Monday, August 18, 2014
http://www.eurasianet.org/With the power of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or, as it now calls itself, the Islamic State) growing and the amount of territory it controls increasing, Ankara is now facing some uncomfortable questions about what role it played in facilitating the organization's rise. In a Washington Post piece from last week, reporters Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet provide a fascinating insight into this issue, visiting Reyhanli, a Turkish town on the Syrian border where until recently ISIS fighters had the run of the place. From their article:
Before their blitz into Iraq earned them the title of the Middle East’s most feared insurgency, the jihadists of the Islamic State treated this Turkish town near the Syrian border as their own personal shopping mall. And eager to aid any and all enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey rolled out the red carpet. In dusty market stalls, among the baklava shops and kebab stands, locals talk of Islamist fighters openly stocking up on uniforms and the latest Samsung smartphones. Wounded jihadists from the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda offshoot also fighting the Syrian government — were treated at Turkish hospitals. Most important, the Turks winked as Reyhanli and other Turkish towns became way stations for moving foreign fighters and arms across the border. “Turkey welcomed anyone against Assad, and now they are killing, spreading their disease, and we are all paying the price,” said Tamer Apis, a politician in Reyhanli, where two massive car bombs killed 52 people last year. In a nearby city, Turkish authorities seized another car packed with explosives in June, raising fears of an Islamic State-inspired campaign to export sectarian strife to Turkey. “It was not just us,” Apis said. “But this is a mess of Turkey’s making.”As the Post article makes clear, Turkey has since made it more difficult for foreign fighters to cross its border on the way to Syria, but the perception still lingers in certain quarters that Ankara remains an ISIS benefactor. More worrying for Ankara, though, should be what ISIS might be up to inside Turkey. An interesting recent report on the Mashable website, for example, looked at how ISIS is recruiting young Turkish men to go fight for it in Syria and Iraq. And while reports of a "jihadi gift shop" in Istanbul selling ISIS-branded clothing and souvenirs might have drawn some chuckles, a recent Al-Monitor piece by Orhan Kemal Cengiz suggests that the organization may be behind much more troubling things in Turkey than just selling t-shirts. As Cengiz writes, a "new Salafism" may be taking root in Turkey, a development that could lead Ankara to deeply regret its initial support for ISIS.
President Barack Obama says U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday to get an update on the federal probe into the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer that has sparked days of violent protests. Obama told reporters at the White House Monday that Holder will meet with Department of Justice and FBI officials on the federal, independent civil rights investigation into the August 9 killing of Michael Brown. Holder will also meet with community leaders on efforts to restore peace and calm to the town outside the city of St. Louis. The president said while a vast majority of people are protesting peacefully, he urged the "small minority" of demonstrators to "not give into anger by looting or carrying guns or attacking police." Obama said such actions only serve to heighten tensions and chaos and undermine "rather than advance justice." He also said "there is no excuse for excessive force by police" or any action that denies the rights of those peacefully protesting. A curfew in Ferguson was lifted Monday after National Guard troops arrived in the central U.S. town to bolster police forces amid ongoing clashes with protestors. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on authorities in Ferguson to use restraint and uphold the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. The appeal for calm came as an independent autopsy showed Brown was shot at least six times. With the deployment of the National Guard to Ferguson on Monday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in a written statement that the overnight curfews in place since Saturday would be lifted. "With these additional resources in place, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will continue to respond appropriately to incidents of lawlessness and violence, and protect the civil rights of all peaceful citizens to make their voices heard," Nixon said. "We will not use a curfew tonight." President Obama said he spoke by phone with Nixon on Monday and that he told the governor that the use of the National Guard must be limited in scope and that he would be monitoring to see whether its presence is helping or hurting progress. The U.S. president urged the Ferguson community to seek understanding, healing, and “the shared humanity that has been laid bare by this moment.” Before the curfew began late Sunday, police in body armor and gas masks, accompanied by armored vehicles, fired tear gas at protesters marching toward them. Protesters said the demonstration was peaceful before police began using tear gas. Police officials and the governor accused a "violent criminal element" of escalating the confrontation. Attorneys for the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown said at a news conference on Monday morning that a preliminary autopsy shows the unarmed black teen was "trying to surrender" when Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him last weekend in the middle of a Ferguson street. An independent autopsy at the request of the family showed the 18-year-old was shot six times on August 9, including two bullets to the top of his head. Family lawyer Benjamin Crump said the Browns requested their own autopsy before the U.S. Department of Justice said it would conduct a federal one. "They did not want to be left having to rely on the autopsy done by the St. Louis law enforcement agencies - the same individuals they feel are responsible for executing their son in broad daylight," said Crump. Lawyers and two medical experts told reporters the gunshot wounds to the head support witnesses' statements Brown's head was down and the teen was surrendering when Officer Darren Wilson shot him. Brown family attorney Daryl Parks on Monday called for charges to be brought against Wilson. "We believe that given those kinds of facts, this officer should have been arrested," said Parks. Wilson is on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Saudi Arabia is looking to crack down on atheist bloggers, threatening freedom of conscience and expression.
http://gulfnews.com/ Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has asked the interior ministry to arrest several people for apostasy and atheism. The commission did not divulge the number of people whose arrest it requested, but it said that they insulted God and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It added in a report about its work and achievements that it was coordinating closely with the telecommunication and information technology commission to block and shut down pornographic sites as well as sites that promote apostasy and atheism. “This coordination has led to shutting down several sites for violating rules and regulations,” it said, quoted by local daily Makkah on Sunday. Violations also included the use of misleading mobile and computer applications and erroneous electronic versions of the Quran. The commission added that it had set up a special unit to fight cybercrimes and that it was working on enhancing its capabilities through regional offices. In its report, the commission said that it received 9,341 complaints about pornographic sites in one year. It also received 2,734 reports about sites that promoted atheism and misleading information about religion and 132 reports about cyber blackmailing.
By Aaron Akinyemi
Saudi businesswoman has her sentence of 50 lashes and a month in jail upheld by a judge.A Saudi Arabian woman sentenced to 50 lashes and a month in prison has had her conviction upheld by a Saudi judge. The businesswoman was convicted of insulting members of the morality police during an argument and found guilty of calling them "liars", Arabic language daily newspaper Al-Medina reported. The morality police, known formally as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, entered the woman's café to check that there were no breaches of morality or other Saudi laws, and are believed to have witnessed her employees running away because they were breaking immigration rules. The woman was accused of "cursing" the morality police and sentenced by a district judge in Jeddah. Her sentence was subsequently upheld by an appeals court in Mecca. Morality Police The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was set up in 1926 to monitor public behaviour and enforce a code of conduct that adheres to the strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam. Morality police officers regularly patrol streets and other public spaces such as shopping malls to enforce strict dress codes and 30-minute store closures during Islamic noon, afternoon, sunset and evening prayers. The morality police has come under criticism from Saudi citizens after a series of incidents of harsh behaviour. In 2012, Saudi Arabia's ruler King Abdullah sacked the head of the religious police after a number of controversies, including footage of officers harassing families in a shopping mall surfaced online and went viral. Last month, a Jeddah criminal court sentenced two Saudi women to 20 lashes and 10 days in jail for exchanging insults via text and WhatsApp messages. One of the women filed a lawsuit against her cousin, accusing her of sending insulting messages and distorting her reputation. When the cousins refused to reconcile, the judge passed the sentence. The women are appealing the verdict.
Opposition leaders threaten the new government, while the military balances against Sharif.Pakistan’s last election brought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to power with a sweeping mandate. That was supposed to consolidate the democratic process for the country. This was the first time one civilian government had passed power onto another democratically elected government. The oft-repeated claim was that the hangover from past military rule had burdened civil-society just enough to prevent a regression. Most people today would share that sentiment, however reluctantly. That reluctant strain has only found more space to ruminate in the past three weeks, as the central government ties itself up in knots of mismanagement, following an almost ritualistic script from the past. There are several threads to this story that are all intersecting at the wrong time for the Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. Two months ago, following an attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi that left 30 dead, the military launched a major offensive — dubbed Zarb-e-Azaab, or “Sharp Strike” – against militants in North Waziristan. Though details on the progress of the operation are murky, what is clear is the displacement of over a million people with no place to reside besides poorly resourced government shelters and camps. Pakistan’s past patterns of migration would suggest that many of these internally displaced people (IDPs) will find their way to urban centers such as Karachi, which is already grappling with conflict between competing ethnic groups. The inadvertent consequences of this operation will inevitably produce greater unrest in Pakistan’s financial capital, which is already distraught with problems of gang violence and political turmoil. The second line running through this narrative is the story of Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan-Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), who claims that his third place finish in the last election was due to electoral fraud. Khan’s allegations of election rigging however, have no basis: of the 58 petitions filed by his party members requesting an audit of various constituencies, 70 percent have been decided, with not one in favor of PTI. Secondly, Khan’s party, which formed the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, continues to struggle with governance, having achieved little during its term despite riding high into office on a wave of populism. Having failed on both accounts, Khan has found a path by playing opposition politics through his “Million Man Freedom March,” with the goal of wringing a mid-term election from the central government so that seats can be reallocated on the basis of those results. Until this demand is met, Khan vows to remain encamped in the capital of Islamabad. Meanwhile Tahir ul-Qadri, a Canadian-Pakistani preacher-cum-politician, is holding a “Revolution March” with the hope of bringing down the central government through coercion. Speaking to a rally of thousands of supporters, Qadri vowed to “bring down the system” and urged his supporters to “kill anyone who returns without completing the job.” During the last election season Qadri led a similar protest with thousands of people in attendance, demanding a review of electoral laws. This time however, Qadri’s supporters openly clashed with authorities at an earlier protest, leading to several deaths and the arrest of about 500 of his supporters. Speaking to his rally on Saturday, Qadri demanded the dissolution of parliament and the arrest of Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab. While Sharif has sought dialogue with both Qadri and Khan’s camps to address their grievances, he acted in a way that brought back the specter of military rule. As of August 13, 1,600 of Qadri’s supporters had been detained under the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order and about 400 others were arrested for their hostilities against authorities. Law enforcement sealed entry points into the capital in an attempt to block supporters from reaching Islamabad. Additionally, authorities erected barriers preventing food deliveries from reaching the Qadri camp at an earlier protest, prompting Altaf Hussain, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), to issue a 30 minute ultimatum to the central government to reopen the routes. Amidst this political crisis, the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE), which had been one of the best performing stock markets this year, plummeted by 1,375 points on August 11, Pakistan’s largest ever one day drop in share prices. By responding to the protestors with a heavy hand, Sharif fanned the same flames he had intended to calm. The question now stands: Will the military actively intervene and impose martial law? The fears of such a turn are well reasoned; however, the environment which preceded prior coups has not quite formed. Moreover, it is unlikely that the military wants to intervene this time around. It is no secret that both Khan and Qadri have links to the military, and the military does not view Sharif favorably. Sharif was deposed by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 and announced his decision to prosecute the former general for “high treason” a month into his tenure. Second, Sharif’s possible rapprochement with India is said to have raised eyebrows with the Army leadership. Third, coups in the past have been preceded by protests from the largest political actors in the country. In this case, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which came in second place in the last election, responded with a willingness to play the role of mediator rather than agitator. Other influential parties including the MQM and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), have likewise cautioned against outright conflict and have urged all parties to enter into negotiations. And while both Khan and Qadri frame their marches as having attracted the support of hundreds of thousands of people, crowd counting confirmed that Khan was only able to draw 10,000 people while Qadri’s count stood at 12,000. What happens following the conclusion of this protest will shape the course of Sharif’s tenure. If the government ventures forward in an uncompromising manner, then growing calls for an intervention to quell the resulting instability and uncertainty can be expected. The more likely scenario will involve some concessions from Sharif, which he has already made in a televised address to the nation, calling on the Supreme Court form a commission investigating electoral irregularities in the past election. Additionally, “well-placed official sources within the federal government” revealed to The Nation that an unwritten agreement was reached between Khan, Qadri, and the central government. Under this framework, Khan and Qadri will not stage a prolonged protest in the nation’s capital, provided the central government complies with a list of assurances. Eventually all sides will return to their camps, proclaiming victory. Khan will claim that his initial calls for a Supreme Court investigation were accepted, and Qadri will maintain that his march succeeded in bringing attention to his 10-point demands. Sharif will have escaped the biggest threat his government has faced in office. The winner in this crisis though will be the Army, which will have astutely checked the reach of the Sharif government through an adroitly managed campaign.
Speaking on the adjournment motion Senator Farhatullah Babar said due to some recent events the balance of power had shifted from Islamabad to Rawalpindi and there was real and potent threat to democracy. This he said is a bad omen for democracy and democratic institutions and it is imperative that the government geared up to hold negotiations both with PTI and PAT to defuse the tense political situation and pull the country from the brink of precipice. He said that attitude of the government ministers treating Imran Khan as an insane and irrational person and not talking with him was a short sighted one. You do not dismiss so summarily and contemptuously even an actually insane person who climbs up a pole threatening to kill himself and others, he said. Instead you seek to negotiate with the insane person to persuade him climb down the pole. Even if it is conceded for a moment that Imran is an insane person the government should still seek to approach and negotiate with him, he said. He said that foreign capitals had issued travel advisories, the missions had suspended issuance of visas, the world was watching with bated breath as to what was going to happen in Pakistan and the local traders had started protest demonstrations against the so called azaadi and inqilab marches. He severely criticized the civil disobedience calls and the call to stop paying taxes to the government of Imran Khan and said that if urgent steps were not taken to defuse the situation then soon there will be nothing left in the hands of poli8tical forces in the country.
Attorney General Eric Holder will brief President Barack Obama on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday afternoon after perhaps the most violent night of demonstrations since the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
And the tensions continued escalating after autopsy results revealed that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times.
Devolution of protestsWhat began as peaceful protests spiraled into disarray after two civilians were shot and injured, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. He said those civilians were not shot by police. "Tonight, a Sunday that started with prayers and messages of unity, peace and justice took a very different turn after dark," Johnson said early Monday morning. Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at police, and several businesses were vandalized or looted, despite the Brown family's call for calm. "Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response," Johnson said. Officers fired tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of protesters, including children, who were marching toward a police command post despite an impending midnight curfew. But protester Lisha Williams challenged the notion that protesters provoked officers. "That is a lie. It was no fight, it was no shots fired," she told CNN late Sunday night. "All we did was march to the command center to fall to our knees and say, 'Don't shoot.' And they started shooting." The clashes kept escalating, with St. Charles County sheriff's officials saying shots were fired in their direction. At one point, employees at a McDonald's restaurant locked themselves in a storage room after the store was overrun, Johnson said. Video from CNN affiliate KSDK showed children among the protesters chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot." St. Louis County police said most of the crowds had dispersed after the curfew went into effect at midnight. The curfew was scheduled to end at 5 a.m. (6 a.m. ET). But the anxiety remains. Children can't even go to school Monday.
"Information we received from officials on the scene late Sunday evening has contributed to concerns we have about children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity," the Ferguson-Florissant School District said on its Facebook page.
Autopsy detailsBrown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer on August 9. He was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the preliminary results of an autopsy that his family requested. Family attorney Anthony Gray said the independent autopsy conducted Sunday found that Brown was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm -- all to the front of his body. Last week, the St. Louis County Police Department said an original autopsy found that the teen died of gunshot wounds. But the department wouldn't say how many times he was shot or give any other details. According to the preliminary results of the family autopsy, the bullets that struck Brown were not fired from close range, as indicated by the absence of gunpowder residue on his body. One of the bullets shattered his right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone, according to the autopsy. The last two shots were probably the ones to his head, attorney Gray said. One entered the top of his Brown's skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he was struck. The independent autopsy was conducted by high-profile pathologist Michael Baden, who testified in the O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson murder trials. Dueling narratives Accounts of exactly what happened when Officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown while the teen was walking down a street vary widely. Witnesses said they saw a scuffle between the officer and Brown at the police car before the young man was shot. Several witnesses said Brown raised his hands and was not attacking the officer. Piaget Crenshaw said she was sitting in her home when she witnessed the shooting. She captured video of the aftermath, including images of Brown's body lying in the middle of the street. "From it all initially happening, I knew this was not right," she told CNN's "New Day" on Monday. "I knew the police shouldn't even have been chasing this young boy and firing at the same time. The fact that he got shot in the face, it was something that clicked in me, like no, somebody else needs to see this. This isn't right. I've got to record." Crenshaw said Brown was running away from police and then turned around. She said that was when Brown was shot. But police gave a different narrative, saying Brown struggled with the officer and reached for his weapon. Though the officer has stayed out of the public spotlight, more than 22,000 people have endorsed the "I Support Officer Wilson" Facebook page. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has approved another autopsy on Brown's body, the Justice Department said. That autopsy will be conducted by a federal medical examiner.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday announced to launch a 'Civil Disobedience Movement' against the incumbent government if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not quit 'within 48-hours. -- Imran overplays his hand: asks people not to pay taxes, utility bills; says his PTI workers will take over parliament, PM's House if PM does not quit within two days -- Qadri also steps up pressure on the Sharifs -- Govt still struggles to articulate befitting response, banks increasingly on allies, PPP, MQM, JI, ANP Addressing his party's tens of thousands charged supporters on Kashmir Highway amidst cheers and anti-government slogans, Imran said that he was going to make the most important speech of his 18-year-old political career. "The sit-in will continue for two more days. Mian Sahab, please, tender a resignation because after two days your time will be over," he warned, adding, he didn't want a martial law in the country. "I want democracy and want things to take place in a democratic way as the imposition of martial law will be dangerous for the country, so in such circumstances we've no option but to go for civil disobedience," he declared. He called upon his party supporters, businessmen and people listening to his speech in each and every nook of the country to participate in the civil disobedience movement and stop paying their taxes and utility bills unless Nawaz Sharif resigns. "Never surrender before oppression and injustice. Take a stand," Khan said, adding, "go for a civil disobedience and even against me in case you find me doing injustice". Khan said that he could have asked his supporters to storm into Parliament and Prime Minister's House but then he was apprehensive about the security of the policemen deployed for the security of the Red Zone. "These people [policemen] have little children and they are looking after their families...if I ordered my workers, the policemen would be killed. I don't want that to happen. I have promised with my friend Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan (Interior Minister) to ask his prime minister to step down or else I'll not be able to stop the crowd from proceeding to Prime Minister House," he added. Reiterating his allegations against Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Imran said that for the next two days, Azadi marchers would regularly gather at the protest site at 7pm and demand the resignation from the premier. Khan addressing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, "Please make my life easier and yours by tendering a resignation. I'm giving you only two days to resign after which I will not be able to stop this tsunami from entering the Parliament House and dragging you out from the Prime Minister House," Khan repeatedly appealed to his supporters not to give up and stay for the sit-in till their demands were met. He earlier created some suspense saying that the sit-in will remain continue for a week, then reduced it to three days and finally gave two days' ultimatum to the Prime Minister to walk away in an honourable manner. He assured the crowd that he would not abandon them and would stay at the sit-in site. Imran Khan, whose party emerged as the third largest political party in May 11, 2013 general elections, said the corrupt government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was plundering people's money and neither judiciary nor the anti-graft bodies dare open his corruption cases. "We've no option except dragging him (Nawaz Sharif) out from the Prime Minister House and make him accountable for all the corruption he has committed," he declared while repeating different corruption allegations against him, but told his supporters that their protests should be without bloodshed. He said that the workers of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) killed in a clash with police in Lahore on June 17 would not be able to get justice unless Prime Minister Sharif was in power. The PTI chairman admitted that under the law, they could not oust the prime minister, as he takes refuge behind the constitution and the only way out to 'deal with him (Nawaz Sharif) is to launch civil disobedience movement'. He said that Nawaz Sharif despite being involved in a number of alleged irregularities and acts of corruption always escaped from the grip of law. "He (Nawaz) bought everyone who tried to bring him to justice," he alleged. He said Nawaz Sharif sold Lahore Development (LDA) plots and bought politicians, journalists and even tried to buy military generals. "In the last year's elections he bought former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, election commissioner, and the then caretaker chief minister Punjab Najam Sethi," he continued. Referring to a statement of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, he said the government itself admitted that 60-70 thousand votes in each constituency could not be verified. "So, what kind of elections were they" he questioned. "The tsunami of the PTI could go straight to the 'fake Prime Minister House' and 'fake' Parliament House. But I don't want the innocent policemen killed. I don't want the army to take over," Khan said. "Nawaz Sharif's son is living in a house worth Rs8 billion. Compare the houses and businesses Nawaz Sharif had abroad some years ago with the ones he has today. And from where all this money has come?" he questioned. He alleged that Nawaz Sharif increased his property and wealth through unscrupulous means. "With Nawaz Sharif at the helm of country's affairs, Pakistan 's future is bleak," he added. Earlier, thousands of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters marched towards the Red Zone but they were soon brought into control by the party leadership.
Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan and a firebrand cleric left an offer of talks from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dangling on Monday, as anti-government protests in the center of Islamabad moved into a fourth day. Both former cricketer Khan, and the cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who runs a network of Islamic schools and charities, have called for Sharif to quit, accusing him of corruption and ballot-rigging during his landslide election victory last year. Thankfully for Sharif, Khan and Qadri were unable to muster the numbers they had hoped for in their march last week from the eastern city of Lahore. But they still managed to mobilize tens of thousands of supporters, whose occupation of the capital represents a serious security risk for a country as volatile as Pakistan. "As a goodwill gesture the government has decided to form two different committees to negotiate," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said on Sunday. Khan's representatives did not respond to calls on Monday seeking comment on the government's offer. But a representative of Qadri said the cleric rejected it outright. "Dr Qadri will not speak to any of the committees. Our demand is simply that the government should step down," spokesman Shahid Mursaleen said. Whereas the mass agitation has reinforced concerns over the fragility of democracy in the nuclear armed, insurgency plagued Muslim state, the country's powerful military has stayed out of the political fray so far. Pakistan's overworked conspiracy theorists believe Khan and Qadri mounted their parallel protest campaigns because they sensed Sharif's fraught relationship with his generals had nosedived in recent months. Sharif's last term ended in a coup in 1999, and since taking office last year he has clashed with the military on several issues. The current crop of generals are unhappy that Pervez Musharraf, the army chief who ousted Sharif before becoming president himself, is being tried for treason. They also distrust Sharif's dovish stance toward rival India, and were frustrated by his prevarications over the launch of military operations against Pakistani Taliban militants in tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. But while the generals want a free rein over security and strategic matters, analysts doubt whether they want to overturn another democratically-elected government. VEILED THREAT Police estimated the number of people participating in the two protests on Sunday at around 55,000, but the numbers wax and wane, with participants seeking shade from the baking sun in the middle of the day, and many spend the night at the homes of friends rather than camp out in the open. Their occupation of two of the capital's main thoroughfares has, however, disrupted access to the heavily guarded "Red Zone", where the presidency, the parliament, the main government ministries, the country's top courts and most foreign embassies are located. On Monday, however, traffic into the high security area was moving more easily. Mursaleen said Qadri's supporters - who came equipped with food, water tankers, and sleeping mats - would not budge, A Reuters journalist estimated the clerics supporters numbered up to 20,000. The government's offer of talks followed a call from Khan on Sunday for his supporters not to pay taxes or utility bills. His appeal met with widespread ridicule since most Pakistanis who can get away without paying taxes and utility bills already do so - a major contributor to the country's economic woes. In a veiled threat, Khan also warned that he may not be able to stop his supporters from marching on parliament and the fortified enclave where most foreign embassies are located. Such a move would be a recipe for violence given the heavy deployment of riot police and paramilitary forces. On Monday morning, most newspapers published critical editorials of Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party. "Were Mr. Khan's threats not so risible they would be worthy of the severest condemnation," said Dawn, one of the country's most respected papers.
Even if the Khan-Qadri duo are eventually pushed back, Nawaz Sharif’s image has suffered irreparable damage, the result of him having picked unnecessary fights with both the influential army and his political opponentsIn sharp contrast to the triumphant arrival of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad just over a year ago to lead Pakistan, the latest turn of political events across the south Asian country continues to unravel Sharif’s ruling structure while throwing the future of his carefully constructed empire in tatters. In brief, that’s the broad outcome of the latest opposition protests in Islamabad led by legendary cricket star turned politician, Imran Khan, and Islamic scholar-cum-politician Tahirul Qadri. Though the two men are not formal allies, they have indeed rallied together for the common cause of removing Sharif from power. Khan is seeking the installation of an interim regime that oversees sweeping reforms to fix what he describes as a fundamentally flawed electoral system. Qadri is pressing for a revolutionary change in Pakistan which will dismantle the existing political system and replace it with a new order that he says will give more opportunities of representation to the middle class and the poor. In the past few days, thousands of supporters led by the two men have converged upon Islamabad and camped out to back their demands. The two men have threatened to stay the course until such time that their demands are met. Across Pakistan, images transported through an increasingly robust network of private TV channels, have provided a vivid view to average homes of emerging events in the capital city. On the other side of the divide, Sharif is showing few signs of yielding to the pressure. For the moment, close political aides of the prime minister are making it known that Sharif has no intention of stepping down.
Visible setbackOn Saturday, the Sharif camp received a visible setback when a judge in the city of Lahore, who was assigned to investigate the killings of up to 14 of Qadri’s supporters in police shooting on June 17 this year, ordered the government to take action against those found culpable. Reports in the Pakistani media named Shahbaz Sharif, the prime minister’s brother and Chief Minister of Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, among those responsible. The final stage in this drama is yet to unfold. But beyond just the immediate turn of events, Pakistan’s long-term future and its recent past must also figure prominently in any assessment over the country’s outlook. As Khan’s motorcade proceeded from Lahore to Islamabad on Friday, attacks by suspected activists of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) not only triggered the dangerous possibility of a bloody encounter between political rivals from the two sides but also highlighted a more dangerous mindset across Pakistan’s emerging politics, most recently demonstrated by the Sharif camp. Subsequent reports named Pomi Butt, a PML-N politician in the city of Gujranwala on the route from Lahore to Islamabad, as having backed the attackers. This follows the arrest of Gullu Butt following the June 17 attack in Lahore, after he was filmed by Pakistan’s private TV channels while smashing cars that he thought belonged to Qadri’s supporters. He was later named by Qadri’s supporters as a PML-N activist. Suddenly, Pakistanis have woken up to the terrible reality of the inroads in the country’s politics made by violence pushing individuals and groups, beyond the malicious challenge posed by militant Taliban. While Sharif battles what appears to be the most formidable challenge to his year long rule, his regime’s economic policies have also been badly exposed. As prime minister, he has overseen a robust push to create new road, bus and train projects. However, Pakistan’s acute energy shortages in the shape of electricity and gas cuts continue to make life miserable for the average citizens. It is an aspect of life that haunts the country’s poorest neighbourhoods on a daily basis, and its hardly surprising that an overwhelming majority of those who have marched to Islamabad visibly represent low-income communities rather than the middle class. In defence of Sharif, many of his supporters have chosen to downplay the protests as nothing more than a sinister conspiracy to demolish prospects for democracy in a country that has been ruled by the military for almost half of its 67 years of existence as an independent state. Tragically, that assessment may simply overlook a more complex picture that haunts Pakistan’s ruling structure today. Even if the Khan-Qadri duo are eventually pushed back, Sharif will not rise from today’s events on a victorious note. During his year-long rule, Sharif has picked unnecessary fights with a variety of players ranging from the influential army over the prime minister’s decision to prosecute former army chief General Pervez Musharraf, to discord with different political players. The rift with Khan was triggered when Khan demanded a reassessment of votes cast in just four of the 342 seats in Pakistan’s lower house of parliament known as the national assembly. Sharif’s blatant refusal to comply with Khan’s demand has snowballed in to one of the biggest political storms in the Pakistani capital. With the knives clearly out and openly on display and Pakistan’s political rivals lined up to fight, the days of peaceful existence in government may be over for Sharif even if he survives for the moment.
Expressing concern over current political tension, former president Asif Zardari said Monday that the political issues must be resolved through dialogues. Criticizing PTI Chief Imran Khan, the PPP leader said that democracy would be damaged by civil disobedience campaign. Zardari said that the people should not be instigated for civil disobedience movement. "Every step that harms democracy must be avoided", he added. Yesterday, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan launched a civil disobedience movement in a last-ditch attempt to knock out the incumbent regime he alleges was elected by corruption.
http://www.dawn.com/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has said that the province will not be paying electricity and gas bills along with federal taxes and if utilities are disconnected to the province, power supply from Tarbela to Punjab will be stopped. Speaking to Dawn, KP Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said provincial taxes will be collected as per routine but the public will not be paying any federal taxes along with electricity and gas bills. He said the civil disobedience movement was against the corrupt and incompetent federal government and not the government managing the province. Responding to a question, Ghani said that if the centre dared to disconnect power supply to KP, the province will have the right to stop supply from Tarbela which falls within the provincial jurisdiction. He added that civil disobedience will be practiced countrywide except in KP. The minister said the KP government has never been implicated in any case of corruption which is why civil obedience will not be practiced in the province. Ghani said this is a peaceful way to change the government and we want to register our protest without causing any bloodshed. The minister said the PTI government was not ignorant of its responsibilities, adding that it was aware of the situation in KP. “We are dealing with both governance of the province as well as our protests effectively,” Ghani
http://abbtakk.tv/Pakistan People’s Party and Awami National Pakistan have proposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take vote of confidence from the Parliament. According to details, Awami National Party leader said that the appointed Prime Minister may be removed constitutionally. He proposed Prime Minister to call the joint session in Parliament to take vote of confidence.