Sunday, August 17, 2014

Obama plans return to WH for Iraq, Ferguson meetings
President Obama's somewhat mysterious return to the White House from his Martha's Vineyard vacation starts late Sunday night.
The president is scheduled to have meetings at the White House on Monday and Tuesday, including Monday sessions devoted to the Iraq military operation and the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.
In the morning, Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to meet with members of the National Security Council about Iraq.
On Monday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder will brief Obama on the investigation of the recent police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that has sparked major protests.
The president's brief trip – he is scheduled to return to Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday, and stay there the rest of the week – has inspired all sorts of speculation.
Obama is on track to announce major executive orders on immigration policy. But aides said that won't happen this week.
"I can assure you we are not anticipating a major announcement on immigration when the president is in Washington," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said last week.
The Obama administration had been planning a major rescue operation involving religious minorities trapped on a mountain in Iraq. But a Pentagon assessment team said last week that many people have been evacuated, and a rescue operation would not be necessary.
Obama is scheduled to be back at the White House at around 11 p.m. Sunday. Stay tuned for what happens over the next two days.

U.S: One injured, 7 arrested as Ferguson cops disperse protesters defying curfew


Iran FM urges unity government in Afghanistan

Iran's foreign minister has underscored the need for the establishment of an inclusive national unity government in Afghanistan.
In a Sunday meeting in Tehran with the United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan Ján Kubiš, Mohammad Javad Zarif called for the formation of a unity government based on a true partnership involving the two rival Afghan presidential candidates.
Zarif pointed to the contributions by the Islamic Republic to help the development of Afghanistan and emphasized Tehran’s role in strengthening stability and peace in the war-stricken country.
The top Iranian diplomat also pointed to Iran’s principle policy of non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, saying the country’s problems should be solved by Afghans themselves.
He further expressed Tehran’s readiness to provide any help needed to settle the troubles gripping Afghanistan.
The UN official, for his part, thanked Iran for its efforts in restoring peace in Afghanistan and highlighted the role of Afghanistan's neighboring states in preserving stability in the country.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues to plague the country, despite the presence of thousands of US-led troops.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, agreed to form a national unity government aimed at preventing the country from going deeper into political chaos after a disputed run-off election.

Tilbury Docks container stowaways 'Sikhs from Afghanistan'

Thirteen children aged as young as one were among the 35 Afghan Sikh immigrants found in shipping container, Essex Police has said.
They were discovered after a freighter arrived at Tilbury Docks from Belgium on Saturday and have been described as victims of "people trafficking".
One man was found dead and the others were taken to hospital to be treated for severe dehydration and hypothermia.
Thirty have now been released to police and UK Border Force staff.
Essex Police said the stowaways, which also included adults up to 72 years old, are to be interviewed to find out how they came to be inside the container.
The other four people discovered in the container remain at Southend Hospital. It is thought they will be discharged later on Sunday and be brought to a makeshift reception centre set up inside the terminal buildings at Tilbury Docks.
Police launched a homicide investigation following the man's death and officers are working with Interpol and other international authorities to try to establish what happened.
A post-mortem examination is being carried out on Sunday and the container is being forensically examined.
'Horrific ordeal'
Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said: "The welfare and health of the people is our priority at this stage.
"Now they are well enough, our officers and colleagues from the Border Force will be speaking to them via interpreters so we can piece together what happened and how they came to be in the container.
"We now understand that they are from Afghanistan and are of the Sikh faith.
"We have had a good deal of help from partners within the local Sikh community in the Tilbury area to ensure that these poor people, who would have been through a horrific ordeal, are supported in terms of their religious and clothing needs."
The Red Cross provided food and welfare for the group overnight.
Immigration lawyer Harjap Singh Bhangal told the BBC that the Sikh community in Afghanistan had long complained of harassment.
He said the number of Sikh families has been "dwindling" and they faced verbal and physical abuse.
He said: "As a result Sikhs are leaving Afghanistan, and they feel persecuted, and they're leaving for other countries in Europe such as Germany, France and the UK."
Sikhs in Afghanistan
The history of Sikhs in Afghanistan goes back about two centuries. In the 1970s they are thought to have numbered about 200,000, with most living side-by-side with other communities in cities like Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar and involved in the fabrics and clothing business. But the population is now thought to number less than 5,000. After the Soviet invasion in 1980, a great number migrated to India. A second phase of migration took place after the fall of communist government in 1992. And during the civil war that followed, Sikh business and homes were occupied. They were forced to leave the country with other minorities, including Hindus. During the Taliban era, Sikhs gained some independence. However, they were forced to wear yellow patches in order to be "recognised or differentiated" from other Afghans. After the US invasion in 2001, Sikhs were given more freedom by Hamid Karzai's new government. But even now they are in dispute with the government over their custom of holding outdoor cremations. Until recently, Sikhs did not have any representation in the Afghan Parliament. However, last year President Karzai allocated a seat for them, which will be shared with a Hindu representative.
'Screaming and banging'
The discovery was made after the container arrived from the Belgian village of Zeebrugge at about 06:00 BST on Saturday when "screaming and banging" were heard coming from inside.
All the remaining containers on the ship have been searched and no-one else has been found.
Essex Police said there were initial concerns more people could be inside a container that arrived at Purfleet but that this turned out not to be the case.
Belgian police said they believed the lorry which delivered the container in Zeebrugge had been identified through CCTV footage. Chief Inspector Peter De Waele said it was likely the people were already inside the container when it was dropped at Zeebrugge as it appeared "impossible" the group could have entered it during the hour it was at the port.
It is not known where the container, one of 64 aboard the P&O commercial vessel Norstream, originated, nor where the people inside it were heading.
'Exploited by gangs'
Former head of the UK Border Force Tony Smith said those inside the container were victims of international organised criminals. He told the BBC: "They're being exploited because the prize is a passage to the West - that's what they want, they want to migrate to the UK or to Europe but they're being exploited by criminal gangs who are probably taking their entire life savings away on the promise of a passage to the West.
"We really need to get a message out to migrants that if they want to come to this country there are legal routes that they need to explore and they need to apply for visas and permits."
Anthony Steen, chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, said: "It shows how desperate people are to improve their economic situation - how desperate they are to leave their own homes, and own countries, and hope to arrive in somewhere that's more accommodating, more kind, and offering them a better quality of life. Usually, they're sadly wrong."
Police have set up a "casualty bureau" hotline for anyone concerned about relatives. The numbers are 0800 056 0944 or 0207 158 0010 if dialling from outside the UK.

PPP notifies officer-bearers in four Hazara districts
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party has notified its office-bearers in Mansehra, Battagram, Torghar and Kohistan districts, as the party started nominations of office-bearers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A team of party’s provincial leadership, led by its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa secretary general Hamayun Khan, had recently visited Hazara division and consulted with party workers for selection of district office-bearers. After holding consultations with workers he had submitted a report to provincial PPP president Khanzada Khan who issued the notification of newly-selected office-bearers.
According to the notification, Malik Mohammad Farooq was selected as district president and Mohammad Fareed general secretary of Mansehra district; Saifullah Khan president and Zarbaland Khan secretary general of Kohistan district; Javed Khan president and Shad Mohammad Khan secretary general of Battagram district; and Noor Feroz president and Laiq Shah secretary general of Torghar district.
“I am thankful to the workers and leadership who selected me as district president of the party,” Mr Farooq said while speaking to mediapersons on Saturday. He said that the new presidents would soon complete the respective bodies with consensus so that the party could be reorganised at grassroots in Hazara. He said that after the current political developments in the country in the wake of Azadi March the PPP leadership changed its policy of intra-party elections and allowed nominations of office-bearers.
Mr Farooq said that the party workers of respective districts were taken into confidence before notification of the new office-bearers.

Asfandyar Wali : Imran, Qadri will be responsible if democracy derailed:

Newly elected president of Awami National Party (ANP) Asfandyar Wali Sunday said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Tahirul Qadri would be held responsible if democracy was derailed.
Addressing the party workers after ANP’s intra party elections, Asfandyar Wali advised the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek a vote of confidence from the Parliament.
He said there was no mention of technocratic or national government in the Constitution and that ANP would not be part of any unconstitutional move.
“Women and children are dying in the acts of terrorism while the chief minister of ‘New Pakistan’ is dancing in the procession,” he lamented without taking the name of CM Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and PTI leader Pervez Khattak.
He said people are losing their lives as a result of heavy rains in Peshawar but PTI continues to be more concerned about four constituencies.

Pakistan: Asfandyar Wali elected unopposed ANP President

Asfandyar Wali Khan was elected unopposed president of Awami National Party while MNA Ghulam Ahmad Bilour was elected as senior Vice president on Sunday.
According to details, ANP intra-party election was held in Wali Bagh, Charsadda whereas Asfandiyar Wali again was elected as party president. Talking to gathering, he said that Imran will be responsible, If Democracy derails in the country.
He said, “We are supporting PML-N mandate not Nawaz Sharif. Asfandyar said that Imran Khan demands for the resignation of Prime Minister and attack on PM house is un constitutional”.
Asfandiyar Wali criticised Tehrek Insaf and said that 18 people have died in torrential rains in KPK but Cheif Minister Parvez Khattak was enjoying in Islamabad.
Earlier, former chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti was elected as provincial president, while Mian Iftikhar Hussain was elected as provincial general sectary of ANP

Pakistan: Hindu leaders demand repair of temples

Hindu community leaders have demanded the government repair their worship places, particularly temples.
The demand was voiced at a function by Hindu community representatives, including Ratan Lal, Akmal Das, Raju Ram, Chaman Lal and Mohan Lal, at the Circuit House on Saturday.
The function was held to distribute cheques under the Holi package on behalf of the chief minister among deserving Hindus belonging to Bahawalpur district.
It was addressed, among others, by minority MPA Kanji Ram and PML-N MPA Fauzia Ayub Qureshi.
MPA Ram said the government was safeguarding minorities’ rights at each forum. A proof of this, he claimed, was the representation of minorities on merit on reserved seats in all assemblies.
MPA Fauzia said the government resolved minorities’ problems on priority and these cheques were in fact a gift from the CM on the occasion of the Hindus’ religious occasion of Holi.
The Hindu leaders demanded their worship places in a dilapidated condition be widened and renovated so they could perform their religious rituals without any difficulty. They also demanded their children be provided facilities for education, admission to higher educational institutions according to the Hindu quota system on reserved seats and construction of boundary walls around Hindu graveyards.

Pakistan’s Wretched of the Earth

By Ali Usman Qasmi
The recent act of violence against Ahmadis in Gujranwala is part of a series of such events, which have been taking place in Pakistan for many decades now. While all religious minorities in Pakistan have been under attack, Ahmadis are the worst affected. I will argue that this is because the very entity of followers of this community has been criminalised in Pakistan.
It has been exactly 40 years since Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the National Assembly of Pakistan. The proceedings of the debate, which took place in the August-September of 1974, have now been officially declassified and can be accessed online (although the staff of the National Assembly continues to maintain that this record was destroyed by fire during the 1990s). These proceedings comprise 21 volumes with over 3,000 pages. I am leaving out the details of the extensive debate, which took place in the assembly and jump to the concluding speech made by the attorney general on September 6-7. Yahya Bakhtiyar, the then attorney general, did not just give theological reasons for declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims; he also furnished arguments, which, in a nuanced way, were suggestive of the inherent disloyalty of Ahmadis towards the state.
He said: “Then, Sir, when we are happy, they are not happy; when we are unhappy, they are happy. This is what the evidence has shown. We created a separate state, with the help of God, because we thought and felt like one man that we shall remain together because we think and feel in the same manner; there is a subjective psychological feeling of belonging to one another, whether we are Baloch or Pathans or Sindhis or Punjabis, and for this reason, we feel and think very differently from them.”
The top lawyer’s referral to the disparate ethnic groups of Pakistan underlay his anxiety to reaffirm the unified basis of the political community sought through religion –- an anxiety which had become deeper in the wake of the events of 1971. It can be inferred from Bakhtiyar’s estimation that the Ahmadis could not be accommodated within the body politic of the nation because they did not share any of the constituents of nation-building, such as a common religion, psychological make-up or similar feelings of grief and pleasure. In the reconstitutive Pakistani identity during the post-1971 period, the need for cementing national cohesion through religion was even more pronounced.
In other words, if the organic unity of religion was being undermined by Ahmadi doctrines, it also amounted to subverting the unity of the Pakistani state on their part. It is then not surprising that Ahmadis are routinely described as traitors and disloyal towards Pakistan. The day following the Gujranwala violence, a local newspaper carried a column by the ‘father of the atom bomb’ — Abdul Qadeer Khan — who accused Professor Abdus Salam of spying for the US and divulging secrets about Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
I now turn to a second aspect of the criminalisation of Ahmadis in Pakistan. An ordinance was passed by General Ziaul Haq, in 1984, which barred the Ahmadis from ‘posing’ as Muslims or making use of repertoires of symbols or practices identifiable with Islam and Muslims. It is obvious that such an open-ended and vague piece of ‘law’ was going to create a number of problems for Ahmadis. A number of lawsuits were filed by them on different occasions against this ordinance. It resulted in the famous “Coca-Cola judgment”, in which the court invoked copyright laws to justify the ban on Ahmadis from performing Islamic practices. It said that just like the Coca-Cola company had a right to manufacture Coca-Cola, in similar vein, only Muslims had the right to practise Islam. In another judgment, every Ahmadi was declared a potential blasphemer. Trickily, Ahmadis have been barred from Islam but ‘Ahmadi beliefs’ as such are not banned in Pakistan nor are Ahmadis disallowed to believe in them as long as they do not propagate it with the tag of Islam attached to it.
In this way, every single Ahmadi in Pakistan has been criminalised as a traitor and blasphemer. The minimum punishment in Pakistan for both these offences is death. Violence against them, hence, does not remain a criminal act anymore. It amounts to killing a traitor or a blasphemer.
After the second amendment had been passed, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed the National Assembly and described the unanimous decision of the assembly to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims as the “final solution” of the “90-year-old [Ahmadi] problem”. Whether this was a Freudian slip or not, but the elder Bhutto’s inappropriate choice of words for Pakistan’s Ahmadis have come perilously close to bearing resemblance with the situation faced by the Jews of Nazi Germany.

Pakistani interfaith couples brave threats for forbidden love

Thirteen years ago among the whirring looms of a garment factory in an eastern Pakistani city, a Muslim woman fell in love with a Christian co-worker.
Now married with three children, Kalsoom Bibi and her husband Yousuf Bhatti have been shunned by their communities, endured death threats and an abduction.
Marriage out of choice remains a taboo in Pakistan, particularly when it involves a partner outside one s own clan or faith group.
While marriages between different members of Abrahamic faiths -- including Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- is permitted by law, a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man. People who chose to convert out from Islam can be charged with blasphemy and face life in prison. Kalsoom s first encounter with a member of another religion came at school, where the only Christian student was mercilessly bullied.
When she met Yousuf, she decided to question him about his faith to find out more. Long hours of discussion brought the two close together, and she eventually decided to convert.
It is a fact she hides to this day from her family.
"My mother died requesting me to leave my Christian husband," Kalsoom, a short woman in her twenties with deep brown eyes said, sitting on her bed in a modest two-room house with her husband and children. Such unions aren t officially recorded but rights activists believe there are thousands of such cases every year. The couple say they now live among a more understanding community that provides them support and respect their choices -- but it wasn t always this way.
"The life after marriage was terrible. We went into hiding because the family and community threatened to kill us. "We lived in hiding in Islamabad for several months and my son was born during that time," she said.
Yousuf said the most harrowing incident early on in their marriage when he was abducted by four Muslim militants and driven hours out of town to a deserted spot.
"They kept me there for several days and asked me why I married my wife.
"They wanted to kill me, but when I told them that I married my wife with her own will and because she also wanted to marry me -- and that I did not force her into this marriage -- they softened and released me after some days," he added.
Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), said the case was symptomatic of a wider problem, which remains largely hidden from sight.
"In such cases (inter-faith marriages) people try to attack the whole community," he said. Walter added his organisation had estimated 10,000 cases nationwide over the past four years.
- Honour killings -
Legally, there are no provisions in the criminal code against leaving Islam, though the country s blasphemy law -- which carries a life sentence -- has been invoked in recent cases against apostates.
But even when members from the minority community convert to Islam, they can still face a backlash.
Sana, a Christian teacher from the same eastern city met and fell in love with cameraman Salman Khawaja who had come to record a show about Christmas festivities in 2006. Drawn to Islamic traditions and culture since her childhood, Sana decided to embrace Islam.
The couple s lives became "hellish" after marriage and they said they had to leave their city to avoid death.
"We were threatened from both Christian and Muslim communities. So we decided to leave the city to save our lives," Sana told AFP holding her two-year-old son.
Despite being a journalist with connections to local government officials, Salman found himself helpless to fight back.
"We decided to get married in another city to avoid any attacks by our families and communities," he said. "Back at our homes, our families were planning to kill us for marrying across religion as they thought we had stolen their pride and honour.
"It was very difficult period for us, we remained in hiding for six months to avoid any attacks. I had no career over there," he said, adding that he drove a taxi to earn a living. "When the situation got better, we returned ... but my family refused to accept us. Then we rented a house in a low category residential area and started a new life."
- Rising extremism -
For some, the trauma never goes away.
Nadia, a petite, light-skinned 19-year-old former Muslim fell in love with 24-year-old Christian man Shamaun Anwar, an embroiderer, who used to smile at her in the street as they went to work.
They planned to marry in secret until Nadia s parents found out about them and forced her to marry her cousin instead. When she refused to move in with him, they began beating her.
"They used to beat me whenever I told them that I won t live with my husband and will marry Shamaun," she said.
"They still threaten me, even after I divorced my cousin and married Shamaun. I am now more scared because I have converted to Christianity," she added tearfully.
Some campaigners including lawyer Akmal Bhatti advocate the creation of a civil marriage code as is the case in India so that it is possible to keep faith out of the wedding ceremony.
Others are less hopeful, citing the rising number of attacks against the country s beleaguered minorities as a sign of rising intolerance.

Pakistan: Pro-Taliban Ex-Law Minister Rana Sanaullah May Fly Abroad

Pro-Taliban takfiri former law minister of Punjab Province, Rana Sanaullah is reportedly leaving for London on Monday (Aug 18) after the sessions court has ordered registration of an FIR in Model Town incident in which 14 supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri were killed.
A ticket of a foreign airline shows he is leaving for London via Dubai on Monday.
Rana Sanaullah said: “I am not going anywhere. There is no truth in any news in this regard. The propaganda and rumours spread by opponents are totally baseless. I am ready to face the situation.” Rana Sanaullah was removed from his office by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif following the Model Town incident. He has all along denied his involvement in the tragedy.

Balochistan: BLA attacks Jinnah’s residency once again
Baloch freedom fighters have carried out attack against Pakistani forces in different areas of Baloch to make 14 August as a Black Day. The attacks intensified hours before Pakistan Independence Day celebrations were about to start.
The spokesmen of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) have claimed responsibility for attacks on flags shops and Pakistani security forces in Quetta, Ziarat, Harnai, Kahan, Kohlu, Kharan and Panjgur areas of Balochistan.
According to details at least two flags shops were attack in Prince Road and Satellite Town areas of Quetta city where scores of people have been wounded.
Meerak Baloch, BLA spokesperson, in a statement to media said the Baloch fighters have attacked the residency of Jinnah’s in Ziarat with rocket launchers and other automatic weapons.
Last year the Baloch Liberation Army had attacked and completely destroyed Jinnah’s residency but the government has announced to rebuild it.
He also accepted the responsibility for attacks on Pakistan forces in Harnai, Kohlu and Kahan and claimed that several Pakistani security personnel have been killed and wounded in these attacks.
He appealed the Baloch Nation and warned other nations to stay away from Pakistan’s Independence Day events, adding that: “Baloch are fighting for their independence and our struggle will continue until the establishment of free Balochistan.”
Separately unknown persons fired at least five rockets on Kalat city which landed in different area of Kalat. No casualties have been reported.
Windowpanes of nearby building were smashed due to the powerful explosions.
Meanwhile an FC convoy has been attacked in Hazar Ganji area of Quetta on Thursday (14 August) morning.
Local sources reported that at least one FC soldier was killed and several other have been wounded.
A vehicle of FC has been heavily damaged in the remote controlled attack.
Quetta based journalists reported that the explosive device was hidden in a garbage bin on a road side it was detonated when the FC patrolling team arrived.
Fighters of BLF and BRA are claimed responsibility of attack against Pakistani forces in different regions of Balochistan including Dera Bugti, Awaran, Gwadar and Turbat.

Pakistan opens fire on international border in J&K

Pakistan Rangers on Sunday resorted to unprovoked heavy firing at the Border Security Force (BSF) positions on the international border in Jammu district.
A senior police officer told IANS in winter capital Jammu, "Since midnight, Pakistan Rangers have started unprovoked heavy firing at Pittal and Tent border out posts of the BSF in RS Pura sector of Jammu district.
"Pakistan troops are using small arms and automatic weapons to target Indian positions. BSF troops are effectively responding to Pakistan firing.
"Firing exchanges are still going on in these areas. No casualty or damage has been so far reported from our side".

Pakistan: Sunday likely to be last day for Nawaz govt

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, Imran Khan, early Sunday morning blazoned out that a decisive showdown with the ruling regime was set to blast off at 03:00 PM today, Abbtakk reported.
“You need to rest to save your energies for a likely final match against this government. August 17, 2014 could be the most decisive day in the history of Pakistan”, Khan told his tired rain-drenched workers before going to sleep in the wee hours of Sunday.
Khan who has led thousands to Islamabad to protest until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepped down, said today (Sunday) his Serena Chowk sit-in would dwarf the famous Al-Tahrir Square protest, which resulted in the unceremonious ouster of the then Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
“The world will forget the mass protests in Cairo after looking at our crowd on Sunday”, Khan said confidently.
The cricketer-turned-politician is attempting to topple the Nawaz-led government, which he believes rigged its way into power. He saluted the PTI youth for their unwavering support and dedication to the cause.
“I am proud of my workers especially the young ones. Their unparalleled passion is the driving forces behind this whole movement”, said he, rendering a testimonial to his unfaltering followers.

Pakistan: Exhausted PTI workers left in the lurch

Moving of Imran Khan to his Banni Gala residence caused great disappointment among the PTI workers and it seemed that they were left in lurch to face the torrential rain under open sky in the capital.It also seems that Imran could not honour the repeated promises he made to his workers and supporters that he would eat and live with them all through Azadi March. The helpless workers, who braced all traveling odds to reach Islamabad were simply shocked as they have never thought that their leader would desert them at the very outset of the Azadi March and leave them to face ordeals all alone. Imran had made promises repeatedly with his party workers that he would eat the same which they would, he would also be sleeping on the roads with them and would never leave them alone under any circumstances. In his comments on the development, leader of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Mushahidullah Khan criticised Imran for leaving the march and going at his Bani Gala residence after the speech.Meanwhile, current the marches by the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) has resulted in a lot of hardships for the residents of the capital as well as halting of the transportation of goods for imports and exports and might cause loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer. Economic experts said the real impact would start appearing on economic horizon of the country if the political tension persists for the next one week. The disruption of economic activities of eight to 10 days might cause loss of Rs 70 to Rs 80 billion to the national exchequer, only on account of revenue collection. The export contracts might start witnessing cancellation in days ahead if this crisis prolongs.They said that in the wake of the rising political temperatures, the crash of the stock market has resulted in loss of Rs 300 billion in a single day ahead of this ongoing march from PTI and PAT. Now the prices of the essential items have started escalating in different parts of the country because of the disruption in supplies. The prices of vegetables and fruits also increased in different cities of the country because of the disruption in supply. When contacted, renowned economist Ashfaque Khan said that sooner the matter is resolved, the better it would be for the economy of the country.

Pakistan: Guarding the guardians

As Pakistan’s political crisis deepens, the Supreme Court (SC) decided to take a hand but its interim order has left more confusion than before. Saying in its ruling on Friday that any extra-constitutional step would be deemed a violation of the constitution and equivalent to high treason, the SC has raised the stakes of the confrontation without clarifying what it exactly means by ‘extra-constitutional’. The court was petitioned to restrain any institution or government body from acting in an unconstitutional manner, but the question remains of why it sought to hear a petition of this nature in the first place. The institutions of government and state are there precisely to prevent others from acting unconstitutionally. If they need to be restrained then who is going to do it? By issuing a pre-emptive judgment against institutions that may or may not seek to subvert the constitution, the court not only engages in a logical fallacy, it also presumes that such a sentiment exists when no facts substantiate the claim. The law, it should be remembered, deals in facts not perceptions. What happens when an institution so decried simply says it has no such plans? If it does, will it admit them and will it care if it plans to overturn the Constitution in the first place? The army, for example, is sworn to defend and uphold the Constitution, but that did not stop military dictators from taking power, or the courts from retroactively legitimising their takeovers. Without the executive authority to enforce such orders, the SC undermines its position as a neutral body dedicated to interpreting constitutional jurisprudence. Similar to the Lahore High Court’s (LHC’s) judgement earlier this week, the SC endeavoured to act as a political arm of the state, determining on its own what is good for the country. Whether it intends to or not, it will be seen as taking political sides, shaking the faith people have reinvested in it over the last few years. This judicial mindset is a hangover from the judicial activism of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry when the judiciary took it upon itself to interfere in political matters under the aegis of suo motu action, but it also reflects an unreasonable expectation on the part of politicians to assume the courts can solve all problems.
When petitioned to stop the marches, the LHC in its judgement noted it had no authority to restrain individuals from exercising their right to protest, or to order the government to negotiate, but it did tell the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to not hold ‘unconstitutional marches’, by which it presumably meant the marches must stay peaceful, and marchers must not break the law by taking it into their own hands or creating loss of life and property. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri duly promised they would ensure as much and proceeded with their plans, though in this case the judgement appeared to have a restraining effect on them. The LHC also stuck its neck out by saying that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s demands were ‘unconstitutional’, but as Senator Aitzaz Ahsan has pointed out, demanding resignations is the substance of democratic politics; contrarily, it is Imran Khan’s method of achieving his goal that is extra-constitutional since the Constitution specifies a process to remove the government through parliament. Ordinary citizens can protest within the law but the government is under no obligation to listen. It is obligated when parliament votes against it. And while the PTI’s demands have varied from electoral reform to the prime minister’s resignation, Tahirul Qadri is arguably making threats, not demands, and their substance is overthrowing not just the government but parliament and the constitutional order, which potentially constitutes sedition. If the government decides to move against him it is the courts’ duty to decide the case, but not to term his statements unconstitutional before then. Instead of telling protestors to behave or moderate their demands in accordance with laws that already exist, the court should act with restraint and prepare for any legalities that may ensue if the government and protestors come to an accommodation. That is where its strength lies.

Pakistan: Sizeable crowd soothes Khan after Friday's flop show

Imran Khan looked calm and confident on Saturday while addressing his supporters for the second time but he seemed annoyed and disappointed on his first arrival to the thin crowd on Friday. During his Saturday's speech to participants of long march, Khan seemed a bit confident to see a relatively impressive gathering unlike Friday when the venue he had promised to be swamped by a million supporters was presenting a deserted look.
Visibly perturbed by the thin presence of supporters during his first address to the long march participants, Imran came up with more harsh demands seeking resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
But on Saturday, when a sizeable number of supporters reached the venue, Khan looked calm and happy, besides making the crowd smile with his words. The scene of his arrival at the venue was worth watching when Khan found to his surprise a small number of supporters greeting him at a time when his PTI had threatened the government with the biggest long march of the history.
Occupying the front seat of white land cruiser that reached Aabpara Chowk late Friday night, Imran looked annoyed and disappointed after seeing a thin crowd welcoming him on Kashmir Highway.
Driven by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Lahore registered land cruiser was supposed to be parked at Aabpara Chowk where a space was reserved for the vehicle and guarded by loyalists as the entrance to PTI's rally was sealed in the evening for vehicles by installing walkthrough gates. According to organisers, PTI's chief Imran Khan and other leaders in the car including Sheikh Rashid had to park the car at the entry point of the rally and then would walk on foot to the stage as the road leading to the dais was occupied by participants.
A group of activists who stood near the walkthrough gates were tasked with showering rose petals on Imran who would be making his first appearance at the venue and would be escorted to the main stage on shoulders. But Khan was too late and participants who had been waiting for his arrival since Thursday had almost lost their energies to withstand the continuous rain that forced hundreds of activists to run for shelters. By the time Khan made it to the venue, he found a deserted road except a thin crowd near the stage triggering the organisers to direct Shah Mehmood Qureshi to hit the road straight towards Sports Complex as the venue was no more occupied by participants.
Clad in light blue shalwar qameez, Khan did not make a victory signal to supporters and instead was observed arguing with Qureshi as the car made its way through the thin crowd.
Suddenly the land cruiser stopped near the stage and Khan got off without waving hand to the supporters who had waited him for more than 40 hours. Instead, he posed an angry look when one of the participants, who were perched on roof of a container, extended his arm for a handshake.
Interestingly, Qureshi remained in the car and was observed sipping water from a bottle as Khan was being escorted by police and supporters to the main stage. Sheikh Rashid and Qureshi later joined the main speakers on dais. Khan refused to take cover under an umbrella placed above him by a party colleague to shield him from the pouring rain. Seated in the midst of other party leadership on the top of stage, Khan looked at the crowd that seemed thinner while looking from the top of the container.
A close aide of Imran who had accompanied the long march from Lahore said that the PTI chief had anticipated a big crowd against the ground reality. "He is not impressed. I can read his face and gestures," he observed.
One senior PTI leader told The Nation that Khan had grilled organisers for failing to keep participants intact at Kashmir Highway, adding that Imran was not happy with the PTI's KP officer-bearers about the number of supporters from the province.
This is why PTI managed on Saturday to pull sizeable crowd ahead of Khan's second appearance at the venue as he had promised to spend the whole night with protesters.

Pakistan: As PTI ‘stormed’ the capital

The PTI may have converged in Islamabad to bring down the government but in doing has shown why it is not fit to rule either. As heavy rains lashed Peshawar, killing 12 people and injuring 80 others, the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and his entire cabinet was resting comfortably in the KP House in Islamabad. Not only had the leaders abandoned the province in a time of great need, they also left the other marchers to suffer through the rain on the streets of the capital. This should be the Marie Antoinette moment that exposes the PTI as an elitist, out-of-touch party that is so occupied with its lust for power that it has forgotten to serve the people who elected it. The party wants fresh elections and believes it will be given a mandate to rule but the deaths in the rain exposed not only the complete lack of interest shown by the PTI towards the suffering of the province’s residents, it also shows that the party has achieved little in the one year it had to rule. Nothing has been done to build storm-water drains so that there is minimal flooding; crumbling buildings were collapsing and exposed electricity wires became a hazard to the population. These deaths were entirely preventable and the blame for them should be placed squarely on the province’s rulers.
It is the poorest sections of society who are the most prone to falling victim to rain and other calamities. Even nature does not offer equal opportunities. The strong, ornate homes of the rich do not tumble down in the face of winds and rain. This makes it all the more vital that government should work for those unable to help themselves. The party leadership in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may claim that the rains could not have been predicted, but everyone knows that there are always storms in the summer months. The monsoon, after all, comes every year. Preventive measures to spare lives should have been put in place well in advance. For this, the government is required to take the lead by rallying together all concerned organisations and departments, with early warnings issued to people where required. It was highly irresponsible for the chief minister and his cabinet to leave the province when nearly a million IDPs are desperately seeking help. The PTI claimed to oppose the military operation in North Waziristan because of the civilian suffering it would cause and yet has chosen to indulge in a quixotic political drama rather than care for the IDPs. In fact, the party has ceased talking about the operation at all as it focuses exclusively on alleged rigging and bringing down the government. The PTI has shown itself to be no different to any other party. It wants power for its own sake and not to help the most vulnerable or needy in society. Come shine – or especially rain – the PTI is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the CM of the province should consider returning from the federal capital and the gathering there to examine the true needs of people in his own home province.

Pakistan: Model Town commission report being kept secret

The Punjab government is keeping the report of the judicial commission on the Model Town incident secret, but according to hearsay it pins the blame solely on police.
The commission had handed over its report to the provincial government on Aug 9. At least 11 activists of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek were killed and many others injured during a clash with police on June 17.
Sources in the Punjab government on Friday said the report was handed over to the home department that was studying it. The report was being considered a top secret document and not allowed to be seen by junior officials of the department.
The sources said it had not been sent to the chief minister for action, if any, as yet. But they said the assumption was the report blamed police for the incident. And this assumption had made the security force cautious about handling public gatherings, especially the march of Dr Tahirul Qadri, to avoid any mishandling.

Pakistan: 2,520 PTI, PAT activists in 27 Punjab jails

As many as 2,520 office-bearers and activists of Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Tehreek-i-Insaf detained under 3-MPO ahead of ‘Inqilab’ and ‘Azadi’ marches across Punjab, are still languishing in 27 jails of the province and will remain there till further government orders.
Official statistics available with Dawn show that Gujranwala Central Jail had the maximum number of such detainees and under-trial prisoners – 354, followed by Mianwali Central Jail 340, Sahiwal Central Jail 208, Sialkot District Jail 192, Sargodha District Jail 183, Gujrat District Jail 154, Rawalpindi Central Jail and Lahore District Jail 118 each, Faisalabad Central Jail 96, Jhang District Jail 94, Muzaffarhgarh District Jail 80, and Lahore Central Jail and Vehari District Jail 74 each.
Similarly, up to 73 activists were detained in Dera Ghazi Khan Central Jail, 67 in Shahpur, Khushab District Jail, 48 in Multan Central Jail, 46 in Attock District Jail, 40 in Rajanpur District Jail, 30 in Toba Tek Singh District Jail, 28 in Jhelum District Jail, 26 in Bahawalpur Central Jail, 20 in Bahawalnagar District Jail, 19 each in Rahim Yar Khan and Faisalabad district jails, 13 in Mandi Bahauddin District Jail and nine in Sheikhupura District Jail.
Statistics show as many as nine activists who were earlier detained by the Punjab police were later released from four jails. Four of them were released from Sahiwal Central Jail, three from Muzaffargarh District Jail and one each from Rawalpindi Central Jail and Vehari District Jail ahead of Aug 14.
According to a prisons department source, the release of political detainees was expected after the conclusion of long marches of both parties in Islamabad.
He said the provincial government would decide as to when the detainees would be released as under 3-MPO (which is originally an executive order of the government issued by the home department) the detainees could be kept in jails for up to seven, 15 and 30 days depending upon the government’s discretionary powers.
A district police officer said the detentions would continue till further orders of the government which could also extend the detention period.
Under the law a district coordination officer (DCO) has the power to detain a person he or she deems a threat to public order for a maximum period of 30 days and to extend it for another 30 days the officer needs home department’s permission.

Pakistan: PPP asks CM Punjab to step down
The Pakistan Peoples Party has asked Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to step down if an FIR of the Model Town killings is registered against him on a court order.
“An FIR of the murder of 14 innocent people should have been registered soon after the incident, the aggrieved families want justice and to ensure a fair probe into the incident, the chief minister should immediately step down as long as he isn’t cleared by court,” said PPP Secretary General Latif Khan Khosa while talking to The News.
“The chief minister, not the prime minister, is the chief executive of the province and he stands directly answerable for any incident in his domain,” said Khosa, also a law expert. Khosa said that it was really regretful that 14 persons were killed mercilessly at Model Town and no FIR of the carnage was registered.
He said the major reason behind it was the influence of the PML-N leadership on Punjab police which had been used as a militant wing to victimise political rivals and safeguard members of the Sharif family. Khosa said under Article 5 of the Constitution, loyalty to State is mandatory on every citizen but police was forced to be loyal to the government.
On the other hand, he said, 12,000 policemen are deployed at the residence of the prime minister at Jati Umera, Raiwind, whereas thousands of them were deployed at residences of the Sharif family members. He added the Model Town incident was enough to prove what role was assigned to police by the rulers and no concern was shown to address the grievances of people whose relatives were martyred. He said that Gullu Butt was a glaring example which showed how police was being treated by the Punjab government. “The entire world saw on TV screens how Gullu Butt, a PML-N worker, not a police personnel, participated in the operation at Model Town and the entire force was following him and he was even patted by an official of an SP rank for his actions,” he added.
Later, he said when on public pressure, an FIR was registered against him, bail-able clauses were added to it to provide him relief and eventually he was granted bail by court. Similarly, he said that in Gujranwala where the PTI caravan was attacked, an FIR wasn’t registered against the main accused because he wasn’t only brother of a sitting MPA but also a relative of the Sharif family. Khosa said how could one expect justice from this government when it was influencing police? He said the CM should immediately resign and face charges against him until he was cleared by court.
Shaukat Mehmood Basra, Secretary Information of PPP Southern Punjab, said that there wasn’t any justification for the CM, who was the chief executive of the province to remain in office until he is acquitted by court. He said that for the first time in the history of a government, a brutal incident of Model Town had taken place in which 14 people were eliminated with the help of police.