vexing move by the PML-N government: in invoking Article 245, the PML-N has boosted the perception of indispensability and profile of the military in civilian domain — precisely the opposite of what the democratic project needs. If indeed Article 245 is linked to the PTI’s Aug 14 rally, then has the PML-N unwittingly made the military the final arbiter in politics yet again?