Saturday, September 6, 2014

Music: Ariana Grande - Problem ft. Iggy Azalea

Video Report: Scotland gears up for referendum

An independent Scotland would need to join international clubs like the EU, NATO and the UN if it wants to have any influence as a small state on the global stage, according to an expert at the University of Edinburgh.

Video: Yes is best for everyone who has made Scotland their home

Scottish independence: Yes camp hails 'momentum'

Supporters of Scottish independence claim they have the "big momentum" with less than two weeks to go before the referendum vote.
It comes as a Sunday Times poll suggests the Yes camp has taken the lead for the first time.
Some 51% of those who have made up their mind and intend to vote back an independent Scotland while 49% plan to vote no, the YouGov poll suggests. The Better Together campaign's Alistair Darling called it a "wake-up call".
The poll of 1,084 people, carried out between 2 and 5 September, is the first and only serious study to put the Yes campaign ahead, and suggests the pro-Union camp has lost its lead - once regularly in the double-digits.
On 18 September voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
The headline poll results exclude undecided voters or those who plan not to vote.
When they are included, 47% backed Yes while 45% said they would opt to stay in the UK.
"This breakthrough poll shows that Yes has the big momentum," Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, claiming that support for independence was growing particularly among Labour voters and women.
"Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world," the SNP deputy leader added.
"More and more people are beginning to realise that a Yes vote is Scotland's one opportunity to make that enormous wealth work better for everybody who lives here, create more jobs, and protect vital services such as the NHS from the damaging effects of Westminster privatisation."
'Speak out'
However, a separate poll for the Yes Scotland campaign put the pro-Union Better Together camp ahead by 52% to 48% - when undecided voters were excluded.
Pollsters Panelbase questioned voters between 2 and 6 September.
As both sides step-up their campaigns with just 11 days to go till the referendum, a Downing Street source said David Cameron would "strain every sinew" to make the case for the union.
The prime minister believes there is "only one poll that matters", the source said.
But Mr Darling said: "These polls can and must now serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thought the referendum result was a foregone conclusion - it never was.
"It will go down to the wire. Now is the time to speak up and speak out."
'No guards plan'
Meanwhile, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared to blame the Conservative Party for the closeness of the battle.
Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Brown suggested the Better Together camp was finding it "difficult" to win over Scots because of anger over coalition policies - including changes to housing benefit and tax cuts for the wealthy. But a senior source at the cross-party Better Together campaign denied there were any rifts and said they would not be changing strategy for the final days of campaigning.
Elsewhere, Labour leader Ed Miliband suggested in an interview with the Scottish Mail on Sunday that manned border guards could be introduced if Scotland voted to go independent.
He told the paper: "If you don't want borders, vote to stay in the United Kingdom."
A spokesman for Mr Miliband added: "The last time I looked there were two sides to the border - and we would be in charge of one of them. It would be up to us, not [First Minister Alex] Salmond, to secure our northern border."
The party later said on Twitter that there was "no Labour 'plan' for border guards in [an] independent Scotland".
The two sides will intensify their efforts this week, with senior Labour Party figures including John Prescott and Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones due to appear for Better Together.
For the pro-independence camp, a Yes Scotland television advert focusing on the NHS will be broadcast on Monday, and on Tuesday Mr Salmond will answer questions from undecided voters on Facebook.
The Yes campaign also plans to send out 675,000 letters from engineering tycoon Jim McColl, who recently stepped in to save Ferguson Shipbuilders on the Clyde, urging undecided voters to support independence. Mr Darling described the planned letter as "rank hypocrisy", arguing that Mr McColl was not based in Scotland.
He also criticised the nationalists over a Commons vote on controversial welfare reforms on Friday, from which four out of six SNP MPs were absent.
Better Together will also step up its leafleting and young voters will receive personally addressed letters. Labour MP Douglas Alexander said: "In the course of the coming days we will be joined by amongst others John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, and Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales.
"All young voters across Scotland will get a personally addressed letter this week from Better Together.

Obama delays acting on immigration until after November elections

U.S. President Barack Obama reversed course on Saturday and delayed taking executive action on immigration reform until after November congressional elections, bowing to concerns it could cost his fellow Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.
Obama had promised in a high-profile White House appearance in June to announce unilateral measures by the end of summer if Congress did not enact immigration reform legislation.
But Obama said the surge of nearly 63,000 children from Central America crossing the border to the United States in the past year had made Americans wary of new immigration measures.
"The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem," Obama said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" set to air on Sunday.
Obama said he plans to act later this year after making more of a public case for his actions, which are expected to remove the threat of deportation for some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
A White House official cited partisan politics as the main reason for the delay, saying taking action before the election would harm long-term prospects for reforming immigration laws.
"The reality the president has had to weigh is that we're in the midst of the political season," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Immigration reform advocates called the delay a betrayal and accused Obama of putting politics first.
"Today the president and the Senate Democrats have made it very clear that undocumented immigrants and Latinos are simply viewed as political pawns," said Eddie Carmona, campaign manager for the PICO immigration reform group.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who is in a tight midterm race himself, called the decision cynical. "He's just saying he'll go around the law once it's too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections," the Kentucky senator said in a statement.
Republicans, who already control the House of Representatives, have seized on immigration to attack vulnerable Democratic senators.
Republicans blamed the flood of migrant children coming across the border on Obama's 2012 decision to grant temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
They have called for rolling back that policy. Hispanic groups, on the other hand, have pressed the president to expand the 2012 policy to millions of family members of those children.
In New Hampshire, the issue has helped Republican Scott Brown erode the lead in opinion polls of Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, upending White House calculations that immigration would not play a major role in the elections.
Other Democratic candidates in tough Senate races asked the White House to delay. Republicans need six seats to gain control of the chamber - a win that would badly undermine Obama for the remainder of his second term.
Obama was circumspect about the timing of his announcement on executive action when asked about it a week ago during a news conference, and advocates could see the writing on the wall.
"But I think overall the feeling is going to be they've been sucker-punched, because the timetable for the end of the summer had been really clear," said Angela Kelley, an immigration policy expert at the Center for American Progress, a group that is close to the White House.
Advocacy group America's Voice expressed bitter disappointment and blamed Obama and Senate Democrats.
"We advocates didn't make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it," the group's executive director, Frank Sharry, said in a statement.
Among the reforms Obama is considering are granting work permits and temporary relief from deportation to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants. Obama said on Friday his plan would also include more enforcement against illegal immigration and steps to encourage legal immigration.
Obama and Democrats could be hurt if Latino voters, an important base of support, stay home and do not vote in close midterm races where every vote will count.
But the alternative would have hurt them more, said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
"What polls were indicating was, it would be unpopular," Yepsen said in an interview. "Politically, he's better off not doing it until after the election, and taking the flack for looking like he changed his mind."
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed 70 percent of Americans believe undocumented immigrants threaten the country's culture and economy. Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, where the president's decision could hurt him among the state's sizable Hispanic community, said he was disappointed Obama "delayed action to keep families together" but blamed the move on House Republicans who blocked comprehensive immigration reform.
Obama will need to rebuild confidence with immigrant communities, some advocates said, and the delay may put pressure on him to embrace bolder reforms after November.
Kevin Appleby, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said earlier in the week that if he delayed action: "The pressure on Obama to go big will be even higher. I would rather see him go big in November than small in September."

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Pakistan: Nisar-Aitzaz debacle: ‘Plan A, B, C and D failed’

Following Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s announcement of putting his personal grievances aside to preserve democracy in the country, PPP’s Senator Aitzaz Ahsan on Saturday said that “plan a, b, c, and d have failed.”
Speaking to a private TV channel, he said today’s press conference of Chaudhry Nisar was a good omen and expressed hope that his performance would improve from now on.
Ahsan said after reaching an understanding with the interior minister, “Plan D has also failed.”
Interior Minister Nisar, earlier today, not only vowed to resign from his post but also to leave politics for good if allegations hurled at him and his late brother in Parliament were proven to be true.
At the start of press conference, a disgruntled Nisar said that this would be shortest press conference of his career. He also requested reporters not to ask questions at the end of the press conference.
Aitzaz Ahsan said after reaching an understanding with the interior minister, “Plan D has also failed.”
Elaborating his point, he said three plans had already been failed. “Plan A had failed when protesters could not bring a million people on the street,” he said.
“Plan B was to bring a million people to D-Chowk, while plan C included an attack on Parliament building and PM House.”
“Plan B and C were failed by calling the joint session of Parliament,” he added.
The Opposition Leader in the Senate further said that to criticise wrongdoings of the government was his right and vowed to continue doing so whenever he deem necessary.

Pakistan: Dengue infects 25 people in Punjab

Dengue virus infects 7 more people in Punjab in 24 hours, EDO Health Sialkot suspended
Dengue fever has infected seven more in Punjab during the last 24 hours, taking the total to 25. Executive District Officer (EDO) Health Sialkot has been suspended over negligence. Number of dengue patients is continuously on the rise in Punjab as seven more Dengue patients were reported yesterday (Friday). Four belonged to Lahore while three cases were reported in Rawalpindi. The cumulative figure has now reached 25.
Punjab Health Department has suspended EDO Health Sialkot Dr Zia-ul-Hassan for negligence. According to the department, recent torrential rains could further aggravate the already worsening situation. Department affirmed that the government is trying its best to control dengue fever but insisted that citizens should play their part as well.

Bilawal Bhutto: Unity of democratic forces of utmost importance

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a message on micro blogging website twitter said: "At this time unity of democratic forces is of the utmost importance. We can revert other issues at a more appropriate time."
Bilawal tweeted this following Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s press conference in which he (Nisar) announced that for the sake of Pakistan and democracy he was forgiving and forgetting yesterday’s events in Parliament.
Nisar was referring to the speech made by Aitzaz Ahsan in which the PPP leader responded to allegations leveled against him by the interior minister.
On Thursday, Nisar had alleged that Aitzaz was a spokesman for the land mafia.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto pays rich tribute to martyred soldiers

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday paid rich tribute to soldiers who sacrificed their lives for defence of the country.
In a message posted on micro-blogging website, Bilawal said that the whole nation stands behind the personnel of armed forces. “To all the martyred soldiers (of) Zarb-e-Azb & other great battles we salute you for your sacrifices & the nation stands behind you,” he said on twitter.
His message came when the nation is observing 48th Defence Day on September 6 to commemorate the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces during 1956 war.

Pakistan: Surendar Valasai condemns killing of another Sikh trader in Peshawar
Surendar Valasai, Minority Affairs Advisor to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned the daylight killing of another Sikh trader in Peshawar within a month and criticized the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa led by PTI for its failure to rein in the killers.
Harjeet Singh, a grocery store owner in Peshawar was attacked and gunned down by two armed culprits today. Another Sikh trader was killed and two of his relatives injured in a similar terrorist attack a month back.
The PPP leader said that PTI and Imran Khan should focus on the killings of innocent and peaceful Sikh minority to disallow an impression that these incidents are going to create that his “Nay Pakistan” may be cleansed of minorities.
Surendar Valasai asked KPK Chief Minister to provide security to the tiny minority living in his province peacefully since centuries and arrest the culprits involved in these brutal killings.

Bilawal Bhutto perturbed by Sindh ministers

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has taken serious notice of the poor performance of and alleged corruption in different departments of the Sindh government.
A survey report released by a non-governmental organisation, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), that ranked governance of all the provinces of the country put the performance of the Sindh chief minister at the lowest. The report reads: “The performance of the Punjab government is regarded as the most effective among provincial governments by 65.73 percent of all respondents, followed by that of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 16.54 percent. Only 2.44 percent of all respondents regarded the Balochistan government’s performance as the best. Within the province itself, however, the number of respondents who view the provincial government’s performance as being the best is significantly higher at 15.38 percent.
Almost 50 percent of all respondents regard Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to have been the most effective chief executive in the past year, followed by Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak (15.36 percent) and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah (11.15 percent).” Authorities of the Sindh government have, however, termed this survey as fabricated and being politically motivated. The report drew the attention of PPP Chairman Bilawal, who constituted a secret body to investigate the matter and report back to him. The committee comprises of non-political experts.
In its findings the committee stated that the performance of several departments was not up to the mark. It was noticed that the state of affairs in Local Governments and Community Development (LG&CD), Communication and Works Department, Education and Health departments were the worst. Bilawal summoned Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and showed displeasure over the way things were being run under him. The PPP chairman was told that the city of Karachi has been swamped with signboards. Every road, wall and other visible places have been taken over by advertisements and slogans.
The committee said that this was the result of corruption, as the officials in the Ministry of Local Government are getting heavy bribes for allowing these billboards. It said that illegal hydrants are another source of corruption for the ministry’s officials, who are “earning” millions from it on a monthly basis. In the department of the Local Governments several appointments have been made by officials who took bribes. Malir Development Authority, Lyari Development Authority, Municipal Corporation Malir, Sehvan Development Authority, Hyderabad Development Authority and KMC are among the establishments where people have been recruited after payment of bribes.
On becoming aware of the situation Bilawal held individual meetings with the members of the Sindh Assembly who were elected on PPP tickets. He also met with party leaders and selected workers. The disclosures made by them were very alarming for the PPP chairman. The MPAs and party workers disclosed that in the Excise and Taxation Department, excise inspectors and assistant excise and taxation officers (AETO) have been recruited against bribes of more than Rs 5 million.
The PPP MPAs told Bilawal that of the development budget of Rs 146 billion only 20 percent was spent on ground while the rest went into the pockets of the ministers and officials. Special packages announced by the leadership for the districts of Khairpur, Larkana and Nawabshah were the worst causality at the hands of corrupt leaders and officials. Bilawal was told that the corrupt officials brought a bad name to the party in Thar by their malpractices.
A member of the assembly told the PPP chairman that the authorities have shifted an anti-venom vaccine laboratory from Tharparkar to Nawabshah despite the fact that it is monsoon season and the incidents of snakebite are on the rise in Tharparkar. The lawmaker said the laboratory is needed in Thar, not in Nawabshah. Bilawal has taken strong notice of the situation and constituted a monitoring committee that will scrutinise development works of the last five years and prepare a report to present to him. Stern action will be taken against the corrupt and those who have tarnished the image of the party among the masses. He said the party is a trust of Benazir Bhutto and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and would not be compromised. The ministers, he said, are to serve the public and not mint money.

Rare Earth: Afghanistan Sits on $1 Trillion in Minerals

Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sitting on one of the richest troves of minerals in the world, valued at nearly $1 trillion, scientists say.
Afghanistan, a country nearly the size of Texas, is loaded with minerals deposited by the violent collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. The U.S. Geological Survey began inspecting what mineral resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in the country in 2004.
In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan.
The aerial surveys determined that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan's Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements.
"Afghanistan is a country that is very, very rich in mineral resources," geologist Jack Medlin, program manager of the USGS Afghanistan project, told LiveScience. The scientists' work was detailed in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Science.
In 2010, the USGS data attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, which is entrusted with rebuilding Afghanistan. The task force valued Afghanistan's mineral resources at $908 billion, while the Afghan government's estimate is $3 trillion. [Gold Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Gold Mining?]
Over the past four years, USGS and TFBSO have embarked on dozens of excursions to confirm the aerial findings, resulting in what are essentially treasure maps for mining companies.
The Afghan government has already signed a 30-year, $3 billion contract with the China Metallurgical Group, a state-owned mining enterprise based in Beijing, to exploit the Mes Aynak copper deposit, and awarded mining rights for the country's biggest iron deposit to a group of Indian state-run and private companies.

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Pakistan: PPP terms Nisar’s allegation ‘baseless’
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab Secretary General Tanvir Ashraf Kaira has expressed abhorrence over what he called “baseless” allegations of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan against veteran PPP leader Chaudhry Atizaz Ahsan.
In a statement on Friday, Kaira said that Senator Atizaz Ahsan is a top legal mind of the country who has rendered invaluable services for the cause constitution, independence of judiciary and democracy throughout his life.
Reacting to the interior minister’s allegations, Kaira said that one could not understand motives of the interior minister for “indecent” politics at a time when PML-N was struggling for its survival and the PPP was extending qualitative support to save the system that would ensure the incumbent government to continue as a consequence.
He said that National Assembly Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah and Senate Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan advised the prime minister to call the joint session of the parliament that would get the winds out of the sail of protesting parties that had almost monopolised the TV screens with devastating pressure on the system and especially on the government. The PPP leader said that the opposition’s support to the constitution and democracy expressed in the parliament had provided the much-needed stability and confidence to the shaky government to stand on firm feet. He said that some elements of the ruling party apparently were determined to rock the boat that clearly suggested that they were driven by their sheer short-sightedness as their activities were hurting the government than helping it. Kaira maintained that the need of the hour was that the mandarins should be gearing up pro-actively to mobilise the support from whatever source in favour of the government instead of being engaged in throwing spanner in the works, may be by default.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Oil Shop’s Shia Owner Martyred In Takfiri Terrorist Attack In Karachi
Shia owner of an oil shop in Karachi embraced martyrdom due to Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorist attack on Friday. Notorious terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ) and outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi fled the scene without facing any action from the police and rangers.
Syed Mohsin Raza son of Liaquat Hussain was sitting at his oil shop at Yousuf Plaza Water Pump Federal B Area Block 16 when takfiri nasbi terrorists of banned takfiri outfits opened fire upon him. He was martyred on the spot. He was 50.
Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of another Shia trader in Karachi. They demanded immediate arrest of the terrorist and public hanging of takfiri nasbi terrorists forthwith.

How Christian and Hindu women are forced to convert and marry Muslim men in Pakistan?

Recently this year, the report spread in media that around 1,000 Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan are forcibly converted to Islam and married Muslim men every year.
On September 1, 2014, two cases came in the eye of Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Human Rights Defender and Chief of LEAD in which Christian women converted to Islam and got married with Muslim men with their free consent. One woman is educated and other one is illiterate and also she is already married and has five Children including one of feeding child.
Mr. Gill contacted with some Muslim clerics and inquired from them how they see such marriages and conversion to Islam. They frankly told that such marriages are illegal and conversion will be considered as forced conversion. They issued a decree (Fatwa) regarding this issue.
One case ,we at LEAD dealt legally and gave legal assistance to the Christian Husband. His wife eloped with one Muslim man and got married after declaring that she converted to Islam. She has five children including one suckling child to whom she got along with her. The case reached in Court and she recorded her statement in the favor of Muslim Husband and we also came to know that her parents also converted to Islam. The husband told to Mr. Gill that he was terrified and threatened by some Muslim clerics that he would not file any criminal case against her wife and Muslim man because now she had accepted Islam and got married and no more his wife.
The second case was about one Christian woman namely Sairish who got married with one Muslim man in 2009 by forcing her to accept Islam on this condition that she could perform all her religious obligations according to Christian faith and values, but after marriage she continued to perform her Christian activities and prayers due to which their marriage was dissolved to end the routine dispute and Muslim man divorced her. She has one daughter from this wedlock. Now the dispute shifted from marriage towards their daughter.
She came and met with Mr. Gill and requested for legal assistance and protection from her ex-Muslim husband. She told that she was threatened by her Ex-husband if she would file the case in court for the custody of her daughter. He will kill her and also kill her brother in law (husband of her sister) because now she is living with him in his home. She also told that she was being threatened and harassed by phone and sms. Her brother in law told that her wife was also being harassed and intimidated by cell phone sms from some unknown numbers.
On September 1, 2014, she petitioned in court to restrain her Ex-husband to harass her and her family members and she also demanded for life security because she was threatened to be killed if she would attend Church and marry with any Christian man. She was warned and threatened that she was Muslim and if she would retreat to Christian religion. She will commit apostasy and punishment of apostate in Islam is death.
"Now I am in a fix and no way where to go", told. She further added that she bought death with her own act and now lost her religious freedom.
LEAD has started to raise awareness on this issue and it will host and arrange some events on this issue to make aware the Christian women in Pakistan regarding the problems and difficulties which after such marriages they have to face. We are in search of international partners who will raise the issue of forced conversion and religious liberty with us.

Pakistan: Two Christian Women Kidnapped And Forcibly Married To Muslim Men

Two Christian women abducted and forcibly married to Muslim men.
According to FIDES, one of the two victims attended school; the other is illiterate of humble social background. In another similar case, a Christian girl who was forced to marry a Muslim few years back managed to escape and reach her home. According to her she never abandoned the faith and continued to pray to Jesus Christ even after her marriage.
A Pakistani Christian lawyer who advocates for Human Rights says, “These cases are difficult. I asked a few Muslim preachers their opinion on forced marriages. They affirmed with conviction that acts of forced conversion and forced marriage are illicit and illegal, not only according to civil law but also according to Islamic law”.
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15 Christians arrested in Pakistan under blasphemy law

Pakistani police have arrested 15 Christians and booked 45 other members of the minority community under the controversial blasphemy law for allegedly desecrating Muslim graves in a village in Punjab province, sparking tension in the area.
The case was registered after a local cleric filed a complaint alleging that the Christians had desecrated over 400 Muslim graves to occupy the land in Chak village in Faisalabad, about 150 kilometres from Lahore.
Condemning the registration of case, a rights group alleged that "fake" blasphemy case was filed against them on the pressure of the cleric and Muslims as they did not want the land allocated to Christians.
"In fact there was not a single grave existed in the land allocated to the Christians by the local administration for their graveyard," Human Liberation Commission Pakistan Chairman Aslam Sahotra said.
He demanded Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to look into the matter.
Muridwala station house officer Usman Lashari said the land allocated to Christians was said to have "an old Muslim graveyard".
He said police had registered the case on the complaint of the cleric that the Christians had desecrated Muslim graves to occupy the land.
"We are investigating whether the land in question has traces of graves of Muslims or not. If no traces of Muslim graves are found we will strike off the blasphemy clause in the FIR," he said.
The registration of case has sparked tensions between Muslim and Christian communities in the village and additional force has been deployed in the area to avert any untoward incident.
Rights groups say the blasphemy law is often used to persecute minorities like Christians and to settle personal scores.

Balochistan: BNP protested against killing of Zikris and journalists

Activists of Balochistan National Party (BNP) protested against the target killings of Zikri community, journalists and military operations in Turbat, outside Quetta Press club on Wednesday.
BNP activists in huge numbers chanted slogans against provincial government and security forces for their alleged involvement in attacks on Zikri community and journalist Irshad Mastoi. The protestors were carrying placards and banners which lamented the failure of government to bring an end to target killings in Balochistan. Talking to media personnel outside Quetta Press club, Agha Hassan Baloch the spokesman of BNP, said that “Unarmed and innocent Zikri people are being victimized by state-backed armed groups. This should stop.” He also criticized the failure of provincial government in providing security to journalists who are being killed inside their office in center of Quetta city. Journalists have also protested against killing of their colleagues last week. The protests of journalists and political parties like BNP have fallen on deaf ears so far.
Published in The Balochistan Point on 4th September, 2014.

Political Islam in Pakistan

by Lal Khan
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist counter-revolution in China, an immense political vacuum opened up in ideology and politics on a world scale. In these conditions there was the resurgence of political Islam and religious fundamentalism.
The sectarian conflicts of the warring religious sects, from Islam to Judaism, Hindu chauvinism and Christianity, have raised their ugly heads, leading to terrible bloodshed, cruelty and slaughter, mostly in the former colonial countries, and particularly in the Arab and Muslim societies. From the black reaction of ISIL in the old Levant to the ferociously bestial Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, these Frankenstein’s monsters created by imperialism in the past have wreaked havoc and are raising the spectre of barbarism in several areas. These very imperialist bosses are now howling through their reactionary media about the menace they themselves have nurtured.
The recent architect of the reactionary theory of the “Clash of the Civilisations” was the notorious “butcher of Vietnam”, Samuel P. Huntington, the CIA’s foremost theoretician in the 1990s. This theory was designed to foment religious conflicts in societies both East and West, in order to cut across the impending waves of class struggle. Although the reactionary role of religious fundamentalism is not a new phenomenon, its character dramatically changed with the rise of capitalism and imperialism. The social relations and the class antagonisms that arose from the capitalist mode of production, and the uneven and combined patterns of socio-economic development in the colonised countries, exacerbated religious prejudices, which rose to the fore in periods of reaction.
Although most forms of these religious fundamentalisms have ancient roots, they are at the same time modern, and also a response to this modernity. For example, Christian fundamentalism was rooted in the rejection of American and British Protestants of the perceived theological liberalism and cultural modernity of the late 19th Century and early 20th Centuries. Although the players and locales were different, the same basic tendencies can be seen in the rise of Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and other form of religious fundamentalism. They represent a reactionary and illusory desire to return to a fictitious utopia, the conservatism of those who cannot tolerate any threats to their vested interests and power. The leaders of these movements cynically manipulate the prejudices and superstitions of the backward and ignorant, while eagerly partaking of the very “sins” and “vices” they rail against from the pulpit or the minaret.
In Pakistan, sixty-seven years after its inception, there is still a raging debate about the ideological basis of its creation. The liberals claim that Jinnah was secular, while large sections of the state and the clergy insist that Pakistan is a theocratic state. In fact, both views can be attributed to Jinnah’s speeches on different occasions. He vowed to create both a secular and theistic state depending on the background of the audience that he was addressing at any particular time. However, at the present time, most forms of Islamic tendencies in Pakistan are traditional and conservative, and far too diverse to submit themselves to a monolithic version of Islam. There is an absurd notion being flaunted by the liberal media and intelligentsia in Pakistan and elsewhere, especially in the west, that there should be a differentiation between the ‘moderate’ fundamentalists and the ‘extremist’ ones. The experience of the last few decades has shown that extremists can become moderate and vice-versa in no time, depending on the change in financial interests, strategic contingencies and demands of the bosses, mentors and sponsors. It is also the case with the pathetic Ghandist strategy of ‘interfaith dialogue’ to quell the terrorist threat from the fundamentalists. It has proved to be an abject failure but has infact developed as a profitable enterprise in the NGO sector.
The exaggerated coverage and pampering of the Islamic political parties in Pakistan is also an effort of the ruling class to play the primitive sections of the population against the advanced layers to perpetuate the coercive and despotic rule of a rotting capitalism. The boisterous stagnation and conflagration in society in turn is the outcome of the convoluted and strangled development of Pakistani capitalism, where the ruling classes entered the arena historically belated and economically in dearth.
The picture of this uneven and combined nature of development is evident in Pakistan’s urban landscape. Pakistan remains in many ways a rural society, where even the rapidly expanding cities are still mostly rural in culture, owing to the constant flow of migrants from the countryside, and the failure of the Pakistani bourgeoisie to create an advanced industrial state and a modern society that could absorb and develop this influx. Most varieties of Islamic fundamentalism prevalent today are mainly an urban or suburban phenomenon. The rural masses can be occasionally stirred up to religious panic but for centuries these regions had secular cultural traditions. Only the advent of massive cash inflows in the form of black money and the distorted capitalist intrusion resulted in a fictitious modernisation. It destroyed the relatively harmonious life and ancient rich cultures in the countryside. However, instead of harnessing and beautifying nature they have disfigured the rural landscape with disastrous environmental and social consequences.
There has also been a transformation in the various Islamic schools of thought with this imposition of fractured capitalist relations. Theologically, most of the Sunni Islamic tendencies, from the parties of political Islam like the JUI to Jamaat a Islami and the fundamentalist Taliban and other outfits, come mainly from the following Sunni traditions: The Deobandi, Ahle-e- Hadith and the Barelvis. The Shia tendencies that have sprouted in the South Asian subcontinent are mainly of Persian origins. But there are also several Shia sub-sects and cults from the Ismailia to the Alawites, as well as certain caste divisions like the Sayyids and the Musielis. However, there is a much greater mutual tolerance and harmony between the Shia sects as compared to the lately exacerbated belligerence and violence amongst the Sunni sects. According to the Muslim traditions, the decline of Islam would become symptomatic with the emergence of 72 sects.
The famous madrassa founded in Deoband (now in U.P. India) in 1866 is the base of the Deobandi inception. The Ahle-e-Hadith was a branch of the international Salafi tradition, heavily influenced by the orthodox revivalist movement, Wahabism, founded by Mohammad Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) in Nejd in the Arabian Peninsula. The present bosses with particularly close links to the brutal Saudi Arabian monarchy carrying out heinous despotism in accordance with the injunctions of this puritanical version of Islam dating back to the origins of this tradition in the sixteenth century. But until recently a majority of the Sunnis in Pakistan, in so far they were aware of belonging to any political tradition in Islam, belonged to the tendency of the Barelvis, named after a madrassa founded in 1880 in the town of Bareilly – also now in U.P. India.
Until the late 1970s, religious sectarian prejudices were so irrelevant that most people didn’t know to which particular sect they belonged. Shias and Sunnis intermarried and there was never any social stigma involved. However, after the draconian Zia dictatorship, which was a harrowing counter-revolution, the movement of the working masses was thrown back and reaction began to dominate society. The reactionary despot needed the Mullahs to perpetuate his atrocious rule by manipulating primitive sections of society, especially the petit bourgeois, with religious bigotry, sectarian hatreds and chauvinism. Meanwhile the Mullahs, who never had a widespread mass base, used this ferocious dictatorship not only to get patronage from the state but to indulge in amassing huge wealth and setting up their seminaries and apparatuses to incarcerate society. With the betrayal of the masses by the traditional left and populist leaderships the apathy and alienation of the masses worsened. The wily Zia not only used political Islam to secure his rule, but also stirred up Islamic sectarian hatreds to further divide and atomise the worker and peasant classes. Politically, he tried to revamp the traditional party of the Pakistan ruling classes, the Muslim League, with Islamic overtones. The various Muslim Leagues (N, Q, Z, A, etc.) are the political foster children of Zia’s brutal legacy.
The masses continued to suffer even after the fall of Zia with the introduction of a pathetic cycle of bourgeois democratic regimes. The second PPP government of Benazir Bhutto went as far as to assign as her Home Minister the retired general Naseerullah Babar to organise, arm and train the Taliban to build them into a military force that could capture Kabul. Such was the secular characteristic of this woman prime minister, that she had rejected and dumped her father’s and the PPP’s socialist legacy in the name of democracy and secularism. The Taliban under Mullah Omer created the Islamic emirate and let loose all hell on the oppressed, particularly the women in Afghanistan. The Taliban word means students and they study this religious fundamentalist education at Deobandi Madrassas of different factions of the JUI. Now Abu Bakar Baghdadi and the ISIL are trying to emulate that Afghan Islamic emirate to create this monstrous Islamic State. In both cases, at least initially, the US and the European imperialists were the main supporters and financers of these bestial Islamic bigots.
The main Islamic parties that represent these sectarian traditions are the JUI, representing the Deobandi School, the Jamaat a Islami, mainly a manifestation of the Ahle-e Hadith, and the JUP, previously, and Qadri’s PAT which has been trying to besiege the state buildings in Islamabad with its long marches and sit-ins, the modern reformist version of the Barelvi sect. Its character is not less reactionary than that of the other sects. All these parties, and many other rising Islamic political outfits, have extensively used social work and rescue operations in natural disasters to expand their social base. The Jamaat ul Dawa deeply linked to Pakistan’s autonomous state spy agency, the ISI, formerly the Lashkar a Tayyaba that is accused of the 2008 Bombay terrorism and carnage, excels the most. It’s a practise carried out by most religious organisations be they Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim. But with the suffering intensifying, the masses are bewildered and desperate to find a way out of this orgy of capitalist drudgery and repression. In these depressing economic, social and cultural circumstances, adherence to an Islamic network is perceived to provide a sense of security amongst the most poor and alienated sections, including the urban and rural lumpen elements. Poverty is recast as religious simplicity and austerity, amid continuous humiliations and temptations.
In spite of their utopian dreams of an Islamic welfare state, all these parties, fundamentalist terrorist groups and sects prescribe to capitalism no matter how many denials they may construe. In that respect, their conflict with imperialism is temporary and superficial. Until the late 1980s they were in the forefront of the dollar Jihad and the repression of the left instigated by imperialism. Political Islam is only in the arena with the support of sections of the state in this rapidly eroding epoch of mild reaction. Once the mass movement erupts, the class struggle will bring to the fore the real material divide of wealth and resources between the ruling and the working classes. Only the victory of a proletarian revolution can put an end to this excruciating deprivation and alienation. This would be the beginning of the end of political Islam in Pakistan, and religion will become a private matter of the individual, without any external pressure, social dictates, interference or force to adopt any particular sect or religion. A socialist revolutionary victory is the only guarantee to defy and avert the looming threat of a savage barbarism that poses a harrowing danger to the existence of human civilisation in Pakistan.

An influential militant faction of the Pakistani Taliban had said that it will abandon insurgent activity inside the country and redirect its energies toward Afghanistan.
The announcement by the Punjabi Taliban indicates further fragmentation in the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), which suffered a setback Thursday when a new bloc declared its split from the group’s official leadership.
“We will confine our practical jihadist role to Afghanistan in view of deteriorating situation in the region and internal situation of Pakistani jihadist movement,” Punjabi Taliban chief Asmatullah Muaweya said in a pamphlet faxed to the media, without clarifying further.
The faction is active in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province and the political power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party.
Muaweya said the faction would operate in Afghanistan under the guidance of Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban, while its activities in Pakistan will be confined to preaching Islam.
“The announcement is a major setback for the TTP as it shows fragmentation is continuing and the organization is fracturing,” said defense and security analyst Talat Masood. “The groups within TTP have not accepted Maulana Fazlullah, which has caused a serious split in the organization.”
Maulana Fazlullah was elected head of the TTP last November following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. A new bloc, named the Jamaat ul Ahrar, announced its split from the group Thursday and named Omar Khalid Khorasani as its commander.

Pakistan: The consciousness of necessity

by Lal Khan
In all the excruciating din about “changing the system”, none of the politicos of the present political setup – each representing different sections of finance capital – even mentions the name of the socioeconomic system that dominates and is ravaging this tragic land – capitalism!
During the present ongoing pathetic political mayhem that has been prolonged for almost three weeks, the masses are sickened and bewildered by the ranting of the politicians and the media houses, all representatives of capital, both white and black. One of the shrewdest prime ministers of Britain in the last century, Harold Wilson, once said, “A week is a very long time in politics.” In Pakistan’s rapidly unravelling social and economic crisis, it is an even longer period of time, particularly during this political conflagration, which has been a farce from beginning to end.
The first question that arises is the following: what are the real reasons for all this political wrangling? All this berating is about nothing more than the lust for perks and power in this political superstructure that is engineered to run this rotten socio-economic system, which has failed to deliver on even a fraction of its promises. As there is no reference to the name of the system that is at the root of all this mayhem and the catastrophic conditions that have besieged this society, neither can the disease be diagnosed, nor can there be any prognosis developed and solution applied. Some rotten compromise may eventually be reached but nothing will change for the masses.
The right-wing bourgeois regime of Sharif is talking about “saving democracy”, when in fact they are the by-products of the most vicious Zia dictatorship, which devastated Pakistani society more than any other regime in its history. When the conspiracy theories of his deposition by the army proved to be a hoax, the other religious and liberal secular parties switched their support to this reactionary regime in the garb of defending parliament, the constitution and, of course, “sacred democracy”, in their blatant opportunism for a greater stake in the plunder.
The MQM has yet again thrown its spanner into the works, by threatening to withdraw its members from parliament at a crucial juncture to enhance its power and protect its extortionate, amassed wealth and arms built up through corruption. The fissures within the military high command, the support of certain sections for Imran’s PTI and Qadri’s PAT and their vague hesitancy were too obvious and exposed to conceal.
The motives of Imran Khan and Tahir Qadri are not much different from those on the other side of this farcical divide within the political elite. Imran’s main demands started with recounts in four constituencies, and then when a fickle and a weak regime retreated and exposed its vulnerabilities, he started to raise the ante, going as far as demanding the resignation of the prime minister. His support base is mainly from the upper middle classes and of course loads of cash has been pumped in to hire the crowds.
Qadri proclaims his intention to revamp the whole system, but despite his flaunting as a super genius, author of more than a thousand books, he hardly understands the basis of the socio-economic system, and has failed to even vaguely explain what he wants to replace it with. His rhetoric over the problems sickens the people who are actually suffering these miseries. His marchers are mainly employees of his Madrassa networks being paid hefty bonuses above their salaries for bringing their families along. Other massive expenditure in organising and building the apparatus for these marches and sit-ins has been exorbitant. The financial backers of these two “revolutionaries” are no longer hidden from the sights of the ordinary people.
Imran Khan’s demand for a mid-term election and a total revamping of the election commission would make no fundamental change in the results as it would be finance capital, the interests of the establishment and strategic preferences of the imperialist bosses that would actually decide the outcome. In an economy that is more than two thirds informal, or black, the winners are obvious: crony capitalists, land grabbers, extortionists, drug smugglers, thugs, crooks and terrorists whose entrepreneurial ventures have expanded into resolving property disputes and kidnapping ransoms that dominate most parties, including the PTI.
Imran has now raised his stakes to such heights that his retreat without Sharif’s resignation would be a shattering blow for the PTI, smashing it to smithereens. This bubble will burst even sooner than expected. The first major split has already transpired. Qadri’s role as a Saint of a religious Barelvi sect will also lose a lot of disciples.
However, this does not mean that the Sharif regime will have an easy ride thereafter. He has been cut to size by the military and this has been a big blow to his mandate with his so called popular support laid bare. With a crumbling economy, civil wars and insurgencies plaguing the country, the severe social unrest will continue. His arrogance and a more repressive stance would only end up as a provocation for the masses at large, which are seething with revolt underneath the gimmickry of these conflicts and the impotent rage of the politicians and institutions of a state trying to perpetuate a system that is historically obsolete and economically redundant. The papering over of these cracks in the state and system with the fake glue of this democratic facade won’t last very long. The PML (N) regime is unlikely to last out its full term in power. More crises and conflicts that can tear apart the whole set-up impend as stormy events loom on the horizon.
The PPP’s losing candidates, especially in the Punjab, were eager for a mid-term election, come what may. They were exited at the prospect of these marches overthrowing the incumbent regime. But the serious sections of the ruling elite and the state were aware of the fragile nature of affairs. Hence they have till now resisted the urge to change the political set-up. The top PPP leaders, however, prevailed upon their selected leaders and candidates to surrender before the status quo and disgracefully supported Sharif in the garb of protecting democracy. Their reprehensible opportunism was to preserve their provincial government in Sindh, from which they draw lucrative perks, power and opportunities for massive corruption. However, how will that PPP survive politically when it is abolishing the fundamental contradiction, the semi-religious Pakistani bourgeois traditional party, the PML (N), especially in Punjab, on which they based their usual hypocritical rhetoric to remain politically relevant? The perspective of the collapse of the PPP as the traditional party of the masses cannot be ruled out any longer in the turbulent times ahead.
It has been far too long since the masses rose in the form of a mass movement from below. The last time this happened on a sub-threshold level was on 18th October 2007, when Benazir Bhutto landed in Karachi from self-imposed exile. That was easily diverted and dispersed with the assassination of Benazir and the subsequent betrayal of the dynastic leadership. However, this rowdy stagnation and the political indifference of the “uncivil society” – the toiling masses – cannot last for long. In their subconscious they are accumulating the experience of being subjected to this calculated democratic deception and the leaders they were forced to rely upon now stand utterly exposed. This subconscious awareness of the masses, when it becomes transformed into a collective consciousness, will burst forward and the psychological and social obstacles will be smashed. A socioeconomic transformation is not a privilege of the oppressed working classes; it is their burning necessity.
Karl Marx once wrote. “Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity”. The working classes have endured the brutalities of military rule and for the last so many years they have been coarsened by this moneyed democracy and this odious parliamentary circus that has only subjected them to an economic onslaught to fill the coffers of the bourgeois bosses and imperialist corporations. There is no party or leadership at the helm of society that has any programme or intention of salvaging the plight of the deprived toilers and the poor. There cannot be one. Revolutionary parties only emerge on the political horizon and attain a mass social basis in revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations. In these times of mild reaction and social stagnation, the revolutionaries must, in Lenin’s words, “patiently explain”, and build the organizational infrastructure to prepare for the upheavals that can erupt sooner rather than later. If that job is done with energy and élan, then the next mass revolt, when it explodes, can be guaranteed a revolutionary victory. That is the verdict of history.

Pakistan: Ugly aftermath of sit-ins

The first thing first: there is no threat to the democratic process in the country from the armed forces. That the motive behind the ongoing joint session of parliament is to showcase unity of the people's representatives across the national divide against such a phantasmal threat is an argument that lacks plausible much logic. It's on record that the forces' high command has exhibited extreme patience and helped the civil rulers in confronting serious challenges by conducting it through heavy waters of poor governance; yet the underlying tone of most of the high-decibel oratory in joint sittings was that the sit-ins at the D-Chowk are part of a 'plan' to wrap up the democratic system. The hard fact is that the sit-inners have challenged the government headed by Nawaz Sharif that enjoys a comfortable majority in the parliament, and is fully empowered to handle it. Perhaps, it is the common fear of being wrapped up, based on our history that has generated the commitment of unity.
If protesters' demands had to be discussed and met outside the precincts of parliament then what was the need of a joint session of parliament, which has proved to be nothing more than a platform for lung-bursting speeches and a washing board for dirty linen. There are skeletons in all the cupboards; what Aitzaz Ahsan said about interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali could have been avoided had Nisar tendered an apology after the prime minister had apologised on the floor of the parliament. Good or bad, the joint session has done its duty; there is no danger to the government or the system.
The joint session may not have resolved the impasse and achieved something concrete but the sit-inners outside the parliament have. They have foment sufficient anarchy to force deferment of Chinese President Xi Jinping's first-ever visit to Pakistan. Not that none other wanted this crucial visit to be deferred; some wished overtly and quite a few others covertly. How much New Delhi must be elated the India's premier daily The Economic Times has to say: "This would be music to India's ears which had long opposed clubbing of visits to India and Pakistan every time a Chinese President or Prime Minister came to the subcontinent". However, Beijing didn't think so, President Xi was to visit Pakistan first and then go to Sri Lanka and India. The Chinese hold Pakistan in high esteem, to them Pakistan is their 'first love'; it was Pakistan that opened the door on the wider world for China by arranging its first government-to-government contact with the United States. Does the sit-inners leadership wants to test the strength of Pak-China friendship? "The force of the wind tests the strength of the grass, and a person's heart," said the then defence minister of China General Chi Haotian on his arrival in Pakistan on February 19, 1999. Together the two countries have crossed many bridges; China is Pakistan's most important strategic partner and President Xi's visit has the desired potential to take this partnership to new heights. At these trying times for Pakistan, China is ready to invest 34 billion dollars in a range of projects including power plants, rail-road networks, Karachi-Lahore Motorway and, Sinkiang-Gwadar economic corridor. There is not much in evidence to suggest that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have appreciation of the damage that they have caused to national interest by creating a situation that President Xi had to put off his visit. Unless and until they offer a plausible explanation why their sit-ins have preference over the Chinese visit they would have to live with the blame of subverting the national interest. As if the cancellation of state visits by the Sri Lankan and Maldives presidents was not enough for a diplomatic setback to Pakistan's image, the latest cancellation is simply profound.

Pakistan: A province flooded

Looking at the pictures of inundated streets, flooded roads and overflowing drains, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is the first time monsoon rains have unleashed themselves on the province of Punjab. But that would be fooling no one but ourselves. The whole country deals with monsoon rains every year, sometimes in buckets and sometimes in spades. This year, the rainy season has arrived late, but now it has come with a vengeance. The fact that the provincial government and our disaster management agencies have been caught with their pants down once again is not just embarrassing, it is costing lives. So far, the death toll has reached more than 80. The causes of death include roof collapses, landslides and electrocution. All of these fatalities can be attributed to negligence and an extreme lack of preparedness to tackle a problem that afflicts us each year. Lahore is hardly recognisable: knee high water, homes flooded with rain and gutter filth and vehicles stranded in deep pools. Work, commute, daily activities have all come to a halt because the administration and the disaster management authorities have been lazing about all year refusing to prepare for what we all knew was likely to come. Weather reports state that the downpour will continue for the next few days, perhaps even intensifying in nature. This spells catastrophe for a majority of the people living in shanty homes and the presence of poor quality infrastructure will ensure that more tragic deaths follow.
In low-lying areas such as our main cities in Punjab, the monsoon rains are particularly harsh. The poor, ancient drainage system cannot handle the deluge and overflows within minutes, resulting in filthy standing water. No one has bothered to fix or replace this faulty system over the years and, to add insult to injury, no one has even tried to extend any measures to limit the damage by improving the quality of construction in poorer areas of the cities. Every year people with limited resources suffer the rains while those more fortunate celebrate the onset of the monsoon. However, not many are celebrating this year as even Azad Kashmir is registering record highs in rainfall and is facing landslides. Some 80 villages near Sialkot have been evacuated due to flash flood warnings. Reports suggest that as much as 0.9 million cusecs of water have entered Pakistan through the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued flood warnings and that is all. The Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA) stands helpless in oceans of deluge, not knowing where to even begin any relief efforts. It is of little surprise then that the army has been called in to help relocate evacuated families (once again).
The flash floods of 2010 submerged one fifth of the country in water and displaced millions of people. We still have internally displaced persons (IDPs) from that catastrophe languishing without shelter and rehabilitation. Subsequent floods and monsoon rains have added to the IDP count and infrastructure damage with nothing done to lessen the hardships of the masses. This is the pathetic state of a country that should be well equipped by now to deal with the calamity of expected rainfall but our only form of management seems to be to mutely move from one disaster to the next, praying that the worst will soon be over. Concrete steps need to be taken to improve construction, the state of how people live, the drainage and sanitation and an early warning system designed to alert the public to impending disasters. We may not be able to entirely alleviate the impact of Mother Nature, but we can at least try to lessen the tragedy and destruction as much as humanly possible.

Siege of Islamabad: what next?

THOUSANDS of fanatical followers, led by the cleric-cricketer combination of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, hold Islamabad hostage. A year ago such a possibility seemed remote. What of the future? In the years ahead, this pair may become irrelevant.
But with the dangerous precedent they have established, hard-line clerics disaffected with the army’s betrayal, and operations such as Zarb-i-Azb, may give the call to occupy. The marching orders could also come from Caliph Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS or some other radical leader; their literature is already being circulated around. Thereafter, from the hundreds of madressahs in and around the city, charged mobs armed to the teeth will pour out to fulfil their holy duty. Nuclear Pakistan would have the world sitting on edge.
Speculation? Perhaps, but not without cause. Islamabad’s vulnerability now stands twice exposed. The first time was in 2007 when the Lal Masjid clerics went on a rampage, declared rebellion against the state, and imposed their brand of Sharia on Islamabad. It took the lives of a dozen Pakistan Army commandos to defeat them. Hundreds, including children, died. More significantly, it began a new era of suicide attacks on marketplaces, public squares, police stations, and army installations. Since the time, around 30,000 lives have been lost.
Back to the present: the Khan-Qadri duo has brought a new level of instability to Pakistan. Hapless citizens, glued to their television sets, watched Pakistan’s heavily fortified capital fall to protesters. Privately hired cranes tossed aside concrete barriers and shipping containers, while razor wire was cut through by professionals. A demoralised police was initially too afraid to follow attack orders.
From the shadows, the Pakistan Army — an institution known all too well to the Baloch and Bengalis — has, with uncharacteristic calm, watched Pakistan’s state institutions taken over by violent thugs. But rather than restore law and order, it chose to confer legitimacy on the insurgents by advocating negotiations. The brief takeover of Pakistan Television by PAT/PTI agitators did not result in any subsequent punitive action; the occupiers left shouting “Pak fauj zindabad”.
What’s the game plan here? Cricketer Khan’s is clear enough: create enough chaos so that the elected government can be forcibly overthrown. Subsequently, it will not be difficult to find a pliant Supreme Court judge who would favour mid-term elections. Then, perhaps with a little reverse rigging, he would be hurled towards what he sees as his rightful destiny — becoming the prime minister of Pakistan. The goals of the mercurial Holy Man from Canada are less clear; keeping the pot vigorously stirred is all that we’ve seen so far.
Now for the good news: the people of Pakistan wisely refuse to support this violent destruction of government. Popular opinion today roots for stability and calm. In an unprecedented display of unity, the PML-N and PPP, Pakistan’s two largest political parties, announced they are on the same page. You know a national consensus has emerged when the right-wing JUI party of Maulana Fazlur Rahman and the Jamaat-i-Islami share the same bottom line as the left-wing Awami Workers Party and Women’s Action Forum.
Of course, the consensus goes no further. Justifiably, there is criticism of Nawaz Sharif’s naked nepotism and the appointment of his family members to important posts. Justifiably, people dislike the Sharif brothers’ style of personalised governance. And, justifiably, there is a call for electoral reform, as well as to protest last year’s partially rigged elections.
On rigging: haven’t these allegations been vastly amplified by the losers? When did Pakistan last see fully free and fair elections? International, and most domestic, observers saw nothing extraordinary. Nor did I, while standing in line to vote. Moreover, the outcome was consistent with pre-election polls. But this clearly did not flatter the cricketer’s super-sized ego. He had hoped for more than just a KP government. Now, through means fair or foul, he wishes to capitalise upon the army’s distaste for Nawaz Sharif and refuses to take his chances at the ballot box four years away.
It shall be a grim day for Pakistan should Cricketer Khan become Prime Minister Khan. Khan had openly supported the Taliban even under the brutal occupation of Swat in 2009, and refused to condemn them when they shot 14-year old Malala Yousafzai in the head for wanting to go to school. Khan went into a frenzied fit after the killing of TTP supremo Hakeemullah Mehsud by a US drone, making it clear that he would rather shoot at drones than terrorists. Whether out of a serious perceptual disorder or political ambition or to atone for his playboy past, year after year he has sided with those who have been blowing up our children’s schools, killing Pakistan’s citizens, police, and soldiers. This is why the Taliban wanted him as one of their representatives in the failed peace talks, and why he carries the nickname of Taliban Khan.
Pakistan’s two wannabe messiahs promise a new Pakistan, and their gullible followers have swallowed it. Protesters interviewed on TV channels speak of a Naya Pakistan where electricity is free and plentiful, and where all have jobs of choice. They do not ask how. In actual fact, governance in KP is no better after the PTI’s year-long stint in power.
Worse yet, Khan has had nothing to say about the horrific targeting of Pakistan’s religious minorities, or the use of the blasphemy law to terrify them. Pakistan’s Christians cannot forget his callous remarks after the Peshawar church bombing one year ago. While the Model Town tragedy is to be roundly condemned, the Khan-Qadri duo is silent about the hundreds who have either gone missing in Balochistan, or were later found in mass graves.
The duo’s circus has gone too far in disrupting the capital’s life. It appears to be petering out but if not then it is time to end it. If persuasion does not work, the use of an absolute minimum amount of force will be entirely legitimate. Islamabad’s citizens have rights which the agitators are violating, and which the state is obliged to protect.

Pakistan: Engage establishment too to resolve crisis: Zardari

Former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zadari on Friday suggested engaging the establishment along with all the political parties to steer the country out of the crisis it faces.
“We will have to talk with each and everyone and even engage establishment to resolve the crisis,” Zardari told a select group of journalists at the Zardari House. He said that “we have talked to all the democratic forces to take the country forward”. About the way out from the prevailing political crisis, the former president noted that more and more understanding between the political forces is the panacea to all the issue, including the ongoing political impasse.
About any change in his party’s stance, Zadari reaffirmed that the PPP will stand for democracy and told the media that he can only assure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that “we are with you for the sake of democracy”. “I cannot give him any advice,” Zardari replied plainly when asked about any suggestion he would like to give to the government. He did not rule out an international conspiracy, but did not go into details when asked whether he saw a conspiracy behind the current political mess. Zardari also rejected the perception that he is playing a “double game” and said that he is not a kind of person to play on both sides. “When I fight I fight openly,” he asserted.

Video: PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan Speech - 09/05/2014

PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan Speech-05 Sept 2014 by GeoNews

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto to push revolutionary reforms in education sector
Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari conducted a meeting with Shehzad Roy, Senior Education Minister Nisar Khuhro, MPA Hasnain Mirza, Secretary Education and others to discuss various education reforms and innovative ideas to bring reforms in the education sector.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari once again emphasized on transparency and merit. He also reaffirmed his commitment to push for revolutionary reforms in the education sector.
Founder of Zindagi Trust Shehzad Roy during the meeting appreciated the initiative by Chairman PPP and Sindh Government in the education sector and offered his assistance in any capacity to be part of this new journey towards better education in Sindh.

Pakistan: Bilawal tweets “Never to look to umpire’s finger”

Pakistan People’s Party leader, Bilawal Bhuto Zardari, says he will never ever indulge in politics that takes cues from ‘umpire’s finger’, an allusion to Pakistan’s powerful army’s collusion with political parties, which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Khan talks a lot about.
“Proud 2b (to be) grandson of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali bhutto & son of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. (I) will never do politics on the instructions of umpires finger”, Bilawal said in a tweet posted on his Twitter handle Friday.
Bilawal’s tweet is a taunt on Khan’s pet rhetoric that very soon umpire’s finger will go up, a gesture suggesting a batsman is out. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to end the political crisis rocking the country, but a stalemate over demands for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation dragged on.
The fresh talks came after days of clashes between police and club-wielding anti-government protesters left three dead and hundreds injured, raising fears of an intervention by the powerful military that has ruled Pakistan for more than half its history.
Government negotiators met briefly with members of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party of cricketing legend Imran Khan — who has been leading the protests along with populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri — but they left without addressing the media.
Separate negotiations between Qadri and a cross-party team of opposition lawmakers were ongoing late Wednesday.
Both Khan and Qadri claim that the 2013 general election which swept Sharif to power was heavily rigged. Thousands of their followers have set up camp in Islamabad’s sensitive “Red Zone” government district since August 15.
But their calls to overthrow the government have failed to galvanise mass support in the country of 180 million.
Qadri, meanwhile, told his supporters to leave the area in front of parliament where protesters have been camped out for two weeks — leaving it strewn with rubbish and human waste — and to occupy the roads instead. “We won’t leave the place till we change the system,” Qadri said.

'Pakistan army, ISI stage-managing al-Qaida advance into India'

Chidanand Rajghatta
Pakistan should be warned that it will be placed on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, a former US official and intelligence analyst said on Thursday, while accusing the Pakistani military of stage-managing the latest al-Qaida advance into India in order to strengthen its stranglehold over Pakistani domestic politics.
Amid growing concern in New Delhi over the formation of new al-Qaida affiliate in India and the spread of the ISIS, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and National Security Council official for South Asia, bluntly pointed to the Pakistan military and its intelligence outfit ISI for the renewed terror threats against India. He said there was no doubt that al-Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri made the latest tape (threatening jihadist attacks across India) in his hideout in Pakistan, protected, as New Delhi suspects, by the ISI.
"The domestic politics of Pakistan are central to this drama, and to this threat," Riedel wrote in his column. "In short, the Pakistani army and its ISI spies are once again playing with fire — with India, the LeT and Kashmir — in order to secure domestic gains against their civilian leaders."
In a US Capital that is totally lost in the fog or Iraq-Syria and Ukraine, Riedel drew attention to the growing dangers of renewed confrontation between Pakistan and India, provoked by the Pakistani military to strengthen its own hand in Pakistan, saying the United States should consider a unilateral step if another attack occurs like the one in Mumbai or on the Indian consulate in Heart: Washington should threaten to place Pakistan on the State Department list of states sponsoring terrorism; at the very least there should be specific sanctions.
"America would treat Pakistan as a pariah like North Korea. It certainly meets the criteria and has for decades. The first Bush administration seriously considered this measure in 1992, although such a step obviously would have immense consequences for US-Pakistan relations," Riedel wrote, suggesting that a more limited option would be to target specific sanctions against individual Pakistani officials involved in supporting terrorism, like members of ISI's "S" branch that handles liaison with LeT, the Haqqani network and others.
"A targeted sanctions move against specific Pakistani military officials would send a strong deterrent message to the Pakistani army and could be a warning shot before putting Pakistan on the list of terror patrons," Riedel advised, suggesting that there should also be contingency planning between Washington and New Delhi about managing a future Indo-Pakistan crisis like the Mumbai crisis. This, he said, would be intended to create dialogue, not create a platform to gang up on Pakistan, but in any case it would be prudent to plan for the worst.
Riedel said the terrorist attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, was aimed at discrediting Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has no control over the ISI or the Army, and cornering and provoking India's newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Since he was elected in his own landslide victory last year, the army has become increasingly unhappy with Sharif. They are very upset that he has put the former army dictator Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason and did not just let him leave the country quietly. Musharraf ousted Sharif in a coup in 1999, and while the army doesn't care that much for Musharraf, it does not like the judicial system holding a general accountable for coups. For them that sets a bad precedent," Riedel said, adding that another provocation was Sharif had been urging deescalating the Indo-Pakistan rivalry and cutting back on the arms race, positions the army hardliners find threatening.
Riedel also noted that the US State Department publicly blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group which attacked Mumbai in 2008 for the Herat attack on the eve of Modi's inauguration in which it had planned to take Indian diplomats hostage and then execute them as Modi was took office.
"LeT is very close to the Pakistani military's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate or ISI. LeT would not have taken such a highly provocative action without at least some advance nod from the Pakistani spies in the ISI and the generals who command them. LeT's leader, Hafeez Saeed, lives openly in Pakistan, frequently appears on television denouncing the United States, and is the darling of the ISI," Riedel said, advising Washington to tighten the screws on Pakistan.
"If there is another LeT attack like the one in Mumbai or the one in Herat, it will provoke the most serious crisis in years between India and Pakistan, and the more that can be done by the United States and other to prevent such a disaster the better. But it won't be easy," Riedel warned.