Sunday, September 21, 2014

Islamic State and the shattering of Western myths in the Middle East

The rise of Islamic State, its capture and control of significant parts of Iraq and its declaration of the establishment of a new Islamic Caliphate should encourage Western policy-makers to question several myths that have been at the foundation of the West’s relations with the Middle East.
For the past several decades, Western diplomacy was defined by an assumption that the root of all problems in the Middle East was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we could only solve this problem, policy makers thought, we would bring peace in the whole Middle East. However, the events in the region in the past few years prove that this assumption was completely wrong.
We are now witnessing various power struggles in the region: the struggle between Shi’ites and Sunnis which is at the heart of the conflict between Islamic State (IS) and government forces in Iraq; the struggle between the seculars and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt which first brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power and then led to its replacement with General Abdel Fattah Sisi; the internal struggles within various countries, such as the civil war in Libya, between radical Islamic groups such as al-Qaida and more moderate elements, or the conflict in Syria among all the various communities who fight both to define the level of autonomy they will be granted in Syria and for control over all of Syria: the Kurds, the Sunni Muslims, the Alawites, the Druse and the Christians.
Some of these conflicts, such as the conflict between the Shi’ite Muslims and the Sunni Muslims, date back to over 1,000 years. All of these conflicts bring constant bloodshed, with many more victims than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These conflicts have nothing to do with the State of Israel or with Jewish presence in the Middle East. No deal that could ever be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians could have any influence on these other conflicts.
The second assumption which has been proven wrong by recent events is the assumption that the correct policy is to try and preserve existing borders between states in the Middle East.
Those who believe in this assumption believe that the key to stability is preserving the territorial integrity of the existing states.
The current borders in the Middle East were established in a superficial manner by the League of Nations following an agreement between France and the United Kingdom, the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. There is almost no link between the current borders and the fabric of the population in the respective states, the historical connection of these populations with their lands or even the geographical realities on the ground.
The fact is that today, unlike in the West, there are many homogeneous populations that are divided by these superficial borders. For example, there are large populations of Kurds on all sides of the borders between Turkey, Iraq and Syria. There are also large Sunni populations on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. There are also large Druse populations in both Lebanon and Syria.
IN MANY cases, cross-border populations have more in common than populations that live within the same border. There is no common ground among the Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq, just as in Lebanon the common ground among Sunni, Shi’ite, Christian and Druse is non-existent.
IS is now asking to blur those superficial borders and establish one central caliphate, or empire. The violent means used by IS and its will to establish an extremist Islamic empire make it clear that the West needs to vigorously oppose this group. However, it does not mean that we should not change our approach. Rather than preserving artificial borders, we should encourage independence for groups such as the Kurds and we should encourage the division of Syria into cantons, so that each group will be able to rule its own affairs autonomously.
This will enable more people to reach freedom and autonomy by making sure that one group will not rule over several others.
In the current chaos, a new opportunity has arisen to build a more just Middle East, where Israel will continue to be a bedrock of stability and an anchor of Western democracy in the region.
This new and more just Middle East can be achieved through cooperation between Israel and the newly established political entities, especially the Kurds. This new reality will ensure better living conditions for millions of people in the whole region and will create a barrier to the expansion of radical Islam in the region.

Video Report - Released Turkish hostage describes capture by IS militants

Video Report - Iraqi fighters say 'no thanks' to U.S. air strikes

Video shows vet storm White House with knife

SCOTLAND - Alex Salmond: Scots were ‘tricked’ into voting No

ALEX Salmond has declared the “writing is on the wall” for Westminster as he claimed party leaders there tricked people into voting No to independence with their last minute promise of more powers for Holyrood.
The Scottish First Minister, who is stepping down from the job after his independence dream was rejected by voters in the referendum, said that the “Westminster gang” were already going back on the pledge they made.
Concerns have been raised by nationalists that David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg will not make good on their promise to extend new powers over areas such as tax and welfare to Scotland in the timetable that has been laid out.
The Prime Minister has stressed the need to link this to changes in Westminster to ensure that only English MPs can vote on legislation which only impacts on England.
But this insistence that the new settlement for Holyrood should go hand in hand with efforts to answer the so-called West Lothian question about the rights of Scottish and English MPs has been met with wariness from Labour, which has most of Scotland’s 59 seats.
It could also spark a fresh rift in the Westminster coalition, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warning that Mr Cameron’s decision to link the two issues could see him forced to renege on his promise to the people of Scotland.
Mr Clegg, writing in The Sunday Times, insisted delivering the extra powers “cannot be made contingent on other constitutional reforms”.
The Prime Minister has insisted the timetable for further devolution would be met, stating: ‘’New powers over tax, spending and welfare are on their way to Scotland.
“The timetable is brisk, but achievable: a White Paper by November, and draft legislation published by January.”
But Mr Salmond - who has identified the vow by the three Westminster leaders as being pivotal in the success of the No campaign - claimed the Labour and Conservative positions were now “irreconcilable”.
He told the Murnaghan show on Sky News: “David Cameron doesn’t think he can carry his own backbenchers, never mind the threat from Ukip, unless he links Scottish progress to changes in England.
“Ed Miliband doesn’t want to do that because Labour would lose their majority over English business in the House of Commons. That is the log jam the Westminster leaders got themselves into.
“There is a big issue there, but shouldn’t they have thought of that before they made a solemn vow and pledge to the Scottish people.”
He added: “I don’t see how they can be kept between David Cameron who says they must go in tandem with changes in England, and Ed Miliband who says they can’t go in tandem with changes in England. These seem to be two irreconcilable positions from political interest at Westminster.
“It’s the people who voted No because they believed these commitments from the Westminster leadership, these are the people who are feeling most angry, most hurt, most disappointed in Scotland today.
“The wrath of Khan will be as of nothing to the wrath of a No voter who has been gulled by the Westminster leadership.”
Analysis of figures from the referendum showed that “the majority of Scots up to the age of 55 voted for independence, and a majority of Scots over 55 voted against independence,” Mr Salmond said.
“I think that vow was really important and the people who are really angry in Scotland today are not the Yes campaigners, our opinion of the Westminster elite is really pretty low. The people who are really angry are those people who were persuaded to vote No by that vow, by that solemn pledge and are now already beginning to feel let down, angry, disappointed because it looks like they have been tricked.”
‘Time up for Westminster’
He went on: “When you have a situation where the majority of a country up to the age of 55 is already voting for independence then I think the writing is on the wall for Westminster.
“I think the destination is pretty certain, we’re only debating the timescale and the method.”
He restated his view that a constitutional referendum is a “once in a generation” opportunity, but added: “There are many routes to independence.”
Mr Salmond said: “This is a real thing, this generational change of opinion in Scotland, and I think the writing is on the wall for Westminster. It’s a question of how fast and how far we get.”
He also ruled out taking a seat in the House of Lords after he steps down as First Minister.
“My policy is to abolish the House of Lords,” Mr Salmond said, adding that “rocks would melt with the sun” before he would “ever set foot in the House of Lords”.
A Downing Street spokesman said today: “The three pro-union parties have made commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament and we have set out a clear timetable to do this.
“Lord Smith of Kelvin has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments with powers over tax, spending and welfare all agreed by November and draft legislation published by January. “This Government has delivered on devolution and we will do so again in the next Parliament.”
Mr Miliband has pledged changes in Scotland will be delivered according to the timetable, which was set out by former prime minister Gordon Brown.
Writing in the Sunday Post he said Scotland had “voted for change” in the referendum.
“Labour will guarantee that change, with more powers coming to the Scottish Parliament on the timetable we agreed during the campaign,” Mr Miliband said.
Change across the UK needed
But Mr Cameron has stressed change across the UK was needed.
In an article for the Mail on Sunday the Conservative leader said: “’This moment must not just be about securing Scotland’s future in the UK - and celebrating that fact - but settling other questions whose time has come.
“The challenge is to make sure our UK works for all nations.
“Millions of people in the rest of the UK have been listening to these debates, watching this campaign and rightly asking: ‘What will change for us? Why can’t we have the same powers and the same rights as those in Scotland?’
“These are questions the Conservative Party itself has been asking for a long time.”
Mr Cameron added: “If the Scottish Parliament will soon have a range of new powers: powers over income tax rates; to change benefits such as housing benefit; to increase spending, including on the NHS - then there is a crying need to reflect that across the UK.”
But former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell insisted that the extension of new powers to Scotland should not be delayed while constitutional issues in England are addressed.
“Scotland should not be held up for England to catch up,” he said.
Sir Menzies, who chaired a commission for his party setting out its proposals for the transfer of powers, added: “No-one, least of all the Liberal Democrats, doubts that the constitutional reform for the whole of the UK is essential or that proper arrangements for England are required.
“But Scotland is in a different place from the rest of the UK. It has its own parliament, its own legal system and its own institutions. Scotland, as a result, is much further down the road than any other part of the United Kingdom.
“The pledge made in the referendum campaign by the three main party leaders can be implemented according to the timetable set out by Gordon Brown and should be.
“It is for England and the English to determine what form of devolved government they want, but Scotland has already made up its mind.”

Radical groups pose threats to South Asia

"India assessing impact of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan"
Stressing that terrorism remains a major concern for the South Asian region, India has said that groups with radical and extremist ideologies pose threats across national boundaries in the volatile security environment.
Addressing the sixth meeting of SAARC Interior and Home Ministers in Kathmandu on Friday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that India was carefully assessing the impact of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan on the entire South Asian region. He also voiced concern about the new threats of extremism, terrorism, and violence emerging in this region.
“We all share a common and indeed vital stake in peace, stability and economic development in Afghanistan. We are naturally concerned by new threats of extremism, terrorism and violence being held out to South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which cannot but raise concerns,’’ Mr. Singh said.
Calling for a strategy to check groups with radical and extremist ideologies, he cautioned that these have no compunction in issuing threats publicly against neighbouring and regional countries. He said there was a sea change in the strategic environment in the neighbourhood with the emergence of a new dispensation in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S.
“The international community has lent unprecedented support to the democratically elected Government of Afghanistan. It is our hope that this will continue,’’ he said.
In his opening remarks, the Home Minister stressed India’s commitment to a stable, peaceful and prosperous South Asian neighbourhood. He emphasised the commitment of the Modi government for improving India’s relations with all SAARC neighbours.
He referred to problems that India was facing due to drug smuggling particularly in Punjab, money laundering, terrorist funding, cyber crime, human trafficking and illegal movement of arms across national boundaries. Linked to this issue is the increasing circulation of counterfeit currency in the neighbourhood, he said.

CHINA - INDIA - Xi visit: High on expectations, low on delivery

Jabin T Jacob
Nobody expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to wrap their arms around each other in a bear hug. A Right-wing nationalist BJP-led government in India and a Communist Party of China that relies heavily on nationalism as a crutch for continued legitimacy at home were not expected to have it easy at the first formal summit of their leaders, especially on political and strategic issues.
However, expectations were sky-high on the economic front. The Chinese commitment of $20 billion is being seen as a big letdown but one must ask how realistic the initial figures were in the first place. Sure, China has the forex reserves but that is not the same as saying they will necessarily find it profitable to invest given the difficult regulatory environment surrounding the entry of Chinese enterprises and people into India.
Modi has been on record calling the states for a greater role in the country’s economic growth and development. There is also then the question of the capability of the states to absorb and handle the massive investments being talked about. Apart from a few states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, very few have the combination of high-quality governance, physical infrastructure, socioeconomic indicators and clarity of economic purpose, including a friendly investment climate, required to attract global capital. It is no wonder then Chinese and Japanese investments remain concentrated in only a few Indian states.
To return to the boundary dispute, Chinese incursions along the LAC and other forms of provocation on the eve of an important visit to India should not surprise us anymore, even if the recent incursions at Depsang and Chumar differ from the usual patterns. Policymakers and strategists cannot expect a static environment to deal with in their line of work. And despite what the media might report, there is no doubt that the government and military have been proactive along the Line of Actual Control, including in the previous UPA regime. But perhaps, Modi erred in taking a rather too assertive line on the dispute and discomfiting his visitor who might have been amenable to offering concessions on other fronts.
The ease of access that Tibetan protestors had to the environs of Hyderabad House certainly did not happen without the knowledge of officials of the Modi government. This foolish tactic might have pleased a certain section of Modi’s constituency but it also takes the attention away from more serious moves by the Chinese with respect to Tibet. In his speech in New Delhi, Xi laid heavy stress on the cultural ties between the India and China, including their Buddhist linkages. That said, our policymakers have hopefully also not missed the overtures that the Dalai Lama has been making to Xi since he came to power and the recent rumours in the Chinese blogosphere of the Dalai Lama possibly being invited to Beijing before long. If Xi begins to show a greater degree accommodation on this front, Tibet will soon cease to be a card for India and the world vis-à-vis China. And no one should doubt the capabilities or the flexibility of Xi and the Communist Party on this front. Finally, another agreement that was missing during Xi’s visit was one on information sharing by China on trans-border rivers. Over the last several years, every major visit has usually had an agreement that extended the time frame for such sharing by an incremental 15 days. While the agreements on sister-city and sister-province/state relations are an important trend for the future, it is the many agreements that appear not to have been signed that should worry those who expected Xi’s visit to set the template for the future.
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Bilawal tweets to respond Imran’s criticism on Oct 18

Responding to Imran Khan’s Karachi address, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that his party would respond to PTI chairman’s criticism on October 18 Jalsa, hence Sharjeel Inam Memon has said that PTI’s dream of winning the election in Sindh will never come true.
The PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto said that he still believed that this is not the time for politics and should focus on flood relief and internally displaced persons IDPs.
His remarks came minutes after Imran Khan said that Sindhis were being cheated in the name of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on a micro-blogging website.
Meanwhile, talking to Abbtakk, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that Imran will be badly defeated in Sindh as was defeated earlier. PML-N leader Nehal Hashmi said that Imran could not offer any comprehensive strategy except chaos politics. There were some players while some clumsy people in the public meeting. Nehal Hashmi said that those talking to eliminate VIP Culture travel in private aircrafts while sleep in Air conditioned containers.

Pakistan's Shia Under Attack : Deobandi ASWJ-LeJ Terrorists Set A Shia Mosque On Fire In Rawalpindi
Pro-ISIL takfiri terrorist of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat and Lashkar-e-Jhagvi have set a Shia mosque on fire where Holy Quraan and Alaam-e-Abbas (AS) were came under fire today on Sunday after a mob of Takfiri terrorists attacked on a Imambargah in Rawalpindi, The Shia Post reports.
The Imambargah is knonw as ‘Tair Wali ImamBargah’.
The huge mob of takfiri terrorists of ASWJ and LeJ also took streets and opened aerial fire, latter all shops and markets were closed within five minutes.
According to reports, the clashes erupted after killing of Rawapinidi Ashura incident mastermind Mufti Aman by their own takfiri terrorists.
According to a high level police official, pro-Taliban takfiri terrorist groups are killing each other people in order to gain power on terrorisim and particularly on funds provided of Saudi Arabia and some middle east countries.
Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslmeen leader Allama Raja Nasir Ababs Jafri has condemned the terrorist attack of outlawed outfits on ‘Tair Wali ImamBargah’ where ablaze of Holy Quran and Alam-e-Ghazi Abbas (AS) occurred under the supervion of Pubjab Government of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Who's Funding ISIS? Wealthy Gulf 'Angel Investors,' Officials Say

A small but steady flow of money to ISIS from rich individuals in the Gulf continues, say current and former U.S. officials, with Qataris the biggest suppliers. These rich individuals have long served as "angel investors," as one expert put it, for the most violent militants in the region, providing the “seed money” that helped launch ISIS and other jihadi groups.
No one in the U.S. government is putting a number on the current rate of donations, but former U.S. Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis says the cash flow from private donors is significant now and was even more significant in the early fund-raising done by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusrah Front. "These rich Arabs are like what 'angel investors' are to tech start-ups, except they are interested in starting up groups who want to stir up hatred," said Stavridis, now the dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University. "Groups like al-Nusrah and ISIS are better investments for them. The individuals act as high rollers early, providing seed money. Once the groups are on their feet, they are perfectly capable of raising funds through other means, like kidnapping, oil smuggling, selling women into slavery, etc."
Stavridis and other current U.S. officials suggest that the biggest share of the individual donations supporting ISIS and the most radical groups comes from Qatar rather than Saudi Arabia, and that the Qatari government has done less to stop the flow than its neighbors in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. One U.S. official said the Saudis are "more in line with U.S. foreign policy" than the Qataris.
Groups like ISIS and al-Nusrah employ fundraisers who meet with wealthy Sunni Arabs. Most of the Arab states have laws prohibiting such fundraising, but U.S. officials say the Qataris do not strictly enforce their laws.
A U.S. intelligence official said the amount provided by wealthy individuals is small relative to the group’s other sources, but admitted that the flow continues. “Although ISIS probably still receives donations from patrons in some of the Gulf countries," said the official, “any outside funding represents a small fraction of ISIS’s total annual income.”
The U.S. believes ISIS is taking in about $1 million a day from all sources. The largest source of cash now, say U.S. officials, is oil smuggling along the Turkish border, with ISIS leaders willing to sell oil from conquered Syrian and Iraqi fields for as little as $25 a barrel, a quarter of the going world price. Other previously lucrative sources, like kidnapping for ransom, are not what they once were. As one U.S. official put it, "there are only so many rich Syrian businessmen." Similarly, there are fewer banks to loot.
Adm. Stavridis, author of the forthcoming book "Accidental Admiral," suggests that the U.S. must cut off as much funding as it can, calling cash flow the "fourth front" in the war against ISIS, along with helping the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi military and carrying out a bombing campaign.
As long ago as last March, before ISIS's military advances, a senior Treasury Department official spoke publicly about "permissive jurisdictions" that were allowing fundraising on behalf of ISIS and other groups.
"A number of fundraisers operating in more permissive jurisdictions -- particularly in Kuwait and Qatar -- are soliciting donations to fund extremist insurgents, not to meet legitimate humanitarian needs,” said Daniel Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "The recipients of these funds are often terrorist groups, including al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusrah Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS]."
David Phillips, a former senior advisor to the State Department on Iraq and now director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University, said the bottom line, financially and politically, is that "wealthy Arabs are playing a dirty double game. “
“Their governments claim to oppose ISIS,” he said, “while individuals continue funding terrorist activities."
The financial help from "rich patrons," as U.S. intelligence calls them, was also noted this week by Iranian officials, who have been excluded from participating in anti-ISIS discussions. High-ranking officials complained publicly Wednesday about the early role of Arab states in building opposition to the Assad regime to Syria, and blamed them for the consequences.
On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, in comments to the Council of Foreign Relations, said it was not realistic to expect those who have helped fund ISIS and other groups to now oppose them.
Zarif called the recently convened Paris conference on fighting ISIS a "coalition of repenters" who are only now seeing that they have created a monster. The Gulf states were among the countries attending the summit.
"Most participants in that -- in that meeting in one form or another provided support to ISIS in the course of its creation and upbringing and expansion, actually at the end of the day, creating a Frankenstein that came to haunt its creators," Zarif told the CFR. "So this group has been in existence for a long time. It has been supported, it has been provided for in terms of arms, money, finances by a good number of U.S. allies in the region."
In an interview earlier the same day with Ann Curry of NBC News, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was just as emphatic, asking a string of rhetorical questions.
"Who financed them? Who provided them with money? It's really clear -- where do the weapons come from?" asked Rouhani. "The terrorists who have come from all the countries, from which channel [did they enter], where were they trained, in which country were they trained? I don't think it is somehow difficult to identify this information.”
But U.S. officials suggest that as the group has expanded -- and its range of enemies has broadened – so have its costs, which could make the group vulnerable.
"Is [the ISIS financial model] sustainable?" asked Stavridis. "The bigger they get, is that their downfall?"
The Qatari Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Qatar has previously strongly denied supporting ISIS "in any way," including funding.

Music Video : Nicki Minaj - Anaconda

Afghanistan: UN welcomes signing of agreement on unity government
After months of uncertainty, the United Nations has welcomed the agreement signed today by Afghanistan's two presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, to establish a government of national unity as an important step to move the country towards a period of stability.
“The uncertainty of the past months has taken a heavy toll on Afghanistan's security, economy and governance, said Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ján Kubiš, who formally witnessed the signing.
“For the sake of the country it is time to quickly implement the agreement on a government of national unity. The United Nations remains committed to supporting a new government in Afghanistan,” he added in a statement issued early this morning in Kabul from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which he also heads.
Just a few days ago, during his final briefing to the Security Council as UNAMA chief, Mr. Kubiš said via videoconference that amid a UN-supervised audit of the 4 June run-off poll, the months-long political deadlock between the two candidates posed “real risks for the future.”
“There is quite simply no better way forward other than a government of national unity led by an elected President, as certified by the Independent Election Commission,” he said. Mr. Kubiš stressed that “I continue to emphasize that in a government of national unity there will be no losers – only partners.”

Video Report : Afghan presidential rivals sign power-sharing deal

Music Video : Da Zmungh Zeba Watan, Da Afghanistan Dai!!

Statement by the Press Secretary on Signing of a Political Agreement Regarding the Electoral Crisis in Afghanistan

The United States applauds presidential candidates Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani for signing an agreement on the formation of a government of national unity. Signing this political agreement helps bring closure to Afghanistan’s political crisis, and restores confidence in the way forward. We support this agreement and stand ready to work with the next administration to ensure its success.
As the two Afghan candidates recognized in their August 8 Joint Declaration, the people of Afghanistan deserve an effective and legitimate government to realize a better future for their country. Millions of Afghans braved insecurity and threats to vote for Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani, and this agreement respects the Afghan people’s collective determination. Reaching this agreement required difficult choices, partnership and compromise on the part of both candidates, and the outcome of their talks prioritizes the recognized needs of the Afghan nation ahead of politics or individual power.
This agreement marks an important opportunity for unity and increased stability in Afghanistan. We continue to call on all Afghans – including political, religious, and civil society leaders -- to support this agreement and to come together in calling for cooperation and calm.
Respect for the democratic process is the only viable path for Afghanistan to continue its progress toward a secure and stable future, and ensure the continued support of the United States and the international community. We look forward to resolution of the electoral process with the announcement of the election outcome, the inauguration of a new President and appointment of a Chief Executive, and the conclusion of the Bilateral Security Agreement and NATO Status Of Forces Agreement that will enable and reinforce our strategic partnership and our commitment to support a future of stability for Afghanistan.

Afghan Elections Panel Names Ghani President

Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government.
The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister. The two men signed that deal even before Mr. Ghani was formally declared the winner by the Independent Election Commission later in the day.
On Saturday, Mr. Abdullah’s aides said he would refuse to agree to the deal unless the vote totals were kept secret, since he regards the election as heavily tainted by fraud.
Under the agreement, Ashraf Ghani, left, would hold the post of president, with significant powers granted to Abdullah Abdullah.Afghan Presidential Rivals Finally Agree on Power-Sharing DealSEPT. 20, 2014 Critics of the election commission claimed that it had been pressured by the international community not to announce the results to get Mr. Abdullah back on board with the agreement.
Democracy advocates were aghast at the whole process, although American diplomats hailed it as Afghanistan’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.
“Many people risked their lives to vote, some lost their lives, and this is a very bad precedent; to persuade people to come back and vote again will be very hard,” said Nader Nadery, chairman of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan.
But an American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the result “absolutely” could be called democratic and that “the process was in accordance to the electoral law.”
Halim Fadai, who was in charge of the observer team for the winning candidate, Mr. Ghani, denounced the commission’s suppression of the vote totals. “The international community gives out democracy slogans while putting nails in the coffin of democracy of Afghanistan,” Mr. Fadai said.
The two candidates met at the Presidential Palace with President Hamid Karzai and their supporters, quickly signed their two copies of the four-page agreement and then briefly hugged each other, to tepid applause from the audience.
In a brief speech, Mr. Karzai thanked them, and then the event was over in 10 minutes — in sharp contrast to the protracted election process that began in February, ran through two elections and involved a long and controversial audit, which the United Nations called the most exhaustive it had ever overseen.
The candidates’ signatures on the deal forming a power-sharing government came five hours before the election commission announced the winner. While the commission chairman, Mohammad Yousef Nuristani, announced that the votes of 1,260 polling stations out of 23,000 were invalidated, he did not give the total vote count, nor did he say how many votes were judged valid for each candidate. Mr. Nuristani simply declared Mr. Ghani the winner, and left the news conference without taking questions as an outraged crowd of mostly Afghan journalists shouted at him.
Mr. Fadai said officials from the Independent Election Commission had told him that Jan Kubis, who heads of the United Nations mission here, pressured them not to announce the actual results until a week had gone by.
“He argued that the opposing team are armed and they will create a crisis,” he said. “This is very unfortunate. I think the United Nations, instead of supporting democracy, has bowed down to the pressure of the warlords.”
A spokesman for Mr. Kubis could not be reached for a response to Mr. Fadai’s claims.
In a Twitter post, Mr. Fadai published what he said was the commission’s final tally sheet, showing that the vote total was 3.9 million (55.3 percent) for Mr. Ghani and 3.1 million (44.7 percent) for Mr. Abdullah, with 7.1 million votes cast. That suggested that a million votes had been ruled invalid by the election commission, since originally it announced that 8.1 million people voted in the June 14 runoff election between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah.
The commission did not say how many votes it had ruled invalid after what had been billed as a 100 percent audit of the vote.
Mr. Nadery, whose organization also monitored the vote, said it had estimated that the final total would be about 54 percent to 45 percent in favor of Mr. Ghani, even after fraudulent votes were discounted.
The agreement provides for Mr. Ghani to appoint Mr. Abdullah, or someone he nominates, to take a new post called the chief executive officer. The post has substantial powers over the cabinet and a new body, called a council of ministers, while not removing the presidential powers outlined in the country’s Constitution.
It also provides for the chief executive officer to have two deputies, who presumably would be Mr. Abdullah’s two running mates for the posts of first and second vice president.
A spokesman for Mr. Abdullah, Fazel Sancharaki, said the candidates expected that the inauguration of the new president would take place next Monday.
American officials praised the outcome as a result of months of intensive diplomatic efforts to broker the deal, detailing 81 meetings between the American ambassador, James Cunningham, and the candidates since the June 14 runoff election as well as 30 phone calls and two visits to Kabul from Secretary of State John Kerry, and six calls from President Obama to Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah.
In addition, Daniel F. Feldman, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Jeff Eggers, the president’s top adviser for Afghanistan and Pakistan, met daily with the candidates over the past few weeks.

Bilawal Bhutto cancels his birth day functions

The PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has cancelled his birth day celebration functions in the country due to flood in Punjab and Sindh.
On social media twitter, the PPP chief said that he would not celebrate his birth day and all functions on his birth day have been cancelled to express solidarity with the flood victims. He stated that he stood with the flood victims in this difficult time.

Afghanistan: Candidates Sign National Unity Government Agreement

After a prolonged electoral stalemate, presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai finally signed the National Unity Government agreement at the Presidential Palace on Sunday noon.
President Hamid Karzai, prominent political figures and members of both electoral teams were present at the ceremony.
Speaking at the event, President Karzai congratulated the candidates on signing the agreement, calling it an “Afghan agreement.”
“We hope that you [the candidates] can continue the things that the current government started,” Karzai added.
Soon after the agreement was signed, the White House, in a press release, applauded the formation of the national unity government.
“Signing this political agreement helps bring closure to Afghanistan’s political crisis, and restores confidence in the way forward. We support this agreement and stand ready to work with the next administration to ensure its success,” the statement read. “Reaching this agreement required difficult choices, partnership and compromise on the part of both candidates, and the outcome of their talks prioritizes the recognized needs of the Afghan nation ahead of politics or individual power,” it added.
This is while the Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials is expected to announce the final election results later today. Reports indicate that the announcement will not declare any “winners or losers.”

Minorities have no choice in Pakistan

Sitting on the top roof of the four stories building in the capital, a man roared that if you uttered a single word from your mouth I will send you directly into the hell. There were four people from three different faiths, Sunni, Shia and a Christian. It can happen only in Pakistan that Sunni Muslim can use rough language about others but they are not ready to listen against themselves, because they are in power. Religion should not be the state’s business; I am sorry, but it’s clear that your religion is not your personal matter. It is the matter for all of us to interfere in, as and when we feel necessary or find a choice.
The recent attack on the Sikh community of Peshawar and on an Ahmadi community in Gujranwala has given out a clear message to minorities that Pakistan is not for them. Harjeet Singh, 30, was present in his grocery shop in Nothia Bazar of Peshawer, when two unknown assailants on a motorcycle opened fire on him and killed him on the spot.
It’s clear message to all minorities that they don’t have right to practice their religion or sect either or to run their business for their livings. If you did so, you better ready for an army of so called preachers deliberately enforcing a religious polemic argument on you. It makes no difference, how patriotic you feel for Pakistan, you will always stay an American or Zionist agent. Although it is fact, American or Jews least bother about Pakistani Christians. Taliban have already given warning to the people of Chitral valley (heretics) to either convert to Islam or ready to die. Few months back, three Hindu temples were desecrated in Mir Pur Khas district. Earlier this year, in Larkana, the heart of Pakistan Peoples Party, a mob looted a Hindu temple before setting it ablaze. After the attack on Peshawar Church last year, Taliban made it quite clear that the attacks were exactly according to Sharia. Religious extremists looted the houses in Joseph Colony, Lahore before setting it ablaze. Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih and Christian couple (Shagufta Bibi and Shafqat Emmanuel) in Gojra is sentenced to death. And all it started with Christians allegedly framed a blasphemy case.
Killing of Christian family in Gojra including small kids and burning of the 100 years old church in Mardan were some chilling events that can’t be forgotten. Even, the sizable Shia community faces the same fate as other minorities do. Shias are killed on regular basis in the country. People are pulled down from the buses, identified and they are mercilessly massacred.
It’s again pathetic when we see that neither Pakistani Christian organizations like CLAAS etc or international community step forward to protect Christian rights. Some so called social activists are active for their vested interest on the name of protecting Pakistani Christians. Sorry to say, but this is not a country for minorities, you better leave. But how come, it is possible neither European nor other Christian countries welcome Pakistani Christians. We are left here to suffer and suffer no bright future for children but stiff environment around.

Punjabi Taliban to join hands with Haqqani network

Amir Mir
Asmatullah Muavia’s announcement to cease militancy inside Pakistan and redirect it to the neighbouring Afghanistan has caused deep worries in Islamabad’s diplomatic circles, amid ongoing efforts by the Punjabi Taliban to relocate themselves along with the Haqqanis and to join hands with them in their cross-border ambushes.
The ameer of the al-Qaeda-linked Punjabi Taliban has already announced on September 12 that his group would abandon insurgent activities inside the country and redirect its energies towards the neighbouring Afghanistan. “We will confine our practical jihadi role to Afghanistan due to deteriorating situation in the region and internal situation of Pakistani jihadi movement,” said the Punjabi Taliban’s chief Asmatullah Muavia in a video message. He said his faction would operate in Afghanistan under the guidance of Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban, while its activities in Pakistan will be restricted to preaching Islam and Shariah.
He justified jihad against the foreign forces, saying they were occupying Afghanistan.” The announcement came three months after the start of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan which had become a haven for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked jihadis. Ten days after the operation was launched, the Pakistan Army had announced on June 25, 2014 that the Haqqani network was also a target of the military offensive in North Waziristan, being a terrorist group.
“For the security forces, there will be no discrimination among the TTP groups or the Haqqani militant network. All the terrorist groups are going to be eliminated”, said DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa during a briefing at the GHQ.
However, the diplomatic community in Islamabad disputes the claim that the offensive in North Waziristan is directed against all the groups without discrimination. In fact, they alleged that the leadership and the fighters of the Haqqani network were relocated to the Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) of Pakistan before the operation was launched. During the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s, Kurram was a key safe haven for the anti-Soviet Mujahideen who used it as a launching pad to attack the Russian forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The Haqqani network, which is still viewed by the Pakistani security establishment as a strategic asset (to be used in the post withdrawal Afghanistan), already had substantial presence in various parts of the Kurram Agency ever since the Pakistan Army launched Operation Koh-e-Sufaid there in July 2011 to suppress anti-Shia uprising.
While the ISPR spokesman was not available for comments, an army official refuted (on the condition of anonymity) reports that the Pakistani establishment had been involved in relocating Haqqanis to the Upper Kurram region in Mengal tribe areas of Shalozan, Narai, Muqbal, and Shapo before the launching of the North Waziristan operation after imposing curfew in the Agency. He insisted that Operation Zarb-e-Azb was a battle for the survival of Pakistan and the armed forces were proceeding against all the terrorist groups in North Waziristan, including the Haqqani network, without any discrimination.
But well-informed diplomats in Islamabad insist while requesting anonymity that the Haqqani network had been shifted to the Kurram Agency because of multiple reasons, the foremost being its strategic location, which provides an ideal passage to Afghanistan and allows greater freedom of movement. Secondly, Kurram, despite being located onthe Pak-Afghan border, hasn’t been a common target of the US drone strikes which had killed many key Haqqani group leaders in North Waziristan.
According to these circles, as things stand, the Shalozan area in Kurram Agency seems to be the new headquarters of the Haqqani network as it is strategically placed in the foothills of the Koh-e-Sufaid and gives its fighters quick access to Kabul.
The diplomatic circles say preserving the Haqqanis despite international pressure to dismantle their network from Pakistan clearly shows zero change in the establishment’s Afghan policy, especially when Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Quetta Shura also remains outside the scope of the ongoing operation. But an even more disturbing development for them is the September 12 announcement by the Punjabi Taliban’s chief Asmatullah Muavia to stop militancy in Pakistan and redirect it to the neighbouring Afghanistan. The development came amid reports that having abandoned North Waziristan, many of the Punjabi Taliban fighters who still want to wage jihad, are in the process of relocating themselves to the Kurram Agency along with the Haqqanis with a view to back them in their cross-border ambushes.
Reacting to Asmatullah Muavia’s announcement of parting of ways with the Pakistani Taliban, TTP’s Commander Abu Baseer has alleged in a statement that the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban was a mole of the intelligence agencies who is advancing their agenda. Muavia, who was affiliated with the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the past, was expelled from the TTP in August 2013 for unilaterally welcoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s offer of peace talks, without waiting for the approval of the central leadership. The TTP circles say Muavia’s change of heart was the outcome of a deal which may grant him amnesty despite his involvement in some bloody terrorist activities in the past.
A day after Muavia’s announcement to shift the focus of activities to Afghanistan, the Afghan foreign ministry summoned Pakistan’s Charge d’Affaires in Kabul Muazzam Shah and conveyed Kabul’s deep concern. The head of the political affairs in the Afghan foreign affairs ministry Abdul Samad said Afghanistan is suffering from the activities of terrorist groups, which are being funded, equipped and trained by Pakistani intelligence agencies, adding that the use of terrorism as a political tool is not in the interest of any nation.
In a previous statement issued five weeks after the launching of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) - which is the Afghan intelligence agency - had stated on July 23, 2014 that the Pakistani military offensive in North Waziristan did not have any effect on any of the terrorist networks, including the Haqqani Network.
NDS spokesman Haseeb Sediqi told reporters in Kabul that one of the most important terrorist networks - Haqqani Network - remains safe from the offensive as the network leaders have been taken to safe locations along with several leaders from other terrorist networks. He said the NDS has received intelligence information which shows that the Haqqani network leaders were shifted to Kurram, Quetta, Karachi and even Islamabad two weeks before the offensive was launched.
Approached for comments, a former chief of the ISI in Punjab, Brigadier (Retd) Aslam Ghumman, strongly refuted the Afghan intelligence agency’s claim that the Haqqani network remains safe from the North Waziristan operation because its leaders had been relocated to safer locations. “The Pakistani security establishment has learnt the lesson from its involvement in the Afghan jihad - having raised 40,000 militants to fight out the Russian occupation forces. As Pakistan continues to suffer the blowback of the past follies, it can’t simply afford protecting or nourishing any more jihadi Frankenstein. The truth is that the Pakistani establishment wants to secure its borders with Afghanistan. And we can’t achieve this objective by interfering in Afghanistan. If we interfere there, they will react by interfering here. Therefore, we don’t want to interfere in Afghanistan, which is our brotherly Islamic country. And the decision makers in Afghanistan should also understand that their ultimate friend is Pakistan and not India which is using their soil to create problems for Pakistan”, observed the former ISI official.
However, as the Pakistani security forces keep advancing in North Waziristan after uprooting the Taliban, it has transpired the Haqqani network had been running training camps for suicide bombers in North Waziristan who were dispatched to Afghanistan. This became evident in the second week of July when the Pakistan Army finally entered the Serai Darpakhel area, almost a month after the operation was launched. The security forces discovered five suicide bombing facilities owned and operated by the Haqqani network in Serai Darpakhel, which was frequented by would-be-bombers in their teens and twenties; Afghans and Mehsuds mostly. Plastered on the walls of these training facilities were white banners inscribed with Kalma and beneath it ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.’
As Zarb-e-Azb continues to unfold, it seems that the Pakistani establishment is still in no mood to abandon the Haqqanis, which are its best and most lethal bet against Kabul. There were clear signs of tensions between the Haqqani leadership and the Pakistani establishment when unknown gunmen assassinated Commander Sirajuddin Haqqani’s younger brother, Naseeruddin Haqqani, in Islamabad in November 2013, a few days after Hakeemullah Mehsud was droned to death. However, “things” are back to normal between the two allies after the Haqqanis assured their ‘hosts’ that they won’t support the TTP in future. In return, the Haqqanis were given a safe passage before the start of the operation in North Waziristan.
However, Brigadier (Retd) Aslam Ghumman insisted that the Pakistani establishment would not allow any militant group to carry out any terrorist activity from the Pakistani side of the border in Afghanistan, be it the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban, the TTP or the Punjabi Taliban. “We don’t want any hostility or enmity with Afghanistan because it will eventually hurt Pakistan”, the former ISI official added.

Video Report : ' د فاټا لپاره د ګلګت بلتستان او کشمیر غوندې حثیت غواړو'

له قبایلي سیمې فاټا څخه د پاکستان پارلمان کې د باجوړ قامي اسمبلۍ غړی شهاب الدین خان او د خېبر قامي اسمبلۍ غړی شادي ګل وايي، چې فاټا ته دې هم د ګلګت بلتستان او کشمیر غوندې اییني او قانوني حثیت ورکړل شي. د پاکستان پارلمان ودانۍ مخې ته د مشال راډیو خبریال ریاض موسا خېل مرکه ورسره کړې.

TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan

Following an attack on a security post in North Waziristan, in which four soldiers lost their lives, Pakistan Foreign Office summoned the deputy chief of the Afghan embassy on Wednesday to hand him a demarche. Foreign Office later issued a statement saying "serious concerns were conveyed to the Afghan side on the developing threats from the recently-established sanctuaries across the border in Khost and Paktika provinces." The protest note comes in the wake of reports that TTP and affiliated militants escaping from the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan had established sanctuaries in two Afghan provinces to launch cross-border attacks like the one on the security post. After 11 of them killed in the clash with soldiers some 100 terrorists fled back across the border. There is no sane reason for Kabul to harbour these terrorists.
Notably, at the outset of Zarb-e-Azb Pakistan had requested Kabul to take action on its side of the border to eliminate fleeing terrorists. Instead, as FO statement notes, they have been allowed to set up sanctuaries. Earlier, the Swat militant leader Mullah Fazlullah who now heads the TTP, was allowed to use Kunar and Nuristan provinces to carry out terrorist activities in this country. The excuse then was that since the Afghan Taliban, in particular the powerful Haqqani network, were camped in North Waziristan from where they launched attacks into Afghanistan, Pakistan should not expect Afghan security forces to do anything about Mullah Fazlullah and his men operating from Kunar and Nuristan. Even if the excuse had validity in the past, it is impertinent at present in view of the fact that Pakistan's security forces are carrying out a comprehensive military operation in North Waziristan. The Haqqanis are not there. And to address any lingering misgivings, a while ago Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent a special emissary, Mehmood Khan Ackakzai, to Kabul to clear the air, and redress any complaints President Hamid Karzai might have had against Islamabad. Persisting issues need to be resolved urgently and effectively.
Some reports indicate Kabul is still unhappy with Islamabad. It is said to have taken umbrage at the September 12 video message issued by the Punjabi Taliban chief Ismatullah Muaviya, saying that his men will stop militant activities in Pakistan, focusing only on preaching Islam and Sharia, but that they would continue "practical jihad in Afghanistan." Subsequent reports indicate the Punjabi Taliban are aligning with the Haqqanis to continue fighting in Afghanistan. That should worry the Afghan government. However, it needs to be remembered that Punjabi Taliban carried out some of the deadliest attacks against civilian as well as military targets in this country, including the Army headquarters. Muaviya made the statement not as part of some agreement with the Pakistan government or the security forces, but as a consequence of the military action. This is no time for Kabul or Islamabad to hurt one another. International forces are due to leave Afghanistan soon. At a time like this Kabul's turning a blind eye, even indirect encouragement, to TTP's violent extremists is inexplicable. For they pose as serious a threat to peace and security in this country as in Afghanistan, and Western countries even further afield. The two countries must join hands to fight the common enemy.

Pakistan: Two years since ban…: No sign of YouTube being restored

The Express Tribune
Two years after YouTube was banned in the country on September 17, 2012, there are no signs of authorities lifting the restriction on the use of the video-sharing website any time soon.
YouTube was blocked after a controversial video titled Innocence of Muslims was uploaded by a user.
No other Muslim country banned YouTube in reaction to the video. Last year, Afghanistan and Bangladesh accepted interstitial screens [and lifted the ban]. Pakistan was offered interstitials, but declined it.
The ban on YouTube was placed through an executive order, issued by the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites (IMCEW). It was announced by the then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
In 2013, Bytes for All, a non-profit organisation, moved Lahore High Court against the ban.
Yasser Latif Hamdani, counsel for the NGO, argued the case challenging internet filtering and surveillance by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. “The biggest hurdle to lifting the ban is former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s September 17, 2012, order… that the Innocence of Muslims should not be made available through YouTube under any circumstances,” Hamdani told The Express Tribune.
He said the Supreme Court should take suo sponte action and resolve the matter so that Lahore High Court could allow access to YouTube.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervez Rasheed said the government would lift the ban as soon the Supreme Court ordered it. Farieha Aziz, who appeared before Lahore High Court as amicus curiae, said, “Proceedings at Lahore High Court have unearthed many truths. The ultimate resolution lies at the doors of the Supreme Court.”
She said while the case must be taken to the Supreme Court, it did not mean the government’s job was done or would start after the case was filed. “No attempt was made by the government until it was forced into addressing the matter. And on many occasions when asked for clarifications, it opted for a ‘this matter is subjudice’ stance.” She said the government needed to come clean. “Put before the people what has been discussed. Tell them exactly the solutions that have been suggested and the logic behind them. It’s time they take the initiative to do a job that is theirs instead of being forced through court orders into performing it,” said Aziz.
Sana Saleem of BoloBhi said, “The Ministry of Information Technology has been absent from the debate on the YouTube ban and internet censorship in Pakistan. For two years, the ministry has gone from statements about buying filters to citing a Supreme Court order as justification for the ban. The government, especially the ministry seems completely uninterested in the citizens’ right to information.” On April 24, 2014, Senator Nasreen Jalil had written to the prime minister saying that the ban was a matter of great concern for the citizens of Pakistan.
Both the committees on IT in the National Assembly and the Senate took up the matter. The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights passed a unanimous resolution on April 21, 2014, recommending that the ban be lifted.
Lahore High Court has gone through an extensive process to include the input of stakeholders and come out with a clear answer that it is for the IT Ministry to lift the ban on YouTube. The National Assembly also passed a resolution on May 6, 2014, calling upon the government to lift the ban. The resolution was tabled by Shazia Marri of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
Kahkashan Farooq, a social media activist, says YouTube was banned because it was being used effectively to uncover administrative and political corruption.
“But you won’t find the people who thunder and roar everyday on the virtues of their versions of democracy speak up in defence of YouTube that has served, and could continue to serve the people better than they ever have.”

Pakistan: Govt accused of discrimination among IDPs of various areas

Syed Bukhar Shah
A 50-year-old internally displaced person from Khyber Agency’s Bara tehsil complained against the government for discriminating among the IDPs from different areas.
Shah Jehan Malikdinkhel also lamented that one of his sons who is a doctor had abandoned him in old age.
He is among the IDPs from Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand agencies who have been attending the protest camp set up outside the Peshawar Press Club for the last 53 days.
They are demanding the government to give them the relief package that was extended to the IDPs from North Waziristan where the Pakistan Army launched a military operation against the local and foreign militants on June 15.
He also complained of misappropriation in the distribution of the relief goods among the IDPs at the Jalozai Camp in Nowshera district. He said the government had failed to check corruption at the distribution centres at the camp.
Shah Jehan, a retired Subedar from the paramilitary Frontier Corps, has five daughters and five sons. He said his four daughters and four sons are married.
“Now I have to cater to the needs of a small family. Being a pensioner, I have to pay the fees of my son and daughter who are receiving education at public schools,” he said.
Like other IDPs, Shah Jehan also had to leave his house in Nakai in Tirah valley. He also owns a house in Kohe Sher Haider area in Bara. He said his houses were destroyed in heavy shelling.
“Life in the camp is very difficult. There are no education and health facilities. We even don’t have clean drinking water,” he said “We are protesting for our rights,” he added.
Shah Jehan claimed the authorities were not solving their problems for their vested interests. “We have suggested to the authorities to give us cash instead of the substandard food items,” he said.
Shah Jehan was unhappy with one of his sons who is doctor and has a wife who is also a doctor for abandoning parents in old age. “It is deplorable that some children abandon their parents in distress even though they worked hard to educate their offspring,” he stressed.

Pakistan - Punjab rulers ‘qabza group mindset’ scares foreign investors

Contrary to its claims of attracting foreign investment in the province the Punjab administration has offended the foreigners already in business in the country with different Pakistani entities and the ‘Dharabi Lake Resort’ project is a recent example.
The ‘qabza mafia mind-set’ of the PML-N rulers which is always criticised by the political opponents and who say that they keep themselves away from any project that had been initiated by the predecessors till the time it gets a plaque of their own name has started a new game. Under the very nose of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, some believe it is being done at his behest. The Punjab administration has started forcibly capturing the lands bought, levelled, prepared and finalised for a project by Pakistani entities with the help of foreign investors.
It has come to light that a public company incorporated under the laws of Pakistan, Pace Barka Properties Limited, presently involved in several such mega projects that relate to the establishment and construction of apartment complexes, hotels, shopping malls, recreational facilities in the country, in the year 2006 based on the interest shown by its foreign investors, purchased approximately 4,072 kanals of land in Balkasar and adjoining areas. They bought 2,227 kanals in Balkasar, 1068 kanals in Mureed and 777 kanals in Raihna Sadaat.
The land is situated at Dharabi Lake, Mouza Balkar, Tehsil and District Chakwal and was bought for the construction, development and establishment of ‘Pace Resorts’ and a five star hotel, giving it the name of ‘Peacock Valley’. The project includes a luxury hotel facility, scenic views and lake facility for water-based sports and recreation, etc. The primary purpose of the project is to bring direct foreign investment into Pakistan, create job opportunities for the residents of the locality, encourage and promote tourism and guests from within and outside Pakistan to visit the locality and boost the inflow of foreign investment and create a softer and healthier image of Pakistan the world over.
It is very important to note that the major shareholding in the project is of foreign investors who have only invested for the business purposes by contributing in the form of foreign currency, increasing foreign exchange reserves and revenue of Pakistan. It is also essential to mention here that the foreign investors have only considered investing in the real estate and development industry of Pakistan based on the tedious efforts and representations made by the Pace Baraka aiming at bringing foreign investment into the country for business purposes. In other words this land is in fact owned by the foreign investors.
The Pace Barka after purchasing the land from the owners in the year 2006 with the money of foreign investors hired services of renowned foreign consultants to develop the land to execute the project. The lay-outs, structures, plans, site plans, designs, etc, relating to the hotel and resorts’ construction was made by the foreign experts of international repute. No need to say that Pace Barka has to date spent millions of rupees on the levelling of the land as in original form it comprised of hundreds of square feet of covered area comprised of rocky hills and sand dunes.
As advised by the foreign consultants in regard to the project, Pace Barka hired the services of expert land developers and spent millions of rupees to bulldoze, raze, flatten the land to make it a levelled and plain surface. This process entailed the hiring and usage of heavy and expensive machinery at the location that were utilised to cut and level the rocky riverbanks surrounding the property. Worth mentioning is that the major chunk of the money was sent by the foreign investors. To cut a long story short Pace Barka with the sharing of foreign investors money is working on this project for the last seven years and has spent several millions of rupee on this project and the work is still continued.
The qabza group mindset Punjab rulers, with the aim to grab this land, issued a notice to the company under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 on 26.03.2014 asking them to vacate the land. The government issued second notice under Section 6 and 17(4) of the Act on 29.04.2013 forcing them to vacate the land on a price of its own choice several thousands times less than the amount they have spent to execute the project. Pace Barka moved to the quarters concerned to express its point of view, arguing that the blatant and outright acquisition of the property by the Punjab government would result in breach of legally binding national and international documentation, agreements and contracts to which the Pace Barka and its foreign and local partners are parties to and such act of the Punjab government would open floodgates of local and international litigation that shall not only involve the Pace Barka but also engross the government of Pakistan and shall only result in tarnishing and damaging the image of the country in the eyes of foreign investors and their countries of origin.
The Pace Barka has submitted its statement to the assistant commissioner/land acquisition collector, tehsil Chakwal, objecting to the acquisition of land but is still waiting a decision in writing. It is worth mentioning that contrary to Punjab in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) foreign investment is much appreciated and the provincial government creates conducive atmosphere for the foreigners. The steps taken by KP have restored confidence of the foreigners. The atmosphere has led to vow of grants from the international entities, as out of the Rs 118 billion ADP for the current fiscal, the provincial government will raise Rs 83 billion from its resources, while the rest will come from multiple donors, including DFID, JICA, SDC, USAID, NORAD, World Bank, UNDP and ADB. Of this amount, Rs 30.6 billion is in grants and Rs 4.4 billion in loans.
A noteworthy point is that in the recent past Punjab government used to flay the federal government for “scaring away foreign investors wanting to invest in Punjab”. It alleged that “wrong policies of the Centre forced the Turkish investors to wind up their projects, while the Chinese and Iranian investors too got disappointed”. It is a point to ponder for Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif whether ‘qabza group mindset’ of his administration would annoy the foreigners having intention of investing in different billion rupee worth projects in the province. Every sane mind would advise Mian Shahbaz Sharif to have a look into the affairs of his administration and avoid steps that could annoy the foreign investors.