Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russian Food Embargo to Cost Netherlands 300Mln Euros - Reports

The Netherlands’ economy will lose at least 300 million euros ($400 million) due to the Russian food embargo, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing statistics bureau Statistics Netherlands.
The total value of food exports to Russia amounted to 500 million euros in 2013, generating 300 million euros for Dutch businesses, with 200 million euros going to service providers in the neighboring countries. As the Netherlands is recovering from the recession, the country’s GDP growth is predicted to slow down by 0.25-0.50 percentage points in light of the potential losses.
According to the statistics office, 2 percent of Dutch exports go to Russia, a sector that is linked to about 5,000 jobs.
Russia has banned food imports from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway in response to sanctions imposed on Russia over its alleged role in escalating the Ukrainian crisis.
The European Union recently allocated 125 million euros to a number of European food producers affected by the Russian food embargo. The subsidies are expected to last until late November.

China, India to Replace Canada, Australia, US as Meat Suppliers to Russia

Chinese and Indian meat is to replace banned pork and beef exports from the West, which will not succeed in reclaiming its position on the Russian market if the embargo is lifted, Russia’s relevant authority said Wednesday.
“For example, Russia’s Far East used to be heavily reliant on meat supplies from the United States and Canada. Now that [we are] actively cooperating with China’s veterinary authorities on … pork supplies from certain highly-integrated Chinese enterprises, the US and Canadian suppliers will not be able to come back,” Sergei Dankvert, the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor), said in a statement released on the agency’s website.
According to data from Russia’s Federal Customs Service, Moscow imported 619,200 tons of pork for $2.13 billion in 2013. Brazil, Denmark, Germany and Canada were the principal suppliers of the meat. Canada exported 79,300 tons of pork to Russia in 2013 for $246.3 million, while US pork exports had reached $19 million per year.
In 2013, Russia imported 658,400 tons of cooled and frozen meat, valued at $2.87 billion, with Belarus and Brazil among the top exporters.
On August 7, Moscow banned the importation of certain food and agricultural products from EU member states, the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway, all of which had previously imposed economic sanctions against Russia. The list includes beef, pork, fruit and vegetables, poultry, cheese and dairy products, and a number of other items.

Sinéad O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2U

Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

Pakistan: Two journalists among three gunned down in Quetta

Three people including two journalists were killed in a firing incident in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province on Thursday evening, police said.
Unidentified armed militants barged into the office of news agency, Online and gunned down Irshad Mastoi, the Bureau Chief of agency. Mastoi's reporter Ghullam Rasool and accountant Muhammad Younas were also killed by armed militants.
“All victims received multiple bullets,” Razaq Cheema, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Quetta said.
Despite crowd and high security zone, the assailants managed to escape unhurt from the spot.
Police and Frontier Corps personnel reached the office and started an initial investigation into the incident.
Irshad Mastoi was working as bureau chief of Online news agency and assignment editor ARY.
Dead bodies of the victims were rushed to Civil Hospital in Quetta. A large number of journalists reached the hospital and chanted full-throated slogans against the cold blooded murder of journalists.
Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) strongly condemned the incident and termed it an attack at freedom of expression. Irfan Saeed, the BUJ President announced a three-day mourning to bewail the killings.
Pakistan is ranked by rights groups and watchdogs as the world's most dangerous country for journalists and reporters.
According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), seven reporters lost their lives in the line of duty in 2013 in the country.
Placing Pakistan as the 158th country out of 180 on its Press Freedom Index, a report by the RSF had noted earlier this year:
“The government appears powerless in the Taliban... and the military establishment, which is known as a 'state within a state' among many international observers.”

U.S. moves prisoners from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen

The United States has moved 11 new prisoners out of a military prison near the Afghan capital, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, as the Obama administration seeks to shut down a controversial detainee program in Afghanistan ahead of its troop withdrawal.
Nine prisoners were repatriated to Pakistan last week from the Parwan detention center, located on a military base near Kabul, said Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins III, a U.S. military spokesman.
Another two prisoners were sent to Yemen this week, Caggins added. The prisoners were handed to the governments of their home countries.
The Obama administration has been quietly moving prisoners out of the secretive prison as the United States and its NATO allies wind down their long military mission in Afghanistan.
All U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan, in the grips of a political crisis following a disputed presidential election, by Jan. 1, 2015 unless the country finalizes a deal that would permit some foreign soldiers to stay behind.
But in closing Parwan, like the much larger Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison in Cuba, the Obama administration risks political backlash from several directions.
Human rights advocates have criticized long detentions for suspects in U.S. military prisons since 2001, most of whom have never been charged with a crime. Such groups also express concerns about turning over prisoners for further detention in countries with poor human rights records.
Republicans have condemned the Obama administration's release of other detainees, who critics say could easily return to militant activity.
The identities of the detainees at Parwan, who have also included citizens of Tunisia, Russia and Jordan, have largely been a mystery, as has the reason for their imprisonment.
The Yemeni Human Rights Ministry said earlier this year that one of the two men sent back to Yemen last week was captured in Thailand.
The International Justice Network, which challenged the two men's detention in U.S. courts, said in a statement on its website that both of them were taken prisoner outside of Afghanistan and were "coercively interrogated" at "secret prisons" before being sent to Afghanistan.

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

While auditors rush to finish reviewing ballots in Afghanistan’s disputed June 14 presidential runoff election before incumbent Hamid Karzai leaves office, some American foreign policy experts are looking beyond the political standoff to a deadline that will end U.S. military involvement in the war-torn country.
That, they say, could further complicate Afghanistan’s security.
For years, Washington and Kabul could not come to terms on a bilateral security agreement, which would have determined the scope of what U.S. troops could do after 2014. So in May, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a unilateral plan: The United States would reduce its troop levels while continuing to train and equip Afghan national security forces for another two years.
"By the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq," Obama said in a speech from the White House.
But the president also made it clear that a U.S. presence beyond 2014 would be contingent upon a security agreement, which Karzai has refused to sign. Both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the candidates hoping to succeed Karzai, have said they support the pact – but they’re caught up in the country’s political paralysis as United Nations-supervised auditors review roughly 8.1 million ballots.
U.N. and U.S. officials had hoped to have a new president installed by August's end, when Karzai plans to leave office. On Tuesday, Abdullah threatened to pull out of the auditing process because his team believes some fraudulent votes haven’t been discarded.
Deadline disagreements
The Obama administration should have paid attention to realities on the ground in Afghanistan, not on setting deadlines, said Anthony H. Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a public policy research center in Washington, D.C.
"The chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff advised that the U.S. have a minimum of 16,000 troops" serving as advisers, enablers and the counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan, Cordesman said. The chiefs "had wanted that force potentially to stay there for as long as they are needed rather than be part of some fixed deadline."
Cordesman said Obama has called for inadequate support in deciding to deploy 9,500 troops in 2015 and only half that many in 2016.
Security agreement expected
Former American diplomat Paul Russo – who served as a U.S. ambassador and as special assistant to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan – teaches a Georgetown University course on the modern presidency. He agrees with Obama’s timetable, but said the pullout ultimately hinges on the security agreement.
He said he’s optimistic that Washington and Kabul will sign a pact “and also that we will leave 10- to 12,000 troops for training and assistance for a 10-year period in Afghanistan.”
Ghafoor Lewal, director of Afghanistan’s Center for Strategic Studies in Kabul, contends the United States has come too far in Afghanistan to make a U-turn.
"Afghanistan is too important a place from a strategic point of view," he said, "and if NATO and [the] U.S. resort to an irresponsible pullout from the country without paying attention to realities on the ground, any possible civil war in Afghanistan will not remain within the Afghan borders."
Lewal said insecurity in Afghanistan would have a domino effect on the region and eventually the world.
Will Afghanistan follow Iraq?
Some fear that Afghanistan will face the same upheaval that Iraq has since the United States pulled out its combat troops.
When Baghdad failed to sign a status of forces agreement with Washington in 2011, the United States picked the “zero option” and removed all its fighting forces from Iraq. Three years later, the extremist Islamic State militant group has captured large swaths of areas in north of Iraq and made advances in eastern Syria as well.
Some fear that Afghanistan may experience the current insecurity of Iraq as well if things go wrong.
Lisa Curtis, a South Asian expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, believes that the Islamic State poses as great a danger to the region as the Taliban does.
The Islamic State "is a breakaway faction of al-Qaida, and of course the al-Qaida located in Pakistan’s tribal areas is supporting the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. So you still have the al-Qaida Taliban alliance," Curtis said.
Obama wants to be remembered as the president who ended two wars, she said, but she warned his approach could backfire.
"If he doesn’t adopt sound policies to deal with challenges that we face in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he could actually end up with a legacy of being the U.S leader who allowed parallel jihadist movements to succeed in two pivotal parts of the world," Curtis said. Others disagree with Curtis, seeing Iraq and Afghanistan as fundamentally different scenarios.
"I think Afghans have not decided about the fate of the U.S forces in their country the way Iraqis did," said Lewal, who added that he expects Afghanistan’s next president “will soon sign” a security pact with the United States. "Afghanistan is far more important to U.S national security interests than Iraq is."
Russo agrees with Lewal.
"I think it’s altogether a different situation in Afghanistan and I think that those who are comparing the two are missing a lot of the finer points," Russo said.
U.S. public’s support for war wanes
The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for 13 years, making this the longest war in U.S. history, and the public has grown weary. Given its flagging support, how willing is the U.S. Congress to financially support the Afghanistan mission beyond 2016 – especially if there is no bilateral security agreement?
Heritage’s Curtis said the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan as long as its help is needed.
"I realize there are financial pressures, but what we have heard from several congressional members is they would like to see President Obama reconsider this withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan and keep [the] options open," she said.
She said Afghanistan deserves a commitment of at least 10,000 troops. She pointed out that the United States has provided at least 28,500 troops to South Korea for decades.
But Cordesman, the national security analyst, said Afghan’s needs go beyond military support. He said its civil dimension was critical, requiring attention from the Afghan government and the international community.

Afghanistan: Karzai warns he will quit despite Afghanistan deadlock

By Damien McElroy
Power vacuum looms for Afghanistan as UN delays date for result of presidential elections to mid-September despite Karzai's plans to leave office next week.
Afghanistan faced the prospect of a constitutional power vacuum after Hamid Karzai, its president since 2002, warned that he would step down imminently despite a deadlock over his successor.
Mr Karzai said his bags were packed and he was determined to quit office as he presses for his successor to be sworn in on Tuesday. However the UN delegation in Kabul has said it will not declare the results of an audit of voting until September 10. The announcement came hours after David Cameron demanded a power-sharing government to preserve the gains made in Afghanistan since the deployment of Nato troops during phone calls with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the rival candidates.
Mr Karzai has already taken over another house in the city and is already overseeing the transfer of his personal possessions.
"The president has packed up already, days ago," Aimal Faizi, Mr Karzai's spokesman said. "A lot of the furniture is staying as it belongs to the palace, but his personal belongings, everything and especially his books, which are very dear to him, are packed. He has a good collection of books, all kind of new and very old historic books - that is already put in cartons and they are all ready to leave the palace, but they haven't gone to the next place yet."
Jan Kubis, the UN representative in Afghanistan said "not possible" to finish an audit of a disputed election by September 2, Mr Karzai's office said.
The UN is supervising the audit of votes from a run-off ballot between the two candidates, Mr Abdullah and Mr Ghani. They have both claimed victory in the election intended to mark the country's first democratic transfer of power.
The deadline was abandoned despite a Nato summit in Britain next Thrursday and Friday that will consider future support for Afghanistan after the 13-year US-led combat mission ends this year.
Nato wanted a new president should be in place before the summit to prove that the country has becoming a functioning state after receiving billions of dollars of military and civilian aid assistance.
Mr Abdullah has formally withdrawn his backing for the review of all ballots that had been set up to resolve the stalemate over who won the June 14 election. Preliminary results suggested Mr Abdullah lost by a million votes to Mr Ghani, triggering accusations of massive electoral fraud.
Following Mr Cameron's calls, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "He emphasised the enormous prize at stake for the Afghan people - to secure their democratic future - and that he hoped that the process could be completed by the Nato summit.
"The Prime Minister said that the summit represented an opportunity to reflect on the progress made in Afghanistan over the last 10 years and to look at how Nato allies could work with the new government to support Afghanistan in the future.
Mr Karzai, 56, who lives in the palace with his wife Zinat and their three children, is banned from standing for a third term in office and he often said that he is looking forward to retirement and to becoming a "citizen of Afghanistan" who is ready to help his successor if asked.
The withdrawal undermined a US-brokered deal in which both candidates agreed to accept the audit and for the winner to then form a national unity government.
Negotiations over the unity government have also struggled, while officials deny reports that some current ministers planned to break the impasse by setting up a "interim administration" to take power.

Pakistan: PPP demands resignation from CM Punjab

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo has demanded from Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to tender his resignation.
Holding a press conference today (Thursday), Former Chief Minister Punjab Manzoor Wattoo said that Shahbaz Sharif had announced that he would resign if found guilty in the Model Town incident. He said that protesters have nothing to lose; therefore, government must make sacrifice in order to resolve the political crisis prevailing in the country.
“PPP stands firm with democracy and the constitution”, said President PPP Punjab. Ansar Abbas Bhatti also announced to join PPP on this occasion.

Pakistan:- US dubs Lahore money-changer ‘terrorist’ for LeT links

The US labelled a Lahore-based money-changer a “global terrorist” Wednesday, saying he provided financial services to militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
The US Treasury said Muhammad Iqbal, who owns and runs the Asma Money Exchangers in Lahore, conducts financial transactions on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates.
It said he is a founding member and finance secretary of the charity Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, which the US named as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2010. In this role and as owners of Asma Money Exchangers, Iqbal solicited donations for and sent money to officials of Lashkar-e-Taiba, it said.
“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons in which Iqbal and Asma Money Exchangers have an interest are blocked, and US persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” the Treasury said.
Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed for the 2008 attacks by gunmen in Mumbai which killed 166 people and triggered a complete breakdown in ties between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Pakistan: How Zulfikar Ali Bhutto handled a sit-in

Capt (r) Amir ud din Sheikh
I WOULD like to share with you the following experience of mine. There was a sit-in in the early 1970s before the Prime Minister’s House. I was serving in the military police. I got a frantic message from the GHQ saying that I must reach the scene with a couple of trucks and MP personnel. I wasn’t told the mission which further intrigued me.
When I reached, an officer who later became the military secretary to the President of Pakistan came out and briefed me that soldiers of the 1971 war who had lost their limbs had surrounded the Prime Minister’s House and were refusing to budge until the prime minister had met them. I was ordered to put them in trucks and leave them on the outskirts of Rawalpindi.
I pleaded with the officer that I be given a chance to ask them politely not to create a situation which could adversely affect their physical condition. The officer agreed.
I pleaded with the protesters who numbered about 200 legless, armless and paralyzed former soldiers. I pleaded with them but they said that their condition occurred in the defence of Pakistan. They were offended because they were not being given aid to acquire artificial limbs by the Fauji Foundation. They said that they had nothing more to lose and that they wouldn’t quit come what may.
Whilst I was attempting to pacify them, Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto arrived. He got out of his car and asked me, “What is the problem, Captain Sahib?” I explained the situation and he said, “No problem, I will speak to them.”
He was immaculately dressed and had a cologne on whose aroma still lingers in my memory. He went straight to the soldiers and said, “I have been told of your problem and I am with you and admire your sacrifices. You will be provided limbs urgently and I will not sleep in peace until they are, and if there is any delay, come back here and I will stand in front of you and proclaim myself guilty.”
The crowd was mesmerised by his speech. They began to chant “Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Zindabad! Prime Minister Zindabad! Pakistan Army Zindabad!” Later, they dispersed peacefully. I wish today’s politicians could do the same.

Hard-Line Splinter Group, Galvanized by ISIS, Emerges From Pakistani Taliban

The Pakistani Taliban has suffered its second major split in three months, with militant leaders this week confirming the emergence of a hard-line splinter group inspired by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The new group, known as Jamaat-e-Ahrar, is composed of disaffected Taliban factions from four of the seven tribal districts along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, according to a video released by the group. Counterterrorism experts said the group was effectively controlled by Omar Khalid Khorasani, an ambitious Taliban commander with strong ties to Al Qaeda.
Mr. Khorasani’s faction, which is based in the Mohmand tribal agency near Peshawar, had emerged as one of the most active Taliban elements this year. It is believed to have carried out a bombing in Islamabad that sought to derail peace talks between the Taliban and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.
The formation of Jamaat-e-Ahrar is one of the most serious internal threats to the Pakistani Taliban, officially known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, since it was formed seven years ago.
In a lengthy video statement explaining the decision to break away, Mr. Khorasani said the Taliban had become undisciplined and suffered from factional infighting. “This was devastating for our movement,” he said.
The new group also represents a challenge to the authority of the main Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who gained control of the insurgency last year after his predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in an American drone strike.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the new group, which is formally called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-e-Ahrar, said the new group had become “the real T.T.P.” and would refuse to take orders from Mr. Fazlullah.
“Now the T.T.P. is ours, not theirs,” Mr. Ehsan said in a phone interview. Mr. Fazlullah’s Taliban faction has come under heavy assault by the Pakistani military in the North Waziristan tribal district. The army said that since the start of the offensive in June, it had killed over 500 militants, although the figures could not be independently confirmed. On Aug. 15, a senior Pakistani general said that the operation was in its “final stages” and that most of the area had been cleared of militants.
The internal threat to the Taliban comes from ideological arguments and power struggles.
Mr. Khorasani has long been seen as one of the movement’s most ideological commanders, and his separation from the main Taliban branch prompted speculation among experts over an alliance with ISIS, which has captured a vast section of territory across Syria and Iraq and has declared itself the new Islamic caliphate.
Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad, said that Mr. Khorasani and Mr. Fazlullah had differed in their ambitions.
“Khorasani felt that Fazlullah had a narrow vision,” Mr. Rana said. “Khorasani wants an Islamic movement to rise from this region and believes that Fazlullah is only interested in the tribal belt.”
But Mr. Khorasani’s ambitions may be constrained by his ties to Al Qaeda, which is a sworn enemy of the Islamic State. Mr. Khorasani identified his deputy, Maulana Qasim Khorasani, as the nominal leader of Jamaat-e-Ahrar. That may be intended to keep him slightly aloof from the new group, possibly in deference to Qaeda sensitivities. Khorasani is a sort of nom de guerre, referring to the ancient territory of Khorasan. The spokesman, Mr. Ehsan, said in the phone interview that while the new group admired the Islamic State, it did not intend to formally pledge allegiance to it.
The Pakistani Taliban has always been a loose and often conflicted coalition of smaller cells. But it faced a huge public setback in May when a major segment of the Mehsud tribe broke away amid factional fighting in the mountains of Waziristan.
But in recent weeks, Mr. Fazlullah has worked to reunite with the Mehsud factions, and some Taliban representatives began signaling this week that he seemed to be making progress.
Further splits in the Taliban may be bad news for stability inside Pakistan, said Mr. Rana, the analyst. “The militant landscape remains broadly the same, and this new group could be even more brutal,” he said. “Security-wise, it may not be good news.”

Skirmishes Put Feeling of Wartime on India-Pakistan Border

The habits of wartime have crept back into life here along the border between India and Pakistan.
In the mornings, villagers stitch up shrapnel wounds on the hides of their water buffalo, and climb up to the rooftops to examine gouges left behind by exploding shells. Desperate for a night’s sleep, some have descended into concrete-reinforced bunkers that were nearly forgotten after 2003, when the two countries agreed to a cease-fire.
It is not clear what has caused the rise in nightly artillery firing across the border, which intensified in mid-August and, according to officials, has killed two Indian civilians and four Pakistani civilians, and injured dozens more. On Wednesday, there was hope that a de-escalation had begun. Two rare nights had passed without gunfire, and junior commanders from both countries met in a first step toward bringing down tensions.
Each side blames the other for shooting first: Indian officials say Pakistani rangers are launching the attacks to provide cover for militants hoping to cross into India. Pakistani officials say the Indians are firing without provocation, perhaps to retaliate for Pakistani successes against Afghan-based militants who, they claim, are supported by India.
The crisis comes at a moment of shifting policy in each of the nuclear-armed neighbors. India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, this month abruptly canceled talks with Pakistan to protest its contact with separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir, and his national security adviser is a counterterrorism specialist well known for his hawkish stance. The United States’ pullout from Afghanistan looms in the months ahead, a shift that some Indian analysts fear will swing militants’ focus toward India.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has squabbled with Pakistani military leaders over policy toward India. Mr. Sharif wants to build business ties between the two countries to stimulate Pakistan’s ailing economy. But the generals, who have a long history of wrecking civilian-led peace initiatives, have resisted — a possible factor, analysts say, in the increased shelling.
Stephen P. Cohen, who last year published a book on the India-Pakistan conflict, said border exchanges like this one have repeatedly led the two countries to the brink of conflict, and that it is all but impossible to trace their origins.
“On one or the other side, a local commander gets a little nervous and starts firing at what he thinks is someone crossing over,” he said. “Or, secondly, a local commander could be ambitious. Or, thirdly, you could have a deliberate policy choice by the government on either side.”
This section of the 1,800-mile border between India and Pakistan runs through rich farmland, close enough for workers to look up at the enemy watchtowers from their rice paddies. Civilians here have become accustomed to small-arms fire, but in recent weeks villages have seen nighttime attacks with long-range 81-millimeter mortars, some of them striking in the heart of residential areas.
The chief of India’s border security force, D. K. Pathak, who made an impromptu visit to the Jammu region on Tuesday, said the exchanges began with Pakistani sniper fire in mid-July, making it the most intense and prolonged stretch since two countries went to war in 1971. This year, he said, “we have been told very clearly to respond appropriately.”
“Our response,” he said, “will not be less, it will be equal or more. But not less.”
Asked what had set off the crisis, he said that he believed Islamic militants were gathering on the Pakistani side, waiting for the chance to cross into India.
In Pakistan, Brig. Mateen Ahmad Khan, the commander of Chenab Rangers, dismissed that claim, saying the flat, bare terrain in the area made it an unfavorable crossing-point for guerrilla fighters, and noting that India has erected a double fence equipped with sound detectors, and illuminated after dark.
“There is no jungle, no forest,” he said. “Everyone is looking at everyone. Why haven’t the Indians killed or captured anyone who is trying to infiltrate? No crosser has been killed. It is simply because there is nothing like that.” He also disputed Mr. Pathak’s claim that the episode began with Pakistani sniper fire.
“These are lame excuses,” he said. “They lie with flat faces.”
On Wednesday, two nights without firing had allowed some people to relax a little. At a border post on the Pakistani side, an officer of the Chenab Rangers peered through binoculars toward the Indian position half a mile away, and spotted a shadow near the pinkish post. He sent out a subordinate to tell a Pakistani farmer to come in from his rice fields.
“He could come under fire,” he said. “Tell him to have patience for a few days, until things normalize.”
Settlements on both sides remained largely deserted, and those who remained behind were eager to show visitors the punctured ceilings and deeply gouged walls. In Jora Farm, a cattle-herding village about 20 miles south of the city of Jammu, a patch of soft mud covers the spot where Mohammad Akram Hussain and his son, Aslam, who was said to be 6, were killed by a mortar.
Before dawn on Saturday, firing on the village had become so heavy that Mr. Hussain, 30, and his family worried that their thatched roof would catch fire, so they crept outside and sat against a wall, thinking it was safer there. The children climbed into the adults’ laps.
That is how Mr. Hussain and his son were sitting when a mortar round fell about five feet away, shearing off part of Mr. Hussain’s face and slicing through his son’s leg and arm, relatives said.
At a funeral gathering this week, elders discussed how to evacuate the whole settlement — 800 people and 5,000 heads of cattle — a measure they have not taken since 1999, when the two armies faced off in a monthlong conflict. Salamuddin, an elder who uses one name, said the attacks this month were of the same scale.
“For us, it is a war,” he said. “What else worse will we see in a war? Two members of our family have been killed.”

Pakistan: Shia Trader Critically Injured In Takfiri Terrorist Attack In Karachi
Pro-Taliban takfiri terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba shot injured a Shia trader in Karachi’s district east on Wednesday.
Abid Hussain was sitting at his confectionary shop when Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists of outlawed outfit arrived there. They showed them as buyers and asked him to show confectionary to them. When he turned inside, the ferocious terrorists opened fire on his back, he received six bullets
Yazidi takfiri terrorists fled the scene. Injured Shia trader was rushed to a private hospital. The team Shiite News appealed to people to pray for his recovery.
Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted attack on Shia trader in Karachi. They demanded capital punishment to the terrorists.

Pakistan: Not economic, nor security: our troubles are political

Is the country headed for a civil war? We ask this question because the civil society appears to be sharply divided. There appears to be a profound split within the establishment. Those who claim that they believe in the rule of law and constitutionalism argue that a change cannot be brought about through mobocracy. Change in government needs to be effected within the constitutional limits. Others, however, argue that the present dispensation ie, within the constitutional parameters, will only bring back the electables and that the 1973 Constitution has not and will not bring about a socio-political change that is direly needed.
The leadership of the All-India Muslim League successfully persuaded a great majority of Muslims of undivided India that socio-economic change for their betterment cannot be achieved, as desired, because the Hindu majority mainly due to its myopic vision would not allow it. But now the question that is being asked is why the socio-economic indicators (health and education) have not improved. Even countries that overthrew the colonial rule later than 1947 are way ahead of Pakistan in terms of per capita income and GDP.
Comparing city states with a heterogeneous country can't be a fair comparison; however, our collective failure to create a large middle class - the combination of the labour, aristocracy, professionals and white-collar workers - is a direct consequence of our failure to achieve and sustain a democratic dispensation. First past the poll system and long years of military rule have reduced legislators to local councillors trying to meet the desire of their constituencies for drainage, utilities and other civic amenities.
Practising democracy is not just holding of elections with regularity; nor does it mean tyranny of the majority. Inclusiveness of opposing views is definitely needed in a democratic dispensation. The failure of the Morsi government in Egypt to treat all groups equally and without exception is a recent example. Also in sharp contrast is the success of PPP-led dispensation, from 2008 to 2013, which successfully completed its five-year term, held general elections and handed over the reins of government to another civilian set-up as the first civilian transition in the history of the country. This is indeed a success of the inclusive policy followed by the then President Asif Ali Zardari. However, the system failed to deliver in terms of improvement of socio-economic conditions of the masses.
Everyone and most of all a leader is expected to learn from his past mistakes as well as replicate success of others. Unfortunately, however, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a different person. He tends to repeat a mistake with a view to convincing others that the mistake he had earlier committed was no mistake. His present predicament is testament to this. It is widely believed that besides a close coterie of advisors, his other party members do not have access to him. His failure to give importance to Parliament or his Cabinet has isolated him further.
Business Recorder is indeed troubled with the rest of the country as growing uncertainty is badly hurting the national economy. Politicians have to come up with solutions of political issues. Courts or the Army/Civil bureaucracy cannot do it. Trying to settle differences between political forces through court challenges is not the answer.
Societal division at present is clearly reflected in the division of media as well as the country's political class. Packing off the Parliament and the Courts; and using force to restore order by the Army through martial law has been imposed far too many times in the past. And that too did not eradicate the malaise. The situation in Fata and Balochistan was different then. Military might was used to quell the uprising in the then East Pakistan. The result of that folly haunts us all till this day. Let us avoid a repetition of previous mistakes; otherwise the portents are too grim to be speculated about. That the country is in an extraordinary ferment is a fact that has found its best expression in an estimated Rs 800 billion loss to the national economy in less than one month. The question is: Who cares if all of us have decided to torpedo our own ramshackle economy? Is anybody out there listening?
Last but not least, army chief General Raheel Sharif and prime minister Nawaz Sharif met yesterday amid grave political crisis and reportedly discussed solutions. According to Prime Minister's office, the army chief and the prime minister agreed to resolve the issue "expeditiously in the best national interest". Their meeting seems to have provided this beleaguered nation with some grounds for optimism.

Pakistan on tenterhooks as protesters gear up for 'decisive day'

Pakistan slipped deeper into crisis on Thursday after talks between the government and the opposition failed and protesters prepared for what their leaders declared would be a "deciding day" in their bid to bring down the prime minister.
Pakistan has been gripped by mass protests for two weeks, with thousands of demonstrators led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahir ul-Qadri camped outside parliament in a country prone to military coups.
In a bid to resolve the standoff, government representatives have held sporadic talks with protest leaders, but the latest round of negotiations ended inconclusively.
Qadri, who has a huge following and runs a network of Islamic schools and hospitals, told his supporters to prepare for a decisive day in their campaign.
"Thursday will be Revolution Day," he told a roaring crowd. "We will not go forward from tomorrow as it will be the deciding day."
Khan has also promised an important statement for Thursday.
Both Qadri and Khan have made many dramatic statements about their intentions since the start of the protests, most of which have not materialized. Several ultimatums have passed without action and Sharif has rejected their call for his resignation.
But the atmosphere in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, was nervous on Thursday, with security visibly beefed up in the center of the city.
Dozens of large blue police vans drafted in from all over Pakistan patrolled the central thoroughfare to the protest site.
Pakistan has swung between democracy and military rule for decades and the army's position is key to what happens next.
Although many expect the protests to fizzle out, there is still scope for trouble if events take a more violent course. The demonstrations come at a difficult time for Pakistan, already plagued by an Islamist insurgency, sectarian tension and recurrent power shortages, with many people deeply unhappy with the government's performance in the past year.
But few expect the army to try to grab power again. So far it has stayed out of the stand-off, providing security for Sharif and key government installations and calling on all sides to show restraint and solve the dispute through political means.
Two weeks since they swept into the area outside parliament, thousands of protesters seem determined to stay on despite the heat and occasional monsoon downpours. The site is now littered with garbage and a putrid smell of human waste hangs in the air.
In a show of defiance, some protesters have dug graves in the capital's Constitution Avenue to show they are prepared to die for their cause.
Khan, an outspoken former cricket hero and Oxford graduate, wants Sharif to step down because he believes the prime minister rigged last year's election. Sharif won the vote by a landslide, taking 190 of the 342 seats in the national assembly.
The ballot was the first democratic transfer of power in Pakistan's history and also propelled Khan from a fringe player to the head of the country's third-largest legislative bloc.
Qadri wants Sharif to step down because he says the system is corrupt. He has promised free housing for the homeless, and welfare and subsidized food and electricity for the poor.

Pakistan: ‘Ex-CJP interfered in electoral process’- Former Minister
The knots covering the rigging in previous general elections, are unraveling one after the other, as a minister in the last caretaker setup Shahzad Ahsan Ashraf claimed that former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry meddled in the electoral process, adding its written evidences can be found in the law ministry.
Talking to Private TV, former federal minister for industry and production pointed out that the former Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was perhaps not so strong to restrain former CJP Chaudhry; however, he added the rigging charges will stand substantiated, if investigations are conducted.
“If anyone has doubts, they can go to the law ministry and personally view the written evidences of former CJP Chaudhry’s interferences in the election process,” he asserted. The minister in former caretaker government maintained that Iftikhar Chaudhry was applauded for the May 11, 2013 general elections.

Pakistan: Going round and round in circles

Upholding the decision of a Sessions Court, Lahore, the Lahore High Court’s (LHC’s) Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa has instructed the police to register a murder case against the prime minister, Punjab’s chief minister and 19 other officials in connection with the June 17 Model Town incident. Four ministers of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) had filed a petition in the LHC against the August 16 judgment of an Additional District and Sessions Judge that directed the police to lodge an FIR and arrest the above-mentioned ministers. Delineating the purpose of a FIR — to set the criminal law machinery in motion and to obtain firsthand information of the occurrence, the court ruled that no immediate arrest of the accused is required unless investigation reveals sufficient evidence to justify it. In its short order, Justice Bajwa observed that the petitioners have failed to establish their case. The petitioners have alleged that the Sessions Court issued its order in haste without viewing the investigation reports of the joint investigation team and police. Terming the application filed by Minhajul Quran as politically motivated and based on misconceptions, the petitioners had wanted the constitution of a larger bench to determine the legality of the Sessions Court’s order for the registration of a murder case against them. The joint investigation report that surfaced on Tuesday set a tone of confusion and distrust as according to the dissenting note to the report, the chain of command has not been properly interrogated while discrepancies and inconsistencies were found in the statements of the officials concerned. The affidavit submitted by the chief minister Punjab, and the facts collected on ground about disengaging the police had no relevance to one another. The report has laid the entire blame of the Model Town bloodshed on the police. The former law minister Punjab, Rana Sanaullah has come out as the leading character giving orders to the police and initially deciding on removing the barricades from the Minhajul Quran secretariat. The Punjab government has thus far refused to endorse the report, terming it incomplete and inconclusive.
Whatever be the reservations of the Punjab government, the fact is that the Model Town incident happened, killing 14 innocent people, including two women. The fact is that someone was responsible for ordering the slaughter and bringing the country to a virtual political impasse. Those who had planned this incident perhaps had thought that the language of force and coercion would prevail. They seem to have been unaware of the changed times and the presence of the media to pick up every single sound bite and footage, all of which has tripped them up badly. Unfortunately, the people of this country generally, and its leaders particularly, have a penchant of not learning either from history or from the experiences of themselves or others. The leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PTA) are now repeating the same mistake made by the government in the first place. The choice of words of both the leaders and their threatening tone towards the state and its institutions cannot get them justice. Tahirul Qadri is making a legitimate demand that the FIR of the Model Town incident should be registered, but indulging in frivolous talk and rigidly sticking to a do-or-die stance against the government might eventually put Dr Qadri in the dock. We have virtually made a mockery of the constitution, state institutions and democracy. It will be a setback if the political forces could not break this deadlock and the military had to intervene. The resumption of talks between the government and the PTI and PAT is said to be the result of the military’s intervention. The squabbling parties have been given the ultimatum to sort out things in a week’s time. Though the government played it wise and did not allow tempers to run high, the fact that it could not budge Imran or Qadri in spite of making many concession reveals that the PML-N is still playing on a weak wicket. Any attempt by the military to strengthen Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s present position will go a long way in making him a weak prime minister for the rest of his tenure. In the meantime, if the prime minister and the chief minister Punjab think going abroad at this crucial time will give them some relief, they need to think again.

Zardari invites Chinese investors to Pakistan

Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto attended the Sindh business conference in Beijing in which prominent investment companies and groups also participated.
Addressing the conference, Zardari invited Chinese investors to invest in Pakistan for mutual advantage. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah also addressed the conference. Before the conference, three memorandums of understanding were signed between the Sindh government and the Chinese transports groups.
One memorandum was signed for the mass transit train in Karachi and other two regarding transport in Sindh.

Nawaz is reaping what he had sown, says Gilani

Former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that Nawaz Sharif is responsible for the crisis.
"Had Nawaz Sharif given due respect to supremacy of the parliament, the situation would have been different today. He is reaping what he had sown," Gilani said while talking to Dawn here on Wednesday.
"Nawaz Sharif would not have faced this situation had he shown due respect to the ruling of the speaker when I was prime minister. Nawaz in fact had weakened the parliament during my tenure and now he must realise his mistake," he said.
Commenting on Sharif's speech in the National Assembly, Mr Gilani said the prime minister was articulating that since he had the full support of the parliament, therefore it was not possible for him to resign as there was no such provision in the Constitution.
"I remind Mr Sharif that the members of his party chanted slogans 'go Gilani go' despite the fact that I enjoyed support of the house and the ruling of the speaker in my favour," he said.
The former prime minister said the PML-N undermined the institution of parliament at that time by not honouring the speaker's ruling who was the custodian of the house in the parliamentary system of democracy.
He said he had made all the state institutions accountable to the parliament and the record of the parliamentary history of that period was witness to the fact. On the contrary, Mr Sharif hardly showed up in the lower and upper houses.