Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Watch President Obama Sing Ariana Grande’s “Problem” (Sort Of)
He already sang “Fancy,” so really, it was only a matter of time until Obama took on “Problem” — you know, the other song of the summer.
Behold, the latest work from the genius known as baracksdubs, who splices together snippets from Obama’s speeches to make it sound like he’s singing pop songs.
Barry O. does all the singing, of course, but watch out for special appearances from Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, both of whom really add an extra something special here.

President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Murder of James Foley

Video: Woman wins top prize in mathematics

New Threats to Democracy in Turkey

It is no surprise that Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkey’s first direct election for president. He has served as prime minister since 2002 and, over the intervening years, has skillfully, and ruthlessly, established control and cowed any serious opposition, which was weak to begin with. The victory was not as big as many predicted. Even so, Mr. Erdogan and his ambitions have created new uncertainties for his country and the United States and other NATO members who depend on Turkey to be the bulwark of the alliance’s eastern front.
For starters, the election means that Mr. Erdogan will be even less encumbered by the institutional checks and balances that are essential elements of any real democracy. The first step in his scheme to create an ever-stronger executive was to change the system so that the people, not Parliament, chose the president in a direct vote. Presidents selected by Parliament were largely ceremonial. After his inauguration on Aug. 28, Mr. Erdogan is expected to make the most of what powers he has as president and extend his influence through a handpicked and malleable prime minister.
Mr. Erdogan’s ambitious dreams are not guaranteed. Constitutional amendments will be necessary to make his changes permanent, and, for that to happen, he and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party will need to strengthen their parliamentary majority in next year’s general elections.
His 52 percent tally in the presidential race seems healthy, but it was lower than polls had predicted. Indeed, some analysts say support for him and his party may have peaked. And while he remains popular among conservatives in Turkey’s Anatolian heartlands, many liberal and secular Turks who once endorsed him are now bitterly disaffected, with good reason.
Mr. Erdogan was once an inspiring figure who advocated reforms that seemed designed to make Turkey a model democracy among Muslim-majority nations, fulfill its commitments as a NATO member and make it eligible for membership in the European Union. Under his governance, economic growth has averaged 5 percent per year, inflation has eased and the army has been brought under civilian control. He has offered Turkey’s Kurds more rights than his predecessors and reached a cease-fire with Kurdish militants that has held since 2013.
But he long ago veered off the democratic course, brutally cracking down on antigovernment protests last summer and severely constraining free speech, the press and the Internet. News outlets have been taken over by his cronies, and independent-minded journalists have been fired. A power struggle with a former ally led to a corruption scandal last year that embroiled Mr. Erdogan’s family and seemed to make him even more determined to crush dissent.
Meanwhile, Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian ways have strained relations with Abdullah Gul, the current president, a co-founder with Mr. Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party and a respected consensus-builder who is said to have grown alarmed at Mr. Erdogan’s antidemocratic excesses. But whether he would challenge Mr. Erdogan directly is unclear, and there are no other credible political rivals in sight.
If Mr. Erdogan succeeds in solidifying power, the future of Turkey’s already shaky democracy is more in doubt than ever, and the political uncertainties are expected to persist at least until the 2015 parliamentary election. That is not reassuring news for the United States or any other government that looks for Turkey to play a stabilizing role in an increasingly out of control Middle East.

Obama Denounces James Foley's Execution: 'Today The Entire World Is Appalled'

President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday on the execution of American journalist James Foley at the hands of Islamic State militants, warning the group that they have "no place in the 21st century."
"Today the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL," Obama said in a statement from Martha's Vineyard, where he is on vacation. "James was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world."
On Tuesday, the group formerly known as ISIS released a video of militants beheading Foley, claiming it was in retribution for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The Federal Bureau of Investigations said Wednesday they believe the video to be authentic.
Obama said he spoke to Foley's family earlier Wednesday to offer his condolences.
"Jim Foley's life stands in stark contrast to his killers," Obama said. "Let's be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing unarmed citizens in cowardly acts of violence. ... No faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day."
"Their ideology is bankrupt," he said. "People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy."
Obama pledged to continue to "do what is necessary" to protect Americans and support the Iraqi forces fighting back the extremist group, despite their threats.
"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," he said.

The Real Middle East Crisis Is Economic

President Obama surprised many recently when he diagnosed the crisis gripping Iraq as partly an economic one, noting that Iraqi Sunnis were “detached from the global economy” and thus frustrated in achieving their aspirations.
While Iraq’s chaos has many sources, the president is nevertheless on to something; and it’s not just Iraqi Sunnis, but the entire Middle East that is detached from the global economy.
The region accounts for just over 4 percent of global imports, less than it did in 1983; Germany alone accounts for 6.4 percent. Its economic stagnation is vividly illustrated by a comparison to Asian economies. According to the World Bank, in 1965, Egypt’s per-capita gross domestic product was $406, while China’s was merely $110.
Today (using constant dollars), Egypt’s G.D.P. has increased four-fold to $1,566, whereas China’s has increased thirty-fold to $3,583. Similarly, Iran and South Korea had roughly the same per-capita G.D.P. in 1965; now South Korea’s is $24,000, whereas Iran’s is only $3,000.
The economies of the Middle East are not only detached from the world’s, but from one another. Most exports in North America, Europe and Asia remain within those regions. Two-thirds of exports to Europe are also from Europe. In the Middle East, only 16 percent of exports to the region as a whole are from other Middle Eastern states.
While Western observers focus on political issues in the Middle East, people in the region are themselves preoccupied with economic matters. According to a recent poll, residents of the Gaza Strip overwhelmingly desire calm with Israel and the chance to seek jobs there. In another poll, Iranians listed “expanding employment opportunities” as their top political priority, far higher than “continuing our nuclear enrichment program.”
But while Gazans hope for an end to their blockade, and Iranians for an end to sanctions, neither step would provide a silver bullet. Economic malaise is endemic to the region, even in places not suffering from blockades or sanctions.
This should concern Western policy makers. The distinction between economic and political problems is false. Like anywhere, economics and politics are inextricably linked. And economic progress is the key to easing the chronic instability that threatens American interests in the region.
Among oil importers, bloated public sectors are at the heart of socioeconomic woes. In places like Egypt, where the public sector employs around 30 percent of workers, post-revolution governments in search of quick economic fixes have further increased the public work force and salaries. Generous government subsidies, particularly on fuel, encourage overconsumption and favor inefficient, energy-intensive industries. Together with the large public-sector wage bills, these subsidies strain government finances, resulting in deficits, which increase the cost of credit.
These policies, together with obstacles to doing business, inhibit the sort of private-sector activity that would boost growth and employment. Across the region, unemployment — especially among youth — is in many cases higher than it was at the outbreak of the Arab uprisings, and economic growth is too slow to reverse the trend.
These problems aren’t limited to the oil importers. The International Monetary Fund has warned that oil exporters’ years of massive surpluses are nearing an end, as a result of heavy spending and growing populations. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to a decrease in oil prices, which looks increasingly likely as new sources come online internationally.
These economic problems can be fixed, however. In contrast to the region’s political dilemmas — which often seem intractable — the West is not only able to help, but regional leaders are open to receiving help. Jordan offers an example: Amid the chaos of the Arab uprisings, Amman quietly implemented tough reforms with the assistance of the United States and the I.M.F.
Oil importers need to replace costly fuel subsidies with targeted assistance to the poor and the creation of social safety nets. They also need to ease their dependency on external aid, reduce corruption, and make regulatory changes to encourage private-sector growth. Exporters need to reduce spending and diversify their economies. And both need to shrink their public sectors and modernize their educational systems.
The United States and its allies should not only provide advice in overcoming these challenges but also incentivize regional governments to take it. That means working with regional allies that are seeking to diversify and modernize their economies, and coordinating economic aid and tying it to progress on reform, including the political steps necessary to make reforms successful.
America should also promote greater economic integration by cooperating with wealthy oil producers to invest in the prosperity of their poorer neighbors, and by offering Middle Eastern states better access to Western markets, especially the European Union.
Exhortations for the United States to “do more” overseas are often criticized as veiled calls for the use of military force. But integrating economic statecraft into diplomacy would help broaden America’s international role beyond the security sphere in a way that promotes long-term peace and stability.
It would be naïve to think that economic growth will solve all of the Middle East’s thorny dilemmas; but it would be equally naïve to believe that they can be solved without it.

CPJ condemns killing of American journalist James Foley

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of James Foley, a U.S. freelance journalist, who was abducted in Syria in November 2012. In a video posted online, the Al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State claimed to have executed Foley, saying the act was retribution for U.S. military intervention in Iraq.
"The barbaric murder of journalist James Foley, kidnapped in Syria and held almost two years, sickens all decent people. Foley went to Syria to show the plight of the Syrian people, to bear witness to their fight, and in so doing to fight for press freedom," said CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe. "Our hearts go out to his family, who had dedicated themselves to finding and freeing Jim."
Syria has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for more than two years. At least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there, including some who died over the border in Lebanon and Turkey. More than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria; with frequent abductions, some of which go unpublicized, it is difficult to know exactly how many. CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists, both local and international, are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by Islamic State.

Sardar Ali Takkar - Che Masti We Aw Zwani We

Pakistan cleric's supporters blockade parliament, but Nawaz Sharif escapes

Thousands of Pakistani protesters tried to blockade parliament on Wednesday after an anti-government cleric told them not to allow anyone in or out, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inside at the time, but the lawmakers left by a back entrance.
The protesters have taken to the streets of Islamabad for five days, led by cricket star turned opposition leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who runs a network of Islamic schools and charities.
Both want Sharif to resign over allegations of corruption and election rigging. The Supreme Court summoned both to appear before the court on Thursday.
The peaceful protests have raised questions over the stability of the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people. Its civilian government is struggling to assert its authority after decades when the country swung between democracy and military rule. The coup-prone South Asian nation is also plagued by high unemployment, daily power cuts and a Taliban insurgency. Anti-Western and violent sectarian groups are gaining strength.
Most protesters say they are demonstrating against government corruption, which they blame for the country's widespread poverty.
On Tuesday night, protesters used cranes and bolt cutters to dismantle police barricades and surround parliament. On Wednesday, Qadri urged the crowd to barricade lawmakers and the prime minister inside as they met to discuss the crisis. "Don't let all those inside come out and don't let anyone go in," he told supporters.
His exhausted followers, some carrying blankets or colourful umbrellas, were resting in the shade on the grass on Constitution Avenue when he spoke. But they immediately rose to block the entrance to parliament.
Riot police and paramilitary forces in the area did not intervene and Qadri urged the crowd to remain peaceful.
"If you and the army come face to face, don't raise your hand. If you do, you will not be welcome amongst us," Qadri said.
Legislators left parliament by a back entrance. Lawmaker Marvi Memon, from the ruling party, said every parliamentarian present had denounced the protests and offered support to the government.
"This affront to parliamentary democracy has been noted," she said. "This is only a handful of people and they do not represent the will of the people."
Parliament would reconvene on Thursday, she said. But Khan has given Sharif until 8 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday to resign or face an invasion of protesters at the prime minister's official residence.
"Now no police nor army will stop us," he told supporters on Tuesday. If Sharif did not step down,

Protesters Demand the Resignation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister
Political opponents claim that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was fraudulently elected.
Thousands of antigovernment protesters in Islamabad marched to the Parliament on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Reuters reports.
Opposition leaders claim that Sharif was unfairly elected to power last year.
The protests are being led by former international cricketer Imran Khan — head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party — and prominent politician-cleric Tahir ul-Qadri.
Khan, who is demanding that Sharif’s government make way for fresh elections, alleges that Sharif’s party won last year’s poll through fraudulent means. On Monday, he also claimed that 34 members of his PTI party would resign from their seats in the National Assembly in protest against the current regime.
Qadri is accusing Sharif of corruption and wants the current administration replaced by a unity government of technocrats. The two leaders have held separate protests in the past, but announced earlier this week that they would join forces to march on Parliament.
An estimated 50,000 protesters have been holding demonstrations in Islamabad for five days. Reuters says that some are equipped with cranes and bolt cutters to dismantle and remove the shipping containers that are being used to barricade the government “red zone,” where Parliament and other state buildings are located.
Sharif originally called on the country’s powerful military — which deposed him in a 1999 coup — to secure the red zone, but Khan issued him a warning. “If police try to stop us and there is violence, Nawaz, I will not spare you, I will come after you and put you in jail,” Reuters reported him as saying to a crowd of supporters.
As marchers approached the capital, Sharif relented and announced that protesters could enter the area. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Sharif said on Tuesday through her Twitter account that this was because there were families among the demonstrators.
The Guardian reported that protesters, including women throwing rose petals on the ground, were not stopped by police officers as they marched into the red zone. The protests have put pressure on the weakened government that already has poor relations with the military. It also threatens to further shake the stability of Pakistan, which is battling against a bloody Taliban insurgency and a high unemployment rate.

Afghanistan gives NYT reporter 24 hours to leave country

Afghanistan has given a New York Times reporter 24 hours to leave the country, accusing him of not cooperating with an investigation into his reporting, the Attorney General's office said on Wednesday.
Matthew Rosenberg, 40, was summoned for questioning on Tuesday after the newspaper ran a story about officials discussing plans to form an interim government and "seize power" if a deadlock over the presidential election failed to break soon.
"Due to the lack of proper accountability and non-cooperation, the Attorney General's office has decided that Matthew Rosenberg should leave Afghanistan within 24 hours," the office said in a statement. "He will not be permitted to enter the country again."
Rosenberg said he and his newspaper had been cooperating fully. "We simply requested a lawyer as is our right under Afghan law," he said. "We were also never informed of a formal investigation and we do not understand how insisting on the right to a lawyer is not cooperating.”
Afghanistan is in the midst of a ballot that has dragged on for months, with both candidates claiming victory after the June 14 run off and allegations of mass fraud threatening to derail the process.
"They had brought us there under the guise of a kind of semi-informal chat," Rosenberg said of the talks. "It was kind of polite but insistent that we give them the names of our sources."
Attorney General's office spokesman Basir Azizi said Rosenberg was being investigated for publishing a story about government officials conspiring to "seize power" without disclosing the identity of his sources.
"The report is against our national security because right now, the election problem is ongoing and talks are at a very intricate stage," Azizi told Reuters by phone.
The United Nations is supervising an audit of all eight million votes cast, but the process has proceeded slowly as rival camps scrutinise each vote.
At the same time, members of a joint-commission appointed by deadlocked candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are meeting to hammer out an agreement on a unity government.
The framework deal was brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has twice flown into Kabul since the run off, but little progress in fleshing out the structure of the government has been made since his departure two weeks ago.
NAI, a group supporting a free press in Afghanistan, said the expulsion violated laws protecting freedom of expression by the media.
"We think rather than it being a legal matter, it's a political game,” said Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, the head of NAI.
"There are people in the government of Afghanistan trying to somehow keep the international community out of the picture of the elections in Afghanistan."
Washington criticised the Afghan government's handling of the situation late on Tuesday, before the Attorney General's statement.
"We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Afghan attorney general ... and urge the Afghan government to respect fundamental freedoms of expression and expression of the press," Marie Harf, a deputy State Department spokeswoman, told a news briefing in Washington.
While Afghanistan's press has generally operated freely, the country has become more dangerous for both journalists and aid workers to operate.
Earlier this week, consultancy group Humanitarian Outcomes reported a record number of attacks on aid workers worldwide, with Afghanistan being the worst place for humanitarian staff to operate.
A string of attacks on journalists in the run-up to the April 5 vote reflected this trend, with a Swedish-British journalist, an AFP news agency reporter and a veteran AP news agency photographer being killed in separate attacks.

Pakistan: Understanding Imran Khan’s politics

The PTI’s politics of agitation are reinforced by those lawyers who earlier were part of the lawyers’ movement to restore the judiciary.
The fate of the azaadi (independence) march (begun on August 14 from Lahore) instigated by Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), was decided in fact in Gujranwala. The city of Gujranwala was not important because the followers of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) attacked the PTI’s convoy but because the dreams of the PTI’s leadership to replicate the results of the long march conducted by Nawaz Sharif for the restoration of the deposed judiciary were frustrated. Gujranwala, a hub of the PML-N, is the first major city along the Grand Trunk Road en route to Islamabad. In March 2009, when Sharif’s convoy reached Gujranwala, Aitzaz Ahsan, accompanying Sharif, received a phone call from the then chief of army staff to call off the march because the government had succumbed to the demand of the protestors to restore the judges. On August 15, 2014, the PTI’s convoy spent several hours in Gujranwala in the hopes of receiving a similar phone call from the current chief of army staff. Interestingly, while in Gujranwala, Sheikh Rasheed, accompanying Khan, even made a frustrated public appeal to the army to intervene before the PTI’s convoy left the city. Unfortunately, not even a subedar (private) from the army called Rasheed to stop the march. Gujranwala must have disillusioned Khan about the march’s fate.
On the evening of August 17, while delivering the “most important speech” of his life, Khan revealed that he was doing politics just for the public otherwise he was not short of anything (whether wealth or fame) in his life. That was an impressive statement. Nevertheless, if such were the case, Khan would not have asked his voters to ensure the victory of Sheikh Rasheed in NA-55, Rawalpindi in the 2013 elections. The question is, why can Khan not serve the public without Rasheed? If Rasheed were such a gem, the PML-N would not have denied him a ticket. How to ridicule an opponent publicly is a skill Rasheed has mastered. Khan has also learnt somehow the politics of ridiculing his opponents. Another advantage of Rasheed is that he can arrange a mob from Rawalpindi on short notice, as he did this time to swell the sit-in. Rasheed not only remained a go-between for Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri but he also utilised his experience to cajole both Khan and Qadri into bringing their agendas closer and announcing a common date to overrun Islamabad.
Ridiculing the Sharif brothers was an agenda shared by both Khan and Rasheed. The second dimension of politics that now seems to be a part of Khan’s personality is the politics of revenge. Khan is now hell bent on settling scores with the Sharif brothers. The politics of revenge also suit Rasheed who tried several times to rejoin the PML-N after being labelled a turncoat but was shunned every time. The case of Rasheed is different from other deserters such as Akhtar Rasool who secured a ticket for the provincial assembly in the 2013 elections but lost the election to Mian Aslam Iqbal of the PTI in Lahore. Unlike Rasheed, Rasool did not ridicule the Sharif brothers during his days spent under the auspices of General Pervez Musharraf. Asking (clandestinely) and reinforcing Dr Qadri’s agenda to stage a parallel demonstration in Islamabad increased the impact of revenge manifold.
Khan and his party have also mastered another kind of politics: the politics of agitation. Much of the credit for this goes to ex-members of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). These members, such as Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry in Lahore, and Fayyazul Hassan Chohan in Rawalpindi, laden with the skills of (street) agitation, were disappointed with the JI and joined the ranks of the PTI to seek a new, moderate face. The PTI’s politics of agitation are reinforced by those lawyers who earlier were part of the lawyers’ movement to restore the judiciary. Hamid Khan, Ahmed Awais and Justice (retired) Wajeehuddin are just a few. These lawyers think that in the revival of democracy and in the jettisoning of General Musharraf from Pakistan, they played a vital role and hence the fruits of democracy should also be yielded to them on one political platform or another. Taken together, the presence of ex-JI members and lawyers in the upper hierarchy of the PTI influences the kind of goals set and the style of strategy adopted by the PTI to meet its objectives.
The show staged by Khan in Islamabad has dented the reputation of the government substantially and has turned the attention of all towards the fragility of the country’s political and judicial systems. Certainly, the system is rife with flaws, exploited by the rich and powerful to the disadvantage of the weak and dispossessed. Ad hoc judges are appointed to get favourable decisions. Merit is violated and financial crimes are committed while offenders hide behind the system and get away with it. The political system is monopolised by a few and refuses entry to the many. The electoral system militates against the spirit of true public representation. Khan has dared to challenge the system at the cost of his own embarrassment and he has shown that there is a lot of space available in the country for the emergence of a third political party. Secondly, despite exposing his political immaturity, Khan has shown that the system is in dire need of reform. Third, regardless of committing all types of political blunders and follies, Khan has shown that he and his party cannot be written off. Finally, the process of democratic evolution in Pakistan has still to travel a long distance to come out of the politics of cult behaviour.

Afghanistan: UN condemns clash between Abdullah’s observers and election workers

The United Nations has expressed concern about yesterday’s clash between supporters of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign team and workers from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) that left several people hurt at the audit centre compound in Kabul.
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Wednesday that this is not the first case in which representatives of the campaign teams have engaged in heated exchanges culminating in violence.
“The UN deplores the violence that took place,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš. “All parties – campaign teams, IEC, UN and observers – engaged in this important process must abide by relevant Codes of Conduct, and conduct themselves with professionalism and with high standards worthy of the millions of Afghans who cast their vote in the election. They must treat each other with respect.
Supervisors of the respective groups are responsible for guiding them and for controlling the situation, not to let disputes deteriorate in to confrontation.”
A statement released by UNAMA said, the UN welcomes the agreement to establish a joint-committee to investigate Tuesday evening’s incident.
The UN mission urged that steps be taken to prevent any such incidents in the future and to ensure that the audit process proceeds quickly under the conditions of mutual respect, dignity and safety.
More than 12,000 of the 22,828 ballot boxes have to date been audited under the UN-supervised process, with national partners backed by more than 150 UN experts.
At least four election workers were reportedly injured after observers of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah stabbed the election workers on Tuesday evening.
The incident took place around 5:30 pm local time after observers of Dr. Abdullah opposed with shifting of a ballot box from IEC store to recount centre.

Accommodation problem for female students of University of Balochistan

Females students of University of Balochistan who have been enrolled in M.Phil and PhD courses are deprived of hostel accommodation.
In current semester, 70 female students have secured admission in M.Phil and PhD courses in university of Balochistan. Apart from few exceptions, no female student has been allotted accommodation in university hostels.
The fee of PhD course is 150,000 and M.Phil 130,000 in University of Balochistan. Notwithstanding these heavy fees, university administration has failed to provide accommodation to the female students who belong from outside of Quetta district.
PhD and M.Phil classes take place during evening time and it’s very difficult for female students to travel after sunset. Many female students are left with no option but to quit their higher studies in the University of Balochistan.
The female students of university of Balochistan have demanded that this problem should be solved on humanitarian basis. According to the female students, providing accommodation for 70 students is not a big deal for the university administration.
The Balochistan Point demands from the university of Balochistan administration to solve the problem of hostel accommodation of female scholars. The officers in administration of the university have no right to remain in their positions if they can’t provide relief to students.

Pakistan: 10kg bomb defused, terror bid foiled in Peshawar

The city police foiling a terror bid timely defused a homemade bomb weighing 10 kilogram on Wednesday here, Geo News reported.
Police said that the terrorists had planted a bomb near Shahpur Chowki in the limits of Chamkani police station here.
AIG Bomb Disposal Unit, Shafqat Malik said that the 10kg bomb was planted in a pressure cooker which was timely defused on information averting any disaster.

Pakistan: Entering the Red Zone
Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have finally led their marchers into the Red Zone, rebuffing attempts to resolve differences through talks made by committees formed by the government and parliamentary opposition. The PTI chief wants resignation from Nawaz Sharif and midterm elections. Tahirul Qadri demands a revolution in the country that brings about fundamental changes in the system. Both are united on one point i.e., the removal of the PML-N government. They have led their follower to believe that they can achieve the aim through a peaceful sit-in outside Parliament House. The government which was initially reluctant to allow them has agreed to let the protesters camp inside the Red Zone. So far so good.
The government is perhaps willing to accept some of the minor demands but there is no possibility whatsoever of its resigning before it has completed its constitutional tenure. A peaceful sit-in where protesters simply dance, sing or occasionally raise slogans while the government offices continue to function, does not bother the administration at all even if it goes on for weeks. But Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are angry men who want urgent results. They know very well that many protesters, particularly those in the PTI camp, would start leaving if they find the exercise to be unproductive. The more charged and uncontrollable among the youth who have been promised change of government or revolution are likely to turn on the leadership if the march was not seen to be producing the desired results. Agents provocateurs can use such workers to provoke violence. On its part the Punjab police which is deployed inside the Red Zone is not used to treating protesters with kid gloves. The two leaders who have pushed women and children into the eye of the storm in pursuit of their misconceived objectives therefore bear a heavy cross. They have to ensure that the protests do not lead to violence or the overthrow of democracy.

Pakistan: PML-N is architect of political deadlock
The Pakistan People’s Party on Monday said the inept PML-N government was the creator of the current political deadlock.
A high-level meeting of the PPP leaders was held at the residence of Punjab PPP President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo. Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, former Punjab governor Latif Khosa, former federal ministers Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Imtiaz Safdar Warraich and former opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz were among those who participated in the meeting. The meeting discussed the political situation as emerging in the country, especially in the wake of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s civil disobedience and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s 48-hour deadline for dissolution of assemblies.
After the meeting, Gilani told reporters that sit-ins and protests would not lead to the fall of the government, but its mistakes would. He said that the PML-N government was responsible for the prevailing political situation. The former premier said the PPP is not with the government but with the state, constitution and democracy. He emphasised the importance of flexibility in politics and suggested that Imran Khan should talk about a package with the government to ensure next elections free, fair and transparent.
Gilani said that the whole system was in grave danger as the government failed to anticipate the gravity of the situation. He said that the PPP had been supporting the constitution, democracy and rule of law.
He said that the PML-N government had created the current political crisis. He, however, hoped the crisis would be resolved through dialogue, adding that nothing was impossible in politics. He also said that the crisis could be resolved through dialogue.
The former premier also underscored the importance of engaging PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri to reach a political solution of the deadlock.
Khosa flayed the Sharifs for appointing family members on 22 important slots. PPP’s unequivocal allegiance to state was the cornerstone of its politics, but that in no way showed that the PPP supported the PML-N government, he added.
Khosa also said the PML-N had always used courts for its objectives. He said the election tribunals are bound to decide cases in four months but despite a passage of 14 months, several cases are yet to be decided. Even if some decisions are given, the PML-N takes stay orders from the courts, he added.
Wattoo said that the government was the product of the rigged elections and therefore the question of its legitimacy had arisen as a consequence.
He added that the PPP was a responsible party whose leaders had sacrificed for democracy. He also said that the PPP did not believe in politics of vendetta and violence.
He condemned the Model Town carnage in which 14 PAT workers were killed and more than ninety injured by the Punjab Police.
He said that after the incident of Model Town, the Punjab government should have registered the case against the culprits voluntarily and the Punjab Chief Minister should have tendered resignation by confessing his inaptness and criminal negligence. He made it clear that the PPP was supporting democracy not excessive electricity load shedding, price hike, worsening law and order situation and unemployment.

Pakistan: Ex-military men back call for dissolution of assemblies

The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association, headed by Retired Vice Admiral Ahmed Tasnim, has jumped into the fray by supporting the call for dissolution of assemblies, formation of a caretaker government, introduction of electoral reforms and appointment of an independent election commission to hold fresh elections.
The association’s executive council held a meeting in Rawalpindi to discuss ‘current crises-like political situation prevailing in the country’. The participants said political leaders had failed to rise above party affiliations at the cost of country’s interests, says a press release issued by the association.
According to it, the government and parliament have failed to perform their institutional functions and fulfill their responsibilities to address serious issues being raised through public protests.
The ex-servicemen, who call themselves ‘former military strategists’ expressed concern at the failure of the government to implement orders of the additional session judge of Lahore to register the FIR of the Model Town killings, and termed it an instance of contempt of court and breach of fundamental rights of people enshrined in the constitution.

US closely monitoring situation in Pakistan

Express Tribune
The US said on Tuesday that it was closely monitoring the growing political crisis in Pakistan.
State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told the Express Tribune during a briefing in Washington DC on Tuesday that the US Ambassador in Pakistan has had official and informal meetings with different political and religious leaders. Harf added that the US Embassy in Islamabad was closely watching the demonstrations and was keeping Secretary of State John Kerry updated on the situation.
In response to another question regarding Pakistan-India relations, Harf said the US wants relations between the two neighbouring countries to improve and hopes that both countries will resume talks.
On Indian premier’s potential visit to the US, Harf said that the US will welcome Narendra Modi in Washington DC. President Obama and Secretary Kerry will glad to see PM Modi in US, she added.

Pakistan in crisis: Does Modi's tough line spell out a new doctrine?

The separatists have expectedly called the Narendra Modi government's decision to call off foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan "childish". This is to be expected but Modi's move to make Pakistan's engagement with the likes of Hurriyat a deal-breaker has taken many by surprise, sparking heated speculation as to whether there is a new foreign policy doctrine in the making.
There's plenty of indication that the decision to cancel the talks was in fact made long before Pakistan Ambassador Abdul Basit's meeting with Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah. A report in The Indian Express says Ministry of External Affairs officials were not even kept in the loop. "High-level political consultations" were held as Modi consulted External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday afternoon. "Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was informed after the decision was taken," the report says. She was asked to inform Basit that the talks would be called off if he met Shah. Once Basit and Shah met, Sushma told MEA officials to announce the decision to cancel the talks -- Singh did not even call Basit again to inform him.
The Basit-Shah meeting may have been no more than a trigger -- a new kind of engagement with Pakistan may have been on the cards for days. According to news reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was concerned over the political fallout of continuing to talk to Pakistan amid growing public anger over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.
According to a report in The Economic Times, Modi first discussed the issue when the LOC ceasefire violations began in early August. When over 10 ceasefire violations from across the LoC as well as the international border were recorded, the report says, "the politician in Modi calculated that elusive peace dividends would not be enough to cancel out the domestic fallout as public opinion kept building up against ceasefire violations."
If this was indeed the government's calculation, then the gamble certainly worked, for barring Kashmir where leaders across the political spectrum expressed disappointment at the cancellation of talks, there was a general consensus that the PM had rightly taken a tough stance, and appropriately so for a leader who had pilloried the UPA for caving in the face of Pakistani provocation.
"When Indian jawans were beheaded, the Prime Minister had said Pakistan will be accounted for it... Now when the Pakistani Army, this week, shot dead our jawans, I want to ask the Prime Minister...he had made the promise that we will not tolerate such things. What is the reason that a country of 125 crore is silently tolerating when Pakistan is going back on its promise one by one?" he had asked during one election rally, in Hyderabad.
The ceasefire violations were already prompting Congress spokespersons to use a similar tone while castigating the Modi government for pursuing its "sari diplomacy", a phrase coined incidentally by BJP ally Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut who demanded the suspension of talks when a jawan as killed along the LOC last month.
With Assembly elections coming, losing political capital over talks that will at the most yield incremental advances was obviously unacceptable.
Apart from domestic considerations, however, what is also clear is that the Modi government is forging its own rules for engagement with Pakistan. The timing of the decision to cancel talks -- at a time when PTI leader Imran Khan is forcing PM Nawaz Sharif against the wall -- is significant. It breaks the unwritten code in India's Pakistan policy which assumes that New Delhi must do all it can to strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan, owing mostly to the belief that cross-border terrorism, incursions and ceasefire violations are all mostly initiated by the Pakistan Army.
This policy appears to have been all but abandoned on Monday. "... by abruptly cancelling the talks after the Pakistan envoy met separatist Hurriyat leaders, the present government was following the second school of thought that India should mind its own interests and let Pakistan realise the cost of its misadventures," the ET report says.
A report in The Hindu on Modi's foreign policy report card concurs. "At a time when the civilian government in Pakistan is on the back foot, New Delhi’s digging in of its heels will only comfort the military."
One thing is clear, Modi will forge his own path on foreign policy decisions, bound neither by convention of the UPA era nor even by promising advances made during the Vajpayee era. Even his statesman-like invitation to Sharif and other SAARC nation heads for his swearing-in should not really be seen as a leaf out of Vajpayee's book, as this report in Business Standard points out. If there is a new Modi doctrine, we only know what it is not. We will have to rely on time and Modi to tell us what it is.

How the Pak crisis has weakened Sharif and put army back in control

by Mehreen Zahra-Malik
As tens of thousands of protesters advanced on the Pakistani capital last week to demand his resignation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dispatched two emissaries to consult with the army chief.
He wanted to know if the military was quietly engineering the twin protest movements by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan and activist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, or if, perhaps, it was preparing to stage a coup.
According to a government insider with a first-hand account of the meeting, Sharif's envoys returned with good news and bad: there will be no coup, but if he wants his government to survive, from now on it will have to "share space with the army".
Even if, as seems likely, the Khan and Qadri protests eventually fizzle out due to a lack of overt support from the military, the prime minister will emerge weakened from the crisis. The army may have saved his skin, but its price will be subservience to the generals on issues he wanted to handle himself from the fight against the Taliban to relations with arch foe India and Pakistan's role in neighbouring, post-NATO Afghanistan. "The biggest loser will be Nawaz, cut down to size both by puny political rivals and the powerful army," said a government minister who asked not to be named. "From this moment on, he'll always be looking over his shoulder."
A year ago, few would have predicted that Sharif would be in such trouble: back then, he had just swept to power for a third time in a milestone poll that marked nuclear-armed Pakistan's first transition from one elected government to another.
But in the months that followed, Sharif - who had crossed swords with the army in the past - moved to enhance the clout of the civilian government in a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half of its turbulent history. He irked the generals by putting former military head Pervez Musharraf, who had abruptly ended his last stint as prime minister in a 1999 coup, on trial for treason.
Sharif also opposed a military offensive to crush Taliban insurgents, sided with a media group that had accused the military of shooting one of its journalists and sought reconciliation with India, the perceived threat that the army uses to justify its huge budget and national importance.
India rapprochement at risk
Sources in Sharif's government said that, with civilian-military relations in such bad shape, Sharif suspected that the street protests to unseat him were being manipulated from behind the scenes by the army. He also feared that, if the agitations turned violent, the army would exploit the situation to seize power for itself. However, the two close aides who went to see army chief Raheel Sharif in the garrison town of Rawalpindi last Wednesday were told that the military had no intention of intervening.
"The military does not intend to carry out a coup but ... if the government wants to get through its many problems and the four remaining years of its term, it has to share space with the army," said the insider, summing up the message they were given.
"Sharing space" is a familiar euphemism for civilian governments focusing narrowly on domestic political affairs and leaving security and strategic policy to the army.
The army's media wing declined to comment on the meeting.
The fact that the military is back in the driving seat will make it harder for Sharif to deliver the rapprochement with India that he promised when he won the election last year.
Indian media speculated this week that Sharif had already been forced by the generals to scuttle peace talks.
New Delhi on Monday called off a meeting between foreign ministry officials of the two countries, which had been set to take place on Aug. 25, because Pakistan announced its intention to consult Kashmiri separatists ahead of the meeting.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since both gained independence in 1947. The two nations have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, and came close to a fourth in 2001.
The Pakistani army's predominance could also mean it could torpedo the government's relationship with Afghanistan, where a regional jostle for influence is expected to intensify after the withdrawal of most foreign forces at the end of this year.
Paying the price
Few believed that the army would back Khan's bid for power even if it used him to put Sharif on the defensive. "Even the army knows that Imran Khan may be a great pressure cooker in the kitchen, but you can't trust him to be the chef," said a former intelligence chief who declined to be named.
Sharif may now pay the price for miscalculating that the military might have been willing to let the one-time cricket hero topple him.
"Thinking that Imran could be a game-changer, Nawaz has conceded the maximum to the army," a Sharif aide said. "From a czar-like prime minister, they (the army) have reduced him to a deputy commissioner-type character who will deal with the day-to-day running of the country while they take care of the important stuff like Afghanistan and India. This is not a small loss."
But Sharif's aides say a stint in jail under Musharraf, followed by exile from Pakistan and five years as leader of the opposition party, have made him realise that he needs to share power to survive.
"This is not the old Nawaz, the wild confrontationalist," said an adviser to the prime minister in Lahore, the capital of his Punjab province power base. "This is the new Nawaz who has learnt the hard way that politics is about living to fight another day."

Pakistan: PPP urges govt to show more responsibility than Imran, Qadri
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab chapter has urged the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to show more responsibility than Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) during the current political situation.
PPP Punjab President Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo said in a statement on Tuesday that enough is enough and that now the government and contesting parties should retreat and instead let the sanity overtake their self-defeating brinkmanship.
Wattoo appealed to the PAT and the PTI to show mercy to the nation and let them take a sigh of relief that had been on the tenterhooks for the last many days. He called upon the government, the PTI and the PAT to listen to the rest of political leadership and create space for hammering out a mutually agreed formula to break the deadlock for the sake of democracy and constitution. No doubt, he said, delay on the part of the government to read the gravity of the situation correctly and of taking action had led to making political situation of the country more problematic.
He said that the bigger responsibility of taking appropriate steps like accepting the demands of the PTI urgently was on the shoulders of the government to save the country from plunging into anarchy.
The PPP leader recalled that PML-N had entered the Red Zone of Islamabad and had also ransacked the Supreme Court, adding lawyers and other political parties also entered the zone but not like the PML-N had entered. He maintained that Pakistan Army was fighting the war of survival of the country, adding how naïve and regretful it was that a section of political parties were getting to each other’s hair at a time when they should be uniting the nation instead of dividing it, as national security was at stake.
He referred to the advice of PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari last month in which he appealed to political parties to shun their differences for the time being and support the military operation in FATA wholeheartedly because terrorism poses the biggest threat to the security and independence of the masses.
Wattoo also urged the rest of political leadership to give strong message urgently to the warring parties in no uncertain terms that their egoism would not be allowed to run down the constitution and democracy come what may. The constitution, democracy and rule of law could not be sacrificed at the altar of their strong likes or dislikes, he added.