Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Now that the Afghan election deadlock has been resolved by the two main presidential contenders with last Sunday's signing of an agreement on the formation of a national unity government, the topmost question among Afghans is whether this would signal the end of the Taliban insurgency in the country. Some observers remain pessimistic, saying that the wily Taliban, far from being silenced, would further create more havoc to disrupt the government machinery that would result from the rapprochement of the two former political enemies. In fact, the Taliban militants, in a statement sent to media on Monday, rejected the national unity government. It said that" Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and the newly symbolic government won't be acceptable to the people of Afghanistan." In their statement, the Taliban militants stressed that Afghanistan belongs to Afghans and the mujahideens or holy warriors would continue to fight until the eviction of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. "Since Taliban outfit is a war-mongering group, like in the past years it would continue to fight in future,"retired army brigadier Mohammad Jahangir told Xinhua recently. Presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on Sunday signed an agreement on the formation of national unity government with Ghani Ahmadzi as new president and Abdullah as the country's chief executive, a post that is equivalent to prime minister. Earlier, the Afghan Election Commission declared Ghani Ahmadzai as the winner in the vote audit edging out Abdullah, thus ending the longest electoral exercise in the country's history. The new government to be led by Ghani Ahmadzai is set to take over from outgoing President Hamid Karzai on Sept. 29. President-elect Ghani Ahmadzai, in his first speech to the nation on Monday after winning the election, promised to promote national unity and bring about peace, stability, economic development to the strife-torn county. However, observers believe that convincing Taliban militants to give up fighting and join the mainstream Afghan society would be a difficult task even for the unity government. "The Taliban statement with regard to the new president and new administration virtually demonstrates its resolve for war," Jahangir said, adding that Afghans would experience more conflicts in the months ahead until winter when the insurgents usually take a respite from fighting because of the snowfall. Meantime, some Afghan political analysts have urged the new president and new government to improve security by signing Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Washington. "In my opinion, there are few issues that need to be prioritized by the new government and one of them is the BSA,"political analyst Nasrullah Stanikzai said in talks with local media. He said that the signing of the BSA would pave the way for the continued support by the U.S. and other allied nations to Afghanistan, particularly in its security requirements. Both Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah had promised during their electoral campaign to sign BSA. Karzai refused to sign the BSA despite Washington's repeated overtures. Under the BSA, the U.S. would be allowed to have a military presence in Afghanistan but on a limited scale. Their main responsibility is to train and support Afghan national security forces, a program that has been utterly disputed by Taliban militants. According to the Taliban, with the BSA, the Kabul government would continue to be beholden to Washington and would look after the interest of the Americans, not of Afghans.
Following the US President’s speech at the UN, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov was puzzled with Barack Obama’s ranking of international threats: deadly Ebola virus top, followed by so-called Russian aggression and ISIS in Syria and Iraq only third? Gathered at the UN headquarters in New York, the world leaders attending the 69th General Assembly heard Barack Obama highlighting the three most significant global threats today. “As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness,” the US leader said at the beginning of his statement. Reacting to the speech, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke with astonishment. “We earned the second place among the threats to international peace and stability,” Lavrov told journalists on the sidelines of the UN assembly. Not only the ranking of international threats seemed bizarre to Lavrov, especially in the light of the current strikes in Iraq and Syria that bypassed the UN mandate, but also Obama’s certainty that the world has become “freer and safer.” “I didn't understand whether he was serious or not and whether there was an Orwellian element in it. Because George Orwell invented the Ministry of Truth and it looks like this philosophy is lingering."
The Russian foreign minister assessed Obama’s words at the session as a “speech of a peacemaker – the way it was conceived” which he “failed to deliver if one compares it to real facts”.The US President presented a US worldview stressing the exceptionality of himself and of his country, the Russian FM said: “That's the worldview of a country that has spelt out its right to use force arbitrarily regardless of UN Security Council's resolutions or other international legal acts in its national defense doctrine.” Regarding the sanctions, Lavrov lashed out that it was only the problem of the US which imposed them. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian conflict is a domestic problem that should be solved without US interference, he added. “Ukrainians met in Minsk several times and signed two documents there. OSCE and Russian officials helped to foster this dialogue. It's all written in the protocol and the memorandum and they must be implemented,” he said. “This is what the Ukrainians themselves have agreed to, and it would be incorrect to dictate any of the implementation parameters to them.” Moscow seeks to settle conflicts through equal dialogue and not through unilateral accusations, not by “shifting the blame,” Lavrov said adding that he will definitely point this out to US Secretary John Kerry in a meeting between the two later in the day.
The message was clear: This military action was not unilateral. Instead, it was supported by Muslim-majority states, with the coalition against Islamic State so strong it could bring together Persian Gulf states which had previously been at odds.
There was clearly one big name missing, however. Turkey is a major U.S. ally in the Middle East and a NATO member with a strong military. Perhaps even more importantly, it shares a long border with both Syria and Iraq. Despite these factors, there has been no hint of Turkish involvement in the strikes from Washington or Ankara.That Turkey is not taking part in the strikes will not come as a total surprise. When Secretary of State John F. Kerry headed to Turkey earlier this month to rally support for broader strikes against Islamic State, the response was lukewarm. Turkish officials made it clear that they did not want Turkish air bases used for staging any strikes – and they certainly would not be taking part in any attacks themselves. Turkey had an obvious reason to be cautious. In June, the Islamic State raided the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Forty-nine Turkish citizens had been taken hostage and the Turkish government feared what would happen to them if the extremist group was provoked. "Our hands and arms are tied because of the hostages," one unnamed Turkish official told Agence France-Presse news agency as Kerry made his case. This weekend, however, the situation changed. Turkey secured the release of all 49 hostages. It was a cause for celebration, but circumstances were surprising: Turkey claimed no shots were fired, no ransom was paid, and no prisoners were exchanged.
To many, that just seemed too good to be true: the Islamic State had shown horrific brutality to other hostages and the Turkish citizens would likely hold high value as a bargaining chip. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened," Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who now chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, told the Associated Press.Other factors also muddied the water further. As The Post's Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet reported earlier this year, in the first few years of the Syrian war the Turkish government had adopted a somewhat laisse faire attitude to Islamist groups crossing into Syria, which in turn lead to a sizable Islamist presence in Turkish border towns. Turkey has since cracked down, but it may be too late: Numerous reports say that certain neighborhoods in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, have become hotbeds of Islamic State support. Turkish officials now estimate that more than 1,000 Turkish citizens are fighting for the Islamic State. Turkey also has a small number of troops in Syria guarding the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, an important figure in Ottoman history, at present. The tomb is considered a sovereign exclave of Turkey, yet is situated in Aleppo not far from significant fighting. Ankara may well be concerned that the exclave could be overrun by Islamic State fighters with relative ease. "The situation is a delicate if not impossible one for Ankara," Henri J. Barkey, a professor of International Relations at Lehigh University, wrote recently for Foreign Policy, "as the only way to resupply this small contingent of troops is by reaching some sort of understanding with the jihadist group." Then there's the intertwined issue of refugees and Kurds. This weekend, some 150,000 Syrian Kurds crossed into Turkey, fleeing the Islamic State. Turkey would appear to have a lot to lose from the Islamic State displacing the Kurds and capturing Syrian land right up to the Turkish border, but Ankara appears to have taken little action: Syrian Kurds say that they are actively preventing Turkish Kurdish fighters from traveling into Syria to help them fight. Ankara's position has clearly been complicated by its fraught relationship with the Turkish Kurds. The People's Protection Units, known by the acronym YPG, have been one of the strongest forces fighting against Islamic State, yet they are linked to the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, the separatist guerrilla group that has waged a Kurdish insurgency against the Turkish state for decades. Both Ankarra and Washington consider the PKK a terrorist organization. Many observers suspect that Ankara finds it easier to tolerate the Islamic State's rampage in Syria than cooperate with Kurdish groups like the PKK or YPG. "Turkey is preventing, not only PKK, but all Kurdish men from entering Syria,” Redur Xelil, a YPG spokesman, told The Post's Rebecca Collard at the weekend. “The reality is that Turkey is siding with ISIS,” he added, using an acronym for an old Islamic State name. Speaking at a Council of Foreign Relations event in New York City, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back at claims Turkey supported Islamic State. However, his response may have also revealed his views on cooperation with Turkish Kurdish groups. "Turkey has fought terrorism for many years," he said. "We have paid a heavy price in that process. And we were on our own in that effort, and as such -- as a country, Turkey can never support any terrorist organization." Turkey may have other reasons for not wanting to join in the airstrikes. The most simple of them all is that it might just not think its a good strategy: Remember, Turkey refused to cooperate during the U.S.-led Invasion of Iraq in 2002. Ankara could well consider that a good decision in hindsight. For the United States, however, the hope is that Turkey will find a way past these issues and get on board: If nothing else, the use of air bases in Turkey would make strikes far easier. And speaking at a U.N. Global Counterterror meeting on Tuesday, Kerry did seem convinced Turkey could still be counted on to help the "friends and partners" against the Islamic State. "Turkey is very much part of this coalition, and Turkey will be very engaged on the front lines of this effort," Kerry said. "But clearly, Turkey had an initial challenge with respect to its hostages, and that being resolved now, Turkey is ready to conduct additional efforts along with the rest of us in order to guarantee success. And we’re very grateful to Turkey for that willingness."
President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on the world "to join him in an effort to degrade and ultimately destroy" Islamic State militants. Addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he highlighted efforts to build an international coalition to combat the group that has taken over large areas in Syria and Iraq . “This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria," he said. "Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world. “In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands," he added, noting that more than 40 nations have offered to join U.S.-led efforts to conduct airstrikes against militant strongholds in Syria and Iraq. "We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground," he said. "We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region." Laying out a broad vision of American leadership in a changing world, the president also emphasized U.S. efforts in areas where he see increasing momentum among allies: containing Ebola; holding forth with sanctions on Russia while supporting efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, and executing a broad international vision for combating climate change. "Each of these problems demands urgent attention," he said. "But they are also symptoms of a broader problem — the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. "We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries," he said. "Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe." Russia Obama had tough words for Russia. “Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-war order,” he said, citing the country's February annexation of Crimea followed by the arrival of Russian arms in Eastern Ukraine, where a violent separatist conflict has killed thousands. "When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, [pro-Russian separatists] refused to allow access to the crash for days," he said. "When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border. “This is a vision of the world in which might makes right — a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed,” he said, vowing U.S. support for Kyiv and reinforcements for NATO allies. “America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might — that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future." Ebola The president also called for concrete steps to fight Ebola in West Africa during his speech, saying the U.S., which has deployed doctors and scientists to curb the outbreak, would continue to mobilize other countries to assist efforts to "enhance global health security in the long-term." His comments come on the heels of a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report Tuesday that between 550,000 and 1.4 million people in West Africa could be infected with the Ebola virus by January 20, 2015. Based on the assumption that the actual number of Ebola cases has been underreported, the CDC said in a statement that "extensive, immediate actions — such as those already started — can bring the epidemic to a tipping point to start a rapid decline in cases." The agency's best-case model projects that by getting 70 percent of patients into facilities where the risk for transmission is reduced and burying the dead safely, the epidemic would be "almost ended" by January 20. Iranian diplomacy; 'Asia pivot'; Gaza On Iran, the president said his administration is committed to diplomatically resolving the nuclear issue "as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them." "This can only happen if Iran takes this historic opportunity,” he said. Tehran has repeatedly denied charges of developing enriched uranium for military purposes and says its nuclear activities are exclusively for peaceful purposes. “My message to Iran’s leaders and people is simple: do not let this opportunity pass," he said. "We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.” President Obama said too that his “Asia pivot” engagement remains. “America is and will continue to be a Pacific power, promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations," he said. "But we will insist that all nations abide by the rules of the road, and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully, consistent with international law.” As for the fight against global poverty, President Obama said the U.S. intends to maintain a key role, referring to a new U.N. development agenda that aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. The president also touched on the Arab-Israeli peace process, saying "as bleak as the landscape appears, America will never give up the pursuit of peace." "The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable," he said. "We cannot afford to turn away from this effort — not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza. "So long as I am President, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just with two states living side by side, in peace and security." Targeting extremist recruitment Shortly after his speech to the General Assembly, Obama held his first one-on-one meeting with new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi since he took office this month. After emerging from a brief meeting in the U.N. Security Council, Obama praised Abadi, saying he "understands that in order for Iraq to succeed, it’s not just a matter of a military campaign." "It’s also the need for political outreach to all factions within the country, and I’ve been very impressed with Prime Minister Abadi’s vision," Obama said. At 3 p.m. Obama chaired a U.N. Security Council meeting where members were expected to adopt a resolution addressing the flow of foreign fighters traveling to join terror groups. The resolution was unanimously adopted. The meetings follow the U.S. military's expansion of its air campaign against the Islamic State group from areas in Iraq to airstrikes targeting the militants in Syria. In opening remarks at the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said human rights are under fire around the world. "From barrel bombs to beheadings, from the deliberate starvation of civilians to the assault on hospitals, UN shelters and aid convoys, human rights and the rule of law are under attack," Ban said. "We need decisive action to stop atrocity crimes and frank discussions on what created the threat in the first place," the U.N. chief said, citing the "new depths of barbarity" in Syria and Iraq by jihadists. Overnight strikes The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported new airstrikes overnight in northern Syria, along an area near Turkey where a militant advance last week sent 130,000 people fleeing across the border. Syrian forces have conducted their own airstrikes against militants and opposition fighters throughout the country's three-year civil war. The United States said Tuesday it launched the attacks against the Islamic State in Syria because the Syrian government cannot and will not stop the militants from setting up safe havens.
Five new polio cases have been confirmed across Pakistan, raising the number of victims this year to 171. According to reports, the new polio cases have been reported in Karachi, Quetta, Tank, Razmuk and Khyber Agency. With the new victim in Karachi, the number of polio cases in Sindh has reached to 15. According to World Health Organization report, presented in the United Nations, 9 out of 10 polio victim children hails from Pakistan.
Wednesday morning airstrikes by Pakistan Military jets on terrorist hideouts killed at least six terrorists,a private news channel quoted security sources.Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) is yet to issue an official statement on today’s aerial strikes. According to the report, terrorist hideouts in various parts of Kokikhel area of Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley were targeted early Wednesday morning. The airstrikes are part of ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’ launced in mid-June in the tribal belt to oust local and foreign militant groups. Over 1200 militants have been killed in operation in the three months of operation, according to the ISPR. The claims cannot be identified independently as media access in the tribal areas is restricted. Khyber Agency, bordering Afghanistan, is one of the seven semi-autonomous zones of the country which are governed by tribal laws. It is considered to be a stronghold of Al- Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and their linked groups(TTP).
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) suspended Javed Hashmi from the position of party president and member on Monday. For this purpose, a notice was issued to Javed Hashmi asking him to appear before the disciplinary committee on 29th September and clarify his position. According to PTI’s constitution, there are two ways through which an office-bearer can be removed: “a vote of no-confidence can be passed against other office bearers by a majority of the total membership of the National Council,” or, the Chairman can exercise his “power to suspend any office bearer at the national and provincial levels pending disciplinary action.” In this instance, it was the Chairman who took the decision as mentioned in the notification. It is interesting to note that this entirely undermines Imran Khan’s oft-repeated claims that even he does not hold the power to remove an elected office-bearer. Apparently, he does. Even a cursory look over the party’s constitution, which is available on its website, makes it abundantly clear that the Chairman wields extraordinary powers, which contradict other clauses added to ensure democracy within the PTI. For example, Chairman Imran Khan “shall have all other powers which have not been specifically stated including the power of interpretation of the party constitution for successful functioning of the organization.” Imran ought to know that this is really not how the Labour party or the Conservative party do it in the UK. It is clear that the PTI and Javed Hashmi have parted ways, and these are just procedural formalities being carried out towards a definitive conclusion. There is also considerable weight in Javed Hashmi’s claim that the party’s Secretary General, Jahangir Tareen, had been appointed illegally. The party’s constitution states clearly that the Secretary General will have to be elected. There are no clauses which allow Imran to appoint his favourite, and that is exactly what has happened since Jahangir did not even contest the intra-party elections. Shah Mehmood Qureshi was indeed elected but he ran unopposed like the Chairman himself. And the public is expected to skim over the details of the party’s own constitution, picking and choosing the ones they’d like, because surely, both Imran and Jahangir mean well? It’s not about being “good men,”— it’s about legal measures employed to reach legal ends.
IT should have been just another Sunday service at the All Saints Church in Peshawar a year ago. As it turned out, it was the prelude to a massacre, the worst attack against the Christian community in Pakistan, when twin suicide bombings at the end of the service claimed around 90 lives and injured over 100 people.The carnage sparked a wave of revulsion among Pakistanis, and expressions of solidarity with the community were swift in coming. Although attacks on such scale along religious lines have not occurred since then, the war on minorities in this country grinds on relentlessly. In fact, it could be said that it is expanding, claiming yet more victims and also from communities hitherto left comparatively unscathed by religious extremism. In Peshawar itself, the small Sikh community has been repeatedly targeted this year. Five Sikhs have been killed in as many months, with two fatalities in the first week of September alone. In a remote corner of Balochistan, armed men attacked a group of Zikris in their place of worship, killing six and injuring several others. Although persecution of the Zikris — a little-known Islamic sect — had surfaced during Gen Zia’s time, when religious extremism was actively harnessed and patronised to further strategic objectives, this was the first direct attack in more than two decades on their lives. Meanwhile, a reprehensible conspiracy of silence by the state surrounds the murder of Ahmadis — whose persecution is institutionalised in Pakistan — even when a woman and two girls from that community were killed in a ghastly mob attack in July. The crux of the problem is the state’s refusal to take proactive steps to control the menace of religious extremism: banned/extremist organisations extend their influence to areas so far untouched by communal strife; hate speech is freely disseminated; the blasphemy law is used as a tool of persecution; school curricula contain derogatory references to minority communities. While the government continues in a state of torpor, this fire has begun to consume the very foundations of the country.
At least eight people were killed and several others injured in a US drone strike in the Dattakhel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency, security sources said Wednesday. Intelligence sources said that the US drone fired four missiles and completely destroyed a compound and a vehicle in the Alwara Mandi area of Dattakhel, about 60 kilometres from the main town of Miramshah. There were varying reports as to the exact number of people killed in the drone strike. “There are two Uzbeks among the dead militants identified so far,” news agency AFP quoted a senior security official. He said the vehicle was near the compound when missiles hit it around 3:30 am. AFP put the death toll at eight, while AP said as many as 10 suspected militants were killed in the drone strike. The area is off-limits to journalists, making it impossible to verify the exact number and identity the dead independently. A military operation Zarb-i-Azb is also in progress by the Pakistan Army in the area. More than 1,000 militants and 86 soldiers have been killed in the assault so far, according to the military. The operation was initiated 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.