Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Music Video: Justin Bieber - Confident ft. Chance The Rapper

Underage and trapped: female Iraqi factory workers need help

Shayma Hassan, 16, walks 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) each day to the brick factory in Bahr al-Najaf in the city of Najaf, 161 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad. Her hectic work day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.
Along with four other women, Shayma moves bricks out of molds and into and out of the oven. For all this hard work, she gets paid $7 per day.
“I never went to school because I live in the village and I need to make money. My only hope now is to have my own family, since my mother decided that I should get married,” she told Al-Monitor.
Even when she's ill, Shayma has to work in this polluted environment to put food on the table, especially since her mother, who used to work in the same factory, is sick and can only take care of some plants around the house.
Shayma’s employer Abu Haidar, who preferred not to give his full name, told Al-Monitor, while Shayma timidly stared at the floor, “The women here work with dignity and I help them with their living expenses." However, Abu Haidar added, “The wage is minimal, but most of the brick factories are no longer as profitable as they were before.”
Many girls who work are violating the Iraqi labor law. For instance, the girls who work in the plastic waste recycling factories in the city of al-Mahawil, north of Hillah in the center of Babil province (100 kilometers, or 62 miles, south of Baghdad) are not 16 yet. The labor law prohibits minors from working and stipulates that education is mandatory up to age 16. In these factories, young girls work tirelessly on assorting garbage before putting it into thermal and plastic cutting machines for recycling.
Saad al-Heli, the owner of a plastic waste recycling factory, told Al-Monitor, “Girls are more suitable [for this work] than boys, since they are more compliant.“
Fatimah, 16, told Al-Monitor, as she cleaned her face and hair from the plastic ooze coming from the machine, “I get paid $5 for about 6 hours of work.”
As all other girls there, Fatimah comes from a poor family and has never been to school. However, she prefers to work in this female-only factory, because she was a victim of sexual assault when she worked in a factory with men.
Fatimah refused to give details concerning the incident and she simply commented, “Working with men is risky,” referring to the incident.
This is probably why Heli does not hire boys to work with the girls in his factory. “They created many problems and the police had to interfere,” he said. But he seems fine with hiring underage girls, saying, “There is no real supervision and I make sure to treat them like my own daughters.”
Ghofran Majed, a local feminist activist, told Al-Monitor in the town of Babil: “Hiring uneducated young girls has serious social repercussions. … Field studies show that many working girls become victims of oppression and sexual harassment, which delays their marriage. Most of these young girls come from poor families that allow them to work because they need the money.”
Ferial Mhamdawi, 15, has been working in factories since she was a child. She got married at a very young age, probably two or three years ago (parents in these regions of Iraq marry their daughters off at age 11 or 12), but is now divorced and back at work.
“The biggest mistake of my life was not attending school,” she said. She married a man 20 years her senior who accused her of being involved with another man, which led to their divorce.
In general, girls often become the victim of rumors that affects their reputation, according to social researcher Sakinah Daoud, who told Al-Monitor, “The future of young working girls remains uncertain until they get married. In case they do not, they risk [getting involved] in prostitution and the sex trade.”
Suheila Abbas, a member of the council of Babil, told Al-Monitor: “The solution to this phenomenon is to create a social protection network, which prevents child labor as well as the labor of young girls, in addition to establishing laws that penalize illegal employment.”
This first step, Abbas said, “Is to create job opportunities under the auspices of the government, while simultaneously launching civil society initiatives to provide medical care and proper education for all segments of society, especially women and children who are forced to work.”
Read more:

China: Xi urges Japanese reflection on war anniversary

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged the Japanese government to admit and reflect on its history of militarist aggression, as China marked the 69th anniversary of victory in Anti-Japanese War.
Addressing a symposium held for the occasion, Xi said the war launched by Japanese militarists in modern times brought calamity to the people of China and other Asian countries. The facts cannot be denied.
China will never allow any denial and distortion of this history of aggression or any return to militarism, he said.
Japan must show a sense of responsibility for history, the region's people and the future to maintain Sino-Japanese friendship as well as the stability and development of Asia, according to Xi.
He urged Japan to take a prudent attitude and appropriately deal with historical issues, learn lessons and stick to the road of peaceful development.

Ukraine ceasefire: Putin lays out 7-step plan to stop hostilities in E. Ukraine

Kiev must withdraw troops from southeastern regions of Ukraine and rebels must stop offensive to stop bloodshed, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says. He and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko discussed "a ceasefire regime."
President Putin has outlined a seven-point plan to stabilize the situation in the crisis-torn east of Ukraine.
“On my way here from [the city of] Blagoveschensk to Ulan-Bator [Mongolia], I outlined some ideas and plan of actions. It’s here, but in handwriting,” Putin told reporters.
1. Militias should cease military advances in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
2. Pro-Kiev armed forces should withdraw to a distance that excludes the possibility of shelling settlements.
3. Implement full and objective international control over ceasefire observation and monitoring.
4. Exclude the use of combat aircraft against civilians and villages.
5. Prisoner/captive-exchange via an ‘all-in-all’ formula, without preconditions.
6. Humanitarian corridors for refugees movement and delivery of humanitarian aid across Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
7. Direct repair-crew access to destroyed social and transit infrastructure with supportive aid.
Putin expressed hope that final agreements between Kiev and militia in southeastern Ukraine could be reached and secured at the coming meeting of the so-called contact group on September 5.
“I hope the leaders of Ukraine will support the anticipated progress in bilateral relations,” Russia’s president said.
He called on Ukraine to take an active part in the work of the contact group “for a final and comprehensive settlement of the situation in the southeastern Ukraine, of course, with full and unconditional assurance of the legitimate rights of the people who live there.”
Commenting on the phone call with the Ukrainian president earlier on Wednesday, Putin stressed that their “views on ways to resolve the conflict are aligned.”
Later on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president expressed “great hope” that the peace process will start negotiations in Minsk on Friday.
“The first task is peace,” Poroshenko said. “Today at 5am, because of the time difference, we talked with President Putin about ways we could stop this horrible process. It is impossible to deny that people should being killed,” he added. The Ukrainian President stressed that all Ukrainians want peace and that is why he will strive for it.
Anti-Kiev militias say they are ready to lay down arms, but only if the same is done by all the government units fighting in the east of the country, said DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko.
The political leader of the self-proclaimed republic noted that Kiev will have to obtain compliance from irregulars, such as Right Sector volunteer battalions, and mercenaries, who are also fighting on the side of the government.
“These have previously sabotaged existing deals,” said Zakharchenko.
The DPR leader said that the recent upturn in the rebels’ fortunes would improve the chances of striking a deal with Petro Poroshenko’s government.
Germany has supported the news that the two presidents are showing willingness to resolve the conflict, saying that Germany and the International community are ready to assist measures aimed at securing the ceasefire.
“Presidents Poroshenko and Putin are bearing responsibility not only for their nations, but all Europe,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Hamburg. He stressed that now it is important to take decisive steps to establish a ceasefire in Ukraine.
“We are ready to assist this path via either repeating the meeting in Geneva or through other international formats,” he added.
In Ukraine, meanwhile, Putin’s peace plan was met with criticism from the country’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenuk, who said that Russia’s real plan is to destroy Ukraine and restore the USSR.
"We are waiting for decisions from NATO and the EU on how to stop the aggressor,” he said.
In Yatsenuk’s opinion, Putin’s 7-point plan is “an attempt of eyewash for the International community ahead of NATO summit and an attempt to avoid inevitable decisions from the EU on the new wave of sanctions against Russia.”
The “best” for Ukraine would be a one-point plan, Yatsenuk stressed, which is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
“And then there will be peace,” the PM said.
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of direct military involvement in the conflict.
So far, attempts at temporary ceasefires between Kiev and self-defense forces in the past months have failed to bring about any improvement in the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Each time fighting has continued, with both sides blaming each other for breaking the truce.
2,593 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, the UN reported last week.
The military conflict that started this spring has displaced over a million Ukrainians, with the majority of them finding refuge in Russia.

Video- Mongolia: Putin, Poroshenko to agree on final peace plan

Video: Presidents of the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania Deliver Remarks

Video: President Obama Holds a Press Conference with President Ilves of Estonia

Video: President Obama on the Murder of Steven Sotloff

Video: Obama arrives in Estonia in a show of solidarity with Baltic states

Video Report: Obama calls for NATO solidarity in Ukraine's battle against Russian aggression

Joe Biden: We’ll follow ISIL to ‘gates of hell’

Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday delivered a fiery response to the killing of American journalist Steven Sotloff, telling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants that the U.S. will “follow them to the gates of hell.”
“[W]hen people harm Americans, we don’t retreat. We don’t forget,” Biden said during a speech in New Hampshire. “We take care of those who are grieving, and when that’s finished, they should know, we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.”
The vice president referred to ISIL — the group the Obama administration has said is responsible for the beheadings of Sotloff and fellow U.S. journalist James Foley, seen in a video on Aug. 19 — as a group of “barbarians.”
He touted the U.S. history of resiliency and said the videos documenting the killings of the two Americans would not scare the American people. “[T]hey somehow think that it’s going to lessen U.S. resolve, frighten us, intimidate us. But, if they think the American people will be intimidated, they don’t know us very well,” he said, adding that U.S. military forces killed Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and that Americans united after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
“The American people are so much stronger, so much more resolved than any enemy can fully understand,” Biden added.
Biden made his remarks during a scheduled appearance at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire. He noted multiple times that Foley was a native of New Hampshire. The late journalist’s family lives in Rochester.
His comments were reminiscent of those made by Sen. John McCain in a 2007 Republican presidential debate, when he was asked about bin Laden, who at the time was still at large.
“We will do whatever is necessary,” the Arizona Republican said at the time. “We will track him down. We will catch him. We will bring him to justice and I’ll follow him to the gates of hell.”
His speech came after President Barack Obama addressed the situation during a joint news conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. In his comments, the president also insisted that the U.S. would bring ISIL to account for its actions. “Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served,” Obama said.
Secretary of State John Kerry offered similarly strong words early on Wednesday, decrying “the unfathomable brutality of ISIL terrorist murderers” and insisting that the U.S. will bring the group to justice.
“When terrorists anywhere around the world have murdered our citizens, the United States held them accountable, no matter how long it took,” he said in a statement, vowing the U.S. would do the same to ISIL.
The administration has launched multiple airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq, where the group has swept across much of the northern and central part of the country and has targeted religious minorities. The White House has not yet made a public decision regarding airstrikes or other potential military response against ISIL militants in Syria.
Read more:

OPINION: 'Why we must all challenge ISIS'

By Charlie Cooper
Last night, a video emerged of the execution of American journalist Steven Sotloff, at the hands of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's ISIS, the extreme jihadist group that has illegitimately declared the establishment of a militant "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.
This latest execution video follows that of a similar crime committed against another U.S. journalist, James Foley, a fortnight ago. Like the first "Message to America," this latest video ended with the executioner threatening to behead another captive non-combatant, this time a Briton.
First and foremost, it is imperative that we do not allow the traction that these videos have gained in the West to eclipse ISIS's other inhumane actions.
In years gone by, ISIS -- which refers to itself as the Islamic State -- and its forebears have consistently and persistently committed the most atrocious of war crimes against communities in the Middle East.
In the last month alone, it has been held responsible for attempting a genocide against the Yazidi minority sect, as well as the extermination of the Turkmen Shia Muslims of Amerli.
These come on top of the wholesale massacre it committed against the Sunni peoples of the Shu'aytat tribe in East Syria in August, as well as countless other summary executions of people it deems to be its enemies.
/blockquote> We must not be fooled into thinking that ISIS only beheads its Western captives; last week, a Kurdish man - unarmed, of course - was executed in front of a mosque in Mosul in a video entitled "A message written in blood." But because it was directed at the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, this particular piece of propaganda did not receive widespread coverage in the international media. A cursory glance at ISIS propaganda suggests that the West is its primary target. While this may be the case in terms of the group's long-term ambitions, events on the ground in Syria and Iraq paint a very different picture, with ISIS predominantly killing those it deems to be "apostate", including its co-religionists.
In light of events in Syria and Iraq, the international community must react robustly and swiftly. This week's NATO summit is fortuitously timed, and one would hope that the ISIS crisis takes its place at the top of the meeting's agenda.
However, as I've said before, a strategy of solely Western intervention would play right into the ISIS ideology. Indeed, it would be exactly what the group wants. As such, it is paramount that other states -- particularly those within the region -- step up to the plate as well. Countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia must actively respond instead of leaving it to others.
It is not just the international community that has a responsibility, though: the media must act as well. It is paramount that it carefully considers its treatment of ISIS propaganda, with its twin aims of intimidation and recruitment.
Every time a still or clip from an ISIS video is shown, the group gets what it wants: the oxygen of publicity. Of course, it is necessary that people the world over are aware of the atrocities occurring at the hands of ISIS, but journalists must be careful not to do the jihadists' job for them.
This also involves establishing a firm no-platform policy for al-Baghadi's stooges in the West. These insidious individuals thrive on media attention, which they use to amplify their otherwise ostracized voices.
As Quilliam's last report, which looked at extremist content online, showed, it is an unfortunate truth that online censorship does not work.
Any attempts at censorship in the aftermath of the Foley killing were always doomed to failure. Simply put, corporations and governments are unable to remove propaganda from the internet at the rate that it is uploaded. More effective than government-led censorship was the "ISIS media blackout," in which users across the internet resolutely refused to publicize ISIS material. After all, videos like these have minimal propaganda value if they have no audience.
At the same time, instead of publicizing what ISIS wants, we must popularize what it doesn't.
The anti-ISIS fatwa recently released by prominent Sunni British imams would be a good place to start, because it dismantles any sense of legitimacy for the self-proclaimed "caliphate" and directly calls for Muslim communities to take an active stance in opposing this appalling group.
More initiatives like this must emerge. That they have not materialized already is testament an untenable situation in which the vast majority of Muslims, who are invariably moderate, are largely silent, something which leaves extremists to dominate the discourse on Islam.
The time has passed when we can allow ISIS to popularize itself unchallenged. Challenging ISIS propaganda must be at the forefront of international policy towards Syria and Iraq. And it is not just something for governments to deal with. People all over the world, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are responsible too.

President Obama Vows 'Justice Will Be Served' For American Reporters' Murders By Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States will not be intimidated by Islamic State militants after the beheading of a second American journalist and will build a coalition to "degrade and destroy" the group.
Obama still did not give a timeline for deciding on a strategy to go after the extremist group's operations in Syria. "It's going to take time for us to be able to roll them back," the president said at a news conference during a visit to Europe.
The president's comments came after he said the United States had verified the authenticity of a video released Tuesday showing the beheading of freelance reporter Steven Sotloff, two weeks after journalist James Foley was similarly killed.
Obama vowed the U.S. would not forget the "terrible crime against these two fine young men."
"We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists," Obama said. "And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served."
Separately, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement: "Barbarity, sadly, isn't new to our world. Neither is evil."
"We've taken the fight to it before, and we're taking the fight to it today," Kerry said. "When terrorists anywhere around the world have murdered our citizens, the United States held them accountable, no matter how long it took. And those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria should know that the United States will hold them accountable too, no matter how long it takes."
Obama also sought to clean up the damage from his statement last week that "we don't have a strategy yet" for dealing with the Islamic State group in Syria. Republicans quickly seized on the remark to argue the president lacks a coherent approach to fighting the extremist group.
"It is very important from my perspective that when we send our pilots in to do a job, that we know that this is a mission that's going to work, that we're very clear on what our objectives are, what our targets are," Obama said. "We've made the case to Congress and we've made the case to the American people, and we've got allies behind us so that it's not just a one-off, but it's something that over time is going to be effective."
In the Sotloff video, a masked militant warns Obama that as long as U.S. airstrikes against the militant group continue, "our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."
Obama responded that the airstrikes have been effective in blunting the militant threat and he will continue to battle the "barbaric and ultimately empty vision" that the Islamic State represents. He said he will be consulting with NATO allies at a summit in Wales Thursday and Friday on a strategy to combat the Islamic State and other militant networks that arise.
"Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat — not just to Iraq, but also the region and to the United States," he said, using an acronym for the militant group.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, appearing alongside Obama, expressed solidarity in the fight. "We see ISIS as a serious threat to all of us, and stand together with the United States and our allies on this issue," Ilves said, using an alternative name for the group.
Sotloff, a 31-year-old Miami-area native who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished a year ago in Syria and was not seen again until he appeared in the video that showed Foley's beheading. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened in that video with death unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the Islamic State.
In the video distributed Tuesday and titled "A Second Message to America," Sotloff appears in a similar jumpsuit before he is apparently beheaded by a fighter with the Islamic State, the extremist group that has conquered wide swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC Wednesday that the masked, British-accented jihadist appears to be the same person shown in the Foley footage. In the video, the organization threatens to kill another hostage, this one identified as a British citizen.
Last week, Sotloff's mother, Shirley Sotloff, pleaded with his captors for mercy, saying in a video that her son was "an innocent journalist" and "an honorable man" who "has always tried to help the weak."
Obama said the prayers of the American people are with the family of the "devoted and courageous journalist" who deeply loved the Islamic world and whose "life stood in stark contrast to those who have murdered him so brutally."
"His killers try to claim that they defend the oppressed, but it was Steven who traveled across the Middle East, risking his life to tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding justice and dignity," Obama said. "Whatever these murderers think they'll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that it is believed that "a few" Americans are still being held by the Islamic State. Psaki would not give any specifics, but one is a 26-year-old woman who was kidnapped while doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, according to a family representative who asked that the hostage not be identified out of fear for her safety.

U.S. Will Hold ISIS Accountable After Steven Sotloff Slaying: Kerry

The United States will hold the Islamic jihadists who brutally murdered two American journalists accountable "no matter how long it takes," Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday. Kerry condemned the "medieval savagery” of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) following their release Tuesday of video showing the beheading of reporter Steven Sotloff, who had gone missing in Syria a year ago. ISIS also killed American journalist James Foley amid American airstrikes in Iraq last month.
"We've taken the fight to (evil) before, and we’re taking the fight to it today," Kerry said during a ceremony honoring Shaarik Zafar, a Texas lawyer tapped as the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities.
"When terrorists anywhere around the world have murdered our citizens, the United States held them accountable, no matter how long it took," Kerry added. "And those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria should know that the United States will hold them accountable too, no matter how long it takes."
Kerry said Sotloff’s death was a "punch to the gut" to everyone who tried to bring him home safe.
President Barack Obama earlier condemned the Florida journalist’s death as a "horrific act of violence." Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. will "destroy" the terror network that has seized control of cities and towns in Iraq, although his administration has yet to publicly outline a military strategy.

President Obama's Message to West Africans on the Ebola Outbreak - Sep 2, 2014

Afghan Music: Da Zmungh Zeba Watan, Da Afghanistan Dai!! - Ustad Awalmir

Afghanistan's NATO Coalition Shrinking Fast

Alongside the exodus of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, soldiers who hail from countries like Singapore and Slovenia, Mongolia and Malaysia have been packing up too, leaving behind an ever-shrinking NATO coalition.
The coalition has been fighting the war for more than a decade, but that combat mission ends in 17 weeks. On the agenda at this week's NATO meeting in Wales is nailing down which countries will contribute how many troops to the post-2014 mission to continue training the Afghan forces and who will pay the salaries of the Afghan policemen and soldiers going forward.
"There already has been so much blood and treasure invested no one wants to see this turn into what is happening in Iraq right now," said retired Adm. James Stavridis, who was NATO supreme allied commander from 2008 to 2013. "I think people realize we need to continue to advise and mentor the security forces for several more years."
There are about 30,700 U.S. forces still in Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama has said he wants to keep 9,800 American troops in the country after the end of the year. The number of non-American troops stands at roughly 14,400 — down more than 65 percent from a peak in May 2011 — and is shrinking fast.
Some countries like Britain with 3,936, Germany with 2,250 and Italy with 1,653 still have a sizeable number of troops in the country. But 17 countries — representing about a third of current 48-nation coalition — have just 25 or fewer troops still deployed. They are: Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sweden, Tonga and Ukraine.
At its peak, about 50 nations were contributing troops to Afghanistan. Stavridis, who is now dean of the Fletcher School, a graduate school of international affairs at Tufts University in Massachusetts, predicted that the number of troop-contributing countries will drop to between 15 and 20 after the end of this year.
Starting next year, the U.S. has committed to keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of a new NATO mission dubbed Resolute Support, which will train, advise and assist Afghan soldiers and policemen. About 4,000 to 5,000 non-American troops — mostly from Britain, Germany, Italy and Turkey — will be deployed as well, although the actual size of the new mission has not been finalized.
Formalizing those deployments will be contingent on the U.S. and NATO signing formal agreements with the Afghan government, which is in the throes of a bitterly contested presidential election. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign them, leaving the job to his successor.
The winner of the election was supposed to have been announced by now, but the two candidates — Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — have alleged widespread election fraud and are fighting over a recount of votes.
Besides troop numbers, a key unresolved issue is which countries will make good on financial commitments to pay the salaries of Afghanistan security forces in the future, something the Afghan government will not be able to do on its own for years.
NATO has put the price tag of a 228,500-strong Afghan security force at about $4 billion a year, while another study carried out for Congress called for a larger base Afghan force of 344,300 plus 29,100 auxiliary forces at a cost of about $6 billion a year.

Afghanistan: Return To Hope - Trailer

NATO Summit an Opportunity for Afghanistan Future

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit is scheduled to be held this Thursday and Friday on September 4-5 in Wales where the 28-nation alliance will discuss and decide the financial and security assistance to Afghanistan.
Representing Afghanistan will be Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi, given that a president has not been elected yet.
Afghan political analysts hope that the absence of a new president will not change NATO's stance on Afghanistan and continue to be committed to the country after the formation of a national unity government, stressing that the summit will significantly impact the nation's future.
"Even though NATO was expecting a new president, they will probably give Afghanistan another chance," Head of Afghanistan's Center of Strategic Studies, Dawoud Muradian, said. "If the national unity government is formed, NATO is prepared to initiate a new chapter of relations with Afghanistan."
Additionally, international relations analyst Malik Setez added that "international commitments to Afghanistan are subject to three components: the existence of a legitimate system in Afghanistan, the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US paving the way for NATO cooperation, and a joint strategy in the national and international levels."
He said that if these three factors are taken into consideration and implemented the international community will continue to support the country.
Law professor and expert Nasrullah Estanikzai added to Muradian's outlook, expressing optimism about the summit.
"At the summit in Wales, strategic decisions will be taken for Afghanistan on the basis of NATO's longstanding objectives," Estanikzai explained. "NATO's stance on Afghanistan will not change. Absence of a new president is sad, but it will not be determinative in changing NATO's decisions."
The NATO Chicago conference had pledged to provide $4.1 billion to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF); however the Afghan government has announced that the overall financial obligations of the forces are currently about $6.1 billion.
This year's summit has been called the most important conference in the past 70 years.

Pakistani leader talks persecuted Christians with Pope Francis

By Elise Harris
In a brief encounter with Pope Francis following his general audience Wednesday, former Pakistani minister Paul Bhatti discussed persecuted Christians and invited the pontiff to visit his country.
“I met him with my mom and it was a desire and a heartfelt wish of my mom to see the Holy Father and to share her views regarding peace in the world and regarding the persecution of Christians in the world,” Bhatti told CNA Aug. 28.
“I translated for her and conveyed this message, and I saw that the Pope was really moved by her statement, and he showed her, and me, that he is with us with his prayers,” and is with “all who are persecuted in the name of religion.”
Bhatti is the former Federal Minister of National Harmony and Minorities Affairs in Pakistan, which is a position he took on after the assassination of his younger brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was killed in 2011 by Islamic extremists.
The two had worked closely to assist the most marginalized and oppressed in the country, and strove to promote religious freedom, equality and social justice, particularly fighting violations of those areas within Pakistan.
Meeting Pope Francis was important, especially for his mother, Bhatti noted, because he is the “head of the Christian Church, it means head of all those who follow the Christian Church, our faith,” so his role is one of “humility” and a sharing in the “suffering due to the general situation of law and order.”
Recalling how his mother invited the pontiff to come and visit their small Christian community in Pakistan, the former minister explained that although he didn’t give a decisive answer, “He just had my mom’s hand in his hand and he had a big hug with my mom.”
“Afterward he expressed that he is with us and his love, care, etc., is toward all those who are a part of our Church.”
The current situation in Pakistan “is quite complicated,” he noted, because there is “sectarian violence, there’s extremism, there’s terrorism and there’s instability” on a political and economic level, as well as problems with “law and order” in general.
“So the situation of Christians and all those who belong to the weak sector of society is directly proportionate to the general stability of our country,” Bhatti observed, stating that “I think it’s getting worse.”
“It’s not only one community that’s being targeted, but the whole country and its population, where we lived in Pakistan even Muslims are a target. But it’s getting worse.”
What can help, he explained, is if the international community unites to “try to bring peace and stability in that country. And if the country is stable, if there’s peace in the country I think everybody will get benefit of that.”
“It’s needed that the international community and those who have influence should use it to bring peace in that region and stability.”
Reflecting on the great solidarity Pope Francis has shown toward persecuted Christians across the Middle East, Bhatti explained that what the pontiff is saying is that “we belong to one community, we belong to one faith, we belong to one Church and everybody is united with each other whether they are in Pakistan, whether they are in Italy or whether they are in America.”
“So this bond, this kind of relationship on the basis of the faith we have with each other, this keeps us united and he is there to help us, to be with us, and for him it’s not important who is where, but he is strongly concerned with the persecuted people of the whole world.”

Pakistan : Terrorism & blasphemy charges in FIR filed against Sharifs

Police on Tuesday included "terrorism and blasphemy" charges in the FIR registered against Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and senior officials for their alleged role in the killing of 14 supporters of fiery cleric Tahirul Qadri here. On August 28, the police had registered murder and attempted murder cases against 21 persons including the Sharif brothers for their alleged role in the the June 17 operation. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, State Minister Abid Sher Ali (also a relative of Sharif), former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah and other senior police officers who took part in the June 17 operation were named in the FIR. Fourteen people including two women were killed and 100 others suffered bullet injuries when police raided the house and offices of Pakistan Awami Tahreek's (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri in Model Town in a bid to remove barriers from there. "Today police included four more sections in the FIR - 7 anti-terrorism act, 295-B (desecration of Quran), 365 (kidnapping) and 252 (tress passing)," Lahore police spokesman Niyab Haider told Press Trust of India. He, however, did not comment on a question whether these clauses had been included on 'any pressure'.
"We have included these clauses on the request of the PAT," he said. Earlier, Tahirul Qadri had rejected the FIR saying terrorism charges had not been included in it as the PAT's application had this section. "Unless the Sharifs and others are booked under terrorism charges we will not accept this FIR," he had asserted.
There was an impression that the government allowed to register the murder case against the Prime Minister and 20 others on the 'insistence' of the establishment. The inclusion of four more clauses appear to be a step to "please" Qadri and an effort to convince him to start the talks stalled on the FIR issue. Three federal ministers (named in the FIR application) challenged the decision in the Lahore High Court but it upheld the lower court's decision. Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the police had registered the FIR against the prime minister and others on the Lahore High Court's order and not on any body's pressure.
Read more at:

Pakistan: Shah asks Imran to give up stubborn attitude

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah on Wednesday said that the opposition parties were ready to play role of guarantors between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to end political unrest in the federal capital.
In a statement released here, he said that all the political parties would support PTI Chairman Imran Khan if the commission finds out massive rigging in the 2013 general election. Shah said that the demand of the prime minister’s resignation would be constitutional if the allegations of rigging were proved.
Shah said that Imran Khan’s decision of sending Shah Mehmood Qureshi to attend the joint session implies that he believes in supremacy of the parliament. He said that Imran Khan should also give up his stubborn attitude. He urged the PTI chairman to hold talks with the government over valid demands.

Pakistan: Deadlock ends between Govt, two parties

PPP leader and Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik, claimed Wednesday that the current political deadlock ended between the PML-N government and two protesting parties, PTI and PTA.
Talking to media here he said that an important meeting with the parties will take place this evening at 8pm. “The nation will hear good news”, he said.
He said that the current crisis can only be resolved through talks.
The PPP leader also appreciated Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Siraj-ul-Haq’s positive role to end the crisis.

Pakistan: Rising Poverty and unemployment in Balochistan

Adnan Aamir
Balochistan is synonymous with problems and security problems. The threats to the lives of political workers and journalists in Balochistan continue to rise. Contrary to claims of the chief Minister Balochistan, Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, the security situation in Balochistan has deteriorated since he has assumed office of chief executive of the turbulent province. Along with security related problems, poverty and unemployment are huge problems in Balochistan and there is no visible effort by government of Balochistan to reduce unemployment and alleviate poverty.
The available statistics for poverty and unemployment in Balochistan portray a bleak picture. According to a report published by Social Policy and Development Centre in 2013, 45.68% of people live below poverty line in Balochistan. That percentage has increased over the course of last year. Presently, 52% of household live below poverty line in Balochistan according to the report Clustered Deprivation published by Sustainable Development Policy Institute. This means that more than half of the population of Balochistan earns less than $1.25 per day. These statistics speak volumes about the prevailing poverty in Balochistan. It goes without saying that poverty incidence in Balochistan is highest among all four provinces of Pakistan. Moreover, the unemployment rate in Balochistan is 4%, according to the data provided by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. This figure is hard to believe as the level of unemployment in Balochistan is sky high. Excluding Quetta, rest of 31 districts in Balochistan provide no employment opportunity whatsoever for the people. Agriculture was the primary source of employment in Balochistan and it has been badly affected by the electricity shortage. The unemployment in Balochistan is much higher than what the aforementioned figures reflect.
Increase in poverty and unemployment is taking its toll on people of Balochistan. The increase in militancy in Balochistan can be loosely attributed to incidence of poverty in the restive province. Rather than admitting the fact, that Balochistan is breaking new records of poverty, government of Balochistan and Pakistan, hide the reality by making the false claim that situation is improving. To rub salt to the wounds, Federal government has declined to start recruitment on 3000 jobs in Federal government departments which are reserved for Balochistan and FATA. For the politicians and bureaucrats in Islamabad, unemployment and poverty are non-issues.
The reasons for current surge in poverty and unemployment in Balochistan can be found in apathetic policy adopted by federal government towards the province. Federal government has never seriously made efforts to facilitate job creation in private sector in Balochistan even when the province was peaceful. Balochistan government has also not made serious efforts to persuade the federal government for facilitating foreign direct investment in Balochistan and developing basic infrastructure in the province. In last 5 years, hundreds of billions of rupees have been received by the Balochistan government from federal divisible pool. The share of Balochistan increased considerably after passing of 7th NFC award in 2010. Hundreds of billions, if spend fairly could have been a huge stimulus for the economy of Balochistan. Unfortunately, those funds have gone into the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats of Balochistan at the detriment of people of Balochistan. Balochistan government is equally responsible for plight of Balochistan at the moment.
In the budget for 2014-15, Balochistan government has allocated development funds for different projects, majority of which will not contribute in poverty alleviation. The selected projects are mostly roads and buildings, there is no way to deny the importance of them but these should not be the first priority. The reason funds are allocated for these types of projects is that kickbacks can be earned easily and at a higher rate.
The development funds of Balochistan, ideally, should be spent on projects which achieve the following objectives; employment creation, increasing purchasing power of people and increasing the government revenue. The Balochistan government should divert the major chunk of development funds to Agriculture, irrigation, fisheries, mining, forestry and livestock sectors. Majority of the population is dependent on these sectors for their livelihood and it makes perfect sense to develop them.
The political solution of security conflict in Balochistan doesn’t seem to take place in near future. This should not mean that poverty alleviation and employment generation should be ignored as an after-thought. A meaningful and determined approach by both provincial and federal government can achieve the target of improving the living standard of people of Balochistan. Will both of these governments ever embark on such a mission, based on past record, it’s doubtful.

Balochistan: Education emergency - In a first, private school comes under attack in Turbat

Armed men torched a private school in the Dasht area of Turbat, a western district of Balochistan, late Monday night. The men also set an estimated 150 textbooks on fire before escaping. This is the first-ever attack on a private school in Turbat. Earlier, schools had been targeted in Panjgur.
A group calling itself ‘Al Jihad’ claimed responsibility for the attack. The group distributed pamphlets with warnings that private schools should “stop imparting Western education, particularly in English” to children in the school after the attack. The group claimed the attack was part of a ‘holy war’ against Western-style education.
“The armed men barged into Gurbam private school after 10pm on Monday. They set fire to the principal’s office and burnt textbooks, five computers, three chairs and school records,” a senior official at Turbat Levies station said. Gurbam is a co-educational school and offers classes taught in English during the evening to more than 400 students.
“There should only be religious education in this school and no one should dare to impart education in English,” the pamphlet states.
Turbat Levies said a case has not been registered yet but Levies personnel are investigating the incident. “There have been no such attacks in hundreds of years here,” said a Levies official.
Many students have migrated from Panjgur and Turbat to Quetta or Karachi after an increasing number of attacks on schools and colleges here. Many suspect the attacks are carried out by groups from outside the area. Schools in Panjgur opened last month after remaining closed for three months due to attacks.
According to local residents, religious wall chalking in Turbat had increased over the past few weeks and the armed group was specifically targeting private schools and English language centres in the area.

Karachi: Blast near police check post on Shara-e-Faisal, 4 cops injured

At least four policemen were injured in a blast near police check post on Shara-e-Faisal in Karachi, Dunya News reported.
“Two attackers riding on a motorbike threw explosives near the post,” Inspector Hummayun, incharge of the check post said. He said police contingent leaves check post around 9:15am that is why no major loss has occurred.
Inspector Hummayun said four policemen have received minor injuries who have been shifted to Jinnah Hospital.
On the other hand, police check post and motorbikes parked outside the building were badly damaged in the attack. Police and Rangers have cordoned off the blast site, however, no arrest has been made as yet.

Imran Khan: Pakistan's Biggest Looser

On Saturday, street protests germinating from simultaneous marches led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party leader) and Canadian religious cleric, Tahir-ul-Qadri (Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) leader) that have laid siege to Pakistan's capital for the last two weeks turned violent. Islamabad had been relatively peaceful up to this point, but close to 25,000 protestors, wearing gas masks and armed with rocks, sticks, and marbles to hurl at the security forces breached the Parliament (PM) House perimeter and charged toward sensitive installations in the Red Zone which houses the Presidency, the Parliament, government offices and diplomatic missions. While attempting to remove barricades near the PM House, protestors were met with a police contingent, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The two leaders of the protests, Khan and Qadri appeared to remain inside their bullet-proof containers while sporadic clashes erupted around them. Close to 595 people, including journalists, policemen, women, and children have been injured, according to reports.
Without any concrete evidence, Khan has claimed that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a simple majority in the National Assembly and formed the government without having to enter a coalition, engaged in widespread rigging in last year's elections. Khan has called for the prime minister's resignation and a new government. Qadri, who demands a political revolution and a technocratic government that can draft a new constitution, has also called for the PM's resignation.
With clashes erupting and the country at the brink of a military intervention, there is much blame to go around.
Though Sharif has been criticized for his severe mishandling of the crisis, it is Khan who has faced the wrath of analysts and observers for his confrontational stance. Khan's party currently forms the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province, which is beset with challenges and has failed to deliver on the election promises of ushering in development and eradicating militancy. Regardless of his own political failures, what Khan is protesting against is not entirely irrational. Despite the fact that his rigid demand calling for the resignation of the prime minister has not waned, he has drawn attention to corruption and bad governance during Sharif's first year, as premature as it may be. However, his execution is deplorable and one that has drawn sharp criticism from all sides. In a desperate bid for Islamabad to become the next Tahrir square, Khan has encouraged a culture of street protests. As witnessed though recent clashes, Khan has drawn supporters (including women and children) to the streets. Certainly realizing that mobs cannot be controlled and ultimately grow violent and desperate within a short span of time, Khan has undoubtedly lost control. The environment in Pakistan is now conducive for any political actor to encourage street protests over parliamentary procedures to achieve their goal, regardless of its legitimacy.
The government, having disregarded PTI's concerns before the protests began, now finds itself on the defensive and Khan, having gone too far with his demands, is at the point of no return. Most recently, rifts have also occurred within the party causing seasoned politician and PTI President Javed Hashmi to be expelled from the party for disagreeing with the decision to lead protests toward the PM House with women and children in tow. Further fuelling rumors, in a controversial media appearance, Hashmi claimed the protests were being coordinated by the Army -- an accusation vehemently denied by the PTI and followed by a strong rebuttal from the Inter-Service Public Relations claiming that "the army is an apolitical institution."
In a study conducted by the PEW Research Center before the protests erupted, Khan's popularity is steeply waning, while Sharif's remains more or less the same. Currently, 64 percent of Pakistanis hold a favorable view of the prime minister, essentially implying that he could draw on public support if executed wisely. Khan's popularity presently stands at the high rating of 54 percent, a critical 17 percent decrease from the previous year.
Despite strong ratings, the government finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Having asked the Army chief to serve as "mediator" between the two sides, a claim that the Sharif government denies, the prime minister is in a tough spot to either illustrate his loyalty to the system or to cede control of critical portfolios of security and foreign policy to Pakistan's all-powerful establishment in a bid to save his seat. Though the Army chief refused to mediate and asked both sides to engage in "meaningful dialogue", the denial comes after 11 out of 12 parties in parliament announced unanimous support for Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) and rejected Khan's "unconstitutional" demands. Many have criticized Sharif for turning to the military instead of the parliament and have opposed the involvement of the Army in the matter. Though vowing to defend democracy and defiantly stating that his government was here to stay, turning to the Army to broker an agreement has made Sharif appear weak and desperate. The constant denials by both sides is yet another reminder that the two institutions are far from being on the same page, dealing a blow to an already hostile relationship Sharif suffers with the military.
The civil-military imbalance has become more pronounced with Sharif's indecision and hesitancy of launching a military offensive in the north against the Taliban. Improving relations with India and remaining adamant on pursuing a personally motivated trial against his nemesis, former president and Army chief, General Pervez Musharraf has widened the divide. Perhaps emboldened by an outright victory in the May 2013 elections, Sharif has attempted to assert civilian supremacy over the country's powerful military. Many analysts believe that the Army may have engineered the current situation to remind Sharif exactly who holds the reins of power.
The Army so far has played its cards carefully. Gone are the days when the Army would seize state institutions and insert its chief in the seat of power. By creating an ‘enabling environment' instead, it is able to generate an invitation to intervene for the sake of ‘national interest.' However, Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif seems to portray little political ambition Nonetheless, observers point out that the recent attack on a state broadcaster's building by anti-government protestors that forced the channel to go off-air for 45 minutes could not have been executed without tacit approval from the military.
After an emergency Corps Commanders meeting, the Army reaffirmed its support for democracy, yet ominously stated that it is "committed to playing its part in ensuring the security of the state." It is seemingly unlikely (though not impossible) that the Army, which has governed Pakistan for most of its history, will initiate an old-school coup. Instead, the Army has shrewdly placed the onus on Pakistan's civilian institutions. Though public support for the Army is strong, another military coup will damage the Army's credibility at a time when it cannot afford a backlash or attract international sanctions. Should civilian power fail to control the situation, the Army may be ‘asked' to come in, further discrediting the democratic system and empowering the military. However, depending on how Sharif chooses to play the game, he may continue to confront the Army to a point where the only option left would be to remove him. An ousting of the prime minister by the Army will undoubtedly draw strong criticism to the institution and publicly illustrate that it has never truly been tolerant of civilian rule.
Ultimately, what Khan has done is nothing short of dangerous. By leading people onto the streets, he is not only challenging the prime minster but has openly threatened the system of democracy that he continues to claim to defend. For democracy to thrive in Pakistan, institutions must be allowed time to strengthen without being threatened by any one political party or institution. With the first-ever democratic transition taking place just a year ago, what Pakistan needs at this critical stage is stability and consistency. But by challenging the system itself, what Khan has inadvertently also done is inject much-needed accountability from elected leaders, himself included. The result of inflicting such pressure on a sitting government and bringing military intervention to the forefront is that public expectations will force an ineffective system to be fixed. Election fraud will be taken far more seriously and the next elections may be monitored more carefully than ever before. A broken system will now be injected with a level of accountability not because Khan wanted it, but because few in Pakistan want to see the same situation unravel again.
It is difficult to predict how the current political crisis will unfold but Sharif must be allowed to complete his tenure. He has already stated, "The nation [can] be sure, I will neither resign nor go on leave." But he has been stripped of his powers and will essentially serve as a toothless prime minister with little power or say in critical issues. In a recent joint session of Parliament, political parties criticized Sharif for his mishandling of affairs but reiterated their commitment to democracy. In response, Qadri and Khan united, holding a joint rally without any alteration in their demands. Many blame Khan for putting people's lives in danger and assisting to create a situation that has allowed the Army to intervene. Rigid in his demands and publicly launching personal attacks against the sitting government, Khan's political career, by many estimates, is over -- making him one of the biggest losers in this entire saga.
But with protests intensifying and an escape route dissipating, there is also no clear victory for the government, the opposition, or at this point, even the Army.

Canadian cleric spurs unrest in Pakistan

Every country has an army, but in Pakistan it’s the other way around — the army has a country.
From its inception in 1947, Pakistan has been held hostage by its military.
From production of cereals to nuclear bombs, from housing construction to cement manufacture, committing genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 to now hosting and arming ISIS affiliates in Balochistan, Pakistan’s army has ruled the country with an iron grip, despite the veneer of democracy.
Once upon a time, military coups in Pakistan were bloodless.
If the generals were not pleased with the elected or appointed prime minister, they would simply send in the infamous 111 Brigade headquartered in the capital to the prime minister’s residence, arrest and oust him.
The last coup was in 1999 when General Pervez Musharraf overthrew prime minister Nawaz Sharif and exiled him and his family.
Then came the U.S. “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009”, better known as the Kerry-Lugar bill. It aimed to ensure the American-funded Pakistan armed forces would pay a heavy price if they toppled democratically elected Pakistani governments.
The law authorizes instant suspension of $1.5 billion U.S. aid to the Pakistan military if the army overthrows an elected civilian government.
Sharif, who won the country’s 2013 elections in a landslide, was in the process of starting peace talks with India, but the military would have nothing of that sort.
Peace with India could hit at the fundamental reason for Pakistan’s massive armed forces and curtail them.
However, the Kerry-Lugar Bill ensured the army could not simply overthrow the elected government.
Instead, critics say, the military employed a new tactic.
They relied, among others, on Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has a cult-like religious following in Pakistan, to help topple the civilian government through mass protests.
(Qadri has denied he is backed by the military.)
Qadri, who has in the past played a part in backing military juntas in Pakistan, arrived from Canada on July 23 and on August 14 — the country’s Independence Day anniversary — announced a “revolution” march on Islamabad by a million people aimed at toppling the government.
He was joined in the exercise by the cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, who led a parallel procession to protest against what he called rigging in last year’s election.
On reaching Islamabad, Qadri’s supporters clashed with police and allegedly beat an officer to death.
Newsweek Pakistan reports Qadri has been charged with murder while the Islamabad newspaper The Daily Times reports the Canadian cleric has been charged with treason as well.
(Qadri has denied the murder and treason charges.)
A former senior official in the Pakistan government described Qadri as “a chameleon with close ties to Pakistani military intelligence.”
(Qadri has denied any links to Pakistan’s military intelligence.)
Explaining the current crisis, the official said: “The real issue is Nawaz’s willingness to compromise with India. The army wants full control over foreign and national security policy. The generals cannot stage a coup due to fears of international isolation, but they also don’t want to let the civilians govern.”
I asked federal Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander if Canada is prepared to strip Qadri of his Canadian citizenship under Bill C-24 and refuse him re-entry into Canada, now that he has been charged in Pakistan.
I have not yet received a response, but I am hoping Alexander will. So should all Canadians.​

How one-time cricket star Imran Khan could help bring down Pakistan’s government

By Terrence McCoy
Nearly every recent profile of Imran Khan invariably winds its way to the House of Khan. Above tracks of “winding, rutted roads,” as one journalist commented, the estate extends more than 40 acres, hosting a bevy of lawns, a swimming pool and at least three roving sheepdogs.
There resides Khan: the best cricket player in Pakistani history and once among the finest in the world — an “all-rounder” who could bowl and bat with extraordinary skill. After leading a celebrated social life in London, he turned politician some years ago and now leads street protests that may topple the Pakistani government.
The Oxford grad’s a man of craggy movie-star good looks and an air of the dramatic. “Clad in a traditional white tunic, he opens the huge, heavy wooden doors to his mansion and apologizes for the brief delay,” The Washington Post’s Richard Leiby wrote when he visited Khan in 2011. For the Guardian, Khan is spotted “sitting alone at a table in the garden of the house … dressed entirely in black.” For the New Yorker, Khan “emerged from the house wearing a gray shalwar kameeze,” and said, “My God, it’s going to be a tough day.”
But perhaps Monday was tougher for Pakistan. Khan and his supporters again protested Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom they accuse of fixing last year’s election, which Khan’s Movement for Justice party lost. The protests have roiled the capital for three weeks, heightening fears the nuclear-armed country could soon return to military rule.
Sharif, for now, is hanging tough. “I will not resign under any pressure and I will not go on leave,” Sharif said, The Post reported. “There shall be no precedent in Pakistan that only a few people take as hostage the mandate of millions by resorting to force.”
The drama then took a bizarre turn. The president of Khan’s own political party accused him of colluding with the army to oust the besieged prime minister and set fresh elections later this month. The party official said if Pakistan’s government collapsed, the responsibility would lie with Khan.
Khan denied the allegations — and then fired his former associate. “I am disappointed with” him, Khan said, according to local media.
It’s another bit a drama for a man who’s no stranger to it. After his cricket career, which included leading Pakistan’s team to its one and only world championship in 1992, he soon married the glamorous daughter of a British billionaire. She was Jewish. And half his age.
Though Jemima Khan converted to Islam, their return to Pakistan was rocky and she was subjected to anti-Semitic attacks.
But Khan was not the sort to fade into obscurity. He delved into politics and in 2004 divorced his wife, with whom he had two children. “I could never imagine living in London, just making a living out of cricket journalism,” he wrote in his memoir, according to the New Yorker. My wife “knew that. She did not marry a lounge lizard.”
There was an anger to Khan. He was mad at his political rivals, whom he called “stooges” and “puppets” of the United States. He was upset at American foreign policy: “All they want is obedient slaves,” he told The Post.
But he was most angry at Pakistan’s government. “The whole system has collapsed,” he said. “There is no government today…. The system is destroying the people, but the politicians are getting richer than before.”
But isn’t Khan pretty rich himself? What about his chateau? His sheepdogs? His myriad couches, which no matter the profile, he’s always “settling” into?
After inviting the New Yorker’s Steve Coll to his house, Khan first lit a fire in a stone fireplace, then “settled on a couch, draped in an orange scarf. A large mirror hung on the wall above his king-sized bed. There was a flat-screen television, an audio system, a rack of compact disks, and a shotgun stored in a case.”
And then there’s the hair. It’s a vital piece to the Khanian ethos. Long and unruly and Keith-Richards-esque, it’s unclear where Khan and his hair are going next.
But there are signs that he’s not, in fact, going anywhere. The Pakistani army is one of the country’s most powerful institutions; few civilian leaders have been able to trump its power. And if it becomes clear the army has turned against Sharif — and toward Khan — he could have bigger things ahead.
“Imran Khan said we can’t move forward without the army,” the Telegraph reports Khan’s former party associate saying. “Imran Khan also said that all the matters had been decided and there will be elections in September.”

Pakistan: Romance In Parliament

The Joint Session of the Parliament kicked off on Tuesday against the backdrop of violent PAT and PTI protestors gathered in Islamabad for almost three weeks. In many ways, it was a historical occasion. Javed Hashmi, after reiterating his support for democracy and openly refusing to become part of any conspiracy against it, announced his resignation from the National Assembly. He arrived and left amidst applause from Parliamentarians across party lines. Aitzaz Ahsan lectured Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on democratic values. And the Prime Minister sat in his chair and listened; a sight to cherish. Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman did not shy away from adding their two cents to the mix either. But, this was bigger than personalities, bigger than anyone seated inside or outside the Parliament. We witnessed a Parliament united in defiance against forces hellbent on derailing the system under the pretext of change and revolution. We witnessed politicians rise above partisanship answering to the call of their democratic duty; that of preserving the sanctity of the constitution and the institution meant to reflect the collective will of the people of Pakistan. We saw a heavy mandated government seeking validation from the opposition, which rose to the occasion by offering principled support coupled with necessary rebuke. Our past is tarnished with events defined by shortsighted political opportunism, and on Tuesday, the people’s representatives took a leap forward in an attempt to break away from poor traditions, inciting hope by example for a new era of political responsibility and sensibility. It would not be wrong to claim that all in all, it was a good day for democracy.
However, democracy needs more than a single good day. It is a never-ending process, never ceasing to improve and correct, and relies on the collective behavior of both people and their representatives to deliver what is expected from it. The government would do well not to emerge as an arrogant victor. We’d rather see a humbled survivor; an entity which has learnt its lessons well enough not to be forgotten once imminent threat has been averted. The threat of poor performance and undemocratic behaviors is consistent, and it comes from within this country’s Parliamentarians. The conspiracy of complacency, carelessness and dishonesty is hatched in the hearts and minds of our Parliamentarians, not in some dark room crowded with people with dark intentions. Aitzaz Ahsan was right in reminding the PM that the opposition would revert to its original role as soon as this troublesome phase was over. We expect it to. From the government, we expect growth and maturity, humility and engagement, and of course, fulfillment of its many promises.

Imran met Tahirul Qadri in London: Hashmi

Javed Hashmi continues to make disclosures about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan.
In an interview with Hamid Mir during the special edition of ‘Capital Talk,’ Hashmi said Imran Khan had travelled to London and held a meeting with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri.
Hashmi claimed there were discussions in PTI that former ISI chief Lt. General Shuja Pasha was active in Lahore.
Javed Hashmi further said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak informed Khan that provincial parliamentarians of the party would not be resigning. According to Hashmi resignations were not given happily by PTI parliamentarians. Hashmi was also critical of Imran Khan’s call for the civil disobedience movement.
In his conversation with Hamid Mir, Javed Hashmi disclosed that he was not in favour of the Geo News boycott announced by Imran Khan. According to Hashmi he had not boycotted Geo News.
“I live in Multan Cantt were Geo News has been suspended which is why I installed a satellite at my residence.”
Hashmi said that other PTI leaders including Shafqat Mahmood also questioned the decision to boycott Geo News.
In another startling revelation, Javed Hashmi said Imran Khan told him that “They” are saying you had not brought the masses in the sit-ins as per commitment. Tahirul Qadri was unable to attack the parliament. You both have failed, therefore, resignations have not been tendered.

Pakistan: The Imran-Qadri headache

The press conference by Javed Hashmi, the president of the PTI, on August 31 should be an eye opener for all those who still believe in the illusion that cricketing leadership is equal to, if not better than, political leadership
The political horizon of Pakistan has finally witnessed the emergence of a new pressure group comprising the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by Dr Tahirul Qadri. The other day, the latter called both parties political cousins hell bent on altering the political trajectory of Pakistan. Perhaps these parties could not be political brothers because one had a legitimate (electoral) representation in parliament whereas the other was deprived of that privilege. By not countering Dr Qadri’s claim, Khan tacitly accepted it and thereby reduced the status of PTI to that of PAT. Their synchronisation in several aspects showed that both parties share a common agenda in intent and action. One of the more dangerous common tactics adopted by these political cousins was inciting their followers to break the law. Unfortunately, on August 31, 2014 a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) at the conclusion of a hurriedly convened corps commanders’ conference, fell short of identifying or showing concern about the incitement, if the ISPR was keen to issue any such statement at all.
There are a few other injustices the press release conveyed. For instance, it said, “While reaffirming support to democracy, the conference reviewed with [a] serious concern the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and [the] loss of lives.” The question is, why did the conference reaffirm its support to democracy only, why not to the constitution as well? Similarly, why was no support to parliament extended by the conference? Do the corps commanders think that Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif should resign on the demand of Khan for the sake of democracy even if the constitution does not demand it? Do the corps commanders think that parliament and all the provincial assemblies should be dissolved to meet the wishes of Dr Qadri to realise his revolution?
The press release went on to say: “Further [the] use of force will only aggravate the problem.” The question is, how have the corps commanders assumed the role of advisors to the elected government? Even if the corps commanders assumed such a role, they should also have given suggestions to the government about how to refrain the unruly and fully provoked mob from crossing the red line of storming buildings. The aggravation of the problem may be important but the question is: who created the problem? The activities of Sheikh Rasheed, exchanging messages between people, indicate something. If not the army, which institution of state does Rasheed claim his public association with? If not something suspicious, what does the meeting of PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi with General (retired) Pervez Musharraf in Karachi a few days ago indicate?
If this was to be the quality of the press release, what was the hurry in calling the corps commanders’ conference? In principle, the press release should have mentioned that the corps commanders would not support any unconstitutional act by any party. Second, the press release should have mentioned that the corps commanders would not support any agitation or protest that could undermine parliament. In fact, instead of leaving ambiguities in the press release, the corps commanders should have been clear on their stance on both the constitution and parliament. This was important because the means adopted by the followers of both the PTI and the PAT to access their ostensible rights cannot be confined to them. Furthermore, in the electoral rebound of the PPP and PML-N and in the electoral rejection of pro-Musharraf parties in the past two general elections, there is a point of caution for all those thinking of the introduction of any version of martial law.
The press conference by Javed Hashmi, the president of the PTI, on August 31 should be an eye opener for all those who still believe in the illusion that cricketing leadership is equal to, if not better than, political leadership, that a good cricketing sense can also do wonders in politics and that a cricketing hero can be a political hero. From the top of his container, Khan kept on exposing his political naivety and stubbornness. Khan’s words and acts were a blessing in disguise for the political system of Pakistan. One can imagine what would have happened if Khan’s party had secured an overwhelming majority in parliament. The tendency in Khan to listen to no one could have put the whole region in crisis. Did the corps commanders think about that?
It is understandable that the youth living in the homes of corps commanders consider Khan their hero but it is not understandable how the same youth (and their parents) are blind to the repercussions of the success of Dr Qadri’s revolution, in whatever form. Khan did an unpardonable act of injustice to the political system by providing the cover of his party to the PAT. Alone, Dr Qadri could not have gone to the extent he has and his followers would not have resorted to breaking the law as they did on August 30. Khan failed to realise that the political treasure he gathered over the past 18 years has been lost in the past 18 days. Many people lament the procrastination of the government in meeting the demands of both the PTI and the PAT. On the contrary, the present indicates that even if Khan’s initial demand (of recounting votes in four national electoral constituencies) were met, August 30 was bound to visit Pakistan. Now, Pakistan must be ready to embrace a new kind of politics, the one originated by the political cousins, the intent and actions of whom were overlooked by the corps commanders.

Pakistan: The law should take its course

Let us be clear, the law was violated in both letter and spirit on the night of August 30 and the days following. The laws that were broken were those of any civilised state or society, but what pushed people to breaking them were the conditions of a society steeped in barbarism and anger. There is no question that in Pakistan for too long has the law been subject to political considerations and applied unevenly; so much so that it has turned into a tool of oppression against minorities and women, the poor and disaffected. The question the protests asked, and that Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan manipulated for personal gain, was how far does parliament represent the will of the people? Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) President Javed Hashmi gave a succinct answer to a joint session of parliament yesterday: “Our political history shows nothing for us to hold our heads up high about...parliament has failed to solve people’s problems,” leaving citizens angry and open to manipulation by demagogues. Parliament failed to correct systemic injustices and this is mostly a failure of the political class. Do we as a nation aim to be governed by law or by mobs and force of arms? That Khan and Qadri were unable to manufacture a popular mass movement to bring down not only the government but the parliamentary system of governance answered that question, but not wholly. Parliament stands, the government stands, and they should, but they must change.
Despite the damage done on Saturday night, there is an opportunity here for the government to begin taking the long road towards the rule of law. Economists are busy toting up the costs, in terms of damage to public property and the virtual standstill the country was brought to, as well as the damage to its international credibility and the confidence of investors and partners in Pakistan’s future. Where one year ago the world saw a return to democratic stability, today even India expressed concern at the seeming inability of the government to enforce the law and manage the writ of the state. Who is responsible for this cost? It is important here to draw a distinction between Khan and Qadri, and the protestors who charged the gates on Saturday night. Their intentions as stated to their followers and to the government were diametrically opposed. One way or another, they were lying to somebody. They assured the government in writing that the protests would remain peaceful and would not move towards the buildings and symbols of the state that it has a responsibility to protect. To their followers they showed coffins and thundered about bringing down the government and the democratic system. Eventually they chose to disregard their word to the government and it responded in the only way possible. The attack on parliament and the subsequent violence of their highly charged followers proved they had no intention of remaining peaceful. They aimed to portray parliament as a symbol of oppression, but it is in fact a symbol of the people’s will, even when said will is invisible. Who else but the people of Pakistan were harmed by the events of August 30, including the police (of whom 150 were injured), the military, and the average citizen? The government on Monday lodged an FIR against Qadri and Khan for, among other things, terrorism and inciting violence, but is so far unable to act on it for political reasons, with the two surrounded by their followers and the government constantly looking over its shoulder fearfully at Rawalpindi. It is time to end this sordid affair and begin enforcing the law irrespective of political considerations and street power. It will be difficult, but the right path has never been easy.

Pakistan: Economic impact of street politics

ISLAMABAD may be shut, but Pakistan is open for business.
Factories are humming, raw materials are moving freely on the roads, people are commuting to and from work, cellular communications remain uninterrupted.
The rupee has seen some declines, more likely due to developments intrinsic to the markets themselves rather than the crisis.
Forex reserves are broadly stable, the stock market has seen good days and bad throughout this affair, and there have been only marginal declines.
Even the collection of taxes and recovery of bills in the power sector are normal, despite calls for ‘civil disobedience’.
Attempts to spread the rallies to Lahore and Karachi and other cities have floundered and there has been little disruption in day-to-day life anywhere else in Pakistan, with no general strikes, no closures of roads and petrol pumps, schools or offices, no halt in public transport.
Beyond this, however, the damage is huge, difficult to quantify, and of a lasting nature.
Those looking in from the outside are asking how sturdy the political system in Pakistan really is.
Talks with the IMF are at a standstill, and it is likely that the next tranche will be delayed. The World Bank is worried about the future of its massive Country Partnership Strategy, worth $11bn and announced just this April.
Meanwhile, government work has ground to a halt, and although the machinery continues to function in the rest of the country, the ministries and secretariats and committees are all on standby.
In short, whereas daily life is largely untouched, the strategic outlook for the country has suffered a considerable blow.
This is the exact opposite of what street politics is meant to do.
Crippling everyday life yields maximum political dividends and leaves no lasting damage, but harming the strategic outlook brings no political rewards and causes lasting damage to the economy.
This is why street politics usually targets the operation of daily life in the cities rather than fighting in the streets of the capital. In this case, however, the reverse has happened — we saw fighting in the streets of the capital while it was business as usual everywhere else.
It is disheartening to note that this confrontational strategy was used by the PTI, a party that drew ample support from professional and corporate circles — precisely those who are heavily invested in the strategic outlook — and a party that prided itself for its focus on the economy.
They should have reconsidered the decision to resort to street politics if they lacked the capacity to credibly wage the fight. Once the passions wane and the rallies disperse, perhaps the party leadership should reflect on the consequences of their actions.
There are some amongst them who were hailed as exemplars of professional excellence, and those people will now need to explain the merits of their decisions to a very sceptical audience.

Pakistan: Zardari intends to act as troubleshooter

With the political impasse entering third week, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has decided to stay in the federal capital and play a role for resolving the crisis created by the situation prevailing in Islamabad.
Sources in the PPP told Dawn that Mr Zardari, who returned from China on Monday, was due to arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday (today) from Karachi.
According to them, he will stay at his residence in F-8/2 sector where he plans to hold meetings with leaders of the PPP and other political parties in a bid to defuse tension, which has gripped the country in the wake of the indefinite sit-ins of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT).
Demanding resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over alleged rigging in the last year’s general elections and killing of 14 PAT activists in Lahore in June, PTI chief Imran Khan and PAT chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri have been leading protests in Islamabad since Aug 15.
Despite being part of the opposition, Mr Zardari’s PPP is supporting the PML-N government because, it says, it wants to save democracy.
According to the PPP co-chairman’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar, Mr Zardari called different political leaders on Tuesday after the joint sitting of parliament.
He discussed the Islamabad situation with Jamaat Islami chief Sirajul Haq, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party head Mehmood Khan Achakzai and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.
Mr Zardari also talked to PTI president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, who had earlier announced his resignation from the National Assembly in his speech during the joint session of parliament, alleging that Imran Khan had deviated from the original plan of PTI protest.
The PPP leader had met the prime minister at his Raiwind residence on August 23 and advised him to handle the crisis politically as democracy should not be derailed under any circumstances.
He had also met Sirajul Haq and PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervez Elahi the same day.