Saturday, August 30, 2014

Humsafar - AXIS - Pakistani Music

Held by IS for 40 days, a Turkish photographer tells his story

Bunyamin Aygun, an award-winning Turkish photojournalist who was captured by Islamic State (IS) militants last November and held for 40 days, is the first and only journalist held by IS to go public with his ordeal. Aygun’s account, which ran for five days in his newspaper, Milliyet, offers a rare and nuanced glimpse into the murky world of IS. Published in January, the series revealed the heavy presence of Turks in the group and the glaring threat that they pose to their own country. “Turkey is next,” IS fighters, repeatedly told the veteran journalist. But the story received scant attention.
In Turkey, a massive corruption scandal implicating Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his close circle held the nation in thrall. The few stories that appeared in Western outlets were short and dry. Aygun had not revealed that his captors were IS at the time. But would it have made much of a difference? Probably not, because Aygun is not a Westerner. He is a Muslim and a Turk. Besides, Mosul had not yet been overrun, nor had all 49 members of the Turkish consulate there been taken hostage by ISIS. And James Foley’s brutal execution had not yet taken place.
The public's thirst for information about IS in the aftermath of this barbaric act is seemingly unquenchable. And Aygun’s story is a gold mine. I decided to contact Aygun to hear it firsthand. (I was unable to do so at the time of his release because I was in hospital.) We met on a recent evening in a café facing Gezi Park, where Aygun had shot powerful images of the mass demonstrations that rocked Istanbul the summer before. Aygun is square-jawed and wiry with dark, soulful eyes. “I’ll only be drinking coffee, lots of it,” he announced.
Aygun was among the first Turkish journalists to start covering the Syrian conflict when it erupted in mid-2011. “Being Turkish was a real advantage,” he recalls. “The people loved us, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) loved us.” Syria became his regular beat and Aygun would doggedly record the violence and suffering that unfolded before his eyes. Like many journalists, Aygun romanticized the rebels in the early days of the war. “Ordinary people sold everything they owned to keep the revolution going, I believed in it too,” he says.
Undaunted by news of journalist kidnappings, Aygun kept going in. On Nov 25. Aygun slipped across the border to report on IS massacres in a string of Turkomen villages. He was seized together with an FSA commander he was planning to interview IS militants near Salkin, a small town facing the Turkish province of Hatay. The early days of Aygun’s captivity were similar to those described by Peter Schrier, an American photojournalist who swapped hands between Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham (a jihadist group mentored by Turkey).
Aygun was hooded and blindfolded, his hands and legs bound nearly the entire time. Like Schrier, he was moved from one dank cell to the other. Fighters in black tunics, baggy trousers and matching balaclavas would interrogate him day after day. “Are you Muslim, Sunni, Alevi? Recite a prayer. Give us all your passwords. Who are those women on your Facebook? Do you drink? Who are you working for? Give us some names. What is your real name?” his tormentors would bark. “It went on for so long I could no longer keep track, those 40 days felt like 40 years,” Aygun says. Was he tortured and beaten like the American was? Aygun stiffens and refuses to comment. By Aygun’s own telling, IS has a strong network in Turkey. Perhaps, he fears that they might come after him again. I decide not to ask.
His narrative (lasting six hours) resumes. “They forced to take ablutions and pray five times a day. I didn’t really know how, but Heysem Topalca [his fellow hostage and FSA commander] taught me what to do,” he says. It was the only time they would unbind my eyes and hands.”
“If you are a Muslim you have nothing to fear, but if you are lying we will kill you,” the militants would warn.
On the 17th day of their captivity Aygun and Topalca were separated. Aygun was moved to another safe house, this time full of Turks. “'This is it. They are going to kill me,' I thought.” His depiction of his 12 days there is morbid yet fascinating. It sheds light on the mindset of the IS fighters. It also reflects the complexity of Aygun’s relations with them. Aygun gives his captors a human face: He is aware that this may be upsetting especially for families whose loved ones are still being held by IS. But he has “no agenda” he insists. What of IS atrocities, I ask. “What of American atrocities in Guantanamo, in Iraq?” he responds. “We need to understand the circumstances that led these people to choose this path.”
The following is a summary of Aygun’s days with the Turkish brigade.
“The fighters were mostly Turks from Turkey and from Germany. Their faces were covered. You could only see their eyes. It was clear from their voices that they were young. Some were university educated. All they did was fight and pray. They said they went into battle praying to be martyred. This is what they lived for, to die as martyrs and to establish an Islamic state in which all citizens would live as the Prophet Muhammad did, to live by the rules of the Book. They asked me if I wanted to become a suicide bomber or go to battle with them. They gave me a Turkish language Quran to read and a book about the jihad. There was no singing, no whistling, no women, no cigarettes. They rained curses on Erdogan, and Davutoglu, saying they were ‘infidels.’ They claimed that if Turkey sealed the border gates that were under IS control they would hit one Turkish village after the other and trigger a civil war inside Turkey. I was told that a qadi [an Islamic jurist] was reviewing my case. One of them said that my slaughter would avenge their brothers who were rotting in Turkish prisons. I was mentally and physically drained.”
These scenes were repeated until, as Aygun put it, his “guardian angel” appeared.
“It was a cold, dark night. A pair of men entered my cell. One of them sat next to me and began to talk. He said he knew what I was going through. He had fought with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan for 10 years where he had been held and tortured in an American detention facility for six months. I could tell he was older than the others. He told me to call him ‘Dayi’ (the Turkish word for maternal uncle). He said Turkey had strayed from Islam. He would loosen my handcuffs and bring me tea. We chatted normally, he was very kind. He said he was very saddened by my plight because he knew I was a good person and that he had told the others to treat me well. Sure enough they did. One of the fighters brought me honey and bananas. He asked me if I wanted him to erase my Facebook conversations with women. He brought me extra socks so I could keep warm. He even stroked my cheek.”
But Aygun’s “good” days were short-lived. “It was around my third day there. Dayi told me that the qadi had ruled in favor of my execution because I was working for a newspaper that was working against the interests of Muslims. He was very upset. Had the decision been left to him he would have pardoned me, he said. To spare me the dishonor of being killed by a firing squad he would cut my throat himself. I was a good Muslim, he said. I was paralyzed with fear. I needed to find a way to be shot dead rather than be beheaded. I would feign to escape; this would do it I thought. ”
On the day Aygun was meant to be executed none of his captors showed up, not even to take him for his ablutions for prayers.
“Had they left me to starve to death? Had they all died in battle? The silence was unbearable.”
The silence was finally broken by a cat.
“It was meowing at the door. I wanted nothing more than to be able to touch that cat, to have it at my side. ”
Some three days later, the fighters returned. They had been battling a rival militia. “One of the fighters asked me whether I wanted to see Dayi. I said I did. They [took] me to a room where they made their explosives. Dayi was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. I saw his face for the first time. He had a bullet mark on his forehead. He was dead. They asked me if I wanted to smell his blood. The blood of martyrs smells good, they said. I knelt by his side. I smelled his blood and stroked his beard. I was devastated. My only friend was gone. They moved to a new place. Now I would be killed for sure.”
Aygun says he owes his survival to the Turkish government. The national spy agency MIT had been working quietly behind the scenes to secure his release. It remains unclear whether IS had been demanding ransom money. In the end Ahrar ash-Sham fighters rescued him from IS and handed him over to the Turkish authorities. But not before staging a trial of their own. Their qadi deemed Aygun to be “innocent.” “When I heard Davutoglu’s voice on the telephone [telling] me that is when I knew I was finally free.”
Aygun is back at Milliyet. He has stopped drinking and continues to pray. Three months ago he adopted a cat. “It’s a Siamese,” he says, smiling for the first time.
Read more:

40 UN peacekeepers escape from IS besiegement in Golan Heights

The United Nations said here Saturday night that its 40 Philippine peacekeepers trapped by Islamic militants in the Golan Heights had managed to escape. The peacekeepers arrived in a safe location shortly after midnight local time on Sunday, the UN said.

Music Video: Taylor Swift - I Knew You Were Trouble

Music Video: Arctic Monkeys - Snap Out Of It

Music Video: Arctic Monkeys - Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?

Hundreds march in Ferguson to protest police shooting: local media

Hundreds of marchers took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, local media reported, with protesters calling for justice three weeks after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot the 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9. The shooting sparked violent protests in the St. Louis suburb and drew global attention to race relations in the United States.
For days after the shooting, police and demonstrators in Ferguson clashed nightly, with authorities criticized for mass arrests and the use of military gear, which some observers described as heavy-handed tactics.
Organizers on their Facebook page said the march on Saturday was held to protest police killings, brutality, profiling and cover-ups.
Marchers began gathering in a restaurant parking lot before walking to the spot where Brown was shot, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
"I came here because I want to be a part of the spirit of the movement," Memphis resident Ian Buchanan, 44, told the newspaper.
Authorities have released few details about the shooting. A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence and the U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.
In differing accounts, police have said Brown struggled with Wilson, who shot and killed him. But some witnesses say Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.
The Post-Dispatch also reported on Saturday that a St. Louis County police officer who took part in policing the protests, Dan Page, has retired after 35 years on the force, several days after he was suspended when his department said it would launch a review of a 2012 speech that Page made to the group Oath Keepers in which he made pointed remarks about President Barack Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court and Muslims, among others.
In a video of the speech posted online, Page, an Army veteran, said that he had killed in the past and would kill again if necessary.
Oath Keepers describes itself as a non-partisan group devoted to defending the Constitution and says its members pledge to not obey unconstitutional orders.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, tracks the group on its Hatewatch blog.
A spokesman for St. Louis County Police did not immediately return a call and email for comment on Saturday.
Meanwhile, The Dayton Daily News reported several hundred people showed up in a rally outside of a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Saturday to urge release of a surveillance video from early this month of police shooting John Crawford III, who was holding a BB gun inside the store.

Reassurance and Resolve: Saving U.S.-China Relations

In Defense of Barack Obama’s Tan Suit

Eric Dodds
Just because the President wore a suit that wasn't a shade of gray or blue doesn't mean you should have a problem with it.
Let’s make this much clear: there is nothing wrong, wild or crazy about a tan suit. This may come as a shock to those who expressed outrage at President Obama’s choice of attire yesterday, but not all suits come in a shade of gray or navy. In fact, as colors outside of those two go, tan is rather plain and simple. As for the suit itself, the lapels are in their typical three-inch range, it’s not tailored any better than his other suits (at least from the navel up) and the American flag pin is in its usual location. The tan suit is just another suit that happens to be a slightly different color than the ones he normally wears. It was, in no way, a fashion statement.
Here is a brief list of fashion choices that would have been “bold” or “wack-ass” that the President could have made yesterday:
T-shirt with suit and sleeves rolled up (aka the “Miami Vice“).
Whatever Austin Mahone was wearing at the VMAs.
But the President did not wear any of those things. Nor did he wear a three-piece suit, a seersucker suit or a white suit. Hell, he didn’t even opt for the Reagan mullet suit (business on the top, lounging on the bottom).
Perhaps the only curious thing about Obama’s suit selection was its timing. Not the fact that he wore it during the summer time (that’s when you should be wearing a tan suit, if at any time), but that he wore it while discussing crucial issues of foreign policy with the press. It was a somber occasion, and there’s apparently a certain expectation of precisely how the President’s attire should match the mood.
It’s tough to argue with that point. When discussing serious matters, there’s no reason not to be dressed accordingly. (Though one could hardly be forgiven for wondering why those criticizing Obama for discussing serious matters in improper attire are focused on that attire rather than the issues they’ve deemed so serious.) The larger problem lies in the expectations that Obama had previously created. In this 2012 Vanity Fair profile, Michael Lewis quotes Obama saying the following: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits… I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
So for the last six years, that’s pretty much all we’ve seen him in. Gray or blue, charcoal or navy, day after day after day until seeing him out of that particular uniform (other than athletic attire) became tantamount to seeing a performer out of costume.
The irony is that the President is often criticized for being bland, even in his fashion choices. To be frank, after yesterday’s outcry, who can blame him? Next time you or anyone asks the Commander-in-Chief for a little personality or originality, don’t be surprised if this is cited as a reason for declining that request.
The choice in tie, on the other hand, that’s a little more difficult to defend…

Seeking to Ease Worries, Obama Says the World Has Always Been ‘Messy’

If the world seems troubled by all manner of calamities these days, President Obama does not want Americans to worry too much. After all, he said Friday, “The world has always been messy”; it is just more apparent because of social media. And, he added, today’s geopolitical threats are far less perilous than those of the Cold War.
Governing at a time of war, terrorism and disease, and frustrated on multiple fronts at once, Mr. Obama finds himself trying to buck up supporters heading into a crucial midterm election season. The succession of international crises has taken a toll on the public mood, not to mention his own poll ratings, and he seems intent on reassuring Americans that the challenges are manageable.
Michelle Obama and the family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, in the White House kitchen garden in 2010. On Saturday, the Obamas will attend Mr. Kass’s wedding to Alex Wagner of MSNBC.Sam Kass, the Obamas’ Foodmaster GeneralAUG. 28, 2014 As he spent Friday sweeping through New York and Rhode Island to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for vulnerable Democrats, Mr. Obama addressed that public apprehension directly, acknowledging that many Americans “are feeling anxious” about their country and its place in the world. The showdown with Russia over Ukraine, the emergence of a radical new Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and the rise of China have stirred unease about the future of the United States, he said.
“If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” he said at a Democratic fund-raiser in Purchase, N.Y., just north of New York City. Expanding on a theme he has touched on at recent fund-raisers, Mr. Obama agreed that “we are living through some extraordinarily challenging times” and “I can see why a lot of folks are troubled.”
But Mr. Obama said Americans should remain calm and confident. “We will get through these challenging times just like we have in the past,” he said. “This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War.”
Mr. Obama attributed much of the turmoil to a rupture of the old order in the Middle East that is playing out across that region in often bloody and unpredictable ways, all of which “makes things pretty frightening.” But he said that the Middle East has “been challenging for quite a while” and that in some ways the main difference was that Americans were paying more attention because of the advent of new technologies bringing home faraway events in visceral ways.
“The truth of the matter is that the world has always been messy,” he said. “In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.”
But on a day that Britain raised its terrorist threat level because of concerns about extremists in Syria and Iraq, Mr. Obama said his “main message” was that “America’s military superiority has never been greater” and that its defenses are stronger than they were before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A day after saying “we don’t have a strategy yet” to take on Islamic radicals in Syria, Mr. Obama made little effort to explain his approach to tackling myriad problems in the world, nor did he respond to critics who blame him in part for making those problems worse through what they say are ineffective policies. But he said that Russia and China were not countries to envy or fear and that America was still best-positioned for the future.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Mr. Obama flew to Westchester County, N.Y., for two events benefiting the Democratic National Committee. The first was a closed-door round table with about 25 supporters paying as much as $32,400 apiece. The event was hosted by George Logothetis, a shipping heir and chairman of the Libra Group, and his wife, Nitzia Logothetis, founder of Seleni, a nonprofit organization promoting mental health for women around the world. It was held at the home of Camilo Patrignani, the chief executive of Greenwood Energy, a subsidiary of Libra, and his wife, Lucia.
Evidently, during the event, Mr. Obama encountered some of the anxiety he later referred to, because at his next stop, which was open to reporters, he said someone had just suggested that he declare a national state of emergency, a notion he quickly discounted as not the way the United States worked.
That second event was a barbecue at the estate of two longtime benefactors, Robert Wolf, the former chairman of UBS Americas, and his wife, Carol Wolf, the coordinator of special projects for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
About 250 supporters paid $15,000 or more per couple, according to the Democratic committee.
Mr. Obama then flew to Rhode Island to attend a fund-raiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Newport. About 60 people paying as much as $32,400 apiece attended the event at Seafair, the home of Richard Bready, the former chief executive of Nortek, and his longtime partner, Betty Easton.
The president originally intended to fly back to Westchester County to spend the night and relax on Saturday but changed his mind and decided to fly back to Washington instead. He still planned to return to Westchester County on Saturday evening to attend the wedding of Sam Kass, his family’s personal chef, and Alex Wagner of MSNBC.

President Obama's Weekly Address: This Labor Day, Let’s Talk About the Minimum Wage

Report: ISIS selling Yazidi women in Syria

By Raja Razek and Jason Hanna
It took U.S. airstrikes against ISIS positions, airlifts of U.S. and international aid, and rescue efforts by Kurdish Peshmerga forces to help thousands of Yazidis escape imminent danger from ISIS forces in northern Iraq.
But the nightmare continues for hundreds of Yazidi girls and women, unable to get out of harm's way, who are being being sold by ISIS to its fighters in Syria, according to a human rights group.
In the past few weeks, ISIS has distributed or sold about 300 Yazidi girls and women it abducted in Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group aligned with the opposition in Syria.
In ISIS' eyes, the girls and women are "slaves of the spoils of war with the infidels," the Syria monitors said. The human rights group documented at least 27 cases of women who were sold and married to ISIS militants in the Aleppo suburbs, Raqqa suburbs and Al-Hassakah.
ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, was previously referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
At least three Iraqi soldiers were killed Saturday in a suicide car bombing south of Iraq's capital, police said, dealing a blow to the military in that area for a second straight day as government forces fight ISIS militants across the country. Seven other soldiers were injured in the attack, which happened at an army checkpoint in Yousifiya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim area about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Baghdad, police in Baghdad said.
It wasn't immediately clear who conducted the bombing.
The blast came a day after nine Iraqi soldiers and Shiite Muslim militiamen were killed in clashes with suspected ISIS militants in nearby Mahmoudiya, a Sunni Muslim community about 29 kilometers south of Baghdad.
During the height of Iraq's insurgency last decade following a U.S.-led invasion, Yousifiya and Mahmoudiya, along with the town of Latifiya, made up the Sunni area known as the "Triangle of Death" because it was an al Qaeda stronghold and a lair for criminals.
Iraqi forces under a Shiite-led regime, as well as ethnic Kurdish forces, have been battling ISIS, a Sunni Muslim extremist and terrorist group that this year took over large portions of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria for what it calls its new caliphate.
Well before ISIS made gains, Iraq was beset for years by sectarian violence, with Sunnis feeling politically marginalized under a Shiite-led government since the U.S.-led ouster of longtime leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Music Video - Nadia Ali "Rapture"

Music Video - Adrian Sina - Hold On

Mehdi Hassan - Tere Bheege Badan ki

Pakistan: Imran Khan's submission to ex-CJ led to current crisis

Ex-President and Co-chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari had issued a statement from Beijing today that the issue would have been resolved if Imran Khan had not submitted to Iftikhar Chaudhry in the Supreme Court on August 28, 2013. Asif Zardari once again advised all the political parties to resolve the matter through dialogue.

The theatre of the absurd continues -- only in Pakistan

Amir Mateen
Only in Pakistan can this circus of the absurd unfold like this. Everybody knew that the elephant in the room was the so-called ‘Umpire’. The government called it in for its protection; Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri kept mentioning it openly; the media and political gurus wondered what role it was playing and how it would ultimately settle the issue.
Yet when the Umpire finally intervened everybody seems confused asking who the hell invited them for help. Interestingly, politicians got busy blaming each other for inviting the khakis but did not tell us what they might do now; will it resolve the ongoing political crisis? What did they exactly tell Imran and Qadri? And what if they refuse to heed their advice? It was like discussing the tail, not the elephant.
It made sense for the PML (N) to explain to Parliament what exactly transpired between the army and the government. After all, the biggest factor that saved the PML (N) government was the support of almost all political parties against the PAT/PTI combo.
The National Assembly fumed over the media commentary that gave the impression that the PML (N) had bypassed Parliament and asked the army for an extra-constitutional mediation role.
It seemed like submission and failure of Parliament before a few thousand dharna-wallas. Nisar made his usual 60-minute ‘brief’ speech, which actually caused lots of confusion. Nawaz Sharif had to pass on a chit that, we assumed, was a request to cut it out.
The crux of Nisar’s speech was that the government (PM) in his meeting with army (chief) found it legally correct to request their role as facilitator for a possible resolution of the problem. This was after repeated calls by the PTI and PAT for the army intervention. Later, he got a call from an army officer asking for government permission while he was with the Prime Minister who approved the idea of the army facilitation. Now semantics was important as facilitation is within the purview of the law while army’s role as mediator or guarantor was not.
PPP’s Khursheed Shah perhaps made the speech of his life defending democracy and Parliament. His punch line was: let them burn the Secretariat, the PM House, the Parliament House and the whole Islamabad but we shall not let them burn the Constitution. Mahmood Khan Achakzai would not let he government go scot-free by protesting why the government didn’t clarify its role for 12 hours: You kept us in pain for so long for which you might need to fire a minister. This prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to reiterate Nisar’s version, saying,” I can sacrifice a government ten times but not the principle”. The PM endorsed Nisar’s version.
Perhaps Nawaz Sharif should have explained the details of how and when he asked the army to be a facilitator, particularly when Nisar has a bad habit of losing meaning in translation. One can’t blame the ISPR for clarifying the exact situation. Now, we are not sure whether the ISPR wanted to emphasise the Army’s role as facilitator, as opposed to guarantor or mediator, or it wanted to explain that the request came from the prime minister. Nisar further blundered by claiming that the ISPR had issued its Press release on his advice, which a channel denied quoting sources. Nisar’s second version had not arrived till the filing of the report.
The absurdity continued as Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri did not take the hint to pack up, if at all they were given. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri kept telling us what they had told the General. I am more interested in knowing what the General told them. We got a hint of that from Imran’s speech delivered on Thursday night that he had asked politicians to resolve their issue. My guess is that they must have also informed the PAT/PTI duo not to cross a limit where the soldiers had to stop them physically. If the assumption is true this means the agitators may have lost their claws. No more threat from the kaffan-clad grave-diggers to storm Parliament or the secretariat. We don’t know how it will conclude but we know that the option of orchestrated violence has lessened. And if the agitators still resorted to that we know who would be blamed.
This also showed that the Umpire was not siding with the agitators as many of us suspected. Either somebody bluffed Imran Khan into believing that he had the support of the khakis or he bluffed with all of us. We got a hint of it when Sheikh Rasheed retired to his Lal Haveli and found Jahangir Tareen making extra effort to fake a smile - not to forget Javed Hashmi’s departure to Multan. Anyway, the cards are open but we have to see how this game of nerves unfolds further.
All we can say is that Imran Khan and company, particularly Sheikh Rasheed, might need helmets next time they come to Parliament. The old guard at the Parliament was furious how the institutions were being undermined by inviting the army openly. They had no issue with Imran Khan criticising Nawaz Sharif who may have left a trail of lapses in one year. But to call the whole Parliament corrupt and rigged was an offence that left many old-timers fuming. But then it is not just Parliament that has been called corrupt. He has used similar words for the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, the media and whatever and whoever came in between. Being pro-Parliament and pro-democracy does not make you anti-PTI. But then King Khan has developed a habit of pronouncing everybody corrupt without presenting evidence. And then Imran had the audacity to claim that he knows how Westminster democracy functions. For all we know he would better fit in a monarchy where Khan is the King.

Pakistan, Its Own Worst Enemy

Pakistan faces very big problems: a failing economy; a Taliban insurgency; and persistent tension with India, which has resulted again in exchanges of cross-border fire. The country’s leaders and citizens obviously need to join in common cause to put the country on a steadier course.
Alas, this is Pakistan. For the past two weeks, thousands of protesters in Islamabad have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His critics have every right to express their views peacefully. But forcing his resignation is the last thing Pakistan needs.
It would further polarize society, weaken the fragile democratic institutions and strengthen a powerful military, which says it wants to be out of politics but has regularly staged coups and otherwise sought to control civilian governments for three decades.
Mr. Sharif came to office in a parliamentary election 15 months ago, the first peaceful, democratic transition of power between civilian leaders in the country’s history. It was a hopeful moment; some 60 percent of voters turned out, and most people seemed willing to accept his victory.
The current anti-Sharif anger is being stoked by two men. Imran Khan, a prominent cricketer turned politician, wants new elections. Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, a cleric of the Sufi Islam sect, is pushing for the creation of a unity government. The protesters have demanded electoral reforms and Mr. Sharif’s removal because of alleged corruption in the 2013 election. Some believe that the army, which has an uneasy history with Mr. Sharif, has had a hand in the crisis. Reports that Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri are negotiating with the army chief of staff are unsettling.
Mr. Sharif’s brief tenure has been marked by sectarian tensions, power outages, insurgent-related violence and a failure to deliver on campaign promises of economic revival. He has also named cronies to high posts. But forcing him out now and in this way is not the answer. A smarter approach is to make democratic processes work through reforms to prevent electoral fraud and rampant cronyism. It will also require negotiation and compromise.
The United States, preoccupied with crises elsewhere, has shown little urgency in trying to calm the situation, even though Pakistan’s stability is crucial to regional order — especially as American troops withdraw from Afghanistan. It should be pressing Pakistan’s army, in particular, to reject any idea of staging a coup. Mr. Sharif should resolve to govern better while the military focuses on its primary concern, defeating the Taliban threat.

Did a ‘soft coup’ just happen in Pakistan?

By Ishaan Tharoor
For much of Pakistan's independent existence, the country's politics have been dominated by its powerful military. The generals have a long history of interrupting and meddling with civilian rule. The election last year of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif marked the first time in almost seven decades that Pakistan was able to carry out a peaceful transfer of power between civilian governments.
But the specter of the army now looms large once more. In order to placate heated protests against his rule, Sharif agreed this week to mediation by the army, an institution that is respected by a vast cross-section of society. Pakistan's army chief, Raheel Sharif (who is not related to the prime minister), conducted meetings with the two main protest leaders--the maverick politician Imran Khan and fiery preacher Tahirul Qadri, both of whom have led noisy protest movements this past month and are seeking the collapse of Sharif's government.
But, in return for its intervention, it appears the military has exacted a price from Prime Minister Sharif. According to reports, he has agreed to cede control of aspects of the country's security and foreign policy to the military. It's a difficult situation for Sharif: In 1999, then in his second term as prime minister, he was ousted by a military coup led by then Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Now, the military, in a sense, is once more showing the prime minister who is boss.
"If Nawaz Sharif survives, for the rest of his term, he will be a ceremonial prime minister—the world will not take him seriously," said Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based analyst told the Wall Street Journal. "A soft coup has already taken place. The question is whether it will harden."
Since returning to power last year, Sharif's efforts to both punish Musharraf -- who currently awaits trial -- and entrench civilian power have angered members of the top brass. Sharif also sought to improve ties with India. The Pakistani military, a sprawling institution with its own business concerns and a half a million-strong standing army, finds something of a raison d'etre in its historic rivalry with India. The countries have fought four wars since their independence from Britain in 1947. "If Pakistan and India become normal neighbors," writes Pakistani analyst Mosharraf Zaidi, "the military's influence in Pakistan automatically decreases. The hawks clearly won't go easily."

Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif A compulsive liar? - A half-truth is more dangerous...

A half-truth is a deceptive statement that includes some elements of truth. That a half-truth is more dangerous than an outright lie is a fact that has found its best expression in prime minister Nawaz Sharif's 'explanation' that a visibly upset opposition and even the allies of PML-N government had sought from him following a highly significant development in the situation that was described by some impatient analysts as 'soft coup' a few hours after his meeting with army chief General Raheel Sharif. PTI chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri met separately the army chief at the GHQ on late Thursday night under an intense global and national media glare that declared that the army chief had stepped in to help resolve the grave turmoil on the request of no one but an elected prime minister. Unfortunately, however, the government did not deem it necessary to clarify the situation even when Imran Khan was 'informing' his supporters about the key elements of his talk with General Raheel. The government was still nowhere when Dr Qadri was seeking 'permission' from his so-called parliament of people to leave for the GHQ to meet General Raheel who, according to him, had agreed to play the role of a 'guarantor' and 'mediator' on government's request.
It finally broke its arguably criminal silence on the floor of the house but not before yesterday noon, 'explaining' how it received a phone call through which the army had told him that the PTI and PAT leadership wanted to meet the army chief and that the prime minister did not waste even one second to allow the top man in khaki to meet them. If one looks deeper into the press release that the ISPR issued later, the prime minister and his interior minister were not saying the whole truth. According to the ISPR, "Government requested the CoAS to play a facilitative role... ." Moreover, if one tends to believe what Imran Khan has said there are hardly any doubt about the fact that the army had been asked to play the role of a mediator and a guarantor. According to Imran, the army chief told him that the PM had said firmly that he would not step down and that the army had offered to ensure fairness of judicial probe into vote rigging allegations by becoming a guarantor but he had told the army chief that he would still stick to his demand for PM's resignation.
The press conference the interior minister held yesterday evening only contributed to growing doubts over government's contentions in relation to army's sudden involvement in this dangerous power game. He averred: "In view of a hard PAT-PTI stance, the government asked the Pakistan Army to facilitate the process... which is clearly legal and constitutional." Defence minister Khawaja Asif also insisted at a TV talk show that government's decision to ask army to play a facilitator's role was quite legal and constitutional mainly because of the invocation of Article 245 in Islamabad.
That the government has acted imprudently, unwisely and indecisively ever since the Model Town tragedy of June 17 is a fact that has manifested itself in causing a serious harm to its legitimacy of being an elected government in accordance with the Constitution of the country. Sadly for this country, squabbling between politicians has once again invited Army intervention, this time though elevating its role - so far as appearances are concerned - from that of a spoiler to a saviour. Few had any doubts about PAT leader Tahirul Qadri's intentions veiled in his 'Inqilab' slogan, but it did not help the image of PTI and its Chairman Imran Khan, who has been claiming to fight for the establishment of 'genuine democracy', when after telling his supporters the 'good news' of the PM's departure was on its way he triumphantly headed to a mediatory meeting with the CoAS General Raheel Sharif. Neither did Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demonstrate the ability to sense the lurking dangers and resolve an essentially political dispute through political means. Strategic thinking demanded that he conceded the PTI's modified demand - no matter how unreasonable - for him to step aside for the duration of the vote audit to return at an opportune time. He remained intransigent all through the stand-off even as the media started reporting news of his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, calling on the Army chief, sometimes along with Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan sometimes alone, and he later himself received the CoAS on different days for lengthy meetings. It was obvious to impartial observes that things were not going well for the government, and by implication for the country's nascent democracy.
Both the Prime Minister and the PTI leader share the blame for bringing matters to such a sordid pass. During his 15 months in office, Nawaz Sharif has done little to promote a democratic culture. Relying instead on an exclusivist style of governance, he surrounded himself with a small coterie of relatives and trusted friends for advice. He has even been ignoring the Parliament from which he derives the right to rule. Annoyed with the attitude, the upper house, where the rules require the PM's presence at least once a week in every session, the Senate passed a resolution last April demanding his mandatory appearance. When in trouble he sought and received the support of all parliamentary parties against the PTI's demand for his resignation, attaining a moral high ground. That obviously has not been enough for him to handle well the skewed nature of civil-military relations. He could have done better to learn from the example of his friends in Turkey where the ruling Justice and Freedom Party first focused on democratic consolidation through an impressive economic performance and then acted successfully to establish civilian primacy. That said, Imran Khan has damaged the cause of democracy by taking his protest to the extreme. Indeed, protest is a democratic right, but threatening to storm the Parliament and the PM's House together with a call for civil disobedience is unacceptable. By mobilising street power to oust a civilian government he has set a bad precedent that can haunt future governments, possibly his own. Even worse, he has been proudly telling his supporters that the 'umpire' would raise his finger by a certain time, thereby lending credence to a nagging suspicion that the entire affair could be a 'fixed' match. The tactics he has employed are reflective of excessive impatience, even naked lust for power, at the cost of the democratic system the people of this country have fought long and hard to restore.
The only saving grace, if any, in the final act of this drama is the manner in which the Army's 'mediation' or 'facilitation' effort has been framed: that the CoAS is to mediate or facilitate on the Prime Minister's request. That looks like an attempt to show that the Army is to resolve the situation staying within the legal sphere. It could be less problematic if seen as the government's voluntary decision to invite mediation or facilitation. That though would be a stretch. Even so, it offers the solace that even though the outcome is unlikely to favour the government, the system would survive albeit in a bruised state.

Pakistan: The ignored IDPs

With the government badly involved in the fight for survival, the problems of over 900,000 IDPs continue to multiply. It is ironic that while government officials claim that the IDPs have rendered great sacrifices for the country by leaving their hearths and homes, they allow the problems faced by the IDPs to increase.
The migration became a harrowing experience for the IDPS when the orderly evacuation promised to them turned into chaos. There was a lack of coordination between various state agencies which continued for a long time. Their early problems included delayed registrations, mismanagement in distribution of rations which at times led to rioting and injuries at ration centers. Many children who were vulnerable to stress were traumatised and needed treatment and counseling, which was inadequate. The conflict put the future of 86,323 students from NW at stake.
There are new problems now. The IDPs have taken shelter in the buildings of 1,400 government schools in KP. They are being asked to vacate schools because the students would start arriving after September 1 at the end of the summer vacation. In Bannu there are complaints that the administration has yet to allot land to IDPs to bury their dead. The government has not allowed the bodies to be taken to y North Waziristan since the military operation began. While the CM KP was supposed to focus on the IDPs mostly settled in the province, he is in Islamabad to make the PTI sit-in successful. SAFRON Minister Abdul Qader Baloch too is in Islamabad busy negotiating with the PTI and PAT.
Has anybody thought whether by the time the operation ends North Waziristan would be habitable, or will the IDPs return to find it in ruins? We are told that the victory in the Waziristan operation is predicated on winning the hearts and minds of the IDPs. Would it be possible to do the job with the level of attention the leadership is paying them?

Pakistan: Audit exposes mega scam in PML-N laptop scheme

Grave financial irregularities, undue favouritism, misuse of official authority and corruption to the tune of billions of rupees have surfaced in the Punjab government’s laptop scheme launched in their previous term, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The Punjab government distributed 110,000 laptops to university students across the province allegedly to counter the rising popularity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan among the youth just one year before the 2013 General Elections.
However, a special audit conducted by the government’s own wing – the Auditor General’s Office – pointed out serious corruption in the scheme.
The laptop distribution scheme was themed as, “Advancement of information technology amongst students through provision of laptop computers,” for the year 2011-12.
Documents available with Pakistan Today reveal that the price of one laptop was shown as Rs 20,000 as approved by the Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) in October 2011 for a dual-core Dell machine. However, two months later, the PC-I of that scheme was revised and the laptop price was increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 37,950 per piece without changing the original specifications.
Hence, the prices were jacked up without any justification, causing a direct loss of Rs 2 billion to the public exchequer.
Moreover, the project to enhance IT labs in Punjab schools – a project of the School Education Department – was rolled up and Rs 2 billion finances were diverted to the Higher Education Department (HED) for the laptop scheme without any provision under the rules.
A team of auditors further unearthed that public officials handling the scheme gave “special” favours to the contractor, M/S Inbox Business Technologies, in violation of their own contract. As per clause 16(f) of the contract: “The bank shall make 80 percent amount of invoice value on maturity date of bill of exchange starting from the date of presentation of the letter of credit (L/C) documents.”
Further, Rule 2.10 (b)(5) says that no money can be withdrawn from the [government] treasury unless it is required for “immediate disbursement” and that it is not permissible to draw advances from the treasury for the execution of works, the completion of which is likely to take a “considerable time”.
However, during the audit of the laptop scheme, bank statement account no 7497-000-907 (maintained at the Bank of the Punjab, Civil Secretariat, Lahore) revealed that in five cases Rs 1.6 billion for five L/Cs were debited by the bank prior to maturity dates and receipt of laptops in violation of the contract.
Moreover, according to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Revenue (Revenue Division) Notification No SRO 655(1)/2007 dated July 29, 2007, Special Excise Duty is exempted on computer hardware including laptops, notebooks, PCs mainframe and other peripheral units and parts thereof. However, examination of record revealed that the contractor was paid Rs 200 per laptop as excise duty whereas it was exempted by the government of Pakistan as per above notification causing a loss to public exchequer valuing Rs 22 million.
Interestingly, the rate of excise duty at the rate of 1 percent (Rs 200) mentioned in the commercial invoice is exactly equal to original cost of laptop as per PC-1 i.e. Rs 20,000. Whereas, excise duty, if any, amounts to Rs 302 as per commercial invoice which needs investigation and explanation from the contractor.
Moreover, it was noticed that 110,000 laptops at Rs 37,700 each [the government reduced the price by Rs 150 per laptop], valuing Rs 4.1 billion were purchased from M/S Inbox Pvt (Ltd).
However, advance income tax was not deducted because HED is exempt from payment of advance tax at import stage under the SRO 947/(I)/2008 dated September 5, 2008. However, income tax at source at the rate of 3.5 percent amounting to Rs 140 million was neither deducted nor recovered from the contractor, yet again causing heavy losses to public exchequer.
According to Clause 4(b) of the revised contract agreement dated January 2012 and purchase order for supply and commissioning of 100,000 laptops issued to M/s Inbox Business Technology, “The complete delivery of all the goods shall be affected within 60 days starting from establishing of first L/C.” Also, Clause 14(2) of the same supply order further states that “in the event of non-fulfilment of the delivery schedule, liquidated damages at the rate of 2 percent on the quoted approved value of the undelivered quantity of the order will be levied per month and damages will be counted on daily basis.”
However, during the audit, it was noticed that 80,000 laptops were “supplied late” by the contractor in violation of above contractual provisions. Against the due damages of more than Rs 45 million, only Rs 14 million was deducted from the bills of the contractor. Thus, Rs 31million were deducted less, benefiting the contractor and causing loss to the public exchequer.
Moreover, scrutiny of the record showed that tender for purchase of laptops was advertised in newspapers on November24, 2011. As a result, two firms named M/S Inbox Business Technologies (Pvt) Ltd and M/S Mega Plus Pakistan technically qualified.
The rates of M/S Inbox (Pvt) Ltd being lowest were accepted by the Purchase Committee. As per letter No C No 2(67) EX/2011 dated December 27, 2011, goods imported by non-profit making educational and research institutions are exempt from payment of sales tax. Higher Education Department is also exempt from payment of advance tax at import stage under SRO 947(I)/2008 dated September 5, 2008. Excise duty at the rate of 1 percent is also exempted under Sixth Schedule [Section 13(1) table-1(Sr. No. 52)].
Contrary to all these exemption, Rs 102 per laptop in shape of other taxes/duties were included in the final discounted price of Rs 37,700 per laptop. No government orders in justification of claim for other taxes or duties were available on record. This was deemed “irregular” by authorities and hence another loss of Rs 11 million was caused to the public exchequer.
Note 1(a) below Rule 8 of the Punjab Delegation of Financial Powers Rules, 2006 requires that no expenditure shall be incurred on a scheme unless necessary provision for such expenditure exists in the development budget or the non-development budget of that year, as the case may be.
However, the records show that an amount of more than Rs 1 million was incurred on distribution ceremony held in Islamabad for distribution of laptops in Islamabad to the students of other provinces without any provision in revised PC-I. These expenses were borne by various educational boards including Bannu, Kohat, Peshawar, Karachi, Mardan, Protocol DG and Rawalpindi DCO without any authorisation.
Moreover, the expenses incurred during the laptop distribution ceremony across Punjab was more than Rs 28million, all borne by various educational institutions such as PU, GCU, FJWU, AIMC, University of Education, University of Sargodha and Kinnaird College.
The expenditure was held “unauthorized” and without specific budgetary provisions in PC-1. Further, in case of Punjab University, it was made from the budget of City District Government Lahore (CDGL) and in other cases, it was charged from the budgets of the respective institutions which were not “valid” expenditure from public exchequer.
Further, no competitive bidding process was adopted by the management of the respective institutions while making expenditure for respective ceremonies in violation of Punjab Procurement Rules, 2009.
Other than explicit violations of the contract which caused heavy losses in millions of rupees the team of auditors also found serious planning flaws in the execution of the laptop distribution scheme.
Documents reveal that there was no feasibility study at hand while planning the execution of this program. The project digest should consider Key Performance Indicators (KPI) which should not be “vague”.
However, observations made by a special team of auditors show only one of the nine performance indicators was specific i.e. to reduce the digital divide between the rich and the poor. Authorities termed the planners “non-professional” and “inefficient”.
The team further observed that no experts were consulted for the planning process, which was totally done in “isolation” initially in the School Education Department and then in the HED.
It was noticed that merit was declared as 60 percent and 70 percent throughout the province despite the fact that in certain institute everyone became eligible for this scheme. This way, the promotion of merit through competition could not be initiated among students and hence the government claim to ensure merit was false.
Moreover, during physical verification of laptops, test review of data of 18 educational institutions revealed that around 450 laptops were issued to the students without observing “eligibility” criteria. The fact points to the real motive of the PML-N leadership which wanted to woo the youth before the upcoming elections.
Further, examination of 17 institutions show that around 5,000 laptops were purchased more than required and hence blocking and wasting around Rs 170 million of public money.
According to officials privy to the corruption which has taken place told Pakistan Today that the audit objections have been conveyed to the HED and its officials have already held meetings of the departmental audit committee (SDAC) headed by Additional Secretary Shahid Zaman Khan.
As per routine practice, these objections are taken up in the SDAC with officials from finance, audit and the higher education and only remaining objections are then forwarded to the public accounts committee (PAC) of the Punjab Assembly.
Officials however maintained that the officials have been tasked to “hush up the matter”.
“They are very powerful people. It actually needs a lot of courage to highlight their corruption. Even government servants cannot risk their careers by writing against them. The task has been given to the officials to take care of the matter and it will be done efficiently,” the official on the condition of anonymity told Pakistan Today.
According to the officials in the Finance Department’s monitoring wing, the HED officials have kept the documents to themselves. “They only show us the files at the time of the meeting and then keep it. So we don’t really remember any details,” an official said.
HED Secretary Abdullah Sumbal was repeatedly contacted for his comments and he texted that he was out of country and should be contacted after August.
HED Additional Secretary Shahid Zaman Khan, who is heading the departmental audit of the scheme, initially asked for a few days’ time to respond to the audit observations. However, later he refused to comment on the issue.
Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashood was also contacted but his private secretary said he was “not feeling well” and will respond “soon”, but he never did.
Former higher education secretary Dr Ijaz Munir, who is currently holding the portfolio of health, was also not available for comments.
M/S Inbox Business Technologies, a Karachi based company, was also contacted at its Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad offices for comments, however no one came forward to give any version on the issue. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan record, M/S Inbox CEO Ghiasuddin Khan is from Karachi.

Pakistan: Confusion compounds

It did not come as a surprise when the military came out openly to end the political impasse on Thursday night. The story of a hidden hand pulling both Tahirul Qadri and Imran’s strings were making the rounds from the day they had started the long marches followed by the sit-ins in Islamabad. With each passing day, as both the leaders’ intransigence grew against the government, the theory of the third force started making sense. At midnight, Thursday, both Qadri and Imran left their audiences in the middle of their speeches to attend separate meetings with the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. According to the media reports, the government had asked the army to intervene as a guarantor to resolve the political deadlock. The excitement and the enthusiasm with which both Qadri and Imran leapt at the opportunity betrayed the general impression that the political forces were loath to have the military on their side for a political settlement. After coming back by 2:00 am, Imran announced that he will wait another 24 hours before announcing his next plan of action. A streak of madness ensued following the announcement that the army will now call the shots; jubilation, derision against the government and frustration with the political forces all catapulted together to create an inexplicable situation. The commotion continued until the government gave another overwhelming statement in which it refuted calling in the military as the arbitrator to undo the political mess. On the floor of the National Assembly, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar denied even the possibility of asking the military to intervene in the political process.
The PM said that he could sacrifice as many as ten of his governments but could not sacrifice his principles. Chaudhry Nisar and the PM said that in fact it was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Party (PAT) that pleaded with the army to play the role of the guarantor between them and the government. Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah in a charged speech, besides pledging his party’s support to the government, frothed at the mouth against Qadri and Imran for making the country hostage to their unconstitutional and illegal demands. Following the speech, all hell broke loose in Qadri and Imran’s camps. They derided the government for lying to its people, though the people had no idea what was going around. All eyes were now on the clarification from the ISPR to clear the air. The clarification explained that it was neither PAT nor PTI but the government that had asked for the military’s help. Following the clarification a weave of jubilation once again ran through the protesting camps. They demanded that the PM has now become constitutionally liable to resign, because according to Article 62, 63, a liar cannot become a member of the Assembly leave alone a PM. In the meantime, Chaudhry Nisar held a press conference and reiterated his government’s stance while differentiating between the words guarantor and facilitator. He acceded that the government did seek facilitation from the army but has never asked it to become a guarantor.
Will the army play the role of a facilitator or guarantor is not known, as of now. One is also not sure what has transpired between the government and the army or between the protesting parties and the army. What is sure is that this immature politics will cause an irrevocable loss to the political forces and culture of the country. If Imran thinks that the army’s intervention will give his political career another lease of life, he is mistaken. If Qadri believes by holding onto the military’s hand he can make a political career for himself, he is naive. And if the government feels it can save its skin by hiding behind the army, it is ignorant. If the master scriptwriter’s aim to weaken the government using Qadri and Imran succeeds, they both should be prepared for a repeat performance. The military’s intervention is a loss for both the government and the protesting parties. It is a failure of the political forces and a reflection of the reality that the politicians have not yet learned how to walk without the military’s crutches.

Pakistan: Model Town Tragedy: Gullu Butt found guilty

Lahore Police presented a 50-page challan in anti-terrorism court (ATC) today, declaring Gullu Butt as primary accused for the violence at Model Town on June 17.
According to Media Reports, the challan states that Gullu Butt was identified and arrested through a video. He smashed windscreens and windows of private vehicles with his club as police officials looked on. After collecting the challan, ATC issued summon notices to all the witnesses for next hearing.

Pakistan: Army as ‘facilitator’ was Nisar’s brainwave

By Khawar Ghumman
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan spent a busy Thursday and Friday, first inviting the army to play ‘facilitator’ and then dealing with the scathing criticism that came their way.
According to government officials and PML-N insiders, this brainwave came from the interior minister and the prime minister; few others were aware of this move.
In fact, in the meetings between the prime minister and Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif over the last week, the protesters and their demands were discussed repeatedly, but the military chief did not seek any role for himself.
But these meetings and what happened there was not shared among even the larger kitchen cabinet of the League leadership.
However, to some extent, the interior minister is said to have been in the loop as he and the Punjab chief minister have always been the bridge between the party and the military leadership.
It is because of this role of his, says a PML-N official, that it was Nisar Ali Khan who informed the prime minister that the military leadership was looking to reach out to the protesters.
However, a government official points out that earlier it was also Mr Khan who persuaded the prime minister to involve the military leadership.
The official argues that Mr Khan convinced the prime minister that Dr Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan did not, and would not, trust any political leaders, including the opposition, and that they would only trust the military leadership.
And at the same time, the interior minister reached out to the military leadership to convince them that unless it got involved, a peaceful resolution of the crisis may not be possible. It was after this, when the prime minister on Thursday evening, in Lahore, was given the message about the army chief, he agreed that the latter should meet Dr Qadri and Mr Khan.
However, once the news came out and the two protesting politicians rushed off to meet the COAS, there was an outburst of criticism. Admittedly, it was directed against those who were thrilled that the army chief was going to intervene and hear their grievances, but there was also a scathing attack on the government for asking the army to intervene.
So aggressive was the criticism that it seems only Mr Nisar Ali came on television to defend the government move.
This was also because the rest were caught by surprise.
A PML-N office-bearer explained that on Friday morning the backlash began -- from within the party and then in the parliament from the allies and the opposition.
First some of the senior ministers of the cabinet expressed their reservations and news came that the politicians -- opposition and allies -- were also ready to launch an onslaught.
A worried prime minister then consulted Chaudhry Nisar.
The latter assured Mr Sharif that he would address the criticism by making a speech in the parliament.
However, both the interior minister, and perhaps the prime minister too, misread the focus of the criticism -- because Chaudhry Nisar’s speech in National Assembly answered some questions, but it also raised many more, inside and outside the parliament house.
This is why once leader of the opposition, Syed Khurhseed Shah, made an emotional speech, the prime minister felt compelled to make an impromptu comment or two. In his speech Mr Shah had thundered about the supremacy of the parliament and then asked for a clarification from both the government and the ISPR about the issue.
However, the prime minister could also simply repeat the same events that the interior minister had already mentioned.
But neither of them could explain clearly that the government had asked the army chief to intervene -- even if it was within the constitutional parameters.
This was only clarified -- so it seemed -- by the ISPR statement later in the day, which said that the government had asked the army chief to play a role.
“Regardless of how and why it happened, the confusion ensured that the government has lost a golden opportunity to resolve the crisis,” said the PML-N office-bearer.
He added that there was a view within the government that the military leadership will have to play a role in resolving the crisis and this is why the request was made.
“There is no doubt however that the confusion and ambiguity created by the interior minister and the prime minister just made the issue very controversial,” he added.

Pakistan: Blow to democracy

EVENTS seemingly had degenerated into a dirge for democracy, but in a political crisis that is as confounding as it is severe, the events of Thursday night were quickly overtaken by developments on Friday.
On Thursday, it had appeared that a political crisis in which certain institutional forces had long stayed on in the shadows had reached a predictable denouement with the army leadership once again taking centre stage — a move ostensibly authorised by the PML-N government under duress.
But then yesterday an equally confounding — though perhaps not entirely unpredictable — blame game began between politicians, with the government and its political opponents both suggesting that it was the other camp that had dragged the military centre stage.
Meanwhile, the army leadership happily lapped up the attention and focus, with statements attributed to the military leadership suggesting that it was only doing what had been asked of it by the political leadership of the country and was playing as neutral a role as possible.
In the continuing flux that has become national politics in recent weeks, there are certain things that are already obvious.
For one, the army has — whether because of serendipity or by design — already re-established for itself a position of political pre-eminence that the transition to democracy was supposed to have consigned to history.
Whatever the army leadership may claim through its selective statements, it is simply the case that it has once again assumed the role of referee, umpire or final arbiter over the political process by steadfastly refusing to choose sides — when one side clearly had the law and Constitution in its favour and the other side was agitating for the kind of politics and system that the country had collectively rejected in recent years.
That so-called neutrality of the army leadership involved essentially saying that the democratic, parliamentary, legal and constitutional legitimacy of an elected government was at par with the rabble-rousing skills of Tahirul Qadri and near-demagoguery of Imran Khan.
It should not have been this way — but the fact that events have come to such a pass indicate how against the democratic spirit and unwilling to accede to civilian control certain unelected, powerful institutions of the state are.
Unhappily, there are many failings among the democrats too.
Rewind to Thursday when the country had seemingly regressed several decades in its political evolution.
To involve the army chief as mediator in a national political crisis was capitulation of the highest order — and for that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have to shoulder a significant burden of the blame.
Consider that when the transition to democracy began with the February 2008 elections and gained momentum with the ouster of then-president Pervez Musharraf in August 2008, the country had embarked on the most tentative of journeys towards the democratic idyll.
Five years on, in May 2013, after several major crises, a corner had seemingly been turned — the country had its first ever peaceful, on-schedule, democratic transition of power between one elected government and the next.
At that point, a heavy burden sat on the shoulders of Prime Minister Sharif: he was the chief custodian of the democratic process for the next five years.
The problem was that Mr Sharif quickly and unprovoked made several choices that put great strain on the democratic transition — a strain that Mr Sharif then seemed incapable of dealing with or mitigating. The hastiness of Mr Sharif combined with his inability to stay in control of events helped bring events to the present pass.
The alternative was not to do nothing at all.
Surely though given a five-year old democratic transition and a five-year term ahead of him, Mr Sharif could have picked his priorities and battles differently.
Even during the build-up to the present crisis, a prime minister who seemed content to lead from behind added to the perception of a threat to the system — and almost certainly gave the prime minister’s opponents and anti-government protesters hope.
Now, yet again, the country is at a pass where confusion and clarity seemingly coexist. What is clear is that whatever democratic credentials Imran Khan and the PTI had and whatever credibility Tahirul Qadri and his supporters had have disappeared.
To so gleefully accept the direct involvement of the army in a political crisis, as Mr Khan and Mr Qadri have, is to destroy the last vestiges of democratic legitimacy and institutional good sense.
While the never-ending crisis appears to have some more time to run yet, because of the government’s inept handling of the affair the political domain will continue to feel the effects of the military’s role, whether as ‘facilitator’ or ‘arbiter’, for at least the foreseeable future.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Another Shia Muslim Shot Martyred In Karachi
Another Shia Muslim has been shot martyred by takfiri terrorist of Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) in central district of Karachi where many Shiites have already embraced martyrdom due to targeted attacks by takfiri terrorists.
Ghulam Baqar, a Shia Muslim, was critically wounded due to takfiri terrorist attack in Liaquatabad. He was first taken to a government hospital and then shifted to a private hospital for treatment.
Shia parties and leaders have condemned the attack on an innocent Shiite in Karachi. They demanded immediate action against the terrorists.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto condemns killing of Shiite Dr. 'Aun Naseem Jafri'
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned the killing of Dr Aun Naseem Jafri, Information Secretary of PPP District East, Karachi in Korangi area at the hands of terrorists on 28th August.
In a statement issued here, the PPP Patron-In-Chief said terrorism are the real crisis for the patriotic people of Pakistan, which has so far gulped the lives of around 50,000 innocent citizens and soldiers of the country.
He said killing of Dr Aun Jafri and other innocent citizens and policemen in Karachi needs the attention of Federal and Provincial governments together with all the political parties and civil society to concentrate and contribute towards the elimination of this monster of terrorism to protect the people and Pakistan.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed grief and sorrow over the killing of PPP leader Dr Aun Jafri and eulogised his services for the Party during its struggle for democracy and the rights of the people.
He prayed to Almighty Allah to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage and fortitude to the members of bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.

Pakistan: Crisis can only be resolve through negotiations: Zardari

Former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has said that only negotiations will solve the ongoing political crisis in the country.
Asif Ali Zardari, in a statement, said that he would still urge all the parties to solve their issues via dialogue.
Meeting with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week, Zardari urged the premier to not resign from office and solve the political issues via dialogue.

Pakistan: Former President Asif Ali Zardari condemns killing of two journalists in Quetta
Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party former President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned killing of two journalists in Quetta yesterday.
According to reports armed men entered an office of a news agency and started firing indiscriminately killing three people including two journalists Irshad Mastoi and Abdul Rasool Khajak.
Former President said that he was saddened by the news and condemns in strongest possible words the killing of two journalists in broad day light in Quetta. He prayed to Almighty Allah to grant their souls eternal peace and strength and fortitude to the families to bear this irreparable loss with equanimity.