Monday, September 22, 2014

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Child who survived the terrorism of ISIS relates tale of his ordeal

Not content with endangering the physical safety of children, terrorist organizations are putting children who fall in their grasp through psychological torture that violates the very basics of human rights principles, with these organizations training children to bear arms and fight, forcing them to witness beheadings and mutilations, and brainwashing them to force their poisonous extremist views upon them.
Mohammad, a child from the town of Ein al-Arab in Aleppo’s northern countryside, is a survivor of the terrors brought forth by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organizations which had abducted him along with other children from the town in 29/05/2014. Now, he relates the tale of how he escaped the horrors of ISIS.
Mohammad told SANA that after he and his fellow nine-graders finished their exams, they headed to their hometown at noon on the aforementioned date in a bus convoy, and on the way the convoy’s supervisors decided to stop at midnight so that the children can sleep and then continue in the morning.
“At around 1:30 in the morning, a group of terrorists attacked us. They were in SUVs equipped with machineguns. They separated boys and girls, sending the girls to Aleppo in the same buses we were using and taking the 148 boys to al-Fateh Mosque in the town of Manbej,” he said. “On the next day, we were taken to a school in the same town where we were tortured in various ways by terrorists calling themselves Abu Shahid al-Shami and Abu Anas who were under the command of a man with a Saudi accent called Abu Hashem al-Jazrawi.
“Our hands were bound and we were suspended with ropes from the roof, and they whipped us. They made us watch videos of members of the terrorist groups attacking areas, beheading people, torturing people, and executing captives,” Mohammad said, adding that he and the other boys saw crucified and beheaded people in the town’s square.
He also said that the terrorist gave the children aliases similar to their own and gave them intensive “sharia courses” to brainwash the boys and force their beliefs upon them.
“We saw a lot of Kurds who were kidnapped by the terrorist organizations. They were students, teachers, and children of known social figures and the area who were kidnapped to pressure their parents and to exchange them with terrorists captured by the public protection forces, including some of their emirs and women working with them,” he said.
Mohammad went on to say that after a week of their capture, they were interrogated by the terrorists, and based on that 30 children were charged with being members of the Kurdish public protection forces, and they were sent to a prison. These 30 boys were returned just before the month of Ramadan began and were isolated in rooms, noting that these boys were tortured more than the others.
He said that after a month of captivity, 15 of the children were released because they couldn’t bear the captivity due to their young age, as these boys were no older than 13, while the ones who were between 14 and 16 were kept in captivity.
“Before Eid al-Fitr holiday, 13 kids escaped by jumping over the school’s wall, and at 5 in the morning three of them were captured in Jarablos and returned to the school. They kept a close eye on them and tortured them twice as much as the other kids. After that, there were repeated escape attempts, and a total of 18 kids managed to escape,” Mohammad said.
He said that several negotiation attempts between the public protection forces and the terrorists to release the children in exchange for captured terrorists failed because the terrorists didn’t abide by the deals, adding that ISIS terrorists in that area still have 102 children in captivity, and that he learned that these kids were sent to Iraq to be trained for carrying out suicide operations.
Mohammad concluded his tale, electing to leave some details unmentioned in fear for his life and for the lives of his family. It remains to be seen if his tale and the tales of dozens of other children who went through similar ordeals will ever reach the ears of the slumbering international community and rouse it from its hibernation.

Qatar arming extremist groups - Funding terrorists is not what friends do

It cannot be right that a state such as Qatar can support extremist Islamic groups while enjoying a lucrative partnership with the West.
Enough is enough. One British hostage has been killed by the savage Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and we now know of two more being held captive. Getting them back is, of course, a complex task fraught with moral dilemma. Britain is committed not to pay ransoms. The refusal to do so sends a clear message to political gangsters that kidnapping UK citizens and trying to extort money in return for their release is a waste of time. The UK’s stance is a principled one but, obviously, the actions of terrorists can still end in violent tragedy. The Government has to do all it can to make sure that such kidnappings do not happen in the first place.
Finally, politicians are starting to ask who is financing the people who do these terrible things. Vernon Coaker, the shadow defence secretary, has called on ministers to press states in the Arab region to cease sending funds to the “brutal” jihadists. “These are dangerous people and we have to defeat them and one of the ways to do that is to cut off their source of funding,” Mr Coaker told this newspaper.
Indeed, an investigation for The Telegraph discovered that while oil-rich Qatar denies ever financing Isil, it did become the main patron for an extremist group fighting in Syria called Ahrar al-Sham and that Qatari weapons and money may have reached the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate. Meanwhile, Western diplomats believe that Qatar supplied arms to the Islamist coalition that captured Tripoli in Libya last month. And Qatar is a longstanding backer of Hamas, the radical Palestinian movement in Gaza. In 2012, Hamas’s political leaders moved their headquarters from Damascus in Syria to Doha, the Qatari capital.
Stephen Barclay, a Tory MP, has suggested that British diplomats might be unwilling to confront the Qataris for fear of frightening away their cash investments in the UK. But speak up they must. Security and the safety of British citizens is priceless – and it cannot be right that a state such as Qatar can, on the one hand, support radical groups and, on the other, enjoy such a lucrative partnership with the West. It should be compelled to do the right thing.

FIFA executive: Qatar should not host the 2022 World Cup

Executive warns that even managing temperatures in the stadium would be insufficient as the cup 'does not take place only there'
Qatar should not host the 2022 World Cup because of the scorching temperatures in the Gulf country, FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger said on Monday.
"I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar," the German told Sport Bild on Monday.
"Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions," said the former German football (DFB) chief, who is now a member of the world football's governing body FIFA that awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010.
Although Qatar has insisted that a summer World Cup is viable thanks to cooling technologies it is developing for stadiums, training areas and fan zones, there is still widespread concern over the health of the players and visiting supporters.
"They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there," Zwanziger said.
FIFA is also looking into shifting the tournament to a European winter date to avoid the scorching summer where temperatures routinely rise over 40 Celsius.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa chaired a meeting to discuss the matter earlier this month with the options of January/February 2022 and November/December 2022 being offered as alternatives to June/July.
However, talk of a potential change away from the usual June-July dates has resulted in plenty of opposition from domestic leagues around the world, worried the schedule switch would severely disrupt them.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in May that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a "mistake" and the tournament would probably have to be held in the European winter.
"The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar," he added.
Both FIFA and Qatar World Cup organisers have come under the spot light for corruption allegations since they were awarded the tournament back in 2010. An expose by The Sunday Times newspaper revealed that millions had been paid to FIFA decission makers by a Qatari official, an allegation the Qatari's deny.
Qatar has also been harshly criticised for the conditions provided for migrant workers' in the tiny but wealthy Gulf state. Several commentators on social media have referenced human rights violations in Qatar as a more significant reason for the country not to be allowed to host the World Cup.
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How the Islamic State Took Turkey Hostage

The 49 Turkish diplomats captured by the jihadist group in Mosul may now be free, but Ankara still has many reasons to think twice about confronting the extremists on its border.
Is Turkey part of the broad coalition against the Islamic State (IS) that President Barack Obama has been trying to fashion, or not? There is certainly reason to think it would be interested in the effort: Turkey shares a long land border with Syria, many of the moderate Syrian opposition leaders have long been based in Turkey, and the Turkish government has been at the forefront of the opposition to the Assad regime, along with many of the other states in the anti-IS coalition.
Turkey, however, did not join the 10 Arab countries that signed on to help build a coalition against IS at a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this past week, and has made it clear that it will not partake in military operations against IS. It is willing to provide humanitarian aid, and will in all likelihood offer clandestine support to U.S. efforts.
The primary reason the Turks give for their reticence was their concern for the fate of 49 Turkish diplomatic and security personnel who were seized by IS when the group overran the Iraqi city of Mosul; they were released on Sept. 20. The hostage crisis was emblematic of all that has gone wrong for Turkey in Syria: Although warned of the impending fall of Iraq's second-largest city, the Turks terribly miscalculated in thinking that IS would not harm Turkish personnel, given how critical Ankara's support for the anti-Assad effort had been.
The end of the hostage crisis in Mosul, however, does not necessarily mean Turkey has a free hand to confront IS. Ankara still faces a second quasi-hostage crisis that gives Turkish leaders reason to think twice about joining Obama's coalition. South of Turkey's border with Syria, a squadron of Turkish soldiers guards an ancient tomb which is said to belong to Suleyman Shah, the first Ottoman sultan's grandfather. It was ceded by the French occupying power to the new Turkish state in 1921. The tomb had to be moved closer to Turkey in 1975 following the damming of the Euphrates and the creation of Lake Assad; the new location, in Syria's Aleppo province, is some 20 miles from the Turkish border. Since then, a contingent of Turkish troops has been stationed there, rotating through regularly with supplies.
Were the jihadists to decide to overrun the Turkish enclave, they could probably do it easily, although it would certainly prompt a Turkish military reaction. Either way, the situation is a delicate if not impossible one for Ankara, as the only way to resupply this small contingent of troops is by reaching some sort of understanding with the jihadist group. The last known resupply operation occurred near the end of April, when IS did not enjoy the dominance it does today.
While the details of the hostage deal are still unclear, Ankara has had interlocutors with IS -- from Arab tribes to former Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who sought refuge in Turkey -- who could have been instrumental in reaching it. Such a deal, however, may include a promise of continued non-involvement in the campaign against the jihadist group, with the soldiers stationed at Suleyman Shah serving as an insurance policy for the jihadists.
Turkey's other problem has been the emergence of a jihadist support infrastructure within its own territory. Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone recently told journalists that Ankara had been working with groups that the United States considers "beyond the pale," including the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front. Earlier this year, Turkish police also stopped a truck reportedly belonging to the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), an NGO close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that made its name organizing the ill-fated 2010 flotilla to Gaza, for allegedly carrying weapons to fighters in Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has denied that Ankara has worked with al-Nusra Front, while IHH denies that it had anything to do with the stopped truck.
Aid, munitions, and fighters have been smuggled across the border at will, sometimes via ambulance. The resulting infrastructure -- consisting of groups of sympathizers or enablers, networks of safe houses, transportation and smuggling channels, and medical support -- is now autonomous of the government.
Estimates vary, but Turkish media reports have suggested that as many as 1,000 Turks have joined IS. According to opinion polls, only 70 percent of Turks view IS as a terrorist group. In a country of 75 million, the 30 percent who do not share such a view represent an important potential recruiting pool for the jihadist group.
For some time, the Obama administration had been pushing former prime minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to clamp down on supporting jihadists in Syria. After the fall of Mosul and the mobilization against IS, pressure on Turkey has been ramped up. The United States has not asked to use its mammoth Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey for military operations against IS, knowing full well that Ankara would turn them down.
The use of Incirlik would make it much easier and cheaper for the United States to conduct operations, instead of routing them out of the air base in Doha or the carriers in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. But the truth is, the United States does not need that base to achieve its limited objectives. Instead, Washington wants to work more closely with Ankara without making much of a fuss. However, the dismantling of the infrastructure in Turkey that supports jihadists of all stripes, and the oil-smuggling routes benefiting IS, must come first. Erdogan bristles at any criticism from the American press, accusing it of engaging in slander and malicious propaganda. But he is in a difficult situation, much of it of his own doing. To be fair, the 560-mile Turkish-Syrian border is difficult to seal completely; people in that region have for decades made a living off smuggling.
The bigger problem, however, is that the Turkish government has little faith in the United States. This is partially ideological, but also based on experience. After all, the bungled management of post-invasion Iraq does not inspire confidence in Washington's ability to steward this new effort.
Between the hostages IS has captured and the important residual support it commands in Turkey, the jihadist group has managed to significantly restrict Erdogan's room to maneuver. The natural policy for Turkey now is to sit on the sidelines -- but as the fight against IS escalates, Turkey could find itself under increasing pressure to be drawn in. Will this resemble 2003? Then, the Turkish parliament, despite the Ankara government's efforts in support, voted down a resolution that would have allowed American troops to cross into Iraq through Turkish territory. That decision cast a shadow on Turkish-American relations as the United States struggled to control post-Saddam Iraq. Turkey's dilemma, in short, is that it has lost the initiative to IS; while it has rescued its hostages, it still remains hostage to IS.

Video - USA - Thousands of climate change activists SHUT DOWN Wall Street

U.S. - Climate protesters march on Wall Street, block street near NYSE

By Sebastien Malo
Hundreds of protesters marched through New York City's financial district on Monday and blocked streets near the stock exchange to denounce Wall Street's role in raising money for businesses that contribute to climate change.
Protesters stopped traffic on Broadway south of the New York Stock Exchange. Occupying about two blocks, some were standing while others sat. Two were arrested after trying to cross a police barricade.
The demonstration, called Flood Wall Street, came on the heels of Sunday's international day of action that brought some 310,000 people to the streets of New York City in what activists was said was the largest protest ever held on climate change.
Sunday's turnout was about triple that of the previous biggest, a Copenhagen demonstration staged five years ago.
Kai Sanburn, a 60-year-old nurse and mother of two from Los Angeles, said she had traveled to New York for Sunday's march and wanted to do more.
The group has roots in the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011 to protest what it called unfair banking practices that serve the wealthiest 1 percent, leaving behind 99 percent of the world's population.
Flood Wall Street organizers said they hope Monday's action will draw a link between economic policies and the environment, accusing top financial institutions of "exploiting frontline communities, workers and natural resources" for financial gain.
The event is part of Climate Week, which seeks to draw attention to carbon emissions and their link to global warming, and it comes ahead of a Tuesday United Nations Climate Summit.

Video : Obama "grateful" for Secret Service

Russia's Putin looking at cooperation to fight Islamic State: agency

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with his Security Council on Monday potential cooperation with other countries on fighting against Islamic State, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin's spokesman as saying. Russia, whose ties with Washington are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, has not yet responded to calls from the United States to build an international coalition to destroy the radical Sunni Muslim group, which has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
"Permanent members of the Security Council exchanged opinions on possible forms of cooperation with other partners on a plan to counter Islamic State in the framework of international law," Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
He did not say who the other partners were.
Islamic State could potentially threaten Moscow as it includes in its ranks a number of Muslims from Russia's North Caucasus region, who have been waging their own insurgency in the mountainous region following two wars between Moscow and separatists in Chechnya in 1994-96 and 1999-2000.
U.S. and French warplanes have struck Islamic State targets in Iraq and on Sunday the United States said other countries had indicated a willingness to join it if it goes ahead with air strikes against the group in Syria to

President Obama to Rally Coalition Against Islamic State at UN

By Michael Bowman
This week, the Obama administration will continue efforts to build a broad international coalition against Islamic State militants, also known as ISIL and ISIS, that have seized territory in Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama will address the U.N. General Assembly and lead a special session of the Security Council to rally support for the campaign against the Sunni radicals.
Fighting intensified between Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, as U.S. and French warplanes delivered air strikes. Meanwhile, bombs killed dozens in Baghdad, where Shi’ites demonstrated against any redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq.
President Obama has repeatedly ruled out U.S. ground troops in combat roles, saying Iraqis and Syrians backed by the international community will lead the charge.
“Over 40 countries have offered to help the broad campaign against ISIL so far, from training and equipment to humanitarian relief to flying combat missions. And this week at the United Nations, I will continue to rally the world against this threat,” said Obama.
America’s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, previewed the president’s appearance.
“President Obama will come on Wednesday and will convene a very unusual head-of-state summit on the issue of foreign terrorist fighters, to try to stop the financing to terrorists in places like Iraq and Syria, to counter violent extremism, to involve civil society in delegitimizing the messages that ISIL is putting forward,” said Power, speaking on ABC’s This Week program.
No nation has pledged to join the United States in an air campaign over Syria. But Power remains confident.
“I will make a prediction that we will not do the airstrikes alone if the president decides to do the air strikes [in Syria],” said Power.
Last week, both houses of Congress approved the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels. Although the measure had ample bipartisan support in both chambers, there were dissenters, among them Republican Senator Rand Paul.
“From [Saddam] Hussein to [Bashar al-] Assad to [Muammar] Gadhafi, it is the same history. Intervention topples the secular dictator. Chaos ensues and radical jihadists emerge. The pattern has been repeated time and time again. And yet what we have here is a failure to understand, a failure to reflect on the outcome of our involvement in Arab civil wars," said Paul.
Lawmakers voted before adjourning for what is expected to be an extended recess until midterm elections in November.

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Bilawal Bhutto - Democratic Pakistan vital for global peace
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday said democratic Pakistan could play vital role in global peace.
In his message on occasion of International Day of Peace, Bilawal said that all stakeholders must play role for strengthening the democracy. He said that it was hoped that world powers would not support opportunists and anarchists. “All world powers must play their role for maintaining global peace.”
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21. The United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and people.

Afghanistan : Broad Support for Abdullah Abdullah As Possible Chief Executive

A number of politicians and commentators on Monday said that Abdullah Abdullah is the best person for the Chief Executive position, and that if he does not fill the role, the national unity government could face problems.
The analysts stressed that Mr. Abdullah, who became the runner up in this year's election after the announcement of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's victory on Sunday, is an experienced politician and diplomat.
There have been some reports that Abdullah wants to designate another person for the position. But MPs on Monday spoke out in favor of Abdullah filling the role.
"The candidates must abide upon their commitments as they made in the formation of the national unity government and the leaders of the two teams must endorse their responsibilities they accepted," MP Shukria Barakzai said.
Because of Abdullah's leadership among those who were most distraught with this year's election and opposed a Ghani presidency, legislators suggested his serving in the chief executive role would be critical to keeping the power-sharing arrangement intact.
"Dr. Abdullah had offered the plan for a parliamentary system, he has the capability to move forward the responsibilities of the post of chief executive," MP Nahid Farid said, referring to the deal made between the two candidates in which the chief executive serves as in a kind of prime minister-type role.
Even members of Abdullah's own camp expressed support for him taking on the new role. "Dr. Abdullah in the position of the chief executive is the only option that could ensure the success of the national unity government," Abdullah camp member Fazlurrahman Orya said.

Prepare For Change in How Afghanistan Is Run

By Ankit Panda
After a nearly four-month long saga, Afghanistan has a president-elect. Ashraf Ahmadzai Ghani, an economist and former Afghan finance minister, will be the thirteenth president of Afghanistan, succeeding Hamid Karzai. “The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan declares Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the president of Afghanistan,” declared Ahmad Yousur Nuristani, chief of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), in a long-awaited announcement. Abdullah Abdullah, runner-up in the run-off presidential election that took place on June 14, will instead nominate a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with powers resembling those of a prime minister as per a unity government deal negotiated with assistance from the United States. This CEO will take office as an executive prime minister within two years. Ghani will take be sworn into office on September 29, 2014. Abdullah’s CEO nominee will also be nominated alongside Ghani.
Abdullah and Ghani were mired in a seemingly intractable dispute over vote rigging during the June run-off election, the unity government deal, and a host of other issues. The two rivals signed and finalized a power-sharing deal on Sunday that ended this stand-off, granting some much-needed clarity to Afghanistan’s political future. Since the unity government deal will change the administrative structure of the Afghan government considerably, a loya jirga (grand legislative assembly) will be held within two years to amend Afghanistan’s constitution, formally creating a prime ministerial position.
Under the current constitution of Afghanistan, which was ratified in 2004, the president of the country wields considerable power over government affairs. It remains unknown how the addition of a second-fiddle CEO role will affect governance in Afghanistan in implementation. Scholars Srinjoy Bose and Niamat Ibrahimi have noted some of the reasons why the John Kerry-brokered national unity government deal is risky. In particular, they note that the unity government is a “band-aid solution to a more long-term problem” in Afghan politics. The unity government may lead to instability as Ghani and Abdullah fail to make good on promises to elite supporters. Additionally, “a national unity government may undermine the effectiveness of state institutions and result in policy paralysis at a time when Afghanistan needs smaller, but more effective governance.”
In practice, Ghani, as president, will have power over strategic decisions in Afghanistan’s governance. Under the changes to be made to Afghanistan’s constitution, the country will gain a Council of Ministers, a body charged with managing the more administrative aspects of running the country. Abdullah’s CEO nominee, once appointed, would then chair this council. One of the issues that led to the two rivals coming together with a deal was Abdullah’s demand that he be allowed to appoint senior leaders on an equal level with Ghani. Ghani conceded this in the end. On paper, it appears as if the highest levels of Afghanistan’s government will feature individuals from both camps. The agreement between the two men states that the ”the two teams will be equally represented at the leadership level.”
Additionally, while the electoral crisis did not result in fragmentation at the ethnic level, power-sharing between Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun who hails from the south of the country, and Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik who comes for the northern regions of the country, could create an uneasy equilibrium where ethnic competition for political influence undermines national unity. In order to prevent this, the two men must make efforts to avoid polarizing political grand-standing in Kabul. Beyond ethnic issues, differences in policy preferences between senior ministers — some of whom will be appointed by Ghani and some by Abdullah — could result in gridlock in Afghanistan’s executive branch.
The unity government arrangement, most critically, prevents Abdullah’s camp from walking away from this election with a sense of having been robbed of the presidency (and thus facing political disenfranchisement in Afghanistan’s highly centralized political system). This would have been particularly unacceptable to Abdullah’s supporters in this year’s election given that similar sentiments persisted after Abdullah yielded the presidency to Karzai in 2009 after similar controversy over the election. The benefits of the unity government deal, thus, outweigh the uncertain but potentially serious costs for the moment.
Despite the risks, the conclusion of this deal will lead to U.S. and NATO leaders breathing a sigh of relief as they prepare to depart Afghanistan at the end of this year. Particularly, one of the top priority items for Ghani’s government will be to conclude two important security pacts with the United States and NATO respectively. The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA, to be signed with the United States) and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, to be signed with NATO) will allow additional foreign troops to stay on in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year for limited counter-terrorism operations and to provide training for Afghan security forces. Ghani and Abdullah both publicly declared their support for a continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and will sign the controversially delayed security agreements. Hamid Karzai, the outgoing Afghan president, refused to sign the agreements beginning in late-2013, arguing that proximity to Afghanistan’s presidential elections meant that his successor ought to sign the deals.
Afghanistan’s allies, international investors regional powers, and, indeed, the Afghan people will be happy to see a new president settle into the presidential palace in Kabul soon, ending a period of considerable uncertainty. For now, it appears as if Afghanistan’s fragile political transition is back on track, but the government in Kabul is sailing into uncharted waters with this unity government.
Get ready for some big changes in how Afghanistan is governed.

A Shaky Step Forward in Afghanistan

Afghans got a new president on Sunday, following a bitter fight over the fraud-plagued runoff election on June 14. The outcome was a brokered political accommodation that was far from democratic, but it nonetheless set the stage for an important milestone: a transfer of power that gives the government a fighting chance of containing the Taliban and mending a nation scarred by decades of war.
Shortly before election officials declared Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official, the winner, he and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, shared a tepid embrace at the presidential palace, where the two men signed a power-sharing agreement negotiated by the United States. Under the deal, Mr. Abdullah will assume a newly created post that will be similar to that of a prime minister. Supreme power will rest with the presidency.
The agreement appears to have narrowly averted, for now, further violence and a disastrous conclusion to America’s longest war. For the deal to hold, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani will have to formalize the details of an agreement that is subject to interpretation on many fronts. For instance, under the deal, the president will have to issue a decree outlining the specific administrative powers of the new position, according to the four-page document. The president also has final say over the scope of that position’s authority.
Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah will also have to work to prevent some power brokers from undermining the compromise deal. Western officials rightly worry in particular about the governor of Balkh Province in the north, Atta Muhammad Noor, who was among those urging Mr. Abdullah not to concede.
The first sign of how rocky the path forward will likely be emerged just after the election commission pronounced Mr. Ghani the victor. The candidates had agreed, at Mr. Abdullah’s request, that election officials would announce the winner on Sunday but not the tally of audited votes. Mr. Abdullah had asked that the numbers be disclosed at a later date, believing that their immediate release would legitimize a hugely fraudulent process, possibly stoking unrest. But election officials leaked the results to Afghan media outlets anyway, giving the new governing partnership a bitter start.
At the end of the day, the millions of Afghan voters who defied Taliban threats to cast ballots are now left wondering if their votes counted. Mr. Ghani’s presidency was not, by any reasonable measure, the result of a fair and credible election. Even so, Secretary of State John Kerry and his team in Kabul deserve recognition for formulating a power-sharing plan that gave the Afghans a way out of a crisis that could easily have plunged the country into a disastrous cycle of violence. If it works, this will mark the first peaceful transfer of power in the country’s history.
Mr. Ghani’s victory will mark the end of the decade-long tenure of President Hamid Karzai, who was supported by Washington but whose years in power were tainted by tolerance of corruption and marked by growing antagonism toward Washington. His refusal to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States to allow a small international military contingent to remain in the country for a couple of years — a precondition for continued foreign aid — deepened anxiety in Afghanistan unnecessarily. Both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah support the agreement.
It is a relief to see Mr. Karzai hand over the reins of power. But the change of leadership in Kabul is dampened by serious concerns over whether the power-sharing deal will prove durable.

Pakistan is eyeing sea-based and short-range nuclear weapons, analysts say

By Tim Craig and Karen DeYoung
In one of the world’s most volatile ­regions, Pakistan is advancing toward a sea-based missile capability and expanding its interest in tactical nuclear warheads, according to Pakistani and Western analysts.
The development of nuclear missiles that could be fired from a ship or submarine would give Pakistan “second-strike” capability if a catastrophic nuclear exchange destroyed all land-based weapons. But the acceleration of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs is renewing international concern about the vulnerability of those weapons in a country that is home to more than two dozen Islamist extremist groups.
“The assurances Pakistan has given the world about the safety of its nuclear program will be severely tested with short-range and sea-based systems, but they are coming,” said Michael ­Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a Washington-based global security think tank. “A cardinal principle of Pakistan’s nuclear program has been, ‘Don’t worry; we separate warheads from launchers.’ Well, that is very hard to do at sea.”
Western officials have been concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear program since it first tested an atomic device in 1998. Those fears have deepened over the past decade amid political tumult, terrorist attacks and tensions with the country’s nuclear-armed neighbor, India, with which it has fought three wars.
That instability was underscored this month as ­anti-government protests in the capital appeared to push Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to the brink of collapse. The political crisis was unfolding as Pakistan and India continued lobbing artillery shells across their border, in a tit-for-tat escalation that illustrated the continued risk of another war.
For more than a decade, Pakistan has sent signals that it is attempting to bolster its nuclear arsenal with “tactical” weapons — short-range missiles that carry a smaller warhead and are easier to transport.
Over the past two years, Pakistan has conducted at least eight tests of various land-based ballistic or cruise missiles that it says are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Last September, Sha­rif, citing “evolving security dynamics in South Asia,” said Pakistan is developing “a full- spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression.”
The next step of Pakistan’s strategy includes an effort to develop nuclear warheads suitable for deployment from the Indian Ocean, either from warships or from one of the country’s five diesel-powered submarines, analysts say. In a sign of that ambition, Pakistan in 2012 created the Naval Strategic Force command, which is similar to the commands in the air force and army that oversee nuclear weapons.
“We are on our way, and my own hunch is within a year or so, we should be developing our second-strike capability,” said Shireen M. Mazari, a nuclear expert and the former director of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, a hawkish Pakistani-government-funded think tank.
Pakistan’s nuclear push comes amid heightened tension with U.S. intelligence and congressional officials over the security of the country’s nuclear weapons and materials. The Washington Post reported in September 2013 that U.S. intelligence officials had increased surveillance of Pakistan in part because of concerns that nuclear materials could fall into the hands of terrorists.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, asked whether the United States is concerned about a sea-launched Pakistani weapon, said it is up to Pakistan to discuss its programs and plans. But, she said, “we continue to urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear and missile capabilities. We continue to encourage efforts to promote confidence-building and stability and discourage actions that might destabilize the region.”
During a visit to Washington for consultations with the Obama administration in July, Tariq Fatemi, Sharif’s senior foreign policy adviser, said the government had “no intention of pursuing” sea-based nuclear weapons.
It is unclear how much direct knowledge Sharif’s government has about the country’s nuclear weapons and missile-development programs, which are controlled by the powerful military’s Strategic Planning Directorate. But the prime minister is the chairman of the country’s National Command Authority, a group of civilian and military officials who would decide whether to launch a nuclear weapon.
Pakistani military officials declined to comment on the nuclear program. They note, however, that a January report by the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative named Pakistan the “most improved” in safeguarding nuclear materials.
Analysts say much about Pakistan’s program remains a mystery. Western experts, for example, are divided over whether Pakistan has the ability to shrink warheads enough for use with tactical or sea-launched weapons.
“They may have done so, but I can’t imagine it’s very reliable,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear and nonproliferation scholar at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Still, Lewis and other analysts say Pakistan is without doubt embarking on an ambitious multi-year strategy to enhance its nuclear arsenal and delivery systems.
In 2011, nongovernment experts interviewed by The Post estimated that Pakistan had built more than 100 deployed nuclear weapons. Now Pakistan’s fourth plutonium-production reactor is also nearing completion, and while most assessments of the country’s warhead inventory have not changed much in recent years, analysts say Pakistan continues to produce weapons material and develop delivery vehicles, positioning itself for another spurt of rapid growth at any time.
“They are going to make as much fissile material as they possibly can and keep making as many warheads as they possibly can,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a leading Pakistani nuclear expert and physicist.
India, which experts estimate has 80 to 100 deployed nuclear weapons, has a stated policy of using them only in response to an attack. Pakistan has repeatedly declined to embrace a no-first-use policy.
But concerns within Pakistan about India’s growing nuclear ambitions are helping to fuel Pakistan’s own advancements.
India, too, has been stepping up research and development of offensive and defensive weapons systems. In 2012, India test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile, which it said has a range of more than 3,100 miles. In February, the Times of India reported that the missile, as well as the country’s first nuclear-powered submarine, could be deployed as early as next year. In May, India conducted its first test of a planned missile defense system.
Much of India’s ballistic technology appears aimed at boosting its defenses against China, not Pakistan. But the Pakistani military has been shifting the focus of the country’s nuclear program over the past decade because of fears that Indian forces could use the threat of terrorism to launch a sudden cross-border strike.
India has a sizable advantage in conventional weapons, and its army is more than twice the size of Pakistan’s. And in recent years, Pakistan’s army says, more than one-third of Pakistan’s 500,000 soldiers have been focused not on the eastern frontier, but on battling Islamist militants on the region bordering Afghanistan.
So instead of working to enhance the range of its missiles, Pakistan is developing shorter-range cruise missiles that fly lower to the ground and can evade ballistic missile defenses, analysts say.
Pakistan has repeatedly tested its indigenously produced, nuclear-capable Babur cruise missile, which has a range of 400 miles and can strike targets at land and sea, military officials said. In 2011 and last year, Pakistan also tested a new tactical, nuclear-capable battlefield missile that has a range of just 37 miles.
“This is the miniaturization of warheads,” said Mansoor Ahmed, a strategic studies and nuclear expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
Maria Sultan, chairwoman of the Islamabad-based South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, an organization with close links to Pakistani military and intelligence officials, said the short-range missile is designed as a signal to India’s military.
“We are saying, ‘We have target acquisition for very small targets as well, so it’s really not a great idea to come attack us,’ ” Sultan said. “Before, we only had big weapons, so there was a gap in our deterrence, which is why we have gone for tactical nuclear weapons and cruise missiles.”
Still, even a limited use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield would likely trigger a major retaliatory strike from India, said Manpreet Sethi, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for Air Power Studies.
“The use of tactical nuclear weapons is not going to change an [Indian] offensive in any substantial way,” Sethi said. “Slow down, yes, but not stop.”
Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said the fact that Pakistani and Indian analysts even debate the outcome of a limited nuclear exchange is cause for alarm.
“India and Pakistan have so many avenues into a conflict that could spin out of control,” Kristensen said. “The development of these weapons systems lowers the point where you could potentially see nuclear weapons come into use.”

Pakistan: PTI MNAs to spill beans on ‘forced resignations’: report

Pakistan today
A report in local English daily, Express Tribune, Monday claimed that disgruntled members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will prove before the speaker of the National Assembly that their resignations were forced.
The report quoted a PTI MNA, who wished to remain anonymous, that NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had asked PTI lawmakers to appear before him on Tuesday and verify signatures on their resignation letters.
“Things will be made clear as MNAs will meet the speaker one on one,” said the report.
While a majority of the party MNAs submitted their resignations, some including Gulzar Khan, Musarrat Ahmedzeb and Nasir Khattak refused to step down from the public office.
The report also quoted a founding member of PTI, Akbar Babar who said that Imran Khan needs to take a look at the recent intra-party polls instead of demanding transparent elections in the country.
“The party elections were ‘nothing more than a farce’,” he claimed, adding that party tickets were sold just like “fish in a market”.
Some founding members met with disgruntled party lawmakers to discuss the ongoing situation. Babar said the meeting will discuss ways to release the party from the clutches of those who “hijacked it”. “It has become a one-man show and the party constitution does not allow that.”

Polio in Balochistan: Vaccinators in 4 districts not paid for three months

Despite frequent outbreaks of the crippling polio virus in recent months, polio vaccinators in four districts of Balochistan have not been paid for three months. Vaccination campaigns in the high risk districts of Quetta, Qila Abdullah and Pishin have been adversely affected as a result.
“Two polio cases were reported in Balochistan this year. As cases multiplied, more campaigns were launched to prevent the virus from spreading. Despite this increase in our workload, we haven’t been paid for the past three months,” Shaista Razzaq, a health worker who supervises several polio teams in Quetta, told The Express Tribune.
One field worker is paid Rs2,000 for a single campaign—Rs1,000 each by the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO). “The payments have never been made on time,” Shaista said, adding that the government and the WHO still owed her Rs7,000. She said the field workers who go door to door to inoculate children are too poor to pay for their own transport to health centres and hence many don’t show up at the campaigns.
When contacted by The Express Tribune, both WHO and the government blamed each other for the delay. “There is an issue with the payment but it is being addressed. Payments have been released by the government and the polio workers will get their salary soon,” Balochistan Health Secretary Arshad Bugti told The Express Tribune.
“The government makes direct payments [which does not get delayed], while the WHO uses Direct Distribution Mechanism (DDM) cards. The health workers send their data from far-flung areas, which causes the delay in the WHO payments,” he added. Conversely, the regional coordinator of the WHO, Anwar Bugti, maintained while speaking to The Express Tribune that the WHO makes payment within 12 days upon receipt of the DDM cards. “The delay is due to the district health officers. The WHO is yet to receive the DDM cards for the August 18 anti-polio campaign, and the money will be transferred as soon as government officials send in the DDM cards,” he said. Poliovirus has crippled many children this year, as total number of polio cases reported in the country rose to 166 on Friday. Around 118 of those cases were reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), 27 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 14 from Sindh, three from Balochistan and two from Punjab. There is a need for immediate action by the government to curb this menace as soon as possible.

Pakistan: Afrasiab Khattak dubs PTI sit-ins a poll campaign

As the sit-in of Imran Khan enters its 40th day outside the Parliament House, Senator Afrasiab Khattak views the activity as nothing but a warm-up by PTI for election campaign.
In an interview with The Nation on Sunday, Senator Khattak said Imran Khan’s speech at his Karachi gathering unveiled the intentions of Khan arguing that PTI’s countrywide sit-ins were nothing but aggressive election campaigns.
“But ‘mobocracy’ cannot replace the genuine national consensus. The joint session of National Assembly and Senate that reposed confidence in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is much bigger national consensus than demonstrations of any political party,” said Senator Khattak who is known for his wisdom not inside his Awami National Party (ANP) but is also respected by other political forces for his in-depth knowledge.
Pakistan, he said, was a nuclear state where decisions should be made by state institutions and not by a political mob adding that Imran Khan, even if elected prime minister, would further isolate the country like he has detached himself from other political forces. “Just imagine the temperament of Imran Khan. He does not want to meet leaders of other political parties. He has run out of ideas. How can he head a country where he has to face opponents too,” the Senator wondered.
He said the stubbornness demonstrated by Imran Khan will result in his political death. “Just like football is the game of rules, politics has some rules too. You can’t conquer the whole nation with might,” he observed.
To a question, Khattak observed that the agitation unleashed by Imran Khan was not the issue of smaller provinces regretting that the sin-ins have further marginalized the issues of smaller provinces.
“Two million Pashtuns have got displaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and we have totally ignored their plight as the country and Parliament are over-occupied with discussing the demonstrations of PTI,” he added. To a question how does he see the outcome of the prolonged sit-ins, Khattak argued that the political agitation of Imran Khan and Dr Qadri was not bigger than the movement launched by Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) in seventies. “This country suffered the movement of PNA for 11 years and Imran Khan wants to repeat this,” he said.
However, Senator Khattak equally sounded disappointment with the government’s response to tackle the marchers adding that the Parliament should not be used for interfering into the affairs of the executive.
Khattak, who had taken asylum in Afghanistan in 1980s, said that Afghanistan had emerged as a stable country adding that Pakistan being located in a strategically important place should not let mobs decide the future of the country. But he agreed with some demands of Imran Khan including election reforms, which, he said, should be achieved after taking all stakeholders on board. “This is no way to pressurize the entire mandate of people by hurling threats at Parliament from a shipping container,” the ANP leader said.
He said that many political parties would have agreed with what Imran demands but regretted that Khan did not spare time to consult any single parliamentarian except the non-elected Qadri.

Pakistan: Making minorities disappear

By - Yasser Latif Hamdani
There has been a systematic attempt by the state since the 1980s to drive non-Muslim Pakistanis into oblivion
For those of us who are still free of cynicism towards this country of ours and those who believe sincerely in the much battered idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan, it is a solemn duty to ensure that whatever little we can contribute we should work towards that ideal of a humane and inclusive Pakistan for all its citizens.
When I was growing up, one was accustomed to a much more diverse and multicultural Pakistan despite the fact that General Zia’s poison had begun to take effect. Bear in mind that I did not go to a missionary school but a regular private school called Bloomfield Hall in Lahore. Yet my first Islamiat teacher was an extremely learned man by the name of Innocent Joseph. I was taught seventh grade geography by an elegant Christian lady, Mrs Alam. My art teacher was a tall sari clad Hindu lady — I forget her name — who seemed like she was right out of an art film. The stern Mr Joseph Felix taught me Mathematics and it turned out that he was my father’s classmate at Don Bosco High School in Lahore, a fact that made my life hell. Mrs John, who later became the principal of another school chain, taught me English literature in eighth grade. I remember her attending the Khatm-e-Quran event of a fellow student. That she was Christian did not preclude her from being invited but I feel that this may not be possible today. These Pakistani teachers gave me, thankfully, a very different understanding of Pakistan, its history, its founder and its national identity from what I find today. None of them were cynical about the country, a sharp contrast to even those self-styled liberals today who revel in bashing the country and lying about its origins. While the non-Muslim Pakistani teachers drummed in me a sort of humanistic patriotism, Muslim teachers were another story; the less said the better.
The fact of the matter is that these faces and names have receded. You do not see them around anymore. Sure, the missionary schools have them but now it is unheard of for other schools to have non-Muslim teachers. Even if they are there, they are hidden or too scared to speak up. They are too scared to voice opinions. There has been a systematic attempt by the state since the 1980s to drive non-Muslim Pakistanis into oblivion. I was recently approached by a delegation of the Church World Services, Pakistan, who opened my eyes to how systematic this state-driven process of driving minorities into hiding is. Their biggest gripe was the non-implementation of the job quota for minorities in Punjab province. There is a five percent quota in all government jobs that is mandatory by law. Unfortunately, the way the quota takes effect is at the interview stage, which means that very few non-Muslims actually make it past the entry test. The entry test itself is designed to keep non-Muslims out, with questions about Islam and the Holy Quran. So, in any event, the barriers to entry have been kept too high for non-Muslims. However, on top of this, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s ‘Modi-esque’ Punjab government has, through a notification dated March 27, 2010, stated that if the “qualified candidates” were not available for the reserved quota, these would automatically be unreserved and filled “on merit”. This notification is ultra vires the spirit of the constitution of Pakistan and the quota system that has been implemented under it. It is sheer injustice to the minorities and nothing else. No reasonable person, no matter what his political affiliation or ideological bent of mind, can find this ridiculous notification by the Punjab government justifiable.
The tragedy that non-Muslims face is multilayered: first, their numbers are downplayed and were in any event fudged in the 1998 census. This is done to keep the quota question under wraps. A fair census, in my estimate, would show that the total population of non-Muslims in Pakistan far exceeds the four to five percent estimate at present. For example, 500,000 Hindus living in south Punjab are completely absent from this calculation. In Lahore alone, the population of Christians is more than one million according to the most conservative independent estimates. The overall population of Christians in Pakistan may well exceed 15 million. Add to this the Hindu population, close to five million in Sindh and a million more elsewhere, and the total population of non-Muslims begins to cross the 20 million mark. We are, for obvious reasons, not even counting the Ahmedi population because, principally, they reject the minority status forced upon them. There are other smaller minorities like the Sikhs who have historically migrated from the northwest to Punjab. In most cases, they are denied registration and national identity cards. Next the quotas they are given are not implemented as above. Whether federal or provincial, the numbers of non-Muslims decline rapidly as we go from lower pay grades to higher ones. Grade four and above, the percentage of non-Muslims employed falls below one percent. The number of non-Muslims in the higher bureaucracy today can be counted on one’s fingertips. They are all subject to the annual confidential reports, the format of which was amended by General Zia’s illegal regime to include a section on “Islamic Knowledge”.
The woes do not end there. Union councils do not issue marriage certificates to non-Muslims. The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) only accepts the certificates of a handful of churches and a select few Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). A significant section of the Christian population that follows the Pentecostal tradition and the Episcopal tradition cannot therefore get their spouses registered. Hindus do not even have a marriage act to this date, which pretty much makes their marriage registration impossible! Consequently, the spouse of a Hindu legislator was denied a UK visa recently because she failed to prove her marriage to her husband.
Speaking to Parsis in Quetta after partition, Jinnah famously said that a country founded to safeguard a minority could not be unmindful of minorities in its own midst. Yet that vision has been lost to expediency and the shortsightedness of our rulers. The key to returning to that vision and reclaiming Pakistan lies in the socio-economic empowerment of Pakistani minorities. Too much time has been wasted in raising and fighting ideological battles. Economically empower Pakistani minorities and they will be the greatest soldiers in the cause for a progressive and prosperous Pakistan. Is our ruling elite listening?

Pakistan: How we treat our minorities

Despite routine target killings and instances of ethnic cleansing, there are many other ways in which we are making our country’s minorities suffer. The devil is in the detail and can be seen when we closely scrutinise the ‘rights’ we have granted our religious minorities. Let us start with the draft bills that have finally been prepared by legislators to amend the Christian Marriage Act 1872 and Divorce Act 1869, although they have yet to be passed. First of all, one cannot help but comment that it is about time lawmakers are looking into the trials and tribulations faced by the country’s Christian community when it comes to the simple act of getting married. As can be seen by the dates, these are colonial acts and should have been amended decades ago. According to the Divorce Act, a husband can only seek divorce if he accuses his wife of adultery; as can be guessed such an outdated law stipulates that all manner of lies and deceit may be employed to seek a divorce. In the same vein, solemnisation of Christian marriages can only take place if the Roman Catholic Church, Church of England and Church of Scotland play a role. This creates difficulties having marriages registered at the Union Council level making it impossible for them to get the rights associated with recognised marriage.
Imagine the misery they go through when married women in their community cannot get national identity cards with their husband’s name on them. Imagine the trouble they face when they need to attain a divorce. Hindus have it far worse: no law exists for their marriages to be registered and recognised. Even if they do get married, there is no proof. This anomaly makes it very easy for forced conversions to take place as has been happening with young Hindu women who, despite being married, are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam by their captors. In a court of law these poor women cannot prove their marriages and cannot reconvert because that would be considered apostasy. There is no end to the sufferings minorities are subjected to.
The job quota system has woefully underrepresented the minorities. Quota numbers are abysmally low and even the law for these seats is not implemented. This results in our minorities languishing in unemployment and not given the opportunities they are due. In addition to this gross negligence by the state, minorities are routinely subjected to terror attacks and a slow, steady genocide; the Ahmedis, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus are frequently killed for their faith. Our sensitivity to their needs is astoundingly low and the rights a nation state should offer its most vulnerable are close to non-existent. Is this our legacy?

Pakistan: Air strikes kill 23 suspected terrorists in North Waziristan

At least 23 suspected terrorists were killed on Monday in precise aerial strikes on terrorists hideouts in the Bangidar area of Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan Agency, said a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). However, this information could not be independently verified as the access of media is restricted in the region.
Military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched by the Pakistan Army on June 15 following a brazen militant attack on Karachi's international airport and failure of peace talks between the government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) negotiators.
The Taliban and their ethnic Uzbek allies both claimed responsibility for the attack on Karachi airport, which was seen as a strategic turning point in how Pakistan tackles the insurgency.
Nearly a million people have fled the offensive in North Waziristan, which is aimed at wiping out longstanding militant strongholds in the area, which borders Afghanistan.
North Waziristan has been isolated by deploying troops along its border with neighboring agencies and Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (Fata) regions to block any move of terrorists in and out of the Agency.

Turkey accused of colluding with Isis to oppose Syrian Kurds and Assad following surprise release of 49 hostages

With President Erdogan refusing to explain why Isis decided to release 49 of the country’s diplomats, suspicions are growing about Ankara’s murky relationship with the self-styled caliphate
Mystery surrounds the surprise release of 49 Turkish diplomats and their families held captive for three months by Isis. The Turkish government is denying any deal with the hostage-takers, making it unclear why Isis, notorious for its cruelty and ruthlessness, should hand over its Turkish prisoners on Saturday without a quid pro quo.
Hailed in Ankara as a triumph for Turkey, the freeing of the diplomats seized when Mosul fell to Isis on 10 June raises fresh questions about the relationship between the Turkish government and Isis. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the release is the result of a covert operation by Turkish intelligence that must remain a secret.
He added on Sunday that “there are things we cannot talk about. To run the state is not like running a grocery store. We have to protect our sensitive issues; if you don’t there would be a price to pay.” Turkey denies that a ransom was paid or promises made to Isis.
The freeing of the hostages comes at the same moment as 70,000 Syrian Kurds have fled across the border into Turkey to escape an Isis offensive against the enclave of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, which has seen the capture of many villages.
The assault on Kobani is energising Kurds throughout the region with 3,000 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in Iraq’s Qandil mountains reported to be crossing from Iraq into Syria and heading for Kobani.
The Turkish security forces closed the border for a period on Sunday after clashes between them and the refugees. They fired tear gas and water after stopping Kurds taking aid to Kobani according to one account, or because stones were thrown at them as they pushed back crowds of Kurdish onlookers, according to another. Most of those crossing are women, children and the elderly, with men of military age staying behind to fight.
Many Kurds are expressing bitterness towards the Turkish government, claiming that it is colluding with Isis to destroy the independent enclaves of the Syrian Kurds, who number 2.5 million, along the Turkish border. The pro-Kurdish Amed news agency asks “if Isis [is] the paramilitary wing of the of the neo-Ottomanism project of Turkey in the Middle East?” The Turkish government vehemently denies any collaboration with Isis.
Nevertheless, the strange circumstances of both the capture of the 49 Turks and their release shows that Ankara has a different and more intimate relationship with Isis than other countries. Pro-Isis Turkish websites say that the Turks were released on the direct orders of “the caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They had been moved to Raqqa, the Syrian headquarters of Isis from Mosul, and both men and women were well-dressed and appeared to have suffered little harm from their imprisonment. This is in sharp contrast to the treatment of Alan Henning, the British taxi driver seized when taking aid to Syria, and of the journalists who have been ritually murdered by Isis.
A number of factors do not quite add up: at the time the diplomats and their families were seized in June it was reported that they had asked Ankara if they could leave Mosul, but their request was refused. It was later reported by a pro-government newspaper that the Consul-General in Mosul, Ozturk Yilmaz, had been told by Ankara to leave, but had not done so. Former Turkish diplomats say that disobedience to his government’s instructions by a senior envoy on such a serious matter is inconceivable.
Critics of Mr Erdogan and his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu say that since the first uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 they have made a series of misjudgements about developments in Syria and how Turkey should respond to them.
Having failed to persuade Bashar al-Assad to make changes, they assumed he would be overthrown by the rebels. They made little effort to distinguish jihadi rebels crossing the 560 mile long Syrian-Turkish border from the others. Some 12,000 foreign jihadis, many destined to become suicide bombers, entered Syria and Iraq from Turkey. Only at the end of 2013, under pressure from the US, did Turkey begin to increase border security making it more difficult for foreign or Turkish jihadis to pass through, though it is still possible. A Kurdish news agency reports that three Isis members, two from Belgium and one from France, were detained by the Syrian Kurdish militia at the weekend as they crossed into Syria from Turkey.
The hostages had no idea they were going to be freed until they got a telephone call from Mr Davutoglu. While treated better than other hostages, they were still put under pressure, being forced to watch videos of other captives being beheaded “to break their morale” according to Mr Yilmaz. He said that Isis did not torture people though it threatened to do so: “The only thing they do is to kill them.”
The Turkish government may not be collaborating with Isis at this moment, but Isis has benefited from Turkey’s tolerant attitude towards the jihadi movements. As with other anti-Assad governments, Ankara has claimed that there is a difference between the “moderate” rebels of the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda-type movements that does not really exist on the ground inside Syria.

Rise of Islamic schools causes alarm in secular Turkey

When Turkish pupils received their school entry exam results after the end of last term, textile worker and father Halil Ibrahim Beyhan received an unpleasant surprise.
His daughter had been assigned to a religious high school, like thousands of other students under a new system that caught many parents off guard.
Parents, educators and civil society groups have decried the move as another attack on Turkey’s secular principles by the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing the government of imposing religion on students.
“My child will be forced to wear a long skirt. She will be forced to put a headscarf on her head too. It is not mandatory for now, but who knows it won’t be one day?” said Beyhan, 49.
“I am a practising Muslim, I fast, I say my prayers and read the Quran, but I still want my daughter to be educated in a normal school,” he said.
As part of a new nationwide exam introduced this year, some 40,000 students have been assigned to religious high schools either because they did not select any school, scored low marks or due to a technicality.
Most of them have been placed in schools nearest their home, but since so many religious schools have opened in recent years, it was difficult for some to avoid Imam Hatips — schools specialising in religious education combined with a modern curriculum.
Erdogan himself was educated in Istanbul at an Imam Hatip, beginning an education that saw him gain a place at university and then climb the ladder of Islamic politics. The name of the schools openly describes their religious vocation — hatip being derived from the Arabic for sermon.
‘Violation of human rights’
Parents raced against the clock to pull their kids out of the schools by Monday (today), the first day of the new academic year in Turkey. But it turned into an ordeal for many of them, like Beyhan, who could not find a slot in another school.
His 14-year-old daughter Hacer, who has just started at Guzeltepe Imam Hatip High School in Istanbul’s conservative Eyup district, fears she may have to put off her dream of becoming a doctor.
“My dreams have been shattered. I woke up this morning and didn’t feel like going to school. Because this school thing frustrates me so much,” she said, her eyes welling up with tears.
“Since they want all the girls to wear a headscarf in this school, those who don’t wear one may face discrimination. This is my biggest fear,” she said. A new report by the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) at Sabanci University revealed that the number of Imam Hatip schools in Turkey has increased by 73 per cent in five years.
In recent months, parents have demonstrated outside schools which have been turned into Imam Hatips. In one them, some 200 demonstrators stormed a government building in Istanbul’s secular Kadikoy district.
“The government is limiting the supply of mainstream education while expanding the supply of religious education. In the end, more and more children will find themselves in a situation where they will have to go to a religious school,” said Batuhan Aydagul, the director of ERG.
“Even if one child is enrolled in an Imam Hatip school against their will, it is a violation of human rights,” Aydagul said.
He added that there was a “systematic campaign” by public institutions, mosques and a number of NGOs around the country to persuade parents to send their children to religious schools.
Critics say that efforts to expand religious schooling undermines the quality of education in Turkey, which already compares poorly with OECD averages.
A quarter of the 40 hours Imam Hatip students spend learning a week is dedicated to religious education, which includes subjects like the Quran, Arabic and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Combining them with the normal curriculum means a heavy workload for students.
Erdogan, who was elected president last month after ruling Turkey as premier for over a decade, is accused by his critics of betraying the secular principles of the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who based post-Ottoman Turkey on a clear division between religion and state. Erdogan once famously said he wanted to raise a “pious youth” and made efforts to ban mixed-sex dorms at state universities. An education reform introduced in 2012 scrapped a ban on Imam Hatip schools signing up pupils under the age of 15 and allowed them to study subjects other than theology at the university.
‘Huge demand’
Turkish officials say there is a “huge demand” for the schools, which have been increasingly sought by conservative families anxious to keep their children away from secular state schools.
“Imam Hatip schools have always played an important role within the Turkish education system. They should not be portrayed as schools that no student wants to attend,” said Muammer Yildiz, Istanbul director of National Education.
“Most of their graduates have moved into high positions. Recently, one of them have become the president,” he said, referring to Erdogan.
“They are less likely to commit crime or engage in illegal activities. It is scientifically proven,” he argued
At a male-only Imam Hatip high school in Carsamba, one of Istanbul’s most conservative neighbourhoods, students like 17-year-old Mahmut are not complaining.
“In addition to religion, they teach us history, geography, maths and physics here. They teach these subjects at other schools too, but not the religion. I think that’s a good thing for us,” he said, smiling beneath his thin moustache.

Pakistan : Bilawal Bhutto condemns attack on Hujra of PPP leader in Swabi
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has condemned the attack on the Hujra of a Pakistan People’s Party leader Major retired Fida in Maneri Payan area Swabi.
“Monster of terrorism is attacking the nation from all sides. It is time to call a spade and shun the theory of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ terrorists,” he said.
Bilawal Bhutto said his party stands for complete elimination of terrorists, as terrorism and extremism are the root causes of our problems from illiteracy to economic impediments.
He demanded of the government to make special arrangements for the security of PPP leader.