Sunday, September 7, 2014

Music: Green Day - American Idiot

SpaceX Falcon rocket blasts off with communications satellite

Turkey: Police fire tear gas at Istanbul protests over workers' death

Turkish riot police on Sept. 7 fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Istanbul, a day after 10 workers were killed when a lift crashed to the ground from the 32nd storey of a building.
Police stepped in when more than 1,000 people gathered near the construction site in Istanbul's upscale Mecidiyekoy district to express their anger at Turkey's lax workplace safety measures.
Worker cries during protest over killings at Istanbul construction
A colleague of 10 workers reportedly broke down in tears while beseeching police to not shoot tear gas at people gathering to protest the deaths.
A group of members from the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP) gathered at the construction site at around 1 p.m. on Sept. 7 to protest the killings of workers as police deployed in the area prevented them from proceeding.
Police officers were ordered to “don their masks” in preparation for using tear gas on the group when the dispute between protesters and security forces continued.
During the conflict, a 24-year-old worker, Ömer Öztekin, came between them, urging police not to use tear gas.
“I have a request: Don’t fire tear gas. Let them hear our voice,” Öztekin said. “Your relatives may be working here, too. You have become police. Not everyone can be a policeman. You may have a 3,000- or 4,000-lira salary. But we risk our lives for 2,000 liras here.”
Öztekin failed to hold back his tears during his 15-minute speech. The protesters did not shout slogans while Öztekin was speaking.

Turkey braces for influx of Yazidi refugees

U.S. air strikes target insurgents near Iraq's Haditha Dam

U.S. warplanes carried out five strikes on Islamic State insurgents menacing Iraq's Haditha Dam on Sunday, witnesses and officials said, widening what President Barack Obama called a campaign to curb and ultimately defeat the jihadist movement.
Obama has branded Islamic State an acute threat to the West as well as the Middle East and said that key NATO allies stood ready to back Washington in action against the well-armed sectarian force, which has seized expanses of northern Iraq and eastern Syria and declared a border-blurring religious caliphate.
The leader of a pro-Iraqi government paramilitary force in western Iraq said the air strikes wiped out an Islamic State patrol trying to attack the dam - Iraq's second biggest hydroelectric facility that also provides millions with water.
"They (the air strikes) were very accurate. There was no collateral damage ... If Islamic State had gained control of the dam, many areas of Iraq would have been seriously threatened, even (the capital) Baghdad," Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha told Reuters.
The aerial assault drove Islamic State fighters away from the dam, according to a police intelligence officer in the vast western province of Anbar, a hotbed of Islamist insurgency.
The U.S. military said in a statement that the strikes destroyed four IS Humvees, four IS armed vehicles, two of which were carrying antiaircraft artillery, an IS fighting position, one IS command post and an IS defensive fighting position. All aircraft left the strike areas safely, the Pentagon said.
The strikes were Washington's first reported offensive into Anbar since it started attacks on Islamic State forces in the north of Iraq in August.
Almost three years after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq and 11 years after their invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the war on Islamic State is drawing Washington back into the middle of Iraq's power struggles and bloody sectarian strife.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the strikes on the Sunni Muslim insurgents had been carried out at the request of the Shi'ite Muslim-led central government in Baghdad.
“If that dam would fall into (Islamic State's) hands or if that dam would be destroyed, the damage that would cause would be very significant and it would put a significant, additional and big risk into the mix in Iraq,” Hagel told reporters during a trip to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.
Obama said on the weekend he would explain to Americans this week his plan to "start going on some offense" against Islamic State. "We are going to be a part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops, he said in an NBC TV interview.
"We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat 'em."
The six-month-old battle for control of the Haditha Dam has been a rare case of cooperation between local Sunni tribes and the Shi'ite-led Iraqi military. The Juhayfa tribe in Haditha has a long-standing fight with the Islamic State, which split with its parent organization al Qaeda last year.
Anbar is complicated terrain for the Americans as they seek to root out Islamic State, since Sunnis fighting on behalf of the Baghdad government are the exception to the rule.
The large desert province, bordering Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, has been at war with Baghdad since last December when then-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent troops to raze an anti-government demonstrators' camp.
That sparked a tribal revolt against Maliki whom Sunnis accused of isolating them with indiscriminate arrests. Islamic State fighters took advantage of the chaos to muscle in and become the dominant force among Sunnis.
The fighting there, which has displaced 430,000 people since January, strengthened Islamic State ahead of its lightning blitz this summer across the north of Iraq, also threatening the semi-autonomous, Western-backed enclave of Kurdistan.
Thriving on Maliki's sectarian-motivated alienation of Sunnis, Islamic State committed wide-scale atrocities against Shi'ites, Christians and other non-Sunnis this summer as the Iraqi army imploded in the face of the insurgents' advance.
Since June, Islamic State has massacred hundreds of soldiers outside of Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, after capturing it, and killed a similar number of Yazidis and other religious minorities outside of Mosul, the north's biggest city.
Obama ordered air strikes in northern Iraq last month as Kurdish-controlled territory fell to the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan looked in endangered.
Last weekend, U.S. warplanes carried out raids farther south in the province of Saluhuddin to break an Islamic State siege of the Shi'ite Turkmen town of Amerli.

Music - Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Attempted attack on Donetsk airport: Ukraine

Scottish referendum - Yes camp in front 51% according to new poll

The Yes campaign is ahead in the Scottish referendum battle for the first time, according to a poll, amid signs of infighting among senior figures backing the union.
The YouGov research for the Sunday Times found 51% supported independence, compared to 49% who wanted to remain in the UK.
The results are the latest evidence of a dramatic surge for the Yes Scotland campaign, which has seen the gap between the sides - once regularly in double digits - vanish in a matter of months.
The YouGov poll showed the Yes vote increasing by four points, while No dropped by the same number.
The headline figures exclude those who would not vote or are undecided. With those groups included independence was backed by 47% and staying in the UK 45%.
The two point gap is within the margin of error for such polls, meaning the contest, which climaxes on September 18, is effectively too close to call.
Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the poll as "exceptionally positive" but added that the Yes campaign "still has a lot of work to do to win".
Alistair Darling, leader of the pro-Union Better Together campaign, said the poll "must now serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thought the referendum result was a foregone conclusion".
The former Chancellor said: "The polls may conflict, but the message I take from them is clear: If you want Scotland to remain part of the UK family you have to vote for it on 18 September. Separation is forever.
"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."
Rumours about the latest YouGov findings had been swirling for days. The firm has charted a remarkable turnaround for Yes, which has seen them recover from a 22 point deficit in just one month.
Writing in the Sunday Mirror, former prime minister Gordon Brown acknowledged that the referendum battle was proving tougher than some had expected - and laid the blame squarely with the Tories.
"Why has it been difficult to win Scottish votes in support of this principle of sharing that most Scots hold dear?" the Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath wrote.
"Many are angry that the Bedroom Tax was imposed upon Scots against their will while at the same time the very wealthy received tax cuts.
"The SNP also claim that the ramifications of any Tory privatisation of the NHS in England will cut budgets in Scotland.
"But English and Welsh people have already given an answer to the SNP claims.
"The answer is that 90% of English people want to keep the NHS public and retain it free at the point of need.
"And the vast majority across the whole UK dislike the Bedroom Tax and would even consider more taxes to make our NHS better."
He added: "Our union is not out of date or an anachronism or a museum piece but a unique, unparalleled, multinational living partnership that Europe and America cannot match or mirror.
"And what our ancestors built up, no nationalist should be allowed to split asunder."
A second poll, carried out by Panelbase for Yes Scotland, found that No is leading 52% to 48% when undecided voters are excluded.
The Panelbase poll also found that 47% of women support independence, which Yes Scotland say is a 13 point increase in six months.
Ms Sturgeon said: "These are exceptionally positive and encouraging figures - and the Panelbase poll shows record support for independence among women.
"Yes still has a lot of work to do to win on the 18th, we remain the underdogs, but we approach the final 10 days with huge enthusiasm and confidence.
"A positive finding that everyone can unite on - whether Yes or No - is that overwhelmingly people in Scotland believe that deciding our future in a democratic referendum is something we can be very proud of as a nation.
"The referendum has engaged many people who have never voted before in their lives, filled public halls the length and breadth of the country, and ushered in a sense of possibility and creativity.
"The challenge for all of us is to unite as a country once the decision is made, and do everything we can to maintain this boost in democratic participation that the referendum has ushered in."

Video Report: Hagel: U.S. air strikes 'in line with guiding principles'

Obama to Outline 'Game Plan' Against IS Militants

U.S. President Barack Obama says he will outline his 'game plan' to deal with the threat posed by Islamic State militants this week.
Obama told NBC television's Meet the Press in an interview broadcast Sunday he will meet with congressional leaders Tuesday to discuss the matter. He then plans a speech Wednesday on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Obama stressed the U.S. does not plan to send ground troops into Iraq.
"We are going to be, as part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground of Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops, we are going to be helping to put together a plan for them so they can start retaking territory that ISIL had taken over," Obama said. "What I want people to understand is that over the course of months we are going to be able to blunt the momentum of ISIL. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities, we're going shrink the territory that they control and ultimately we're going to defeat them."
The president made clear the U.S. has not seen any intelligence about immediate threats to the homeland from the Islamic State, saying "That's not what this is about."
"What it's about is an organization that if allowed to control significant amount of territory, to amass more resources, more arms, to attract more foreign fighters, including from areas like Europe including Europeans who have visas and then can travel to the United States unimpeded, that over time that can be a serious threat to the homeland,'' said Obama.
Some lawmakers have called for the president to expand the air campaign against the group to include targets in Syria.
In the past two weeks, Islamic State has released footage of the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, saying they were in retaliation for U.S. air strikes on their positions in Iraq. The group is also threatening to kill a British captive.
Immigration comments
During his Meet the Press interview, Obama discussed several other topics, including immigration.
He said he is not delaying executive action on immigration until after the November elections for any political reason or to improve Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the U.S. Senate. He said he wants to make sure any action he takes on immigration is done correctly and that it is sustainable.
Obama said far fewer people are being apprehended coming across the southern border than were a decade ago and that many Americans have become convinced the situation is a crisis because they are not being given all the facts.
Obama said in terms of unaccompanied children, the United States has systematically worked through the problem. He said the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border in the United States was now below where it was a year ago.

As Turkey turned blind eye, ISIS took advantage

As ISIS has grown, it's used neighboring Turkey, a key U.S. ally, as its staging ground.
For three years, the Turkish government has allowed fighters to stream across its borders into Syria, driven by its desire to topple Syria's dictator, Bashar Al-Assad.
In 2012, CBS News interviewed Mahmoud, a bulldozer salesman from Atlanta, Georgia who returned to his homeland to join the battle against the Syrian regime.
"We come in and out," he said at the time. "The Turkish they are closing eyes, when we cross."
Islamic extremists also took advantage of the Turkish turning a blind eye.
In December, CBS News filmed men crossing illegally into the war zone in broad daylight.
Many militants have been treated in Turkish hospitals, and set up safe houses in Turkish border towns.
And in a Turkish government refugee camp two years ago CBS News met Syrian men who said they regularly crossed back into Syria to fight, and wanted to establish an Islamic state.
The Turkish government says it's never helped ISIS, and considers it to be a terrorist group.
But Hursit Gunes, a member of Turkey's opposition, claims his government has allowed ISIS to flourish because it prefers the group to the Syrian regime.
He even accuses the Turkish authorities of ignoring the militants' lucrative oil smuggling business on Turkey's border.
"That money could be stopped," said Gunes. "The money they get from smuggling could be stopped if the Turkish government and the neighbor countries had decided that they shouldn't get a coin."
A Turkish government official told CBS News 6,000 foreigners are now banned from Turkey because of fears they could slip across the border to fight with ISIS in Syria or Iraq. But he also said that Turkey has a 500-mile-long border with Syria, and it's simply impossible to stop everyone who wants to join the cause of the Islamic extremists.

Bahrain extends custody of rights activist

Maryam al-Khawaja, who campaigns against abuse in Gulf state, jailed for further 10 days despite UN expressing concerns.
Bahrain has postponed the trial of prominent human rights activist, Maryam al-Khawaja, and ordered that she remain in custody for an extra 10 days, despite the UN calling for her release.
Al-Khawaja was arrested as she arrived in the country on August 30, and charged with allegedly assaulting a lieutenant and a policewoman after she refused to hand over her phone during a search.
In a hearing on Saturday, Khawaja appeared in court with her arm in a sling, and denied the charge of assaulting police at Manama airport. She called the accusation "vindictive and fabricated".
Her lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, told the AFP news agency, that the judge ordered Khawaja be kept in custody on that charge, and could face a maximum of two years in jail.
Bahrain's prosecution said that it was close to finalising its investigation.
It said witnesses reported Khawaja hitting police officers after "they asked her to hand in her mobile phone as per arrest procedures".
Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, returned to Bahrain to visit her jailed father, the prominent rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
Her father is on hunger strike in protest against a life sentence he is serving in connection to 2011's Shia-led anti-government protests.
Maryam al-Khawaja has been active in criticising Bahrain authorities from abroad and has regularly met US Congress members since giving evidence at a congressional hearing on Bahrain.
"Maryam is really being targeted because of her international advocacy work," Brian Dooley, director of Human Rights First, told the AFP news agency.
On Friday, the UN called on Bahrain to release al-Khawaja and expressed concern about "ongoing violations" of freedom in the country.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the agency was "seriously concerned" that Khawaja had been arrested.
"We urge the government to take immediate steps to release Ms Khawaja and all human rights defenders and individuals detained for the peaceful exercise of their rights," she said in a statement.
Bahrain has experienced regular protests since 2011 led by Shia Muslims after similar unrest erupted in Egypt and Tunisia.
Shia make up the majority of Bahrain's population. They complain of political and economic marginalisation, an accusation the government denies.

Dilemma of Sunni Arab states

The challenges faced by the Arab states in regards to the Sunni "Islamic State" (IS) are several fold. The major problem is that while professing the same basic, ultra-conservative Salafist interpretation of Islamic doctrine and Islamic law, usually referred to as Wahhabism, it differs in two significant ways.
One is that the IS is strongly opposed to monarchy. Two, it is strongly opposed in particular to the one in Saudi Arabia, which is aligned with a Wahhabi religious establishment that bestows its blessing upon the Saudi ruling family. But the Saudis and Wahhabis, along with much of the clerical establishment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), agree with the IS that Shiites are heretics and apostates. Three, the Saudi state is aligned closely with the staunch enemy of the IS -- the US.
Despite the differences between the IS and Gulf Arabs, most well-respected analysts of Middle Eastern politics believe that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, among others, support and have sent tens of billions of dollars to the IS, which they funnel through charities.
The reason why Sunni Gulf States support the IS is its strong opposition to the Shiites. It is not just Iran, which is 90 percent Shiite, that the Gulf Arabs believe to be a threat, but the Shiite population in their own countries. Saudi Arabia has a national population of about 21 million, of which an estimated 3 million are Shiite. More ominously the bulk of Shiites live in oil rich provinces -- the life blood of the Saudi state and much of the industrialized world.
Supposed Shiite threat
It is this supposed Shiite threat that compels the Saudis to support forces opposed to the largely Shiite (Alawite) dominated Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The US, Israel and the Gulf Arabs were strong supporters of the opposition forces to the Syrian regime when the conflict started in March 2011.
What the US, EU, Israel and the Gulf Arabs did not foresee was that the civil war in Syria would become so divisive, intractable and brutal. In addition, most of the Alawites and many of their Christian, Druze and Ismaili minority supporters view opposition forces as a threat to their existence.
The intractability of the war allowed non-Syrian jihadist forces to gain the upper hand in the war. By 2012, jihadist forces, now supported by hundreds of billions of Saudi and Emirati dollars, gained the upper hand over the Syrian opposition forces.
The growing strength of the IS allowed them to establish a base in the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates River in Syria from which they were able to project their strength into Iraq. The internecine wars among Sunni and Shiite Arabs and Kurds (Sunni) allowed the IS on June 10 to conquer Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.
The fearsome and rapid expansion of the IS after the fall of Mosul and its capture of a reported $10 billion of advanced US weaponry was then added to an estimated $25 billion of armaments bought from Saudi, Emirati and other sources.
The success of the IS further increases the threat to the Saudis. The IS wants to implement the same Salafist, conservative, doctrinal policies that condemn Shiites to second-class status at best and severely restricts women's rights and use of social media among other strictures that one analysts has called, “Jihadism's ideological mother lode.”
The Saudis recently seem to have realized that their support of the IS and jihadism has resulted in the “chickens coming home to roost.” The Saudi ambassador to Britain was compelled to announce in the Guardian newspaper: “The government of Saudi Arabia does not support or fund murderers who have collected under the banner of the Islamic State. Their ideology is not one that we recognize, or that would be recognized by the vast majority of Muslim around the world -- whether they be Sunni or Shiite.”
But skeptics will want to see evidence. Primarily, they want to see if the Saudis' close ally, the US, will put sufficient pressure on Riyadh to implement the reforms necessary to reduce the efficacy of the IS's jihadist appeal, especially if such reforms could destabilize the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The challenge posed by the IS to Saudi Arabia and the US makes it likely that neither the US will apply pressure nor the Saudis implement reforms. There have been 23 beheadings in Saudi Arabia in the past three weeks.

Saudi, Yemeni Weapons Recovered During Raid On ISIL Warehouse In Tikrit

After a long, hard fought battle outside of the University of Tikrit, the Iraqi Army has finally entered the school, forcing the Islamic State to abandon their positions and retreat north.This marks the first time in two months that the Iraqi Army has been able to enter the university’s campus.
Following the initial retreat north, the Islamic State regrouped and attempted to push back the Iraqi Army with an overwhelming force. The Iraqi Army was ordered to maintain their positions and successfully repel the Islamic State attack; at 5 P.M. Baghdad Time, they thwarted the I.S.’ assault at the university, killing 26 militants.
Meanwhile, at the Tikrit Hospital, the Islamic State is attempting to forestall the Iraqi Army’s advance near the building. Sources confirm fierce clashes outside of the hospital, with the Iraqi Army making steady gains. For the Islamic State, Tikrit is an imperative area that borders the Iraqi capital of Baghdad; if the Iraqi Army loses the battle for Tikrit, the Islamic State will be on the doorsteps of Baghdad.
A photo has been released by the Iraqi Army, depicts weapons that were confiscated during a warehouse raid that contain Yemeni and Saudi labels. The Saudi Government has long stated that they are not funding or arming Islamic State militants in Syria or Iraq. The origin of the weapons has been confirmed; however, it is unknown who transported them.

Saudi Monarchy about to fall in ” The Trap ” it Planned for others , ISIL may tear it apart

People in Saudi Arabia are becoming increasingly interested in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a sign of which is writing the slogans of the terrorist group on schools’ walls by Saudi children, a Saudi Arabian newspaper said in report on its website on Sunday.
The daily Al-Hayat reported that despite numerous measures adopted by Saudi officials to deter he threat of ISIL to the kingdom, Saudi children and youth are becoming increasingly interested in the group’s symbols and slogans.
The use of ISIL mottos in the internet is on the rise as many Saudi children and youth continue to republish them on their pages in social media, the daily reported.
The most frequent ISIL phrase used in the media is a slogan in which the group is described as “resilient, undefeatable and victorious.” The phrase has been reportedly written on the walls in a number of schools in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The daily also says that according to a recent poll conducted in the oil-rich kingdom more than 92 percent of the people see the ISIL activities as religiously legal.
The Saudi Monarchy is about to fall in the trap it Dug for others , as the ISIL Terrorists who even follow the same Wahabi Mythology which was dictated to them by the Saudi Monarchy , but they are still a threat to the Kingdom as over the Years Religious Section of the Saudi Kingdom , is getting More and More Powerful every day as the Saudi Monarchy in its lust for power has Invested Heavily in the Religious Section to develop the Wahabi Mythology for their Hegemony in the World Power , and due to which now the Religious Portion has become so much so Powerful that it has become a threat to the Ruling Monarchy .
And there have been a tussle for Power between them , and if it grows with in Saudi Arabia , it may tear it apart into Bits and Pieces .


NATO's Leaders Need a Reality Check on Afghanistan

Rachel Reid
It was no surprise that the many crises facing NATO would distract them from a real conversation about Afghanistan at their summit in Wales, though it should have focused their minds.
Instead, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen congratulated troop contributing nations on completing their combat mission, saying "We have done what we pledged to do."
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the two presidential candidates remain locked in a bitter dispute over who won and what the loser will get, with Taliban fighters exploiting political divisions and NATO's reduced presence by launching ever-larger offensive attacks.
At the end of this year, NATO ends its combat presence, leaving behind only a small training and assistance mission. It will then reduce financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces, which will kick in around the same time as a massive drop in foreign assistance -- a 50 percent cut by the U.S. is already approved.
By continuing with a timetable that is externally driven, regardless of internal conditions, and with an economic squeeze from aid cuts looming, NATO is sending the wrong signals to the Afghan people and to the Taliban, and imperiling security.
Amid the muted self-congratulation at the NATO summit, privately many know their work is not done. The drawdown of training and financial support is necessary, but it needs to happen at a responsible speed, so that the security and rights gains can be consolidated. This would require a candid assessment of current security conditions: the last thing NATO leaders wanted to do in Wales.
The fact is the conflict in Afghanistan has regained intensity: overall attacks have increased. In recent months we've seen a stark impact of NATO's diminished air presence: in many areas the Taliban are now able to move in their hundreds to stage attacks, where previously they mostly relied on improvised explosive devices.
Today civilian casualties are at near-record levels, according to the UN. There are also reports the Afghan Taliban are being bolstered by Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups who prefer to fight in Afghanistan while the Pakistani army wages a military operation in their safe havens in Waziristan.
The Afghan security forces (ANSF) have not crumbled as some predicted, nor is Kabul about to fall, but the ANSF are being killed in large numbers, and a number of districts in several provinces are vulnerable to Taliban takeovers.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the debate remains centered on troop numbers, which are set to fall to around 15,000, including around 9,800 non-combat U.S. troops.
Less attention is given to the fact that funding for the ANSF will soon be cut sharply: the US and other NATO members have offered $4.1 billion a year to cover the costs of 228,000 army and police. This entails shrinking the Afghan security forces by more than a third. There are no clear plans for how such demobilization would take place. The Afghan government says it needs $6 billion to maintain its security forces; a recent report commissioned by the U.S. Congress agreed, recommending that the current Afghan force levels should be supported until 2018.
As NATO considers these funding cuts and exit plans, one of their greatest challenges remains unmet: the Afghan security forces don't just need to be capable of withstanding an insurgency, they need to be accountable to the Afghan people. Just as the early mistakes and abuses by the international military inflamed the insurgency, Afghan security forces continue to drive some communities away from their government. Despite widespread reporting of these abuses, including executions, electrocutions, and holes being drilled in people's heads, the government has mostly failed to respond. Two Afghan security officials recently stated publicly that they have a 'kill not capture' policy for Taliban.
Senior U.S. officials have consistently made their support for such notorious officials very public, so it was welcome news this week that the White House has asked the Afghan government to investigate 15 incidents where illegal executions took place, seven of them this year. The U.S. has warned that if such abuse continues, assistance for the Afghan units responsible could be cut, under the requirements of the Leahy law, which bars U.S. funding from going to abusive security forces. The new Afghan government will need to act quickly to prevent this, and rebuild trust by prioritizing accountability. The smaller the NATO presence, the lower the chance of reform.
There are still many reasons to be optimistic about Afghanistan, but they could evaporate if these challenges aren't faced up to. The summit should have been the forum for a realistic review of NATO's ability to help protect Afghanistan's long-term security, even if it means admitting uncomfortable facts.
In the background looms Iraq. While comparisons can be overstated, since these are two very different contexts; NATO leaders must be asking themselves whether the Iraqi crisis should make them rethink how quickly they withdraw their support for Afghanistan.
This would mean ensuring a more responsible reduction of financial and training support for the ANSF, and prioritizing accountability and protecting human rights.
Those that are betting against NATO and the Afghan people's chosen future expect that impatience and other international crises will lead NATO's leaders to abandon its commitments. NATO leaders can still prove those wagers wrong.

Pakistan: Crisis rumbles on

By Cyril Almeida
THE crisis is over. No, it isn’t. The crisis is winding down. No, it’s heating up. Imran and Qadri are going home empty-handed. No, they’re going home with Nawaz or parliament’s scalp.
Blame it on Nawaz. Blame it on Raheel. Blame Imran. Blame the gods. Blame no one. All that’s known is that the agitators aren’t going home and a deal is more elusive than had seemed possible.
Part of the reason is apparent to all: the PML-N is as arrogant and stubborn as ever.
After Hashmi happened and the joint session produced a bit of fire and brimstone — in favour of democracy — the PML-N had yet another opportunity: make the big concessions, get the PTI and Qadri to sign on, pick up the pieces.
Instead, the PML-N did what the PML-N does best: took a good situation and turned it bad. Magnanimity — that’s what the party lacks.
The PML-N is like the quintessential school-ground bully. Goes around knocking over little kids, stealing lunch money, having a good time of it all — until a bigger bully knocks him over.
Beaten but not chastened, the bully then returns to business ie goes around knocking over little kids, stealing lunch money, having a good time — as though nothing happened.
What should the PML-N have done? Given the self-interest in the PTI, something substantive, something they believe they can get Khan to stand down for in return.
The PML-N isn’t going to convince Khan on anything, but the PTI might — at least those in the PTI who have a self-interest in seeing its May 2013 gains protected and the party salvaged.
The PTI negotiators have already showed their hand — they want a time-bound super-commission that can investigate individual results as well as the overall election and that can issue binding judgements.
Give it to them. Let the negotiators have their super-commission so that they have something they can use to prevail on their boss to back down.
Ah, but what if Nawaz believes that Khan really means what he says — that his goal is Nawaz’s ouster and everything else is ancillary? Why make concessions to someone you don’t believe is looking to negotiate? Because Imran and Qadri have more options than Nawaz.
The government cracks down on the agitators, it will be accused of violence. The agitators turn to violence again, the government will be blamed for failing to resolve the stand-off through negotiations.
Show magnanimity when you don’t need to — when the advantage is with you and not your opponent — and it increases your options.
Imagine a super-commission is conceded and nothing happens. The agitators refuse to accept it as a fair settlement. Or the agitators turn to violence again. Who gets blamed then?
But the PML-N is trapped. Trapped by its own insecurities and fears and self-regard. And by its reliance on the few instead of the several.
Twice now, the PML-N has missed a big chance — because the PML-N is trapped by itself.
Shahbaz should have been sacked after Model Town. Whether the elder Sharif authorised Model Town or not, whether the younger Sharif coordinated it or not, when that episode blew up in the PML-N’s face, a massive gesture had to be made.
Instead, a second-tier politician and a third-rate bureaucrat were offered up. The man to go had to be Shahbaz. But Shahbaz is family.
This week, Nisar should have been sacked. He wasn’t. Because Nawaz may have calculated that sacking him would also unleash him, and better to keep Nisar on a leash and nearby.
Ah, but surely Nawaz will know the rumours? Why keep on a man who perception has it is closer to the enemy than the party he represents?
Because Trojan horses are an accepted part of the game for politicians. Someone close to you will always belong to the other side. And better the frenemy you know well than one you don’t.
Sometimes though you need friends who tell you like it is and loyalists who serve a cause greater than an individual. And the brave — you need a few of those. PML-N has none of that.
Azadi and inquilab are in several ways a repeat of ‘memogate’. The actors are different, but the plot is the same: decapitation via power-hungry outsiders. In memogate, it was Mansoor Ijaz used to get Zardari and his guy in DC. In azadi and inquilab, it’s Qadri and Imran being used to get Nawaz.
But look what happened in memogate — Yousuf Raza Gilani. Unexpectedly, he threw himself in the line of fire and roared. State within a state, he thundered. Who gave Osama a visa, he demanded to know. And suddenly memogate was in disarray because no one had seen it coming. Memogate was supposed to be a fight between the boys and Zardari/Haqqani, not a prime minister who didn’t really get along with his boss and had forged a reputation more for padding the nest than doing his job.
Where is the PML-N’s Yousuf Raza Gilani? It has Shahbaz, who threw a loyal aide under the bus. And it has Nisar, who stabbed his PM in the back in public. There is no YRG. There are no friends in the PML-N who can say it like it is to Nawaz. There are no loyalists in the PML-N who serve a cause greater than Nawaz. There are no brave men in the PML-N. No, this crisis isn’t over yet. In part because the PML-N can’t unlearn being the PML-N.

Pakistan: Zardari, Qaim review arrangements to deal with flood
Pakistan People's Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, at a meeting in Karachi, have reviewed arrangements to deal with expected flood in the province.
Addressing the meeting at Bilawal House, Asif Ali Zardari asked all the ministers and members Sindh Assembly to keep an eye on the situation. He asked them to visit their respective constituencies, review the bunds and arrangements to deal with any emergency situation and submit the report in this regard within 24 hours.
He said that a monitoring cell will be established in Bilawal House where he will monitor the flood situation himself. Syed Qaim Ali Shah said all necessary steps have been taken to cope with any eventuality.

Pakistan protests put Christians on the line

Pakistan protests are entering their third week, and protestors are reportedly ratcheting up their intensity, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif clings to power.
“The whole country is on a knife’s edge right now,” says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaires International (FMI). “It’s gotten fairly violent in the clashes with police, as they’re trying to maintain order and calm.”
In mid-August, thousands of protestors began filing into the capital city of Islamabad to voice disapproval of what they deemed a “corrupt government.” Two prominent figures are at the helm of the unrest, Allen says.
“One is a former cricket player turned politician; another is an Islamic cleric from Canada who’s arrived on the scene. He’s also Pakistani,” states Allen.
“They’ve rallied support against what they call a ‘very corrupt’ government and are calling for the ouster of the Prime Minister.”
While this unrest may look very similar to demonstrations that formed the Arab Spring–widespread civilian uprisings against corrupt government institutions, Allen says these Pakistan protests aren’t shaped from the same mold.
“This is, sad to say, ‘politics as usual’ for Pakistan,” he explains.
Ever since Pakistan was partitioned out of India in 1947, there has only been one successful democratic transfer of power. Sharif himself was ousted during his second reign as Pakistan’s Prime Minister in 1999.
“In the past, it’s always been assassinations, coups, or martial law,” says Allen, referring to the way power is transferred in Pakistan.
Christians sometimes bear the brunt of community unhappiness during times of unrest, he adds.
“When the majority population [feels] frustrated with what’s happening in the country, [they] take it out on a Christian,” Allen says.
Even in the midst of turmoil, Pakistani Gospel workers helped by FMI are continuing to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. One pastor is trying street evangelism to share the Gospel with curious Muslims, and FMI was also able to sponsor the distribution of 500 New Testaments in northern Pakistan.
“We currently support about 40 pastors and evangelists, church planters in Pakistan. We have 20 online who are in need of support,” says Allen. “They’re doing an incredibly courageous work.”
Pray for peace, and pray for an end to these Pakistan protests. Pray that believers would avoid being tangled up in corrupt politics.

60 Ahmadi Muslims face deportation to Pakistan, where they face persecution for their religious beliefs

Sixty members of a peaceful Muslim community threatened with genocide by Sunni Islamists are facing deportation from Ireland, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The Ahmadi community, which has some 20 million members worldwide and 450 members in Ireland, are among the most persecuted in the Muslim world.
In Pakistan - where the government is seeking to return most of those under deportation orders - it is a statutory crime for them to claim to be Muslim. Massacres of the Ahmadi community regularly occur in Pakistan and other Islamic countries.
The Ahmadi community is among a range of religious groups in the Muslim world who also face extermination under the rising Sunni Caliphate groups being spearheaded by the Islamic State based in huge swathes of Syria and Iraq, who are now linking up with the Taliban and other extremist groups.
Despite this growing threat, some 60 members of the Ahmadi community, including women and children, are still facing deportation.
The Irish Imam of the Ahmadi community in Ireland, Ibrahim Noonan, told the Sunday Independent: "There are 60 Ahmadi Muslims who are currently in no-man's land here, some for over seven years, essentially losing seven years of their life. They can't work, they cannot get higher education."
Imam Noonan said most of the Ahmadis facing deportation are living in extremely difficult circumstances, and are housed in direct provision hostels for asylum seekers.
He pointed to recent massacres of Ahmadis in Pakistan where houses belonging to the Muslim sect were looted and then burnt to the ground.
"Those Ahmadis living in Ireland are in fear of being sent back to Pakistan. Any Ahmadi being sent there is in terrible danger. The Irish Government must allow them to have status so that they and their children can have a future," Imam Noonan added.
The small community's fears were heightened when gardai from the Garda National Immigration Bureau seized a pregnant Ahmadi woman from her home in Galway and placed her in Mountjoy women's prison prior to being put on a flight to Pakistan.
In the incident, just before Christmas 2011, Judge Gerard Hogan stepped in to stop the deportation of the eight-months pregnant woman after an emergency sitting of the High Court in his home.
The woman was facing deportation to Pakistan where, a short while earlier, more than 100 Ahmadis were murdered in attacks on two mosques. The judge ruled the woman could not be transported in her condition.
Despite the judge's intervention, the Department of Justice is continuing to fight all appeals by people seeking asylum here, including those from persecuted minorities. Some 800 appeals against deportation cases are currently before the High Court, all being fought by the State.
According to Eurostat figures Ireland has, per capita, the highest rate of refusal of asylum seekers in the EU, turning down some 95pc of applicants.
Imam Noonan said the 20-million strong Ahmadis across the world are facing persecution in several countries with the rise of extreme forms of Islam in the Middle East, and also in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
He pointed to one recent shocking incident where a woman, Bushra Bibi (55), and her two granddaughters, Hira (7) and Kainat, seven months, were brutally burnt to death in an attack on Ahmadi homes in the Pakistan city of Gujranwala last month. Local people said police stood by and watched as the Islamist mob burnt the houses and killed the woman and two children.
While the West has been focussed on the beheading of journalists in Iraq by the Islamic State, it is the indigenous religious groups like the Ahmadi - declared "apostate" by the Sunni fundamentalists - that are facing the biggest threat with hundreds of thousands now seeking refuge in Europe.
The Department of Justice, when contacted by the Sunday Independent, said that it could not comment on "specific cases".

Pakistan: Militants regrouping

Word of infighting amongst terrorist factions in the tribal Agencies has consistently emerged since before the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the end of negotiations with the terrorists. Sadly it has been buried under the constant barrage of political drama unfolding in Islamabad. Lately the military has been trying to bring the focus back on the war it is fighting in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). On Wednesday, September 3rd, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement saying that 910 terrorists have been killed in the operation while 82 soldiers have laid down their lives. According to ISPR, NWA has been largely cleared of militants but the relatively low tally of militant casualties raises questions about how successful the operation has been in disabling the terrorists’ infrastructure as it was supposed to. While their command and control has reportedly been disrupted, news of a faction of the tribal areas terrorists led by former shura (council) member Qasim Khorasani has emerged, claiming a break with the Fazlullah-led Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The new group claims to bring together 70 percent of the fighters from militant groups in the tribal areas and includes some notorious names like former TTP Mohmand Agency commander Khaled Omar Khorasani and former shura member Shakeel Haqqani. A war of words is developing between the two groups. Former TTP spokesperson Eshanullah Ehsan has switched allegiance while current spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid issued a statement saying the new group had been disavowed by the TTP. Both groups claim loyalty to Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Omar, who is now a unifying patriarchal figure within the terrorist ranks.
Reports say that after vacating NWA prior to the assault, many terrorists have moved to other Agencies, with the most common opinion pointing to them relocating to Kurram Agency, which was a vital launch pad for the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan-Soviet war. The military has not confirmed such reports, but with many militants unaccounted for, the worry is that the terrorists are regrouping and waiting for NATO to leave Afghanistan later this year after which they can launch more intensive attacks from across the border.
News of the war is hence fraught with concern. The split and the claims to legitimacy of both groups point to them weakening each other, and also indicate a chink in their armour that could be exploited. As has been seen, after entrenching in the tribal areas, the militants created an organisational hierarchy that encompasses elements of tribal culture, including tribal ideas of legitimacy, reflected in Ehsan’s claim that the families of Baitullah and Hakeemullah Mehsud are with his new group. Attacking the consensus among militants and their conceptual idea of legitimacy is a new aspect in the war against them, but one that despite having disabled their military structure, the armed forces have yet to exploit. Given their tactics, as long as they have the will to fight, the threat remains.

Pakistan: Massive rigging found in NA-128 in May polls

Massive rigging was proved in the National Assembly constituency NA-128 in an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) report submitted before the election tribunal on Saturday.
The report was submitted before the election tribunal of Justice (r) Kazim Malik, who is hearing the complaint of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate Karamat Khokhar from NA 128, Lahore.
According to the report, as many as 30,472 votes were found bogus while record of 24,493 votes was missing during the probe. A total 192,660 votes were polled in NA-128, but returning officers issued a result having 223,132 votes. The report also read that the polled votes were founded in fertiliser sacks instead of ballot boxes.
The report also disclosed that Patwari Raheel Asghar was deputed in Polling Station No 11 as a presiding officer (PO) in violation of the ECP rules.
PML-N MNA Malik Afzal Khokhar, who had won the election, expressed his distrust of the commission’s report. The election tribunal did not give any final decision on the petition after the PML-N lawmaker showed his lack of confidence in the tribunal.

Pakistan: The intransigence continues

WEEKS into a crisis and after many rounds of negotiations between the government and the PTI, the intransigence of both sides is striking.
The PTI chief Imran Khan has publicly once again declared that his party will not leave Constitution Avenue until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns — a claim that could be true, but may also have something to do with keeping the pressure on the PML-N negotiators.
Meanwhile, Mr Khan’s negotiating team has told the government that it wants a judicial super-commission, backed by a presidential ordinance and having extraordinary powers, to announce binding judgements in the case of even individual constituencies where the May 2013 elections are disputed by the PTI.
The difference between the super-commission demanded by the PTI and the judicial commission offered by the PML-N is not trivial: the PTI’s proposal would bypass existing rules, including constitutional ones, in a way that would turn the electoral and criminal systems on their head. Surely, while the overall goal of the PTI may be to prove the electoral fraud it has alleged and to reform the electoral system, putting the horse before the cart is not in the greater interest of the democratic system.
Yet, for every bit of foolishness and intransigence the PTI can demonstrate, the PML-N seems willing to outdo its political foe. Quite remarkably, at this late stage, the PML-N negotiating team has once again closed the door to recounts in selected constituencies. That was the original demand of the PTI, a demand the PML-N dithered on until the PTI demands increased, before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself publicly suggested that re-examining the results in selected constituencies could be done.
Quite why the PML-N would backtrack now on a pledge made in public by the prime minister is difficult to fathom — unless the PML-N is reverting to type and once again misreading the situation. Following PTI president Javed Hashmi’s bombshell allegations and the robust defence of the democratic system in the joint session of parliament, the PML-N had regained some of the space it had lost during last weekend’s violence on Constitution Avenue. Feeling a little more confident, perhaps the PML-N decided now is not the time to make any concessions to the protesters.
That would be a mistake. The joint session of parliament has made it clear that while the opposition fully supports the democratic system, many a party in the opposition has reservations about last year’s results too. To close the door on vote recounts as the PML-N negotiators have done is to not only rile up the PTI, but to potentially provoke the ire of the opposition. While the PML-N has democratic allies, it does not have carte blanche. Misreading the mood of parliament could end up giving the protesters outside parliament another lease of life.

Bilawal Bhutto condemns killing of Sikh trader
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has strongly condemned murder of a young Sikh minority trader in Peshawar yesterday adding growing attacks on the religious minority in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa should be stopped through adequate security measures.
In a press statement, PPP Patron-In-Chief expressed grief and sorrow over the unabatted killings of minorities, especially Sikh community in KPK.
“This situation needs serious action on the part of government in KPK and culprits involved in these killings should be brought to book without any delay,” he stated.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also sympathized with the bereaved families and assured them that PPP would continue to raise voice for the vulnerable population and take every step, it can, to protect their life, property and dignity.

Video Message - Bilawal Bhutto urges nation to help IDPs

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged the nation to help the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Bilawal urges nation to help IDPs-07 Sept 2014 by GeoNews >In a video message the PPP chairman said that the IDPs, who left their homes after military operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, were in difficult condition and need help.
Bhutto also supported Pakistan Army soldiers in ongoing operation.
“This time is a real test of the IDPs as wells as the nation”, he said.
Insisting on the need of love and harmony, he urged the nation to end hatred as it would end everyone.

The Pakistan reality show

By: Saba Imtiaz
This is the first time a protest `without legs' has paralyzed Islamabad so successfully. There are other things that mark it out as a unique movement.
In Pakistan, a crisis is always around the corner. It's hard to recall a month, nay, a day, where one hasn't been obsessively glued to the television and wondering if this is the end of the government as we know it.
But the current political saga -a 24-hour bizarre spectacle led by men holding court atop shipping containers converted into stages and living quarters -is unlike any in Pakistan in recent years. And it has all the familiarity of a coup unfolding in slow motion.
So what's new, jaded observers of Pakistan will say . Sure, this isn't the first crisis, nor will it be the last. But this may be the first time a protest without legs -or any of the promised one million people who were supposed to attend -has paralyzed Islamabad and Pakistani politics so successfully. While there have been plenty of crises in the past few years -from Supreme Court cases to standoffs between the US and Pakistan -a prime minister and his administration have been left floundering as a result of the men on containers.
Container campaign
Imran Khan holds court on one container, with a DJ in tow spinning party anthems. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is protesting against what it believes was widespread rigging in the May 2013 parliamentary elections. Khan believes the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League party was responsible for the electoral fraud and has vowed he will not end his protest until Sharif resigns.
The Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahir-ulQadri is helming another container -and a band of religious devotees -and is campaigning for a complete overthrow of the political system. In recent days, Qadri has joined forces with Khan and his party .
They led a `march' of a few thousand supporters each from Lahore to Islamabad, and have spent the days making long speeches replete with unfounded allegations and claims, offering up enough fodder for internet memes and spoofs. Khan has taken to addressing everyone from the US ambassador to Pakistan to government officials as `Oye..' and making puerile comments about Sharif, including some that are unfit for publication. And while Khan and Qadri have been ensconced in their containers, their supporters have battled it out in the streets with the police.
How did it get to this state: that a few thousand protestors have put the government in defensive mode? Critics of the PM claim he could have headed off the crisis and agreed to Imran Khan's demands of investigating election rigging months earlier. Khan's opponents say he should have used the Parliament to make a forceful case instead of camping outside it. And everyone agrees that Qadri's demands of a complete overhaul are entirely illogical -a similar protest by him geared at derailing last year's elections fizzled out as well.
Military out but in
But there's a familiar spectre of military involvement here. While it has almost always been a shadowy figure behind political instability, Pakistan's powerful military has been centre stage in the ongoing saga. The military has long been accused of implicitly supporting Khan and Qadri, and the recent protests seem to have made these links more visible.The president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Javed Hashmi broke ranks with his party to accuse Khan of having links with the military and retired officers and claimed that Khan seemed to have been reassured -by whom, we aren't quite sure -that the government would fall as a result of the protests. The military has denied these claims. More complicated still was an announcement that the military would be facilitating talks with Qadri and Khan, causing widespread concern and anger at Prime Minister Sharif as Qadri and a grinning Khan raced off to meet the army chief. The government announced it was actually Qadri and Khan's idea to bring in the boots. But the military rebutted the civilians, claiming it was the government who had asked them to step in.Despite its many denials, the military has become a central figure in the current crisis enveloping Pakistan, and there are far too many questions that have been raised for this to be a purely political protest.
In the 1990s, the fear was always that the military would take over or that the president would make use of a (since scrapped) constitutional measure to get rid of the government. The most marked difference in the current round is the fear that the military is in on it, and that there would be a change in government with handpicked politicos without the military officially taking over.
Protest live, 24x7
With or without rigging, Khan would have had a reason to protest: that is what political opponents do. And even though they didn't have the supporters, round-the-clock news coverage of Khan and Qadri has let them effectively sell a narrative that the 2013 election -once assumed to be at least freer and fairer than those in years past -was almost entirely rigged, and that the Sharif administration's poor governance would be better kicked to the curb. The issue, most political parties have said, isn't with the content of the protests: it's the way they're being conducted, hinging on an illogical and unconstitutional demand to overthrow an elected prime minister. The media coverage itself has been bizarre: while TV channels have always been partial to Imran Khan, news broadcasts now resemble The Truman Show, with second-bysecond reporting of what Qadri ate for breakfast and where Khan is exercising.
One for all, all for one
The other surprising difference in the current crisis is that instead of helping sink Sharif 's ship, political parties have jumped on board in support. In a rare moment of unity , political parties have vowed to support democracy and not allow Sharif to resign.They've started negotiating with Qadri and Khan, even as they've called on Sharif to improve the way he runs the country .
The protests may end soon if the negotiations are successful. But this government has been inexorably shaken by the way they have lost control -both to political opponents and to the military . Pakistan is still a democracy -this isn't quite the doom-andgloom scenario of a coup and Sharif may still survive all of this -but the idea of a civilian democracy has been killed yet again.

The surreal world of Pakistan's 'political circus'

By M Ilyas Khan
When they first arrived on Islamabad's sprawling Kashmir Highway three weeks ago, the anti-government protesters were burning with the desire to tear down the citadels of power - and make short work of it.
They looked around, saw what seemed like a million heads as their leaders had predicted, and punched the air harder, shouting: "Down with Nawaz Sharif".
But Pakistan's prime minister is still in place.
Most of them have since lost interest and left the scene. Others, who still feel obliged to hang on, keep asking journalists: "Will it end soon? Will talks succeed?"
The army 'umpire'
Across the fence, beyond the shipping containers which are piled one over the other to create hurdles for protesters, saunter weary-looking, bored policemen.
The days when thousands of them shuffled into line and beat their batons against their glass shields to create the overawing sound of battle are behind them.Their only wish now seems to be that the government gives them orders to finish the job and go home. Most of them have been shipped to Islamabad from hundreds of miles away, leaving behind their families, clothing, toiletries and daily routines. And it has been more than a month.
The key to defuse the confrontation between these two sets of adversaries lies in the hands of their respective mobilisers - one controlling the seat of power, the other lodged in two shipping containers parked side-by-side on the road outside. There may be a third contender to the issue - the "umpire" - if one is to believe Imran Khan, one of the leaders in the containers. He has been elusive about what exactly he means when he talks about the "umpire" but most Pakistanis understand this to be a reference to the country's military.
This scene in Islamabad illustrates yet again the enigma that the Pakistani state has become for many around the world. It is seen as a country marred by perpetual political instability, militant attacks, a separatist insurgency across more than 40 per cent of its landmass, and a country that is eternally on the verge of economic collapse.
But it is also a country which has not descended into anarchy, can beat militancy at will, whose claim of being a "responsible" nuclear power is taken seriously in international power centres, and which continues to compete with India - which is ten times bigger - for strategic one-upmanship in the South Asian region.
A coup history
In the 1970s, and again in the 1990s, there were widespread protests across important urban centres aiming to bring down elected governments. In 1976, the bone of contention was the election, which the opposition alleged was rigged. In the 1990s, the protests mostly centred on the allegations of corruption.
On all those occasions, the governments were toppled. In 1977, we had a military coup. During the 1990s, presidents backed by the military used special constitutional powers to topple four elected governments one after the other. The present stand-off more closely resembles the 1977 model, where the president did not have the special powers to sack the government, and so the military must stage a direct coup if it wants to intervene.
But a coup has not come, even though the military has kept to its pattern of the 1990s; instead of throwing its weight behind the government, it has made noises that amount to providing both players with what some analysts call a "level playing field". So as the protesters and the policemen slug it out on the streets, it is the role of the army that has been central to most debates in parliament, the two shipping containers, the media and the drawing rooms of the chattering classes.
Government not isolated
The two protesting leaders have separate agendas.Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's PTI party wants "freedom" from what it sees as a faulty electoral system. It accuses Prime Minister Sharif's government of having stolen last year's elections, wants it to quit and wants fresh elections, but after electoral reforms.
In the neighbouring container, cleric Tahirul Qadri is espousing a wider, "revolutionary" agenda; he wants "moral reforms" which would be undertaken by a set of "clean" individuals holding state power over a longer period of time.
He also wants the Punjab chief minister's scalp for the 14 June police action in which 16 of his disciples were killed.
The calls from the two leaders for the government's ousting have fallen on deaf ears, and have led the ruling and opposition forces in parliament to close ranks. This is unlike the 1990s, when opposition forces tended to gravitate to the protesters, isolating the government.
So the residents of Islamabad, the audiences of the Pakistani news channels all over the country and the world are witnessing an extended version of what former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, used to call the "political circus".
Every day has the same grinding pattern now.
It begins with the parliamentarians in their rhetorical speeches warning against threats to democracy from the "container leaders" and the "institutions" - a euphemism for the military.
The night begins with hyperbole from the "container leaders" calling the parliamentarians "thieves" and reiterating their resolve to stand their ground until the "umpire" lifts his finger, as in a cricket match when a batsman is declared out. Meanwhile, the protesters and the policemen have their eyes and ears on the on-again-off-again talks.
A PTI leader said yesterday the government has agreed to 5.5 out of his party's six demands. Others say a rapprochement with Mr Qadri is also on the cards.
But many are of the view that a resolution will come quickly once a set of completely different issues - concerning national security and regional policy - are settled with the country's "umpire".

Pakistan: Violence Against Sikhs

On August 6, 2014, four members of the Sikh community were fired upon while they were working in their shop in Peshawar. The attack left one dead, and the rest injured. Despite protests from the community and subsequent assurances from the Police, the culprits could not be apprehended. On September 4, another member of the Sikh community was stabbed in his shop in Mardan. On Saturday, it happened again. A Sikh trader, 25-year old Harjeet Singh, was murdered at his workplace in the Gulberg area of Peshawar. Once again, the minority community took the streets in protest, and returned after receiving reassurances from senior Police officials. If track record is anything to go by, the perpetrators will most likely remain at large. It’s all very consistent, and that is perhaps one of the most sickening aspects of such tragedies.
Mostly, attacks on minorities are labeled as a conspiracy against the country carried out to distort our ‘image’ before the world. That is how the majority of people react to such incidents, and so does their government. It’s a convenient narrative, which allows us to hide behind the garb of victimhood and evade responsibility while saving us from the trouble of addressing real issues concerning religious intolerance and consistent persecution. All of a sudden, ‘we’ become the victims and the actual victim, merely a tool used to strike against ‘us’. The outrage is limited, and easily exhausted. It doesn’t prompt significant action, both in terms of policy and implementation. No one will lose an election over the murder of Sikhs, Christians or Ahmadis in their constituency. They might win one though. No mainstream party will put protection of minorities at the center, or even close to it, in its campaign. It makes sense. Why attempt to sell what the market is not interested in buying? Harjeet Singh’s death is tragic. But, let us also not forget that the country he lived in would not allow him to lead us no matter how gifted or deserving he may have been. The life of those who share his faith does not even reflect what is promised in the constitution. Their home doesn’t feel like home to them, and all residents are responsible one way or the other; most by staying quiet, and others by way of saying and doing all the wrong things. That is the harsh reality of the situation.

Wake up Call Pakistan: 'After Syria and Iraq, Islamic State makes inroads in South Asia'

Islamic State pamphlets and flags have appeared in parts of Pakistan and India, alongside signs that the ultra-radical group is inspiring militants even in the strongholds of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
A splinter group of Pakistan's Taliban insurgents, Jamat-ul Ahrar, has already declared its support for the well-funded and ruthless Islamic State fighters, who have captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in a drive to set up a self-declared caliphate.
"IS (Islamic State) is an Islamic Jihadi organisation working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the Caliphate," Jamat-ul Ahrar's leader and a prominent Taliban figure, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told Reuters by telephone. "We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide."
Islamist militants of various hues already hold sway across restive and impoverished areas of South Asia, but Islamic State, with its rapid capture of territory, beheadings and mass executions, is starting to draw a measure of support among younger fighters in the region.
Al Qaeda's ageing leaders, mostly holed up in the lawless region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, are increasingly seen as stale, tired and ineffectual on hardcore jihadi social media forums and Twitter accounts that incubate potential militant recruits.
Security experts say Islamic State's increasing lure may have prompted al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri to announce the establishment of an Indian franchise to raise the flag of jihad across South Asia, home to more than 400 million Muslims.
Seeking to boost its influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, a local cell with allegiance to Islamic State has been distributing pamphlets in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and eastern Afghanistan in the past few weeks, residents said.
The 12-page booklet called "Fatah" (Victory), published in the Pashto and Dari languages of Afghanistan, was being mainly distributed in Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of Peshawar.
The pamphlet’s logo features an AK-47 assault rifle and calls on local residents to support the militant group. Cars with IS stickers have also been spotted around Peshawar.
Sameeulah Hanifi, a prayer leader in a Peshawar neighbourhood populated mainly by Afghans, said the pamphlets were being distributed by a little-known local group called Islami Khalifat, an outspoken Islamic State supporter.
"I know some people who received copies of this material either from friends or were given at mosques by unidentified IS workers," he told Reuters.
A Pakistani security official said the pamphlets came from Afghanistan’s neighbouring Kunar province where a group of Taliban fighters was spotted distributing them.
"We came across them 22 days ago and we are aware of their presence here," said the official. "Pakistani security agencies are working on the Pakistan-Afghan border and have arrested a number of Taliban fighters and recovered CDs, maps, literature in Persian, Pashto and Dari."
"We will not permit them to work in our country and anyone who is involved in this will be crushed by the government."
Signs of Islamic State's influence are also being seen in Kashmir, the region claimed by both India and Pakistan and the scene of a decades-long battle by militants against Indian rule. Security officials in Kashmir say they have been trying to find out the level of support for the Arab group after IS flags and banners appeared in the summer.
Intelligence and police sources in New Delhi and Kashmir said the flags were first seen on June 27 in a part of Srinagar, and then in July when India's only Muslim-majority region was marking Islam's most holy day, Eid al-Fitr.
Some IS graffiti also appeared on walls of buildings in Srinagar. A police officer said youngsters carrying Islamic State flags at anti-India rallies had been identified but no arrests had been made.
Another officer who questions people detained in protests against Indian rule, many of them teenagers, said most were only focused on winning independence from India.
"The majority of them have no religious bent of mind," he said. "Some of them, less than 1 percent, of course are religious and radicalised and end up joining militant ranks. They are influenced by al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic State."
Islamic State is also trying to lure Muslims in mainland India, who make up the world's third-biggest Islamic population but who have largely stayed away from foreign battlefields despite repeated calls from al Qaeda.
In mid-July, an IS recruitment video surfaced online with subtitles in the Indian languages of Hindi, Tamil and Urdu in which a self-declared Canadian fighter, dressed in war fatigues and flanked by a gun and a black flag, urged Muslims to enlist in global jihad.
That came out just weeks after four families in a Mumbai suburb reported to the police that their sons had gone missing, with one leaving behind a note about fighting to defend Islam. It soon turned out that the men had joined a pilgrimage to Baghdad. They later broke off from the tour group and never returned. Indian intelligence believe the men ended up in Mosul, the Iraqi city captured by Islamic State in June, and that one of them may have died in a bomb blast.
Last week, the Times of India newspaper said four young men, including two engineering college students, were arrested in Kolkata as they tried to make their way to neighbouring Bangladesh to join a recruiter for Islamic State based there.
"It's not just these four, but our investigations have found that there could be more youngsters who are in touch with IS handlers and this is a bit of a scary proportion," the newspaper quoted a senior officer as saying.
A top official at the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi told Reuters: "The problem is we know so little about this network or who is acting on their behalf here.
"We know roughly where the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Indian Mujahideen (organisations backed by Pakistan) support groups are, where they make contacts. But this is a different challenge. Youth getting radicalised in their homes on the Internet, in chatrooms and through Facebook are not easy to track."