Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The Saudi Arabia government has been criticised by human rights groups for failing to include a single female athlete in its team for next month's Asian Games, saying it was because women were "not competitive enough". Out of 45 competing countries, the conservative Muslim nation is the only one that has not included both genders on their team. Human Rights Watch told Reuters it was "another crisis of women's participation". Saudi Arabia has an abysmal human rights record, particularly with regards to women's rights. The country's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or the religious police, have come under fire for restricting the movement of women as well as numerous other human rights violations. In a country where a woman cannot open a bank account without her husband's permission, here are several other things women in Saudi Arabia are unable to do: Go anywhere without a male chaperone When leaving the house, Saudi women need to be accompanied by a 'mahram' who is usually a male relative. Such practices are rooted in "conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins," according to The Guardian. In one extreme case, a teenager reported that she had been gang-raped, but because she was not with a mahram when it occurred, she was punished by the court. The victim, known as "the Girl of Qatif' was given more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received, the Washington Post reports. Drive a car There is no official law that bans women from driving but deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, with Saudi clerics arguing that female drivers "undermine social values". In 2011 a group of Saudi women organised the "Women2Drive" campaign which encouraged women to disregard the laws and post images and videos of themselves driving on social media to raise awareness of the issue in an attempt to force change. It was not a major success. Saudi journalist Talal Alharbi says women should be allowed to drive – but only to take their children to school or a family member to hospital. "Women should accept simple things", he writes for Arab News. "This is a wise thing women could do at this stage. Being stubborn won't support their cause." Vote in elections Saudi Arabia is the only other country in the world, apart from the Vatican City where women are not allowed to vote, but men are, the Washington Post reports. However, a royal decree will allow women to vote in local elections in 2015. Go for a swim Reuters correspondent Arlene Getz describes her experience of trying to use the gym and pool at an upmarket Riyadh hotel: "As a woman, I wasn't even allowed to look at them ('there are men in swimsuits there,' a hotel staffer told me with horror) — let alone use them." Try on clothes when shopping "The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle," says Vanity Fair writer Maureen Dowd in 'A Girl's Guide to Saudi Arabia'. Other more unusual restrictions include: Entering a cemetery Working in a lingerie shop (some stores have recently begun hiring female employees, but the majority are still staffed by men) Reading an uncensored fashion magazine Buying a Barbie However, explains Dowd, everything in Saudi Arabia "operates on a sliding scale, depending on who you are, whom you know, whom you ask, whom you're with, and where you are". But things are slowly beginning to modernise in a country that has historically had some of the most repressive attitudes towards women. "Women in Saudi Arabia are highly educated and qualified," says Rothna Begum from Human Right Watch. "They don’t want to be left in the dark." · Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/middle-east/60339/eleven-things-women-in-saudi-arabia-cant-do#ixzz3CsacCiB3
The United Nations and many international organizations call on Bahrain to release human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja who was arrested in Manama on August 30 and charged with assaulting police officers after refusing to hand over her phone, The Guardian reported Tuesday. Al-Khawaja’s arrest has been a matter of concern for thousands of activists, who speak for a democratic change in the state that has been recently widely supported by the West. The crisis in Bahrain has erupted back in 2011, but the protests across the country in Shia villages continue until today. Demonstrations are often accompanied by clashes between protesters and local police using petrol bombs and rubber bullets. The Bahraini government and its supporters are getting ready for a parliamentary election in November that is believed to change the situation in the country. But analysts predict that the polls will be boycotted by the country’s opposition parties. Bahrain’s popular anti-government protests were tackled with the assistance of Saudi Arabia, the United States and Britain that had their own military and business interests in the country. Currently, Bahrain is a US strategic ally as it is home to America’s 5th Fleet. The UK has been accused of double standards after it picked up business opportunities in Bahrain, but failed to assist the country in implementing the political reforms. The British Foreign Office continues to insist that Bahrain “strikes an appropriate balance between the undoubted progress made in some areas and our continuing concerns in others." At the moment, international organizations argue that the release of detained Maryam al-Khawaja is a necessary measure that would show that the country is actually making some steps toward democracy, and say that it is time for countries that initially supported democratic reforms in Bahrain to speak up.
Instead of shifting blame for ISIS’s rise, the West and its allies should look in the mirror.The Baroness Turner of Camden recently argued in The Diplomat that Iran is the “major driving force” in Iraq’s civil war, and furthermore, that Iran is “central to the broader conflict that has seemingly put the entire Middle East beyond hope of stability.” The Baroness’ article is right about one thing: the Iranian regime brutally suppresses dissidents. But it is not the main party responsible for Iraq’s civil war, or for the broader conflict in the Levant. It may be convenient for dissidents and opponents of the current Iranian regime to blame Iran for the rise of ISIS, but history tells a different story. The U.S., Western Europe, and their regional allies in fact bear most of the responsibility for the rise of extremist groups like ISIS. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Britain notably supported, was a strategic disaster. Contrary to speculation at the time, Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist regime prevented Al Qaeda from operating out of Iraq. Iraq had also been supported by the West before the 1991 Gulf War as a counterbalance against the revolutionary Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq War. The U.S.-led invasion changed all of that. The Iraq War toppled Saddam, destabilized the country, and led to a wave of sectarian bloodshed. It also made Iraq a safe haven and recruiting ground for Al Qaeda affiliates. Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s forerunner, was founded in April 2004. AQI conducted brutal attacks on Shia civilians and mosques in hopes of sparking a broader sectarian conflict. Iran naturally supported Shia militias, who fought extremists like AQI, both to expand its influence in Iraq and protect its Shia comrades. Iran cultivated ties with the Maliki government as well. Over the long term, Iran tried to seize the opportunity to turn Iraq from a strategic counterweight into a strategic ally. The U.S. didn’t do much to stop it. When the U.S. helped to establish Iraq’s government, it consistently supported Maliki, even going so far as to assist in Maliki’s persecution of dissidents and civil society activists. The U.S. was probably more instrumental than Iran in cementing Maliki’s power in Iraq. Maliki alienated Sunnis in Iraq by cracking down on his opponents and pursuing discriminatory policies in government and the armed forces. When Maliki’s troops stormed Sunni protest camps in 2013, they were armed with U.S.-made weapons. By the time the U.S. and Western Europe finally decided Maliki was enough of a liability to push out of government, fertile ground already existed for an ISIS-led Sunni insurgency in Western Iraq. The Syrian story is even more important. In 2011 the Assad regime violently suppressed peaceful pro-democracy protests. This civil society movement rapidly transformed into an armed uprising against the Syrian government. Why? In the early stages of the war, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey began funneling arms to opposition forces, seeing an opportunity to destabilize a key ally of Iran and Hezbollah, their geopolitical foes. As the civil war deepened, extremist groups joined the fight against what they saw as an odious secular regime. They also became the beneficiaries of large amounts of arms and funding from America’s regional allies. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey knowingly funded extremist groups including Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra quickly became one of the most effective and influential rebel groups fighting against the Syrian government. ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra have been fighting over doctrinal and practical matters for months, but some al-Nusra elements have also merged into ISIS. The extent of Saudi support for ISIS is uncertain and hotly debated, but many analysts agree that there has been a substantial bleed of funding and weapons between rebel groups. The U.S.’s own involvement in the Syrian conflict is telling. Early in the civil war, the Obama administration expressed its conviction that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had to go. Given U.S. antagonism toward Iran and its allies, this statement did not come as a surprise. The U.S. offered nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels and eventually covertly armed them, going so far as to operate a training camp for rebels in northern Jordan. But the U.S. didn’t appear to expand its direct support for the Syrian rebels beyond this point, and for good reason. When the Obama administration asked Congress for $500 million to train and equip “moderate rebels,” the Pentagon testified that it anticipated difficulties finding moderate fighters to train and arm. In plain English, this means that they don’t really exist. With ISIS’s victories in Iraq, the U.S. strategy of fueling the fire in Syria without allowing either side to win is finally revealing its inherent contradictions. No one is innocent in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars, but Iran is not primarily responsible for the current state of affairs. The U.S. and its allies destabilized Iraq and Syria in turn, creating safe havens for extremists that previously did not exist. U.S. allies provided the material support that allowed ISIS and groups like it to become threats to the entire region, despite lacking any substantial popular base in Syria and Iraq. It is not unreasonable for Iran and Hezbollah to fight against these groups, which murder and enslave Shia and other religious minorities. Their actions conceivably fall under one of the West’s favorite principles of international law: the duty to protect. Iran has been the most serious foreign force fighting against ISIS from the very beginning of the Syrian civil war. The Syrian Army is constantly beset by manpower and equipment problems. It is difficult to believe that the Syrian government would have held its own without the assistance of the Iranian Qods Force and Iran’s allies in Hezbollah, much less without Iranian weapons. Contrary to the Baroness’ objections, Iran is the most viable regional partner for a temporary, pragmatic alliance against ISIS. Western politicians and activists like the Baroness of Camden understandably oppose the Iranian regime’s domestic repression. But Iran and its regional allies are not the cause of ISIS’s rapid and brutal rise. Extremist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra have been consistently aided by disastrous Western interventions in the Middle East and the influence of regional actors like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Responsibility for the rise of ISIS isn’t much of a mystery: the West and its allies just have to look in the mirror. http://thediplomat.com/2014/08/iran-didnt-create-isis-we-did/
President Obama told congressional leaders Tuesday that he "has the authority he needs" to take action against the jihadist group known as the Islamic State, the White House said. Obama, who addresses the nation Wednesday night, outlined a plan that includes continued U.S. air strikes, counter-terrorism actions, aid from other nations, and military training and assistance to moderates in Iraq and Syria, according to aides and a White House statement issued after the meeting. Congressional leaders "expressed their support for efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State, the White House said. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, one of four congressional leaders who met with Obama, expressed support for some of the president's options, "such as increasing the effectiveness of the Iraqi Security Forces and training and equipping the Syrian opposition,'' said an aide to the speaker. Boehner also said "he would support the President if he chose to deploy the military to help train and play an advisory role for the Iraqi Security Forces and assist with lethal targeting" of the Islamic State leadership, said the aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a private meeting. The president will use the 9 p.m. speech to discuss "the progress that we have made thus far" against insurgents, including ongoing airstrikes in Iraq and formation of a national government in Baghdad, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Obama will focus on the "next phase," Earnest said, including help to the Iraq military and to moderate forces in Syria so they can "take the fight" to Islamic State insurgents. Obama, he said, will discuss assistance from other countries in the battle against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS. Last week in Wales, Obama said a group of nine countries joined to fight the Islamic State. Obama may raise the long-term potential for airstrikes in Syria, though there is no sign that any such action is imminent. Military surveillance flights have started over Syria, where Earnest said the Islamic State has a "virtual safe haven." The administration does not plan to send American troops there or to act without support from allies, Earnest said. Obama told NBC's Meet the Press over the weekend that he will not send ground troops into combat, and this strategy will not be the equivalent of the Iraq War launched in 2003. This plan "is similar to the kinds of counter-terrorism campaigns that we've been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years," Obama said. He said, "The next phase is now to start going on some offense." Leaders who met with Obama Tuesday included Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "The President told the Leaders that he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL," the White House said. Obama administration officials will brief all members of the House and Senate on Thursday, a day after the president's speech. The president and his aides have not said whether he will seek congressional authorization or extra money to pay for the next moves against the Islamic State. The president is likely to praise the creation of a government in Iraq, which was announced Monday. Obama has called for a stable government as a precondition for increased U.S. military activity. The Islamic State has captured large sections of Syria and Iraq. Obama and other Western officials say it plans to use its "caliphate" to launch attacks on U.S. and European interests. The group has made threats against the West and murdered two U.S. journalists. The speech is in the drafting phase, Earnest said Tuesday afternoon, and "it's likely to change between now and tomorrow night." Obama said he wants the American people "to understand the nature of the threat and how we're going to deal with it and to have confidence that we'll be able to deal with it." Wednesday night is the eve of the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Real men don't hit women ... so says President Barack Obama -- who issued a scathing statement against domestic abuse in the wake of the Ray Rice elevator video posted on TMZ Sports. Moments after Rice was cut from the Baltimore Ravens Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement saying, "The President is the father of two daughters. And like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society." "Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that's true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors." "Stopping domestic violence is something that's bigger than football – and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it." Read more: http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/09/president-obama-ray-rice-is-not-a-real-man/#ixzz3CsH29oWF
It's official: Apple has released a 5.5-inch iPhone. Officially called the iPhone 6 Plus, the device is Apple's first entry into the phone-tablet hybrid (a.k.a. "phablet") market. It also released the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at an event in Cupertino, California that was slightly marred by problems with its livestream.
A few of the other features of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus:A faster Apple A8 processor, which Apple claims is 25 percent faster than the previous processor. A better battery life than the iPhone 5s. "Ion-strengthened" Retina HD resolution displays. The iPhone 6 is only 6.8 millimeters thick and the iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1 millimeters — both thinner than the 7.6-millimeter iPhone 5s. An improved FaceTime camera capable of HDR photo and video, and burst mode for selfies. A new NFC payment system called Apple Pay that lets people pay with their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 will start at $199 with a two-year contract, while the iPhone 6 Plus will start at $299. Pre-orders begin on September 12, with phones actually shipping on September 19. Why did Apple go big? In three years, phablets will outsell both laptops and tablets, according to a report from market research firm IDC. Samsung strengthened its position in the phablet market last week by releasing the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, which comes equipped with a curved screen.
Apple Pay Makes Your iPhone Your Credit CardApple introduced a new wireless payment system called Apple Pay on Tuesday that comes with every iPhone 6 and 6 plus. You take a picture of your card, and it's added to your Passbook, then you can make a purchase by putting it up to a special point-of-service system and "sign" with the fingerprint sensor in the home button. It uses near-field communication, or NFC, which has been a part of other wireless payment systems in the past — but none of those services have quite gone mainstream. But Apple is rolling out with major partners: Macy's, Bloomingdales, Walgreens, Subway, McDonalds (even drive through), Whole Foods, and of course Apple's own retail stores. Online merchants will also be able to use the system, enabling one-touch buying at places like Target. Whether smaller merchants will find it convenient to add a new machine to their checkout process is another question, and the details of fees and limitations are similarly unknown.
Former federal minister for Railways, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour has challenged Chairman PTI Imran Khan and demanded from ECP to open the Imran Khans’s constituency for vote scrutiny. He said that he will leave the politics, if rigging is not proved in NA-01, Peshawar. Addressing the joint session of Parliament, Senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader and former federal minister for Railways, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said that the leadership of the protesting parties is using derogatory language, adding that Imran Khan can “never become the prime minister of the country”. Bilour said that a great amount of money was spent on election campaigns and hurled accusations at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman for allegedly taking money from people to become the prime minister of the country. After failing, he is struggling to become premier through unlawful means, said Bilour. About Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri, the senior ANP leader said that he was following an international agenda. Bilour said that Qadri wanted to rule without constitution or democracy. The political rivalry between PTI and ANP deepened after the general elections last year, with the ANP witnessing its first-ever crushing defeat in the district. The ANP’s popularity bubble burst in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last year as PTI swept the provincial Assembly seats to secure a government in the province in coalition with the Jamaat-i-Islami. Joint sessions of Parliament continue for the second week since protesters crossed red lines to spill onto Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The ANP threw its weight behind the government and criticised the protesting PTI for resorting to what it calls “unconstitutional” means for the removal of the premier.
Pakistan's military has been in the global spotlight for several decades. Within the country, it has shaped both state and society, including arbitrating key decisions -- from foreign policy to economic management. A large number of Pakistanis view it as a "guardian" of the state. Yet, scant scholarship exists on the institution itself and the roles it has played. Instead, hagiographical accounts from Pakistani authors (mostly retired military officers) and media commentary that often overlook the important questions dominate the discussion. Two new books published in quick succession have expanded the debate and provide new insights into the workings of the Pakistani military. The first is a provocative assessment by Dr. C. Christine Fair entitled Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War and second is Aqil Shah's in-depth study, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan. Both books extend the scope of research by relying on the military's own literature, and by bringing to light lesser-known dimensions of the internal norms and processes that determine its organizational culture and outlook. It is well-known that the Pakistan Army has long viewed itself as the arbiter of "national interest." The military gave itself a preponderant role in the running of the state and exercises a veto power over the nation's security, foreign, and economic policies. Fair's book examines the "strategic culture" of the institution and how its culture evolved from the conflict with Pakistan's powerful neighbor India, transforming into a larger, more defined viewpoint. The eleven chapters of Fair's book probe into all the facets -- genesis and evolution, ideology, regional and global implications -- of this strategic culture. A state that views India as "its eternal foe that not only seeks to dominate Pakistan but to destroy it" is the central argument of the various materials that Fair relies upon. However, Fair argues that this fear is primarily an ideological tool that enables the Army to position itself as a defender of Pakistan's "ideological frontiers," as defined by the two-nation theory, and an "Islamic identity" vis-à-vis a "Hindu" India. The Army takes its capability to mount a challenge to India as its raison d'etre, asserts Fair. Fair also argues that seeking strategic parity with India has been an overriding policy goal within the Pakistani defense literature. She makes a detailed review of Pakistan's relations with the United States and shows how the United States, despite its historical assistance to modernize the Pakistani Army, is viewed as an unreliable ally. China, on the other hand, gets a favorable position and is viewed a counterweight to U.S. hegemony in the region. Since the nuclearization of the subcontinent, Fair argues, Pakistan has kept its nuclear doctrine flexible, managing to deter India from escalating any conflict while drawing international actors like the United States into various crises. The strategic assessment of the Army, as Fair elaborates, is that Pakistan's position as a nuclear state restrains the United States from completely abandoning the country. Can this ingrained strategic worldview change? Fair is not hopeful. She paints a dire picture and argues the institution is "fundamentally unsatisfied with the status quo, desiring additional territory even when it is not desired for security." In a striking insight, she also challenges the conventional wisdom that democratization will improve things. Fair says the Army's strategic culture permeates Pakistan's "civil society, political culture and bureaucracies." However, she does note a change in recruitment patterns. In 1972, Army officers came from only a few districts in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces, but by 2005, nearly all of the districts in Pakistan were sending officers. Fair's research shows that many of these officers may not be sharing the Punjabi-dominated Army's core values with the same intensity, and shows the potential for transformation. Aqil Shah's The Army and Democracy is another detailed review of the genesis and evolution of the Pakistani Army's institutional culture and world view. The book shows that the Army's attitudes echo the fears and dogma of Pakistan's early history. Shah argues that the Army's dominant political role was not inevitable, despite the underdeveloped nature of political institutions. This is a major departure from earlier studies that cited the overdeveloped nature of colonial state. Shah painstakingly traces the anatomy of coups in Pakistan and the underlying belief systems that resulted in the Army taking charge of the country's affairs. He argues that national security is perceived by the institution to be a "national interest" and this has thwarted the evolution of political institutions in Pakistan. Yet Shah goes beyond the view that the military is driven by its corporate interests. He elaborates, through a rich array of literature and interviews, that an adherence to institutional norms and "traditions of tutelage" explains the military's appropriation of the chief defender role. The "military mentality" (i.e. its norms) informs its overarching role as the savior of last resort. The use of archive material and military documents makes Shah's study a rich source of global references on the Pakistani military's dominance and how its own pronouncements reinforce its tutelary traditions. He also explores the military's socialization program and curricula, and discovers that apprehensions about Indian designs to harm Pakistan continue to be a major theme in defense instruction. Shah also argues that the existence of terrorist groups and nuclear weapons on Pakistani soil raise questions about the viability of the military's conventional world view. A close reading of both Shah and Fair suggest that the Pakistani Army may be taking huge risks with long-term implications for regional and international security to achieve short-term parity with India. Both books, however, understate the public pronouncements of Pakistan's former military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Since 2011, and until his retirement in 2013, Kayani had advanced the notion that Pakistan's real threats were internal. There have been some changes to the 2013 Green Book (a leading internal publication that collates essays by serving officers), that also express this idea, along with the usual India-centric postulates. The troubled and asymmetrical relationship with the United States, ironically, has played some role in this shift; and the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, and the subsequent criticism of the Army, made it, once again, look inwards. A decade ago, more than 90 percent of Pakistan's military personnel and assets were deployed to counter the Indian threat. But a substantial number of these resources have been diverted to Western borders; and the rise of the Pakistani Taliban has provided a new challenge to the military and its intelligence apparatus. Internal security challenges have also compounded the emerging world view, and the ongoing security operation in North Waziristan -- the third major offensive in the last five years -- indicates that there is a greater emphasis on sorting out Pakistan's internal messes than on fighting a battle for regional domination. Whether the recent changes are lasting and will result in a revision of the Army's security doctrines or impact its curricula and institutional culture are open questions. There is increasing pressure within Pakistan itself to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for militancy. An important variable here would the trajectory of democratization and how far the political elites are willing to challenge the strategic culture that Fair has elaborately theorized in her book. Pakistan's incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already challenged the India-centric security paradigm and this is one of the reasons why he faces a rocky future. The ongoing trials of former president Pervez Musharraf -- which would have been unthinkable a decade ago -- also indicate a subtle shift is underway. Both Fair's and Shah's books explain why the civilian space in Pakistan is limited and why Pakistan's military will likely enjoy many more years as the nation's ascendant political force. The country's activist judges and media have expanded the discussion, but it will take a decade or more for this to result in a more rational balance of civil-military power in Pakistan.
Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in connection with the World Literacy Day, made a surprise visit to SMB Fatima Jinnah Government school this morning. He spent the morning interacting with students, teachers and staff. Also accomopanying the Chairman were popstar Shazad Roy a noted social worker, Minister education Nisar Khurro, Syed Owais Muzzaffar, MPA Husnain Mirza, MPA Shamim Mumtaz. Students were excited and over joyed to meet with Chairman PPP in person. In a recent push in the education sector, the Government of Sindh is taking many new initiatives including the scholarship of 400,000 girl students for which disbursements of funds will be done through electronic means or cell phones. The more elaborate NTS testing for teachers has also been introduced along with review and rectification of various education policies. The Chairman PPP has emphasized on merit & transparency, giving strict instructions that the future of our children must never be compromised. The Chairman has instructed that one model school like SMB Fatima Jinnah govt school to be established in each district on a fast track basis.
Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday pressured rival candidates to succeed him to end delays to a promised power-sharing deal after a disputed election and prevent a crisis from escalating further. The crisis surrounding the presidential election has dragged on since the June 14 run-off vote, with both top candidates declaring victory and alleging fraud. The tension threatens to destabilize Afghanistan and provide opportunities for the Taliban insurgency just as most U.S. and allied troops prepare to leave by the end of the year. In rare public remarks on the crisis, Karzai urged the crowd at a ceremony to help him pressure the candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, to agree on details of a unity government which they had promised in a deal with U.S. officials. "Call on them now and call on them loudly," Karzai said at a ceremony honoring a revered anti-Taliban commander. "Tell them that we will not let them leave (the venue) unless they reach an agreement and rescue the country," Karzai added, in one of his strongest public statements on the row. The crowd responded with shouts, and Karzai called out: "Louder!" Ghani and Abdullah, both in the front row, did not respond. Abdullah later could be seen speaking animatedly with Karzai. Ineligible to serve a third term, Karzai has been in private meetings with both candidates to try to end the crisis. In late July, both candidates pledged in an agreement with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to respect the final results and form a unity government. Under the agreement, the losing candidate would become a chief executive with significant authority. However, the exact powers of the new position have been a sticking point in talks between the two camps. Abdullah on Monday said negotiations were still deadlocked. He again alleged massive fraud and said he would never accept confirmation of the preliminary result showing Ghani won the run-off election. An audit of all ballots finished last week, and the U.N.-monitored process is now determining how many ballots will be disqualified. Final results are expected in coming days but the exact date is unclear. There are concerns the election crisis could inflame ethnic tensions that fueled Afghanistan's previous civil wars. Abdullah is seen as drawing most of his support from the country's Tajiks and Hazaras centered in the north while Ghani is a member of the Pashtuns based in the south and east. Karzai is Pashtun, as is the Taliban leadership. Abdullah, a former foreign minister under Karzai, on Monday called for calm ahead of Tuesday's commemoration of the 2001 assassination of legendary Tajik resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Abdullah was a longtime Massoud deputy. Massoud's assassination by al Qaeda came just few days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Those attacks led to the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban's radical Islamist regime for hosting Osama bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda's leaders.
Chaos erupted in the Loya Jirga tent on Tuesday during the 13th anniversary of the martyrdom of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the national hero and Northern Alliance commander.Disorder in the tent accelerated after Hazrat Sebghatullah Mujadidi, Jihadi leader and former head of the Senate, took stage. Mujadidi, who has endorsed presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, left the stage, without delivering a speech as disorder prevailed. Just seconds after presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah took stage, reminding the public to honor Massoud's martyrdom and not mix it with election politics. This is while Abdullah had stressed on the issue at a press conference in Kabul on Monday also. "As I said yesterday, we must not dishonor today by mixing it with politics," Abdullah stressed in attempts to calm the audience. The commemoration event was attended by President Hamid Karzai, the two presidential candidates and other prominent political figures like Mujadidi, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf and Younus Qanooni. In his speech about Massoud, Karzai emphasized that the electoral deadlock should be resolved as soon as possible, urging the presidential candidates to conclude their agreements. "Our time is over. It is time for the new government, as soon as possible, preferably, today even." As negotiations between the presidential candidates reach no conclusive ends, it remains unclear how the politics in the country would unwind in the next few days. Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Al Qaeda men posing as journalists two days before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The suicide bombers had spent 15 days in northern Afghanistan before they were able to meet Massoud at Khvajeh Baha od Din district of northern Takhar province.
According to details, Lahore High Court will be hearing the appeal case of Asia Noreen Bibi today. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman was accused of blasphemy and subsequently was pronounced a death sentence over blasphemy charges in November 2010. Consequently, appeal was made against the death sentence which was postponed several times. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/lahore-high-court-to-hear-asia-bibis-appeal-case-today/#sthash.G7UkpIiF.dpuf
While Imran Khan holds the country hostage with his pointless sit-in at Islamabad, the army is ostensibly trying to find and fight the terrorists who have killed 50,000 Pakistanis in less than seven years. NATO is busy trying to prick Russia by supporting a discredited, militant government in Kiev to fight its own people, while arguably it should focus on the mess that US intervention has created in Iraq. The Arab world is in turmoil as Libya remains torn apart by competing militias struggling to fill the power vacuum left after the murder of Muammar Qaddafi: the destabilising effects of this are being felt throughout north and central Africa, as far away as the Central African Republic, where Muslim and Christian extremists commit daily atrocities. The wave of militancy has spread to Mali, Chad and even Uganda, while Somalia remains a hotbed of extremism and chaos on the Horn of Africa. In Syria a brutal civil war has killed tens of thousands while Afghanistan may be on the verge of civil war after a contentious presidential election. With the decline in the stature of nation states brought about by western disregard for international law and the chaos left behind by shortsighted and selfish global interventions by the west, into the vacuum has stepped extremist Islamist militancy that is making its malign presence felt in many parts of the world. Let us not exonerate ourselves either for launching the Taliban. From Lebanon and Syria to North Waziristan, a covert network of militancy is rapidly growing, aided by success on the battlefield and ineffectual leadership and division among the political forces that should represent sanity and progress. Sadly, it is the latter’s internal contradictions and hypocrisies that have disenchanted their citizens who, with no rational voice to stand up for them, are turning towards extremist, revanchist militants to provide them with leadership. First it was the Taliban, a movement that could adequately be described as a blot on the face of humanity, now it is the Islamic State (IS), a group so brutal that it needs no introduction. Al Qaeda, once the repository of all extremist evil, is now seen as jaded and ineffectual in jihadist circles. Has the world gone so mad that we will soon long for the days of Osama bin Laden as a voice of ‘moral leadership’ and ‘moderation’? In the face of IS beheading Shias and Yazidis, crucifying Christians and unleashing terror on any who oppose it, nothing is beyond imagination any longer. We should of course thank the west for not only committing the sin of aggression, but then committing the even greater sin of leaving before the job was done, as they did in Iraq and now plan to do in Afghanistan. The bumbling response of the White House to IS’s victories in Iraq is just one sign that strategic momentum lies with the militants and that they are building a narrative to solidify their legitimacy, even while the rest of the world remains caught up in bickering and age old enmities. Reports of IS’s supposed arrival in Pakistan have engendered a mild panic, and undoubtedly, with people willing to believe the worst, that was the plan. The truth is that IS, the Taliban, even the new Jamaatul Ahrar, share ideological and material goals, and their coordination is no surprise. Where the Taliban have been difficult to destroy because of their organisational incoherence, IS reportedly has a well-defined structure that gives it command and control efficiency, one reason for its quick successes. Success has the added benefit of conferring legitimacy and momentum, and where just a few weeks ago claims of a new ‘caliphate’ were scorned, today the group’s survival and growth is being seen as a sign of its heavenly mandate. Reports that IS graffiti has appeared in Kashmir, and that four Indian Muslim men were caught trying to enter Bangladesh to join the radical outfit are disconcerting because they show they depth of discontent that so many people feel in the modern world, dominated by materialist hubris. Presenting a viable alternative is not only a challenge, it is a necessity, because the dark tide of radicalism spreading throughout the Middle East and South Asia threatens to swallow us all.
The PML-N government on Monday received mild criticism in the joint session of parliament from the opposition benches over the ongoing political situation, when they accused it of handling the situation poorly. The hostile environment of the previous session was completely missing after government’s key minister Nisar Ali Khan opted to show restrain over what he believed was a personal attack on him by PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan. However, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, in a well-articulated way, pointed out the weaknesses of the PML-N government in tackling the political situation that he noted was come to a dangerous pass. The soft-spoken Babar even suggested a civil-military dialogue to resolve the issues and opined that both politicians and establishment have matured after learning from the past. “This civil-military dialogue should be meaningful and constructive to find out an amicable solution to the situation,” Babar said. He pointed out that the government committed two fundamental mistakes while dealing with the situation triggered by PTI and PAT protests, saying a delayed decision by the government invited the crisis. He also lambasted the conduct of the ministers in the present situation, saying it was time to show decency. He recalled the role of Nawaz Sharif in the memogate scandal and said he went to the court against then PPP government, which was condemnable. He, however, in the same breath appreciated Nawaz Sharif for inviting “third power” even at that time. Babar suggested that parliament, through a resolution, should demonstrate resolutely that the onslaught of protesting parties was unconstitutional and also demanded that the government should also withdraw Article 245 notification. MQM’s Senator Babar Ghuari demanded the government brief the House about the hurdles in dialogue with protesting parties and said that if the government had tackled the Model Town tragedy properly, the situation would not have gone from bad to worse. JUI-F’s Fazlur Rahman endorsed the appeal of Altaf Hussain that the protesting parties should end their sit-ins and send their workers to the flood-affected areas.
Far from the sound and fury in Islamabad that is agitating many a politician’s mind, the hapless millions watch as vast swathes of land are inundated by the rivers Chenab and Jhelum in flood.The speed at which the current tragedy has unfolded is astounding; up until just before the weekend, the relevant authorities — while concerned about the levels of rain that the northern parts of the country were receiving — continued to believe that this year, Pakistan would not suffer flooding on a large scale. And true, the eastern rivers Ravi and Sutlej have not yet shown any signs of being unable to cope with the volume of water. But in central Punjab, the area through which the Jhelum and Chenab wind their way, havoc has been wreaked: many thousands are marooned, dozens upon dozens of settlements and villages inundated, and cattle, livelihoods and lives have been washed away. With the memory of the catastrophic floods of recent years still fresh, many are wondering why the present calamity was not better predicted, flood warnings were not issued with more urgency, and mitigation measures not undertaken speedily. District administrations are now swinging ponderously into action and in some areas the army has had to step in to assist. But surely, prior experience should have meant that Pakistan would now have a system in place to effectively deal with floods. A few villagers confessed to the media that they did receive warning of rising water levels and that they were asked to evacuate. But, as they pointed out, would anyone abandon residences and belongings believing that they would be protected or helped by the government and administration? Surely the rulers can do better than focusing all their attention on the political manoeuvrings taking place in the capital city. The task immediately at hand is to rescue those who are stranded or marooned, and ensure that adequate food, shelter and medicine are made available. Beyond that, though, there is still time to take measures to mitigate more damage further downstream in Sindh where the waters are headed. As is usual, prior to the monsoons some routine measures had been taken, such as the desultory silting of a few — but by no means all —canals in the extensive irrigation network. But that has not proved very effective, and may not stave off further damage now. The relevant sections of the administration and bureaucracy, both at the federal and provincial levels, need to urgently review the situation on the ground and plug in the gaps on a war footing. Without that, there is risk of downstream areas being trapped in the same situation as the one prevailing in central Punjab. Further, Pakistan needs to critically review its understanding of what the monsoon weather pattern is evolving into, and revise its preparedness in that context.
Protesters in Pakistan have told the BBC they were paid to join rallies for "three or four days" but are now being denied permission to return home.Thousands, led by former cricketer Imran Khan and cleric Tahirul Qadri, occupied parts of Islamabad, in an effort to topple the government. Much of Mr Khan's support thinned out as the weeks wore on. But some of Mr Qadri's supporters, who wished to leave, have told the BBC Urdu they were threatened by party leaders. Mr Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) party's deputy information secretary, Omar Riaz Abbasi, denied the party had paid or threatened protesters. "All the people in the 'revolution' march have come here of their own free will. No one forced them, or paid them money," he said. Mr Qadri's supporters have appeared more resilient, with many setting up tent villages occupying central roads in Pakistan's capital. But the BBC heard from students who said they had been paid to attend but also prevented from leaving, in an effort to recruit demonstrators and maintain the momentum of the protest. "A local leader of Mr Qadri's party told my parents he was taking me away for Mr Qadri's 'revolution' march, and that I would come back in about three days' time," Naveed, 16, a 10th grade student from Bahawalpur region of Punjab, told the BBC. His real name has been withheld for security reasons. He said his parents were paid 6,000 rupees ($60), which they accepted happily. He added that he came to Lahore with a contingent of 300 other school students from his area, all of whom were "hired" in the same way. He also said that some of the boys who sustained injuries during recent clashes with the police and received first aid at the hospital had also been refused permission to return to their homes. "The party leaders told us they had their people posted on all bus stands and if they saw any of us trying to catch a bus, they would send us to the 'next world' and tell our families we were killed by the police," he said. Meanwhile, a resident of Gujranwala city near Lahore, Mohammad Aslam, told BBC that PAT activists "hired" around 100 women, most of them domestic workers, from the city's suburbs. "Early last month there were announcements made from loudspeakers mounted on vehicles in these areas, offering 10,000 rupees ($100) per head to women who would join PAT's march," he said. "They said they would pay an additional 5,000 or more to women who would bring along infants or children under 10 years of age." The PAT's spokesman rejected all these allegations, adding that Mr Qadri had recently allowed about 800 protesters to go home because they had school exams coming up or other reasons to leave.
The sit-ins staged by the participants of Azadi and Revolution marches in the red zone for the last more than 25 days have done incalculable harm to the economy, made the entire country hostage to the stubbornness of the two leaders and disrupted the lives of the citizens of Islamabad besides tarnishing the image of the country in the eyes of the rest of the world. Both the revolutionary leaders have been relentlessly giving their audiences the impression that there could be a possible intervention by the third umpire sooner than later. The metaphor of the third umpire repeatedly used by them and the aplomb with which they tried to rub in this notion rightly or wrongly led some people to believe that they probably were acting on behalf of the traditional praetorian powers to destabilise the government. The revelations of some politicians also contributed to the reinforcement of this impression. However, the run of the events and the circumstantial evidence that has emerged tend to present a completely different picture. It is really regrettable that a conscious effort has been made by Imran Khan, Qadri and those who have been playing supporting roles to them to malign the establishment unnecessarily to achieve their political objectives at the cost of the national prestige through their unconstitutional adventurism. It is now crystal clear that their marches are a sequel to a conspiracy whose cob-webs were woven in the first week of June when Imran Khan, Qadri and the Chaudhry brothers met in London and a dubious character named Dr Ijaz Hussain played a key role in writing the much maligned script of the drama. I have previously as well dismissed the possibility of the involvement of the present army leadership in any conspiracy against the government. I think now that it is almost evident that a deliberate effort has been made to malign the army, a thorough probe into the matter is warranted to unmask the real story. Imran and Qadri now stand fully exposed and isolated. All the political forces, judiciary, lawyers, media and civil society as well as the army support democracy and constitutional rule in the country. Imran and Qadri are fighting for an already lost cause due to the somersaults that they have taken and the lies that they have unabashedly told their audience and the nation. Imran built his campaign on the premise of unsubstantiated charges of rigging in elections and has spared no institution of the state and individuals associated with the exercise of being part of the conspiracy to deprive him of the mandate of the people. Almost all the institutions including the ECP and individuals blamed by him have already given lie to his claims. But Khan does not feel embarrassed and continues with his impulsive steak to hurl whimsical allegations against the government and whomsoever he perceives as his enemy or dreams about of having played any role in obstructing his meteoric rise to power. He has been persistently blaming a media group of having played a role in the rigging and came up with a contrived revelation that the government had distributed Rs2.5 billion among journalists and lawyers through the Intelligence Bureau to thwart his campaign and malign him. The finance ministry has vehemently rejected the notion saying that the money has been approved by the government for IB’s counter-terrorism activities and for purchasing relevant equipment on the basis of a summary submitted by the agency. The funds are auditable and not a secret grant. It is quite evident from this rebuttal that Khan has yet again acted in an irresponsible manner without checking all the relevant facts. Since that was not enough he came up with another bizarre explanation about the cancellation of the visit of the Chinese president to Pakistan and the investments that China is likely to make in Pakistan under the Pak-China Economic Corridor. Khan tried to get back at the government by claiming that the visit was a lie and was not at all scheduled to take place during August. This claim has been strongly refuted by the spokesman of the Foreign Office saying that the governments of China and Pakistan had mutually agreed to postpone the visit of the Chinese president to Pakistan which was scheduled to take place during this month due to the obtaining political situation in the country. The captain also had the audacity to say that the much trumpeted $34 billion investment by China was in fact a loan that China was extending to Pakistan at a seven percent interest rate. That probably is the biggest lie of all. It is undoubtedly a direct Chinese investment in Pakistan as per the understanding reached between the two countries during Nawaz’s visit to China in July 2013, a development confirmed by international agencies and observers and probably the cause of resentment of some powers against Pakistan. It is almost mind-boggling to note that Imran does not even understand the sensitivities involved in handling bilateral relations with a friend like China. By spewing lies he is in fact challenging the credibility of the governments of China and Pakistan. Such antics have surely reduced his stature from a political leader to that of a political jester. These marches were ill-timed and ill-conceived. Our armed forces are fighting a war of existence against terrorists and in the words of the COAS General Raheel Sharif “the elimination of terrorism was a national undertaking and only with sustained focus of the entire nation the objective of [a] terror free Pakistan could be accomplished”. One can hardly take issue with what he has said. The country is also in the grip of severe floods and the victims need unruffled attention of the entire nation. The government has shown remarkable sangfroid and spirit of accommodation despite their provocative acts by continuing its efforts to resolve the impasse through dialogue. It has already conceded to a number of their demands; now they also need to show some flexibility in ending the stalemate. The protest leaders must understand that the government cannot allow their dharnas to continue indefinitely and will ultimately have to establish the writ of the state by all means at its command. Revolutions do not happen through captive and hired participants. They must avail this face-saving opportunity before it is too late.
The Express Tribune