Tuesday, August 19, 2014
VOA NewsU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is promising the people of Ferguson, Missouri a "full, fair and independent" investigation into the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager by a white policeman. Holder will be in the St. Louis suburb Wednesday to meet with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal civil rights officials. In a message published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, Holder said the full resources of the Justice Department are committed to the investigation. He said, however, the town must see an end to violence and that the riots and looting in reaction to the shooting undermine justice. The mayor of a U.S. town where police and protesters have clashed for 10 days following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white policeman says there "is not a racial divide in the city of Ferguson." Mayor James Knowles told U.S. TV channel MSNBC on Tuesday that the town of 22,000 people in the state of Missouri has been a "model for the region" as it changed from a majority white population to predominantly black. The comments come after a third tumultuous night on the streets of Ferguson, which has seen ongoing protests since a police officer killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9. Seventy-eight civilians - including protesters and members of the press - were arrested Monday night and Tuesday morning in Ferguson after a day of peaceful protests. Initial reports indicated 31 arrests had been made. St. Louis shooting Meanwhile, police in St. Louis, Missouri have shot dead a man armed with a knife near the site of violent protests against the police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager August 9. Police say the suspect in Tuesday's shooting allegedly stole merchandise from a food store. He apparently challenged officers to shoot him and approached them with a knife. Police fired when he refused to drop it. In Ferguson, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents the town in the Missouri legislature, told CNN on Tuesday that peaceful protests would continue until charges were filed against the shooter. "The demonstrations are going to continue until there's an arrest, until this officer is on leave without pay," said the state senator. Nearly all of those arrested in the last day are charged with failing to disperse when police requested a crowd of roughly 200 people leave. Outside agitators blamed Most are not Ferguson residents, but many are from the area. Officials repeatedly have blamed protesters from out of state for violent acts during nighttime demonstrations. Brown's death has sparked allegations of systemic discrimination against minorities and a nationwide debate on race in the U.S. A poll conducted over the weekend and released Monday by the Washington-based Pew Research Center shows 80 percent of African-Americans believe Brown's death raises important issues about race, compared to 37 percent of whites. The survey also found that while 65 percent of black respondents believe the police went too far in responding to the shooting, that number plummets to 33 percent among the white population. Police fired stun grenades and tear gas at crowds, as demonstrators lobbed firebombs and bottles at heavily armored police. Officers say they came under heavy attack, but did not shoot their weapons. Two people were reported wounded by shots from within the crowd. Many people appeared to be defying orders from police to disperse. National Guard troops that arrived earlier Monday to strengthen police forces could be seen on the fringes of the gathering. President weighs in Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the actions of a "small minority" of demonstrators engaging in violence on the town's streets was heightening tensions. He also said there was no justification for the use of excessive force by police, or any action that denies the rights of peaceful protesters. An independent autopsy requested by Brown's family showed he was shot at least six times, including two bullets to his head. Attorneys for Brown's family said the autopsy shows the unarmed black teen was "trying to surrender" when Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him. Two other autopsies have been commissioned. Wilson is on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Again calling for calm, President Obama smartly dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder to visit Ferguson, Mo., as a federal guarantor that justice will be done in the death of Michael Brown. The U.S. Justice Department has a key role in easing tensions that have led to repeated nights of violence as local and state officials have been tragically incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities. Wisely, Obama brushed off calls from his left flank urging a presidential visit, at which he would presumably lock arms with those who are protesting the killing of Brown, who was black, by white police officer Darren Wilson. Now is not the time. While damning at face value, the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting are not yet known. A murder in cold blood, say some. A justifiable use of force, say others. The President carefully refused to prejudge the case while also making clear that he understands protesters’ frustrations. Their anguish is highly justified. The young man was unarmed. In death, he was smeared by the same Ferguson officials who refused to name Wilson for days. The prosecutor’s office and medical examiner are missing in action, so that a pathologist retained by Brown’s family has provided the only on-the-record information about the cause of Brown’s death. Obama spoke of the need “to distinguish between peaceful protesters who may have some legitimate grievances, and maybe longstanding grievances, and those who are using this tragic death as an excuse to engage in criminal behavior and tossing Molotov cocktails or looting stores.” Meantime, the President had appropriately skeptical words for the incomprehensible decision by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to send in the National Guard. Men who wear battle fatigues, who are trained to deal with foreign fighters or to respond to natural disasters, are as likely to aggravate a fragile situation as calm it. Nixon’s reliance on the Guard even to protect a command center testifies to his incompetence and that of local police. Speaking of the Guard, Obama said: “I’ll be watching over the next several days to assess whether, in fact, it’s helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson.” Still more crucially, Holder must convey that the U.S. will aggressively investigate Brown’s killing, never mind the actions by local officials. Obama has sent him there to take command, and he must. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/obama-wise-article-1.1908092#ixzz3AtFnazoW
Bilawal has said in his twitter message that Imran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are suicide bombers for democracy. Imran Khan as carrying out suicide attack on democracy while the suicide bomber government would topple democracy along with itself, he said. He further said that Nation would have real democracy in the country, if PPP and other left parties were allowed to conduct free election campaign.
Video Report: India - Secretary-level talks with Pakistan called off under pressure from Opposition?
On Prime Time, panelists discuss whether the government's decision to call off secretary-level talks with Pakistan was done under pressure following criticism from opposition parties for not taking a 'firm stand' against Pakistan. The announcement to call off the scheduled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan came shortly after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Shah in Delhi.
As twin protests in Islamabad entered a fifth day on Tuesday, the Pakistan Army has put its troops in Islamabad on ‘high alert’. Fearing any untoward incident taking place if the PTI or PAT enter the Red Zone, Lieutenant General Qamar Bajwa, commander 10 corps, has contacted top officials of the Islamabad Police for coordination to ensure security of the key government installations located along Constitution Avenue. The troops were deployed in the federal capital under Article 245 of the Constitution. The government had taken this controversial measure for securing Islamabad amid the spectre of a political showdown. The army is however not bound to act in aid of the Islamabad police in the enforcement of this section unless Chief Commissioner Islamabad orders them to do so. In an earlier report, a military source put the number of troops stationed in the capital for security duties at about 350. But the city administration had told reporters that five army companies -- over 500 soldiers -- had been deployed. Imran said on Monday he would lead protesters into the capital's “Red Zone”, an area home to Western embassies and key government ministries. Police have estimated the number of people at the protests at around 55,000, including many women and children. The government has previously said protesters are not allowed to enter the area. It is flooded with riot police and paramilitary forces and cordoned off with shipping containers and barbed wire. The government has not said whether Khan would be able to proceed to the Red Zone or not. PAT Chief Tahirul Qadri has said he will meet his supporters later today to consider whether to march alongside Imran. Their protests have so far remained separate because the two have different supporters and plans for what should happen if Sharif steps down. On the political front, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has also summoned a meeting of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and allies parties in the parliament house to chalk out strategy to prevent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from entering red zone and to end the political crisis peacefully.
Thousands of Pakistani protesters have converged on Islamabad to pressure the government to resign. But as analyst Aqil Shah tells DW, the biggest casualty of the mass rally could be democratic norms and institutions.Clashes broke out on Friday, August 15, as tens of thousands of protesters, led in two anti-government convoys, are set to converge on the capital for a massive rally aimed at forcing the Sharif-led administration to resign. Famous cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri are leading the separate protest marches. According to media reports, gunshots hit Khan's vehicle of as he led his supporters through the eastern city of Gujranwala. The opposition leader was not injured but residents brandishing ruling-party posters attacked his convoy, throwing shoes and stones. The opposition politicians challenge the government over allegations of incompetence and rigging last year's parliamentary vote. Sharif came to power in 2013 in the first democratic transfer of power in a country which has seen three coups since gaining independence in 1947. Aqil Shah, Pakistan expert and visiting professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College, says in a DW interview that the opposition parties have yet to provide any credible evidence for claims of fraud, and that by baying for the blood of the elected government, their actions threaten Pakistan's first democratic transition. DW: How long do you reckon the protests will last? Aqil Shah: It is hard to definitively predict the length of these protests. This will depend on whether the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) - or Movement for Justice - led by Imran Khan can find a negotiated way out of this needless crisis.
Khan, as well as the cleric Qadri, who is leading a parallel protest march, have shown little flexibility and continue to insist on removing the government. Much will also depend on whether the ruling party and its challengers can keep the protests peaceful. There are already reports of minor clashes between the two sides in the PML-N stronghold of Gujranwala. Violence can beget more violence, but at least at the moment there is no sign of things spiraling out of control.
How big do you reckon the protest will be?
These are not mass protests, at least not yet. The PTI has a strong following amongst urban youth, especially in the eastern Punjab and the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. So the mainstay of the protest is likely to be its energetic party cadres and other die hard supporters. But contrary to Khan's claim of marching on the capital with a million people, the actual number of his followers on the road so far is less than 20,000, according to media reports.
What do you make of Qadri's demands for less corruption, accountability and reform of the electoral system?All of these are obviously worthy goals but Qadri's methods and aims are patently anti-democratic. He wants to force the democratically elected government out by a "revolution." A Canadian national who lives in his adopted country for much of the year, he has little credibility or mass support in the country. However, he is a spoiler with ties to the military who loudly vilifies politicians as corrupt and makes no effort of even hiding his support for a military intervention in politics as the solution.
How can the opposition justify the demands for PM Sharif to resign given that Sharif is a democratically elected prime minister?Both Qadri and Khan allege that Sharif's government came to power through a fraudulent election. Hence, they see it as an illegitimate government that has no right to rule. Khan and the PTI are particularly aggrieved because they think that the rigging was designed to deprive them of a victory. While electoral fraud is not unusual in transitional contexts, they have yet to provide any credible evidence for these claims. Instead, what we have is a litany of unproven allegations against everyone under the sun, including the interim government, the judiciary, the election commission, and even the US, Israel and India.
Sharif has offered to form a judicially inquiry commission to investigate the PTI's allegations, but Khan remains adamant that an impartial inquiry is possible only after Sharif resigns. To me, Khan's sound and fury looks like a cynical attempt for a crack at power regardless of its consequences for democracy.
What role is the country's powerful military playing?When the army is not in power, it pulls the strings behind the scenes. Tensions between the army and the government have been festering over several issues, including Sharif's decision to try former army chief and president, Pervez Musharraf, for treason. No coup-maker has ever been held accountable for his actions, so the impeding trial poses a direct challenge to the military's presumptions of impunity. As for Sharif's future, the military has the power to decide the ultimate fate of any government. So yes, the military's reaction will be a key factor in determining his survival especially if there is prolonged violence on the streets.
Who do you reckon will come out of this situation as the winner?I don't know who the winner will be, but the real danger is that democratic norms and institutions could become its biggest casualty. Let's suppose Khan gets his way, the government steps down, and his party wins the next election. Why would the losers of the next round not contest the legitimacy of the vote? By baying for the blood of the elected government, the PTI's actions threaten Pakistan's first democratic transition marked by the transfer of power from an elected government, which had completed its full term to another. That turnover had symbolic value for breaking Pakistan's enduring authoritarian trap. But the next essential step towards democratic consolidation is at least one more peaceful alternation in power, which would show both an elite allegiance to the rules of the game and the people's commitment to using the ballot to register their dissatisfaction with the government.
Could a prolonged confrontation between Khan, Qadri and the Sharif-led government lead to a military coup?
Sustained and violent protests could provide the military with the opportunity to intervene. But I don't think the generals' first choice would be a blunt coup right now - and there is little appetite in Pakistan for another military government - mainly because they have the power to get what they want without assuming direct responsibility for government.
When politicians challenge its prerogatives, it can rely on its allies in political parties, the media and even Islamist militant groups to contest their authority. Many observers suspect that this opposition protest is a practical demonstration of these tactics.
What impact is this political turmoil having on the country both nationally and internationally?For one, instability can undermine the democratic process by making the civilian government appear incapable of providing basic political order, which can ultimately dents its legitimacy. Business confidence in the country's struggling economy could slump even further, in addition to the direct adverse impact of political unrest on the country's economic life. On the external front, I think it will only reinforce Pakistan's image as a fragile nuclear-armed state that is unable to put its own house in order, and therefore, cannot tackle challenges like terrorism that are of serious concern to the international community.
The power struggle in Islamabad makes one thing clear: Pakistan is yet again missing the chance to become a civil economic power in the region, says DW’s Florian Weigand.Pakistan's power struggle has all the ingredients of a classic drama: two peoples' tribunes, one a former athlete and man-about-town, now reformed and on the straight and narrow, the other a religious leader, down to earth, straightforward, but not an extremist, are both marching towards the capital city, accompanied by a growing number of followers, to topple a controversial ruler from power. The show being put on by ex-cricket star Imran Khan, Islamic cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was always the stuff of epics – what the bards once sang around the campfire is being played out today as a visually stunning TV story around the world. The two protagonists - Khan and Qadri - are aware of the power of image and are basking in their popularity. But they overestimate their influence: the classic plot would not be complete without higher powers secretly pulling strings, deciding when heroes should rise and fall. In Pakistan, these powers wear khaki and shoulder pieces.
The military feels provokedFor the generals, the "March on Islamabad" comes at the right moment. Nawaz Sharif's politics have been a thorn in their side for a long time. Firstly, Sharif puts former head of state and of the military, General Pervez Musharraf, on trial for high treason. And as if that was not already cowardly enough, Sharif joined hands with the arch enemy, India, for all the world to see, when he met with the new Prime Minister of the neighbouring country, Narendra Modi, at Modi's inauguration. Such gestures of reconciliation rub the Pakistani military violently the wrong way. The eternal enmity with its neighbor is part of Pakistan's founding myth since British India split into the two states in 1947 – and without this, the over proportional role of the military would be difficult to justify. But the military sees itself not just as a protective barrier for the subcontinent's Muslims against the Indian Hindu superior power. It is also still the biggest employer in the country. It runs hospitals, businesses and schools, army families live in so-called military cantonments, enclosed residential areas which offer a standard of living otherwise only enjoyed by the elite. Many urban middle class families have at least an uncle or an aunt working for the military. Lost potential These old structures may be comfortable for those who benefit from them, but they do not move Pakistan on in the globalized world. Because in the same urban families, obligatorily related to at least one ex officer, a well educated generation is growing up, young people with academic credentials - often achieved abroad. They are the potential basis for a civil economy, for change through trade in the region – but without reconciliation with the Indian giant, this vision has no real future. Many in Pakistan see Nawaz Sharif as corrupt and inefficient, however he does send the right signals in the direction of the country's neighbor. Regrettably, the young people feel more of a connection with the charismatic Imran Khan, who runs the risk of ending up as a military puppet along with Qadri. If the two get tangled up in a possibly violent power struggle with the present government, the military could emerge as the self-appointed last peace-keeping power and revolt again, as so often in Pakistan's history. Change of tack towards India But it is unlikely to go that far. Nawaz Sharif will give into the military and revise his policy regarding India, even if he withstands the mass protests put on by Qadri and Khan. Sharif will think back to his first term in office, which ended abruptly in 1999 when the generals seized power after he had once already stretched out his hand to India. It is almost unimaginable, that he is now risking a repeat of the event. India's Modi is also making life difficult for Sharif. After some skirmishes in Kashmir, an area disputed by both countries, Modi accused Pakistan of waging a proxy war with irregular forces – a move which does not lend itself to reconciliation. Whether these skirmishes were orchestrated by the Pakistani military or were just a convenient coincidence for them no longer matters – just as it does not matter who gains the upper hand in the march on Islamabad. In every possible scenario, the military will profit. And yet again Pakistan is missing out on the chance of becoming a regional economic power. Everything remains just as in the classic drama: as long as the military retain their power, why should they bother about the needs of the mere mortals?
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders on Sunday emphasised on Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif to follow the vision of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to contact the Muslim World and activate the Organisation of the Islamic World (OIC) for effective voice to save the innocent Palestinians from the barbaric atrocities of Israel. Addressing the seminar titled “Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto & Islamic World” organised by the PPP Youth Wing at Arts Council in city; they vowed to protect democracy and not to accept the unconstitutional step possibly in the wake of ongoing sit-ins staged by the Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by Tahirul Qadri in Islamabad with demand to overthrow the elected governments and resignation of the Prime Minister. Chief Minister Sindh and party’s provincial President Syed Qaim Ali Shah was the chief guest of the seminar, while it was presided by the PPP-Youth Wing President of Sindh Senator Aajiz Dhamrah, besides party’s central leaders including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, PPP’s Deputy General Secretary Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Senator Taj Haider and others spoke on the life and role Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto towards unity of the Islamic World in the last quarter of 20th century. Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah in his speech traced the history of how ZA Bhutto gathered the head of states of 28 Muslim countries including the then King of Saudi Arabia Shah Faisal, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and others during the first conference of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in Lahore. Qaim Ali Shah, who was part of the reception committee of OIC conference in Lahore, said that ZA Bhutto advised and convinced the Arab countries to use the oil as weapon to safeguard the interest of the Muslims against the Western powers. He said that Muslim world required the leaders like ZA Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to protect the interest of the Muslims. Referring the current political crisis emerged from the sit-ins of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s in Islamabad, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said that even opponents and critic of the Asif Ali Zardari were stating that his political wisdom required resolving the political crisis. Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly of PPP Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah also spoke about the ZA Bhutto’s historical role to gather the Muslim countries and recognising the PLO of Yasser Arafat, who was fighting for liberation of the Palestine from illegal occupation of Israel. He emphasised on the present rulers of the country to follow the vision of the ZA Bhutto and contact the Muslim World for raising the unanimous voice against the atrocities of Israel on the Palestine. He said that his party will continue the policy of reconciliation, advising the government and protesting Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri to follow the principles of democracy and resolve the issue through dialogue. PPP’s Additional General Secretary Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said that the US through military establishment in Pakistan punished ZA Bhutto for his role of hosting the first OIC in Lahore. He came down hard on the silence of the OIC on the atrocities of Israel on innocent Palestinians, stating that there is no need such OIC and should be shelved it immediately. He again said that PPP was ready to play its role to mediate between the government and protesting parties of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri in Islamabad. He announced that his party will reject and come on roads against any unconstitutional step of shelving the democracy, warning that if Martial Law enforced in the country it will harm the federation of Pakistan. President of PPP-Youth Wing Senator Aajiz Dhamrah announced that youth wing of party will come on roads if any unconstitutional step is taken against the government.
A press report points out that despite a heightened threat of dengue fever outbreak in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, the province's Dengue Prevention and Control Programme remains dysfunctional due to turf battles. MQM's Dr Sagheer Ahmad who took over as Health Minister last May is said to be unhappy about the well-connected secretary health taking several initiatives without his approval. And to avoid taking sides, some of the health department's senior officials have gone on leave. Consequently, everything is in disarray whilst the province faces multiple health challenges, including dengue and the spread of polio and measles viruses. President of the Paediatrics Association warned just the other day that as many as 60 percent of the children countrywide do not receive vaccination against various preventable diseases like polio and measles. Dengue cases have been on the rise in Sindh for a while. Last year, Dengue Surveillance Cell reported 32 deaths from the disease. The actual number could be higher considering that not all cases are reported. As a matter of fact, the number of people infected by the virus is believed to be several thousand high. In view of the growing threat Sindh's Dengue Surveillance Cell was upgraded about five months ago and renamed Dengue Prevention and Control Programme along with substantial fund allocation. So far it has little to show for its efforts. The spray/fumigation campaign carried out last year has raised questions about the quality of chemicals used. It may be recalled that three years ago dengue virus played havoc in Lahore. It took a herculean effort on the part of the Punjab government to control the epidemic and prevent recurrence by organising intensive spray and fumigation campaigns as well as raising public awareness through the media. Health authorities in Sindh can surely benefit from Punjab's experience. Initially, there too some mistakes were made in selecting the anti-dengue mosquito spray chemicals, but eventually the effort worked. There is no reason for the same mistakes to be repeated in Sindh. But for the things to move in the right direction the health department must first resolve its own internal problems. Hopefully, that will happen sooner rather than later. Going by the example of Lahore any outbreak of dengue epidemic in a sprawling megalopolis of nearly 20 million would be a nightmare for the government and the people alike. Complacence at this point in time is unacceptable.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) ‘Independence March’ began with a call for the government to resign. It ends with the PTI saying it will resign instead from the National Assembly (NA) and all provincial assemblies except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), though both decisions are still under debate. Flanked by a worried looking KP Chief Minister (CM) who undoubtedly sees a hard won election victory going down the drain, Imran Khan made the announcement in Islamabad yesterday and said he and his supporters will enter the Red Zone where sensitive government installations are located, despite having given written assurances to the authorities that he would not do so. What this desperate measure is meant to achieve appears to be nothing more than saving Imran the embarrassment of having to back down and admit his march failed to gather the critical mass of people necessary to appear as a legitimate popular movement. If the PTI does resign the government will have to hold by-elections, where the PTI will probably lose seats if it contests. This could lead to dissent within the party if legislators have to reinvest in campaigning so soon after victory because of their leader’s short-sighted electoral politics. In KP, despite forming the government, the PTI does not have a majority of seats, meaning that if it resigns, unless the CM dissolves the assembly there is a precedent for a minority government that could reign in the interim until by-elections fill the remaining seats. The announcement follows Imran Khan’s garbled call for ‘civil disobedience’ on Sunday, which consists of his supporters refusing to pay bills and taxes. This should not inconvenience the government since it can cut electricity to defaulters, confiscate assets, and punish tax evaders under the relevant laws. It is also difficult to imagine several thousand charged party workers facing off against several thousand policemen in Islamabad’s most sensitive area, the Red Zone, without violence, in spite of his declaration. Since Imran has descended into delusion, the government must ensure restraint in what is a potentially combustible environment. The government put Islamabad on red alert following the announcement, and the worry is that if ‘civil disobedience’ or marching on the Red Zone leads to clashes, bloodshed and arrests, the country could descend into further anarchy. With terrorism rampant, security is a prime concern and the government has a legitimate worry about letting thousands of people into the country’s nerve-centre. Moreover, a march into the Red Zone achieves nothing aside from a symbolic partial victory. Is it worth losing a strong presence in the NA and the provincial Assemblies? From the perspective of electoral politics, no it is not. From a populist perspective, Imran is playing the only card he has left. This is not the stuff of revolutions; even the Kiev ‘Maidan’, a similar putsch to Imran’s attempt, had as many as 150,000 people in a country with a much smaller population. This should tell Imran two things; first, his popularity is not as widespread and unflinching as he assumed, which casts doubt on his claim that the 2013 elections were rigged. Second, his protest caused a great deal of uncertainty and upset for ordinary citizens who want nothing more than a few years of stability in which to reorder their lives. It has made him deeply unpopular with many of his former supporters. If anything, it may have strengthened the government, which now has every major political party on its side and appears relatively sane by comparison, its past sins of omission and commission notwithstanding. It repeatedly offered Imran a way out and is still doing so, setting up multi-party committees to negotiate with the PTI and PAT. Iman Khan now has three options: he can turn to violence, he can negotiate, or his party can resign and fade into obscurity. Nawaz Sharif has given no indication he will resign, and Imran’s best hope of leaving this debacle behind is to accept the government’s peace offering and push his remaining demands at the negotiating table. If his party follows through with the threat to resign, he will be the only loser.
After the expiry of 48-hour deadline which he gave to the government on Saturday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri extended the deadline till 5pm today (Tuesday), vowing to hold an “Awami Parliament” (People’s Parliament). He inviting people from all walks of life to come to participate in the “Inqilab March”, saying time has come to change the fate of poor masses and people must come to attend this Awami Parliament. According to Qadri, the Awami Parliament would take the final decision regarding the future of his Inqilab March and he would accept its verdict. Announcing to expand his “Revolution March” to all parts of the country through protest demos and sit-ins, the cleric raised serious objections on the democratic practices, rule of law, supremacy of constitution and human rights in the country. Addressing charged and emotional party workers and diehard devotees on a road adjacent to Aabpara Market, Qadri said all groups and sects, including Sunnis, Shias, Deobandis, Barelvis, Ahle Hadith, as well as seculars and nationalists from any location or ethnicity would kick-start protests from Monday evening onward by staging sit-ins across the country. Qadri reminded the government about the 48-hour deadline he gave on Saturday for the acceptance of his charter of demands. The PAT chief questioned the legitimacy of the present democratic set-up which, according to him, was the result of rigging and corruption. He lambasted the governments – central, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan – over alleged violation of rule of law, supremacy of constitution, democratic norms, human rights in all parts of the country. He labelled the current system brutal and ruthless, saying it was thriving on corruption and had failed miserably to give justice to the poor masses. Qadri vowed to leave no stone unturned until the accomplishment of his mission of revolution. “Change in the system is possible only through the success of revolution,” he noted, adding that no justice will come till Sharif brothers are in power. Qadri alleged that the government had informed him of threats to his life from several different terrorist groups, yet had “jammed” his car, making it impossible to ride it to the meeting venue from his nearby container house. He explained to the “western democratic world” that people were out on the streets due to “a complete lack of justice”. While raising voice in favour of his reform agenda, the fiery cleric stuck to his demands of dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies, formation of a national government to undertake immediate democratic reforms and immediate resignations and arrest of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over the Model Town killings. At one time, an emotional Qadri praised the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf over its chief, Imran’s call of civil disobedience, claiming that the PAT and PTI movements were heading towards the same goal. He applauded PTI’s workers commitments to the cause. “I say zindabad to the PTI workers...they are our brothers. I congratulate Imran on announcing a two-day deadline,” he said. He also praised the “faith, discipline, unity” and resolve of the “Inqilab Marchers”. “If anybody wants to see true picture of three principles of Quaid-i-Azam, he or she should see the Iqilab marchers and visit the site of sit-in organised by the PAT to achieve revolution,” Qadri said. “Everyone has praised the discipline and resolve of the Inqilab March.” The PAT chief reiterated his stance by saying that he and his workers would not leave until the success of “revolution”. He criticised the Sindh government “for its inefficiencies in addressing needs of the common people, particularly minorities”.
A Pakistan opposition politician announced Monday he will lead thousands of protesters into the capital's high-security "Red Zone" as his 48-hour deadline for the government to step down ends, heightening the danger of a violent confrontation. Imran Khan, a former cricket legend who heads parliament's third-largest political bloc, made the announcement at a rally in Islamabad calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down over alleged voting fraud in 2013 elections. Khan's protest is part of twin demonstrations drawing tens of thousands of people that are wreaking havoc in the capital of 1.7 million people. Khan's announcement also raises the fear of political instability in a nuclear-armed country that only saw its first democratic transfer of power after the May 2013 elections. Islamabad's "Red Zone" houses diplomatic posts, parliament, government offices and the presidential and prime ministerial palaces. Khan said the protest will begin Tuesday. "I will be in front and workers will remain in the back so that if any bullet is fired it will hit me, not my workers," Khan said. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has repeatedly said no one would be allowed to enter the high security zone, which is protected by police and blocked off with shipping containers. Khan announced earlier Monday that his party lawmakers will resign from the parliament and provincial assemblies except for the Khuber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly where his party — Pakistan Tahrik-e-Insaf — is in charge. On Sunday, Khan also called on protesters to stop paying taxes and practice civil disobedience until Sharif steps down. Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, a dual Pakistani-Canadian citizen with a wide following, have mounted twin protests against Sharif, accusing him of rigging the election that brought him to power. Sharif has said he won't step down. While the crowds have fallen well short of 1 million marchers that both men promised, their presence and the heightened security measures have virtually shut down business in the capital. The rallies have nevertheless remained festive, with families picnicking and men and women dancing to drums and national songs. Police estimate that the crowds in both sit-ins have gradually dwindled since they arrived in the capital late Friday. Both rallies began as caravans of vehicles setting out from the eastern city of Lahore. Police official Nasir Shah estimated that there were currently around 25,000 to 30,000 people in both rallies.
At least six people were killed on Tuesday when a remote-controlled explosive device went off in Salarzai tehsil of Bajaur tribal region, official sources said. The deceased include two female teachers, three children and a driver. The explosive material was planted along a roadside in the Tangi area of Salarzai tehsil which exploded when the school van was passing through it. Rescue teams rushed to the site of the incident and shifted the injured to a nearby hospital. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack until the filing of this report. The incident comes days after a child was killed and six others sustained serious wounds in a remote-controlled blast in Bajaur's Nawagai tehsil. Also, on August 13, a pro-government tribal elder and leader of the Salarzai Peace Committee was attacked in a roadside blast in Golo Shah area. He however remained unhurt in the incident. Bajaur, a tribal region in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), is governed by tribal laws. An extremist insurgency led by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) plagues the region and the area is known to be infested with militants, including those from Al Qaeda and other armed extremist organisations.