Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Turkish Music Video: Hadise - Aşk

US adds Nusrah, Islamic State financiers to list of global terrorists

The US Treasury Department today added three "key terrorist financiers" to its list of Specially Global Terrorists; two of them support the Al Nusrah Front and the other is an Islamic State financier/facilitator. All three terrorists are linked to Kuwait.
The two Al Nusrah Front financiers/facilitators, Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi and Hajjaj Fahd Hajjaj Muhammad Sahib al-'Ajmi, "are Kuwait-based," Treasury stated. The Islamic State financier/facilitator, 'Abd al-Rahman Khalaf 'Ubayd Juday' al-'Anizi, has been involved with al Qaeda since 2008, transfers funds from Kuwait to Syria, has helped move fighters from Kuwait to Afghanistan, and has worked with "Iran-based al Qaeda facilitators." [For more on al Qaeda's network in Iran, see LWJ reports, Treasury targets Iran's 'secret deal' with al Qaeda, Treasury: Iranian intelligence supporting al Qaeda, Report: Senior al Qaeda facilitator 'back on the street' in Iran, and Treasury Department identifies another Iran-based facilitator for al Qaeda.]
Treasury stated that "ANF [Al Nusrah Front] and ISIL [Islamic State] continue to receive donations from private citizens located predominantly in the Arabian Peninsula to fund their operations."
Additionally, Treasury took the unusual step of directly calling out the Kuwaiti government for failing to disrupt the jihadist support network.
"We and our international partners, including the Kuwaiti government, need to act more urgently and effectively to disrupt these terrorist financing efforts," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen is quoted as saying in the press release.
Details on the three financiers/facilitators
Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi
Al-Ajmi operates regular social media campaigns seeking donations for Syrian fighters and is one of the most active Kuwaiti fundraisers for ANF. In July 2014, he publicly admitted that he collected money under the auspices of charity and delivered the funds in person to ANF. Al-Ajmi also acknowledged purchasing and smuggling arms on behalf of ANF.
Hajjaj Fahd Hajjaj Muhammad Shabib al-'Ajmi
Hajjaj Al-'Ajmi serves as a funnel for financial donations to ANF facilitators in Syria, traveling regularly from Kuwait to Syria to engage in financial activity on behalf of ANF and deliver money to the group. He agreed to provide financial support to ANF in exchange for installing Kuwaitis in ANF leadership positions. In early January 2014, he offered ANF money to lead a battlefield campaign in Homs, Syria.
'Abd al-Rahman Khalaf 'Ubayd Juday' al-'Anizi
Since at least 2008, al-'Anizi worked with a senior ISIL facilitator and ISIL financial official to transfer funds from Kuwait to Syria. He also worked with an ISIL facilitator to pay for the travel of foreign fighters moving from Syria to Iraq. Al-'Anizi worked to smuggle several foreign fighters from Kuwait to Afghanistan, likely to join al Qaeda and was involved in extremist facilitation activities with Iran-based al Qaeda facilitators, including the movement of extremists to Afghanistan via Iran. Read more:

Turkey wakes up to Islamic State threat

One of the first things the Islamic State (IS) did after capturing Mosul was to seize the Turkish consulate in the city and take 49 Turkish nationals, including the consul general, hostage. As the government tends to do whenever faced with unpleasant issues, it arranged for a court to impose a gag order on all reporting about the hostage issue — hence the low-key coverage. The Turkish media in general prefers to remain silent, reporting only on government officials saying they expect them to be released soon.
But IS is now on Turkey’s radar not because of its massacres in Iraq or hostage Turks, but because of the activities of people affiliated with the group inside Turkey.
On Juy 29, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the sight of mass outdoor prayers performed by a large crowd of long-bearded men in white robes and the sermon that followed ignited a serious debate in Turkey. The sermon included, among other things, “Those who believe, those who … participate in jihad on the path of Allah with their lives and all their beings will be rewarded generously. They are the ones who will survive. Our plea to Allah Almighty is to accept us jihadists. We beg him to compassionately help the mujahideen, those in jihad … to hit their targets accurately.”
Images of this assembly were provided by the group itself. Only after they were released on websites known to be closely affiliated with IS did the mainstream media become aware of them and run the images.
Journalist Rusen Cakir, who follows Islamic trends in Turkey closely, said although the organizers of the Eid prayers deny they are linked to IS, nothing negative is said about IS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on the website that released the denial. Cakir said it can be easily said that the “new Salafism in Turkey has achieved certain levels of structuring.”
The parliamentary query tabled by Sezgin Tanrikulu, the deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) had some striking points. Tanrikulu said in his query, “What were the Istanbul police and provincial gendarmerie command doing during the hours this IS extension group was calling for jihad in Istanbul? Is it true that while this IS extension group was calling for jihad in Istanbul, the provincial police and gendarmerie command were instructed not to intervene? Who gave this instruction?”
Actually, it wasn’t only this mass open-air prayer that signaled IS has achieved a certain level of structure in Turkey. The Allah-u Akbar and Muhammediye mosques in Istanbul were set on fire by people said to be affiliated with IS. According to the Human Rights Association (IHA), which analyzed the Muhammediye mosque after the fire, it was a planned attack and IS was behind it. IHA noted that a short time before the attacks, several people had asked the imam, “What is your sect? Are you Shiite?” The Istanbul leader of IHA, Abdulbaki Boga, said about the arson, "We can easily and clearly say that this attack in the center of Istanbul was by IS-Istanbul."
Hasan Karabulut, the president of the World Shiite Scholars Union, in a statement to Hurriyet, said the imam of the burned mosque had been threatened a week earlier. People had told him, "You are not one of us. You have no right to live. You worship stone. You are Shiite, Jaafari. We will set you on fire.” Karabulut also says IS is behind the arson.
IS-related incidents do not only include attacking mosques. According to Cumhuriyet, IS is also behind the attack on a group of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP). The article read, “IS people destroyed the HDP election campaign office with machetes and electronic tools. The attackers destroyed many vehicles and work places, wounding eight people, two of them seriosly.” Although it is not known how many people have joined IS from Turkey or how many militants they now have in the country, it is generally accepted that the numbers are at levels worthy of concern. According to Mehmet Seker, CHP member of parliament from Gaziantep, more than 5,000 people deceived by jihadist websites and social media networks have crossed over to Syria to join IS. According to a report in Radikal attributed to the German die Welt newspaper, 10% of IS militants are Turkish nationals. According Milliyet, like the Ankara youth who returned home with severe injuries, children as young as 14 are joining IS. All these are indicators of how serious an internal issue IS is becoming for Turkey. IS' clashes with the Kurds in Syria and Iraq and accusations that the group is entering Syria via Turkey have the potential to adversely affect the Kurdish peace process in Turkey.
The words of Ahmet Turk, one of the leading names in Kurdish politics and the current mayor of Mardin, are noteworthy: “We see important steps being taken. But while there is a peace process moving along, IS attacks Kobani. IS has easy access over the border and the state is looking the other way. These make the Kurds question the sincerity of the peace process.”
Turkey’s serious troubles with IS are obviously not only about its citizens held hostage in Mosul but also the threat posed by the organization to the country’s security. The impression that Turkey is tolerating IS militants endangers the peace process in Turkey as IS attacks against Syrian and Iraqi Kurds escalate. IS has become a major threat to Turkey’s security and stability.
Read more:

Turkey: Erdoğan, if elected, will cause Turkey severe trouble: CHP

The election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the presidency will cause severe troubles to Turkey, the leader of the main opposition has said, stressing that his ethnic and sect-based policies would further drag the country into the Middle East quagmire.
“I call on my people: If you want war, if you want our children to be killed in wars in the Middle East, go and vote for Erdoğan. But if you want peace, if you want Turkey to help the Middle East to resolve its problems, then vote for Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
For Kılıçdaroğlu, the main reason for this is Erdoğan’s policy of importing ethnic and sectarian conflicts from the Middle East to Turkey. “I am afraid he will drag Turkey into war in the Middle East. He will put Turkey into severe trouble.”
Recalling that 49 Turkish citizens, including Turkey’s consul-general in Mosul, have been kept as hostages by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for nearly two months, Kılıçdaroğlu asked: “Have you ever heard Erdoğan speaking about this issue? No, because he does not want to anger ISIL. It was him who supplied weapons to ISIL and to al-Qaeda. And now these weapons are being used against Turkey and its citizens.”
The main opposition leader suggested that because of Turkey’s poor foreign policy performance, the country has lost its credibility and influence in the region to countries such as Iran and Egypt. “No one is knocking on Turkey’s doors. He [Erdoğan] confessed himself that he can’t talk to [Barack] Obama [the President of the U.S.],” he said, adding Turkey’s image has been completely tarnished by Erdoğan. “No world leader wants to be seen next to a corrupt president,” KIlıçdaroğlu stressed.
İhsanoğlu may win in the first round
With days left to the elections, Kılıçdaroğlu shared his optimism that the opposition’s joint candidate can even win the Aug. 10 election in the first round. “You never know, he may win it,” Kılıçdaroğlu stated.
Underlining that 60 percent of the society wants an impartial president and that perfectly defines İhsanoğlu, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “What is the function of the president? Obviously not making roads or building bridges. The president is a person representing the country and its flag. Therefore, he has to be fully clean and not corrupt.”
MHP should be more active
For the social democrat leader, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who allied themselves with the CHP in nominating İhsanoğlu for the presidency should be more active in campaigning over the next few days. “We would like to see the MHP more active in the field, especially in their strongholds, like the Black Sea and the central Anatolian towns. Prominent MHP figures should stand more with İhsanoğlu,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli was already holding public rallies to this end.
Complaining that time for campaigning and fund raising for the elections was short, Kılıçdaroğlu said it would be better if the fund raising process for candidates began at an earlier time.
“Erdoğan is using all of the states’ apparatus [to strengthen his campaign]. He is using an enormous amount of money. The two other candidates, however, are using their own limited resources. We will try to study the amount of money they [AKP] are spending on billboards and compare it with the amount of money donated to his campaign,” he added.
The law on presidential elections needs to be amended, he said, adding a live debate between the candidates should be mandatory and implemented in the law. “He is afraid of appearing together with the other candidates. Because you know, it’s a common character of dictators. All dictators are cowards,” he said.
Erdoğan chasing MHP votes
According to Kılıçdaroğlu, Erdoğan’s strategy for the presidential elections has two folds. He is trying to turn the presidential polls into general elections in which political parties are competing and that’s why he is provoking Kılıçdaroğlu and Bahçeli, the CHP leader said. “He is doing this because he wants to consolidate his voters,” he said. His second strategy is to chase MHP votes by using nationalistic language, Kılıçdaroğlu maintained, saying, “He depicts himself as the candidate of the people. What people? He is the candidate of the corrupt people and of the thieves.”
Demirtaş gives positive messages
As for the third candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, Kılıçdaroğlu used positive language to describe the presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), saying he found his campaign messages to be positive. “I find the messages of Mr. Demirtaş’s issued and his manners, as well as his approach of being ‘Turkey’s party’ throughout the election process positive,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. But, he added, the number of CHP voters who will decide to vote for Demirtaş on Aug. 10 will be few, contrary to expectations.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership
When asked if his chairmanship would be affected if the CHP was not successful in the 2015 general elections, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “It’s not right for anybody to insist in staying as the chairman of the party forever. The party should be able to develop a candidate who can be the party’s future leaders. Young, better educated potential leaders should not be blocked. That’s what I believe,” he added.

A healthy use for tobacco: Fighting Ebola

Drugmakers' use of the tobacco plant as a fast and cheap way to produce novel biotechnology treatments is gaining global attention because of its role in an experimental Ebola therapy.
The treatment, which had been tested only in lab animals before being given to two American medical workers in Liberia, consists of proteins called monoclonal antibodies that bind to and inactivate the Ebola virus.
For decades biotech companies have produced such antibodies by growing genetically engineered mouse cells in enormous metal bioreactors. But in the case of the new Ebola treatment ZMapp, developed by Mapp Pharmaceuticals, the antibodies were produced in tobacco plants at Kentucky Bioprocessing, a unit of tobacco giant Reynolds American.
The tobacco-plant-produced monoclonals have been dubbed "plantibodies."
"Tobacco makes for a good vehicle to express the antibodies because it is inexpensive and it can produce a lot," said Erica Ollmann Saphire, a professor at The Scripps Research Institute and a prominent researcher in viral hemorrhagic fever diseases like Ebola. "It is grown in a greenhouse and you can manufacture kilograms of the materials. It is much less expensive than cell culture."
In the standard method of genetic engineering, DNA is slipped into bacteria, and the microbes produce a protein that can be used to combat a disease.
A competing approach called molecular "pharming" uses a plant instead of bacteria. In the case of the Ebola treatment, Mapp uses the common tobacco plant, Nicotiana benthanmianas.
The process is very similar. A gene is inserted into a virus that is then used to infect the tobacco plant. The virus acts like a micro-Trojan Horse, ferrying the engineered DNA into the plant.
Cells infected with the virus and the gene it is carrying produce the target protein. The tobacco leaves are then harvested and processed to extract the protein, which is purified.
ZMapp's protein is a monoclonal antibody, which resembles ordinary disease-fighting antibodies but has a highly specific affinity for particular cells, including viruses such as Ebola. It attaches itself to the virus cells and inactivates them.
The drug so far has only been produced in very small quantities, but interest in it is stoking debate over whether it should be made more widely available to the hundreds of people stricken with Ebola in Africa while it remains untested.
“We want to have a huge impact on the Ebola outbreak,” Mapp CEO Kevin Whaley said in an interview at company headquarters in San Diego. "We would love to play a bigger role.”
Whaley said he was not aware of any significant safety issues with the serum. He would not discuss whether the company has been contacted about providing the drug overseas.
But he did note the novel manufacturing process carries its own risk, and would have to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as part of the approval process.
The FDA would, for example, have to be satisfied that the plant extraction process had not led to contamination of the resulting drug.
The tobacco plant grows quickly, said Reynolds spokesman David Howard, and "it takes only about a week (after the genes are introduced) before you can begin extracting the protein."
He declined to say how much medication each plant can yield or whether Kentucky Bioprocessing is in a position to produce ZMapp in significant quantities.
Scripps' Saphire said it can still take anywhere from one to three months to produce the ZMapp serum for wider use given the complexities of the process.
In 2007, Kentucky Bioprocessing entered into an agreement with Mapp Biopharmaceutical and the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University to refine the tobacco-plant approach. The approach attracted funding support from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
For all the hope, however, the plant technique has delivered few commercial products. In 2012 the FDA okayed a drug for the rare genetic disorder Gaucher disease from Israel's Protalix BioTherapeutics and Pfizer. Called Elelyso, it is made in carrot cells, and is the only such drug to reach the market.
Other companies have fallen far short, though it is not clear if the technique was to blame. Calgary-based SemBioSys Genetics Inc, which used safflowers to produce an experimental diabetes drug, folded in 2012 before it finished clinical trials.
Even Kentucky Bioprocessing, which at one point was developing monoclonal antibodies against HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), C. difficile bacterial infection, and the human papillomavirus, has dropped the last two projects, Howard said.
Last year Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp acquired a majority share of Quebec City-based Medicago, which is developing influenza and other vaccines using the tobacco-plant technology. The other 40 percent is owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

Shakira - Loca (Spanish Version)

Afghnaistan: Punjabi militants leading Sangin battle

A video clip received by Pajhwok Afghan News shows Urdu-speaking Pakistani militants leading the battle for the Sangin district in southern Helmand province.
Recorded by a reliable security source, the video shows Pakistan insurgents giving directives to fighters in Urdu language. The battle erupted after the fighters mounted attacks in different parts of Sangin on May 22. In the video clip, rebels order fighters to look at the target before shooting. One rebel leader tells his men in Panjabi language: “The man standing in front of us is our target; get ready he is coming.” He concludes his conversation by saying Allah-o- Akbar (God is great).
A group of militants in a green area encourage fighters to attack a tank in the village. Mohammad Shoaib, a resident of the Bahawalpur district of Punjab province, says he was sent to the Kotli town of Kashmir, where he was trained by Harakat-ul-Mujahidin for 40 days. He was sent to Afghanistan via Quetta for jihad. Exact casualty figures are not available, but sources say around 500 security personnel and civilians have been killed in the battle.
Around 380 injured people were shifted to hospital during the battle. Helmand police chief, Brig. Gen. Juma Gul Himmat, said the battle had intensified due to weak security leadership.

Pakistan's Sikh Community Under Attack: Sikh traders murder sparks protest in Peshawar

A protest is being held by the Sikh community after they were attacked here on Wednesday. Unidentified armed men opened fire at three shops located in a market in Hastnagri killing a Sikh trader and injuring two others. The Sikh community staged a protest in the city and had placed the body of the deceased trader on GT Road blocking traffic. Members of the community burnt tyres and chanted slogans seeking justice. Later, the Sikh community entered the red zone and tried to take the body to the Chief Minister and Governor House.

Pakistan's Sikh Community Under Attack: One killed, two hurt in Peshawar Sikh attack

Unidentified gunmen opened fire at three members of Sikh community in Peshawar’s Hashtnagari killing one of them on spot, while two others were injured in the attack, ARY News reported on Wednesday.
The injured were transferred to Lady Reading Hospital for medical attendance.
The attackers opened fire when three Sikh shopkeepers were opening their shop.
The deceased was identified as Jagmohan Singh.
The members of Peshawar’s Sikh community held sit-in with coffin at GT Road and chanted slogans against the provincial government. They also demanded immediate arrest of the attackers.
Chief Minister’s advisor for minorities held talks with the head of the Sikh community Surjeet Singh, which resulted in failure.
The sit-in at GT Road has caused worst traffic jam at the road and adjoining areas causing hardships to citizens.
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Pakistan: North Waziristan: US drone strike kills five
At least five people were killed while two others injured in a drone strike in Data Khel Tehsil of North Waziristan near the border of Afghanistan.

Dunya news-North Waziristan: US drone strike... by dunyanews The attack came in North Waziristan, where for the past two months the Pakistani military has been fighting to wipe out longstanding bases of Taliban and other militants.
According to sources, the drone fired two missiles on a house, killing five people. US drone strikes have picked up since the military offensive in Waziristan after a near six month hiatus. Since 12 June at least seven drone strikes have been reported in the tribal areas.
The assault by Pakistan s military was launched after a dramatic attack by militants on Karachi airport which killed dozens of people and marked the end of a faltering peace process with the Pakistani Taliban.
More than 400 militants and 25 soldiers have been killed in the assault so far, according to the military, though the area is off-limits to journalists, making it impossible to verify the number and identity the dead independently. Pakistan routinely protests against US drone strikes, saying they are a violation of sovereignty and counterproductive in the fight against terror.
More than 800,000 people have been forced to flee from North Waziristan by the assault, with most ending up in the nearby town of Bannu.

Hold Pakistan Accountable for Its Blasphemous Oppression

Doug Bandow
The world is aflame. Religious minorities are among those who suffer most from increasing conflict. Pakistan is one of the worst homes for non-Muslims. The U.S. government should designate that nation as a "Country of Particular Concern" for failing to protect religious liberty, the most basic right of conscience.
Religious persecution is a global scourge. Many of the worst oppressors are Muslim nations. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iraq and Egypt are all important international actors. All also mistreat, or acquiesce in the mistreatment of, anyone not a Muslim. A few of them even victimize Muslims -- of the wrong variety.
Islamabad is another frequent offender. The State Department's report on religious liberty in Pakistan noted that "The constitution and other laws and policies officially restrict religious freedom and, in practice, the government enforced many of these restrictions. The government's respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom continued to be poor."
Minority faiths face violent attack. Believers are killed, churches are bombed, buses are attacked, homes are destroyed, social gatherings are targeted. Warned the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in its recent report: "In the past year, conditions hit an all-time low due to chronic sectarian violence targeting mostly Shia Muslims but also Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus." Last year the Commission cited a spike in violence against Shiites as well as "numerous attacks against innocent Pakistanis" of other religions.
Although Islamabad did not launch these assaults, it did little to prevent or redress them. Even when scores or more are killed at a time there often is no response. Indeed, top government officials have been gunned down for defending freedom of conscience with no one arrested, let alone convicted. Explained State: "The government's limited capacity and will to investigate or prosecute the perpetrators of increasing extremist attacks against religious minorities and on members of the Muslim majority promoting tolerance, allowed the climate of impunity to continue."
The most common tool of persecution may be a charge of blasphemy. Said USCIRF: "The country's blasphemy laws, used predominantly in Punjab province, but also nationwide, target members of religious minority communities and dissenting Muslims and frequently result in imprisonment." Two years ago a mentally handicapped 12-year-old Christian girl was charged; after an international outcry even the authorities became embarrassed and the case was dismissed, an unusual outcome.
The blasphemy laws are made for abuse. Explained the Commission, "The so-called crime carries the death penalty or life in prison, does not require proof of intent or evidence to be presented after allegations are made, and does not include penalties for false allegations." In fact, courts hesitate to even hear evidence, lest doing so also be considered blasphemy. With evidence unnecessary, the charge has become a weapon routinely used in personal and business disputes, including a means to exact revenge for imagined offenses.
Between 1986 and 2006 695 people were charged with blasphemy. Today 16 people are on death row and another 20 are serving life sentences. Three Christians have been sentenced to death in the last few months. Many other Pakistanis are in prison waiting for trial, including English professor Junaid Hafeez, accused of blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed. Penalties are not limited to the law. Explained the group Freedom House: "Regardless of the motives behind their charges and the outcome of their cases, those accused of blasphemy are subject to job discrimination, ostracism from their communities and neighborhoods, and even physical violence and murder at the hands of angry mobs, forcing many to live in fear." Since 1990 at least 52 people charged with blasphemy have been killed before reaching trial.
Judges who acquitted defendants and politicians who talked of reforming the blasphemy laws also have been assassinated. In May gunmen killed Rashid Rehman, a human rights lawyer who was defending Hafeez. Previously fellow attorneys threatened Rehman, "You will not come to court next time because you will not exist any more." A pamphlet circulated after the murder asserting that Rehman met his "rightful end." He was the first defense lawyer killed. He probably won't be the last.
Pakistan has jailed more people for blasphemy than any other nation, but it is not the only country which religious free speech. An incredible 14 of 20 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa criminalize blasphemy. Nine of 50 in the Asia Pacific, seven of 45 in Europe and three of 48 in SubSaharan Africa also do so. Eleven of 35 nations in the Americas have blasphemy laws. In the U.S. several states, including Massachusetts and Michigan, retain blasphemy laws, though they do not enforce them.
The group Freedom House published a detailed report on the detrimental impact of blasphemy laws on human rights. Put simply, these measures "impose undue restrictions on freedom of expression" and are "prone to arbitrary or overly broad application, particularly in settings where there are no checks and balances in place to prevent abuses." Freedom House highlighted Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia and Poland, as well as Pakistan.
In March the Commission made much the same point, issuing a special report entitled "Prisoners of Belief: Individuals Jailed Under Blasphemy Laws." Victims include three atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, numerous Iranian Bahai's, Christians and Sufi and Sunni Muslims, 63 Sunnis and Christians in Egypt, an atheist writer in Kazakhstan, scores of Indonesians and a Saudi blogger. Even Greece and Turkey have charged people with blasphemy.
The Arab Spring was supposed to bring liberty to the Mideast, but it had the opposite effect in many countries. For instance, in Kuwait, perhaps the most liberal Gulf State, the Islamist-dominated Assembly elected in early 2012 voted to impose the death penalty on Muslims convicted of blasphemy. The Emir blocked the law and later changed the election rules, resulting in a more moderate legislature.
Blasphemy prosecutions were initiated in post-revolution Egypt and even Tunisia, viewed as the most successful participant in the Arab Spring. USCIRF commissioners Zuhdi Jasser and Katrina Lantos Swett wrote: "Rather than giving rise to greater individual liberty, this trend could turn the Arab Spring into a repressive winter, with forces of intolerance and tyranny dashing hopes for genuine freedom and liberal democracy."
Nevertheless, Pakistan remains a particular problem. The country's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, emphasized the importance of religious liberty. But Pakistan became more Islamic over time, a process accelerated by dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. His government not only criminalized blasphemy, but, noted Freedom House, enacted new laws which imposed "harsh Shari'a punishments for extramarital sex, theft and violations of the prohibition of alcohol."
The impact of such laws fell most heavily on religious minorities and liberals. Discrimination, intolerance and violence have become pervasive. Noted Freedom House: "it is clear that Pakistan's blasphemy laws are used politically and applied disproportionately to non-Muslims. Although many other countries have laws against blasphemy, the situation in Pakistan is unique in its severity and its particular effects on religious minorities." Intolerance has become the norm -- in a strategically placed nation possessing nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, there are spillover impacts from abusive blasphemy prosecutions. Warned Freedom House, in practice the blasphemy laws have led to "extended arbitrary detention." The process also has undermined even limited due process, with convictions rendered on minimal to nonexistent evidence. Along the way defendants have suffered from official torture and private vigilante injustice.
Blasphemy laws threaten basic individual liberties around the globe. The measures are bad in Western nations. They are far worse in the Muslim world. The problem is particularly severe in Pakistan. Warned Freedom House: "Pakistan's blasphemy laws foster an environment of intolerance and impunity, and lead to violations of a broad range of human rights, including the obvious rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as well as freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right to due process and a fair trial; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and the right to life and security of the person."
Obviously, there is little the U.S. can do directly about policy in Pakistan. However, the International Religious Freedom Act allows the State Department to designate countries as Countries of Particular Concern. Noted USCIRF: "Pakistan represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated" as CPCs. Unfortunately, in its latest designation announced last month State continued to leave Islamabad off of the list. The Obama administration should remedy that lapse.
For some, religious liberty is but an afterthought, an esoteric principle with little practical impact. However, the willingness of foreign governments to respect freedom of conscience acts as the famed canary in the mine. A state which fails to protect the right of individuals to respond to their belief (or unbelief) in God is more likely to leave other essential liberties unprotected. And a society in which life and dignity of the human person is not respected is more likely to become a hothouse to ideas and beliefs hostile to America.
As we see in Pakistan today. Rising religious extremism, exemplified by abusive blasphemy prosecutions, threatens the integrity of the Pakistani state -- and the security of its nuclear program. Although Americans cannot control policy in Pakistan, they can help highlight a problem that threatens people in that nation and ultimately this one as well.

Sri Lanka: 36 Pakistani asylum seekers deported, more to continue, UNHCR deeply concerned

Ahmadiyya Times
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed deep concern today as Sri Lanka continues deporting the Pakistani, and Afghan asylum seekers back to their own countries from where they fled.
Sri Lanka's Department of Immigration and Emigration said that Pakistani, and Afghan nationals visiting Sri Lanka will no longer receive tourist visas upon arrival at the airport and the asylum seekers who are staying in the country without visa for a long time will be deported.
The Department said the process will commence with the deportation of 147 Pakistani, and 85 Afghan nationals arrested by Sri Lankan Authorities.
UNHCR said that it has learnt that a total of 36 Pakistani asylum-seekers have been deported from Sri Lanka since last Friday. More could follow, including women and children.
The refugee agency urged the Sri Lankan authorities to stop the deportations and grant them access to refugees and asylum-seekers still detained in Colombo.
The deportations took place between August 1 and 5 following two months of arrests and detentions of people of concern to UNHCR, the agency said adding that most of the deportees have arrived in Pakistan and released but the agency was unable to monitor their return conditions.
UNHCR said the reports that the families of deported men including women and children who were not detained will also be sent back to Pakistan have caused a great deal of anxiety among the refugee and asylum-seeker population in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile 205 Pakistani, Afghan and Iranian refugees and asylum-seekers remain in detention in Sri Lanka, the agency said adding that it continues to seek access to them to assess their protection needs.
Sri Lanka said last week that there are about 1500 Pakistani, and Afghan nationals who were staying in the country illegally draining the island's resources.
The government said the influx of asylum seekers, mostly Pakistanis has resulted in serious law and order, security, as well as health related issues for the authorities while the country is burdened and the UNHCR is too slow to process their cases and resettle them.
The government said it has asked the UNHCR to expedite the process of resettlement to ensure its completion within a short period of time and ensure that asylum seekers are provided with adequate facilities and monetary assistance to live in Sri Lanka until their claims are processed or resettlement is found but the UNHCR has not addressed these issues and too slow to work on refugee requirements.
Responding to the Sri Lankan government's reasons, the UNHCR said the agency, which conducts refugee status determination in the country, is taking steps to increase its capacity to enable the efficient and timely processing of these asylum claims.
"We are also exploring ways to assist the most vulnerable asylum-seekers, including by setting up referral networks for greater support as they await a decision," the refugee agency said.
"UNHCR recognizes the Sri Lankan government's wish for quicker solutions for the refugees. However, resettlement to a third country is not a right and is a limited solution due to the small number of resettlement countries and places globally," it said.
Meanwhile, thhe refugee agency appealed to the Sri Lankan authorities to respect the principle of non-refoulement by not sending people back to a place where their lives could be in danger without the opportunity to assess their needs for international protection.

Pakistan braces for wave of protests, army secures capital

Pakistan's civilian government is bracing for a wave of protests this month, days after the military took responsibility for securing the capital amid the threat of militant attacks and the specter of a political showdown.
Some Pakistanis fear that the country's traditionally powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history, may use the protests to buttress its position at the expense of the fledgling civilian government.
"It's not something that the military has choreographed, it is just benefiting from the civilian government's weakness," said columnist Ejaz Haider.
Activist and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, known for his passionate monologues, will hold a protest on Aug. 10. He has vowed to topple and jail government ministers by month-end.
Charismatic cricketer turned opposition politician Imran Khan has also announced that his supporters will hold a sit-in in the capital on Aug. 14. He wants the government to resign and new elections to be held.
"This will be the biggest demonstration in the history of Pakistan," Khan told a news conference late on Tuesday.
Both Qadri and Khan have at times been seen by some Pakistanis as close to the military, or even as being used by the military to pressure the government. Both of them deny that and the military denies such meddling in politics.
Pakistan has weathered such protest marches before. Last year tens of thousands of Qadri supporters camped out along the main road in the capital for four days.
Yet the upcoming protests have sent ripples of unease through the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million because of its history of coups, corruption and militancy.
The stock market has dipped and the government has postponed a planned increase in electricity rates.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's landslide election win last year marked the first time one elected government had handed power to another since independence from Britain in 1947.
Just after elections, his government pursued policies that were known to have angered the military.
He promoted better ties with neighboring India, whom the army still considers to be Pakistan's biggest threat. Sharif also put Pervez Musharraf, the former army chief and president, who deposed him in 1999, on trial. There was also disagreement on how to handle militants attacking the state with the army favoring military action and the government holding out hope for peace talks. The army eventually won the argument and launched an offensive in June.
Last week, the government handed responsibility for securing the capital to the military, a move Khan insisted was an attempt to co-opt the army and intimidate protesters.
"The government is trying to protect itself by bringing in the army and hiding behind it," he said. "It is totally undemocratic."
The ruling party strongly denies his accusation.
It says troops were deployed for 90 days outside key buildings in Islamabad to prevent Pakistani Taliban revenge attacks for the military offensive against them.
"This is purely to prevent Taliban blowback," said Senator Tariq Azeem. "It's nothing to do with the opposition, they are just trying to make themselves seem important."
"The government is not going to fall."
Whatever the reason for the government's call on the military to take over security in Islamabad, many Pakistanis have seen it as an indication of weakness on the part of the government.
"You had a prime minister who was determined to keep the military out (of politics) but now he has invited them in," said the columnist, Haider.
Both Khan and Qadri are protesting over issues with relatively narrow national appeal. Khan is urging electoral reforms and investigations into last year's poll. Qadri is protesting after police killed fourteen of his supporters in clashes in June.
"If police enter your home, barge into their houses in a mob and crack down on them," Qadri urged supporters at a news conference on Sunday. "We will take revenge for all our martyrs."
Both men are also hoping to capitalize on widespread public frustration over the government's slow pace at tackling endemic power shortages, widespread poverty and corruption.
Thousands of extra police have been ordered to block sections of the capital with shipping containers and barbed wire. Yet many think the government should just let the marches proceed peacefully.
"If the government tries to stop this, it will just get nasty," said radio talk-show host Murtaza Solangi.
"They should just say, come ... now how long do you want to sit in the street in this 45 degree heat?"

Pakistan: In KP's Karak region: Women ‘banned’ from going out without male company

Local ulema and elders ‘banned’ here on Tuesday movement of young women outside their homes without the company of male relatives and said the violators would be fined and socially boycotted.
A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Gurguri Islahi Tanzeem chaired by its former president Nasrullah Khan. Local ulema, elders and members of the committee were in attendance.
The participants expressed concern over increasing drug addiction among youth and said that there would be complete ban on sale of drugs in the area. The meeting warned the drug traffickers to quit the illegal business or face dire consequences.
On the occasion, two drug sellers decided to quit the illegal and unethical business. The participants extended support to the committee’s struggle for drug-free society.
The meeting also decided that in case of theft in the area the committee would suggest severe punishment and fine for thieves. It was also decided that the affected family would be compensated by the relatives of thieves.
The participants demanded of the police and district administration to extend support to the committee for implementing its decisions.
FUNDS RELEASED: Funds meant for the parent teacher councils for petty repairs and purchase of classrooms consumable articles have been released to the National Bank which would be transferred to the accounts of the respective councils.
This was disclosed by the district education officer Zahid Rasheed Khattak while talking to a delegation of the local chapter of Tanzeem-i-Asataza on Tuesday.
Mr Khattak said the funds amounting to Rs7.7 million would be transferred to the accounts of PTCs in a week. He asked the primary school head teachers to utilise the money with honesty to resolve the basic problems of schools.
He resolved that the education management would ensure transparency in the funds use. The meeting was informed that Rs9.5 million had been released for purchase of computers for all high and higher secondary schools. Tanzeem-i-Asataza delegation assured the district education officer of ensuring utilisation of funds in a transparent manner.

Pakistan: Nawaz, If I Were You...

The Azadi March is gaining steam, with the Khan express headed towards a dramatic showdown in the Capital which many believe will decide the fate of the PML-N government. For a government that is apparently cornered, it is making surprisingly little noise or effort. Nawaz took a leisurely stroll through the Kingdom, capped it off with a relaxing weekend in Nathia Gali and now, no one really knows what he’s upto. Meanwhile, Imran has been drumming up support, taking resignations from PTI MNAs in custody to give at will and promising to send the Government packing. Simply put, the people are seeing too much of the aspiring Prime Minister, and too little of the man they elected. The public, which saw election rigging in Karachi and some parts of Lahore, now believes that the entire election was rigged, as a result of which, we have a rigged Parliament. And with no reply, no satisfactory refutation and no counter narrative being presented by the government, their suspicions are solidifying into iron resolve. With the specter of military intervention looming on the horizon which is always a distinct possibility in times of severe political turmoil, someone needs to act.
Nawaz Sharif must come out of the ministerial veil and tell people his side of the story. Unlike Khan, he is lucky to have facts on his side. With so much at stake here, there can be no half measures. The Prime Minister must address the public on national television. His speech must identify the massive loopholes in Imran’s narrative. People should be told that the government has no control over the functions of the Election Commission. That the Election Tribunals have already dealt with 73% of the cases lodged. That no reform or ‘change’ can be achieved through abrupt mid-term elections, especially since they will be conducted under the same system Imran claims to be crusading against. He must ask Imran to provide a road map to his supporters. What follows once the government is dismissed as per Imran’s desires? The idea isn’t just to discredit Imran’s argument, but also to publicly offer an olive branch to the PTI. If it is electoral reforms they want, then that is what they should be offered. With the nation as a witness, invite PTI for dialogue. If they reject, they appear unreasonable. If they accept, everyone wins. However, Nawaz should know that these promises will have to be fulfilled sooner than later.
To affirm the public’s faith in the democratic process, the government would do well to accommodate protesters rather than creating hurdles. Give them water if they’re thirsty. Provide them shade if they need it. Act like the democratic government worthy of being saved. This would go a long way to calm fears regarding troops deployment in Islamabad, and allow the government to take the moral high ground it desperately needs. At the end of the day, it is the people who will determine the government’s future. Engage with them, and bring them back.

Pakistan: Away from home: Displaced women miscarrying says Research report

An estimated 75% of women living in camps for the displaced have trouble sleeping at night, revealed a study conducted by the Provincial Commission on the Status of Women.
Over four months 315 people were interviewed for the report, titled ‘Women in Emergencies’. The PCSW wanted to probe the effects of displacement on women. The report was presented in a consultative session on Tuesday. Representatives of the Department of Social Welfare as well non-governmental organisations Aurat Foundation, SPARC and others attended the session.
While presenting the results, PSCW’s Umme Kulsoom explained that 45% of the 315 displaced people interviewed at several IDP camps said they had been living there for the past six months. Around 89% of the women interviewed and 81% of the men said they were unable to meet the financial requirements of their families and are totally dependent on aid, said Kulsoom. The study revealed that 15% of the displaced women interviewed reported they had been subjected to verbal abuse from their husbands after displacement, a behaviour they said they had not witnessed before they were forced to leave their homes. Nearly 86% of the displaced women told the research teams they could not go to a doctor for a medical check-up due to social restrictions or poverty.
According to Kulsoom, 16% of women miscarried during displacement, while 17% of women who were pregnant faced medical complications due to the exertion of excessive travelling. PSCW Chairperson Neelum Toru said Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has faced a number of disasters during the last decade. “Women and children are the worst affected in emergencies as they are completely dependent on male family members. This study was conducted because there is no organised source of information available on the nature and scale of implications of disasters on women,” said Toru.
She added that the research aimed to forward recommendations to the provincial government so that appropriate measures and administrative reforms and legislation can be formed.
The study recommends that a gender sensitive best practices’ model be developed for displaced persons to facilitate women living in camps. It also urged that women be included in all peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation activities.
A revision of the Return Policy Framework for Fata was also called for to expedite the return of IDPs to their homes. The commission recommended that gender specialists be appointed at field locations to ensure the rights of women and girls are protected, and gender-based abuses and human rights violations are monitored and reported regularly.

Pakistan: Derailing democracy

Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s government has been under fire recently. The military was unhappy with his treatment of former president Pervez Musharraf; the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) under Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri respectively are threatening protests and civil disturbance; the PPP has recently been critical of his decisions, such as asking the army to handle Islamabad’s security. The PPP, like the PML-N, is worried about what they both see as ‘threats to democracy’, which loosely translated means military interference in politics or a coup, and their agenda has been supportive of the government where they see that the democratic system might be compromised. The government has stated repeatedly that no forces will be allowed to “derail democracy”. The PM reiterated this on Monday, saying that no one would be allowed to “create a law and order problem”. This thinly veiled jab at Imran Khan is part of months of recrimination in which the PML-N has accused him of trying to attain power through extra-constitutional means. The question that arises is, does making something ‘constitutional’ or ‘legal’ also make it democratic? In Pakistan a prevailing view is that the state does us a favour by ‘granting’ us our democratic rights, but this is not the truth. It is in fact the state’s obligation to protect rights that we already possess, that are fundamental and inalienable. This is good for the state as well because rights are best understood as essential to the functioning of a healthy society. Democracy is the offspring of said society, when it mutually agrees upon and enacts laws to provide governance.
Can Pakistan be properly called a democracy because we have elections? One would have to argue that this is not the description. In a democracy the state subordinates other activities to the protection of the people’s rights. So what democracy is the PM worried about that allows a parliamentarians house to be raided without a warrant, and for his colleagues to be held without charge for 60 days? That is a very long time in the hands of Pakistani policemen. The incident involving MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar took place on Monday night in Karachi when his house was raided by Rangers and police who arrested two MQM workers on suspicion of extortion and target-killing, though the party says they are innocent. This intrusive action is currently legal under the recently passed Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) that allows law enforcement officials to conduct warrantless searches and even shoot suspects on sight.
Human rights activists expressed concern that giving Pakistan’s notoriously corrupt and brutal police forces carte blanche in this manner was a recipe for human rights abuses. Political parties including the PPP were worried that the law could be used to persecute political opponents. The MQM is especially sensitive in this matter. MQM parliamentarians staged a walk-out from the National Assembly (NA) in protest, as they did when the law was passed, but they should be asked why they are surprised. Given the history of Pakistani law enforcement, abuses of the PPA are inevitable. The few amendments made at the behest of opposition parties did nothing to ameliorate the severe debilitation of due process the law represents or protect the fundamental rights of citizens that it negates. Why did the MQM and PPP, the JUI-F and JI, which all had reservations about the law, not work together in parliament to oppose the PPA or amend it substantially so that it respects fundamental rights in line with the Constitution? Their post facto protests now that the Ordinance has become law are useless posturing and represent a failure of the political class to protect the rights of the people they represent. For the PM though, the lesson should be clear; it is not coincidence that opposition to his government grew as soon as the PPA was raised in parliament. Every attempt in Pakistan’s history to limit fundamental rights has only decreased the authority of parliament and consequently of the office of PM. If you want others to respect democracy, you must first do so yourself.

Pakistan: Qadri warns PML-N against ‘dirty tactics’

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri has claimed that the Punjab government is using “dirty tactics” to bar his party workers from arriving in Lahore in connection with the “Yaum-e-Shuhada” which his faction will observe on August 10 to pay tribute to those killed in Lahore’s Model Town clash.
“Authorities are forcefully getting bookings of our busses cancelled, licences of drivers and bus stops are also being cancelled as part of crackdown which Punjab government has launched to bar our workers,” Qadri said while speaking at a press conference alongside PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. “The provincial government is using its dirty tactics despite our assurance that our protest will remain peaceful,” he said.
Qadri said the August 10 rally is solely meant to mourn the victims of the Model Town tragedy and that his party would conduct meetings after the event to announce their plans for “Youm-e-Inqiliab”. He assured his supporters and the government that the rally on August 10 would be peaceful and requested his followers to bring their prayer mats for recitation of the holy Quran. “Our main aim is to bring a peaceful revolution,” Qadri said. The PAT chief went on to slam the government for accusing him of terrorist activities.

Pakistan: 300 Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders, activists may be detained before rally

The Special Branch has provided a list of 300 leaders and active workers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to the Punjab government to detain them to thwart the August 14 rally on Islamabad
A senior official of the city district government Rawalpindi (CDGR) told Dawn that the list was prepared after the Punjab government sought the details of the active leaders and workers of the PTI. However, the government has so far not issued any instructions to detain them, said the official.
On the other hand, the PTI workers claimed that the police had started harassing their leaders. “I and our MPAs, including Arif Abbasi, Rashid Hafeez, Asif Mehmood, Col Amjad, Wasiq Qayyum and Chaudhry Zubair, have received threatening calls from the Punjab police and there are reports that we would be arrested soon,” said PTI north Punjab president Sadaqat Abbasi while talking to Dawn.
He said some police officials visited the residences of Qaisar Abbas and Chaudhry Zubair on Monday night. He said the party had decided that all the leaders would remain at an unknown place to avoid arrest.
The senior CDGR official said the Special Branch had prepared the list of 300 PTI workers and sent it to the Punjab government, stating that they would play a major role in bringing the people out to participate in the march on Islamabad.
He said the local administration had sought the help of the provincial government to take action to stop the march but the government was of the view that it would issue final instructions within two days.
A senior PML-N leader said the provincial government and the PML-N had directed all the party leaders and workers to spend more time in their union councils and constituencies to convince the people to take part in the Independence Day celebrations instead of joining the PTI’s Azadi march.
When contacted, former MNA Malik Shakil Awan said: “We have started distributing national flags in every house and the local leaders have started door-to-door campaign to contact the citizens in this regard. The people will enjoy fireworks and illuminations in their localities where artists would also sing national songs on August 14.”
He said the PTI and its supporters should stop the unnecessary marches otherwise the government would seal the twin cities.
PTI Punjab vice-president Raja Tariq Mehboob Kiani said there were reports about the expected detention of PTI leaders but the party had chalked out its plan to lead the people towards Islamabad on the call of Imran Khan.
He said the PTI would hold a workers’ convention on August 9 in the Rawalpindi city. However, the venue of the convention would be announced soon. He said the party had completed arrangements to hire vehicles and also prepared a list of people who would join the march.
“Approximately, over 50,000 people have confirmed that they would arrive in Islamabad from different union councils of Rawalpindi city alone,” he said.
When contacted, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sajid Zafar Dall said the provincial government had not issued any instructions to detain the PTI leaders.
He said the local administration had also not decided to impose Section 144 in the district. However, he said arrangements were being made for the Independence Day celebrations.

Pakistan: Asif Zardari telephones Imran Khan and Sirajul Haq
Co-Chairman Pakistan People’s Party former President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday afternoon telephoned separately PTI chief Imran Khan and Amir JI Sirajul Haq from London and exchanged views on the current political situation in the country.
Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that in telephonic talk with Mr. Imran Khan the former President said that the PPP agreed with the contention of recount in the disputed constituencies under the law and opposed the calling in of troops in Islamabad under Article 245 of the Constitution. However, it was also crucial that no opportunity was provided to anyone to derail the democratic system in the country behind the façade of political instability, he said.
The baby should not be thrown out with bath water; the Spokesperson quoted Mr. Zardari as having said.
In telephonic talk with JI Amir Sirajul Haq the former President also reiterated the same view point saying also that he believed that the guiding principle should be that worst democracy was better any so called benign dictatorship.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the thrust of the phone calls of former President was emphasis on protecting and promoting democracy and constitutionalism and at the same time send a clear message to the government to listen to the voices of reason and logic and not overshoot the bullet.
He said that Mr Zardari is genuinely and seriously concerned over the direction and momentum of the political course in the country. He is keen to consult all political forces in a bid to protect democratic structures from being undermined under any pretext and the phone calls are part of the consultative process.