Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Music: Rockell - Tears

Turkish Music: Hadise - Superman

Serbia: Belgrade graffiti artist pays tribute to Robin Williams

Ebola Death Toll Climbs to 1,069 in West Africa – WHO

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in the West Africa countries has reached 1,069, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday.
A total of 1,975 cases have been reported, according to the WHO.
The worst Ebola outbreak in history started in February in Guinea and spread to Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, all three of which have declared a state of emergency.
The West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which has no known cure, was declared an international public health emergency by the UN on Friday.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever has a fatality rate of nearly 90 percent. The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of the infected. Symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, kidney and liver problems, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

UN declares highest level of emergency in Iraq over ISIS advance

The UN has declared the highest level of emergency in Iraq as the ISIS advance threatens minority groups in the country as the Security Council urged Iraq's new PM to form an inclusive govt to preserve state integrity and ease sectarian tensions.
Haider Al-Abadi, in a UN Security Council statement, is asked “to work swiftly to form such a government as quickly as possible and within the constitutional time-frame” and called on “all political parties and their supporters to remain calm and respect the political process governed by the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, a “Level 3 Emergency” has been declared as the ISIS onslaught across much of the country’s north and west continues, threatening Kurdistan and its oils reserves. Up to 30,000 minority Christian and Yazidi people have fled to Mount Sinjar to seek safe-haven.
“Declaring the crisis in Iraq a ‘Level 3 Emergency’, which represents the highest level of humanitarian crisis, will help trigger more resources and expedite administrative procedures for the response”, said Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.
UN minority rights expert Rita Izsak warned that refugees face “a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours,” as they remained trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq.
“The situation of displaced people on Sinjar Mountain remains of critical concern, where tens of thousands of people are reportedly still trapped, with health conditions quickly deteriorating,” said UNICEF Representative to Iraq, Marzio Babille.
UNICEF is also trying to help some 12,000 displaced Christians in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The UN estimates that more than 400,000 other Iraqis were forced to flee to the Kurdish province of Dahuk as ISIS began capturing vast territories since June. Overall a total of 1.5 million are now displaced after in June the Islamists captured Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul.
On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights office said it received “verified reports that the Islamic State is systematically hunting down members of minority groups who remain trapped in areas under their control and giving them the ultimatum, “convert or die,” stated Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur.

Video: Obama considers options for Yazidi rescue mission

Video Report: RAF jets set for Iraq surveillance mission

Reconciliation with Iran Helps Fuel Middle East Mayhem

Michael Doran
On Friday July 25, as war raged in Gaza, John Kerry delivered a draft ceasefire agreement to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who then presented it to his security cabinet for consideration. Because the proposal granted Hamas a significant political victory—acquiescing, up front, in a number of the terrorist group’s key demands while failing even to mention Israel’s two primary concerns of infiltration tunnels and rockets—the ministers unanimously rejected it.
When unnamed officials leaked the document to Israel’s habitually left-leaning press, along with an account of the government’s thinking, a firestorm of indignation erupted—not, however, at Netanyahu but at the American Secretary of State. The views of one highly respected journalist were typical. Kerry’s proposal, he wrote, “raises serious doubts over his judgment. . . . It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation but an alien who just disembarked his spaceship in the Middle East.”
The journalist in question, Barak Ravid, is the diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz, the flagship publication of the Israeli Left. Remarkably, Ravid was not alone among his colleagues. Some of the most vituperative attacks on Kerry came from critics of Netanyahu—columnists and others who regard the prime minister’s support for Israeli settlements as the greatest impediment to peace with the Palestinians.
What accounts for this unprecedented show of unanimity? Wartime solidarity, in part—but only in part. No less dismaying to the Israeli Left was the way Kerry’s proposal shunted aside both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in a mad rush to embrace Hamas, Turkey, and Qatar as trusted interlocutors. In the eyes of Israeli leftists, the PA and Egypt are essential to a two-state solution of the conflict with the Palestinians, and any proposal that diminishes their standing is ignorant and misguided.
“It’s not clear what Kerry was thinking,” Ravid wrote. Indeed, Kerry’s Israeli critics assumed that he was not thinking at all. One commentator accused him of a “rookie mistake.” But this evaluation assigns responsibility to the wrong man, and incorrectly identifies the nature of the miscalculation. The true architect of the fiasco was not Kerry but President Obama, and the blunder was no tactical mishap. Rather, it was the logical product of a grand strategy, and fits seamlessly into an unmistakably broad pattern.
All across the Middle East, the traditional allies of the United States, just like the Israeli Left, feel that Obama has betrayed them. Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, Emiratis, and Turks, despite the very real differences among them, nurture grievances similar in kind to those expressed on the pages of Haaretz. Ravid’s question—“What was Kerry thinking?”—deserves to be recast. It would get closer to the heart of the matter to ask what the president was thinking.
The answer is as simple as it is surprising: the president is dreaming of an historical accommodation with Iran. The pursuit of that accommodation is the great white whale of Obama’s Middle East strategy, and capturing it is all that matters; everything else is insignificant by comparison. The goal looms so large as to influence every other facet of American policy, even so seemingly unrelated a matter as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
During the latter decades of the cold war, American presidents developed a strong sense of “our team” and “their team” when it came to the Middle East. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, that attitude persisted—even as “their team” transformed itself from the Soviet camp into Iran’s so-called Resistance Alliance, which includes such otherwise disparate partners and proxies as Syria, Hizballah, and Hamas.
Obama has abandoned that conception entirely. To be sure, he still pays lip service to countering Iran’s malign influence in the region. But in practice, nothing could be farther from his mind. Last January, he offered what is undoubtedly a more accurate account of his thinking when he mused about Iran becoming a stabilizing force in the Middle East. “[I]f we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion,” he told David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, “you could see an equilibrium developing between . . . [Sunni] Gulf states and [Shiite] Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.”
Two key assumptions inform this line of reasoning. First, the president posits that Iran is now a defensive power. Holding on for dear life in the volatile Middle East, it has no sustained interest in undermining the United States, which might even serve as its ally in countering Sunni extremism. Second, Hamas and Hizballah are similarly defensive—and ready, under the right circumstances, to moderate their aggressive hostility.
In brief, President Obama now thinks of the region’s politics in terms of a roundtable. Everyone seated at it is potentially equal to everyone else, and the job of the United States is to narrow the gaps among antagonists in an effort to bring the system to the desired state of “equilibrium.” It was precisely this concept that informed American diplomacy over the Gaza ceasefire. Although the administration was quickly forced to backpedal and abandon its proposal in the face of opposition from Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the incident illustrated starkly how its Ahab-like fixation on a grand bargain with Iran has created a culture that makes stiffing American allies just a normal part of doing business.
Is it necessary to point out that those allies see the politics of the region very differently? They envisage not a round table but, at best, a rectangular one, with their team sitting on one side and Iran and its proxies on the other. They expect the United States either to join their side or to tilt heavily in their favor.
They also see something else: the complex and multiform divisions on the ground that make the Middle East so challenging. In addition to the rift between Iran and its opponents, there also exists a rivalry between those states, preeminently Turkey and Qatar, that support the Muslim Brotherhood and those, preeminently Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that oppose it. Because Hamas is both an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a proxy of Iran, these two rivalries have intersected in the Gaza war—which is why, in the eyes of Egyptian and Saudi leaders, Hamas represents a double threat. Even though the spectacle of a Jewish military victory over a Palestinian adversary is profoundly unpopular on their own streets, they are eager to see Israel crush that threat.
When John Kerry developed his ceasefire proposal, he largely ignored all this, and particularly the preferences of Riyadh and Cairo. Not only was he enhancing Hamas’s power and prestige but, through his courtship of Turkey and Qatar, he was also offering it a path out from under the thumb of the Egyptians. Still worse, Kerry’s proposal was a windfall for the Iranians, who have played an indispensable role in building Hamas’s military machine and who, even as Kerry was working to settle the conflict, egged Hamas on against Israel. Whether Kerry consciously intended to benefit Iran is immaterial. The roundtable approach to Middle East problems, the fruitless search for equilibrium, automatically works to Iran’s advantage.
No wonder, then, that Obama’s policies are in a shambles. It is impossible to succeed in the Middle East without partners, and so long as he remains bent on empowering Iran and its proxies (who, for their part, continue to make no secret of their loathing for the United States), America’s traditional allies will withhold their own support for Washington’s initiatives. This fact raises a question: when it finally becomes obvious not only that the president’s policy will never work but that it has, in fact, contributed to producing ever greater mayhem and carnage in the region, will he reverse field?
The answer is no. Early on his presidency, perhaps even before he was inaugurated, Obama resolved that he would be remembered in history for pulling the United States back from the Middle East—for ending wars, not starting them. The roundtable approach is his scenario for what should replace the American-led order of yesteryear. To admit that an equilibrium with Iran is a chimera—and that instead of ending wars he has helped prolong and multiply them—would be tantamount to renouncing his cherished legacy.
The president has already displayed an extremely high tolerance for turmoil in the Middle East, and he will display an even higher one before entertaining the notion that his strategy is profoundly misconceived. “Apparently,” Obama said in a recent press conference, “people have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on earth, still does not control everything around the world, and so our diplomatic efforts often take time. They often will see progress and then a step backward. That’s been true in the Middle East.”
Our current step backward will undoubtedly last for at least two more years—at untold cost to the region, to us, and to “our team.” As Libya crumbles, Syria and Gaza burn, and the “caliphate” leaves a trail of headless corpses from Baghdad to Damascus, more rivers of blood will flow. America’s allies are on their own.

Militants’ Siege on Mountain in Iraq Is Over, Pentagon Says

Defense Department officials said late Wednesday that United States airstrikes and Kurdish fighters had broken the siege on Mount Sinjar, allowing thousands of the Yazidis trapped there to escape.
An initial report from about a dozen Marines and Special Operations forces who arrived on Tuesday and spent 24 hours on the northern Iraqi mountain said that “the situation is much more manageable,” a senior Defense official said in an interview.
“A rescue effort now is much more unlikely,” the official said.
Defense officials could not say how many Yazidis remained on the mountain, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to make a statement later Wednesday night.
The announcement came after American military advisers landed on Mount Sinjar early Wednesday to begin assessing how to organize the evacuation. The United States had said it would consider using American ground troops to assist in the rescue if recommended by the military team.
Mr. Hagel said it was “far less likely now” that the United States would undertake a rescue mission because the assessment team reported far fewer refugees than previously thought, and that those still on the mountain were in relatively good condition.
Several thousand Yazidis remain on the mountain, a senior United States official said, but not the tens of thousands who originally were believed to be there. Some of the people who remain on Mount Sinjar indicated to American forces that they considered the mountain to be a place of refuge and a home, and did not want to leave, a second United States official said.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
Rear Adm.l John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement that “the team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of the humanitarian airdrops.” He credited American airstrikes as well as the “efforts of the pesh merga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days.” Defense officials said the evacuations were done in secret with the help of the Kurdish pesh merga fighters.
The latest twist came just hours after Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama is vacation, that the president was likely to receive recommendations about how to mount a rescue operation in the next several days. He said those recommendations could have included the use of American ground troops.
But Mr. Rhodes made those comments as the secret team of Marines and Special Operations forces were already on the ground on Mount Sinjar in the middle of a 24-hour trip to talk to the refugees and pesh merga fighters on the mountain.
Earlier on Wednesday, France, Britain and Germany all said they would increase their efforts to aid the people stranded on the mountain — where reports indicated that the Yazidis were baking in the heat and near starvation — and to fight militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Message from PPP Patron in Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on the occasion of Independence Day 14th August
Greeting the nation on its 68th Independence Day, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party said that Pakistan is a great nation which was attained through the relentless and unwavering struggle of statesmen like Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Leaders like Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who lived and died to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of the people carried the torch of democracy for this great nation through its darkest hours. The restoration of democracy was the first step on Pakistan’s road to recovery, however, a lot more still needs to be done.
All our collectives efforts should go towards serving the people. Full force of nations economy should be dedicated to eradicating poverty and unemployment. Solving the electricity crisis is key to nations development, shortfall of electricity has now crossed 7,000 megawatts that is 4,000 megawatts worse than the deficits we saw during the People’s government until 2013. Nothing improved since then except the churning out of inflated electricity bills that overcharged citizens for the power they rarely receive.
“The present government should come up with a proper strategy to deal with the crisis instead of fleecing the people,” he stated. In stead of inflated bills and over charging citizens for electricity they rarely receive government must come up with a proper strategy to deal with crisis.
Our Armed forces are engaged in operation against terrorists in KPK it is our duty to support our troops and do everything in out power to ease the burden on IDPs.
“There are a whole host of other challenges, from rising impunity for attacks on minorities, to water shortages and population explosion and much more that must be tackled from now. All politicians should be focused on serving the people, not bringing Pakistan to a standstill over issues that could have been politically resolved at the right time.” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pointed out that it was highly unfortunate that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif & PTI leader Imran Khan continue to selfishly argue over who should be sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair instead of doing what they were elected to do, which is to serve the people who voted for them.
“The only solution to Pakistan’s problems is democracy, not its derailment. Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif should not allow their fight for power to undermine our democratic transition for short term gains,” he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the Charter of Democracy and the PPP’s reconciliation policy are part of the sagacious vision and foresightedness of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the rulers and politicians of today need to learn from her example. He demanded that the government should announce a re-commitment to the Charter of Democracy as signed between Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to protect and strengthen the democracy that we all fought so hard for. Hailing the sacrifices of the workers and leaders of the PPP in their mission to gift democracy to Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said it is a harsh reality that ‎our country is today faced with a serious challenges like terrorism, extremism, poverty, unemployment and illiteracy.‎ These burdens together pose serious risks to the very vision of our founding fathers and betrays their struggle for a democratic, prosperous and progressive Pakistan.
He emphasised that the norms and customs of democracy should be upheld under all circumstances. When faced with protests and political challenges, the government should have adopted democratic means of negotiations and dialogue to resolve the grievances of the opposition parties. There are lessons for today’s government in President Zardari’s mature and constitutional paths to non-coercive handling of protest and dissent in our young democracy.

Zardari: Assembling, protesting is people's right, judiciary shouldn't interfere

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday that it is democratic right of the people to assemble and protest peacefully, adding that the judiciary does not have a right to interfere in politics, Dunya News reported.
In a statement, former president said that holding rallies and sit-ins is a basic right of everyone and judiciary cannot take that right away from the people.

Pakistan's Aug 14 protests: The march will go on, come what may

Despite last minute appeals for dialogue from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek are determined to march to the capital - come what may.
Many parts of Lahore and Islamabad have been blocked off with containers; sensitive areas are expected to be without cellular services for the duration of the marches; there is real fear that there will be blood as the protests advance.
LHC stops PTI from proceeding with long march by dawn-news
Despite the Lahore High Court's order that maintained that the PTI and PAT's marches should not proceed, the parties' leaders said they would not be deterred.
Below is a round-up of the day’s political happenings and statements on the even of August 14.
"We do not want a technocratic [caretaker] government, we want a non-political one," said Imran Khan. "I will sleep on the streets where you sleep. I will be with you," Khan told supporters.
PTI chief Imran Khan said that his party will bring true democracy to Pakistan. "We want to rid Pakistan of the Sharif monarchy," he said. The PTI chief said that whenever the government breaks the law his party will break the government. "We will demand that the PM that was involved in rigging should resign," Imran Khan said.
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri said that August 14 will be the day of his 'revolution march' come what may. He said that protests will be held in a peaceful manner. "We have been the upholders of peace, so there is no possibility that the march will be violent," Qadri said. "There is no possibility that our conduct will be one of violence... We have been the strongest opponents of violence and militancy," he said.

Noam Chomsky: Under corrupt and regressive Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan has no future

Published: May 13, 2013
Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Noam Chomsky, is without doubt the most widely heard and read public intellectual alive today. Although trained in linguistics, he has written on and extensively critiqued a wide range of topics, including US foreign policy, mainstream media discourses and anarchist philosophy. Chomsky’s work in linguistics revolutionised the field and he has been described as the ‘father of modern linguistics‘. Professor Chomsky, along with other luminaries such as Howard Zinn and Dr Eqbal Ahmad, came into prominence during the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s and has since spoken in support of national liberation movements (and against US imperialism) in countries such as Palestine, El Salvador and Nicaragua. In fact, his prolificacy in terms of academic and non-academic writing has earned him a spot among the ten most cited sources of all time (alongside Aristotle, Marx and Plato). Now in his mid-80s, Professor Chomsky shows no signs of slowing down and maintains an active lecturing and interview schedule. Here we caught up with him to get his views on upcoming Pakistani elections, American influence in the region and other issues.
As a country which has spent almost half of its existence under some sort of direct military rule how do you see this first ever impending transition from one democratically-elected government to another?
Noam Chomsky: Well, you know more about the internal situation of Pakistan than I do! I mean I think it’s good to see something like a democratic transition. Of course, there are plenty of qualifications to that but it is a big change from dictatorship. That’s a positive sign. And I think there is some potential for introducing badly needed changes. There are very serious problems to deal with internally and in the country’s international relations. So maybe, now some of them can be confronted.
Coming to election issues, what do you think, sitting afar and as an observer, are the basic issues that need to be handled by whoever is voted into power?
NC: Well, first of all, the internal issues. Pakistan is not a unified country. In large parts of the country, the state is regarded as a Punjabi state, not their (the people’s) state. In fact, I think the last serious effort to deal with this was probably in the 1970s, when during the Bhutto regime some sort of arrangement of federalism was instituted for devolving power so that people feel the government is responding to them and not just some special interests focused on a particular region and class. Now that’s a major problem.
Another problem is the confrontation with India. Pakistan just cannot survive if it continues to do so (continue this confrontation). Pakistan will never be able to match the Indian militarily and the effort to do so is taking an immense toll on the society. It’s also extremely dangerous with all the weapons development. The two countries have already come close to nuclear confrontation twice and this could get worse. So dealing with the relationship with India is extremely important.
And that of course focuses right away on Kashmir. Some kind of settlement in Kashmir is crucial for both countries. It’s also tearing India apart with horrible atrocities in the region which is controlled by Indian armed forces. This is feeding right back into society even in the domain of elementary civil rights. A good American friend of mine who has lived in India for many years, working as a journalist, was recently denied entry to the country because he wrote on Kashmir. This is a reflection of fractures within society. Pakistan, too, has to focus on the Lashkar [Lashkar-i-Taiba] and other similar groups and work towards some sort of sensible compromise on Kashmir.
And of course this goes beyond. There is Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan which will also be a very tricky issue in the coming years. Then there is a large part of Pakistan which is being torn apart from American drone attacks. The country is being invaded constantly by a terrorist superpower. Again, this is not a small problem.
Historically, several policy domains, including that of foreign policy towards the US and India, budget allocations etc, have been controlled by the Pakistani military, and the civil-military divide can be said to be the most fundamental fracture in Pakistan’s body politic. Do you see this changing with recent elections, keeping in mind the military’s deep penetration into Pakistan’s political economy?
NC: Yes, the military has a huge role in the economy with big stakes and, as you say, it has constantly intervened to make sure that it keeps its hold on policy making. Well, I hope, and there seem to be some signs, that the military is taking a backseat, not really in the economy, but in some of the policy issues. If that can continue, which perhaps it will, this will be a positive development.
Maybe, something like what has happened recently in Turkey. In Turkey also, for a long time, the military was the decisive force but in the past 10 years they have backed off somewhat and the civilian government has gained more independence and autonomy even to shake up the military command. In fact, it even arrested several high-ranking officers [for interfering in governmental affairs]. Maybe Pakistan can move in a similar direction. Similar problems are arising in Egypt too. The question is whether the military will release its grip which has been extremely strong for the past 60 years. So this is happening all over the region and particularly strikingly in Pakistan.
In the coming elections, all indications are that a coalition government will be formed. The party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is leading the polls with Imran Khan’s (relatively) newly-emerged party not far behind. Do you think an impending coalition government will be sufficiently equipped to handle the myriad problems facing the country that you have just pointed out, such as civil-military imbalance, drone attacks, extremist violence etc.
NC: Well, we have a record for Nawaz Sharif but not the others. And judging by the record, it’s pretty hard to be optimistic. His [Sharif's] previous governments were very corrupt and regressive in the policies pursued. But the very fact that there is popular participation can have impact. That’s what leads to change, as it has just recently in North Africa (in Tunisia and Egypt). As far as change goes, significant change does not come from above, it comes through popular activism.
In the past month or so, statements from the US State Department and the American ambassador to Pakistan have indicated quite a few times that they have ‘no favourites’ in the upcoming elections. What is your take on that especially with the impending (formal) US withdrawal from Afghanistan?
NC: That could well be true. I do not think that US government has any particular interest in one or another element of an internal political confrontation. But it does have very definite interests in what it wants Pakistan to be doing. For example, it wants Pakistan to continue to permit aggressive and violent American actions on Pakistani territory. It wants Pakistan to be supportive of US goals in Afghanistan. The US also deeply cares about Pakistan’s relationship with Iran. The US very much wants Pakistan to cut relations with Iran which they [Pakistan] are not doing. They are following a somewhat independent course in this regard, as are India, China and many other countries which are not strictly under the thumb of the US. That will be an important issue because Iran is such a major issue in American foreign policy. And this goes beyond as every year Pakistan has been providing military forces to protect dictatorships in the Gulf from their own populations (e.g. the Saudi Royal Guard and recently in Bahrain). That role has diminished but Pakistan is, and was considered to be, a part of the so-called ‘peripheral system’ which surrounded the Middle East oil dictatorships with non-Arab states such as Turkey, Iran (under the Shah) and Pakistan. Israel was admitted into the club in 1967. One of the main purposes of this was to constrain and limit secular nationalism in the region which was considered a threat to the oil dictatorships.
As you might know, a nationalist insurgency has been going on in Balochistan for almost the past decade. How do you see it affected by the elections, especially as some nationalist parties have decided to take part in polls while others have decried those participating as having sold out to the military establishment?
NC: Balochistan, and to some extent Sindh too, has a general feeling that they are not part of the decision-making process in Pakistan and are ruled by a Punjabi dictatorship. There is a lot of exploitation of the rich resources [in Balochistan] which the locals are not gaining from. As long as this goes on, it is going to keep providing grounds for serious uprisings and insurgencies. This brings us back to the first question which is about developing a constructive from of federalism which will actually ensure participation from the various [smaller] provinces and not just, as they see it, robbing them.
It is now well-known that the Taliban’s creation was facilitated by the CIA and the ISI as part of the 1980s anti-Soviet war. But the dynamics of the Taliban now appear to be very different and complex, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, as they attack governments and mainstream parties. Some people say that foreign intelligence agencies are still behind the Taliban, while others consider this a denial of home-grown problems of extremism and intolerance. How do you view the Taliban in the context of Pakistan?
NC: I can understand the idea that there is a conspiracy. In fact, in much of the world there is a sense of an ultra-powerful CIA manipulating everything that happens, such as running the Arab Spring, running the Pakistani Taliban, etc. That is just nonsense. They [CIA] created a monster and now they are appalled by it. It has its roots in internal Pakistani affairs. It’s a horrible development and phenomenon which goes back to radical Islamisation under Zia and taking away the long standing rights of people in the tribal areas (who were left largely alone). The Pashtuns in particular are kind of trapped. They’ve never accepted the Durand Line nor has any Afghan government historically accepted it. Travel from what is called Pakistan to Afghanistan has been made increasingly difficult and people are often labelled terrorists, even those who might be just visiting families. It is a border which makes absolutely no sense. It was imposed by the needs of British imperialism and all of these things are festering sores which have to be dealt with internally. These are not CIA manipulations.
Actually, US government policies are continuing to do exactly the same thing [produce terrorism]. Two days after the Boston marathon bombings, there was a drone strike in Yemen attacking a peaceful village, which killed a target who could very easily have been apprehended. But of course it is just easier to terrorise people. The drones are a terrorist weapon, they not only kill targets but also terrorise other people. That is what happens constantly in Waziristan. There happened to be a testimony in the Senate a week later by a young man who was living in the US but was originally from that village [in Yemen which was bombed]. And he testified that for years the ‘jihadi’ groups in Yemen had been trying to turn the villagers against the Americans and had failed. The villagers admired America. But this one terrorist strike has turned them into radical anti-Americans, which will only serve as a breeding ground for more terrorists.
There was a striking example of this in Pakistan when the US sent in Special Forces, to be honest, to kill Osama Bin Laden. He could easily have been apprehended and caught but their orders were to kill him. If you remember the way they did it, the way they tried to identify his [Osama’s] position was through a fake vaccination campaign set up by the CIA in the city. It started in a poor area and then when they decided that Osama was in a different area, they cut it off in the middle and shifted [the vaccination campaign] to a richer area. Now, that is a violation of principles which go as far back as the Hippocratic Oath. Well, in the end they did kill their target but meanwhile it aroused fears all over Pakistan and even as far as Nigeria about what these Westerners are doing when they come in and start sticking needles in their arms. These are understandable fears but were exacerbated. Very soon, health workers were being abducted and several were murdered (in Pakistan). The UN even had to take out its whole anti-polio team. Pakistan is one of the last places in the world where polio still exists and the disease could have been totally wiped out from this planet like smallpox. But now, it means that, according to current estimates, there will be thousands of children in Pakistan at risk of contracting polio. As a health scientist at Columbia University, Les Roberts, pointed out, sooner or later people are going to be looking at a child in a wheelchair suffering from polio and will say ‘the Americans did that to him’. So they continue policies which have similar effects i.e. organising the Taliban. This will come back to them too.

China Wonders if Pakistan Is Responsible for Xinjiang Violence

By Akhilesh Pillalamarri
Continuing violence in Xinjiang could alienate China from Pakistan.
As Ankit discussed last week, China may alienate its close friend Pakistan through its discrimination against ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the Uyghur “autonomous” region in western China.
However, it is just as possible that China will itself be alienated from Pakistan due to Pakistan’s role in incubating Uyghur radicals. The past few days have seen the bloodiest violence in Xinjiang between ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese — both civilians and government forces. Over 100 individuals died in the latest bout of violence, which began when Uyghurs attacked police stations in Kashgar. Two days later, the pro-government imam of Kashgar’s largest mosque was stabbed to death. Kashgar, located near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is demographically one of the most Uyghur cities in Xinjiang as well as being a traditional center of Uyghur culture. Among the dead were 59 alleged terrorists gunned down by police.
The Economist reports fears that the conflict in Xinjiang may soon take on features of the Chechen conflict against Russia. Chechen nationalism and demands for autonomy were met with brutality, which in turn radicalized the Chechen movement and fused it with Islamist jihadism. Likewise, Chinese brutality in Xinjiang may lead to a similar radicalization of the Uyghur movement. However, like the chicken or the egg argument, it is impossible to fully argue that the Chinese crackdown will radicalize Uyghurs or if radicalized Uyghurs have indeed infiltrated into China from Pakistan, leading to the worsening of the security situation there.
While many Chinese officials often exaggerate the role of Pakistan as incubating Uyghur radicals to justify their brutality or cover up their own security failures, it is true that the recent increase in violence is linked to Uyghur radicals with ties to militants in Pakistan. They have also picked up strategies learned in Pakistan. Uyghur militants have adopted some aspects of classical modern jihadist violence, such as suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians, after noting the effectiveness of such strategies in other conflicts like Iraq and Syria. Adopting a jihadist strategy also generally strengthens the zeal of fighters, making it harder for governments to defeat or negotiate with them.
The recent violence has been linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the most important subgroup of which is known as the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), which operates from Pakistan. TIP is now based in North Waziristan, which has largely been out of the Pakistani government’s control. There, it mainly trains with the widely feared and hardened Uzbek militants. TIP’s connections in North Waziristan have allowed its fighters to gain experience fighting in other conflicts such as Syria and Iraq while helping other foreign jihadis from the Middle East become more aware of the Xinjiang conflict, which has hitherto been a relatively peripheral concern for jihadists.
According to reports, the Chinese military is currently engaged in halting the flow of terrorists from Pakistan up the Karakorum Highway and through the Khunjerab Pass into Xinjiang. China would like Pakistan stem the tide of Uyghur militants into China. The failure of Pakistan’s military to do so have led to suspicions in China that some mid-level members of Pakistan’s army are sympathetic to the Uyghur militants and that the problem is not due to Pakistan’s incapacity to eliminate militants in Waziristan. Many of these sympathetic soldiers have been influenced by Pakistan’s Islamization policies since the 1980s. Many Chinese officials believe that Pakistan’s intelligence services have contracts with Uyghur militants who may be used, if needed, in places like Kashmir and Afghanistan. As such, Pakistanis are unwilling to fully take out the Uyghur militants within their borders.
Many Chinese are hopeful that Pakistan’s current operation in Waziristan will end the problem of militancy in Pakistan, including that of Uyghur terrorism. However, given Pakistan’s addiction to using militants as proxies, it would be surprising if the current operation in Waziristan truly eliminated militancy in the region. If Uyghur militants were to continue to operate in Pakistan after the conclusion of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, this would be ill received in China, causing it to increasingly reevaluate its relation with Pakistan.

Nazia Hassan - Aap Jaisa Koi

Seven new polio cases detected in Pakistan

This year's nationwide polio cases in Pakistan has touched 115 with the confirmation of seven new cases, a media report said.
Seven more children in North Waziristan and Khyber provinces tested positive for polio, Dawn online reported, quoting the National Institute of Health (NIH) here.
Last year 39 polio cases had been registered by this time, NIH sources said.
Of the 115 cases registered this year, 84 are from FATA, 19 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 from Sindh and one each from Punjab and Balochistan provinces, the report said.

Pakistan's Democracy Crushed : Lahore’s Model Town under siege

The Punjab government has decided that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and his workers will not be allowed to leave the Central Secretariat of Mihajul Quran International for the ‘revolution march’, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
All main roads, link roads and streets leading towards Qadri’s residence and Secretariat’s surrounding areas were sealed off in the early hours of Tuesday, as an estimated 50 additional shipping containers and barbed wire were placed in the area. At least 120 containers have been placed at main roads, including Akbar Chowk, Faisal Town roundabout, Mariyan Stop and Barkat Market and all connecting streets. On main roads, where PAT activists removed containers three days ago, the administration has reportedly quadrupled the number of containers, placing them back-to-back.
Police officials said this is to prevent any removal of the containers by party workers. Even if these containers are removed, heavy police contingents with rubber bullets and teargas shells are prepared to stop the activists from leaving the area, a police official said.
Dozens of containers were transported overnight to Peco Road, Akbar Chowk, Faisal Town, Model Town, Garden Town, Barkat Market, Jinnah Hospital, Model Town Link Road, and Muhammad Pura (Mochi Pura). The containers have blocked routes leading to Model Town and M Block, where Qadri’s residence is situated.
PAT workers have equipped themselves with sticks, gas masks, shields and swimming goggles to protect against the use of teargas. The PAT administration said gas masks would also be provided to the marchers.
Since the Model Town is under siege, PAT Punjab’s vice president Muhammad Ilyas, who suffered a cardiac arrest, died after he was not allowed to be transported to hospital, Qadri’s principal secretary GM Malik told The Express Tribune. Shops at Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, outside Faisal Town, were forcibly shut and the route to the PM’s residence was sealed. Mobile phone services in Model Town extension, Faisal Town and Township have also been suspended. A police official said further contingents have been called on the orders of IGP Mushtaq Sukhera from police lines in Multan, Layyah, Bhakkar and Sheikhupura.
PAT supporters undeterred
Despite the blockades, a large number of PAT supporters, including women and children, continue to arrive at the party secretariat from Karachi, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Bahawalpur, Multan, Rajanpur, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Quetta and other parts of the county.
“If the government tries to restrict Qadri sahib’s movement, it will be the last nail in the corrupt government’s coffin,” said one supporter, 25-year-old Abubakr, an IT student from Hayatabad. “I was stopped at a number of places but in vain,” said 65-year-old Hajra Bibi, who arrived at the secretariat from Rajanpur. Muhammad Ali, a college student from Faisalabad, told The Express Tribune that he arrived via train and then on foot to reach the secretariat.
Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court directed police to remove all unnecessary containers from various points in Model Town in order to ease movements of residents. The AGP said police pickets will be established at points where the containers are removed. Justice Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah asked Advocate General Hanif Khatana and the IGP to meet with the petitioner’s lawyers and decide if the blockaded points could be opened.
After the meeting, the law officer, IGP and the petitioner said they have resolved to remove containers from Model Town J-block, H-block and Jinnah Hospital. The petition also objected to containers at Ravi Bridge. But the police said containers have not been placed here.

UN Sharply Criticizes Sri Lanka For Deporting Pakistani Asylum Seekers

United Nations High Commission for Refugees criticizes Sri Lanka for deporting the Pakistani Asylum seekers.
The UN refugee agency sharply accused Sri Lanka of violating international law in its extended operation of deporting Pakistani asylum seekers without a fair hearing. Adrian Edwards- spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) said, “Fundamentally, this is a breach of the principle of no forced returns. That’s a clear violation of international law. We are very concerned at the continued deportations that are happening. We want deportations stopped. Some of the latest deportees had their passports and asylum-seeker certificates seized last week. They were told to go to Colombo airport, where they were placed on flights to Pakistan. Sri Lanka has deported 88 Pakistanis including 11 women and 8 children since August 1, regardless of their claims that they could be at risk in their homeland, he clarified.
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The threat of Pakistan's angry young marchers

As Pakistani authorities brace themselves for two huge protest movements taking to the streets on Thursday, Pakistan's Independence Day, the BBC's M Ilyas Khan considers the implications of this assault on the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Just over a year after it won a landslide victory in elections, the government is coming under siege from two of the country's latest generation of politicians. Neither of them began life as career politicians, but they now command vocal support and their angry rhetoric has the power to marshal equally angry crowds.
Although they are untested leaders, one year on from the election of Mr Sharif, they are posing questions about basic problems such as unemployment and the country's electricity supply. One of them is Imran Khan, a former cricket hero who formed a political party in 1997 but has only recently hit a chord with the masses.
His Movement for Justice (PTI) party emerged as the second largest in terms of votes won in the 2013 elections, though it finished in third place in terms of the tally of parliament seats.
It trounced its opponents in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which it now rules.
Mass of frustration
Analysts say that to a growing chunk of the Pakistani youth - which makes up more than 50% of the national population - Mr Khan comes across as a possible saviour against what they see as "corrupt and inept" leaders.
Their anger follows from their frustration over a sinking economy, the uncontrolled growth of militancy, and a system of service delivery that has nearly ground to a halt.
Mr Khan is now threatening to let loose this mass of anger and frustration on Islamabad unless the prime minister resigns and paves the way for early elections.
Mr Khan believes that last year's elections were rigged. He has chosen 14 August, Pakistan's Independence Day, to descend on Islamabad and stage a sit-in which he says will continue until the government falls.
Prime Minister Sharif's second detractor is Dr Tahirul Qadri, a firebrand cleric who lives in Canada and is known there and in the rest of the West as a Sufi religious scholar.
He acquired a taste for politics when the political arena opened up in 1989 after the death of military ruler General Zia. Ever since he moved to Canada, he has maintained seasonal migrations to Pakistan.
His Pakistan Peoples Movement (PAT) made little electoral impact when it was launched, and it is still in oblivion.
Youth's spiritual guide
But he has made up for his lack of mass appeal by building a support base of many tens of thousands of youthful men and women who have benefited from a country-wide chain of welfare and educational charities he set up in 1981.
These young people consider Mr Qadri their spiritual guide and mentor.
Analysts say they are Mr Qadri's captive audience, and can be as militant or as docile as the words Mr Qadri employs to motivate them. Last year, more than 40,000 of them descended on Islamabad to "rid the people of corrupt rulers".
Nearly half of them braved the city's freezing cold winter and held on for three days on the central Jinnah Avenue, sleeping on the pavements and using the forested green areas on both sides as their open-air toilets.
They went back without dethroning the rulers. Instead, their leader ended the march by signing an agreement with those same rulers on political and electoral reforms. No-one ever took that agreement seriously.
These "captive" young men and women are once again ready to march on Islamabad, and this time they intend to join forces with Mr Khan's youth.
The government has requisitioned hundreds of shipping containers to be used as hurdles along the streets and highways between Lahore, the epicentre of the brewing storm, and Islamabad - a journey of nearly 400km (250 miles) - to inhibit or slow down the marchers' progress.
It has shown more accommodation towards Mr Khan - Prime Minister Sharif extended him an olive branch and invited him for a dialogue - than Mr Qadri.
Is it about Musharraf?
Government leaders in private conversations allege that Mr Qadri is not only an unelected political nobody, he may well be advancing the agenda of "certain forces" (elements within the military) that do not favour democracy.
Many in the government also view Mr Khan with suspicion.
They cite senior newspaper columnists who have in the past openly linked his political career to officials of the Pakistani army and its ISI intelligence service.
Also, a famous Pakistani social worker, Adus Sattar Edhi, in a TV interview some years ago accused Mr Khan and a former ISI general of planning to topple ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's government in 1996 and replacing it with a cabinet of technocrats.
Both Mr Qadri and Mr Khan have denied all these allegations.
But on Sunday, a senior leader of Mr Sharif's PML-N party, Raja Zafarul Haq, again reverted to this theme and accused the pair of planning to create anarchy so as to force the government to let former president and army chief, Pervez Musharraf, off the hook.
Mr Musharraf has been under house arrest since last year. He became the first ever army chief in Pakistan to be indicted in a high treason case.
This has led to resentment within the military and caused tensions with Mr Sharif's civilian government.
Government officials now fear that Mr Qadri could hijack Mr Khan's show and start a confrontation with the law enforcement authorities.
In a country with a history of military coups, everyone fears that violence beyond a certain point may force the hand of even a reluctant army to intervene.

Death anniversary of pop singer Nazia Hassan observed

The 14th death anniversary of pop Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan was observed on Wednesday.

Remembering Nazia Hassan-13 Aug 2014 by GeoNews Her song Aap Jaisa Koi (1980) made her a legend and pop icon in Pakistan and in South Asia. Her debut album Disco Deewane (1981) also charted in fourteen countries worldwide and became the best selling Asian pop record up until that time.
Nazia Hassan along with her brother Zohaib Hassan went on to sell over 60 million records worldwide. Nazia was the first Pakistani to win a Filmfare Award and remains the youngest winner of a Filmfare Award in the category of Best Female Playback Singer to date when she was 15.
Nazia Hassan is a recipient for the Pride of Performance Double Platinum Award and Golden Discs Awards.
The pop icon Nazia Hassan died of lung cancer at the age of 35 on August 13, 2000.

Pakistan: Plight of IDPs: ANP senator raises the spectre of East Pakistan debacle

The Express Tribune
Pakistan Awami Party (ANP) Senator Afrasiab Khattak has raised the spectre of East Pakistan debacle while talking about the plight of the tens of thousands of tribesmen displaced by the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan Agency.
“Like the people of Bengal [erstwhile East Pakistan], the people of K-P can also demand a separate state if the government doesn’t pay attention to their needs,” Senator Khattak said on Tuesday while speaking on the floor of the upper house of parliament. He lamented that the current political turmoil was leading the federal and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments to ignore the plight of the internally displaced people (IDPs).
Khattak requested the PML-N government to address the grievances of the IDPs as the situation in Mirali and Miramshah, two main towns of North Waziristan, is no different from the massacre in Gaza. He said Pakistan’s initial policy of discriminating between good and bad Taliban was problematic and the authorities have still not adopted a serious approach to cracking down on militant outfits.
He said China has gradually become more concerned about our anti-terror policy and could create problems if it decides to take action against Pakistan. “If our relations with China also fall apart, we will find ourselves in a quandary,” he added. Furthermore, Khattak criticised the government for invoking Article 245 as it became unnecessary after the Pakistan Protection Act was enforced.
Earlier speaking on the political turmoil, PPP Senator Rehman Malik offered that former president Asif Zardari could assist the government in handling the current political situation. “He can resolve the issue in the same way as he did during his party’s five-year rule,” Malik said.
He claimed that the government should only allow the PTI chief to hold the Azadi march if it is conducted peacefully. “There should be a dialogue among all the parties involved and a give-and-take formula should be adopted,” he added. Before the Senate session was adjourned until August 18, the lawmakers also deliberated the motion tabled by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani against the government’s decision to invoke Article 245 in Islamabad.

Pakistan is heading for chaos again

The talk is of hundreds of thousands of people. One million. Perhaps even more.
The authorities of Pakistan are readying themselves for what could be a huge demonstration of anti-government feeling. Two separate protests, similar in their aims and ambition, are set to besiege Islamabad tomorrow, Pakistan’s Independence Day.
One of the protests will he headed by the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The other demonstrators are supporters of cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who runs Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and a religious organisation, Minhaj-ul-Quran.
Both groups are demanding that the government of Nawaz Sharif stand down immediately. They claim the victory Mr Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won in last year’s election was made possible only by widespread electoral corruption. The win was illegitimate, they claim.
It has been 15 months since the 64-year-old Mr Sharif was elected to his third term as Pakistan’s prime minister. During the campaign it was clear he was being pushed hard, especially in the urban areas of Punjab, by Mr Khan and the PTI.
But for all of Mr Khan’s charisma and his appeal to young people that Pakistan required change, not old faces, the PML-N was better organised and ensured its supporters went out and cast their votes on polling day. While there were some irregularities, most domestic and international observers believed the election was fair.
Mr Khan cannot accept it. While initially saying his party would acknowledge the result, and getting on with the task of running the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) where he won, he pressed the election authorities and the government to launch an investigation in a sample of constituencies to see if there had been rigging. He says Mr Sharif and the government have failed to do so.
Speaking from Pakistan, Saifullah Niazi, a senior PTI official, said: “We want electoral reforms and we then want new elections. No election reforms can take place while the government is in place. There would have to have a caretaker government – through the Supreme Court.”
Supporters of Mr Qadri are equally adamant that the status quo cannot continue. The cleric, who spends most of his time in Canada, has called for a “people’s revolution” and has also demanded Mr Sharif’s government stand down.
Unlike Mr Khan, Mr Qadri told his supporters last year to boycott the election, saying they could not hope for a fair outcome. He insists that nothing has changed.
Qazi Faiz-ul-Islam, a spokesman for Mr Qadri’s PAT, said: “We are peaceful people. We are unarmed. But our morale is very high. The Sharifs should step down. Their days are numbered.”
Neither Mr Khan nor Mr Qadri are strangers to the drama of such protests and marches. In October 2012, Mr Khan tried to lead a “long march” to Waziristan to highlight US drone strikes. Meanwhile, in January 2013, parts of Islamabad were brought to a halt when Mr Qadri brought tens of thousands of supporters to the capital and camped out close to the parliament building. Many of the largely urban protesters were women. The demands for clean government echoed those of protesters in neighbouring India and elsewhere.
From a constitutional point of view, Mr Sharif argues that he has right on his side and that he can take whatever steps are required to protect the capital. The protesters, similarly, claim they are within their constitutional right to demonstrate.
But as is often the case in Pakistan, the issue may be more opaque. Government officials have claimed both Mr Qadri and Mr Khan are being supported by the powerful military and intelligence establishment, with whom Mr Sharif has long had a difficult relationship. (He was forced out in a coup in 1999 led by Gen Pervez Musharraf).
Both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri deny any links to the military. But others have pointed out that the military, displeased with Mr Sharif for allowing a treason trial of Mr Musharraf to proceed, could seek to seize on the situation. The perception that the demonstrators are supported by the army could be as important as the military’s actual backing.
Sixty-eight years since it secured its independence, Pakistan faces a host of problems, including a persistent Islamist militancy, crippling power cuts and uncertainty about the regional fall-out as US troops prepare to leave neighbouring Afghanistan.
Last year’s completion of a full term by a civilian government and the transfer to another civilian government – the first time in Pakistan’s seven decades that this had happened – was broadly welcomed domestically and abroad. Mr Sharif certainly appears to be taking the threat seriously. Police have effectively barricaded Mr Qadri’s Lahore office and it seems unlikely he will be permitted to lead the demonstrators to Islamabad. There have already been clashes and at least one person was killed.
And last night, a sombre Mr Sharif addressed the nation, his second appeal to the public in as many days. The prime minister listed what he said were the achievements of his government, though he admitted he had not been able to work a miracle.
He added: “We will not allow national decisions to be taken on the streets and roads. We will not permit anyone to spread anarchy.”

Pakistan: March of folly

It is the season of political immaturity and nobody is putting their money on the outcome.
The stock market has seen historic withdrawals sparked by panic. The rupee is struggling as importers are buying dollars in large quantities, also driven by panic. Day-to-day government work has ground to a halt. Shipments of edibles and fuel into cities and towns across Punjab are disrupted, leaving markets and homes running low on supplies of perishable food.
Citizens have to first locate pumps that are open and then endure a four-hour wait to fill up. The intercity movement of goods and people is strangulated, decisions remain stuck in limbo, stocks are running low in factories and homes and uncertainty grips the financial markets as the country waits to see how the brewing confrontation between the government and the PTI will end. Pakistan may have witnessed worse situations before, such as the post-election violence of 1977, but even today, extra-constitutional intervention cannot be discounted.
The blame lies with the politicians, beginning with Imran Khan, who has thrown a spanner into the wheel of democratic consolidation in Pakistan. His grievances, while valid and in need of investigation, do not merit such extreme action, especially when it is yet to be demonstrated convincingly that the irregularities pointed out changed the outcome of the election. Many elections, particularly in developing countries, when examined under the microscope, will show irregularities of some sort, and Pakistan is no exception.
But, instead of calling for a re-election and demonstrating his support on the streets, the wiser course would have been for Mr Khan to accept the government’s offer of negotiating a way out of the stand-off. In the end, the vast and messy contest of democracy works only because all parties agree that the outcome in hand is the only one they have to work with in spite of imperfections in the process. Mr Khan might think he deserved to win the election last year, but he did not and must accept that reality.
And what is Nawaz Sharif’s excuse for his role in such amateur politics? After all, this is not his first taste of the combustibility of Pakistani democracy. He takes pride in presenting himself as the repository of Pakistan’s political memory, boasting three decades of experience in politics. Was it then so hard for the prime minister to deal with Mr Khan’s grievances before matters came to a head? Was it necessary to blockade his own capital and his hometown, thereby signalling his weakness and desperation?
Mr Khan has behaved like a novice by not leaving himself a way to climb down from the maximalist position he has taken. But Mr Sharif has played into his opponents’ hands by staying aloof for long and then panicking. The result is a march of folly that begins tomorrow and ends in territory as yet unknown.

Pakistan: PPP, JI find Nawaz’s offer ‘too late’

The Pakistan People’s Party and Jamat-i-Islami have said Prime Minister Nawaz’s offer to form a judicial commission to probe rigging allegations of Imran Khan is “too late” and will not deter him from the Azadi March.
“The PTI will not take this lollipop at this stage. The way the PML-N used judiciary in the past nobody will trust the prime minister’s words that he is sincere in investigating the rigging,” PPP Secretary-General Sardar Latif Khosa said.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Khosa said the prime minister’s body language was ‘confused’ as if he was delivering his last speech as a premier.
“The prime minister should have announced that he would give free hand to the protesters of long march and his government would not torture them. He should also have announced withdrawal of Article 245 and declared if the rigging proved he would resign,” he said.
Latif Khosa said the PPP was not with the PML-N government but with democracy.
“The PML-N government is destroying itself and it will be blamed for it,” he said, adding Nawaz Sharif should have announced removal of Shahbaz Sharif for his alleged role in the killing of innocent protesters in Model Town.
JI Secretary-General Liaquat Baloch said: “The prime minister’s offer has come late. It will have to see how much this offer satisfies Imran Khan.”
He said since the premier had announced constitution of a commission, he didn’t tell when it would be formed.
He said the JI was afraid of bloodshed during the PTI and PAT marches. Mr Baloch said the government, PTI and PAT should resolve all issues through dialogues rather than creating an atmosphere of anarchy in the country.
ANP Secretary-General Ehsaan Wyne termed the premier’s offer a good opportunity for the PTI to retain the democratic system in the country.
“We are of the view that the PM has accepted one of the two major demands of PTI. And we also consider Khan’s demand for Sharif’s resignation as unconstitutional and illegal. The PTI should postpone its Azadi march for the sake of democracy,” Mr Wyne said.
JUI-S leader Maulana Asim Makhdoom said the prevailing political crisis wouldn’t end until setting up an interim government for six months.
“I think the prime minister should constitute an interim government for six months after suspending the national and provincial assemblies. And then a commission of Supreme Court should probe the rigging allegations,” he added.
PML-N media coordinator Muhammad Mehdi said the PTI chairman’s refusal to accept Nawaz Sharif’s offer of forming a three-man Supreme Court commission for probing the rigging allegations had exposed his personal agenda.