Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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Iranian Music Video

Music Video - Tajik song Farangis/Фарангис-Labonat kand

China - Hong Kong must treasure economic vitality

Chinese tourists have made great contributions to tourism both at home and abroad in the just-concluded "Golden Week" National Day holidays. But contrary to the dramatic increase in tourist income in countries and regions such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, Hong Kong's tourist income declined during the holidays.
The Occupy Central campaign has made a great impact on Hong Kong's rule of law, plunging part of this Asian financial hub into anarchism. Roads were blocked, protesters rampaged and with occasional outbreaks of violence, Hong Kong has become a strange place to Asia and the rest of the world.
In fact, none but the Chinese mainland really cares about Hong Kong. Some people from the West who hail the protests harbor ulterior motives to do so.
As for non-stakeholders, the chaos caused by the protests is only an intriguing scene of bustle, which gives them a chance to gloat about how the role-model law-based Hong Kong collapsed into a disorganized society. In this way, Hong Kong can continue making trouble and consuming China's energy. A turbulent Hong Kong can serve as a good tool for those who want to contain China's rise. Western rating agencies are watching the Hong Kong protests closely, and if the protests resume, the region's credit rating will probably be downgraded, which will heavily jeopardize Hong Kong's status as a financial center. Apart from the mainland, Hong Kong's competitors in Asia would like to see the change. Other cities which were once financial centers would also like to be ill-wishers, imagining how Hong Kong's financial industry will disintegrate due to social turbulence.
These young protesters on the streets should be aware that they are being persuaded not to push Hong Kong into the abyss by their parents and friends, people with insight, the Hong Kong government and society in the mainland, which looks forward to the region's long-term prosperity. These forces have no ulterior motives to destroy Hong Kong. The Chinese mainland shares the same destiny as Hong Kong. The Occupy Central campaign has waned in the last couple of days, which gives people hope that Hong Kong will be restored to order. Every society has blind spots and young people are easily manipulated by outside forces. We expect that these youngsters can gain a better understanding of what is happening and will reflect on their behavior.
Hong Kong is a small society, but it is not isolated from the big picture of the Asia-Pacific game. Hong Kong has no capital to make mistakes in political issues, and making a fuss over Hong Kong's rule of law is a trick played by the West to ruin the region. Hong Kong must know it is a financial center and tourist destination. These are the real things that deserve to be safeguarded.

Obama Vows to Make Sure Local Authorities Learned Lesson From Ebola Patient’s Death

US President Barack Obama said in an Ebola conference call on Wednesday he would make sure that all state authorities and medical institutions had learned their lesson from the unfortunate death of America's first Ebola patient.
"As we saw in Dallas, we don't have a lot of margin for error. If we don't follow protocols and procedures that are put in place, then we're putting folks in our communities at risk," Obama said in a call-up conversation with state and local officials.
"We're going to make sure that lessons learned in Dallas and clear procedures and protocols for health and safety officials are conveyed to all of you," he added.
On Wednesday, Washington announced additional screening measures that will be phased in over the coming days and weeks at select airports around the United States.
The US president also said that the government was "working with hospitals across the country so that local partners are truly prepared should someone who has a history of travel to the affected countries in West Africa start showing symptoms."
Tom Frieden, who heads the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at a press conference earlier in the day that hospital workers in the United States should suspect every patient with high temperature of being infected with the deadly Ebola virus. He also urged hospitals to ask their patients if they had been to West Africa in the past 21 days, which is the maximum incubation period for the virus.
The Ebola epidemic currently taking place in West Africa broke out in southern Guinea in February, and later spread across Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the death toll from the epidemic has surpassed 3,800.
Last week, a Liberian national was diagnosed with Ebola in Texas, after traveling from his homeland to visit relatives in the United States. Also, several Americans have been diagnosed with the disease in West African countries and treated on the US territory.

#FreeGhonchehGhavami _ It will take more than a quiet word in Iran’s ear to put human rights on the table

Azadeh Moaveni
At some point in the 100-day detention of Ghoncheh Ghavami, the 25-year-old law graduate from London who is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, Iranian authorities will have whispered into the ears of her mother: “Don’t make a fuss to the media, we’ll get her out more quickly.” That is the cynical promise they always make to the families of Iranians arrested for political crimes, and this time, as ever, it has been proved false. First detained in June for trying to attend a volleyball match, Ghavami remains in prison on charges of spreading propaganda against the regime, though her only real crime is one of civil disobedience. The state forbids women from attending sporting matches, and Ghavami chose to challenge this injustice. This week she began a hunger strike.
Her case is of special concern to Britain because Ghavami is a British-Iranian, but Iran does not recognise dual nationality and the country’s judiciary is treating her as it would any Iranian citizen who opposes its laws: with harsh confinement and no due process. Alongside Ghavami, thousands of other ordinary Iranians are marooned in the Islamic Republic’s prisons for crimes of conscience, facing everything from extortionate bails, indeterminate prison time and summary execution. The UN special rapporteur for human rights recently said that Iran’s situation remains serious and shows no sign of improvement.
But with the international community drawing close to a historic deal with Iran on its nuclear programme, what can be done? As Islamic State (Isis) makes gains across Iraq and Syria and laps at the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, the past six months have only underscored how vital a potential nuclear accord with Iran will be to the region’s security.
There is reasonable concern that highlighting human rights cases in Iran often has unintended consequences, both for the individuals the west aims to defend and for the broader aims of diplomacy. When the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, met women’s rights activists during her trip to Iran in March, conservatives lashed out, calling on the government of President Hassan Rouhani to block such “intolerable interventions”. The Fars news agency called Ashton’s meeting part of a “suspicious” plan to interfere in Iran’s affairs. These same hardliners were so incensed by David Cameron’s remarks about Iran at the UN general assembly that they demanded Tehran reject Britain’s presence on the international community’s nuclear negotiation team. “You no longer have an empire to boss us around with,” the head of Iran’s parliament said.
It is no coincidence that Iranian authorities are charging Ghavami with propaganda against the regime, rather than simply flouting a social code. In the eyes of Iran’s hardliners, a women’s movement whose leaders meet Ashton are simply stooges of the west. And when the international community shouts selectively about human rights it encourages conservatives to feel that they are being hectored again by “Little Satan” Britain or “Great Satan” America.
This inconsistency plays to Iranians’ understandable sense of historical injustice and double standards. Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia that cooperate with the west on security, however nominally, get to behead their citizens with impunity.
But will the nuclear talks be genuinely endangered if the west criticises Iran for Ghavami’s detention, or for its sustained campaign against journalists? The reality is that Iran’s leadership has finally agreed to negotiate on its nuclear programme to secure relief from sanctions. The brief word that the UK’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, recently had in New York with Iranian diplomats about Ghavami, or indeed Ashton’s visit with activists in Tehran, did not prompt Iran to walk away. In fact, it was only after journalists and officials peppered the Rouhani delegation at the UN general assembly with concerns about the imprisonment of two journalists working for the Washington Post and the UAE-based the National that this week the latter was released.
Even the histrionics of Iran’s hardliners, with their ripe memories of imperial injustice, are not reason enough for the west to strip human rights from its approach to Iran.
Iran’s extremists see themselves as permanent victims, and that view is unlikely to change if their interlocutors stop bringing up cases of genuine victims – Iranians such as Ghavami who are denied basic legal rights.
Neither would being soft on human rights strengthen the hand of Rouhani, whose government represents the forces of reform ultimately trying to wrest control of Iran from the hardline-run deep state. If human rights issues are a sustained part of the conversation when the west sits down at the table with Iran, pragmatists like Rouhani can slowly persuade Iran’s top leadership that the rapprochement so desperately needed to fix the economy will also require some attention to citizens’ welfare.
But too often there has been little balance in how the west approaches Iran’s human rights problem. President Obama, for example, generally makes one annual spring rebuke. What we must strive for is consistency, including human rights concerns as part of the ongoing political approach to Iran so that it becomes a fixed expectation in Tehran as well.
Iranian leaders will see that how they treat their citizens is a permanent strategic issue for the west, not an occasional political tool with which to whack the Islamic Republic.
Ghavami, according to friends in London, voted for Rouhani in last year’s presidential election, and travelled to Iran in heed of the president’s call for diaspora Iranians to return to their homeland. A truly stable Iran will be one that follows through on its promises to its citizens, or is at least held accountable when it does not. By raising citizens’ rights regularly, they will seem less a political tool to batter Iran when it is expedient than a permanent concern.

Assad, not Islamic State, in Ankara’s crosshairs

Semih Idiz
Turkey’s active participation in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) is looking less and less likely, despite the parliament's Oct. 2 authorization to send troops to Iraq and Syria. That mandate was seen in the West as a prelude to Turkey’s decision to finally act against IS, but it is increasingly evident that Ankara’s priority remains taking out Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
This priority, however, is at odds with the mission of the anti-IS coalition as defined in the Jeddah Communique signed Sept. 11 by the Gulf Cooperation Council states, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the United States. The communique only mentions a resolve to destroy IS.
Turkey participated in the Jeddah conference but refused to sign the communique, arguing that IS was holding 49 Turks, including the Mosul consul general, hostage and it did not want to endanger their lives. After the hostages were freed, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to contribute to the coalition against IS in every way possible, including militarily.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has nevertheless made it clear now that this support is contingent on the Syrian regime being the principal target. “We are ready to do everything if there is a clear strategy that after [IS] we can be sure that our border will be protected. We don't want the regime on our border pushing people toward Turkey. We don't want other terrorist organizations to be active there,” Davutoglu told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Oct 6.
When asked if degrading the Assad regime was one of Turkey’s conditions, Davutoglu also responded flatly, “Of course, because we believe that if Assad stays in Damascus with this brutal policy, if [IS] goes, another radical organization may come in.”
Davutoglu is implying two things. The first is that if IS is defeated, the Syrian regime would regain control in areas bordering Turkey. The second is that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is closely associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), would regain control in parts of northern Syria.
The second point ties in with Erdogan’s remarks Sept. 28, when he blasted the international community for moving against IS while refusing to do so against the PKK, which the United States, like Turkey, has designated a terrorist organization.
Davutoglu’s remarks also lend credence to claims in Turkey by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP). Both maintain that IS is seen as the lesser evil by the Erdogan and the Davutoglu government compared with Assad and the PKK — even though the government is engaged in a peace process that also involves indirect talks with the PKK.
The CHP and the HDP voted against the government’s authorization motion, which allows the Turkish military to enter Iraq and Syria. They argued that its main target was not IS but the Syrian regime and Syrian Kurds.
Tellingly, Turkey appears to be doing little, if anything, to help the Syrian Kurds while IS gains control of the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani, only a stone's throw away from the Turkish border. This inaction belies Davutoglu's remarks that Ankara will do everything to ensure Kobani does not fall to IS.
Erdogan and Davutoglu also want a no-fly zone and buffer zone on the Syrian side of the Turkish border for the estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Analysts, however, point out that IS has no aircraft and maintain that Ankara’s insistence on a no-fly zone has the Syrian regime in mind.
Despite its efforts, Ankara has failed so far to get the United States to accept the Syrian regime as the priority target in Syria and to get Washington’s support for a no-fly zone and buffer zone. Asked about Davutoglu’s remarks to CNN during her daily press briefing, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Oct. 6, “Our position hasn’t changed. Our focus is on [IS].”
Turkey’s efforts appear doubly difficult since the Syrian regime has reportedly been mounting relatively successful airstrikes against IS. So why is Ankara maintaining a line that amounts to flogging a dead horse and could leave it isolated in the struggle against IS?
Zaman foreign policy commentator Abdulhamid Bilici, also the general director of the Cihan News Agency, which is covering events in Iraq and Syria firsthand, pointed out that unlike other countries, Turkey has faced serious problems as a result of the Syrian crisis these past three years.
Bilici told Al-Monitor that this is the reason why Ankara is trying to keep the focus on the Syrian regime even though the world’s attention has shifted to IS. “The Baathist regime continues to be the bigger problem for Ankara compared with IS. If this regime comes to be recognized by the world, this will pose even greater problems for Ankara,” Bilici said. Brutal dictators are nothing new for the Middle East, of course, and the world has learned to live with them in the past. Given his proven staying power, it is not inconceivable that Assad could also come to be accepted in the end, even as he is internationally vilified as a bloody dictator. The strong backing he still gets from Russia and Iran also has to be factored in.
Soli Ozel, a lecturer on international politics at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University and a columnist for Haberturk who is frequently consulted by the Western media, also believes that Erdogan and Davutoglu fear that Assad, whom they continue to revile as a bloody dictator, may remain in power.
“Davutoglu is saying in effect that IS is the product of rage and if the source of that rage, namely the Syrian regime, goes, then such groups will also go. I don’t know if he believes this himself, though,” Ozel told Al-Monitor.
Ozel also wonders if there is an ulterior motive to Ankara’s insistence on a no-fly zone and buffer zone in Syria even though there is no international support for them. “If IS engages in a massacre in northern Syria this will provide an excuse for Ankara doing little to prevent it. It can say, 'I warned the international community, but it refused to act.'"
Nihat Ali Ozcan, a security expert at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey and a columnist for Milliyet, believes the real problem for the Turkish military in Syria is that it cannot decide who the enemy is. “If the target is Assad, the answer to this question is simple,” Ozcan argued in his Oct. 7 column. “Otherwise it is not clear who and where the enemy is. It wears no uniform and is a part of the civilian population.”
Meanwhile, Wolfango Piccoli, an expert on Turkey for the New York-based global advisory firm Teneo, pointed out that Ankara may be angry over accusations that it has been soft on IS, and there are factors that bolster this claim.
“In a country in which access to tens of thousands of websites has been blocked, Turkish-language pro-[IS] websites such as Takva Haber continue to glorify the group and encourage young Turks to join it, without any restriction,” Piccoli pointed out in an assessment provided to Al-Monitor.
The bottom line is that the situation in Syria keeps getting worse for Ankara as it tries to impose its own priorities on a coalition that appears to have very different ideas.
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President Obama Slams The Press: 'All It Does Is Feed Cynicism'

By Catherine Taibi
President Obama took another stab at the media on Tuesday, blaming it for spreading negativity and focusing too much on "phony scandals" rather than on the progress of the United States.
Speaking at the Democratic National Committee in New York City on Tuesday, Obama argued that the press was counteracting his mission and spreading "cynicism."
"The issues I’m fighting for, the issues that I will continue to fight for even after I leave this office, those issues are at stake," he said. "And we’ve got to be willing to fight for them. We’ve got to feel a sense of urgency about this at a time when, frankly, the press and Washington, all it does is feed cynicism.”
Obama presented the audience with several optimistic facts regarding U.S. health care and the economy, before taking yet another dig at the press.
“Most of you don’t know the statistics I just gave you," he continued. "And the reason you don’t know them is because they elicit hope. They’re good news. They shouldn’t be controversial. And that’s not what we hear about. We hear about phony scandals, and we hear about the latest shiny object, and we hear about how Washington will never work.”
Obama's comments come just three days after New York Times reporter James Risen, who is currently being targeted by the White House to testify against one of his sources, accused the president of hating the press and threatening press freedom.
t Obama's verbal attack on the media Tuesday does not come as any big surprise. Last year, the president said that the media wrongly "tries to divide them and splinter" the American people. He has been increasingly critical of much of the foreign policy coverage in recent months, particularly as it relates to reporting on the crisis in both Ukraine and Syria. The Obama administration has been called one of the most secretive and least transparent administrations in history, with journalists calling it "significantly worse than previous administrations."

Video Report - Kurds rally across Europe & Turkey to oppose ISIS advance on Kobani

Mr. Erdogan’s Dangerous Game

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once aspired to lead the Muslim world. At this time of regional crisis, he has been anything but a leader. Turkish troops and tanks have been standing passively behind a chicken-wire border fence while a mile away in Syria, Islamic extremists are besieging the town of Kobani and its Kurdish population.
This is an indictment of Mr. Erdogan and his cynical political calculations. By keeping his forces on the sidelines, and refusing to help in other ways — like allowing Kurdish fighters to pass through Turkey — he seeks not only to weaken the Kurds, but also, in a test of will with President Obama, to force the United States to help him oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom he detests.
It is also evidence of the confusion and internal tensions that affect Mr. Obama’s work-in-progress strategy to degrade and defeat the Sunni Muslim extremist group Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL. Kurdish fighters in Kobani have been struggling for weeks to repel the Islamic State. To help, the Americans stepped up airstrikes that began to push the Islamic State fighters back, although gun battles and explosions continued on Wednesday.
But all sides — the Americans, Mr. Erdogan and the Kurds — agree that ground forces are necessary to capitalize on the air power. No dice, says Mr. Erdogan, unless the United States provides more support to rebels trying to overthrow Mr. Assad and creates a no-fly zone to deter the Syrian Air Force as well as a buffer zone along the Turkish border to shelter thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting.
No one can deny Mr. Assad’s brutality in the civil war, but Mr. Obama has rightly resisted involvement in that war and has insisted that the focus should be on degrading the Islamic State, not going after the Syrian leader. The biggest risk in his decision to attack the Islamic State in Syria from the air is that it could put America on a slippery slope to a war that he has otherwise sought to avoid.
Mr. Erdogan’s behavior is hardly worthy of a NATO ally. He was so eager to oust Mr. Assad that he enabled the Islamic State and other militants by allowing fighters, weapons and revenues to flow through Turkey. If Mr. Erdogan refuses to defend Kobani and seriously join the fight against the Islamic State, he will further enable a savage terrorist group and ensure a poisonous long-term instability on his border.
He has also complicated his standing at home. His hesitation in helping the Syrian Kurds has enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority which staged protests against the Turkish government on Wednesday that reportedly led to the deaths of 21 people. Mr. Erdogan fears that defending Kobani will strengthen the Syrian Kurds, who have won de facto control of many border areas as they seek autonomy much like their Kurdish brethren in Iraq. But if Kobani falls, Kurdish fury will undoubtedly grow.
The Americans have been trying hard to resolve differences with Mr. Erdogan in recent days, but these large gaps are deeply threatening to the 50-plus nation coalition the United States has assembled. One has to wonder why such a profound dispute was not worked out before Mr. Obama took action in Syria.

China again voices opposition to foreign interference in Hong Kong

China reiterated its opposition to foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs Wednesday.
Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong made the comment when asked if the upcoming Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit will touch upon Hong Kong and the Korean Peninsula situation.
The policy of "One Country, Two Systems," implemented earnestly since Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, has contributed to Hong Kong's prosperity, stability and won international acclaim, Li told a news briefing ahead of Premier Li Keqiang's Europe visit.
China has always opposed foreign interference in Hong Kong's internal affairs and China's domestic affairs as well. "Our stance remains unchanged," Li said, adding that Hong Kong's continuous prosperity and stability is in the interests of all sides.
"We are confident that Hong Kong's future will be even brighter," the vice foreign minister said.
Issues dealing with regional and international hotspots will be touched upon on the sidelines of the summit.
Li said that the Korean Peninsula situation will be mentioned in important bilateral meetings. He reaffirmed China's commitment to Peninsular peace and stability.
He hoped that all parties can use the summit as an opportunity to discuss practical cooperation and reach consensus, setting the direction for the future development of the ASEM.
Premier Li will visit Germany, Russia, Italy and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) headquarters from Oct. 9 to 15. He will also attend the 10th ASEM summit in Milan from Oct. 16 to 17.

UN: 3,660 killed, 8,756 wounded in Ukraine conflict since April

Kiev doesn’t have full control of its military and paramilitary forces, who continue to violate the principles of international humanitarian law, highlights the latest UN report on the human rights situation in Ukraine.
The UN has stated that at least 3,660 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since April – including 330 since the ceasefire brokered on Sept. 5.
A total of 8,756 people have been wounded since April, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
The UN statement notes in particular that, despite the ceasefire, “in some areas artillery, tank and small arms exchanges have continued on an almost daily basis, such as in Donetsk airport, in the Debaltseve area in Donetsk region, and in the town of Shchastya in Luhansk region.”
“While the ceasefire is a very welcome step towards ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine, I call on all parties to genuinely respect and uphold it, and to halt the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure once and for all,” Zeid said in the report.
“For almost half a year, residents of the areas affected by the armed conflict have been deprived of their fundamental rights to education, to adequate healthcare, to housing and to opportunities to earn a living. Further prolongation of this crisis will make the situation untenable for the millions of people whose daily lives have been seriously disrupted,” he added.
The 37-page report covers the period from August 18 to September 16 and contains testimonial evidence of cases of violation on behalf of Ukrainian military units.
“During the reporting period, international humanitarian law, including the principles of military necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution continued to be violated by armed groups and some units and volunteer battalions under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” the report reads.
Specific evidence of “beatings, poor nutrition and lack of medical assistance” are also mentioned in the report, RIA reports. The UN expressed special concern over the “enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment allegedly perpetrated by members of the volunteer battalions,” in particular Aydar, Dnepr-1, Kiev-1 and Kiev-2.
“In spite of a fragile ceasefire over the past month in the east of Ukraine, the protracted conflict continues to kill and wound civilians, and deprive the more than 5 million residents in areas directly affected by the violence of their basic human rights,” Zeid said.
The UN in its report urges the Ukrainian authorities to exercise greater control over their own army and groups of armed volunteers, as since the beginning of the so-called “anti-terrorist” operation on August 25 according to the Ukrainian Security Service, over 1,000 people have been detained on suspicion of being “militants and subversives.”
The report also highlights that the civilian population is suffering, in particular, because of the bombing of densely populated neighborhoods with heavy artillery. “Some of the reported cases of disproportionate use of fire in residential areas are committed by Ukrainian armed forces,” stated the document. “After the announcement of the ceasefire on September 5, the scope and intensity of military operations decreased sharply, but not completely,” the document says, adding that civilians “continue to fall under the cross-fire and cross-bombing.”
The UN also reported an increase of “foreign mercenaries” in the ranks of the armed forces of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics, “including citizens of Russia.”
Meanwhile the issue of mass graves recently found near Donetsk was not reflected in the document, TASS reports, as they were discovered outside the period under review and formally not subject to consideration by the rights monitoring mission of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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By Vijay Sakhuja
The recent attempt by the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the new wing of the Al Qaeda, to take control of PNS Zulfiqar, a Pakistan Navy frigate berthed in Karachi harbour and use it to attack US Navy warships has showcased the continued vulnerability of naval platforms to terrorists. The purported plan was to take control of the frigate and use other militants who would embark the ship by boat and stay onboard as ‘stowaways’ and sail out. When on the high seas, the ship would ‘get close to the U.S. ships…..and then turn the shipboard weapon systems on the Americans.’
The unsuccessful AQIS raid left 10 terrorist dead including a former Pakistan Navy officer Awais Jakhrani, who is reported to have had links with Jihadi elements. Further interrogations have led to the arrest of three other Pakistan Navy personnel in Quetta in Baluchistan who were attempting to escape to Afghanistan.
The attack exposed chinks in Pakistan’s naval defences particularly strategic infrastructure which host millions of dollars worth of naval hardware such as ships, submarines and dockyards. It is important to mention that this is not the first time that terrorist groups have managed to penetrate Pakistan’s naval defences. In the past there have been at least two other attacks on highly sensitive naval platforms and on foreign naval personnel. In 2002, 14 persons including 11 French naval engineers working on the submarine project were killed and 23 others were injured when an unidentified man blew himself up with his car after ramming it into a 46-seater Pakistan Navy bus outside the Karachi Sheraton Hotel.
The second attack was on Pakistan’s naval air base Mehran and was the handiwork of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a coalition of militant groups based in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan. As many as 15 attackers from the ‘Brigade 313’ of the Al Qaeda-Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami group led by Ilyas Kashmiri, took part in the operation which left 18 naval personnel killed, 16 wounded and two US built P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft destroyed. Significantly, the attackers had good knowledge of the naval base including security arrangements, exit and entry points, and the details of the hangers and aircraft.
These attacks showcase that Karachi is a staging point for maritime terrorism particularly for those groups who have taken a liking for naval targets. In fact, Karachi has been labeled as the ‘terror capital’ and is a paradise for terrorists, gunrunners, and drug smugglers. The city is rife with ethnic strife and home to crime syndicates particularly Dawood Ibrahim who is wanted in India for a number of crimes including the 1993 Mumbai blasts. The city is also known for the ‘point of departure’ for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who sailed from Karachi on three boats and later hijacked the Kuber an Indian fishing off Porbandar, on the Gujarat coast and landed on unsecured waterfronts in south Mumbai.
Perhaps the most discomforting issue of the attacks is that Jihadi groups have dared the Pakistan Navy and caused enormous damage to its reputation, morale and material. They have penetrated the rank and file of the Pakistan Navy and the attacks on PNS Mehran and PNS Zulfiqar were planned and executed with the help of naval personnel. Referring to the PNS Zulfiqar attack, Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif made a statement in the Parliament that the attack could not have taken place “Without assistance from inside, these people could not have breached security,” The entry of Jihadi elements is sure to cause suspicion among the other multinational partners with whom the Pakistan Navy works closely, particularly the United States. It is believed that some elements in the Pakistan Navy were upset with the US its raid deep into Pakistan which led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The above attacks also have a bearing on the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear installations. In the absence of a nuclear submarine, the Pakistan Navy has drawn plans to build a rudimentary sea-leg of the nuclear triad with ships and conventional AIP-submarines fitted with nuclear weapons. Any attempt to attack or hijack these platforms and use them as ‘bargain chip’ for any Jihadi agenda would cause grave damage to global security.
However, it is fair to say that the Pakistan Navy is a responsible force and has taken part in a number of multinational operations in the Arabian Sea-Gulf of Aden fighting pirates and terrorists under the US led multinational coalition force TF-151. It has also been the force commander of the coalition forces during these operations and its professionalism has received accolades. The Pakistan naval authorities would have to sanitize the force and rebuild its image of a highly professional fighting force free of radical elements and jihadi thought with a strong commitment to serve national interests and Pakistan’s international commitments to ensure order at sea.

Will Afghanistan Become the ‘Forgotten War’ Again?

Stephanie Gaskell
On Oct. 7, 2001, nearly a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the State Department sent a cable to Pakistan asking Islamabad to pass a message to the Taliban warning that “it is in your interest and in the interest of your survival to hand over all al-Qaeda leaders.” The message also included a warning to Taliban leader Mullah Omar that “every pillar of the Taliban regime will be destroyed.”
Thirteen years later, Omar is alive and kicking despite a $10 million bounty on his head, the Taliban is still targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to be part of the problem—and the solution.
The U.S. military operation began that same day. And after nearly $800 billion, and more than 2,300 American lives, the war in Afghanistan will officially come to an end this year. But the mission is far from over. Whatever military ambitions that defined the war’s original name, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” have now been reduced to a far less ambitious—and more lasting—approach with the mission’s new name: “Operation Resolute Support.” Another fighting season is coming to an end, but U.S. troops have largely been out of the fight for some time now. There have been 47 American casualties this year, compared to 499 in 2010, at the height of the war. Still, Gen. John Campbell, the former Army vice chief who took over as the top U.S. and NATO commander six weeks ago, said the fight isn’t over, noting that two U.S. soldiers and a Polish soldier were killed this month, and another U.S. soldier was lost last week. He also pointed out that Afghan forces are still struggling with aviation, logistics and intelligence issues. “This continues to be a very tough environment for our soldiers, for all of NATO and for the Afghan security forces,” he said during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. As the U.S. death toll drops, it’s clear Afghan security forces have begun to bear the brunt of the fight, with as many as 9,000 injuries and fatalities this year alone.
Now that newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed the bilateral security agreement (BSA) that allows U.S. troops to stay past the end of the war, Campbell has begun the transition from 13 years of combat to a post-war “train, advise and assist” mission.
‘Transition, Transition, Transition’
There are currently just under 40,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan, including approximately 23,000 U.S. forces. That number will drop to about 12,500 NATO forces—of which 9,800 will be American—by the end of the year, according to a timeline set out by President Barack Obama in May. By the end of 2015, that number will be cut again, by about half, and by Jan. 1, 2017, all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan except for a small number assigned to the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
Despite a protracted political process that delayed the seating of the new Afghan president and put a security agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan in limbo for months, Campbell said the drawdown is on track so far. At the height of the war, ISAF had about 300 combat outposts and forward operating bases. There are now just 30.
“If I had one word to tell you what I’ve seen so far in the six weeks, it’s transition, transition, transition. And that is transition from ISAF to the mission of resolute support. It’s the political transition with a new president, the BSA signing, the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] signing, and this really complete political transition,” Campbell said.
Still, the Taliban aren’t exactly packing up and going home and many say they’re just waiting out the clock for the day when all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.
“For all of the political rhetoric that has followed, however, Afghanistan is still the forgotten war at a time when the Taliban is making steady gains, civilian casualties are rising, the Afghan economy is in crisis, and there still are no clear plans for any post-2014 aspect of transition,” Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a recent report about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
Campbell said that in ”the last couple of weeks, there has been an uptick with the Taliban trying to make a statement as they close out the fighting season.” He said the Afghans have been fighting well, especially in Helmand province, but that the Taliban is unable to hold any territory they gain. He admits, though, that they’re not doing enough to counter the Taliban’s message.
“They have, quite frankly, won the information war,” he said.
Afghan security forces have been loathe to counter with their own public relations strategy, Campbell noted, in part because of the political problems in Kabul and a lack of confidence. But he said he expects Ghani, and the Afghan National Security Forces, will be more inclined to demonstrate their successes more publicly.
“The problem we’ve had in the past is we’ve encouraged the Afghans to go ahead and report this to show the success that they have. And quite candidly, they’ve been afraid to do that. And they’ve been inhibited in some places to—to tell some of the good news stories,” Campbell said
As those forces step up on the battlefield and in that information war, Taliban morale will fall apart. “What you’ll see in Helmand is that the Taliban do not own any of the ground that they’ve tried to get, and that they’ll end the fighting season ‘14 here very discouraged, and that their leadership continues not even to be in Afghanistan and that the morale of the Taliban continues to be low,” Campbell said.
Lessons Learned
Just days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell told Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press that the United States would not get mired in Afghanistan’s so-called graveyard of empires. “I can assure you that our military will have plans that will go against their weaknesses, and not get trapped in ways that previous armies have gotten trapped in Afghanistan,” he said. The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets did after they invaded in 1979. That war lasted a decade before the Soviet Union was defeated, leading to the civil war that brought about the rise of the Taliban.
And while the Obama administration may designate the end of 2014 as the end of the war in Afghanistan, it’s somewhat arbitrary, since the U.S. mission will likely continue to 2017, at the least. With the lessons of the end of the Iraq war being played out in the Middle East, the next president may decide that the U.S. military mission should continue—or even expand—to prevent Afghanistan’s security from falling in the same way as it has in Iraq. Indeed, there have been many comparisons to the current mess in Iraq and the inability to get a deal to leave troops behind there, something that’s clearly on Campbell’s mind.
Campbell, who led troops in Iraq in 2005, said he supports the timeline of the drawdown, but said if conditions on the ground worsen, he wouldn’t hesitate to urge the president to slow it down.
“I feel very confident that we have a good plan, but as any commander on the ground, you know, I reserve the right to be able to take a look at the risk to the force, risk to the mission, and then provide my assessments to my chain of command as we move forward,” Campbell said.
Earlier this month, Ret. Gen. John Allen, who commanded U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, questioned the speed of the drawdown. “I think [that timeline is] too short,” Allen said. “These young Afghan troops, the whole concept of an Afghan army is new. And they need time to transition properly,” Allen told the Marine Corps Times.
A New Chapter Begins
As Secretary of State John Kerry said when the BSA was signed last week: “This is a beginning, not an ending, and with all beginnings the toughest decisions are still ahead.”
Kerry said Afghanistan is entering a “new chapter in its history” and vowed not to abandon the nation as it continues to grow its security forces and its economy. The Afghan government has said it is “nearly broke” and needs $537 million to keep operating. Even if it gets through this latest financial crisis, the government will need international funding for years, if not decades, to come. Afghanistan has an annual operating budget of $7.6 billion—and more than two-thirds of that comes from foreign aid.
But many fear that as crises like those in Iraq and Syria dominate the White House’s foreign policy agenda, Obama and his national security team will lose sight of Afghanistan.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., warned the Obama administration not to take its eye off the ball there. “Only U.S. leadership and commitment, along with that of our allies, can give the Afghan people the time to allow their institutions to mature to the point that gains can be sustained and our national security interests assured,” he said in a statement last week. “The administration should reconsider its plans to drawdown U.S. forces, leaving just a normal embassy presence within a year and a half. We are witnessing now in Iraq what happens when the U.S. falters on that commitment and adopts a posture inconsistent with our security interests.”

Bilawal Bhutto : Pakistan can retaliate against India's attacks on LoC

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday warned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over India’s ongoing aggression on Charwa sector Sialkot near Line of Control (LoC), saying that Pakistan can retaliate unlike Modi’s “victims from Gujrat”, Dunya News reported.
In his recent tweet, Bilawal criticized India by comparing Indian attacks to Israeli aggression on Palestinian territories. At least five persons were killed while several others injured as result of Indian firing on Charwa Sector in Sialkot and LoC. Citizens have started relocating from the areas with at least twenty villages deserted as of now.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto’s speech was under current context

Opposition Leader and senior member of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Syed Khursheed Shah has said that whatever Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in his speech, was under the current context, however PPP will remain committed to its reconciliation policy, ARY News reported.
Khursheed Shah on Tuesday said that whatever the PPP patron in-chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in his speech that was under the current context. He added that there is no shift in PPP’s policy and it will remain committed to the reconciliation theory.
Shah questioned why the political opponents understand that what they speak is all right and what others speak is wrong, adding, “We believe in reconciliation policy and taking along everyone”.
Commenting about the Islamabad sit-ins, the PPP leader said the demonstrations affected the national economy and served as a reason for the cancellation of Chinese President’s visit to Pakistan.
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Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto shocked at China earthquake
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has expressed shock and grief over the losses in a strong earthquake, which shook Southwestern China last night.
In a press statement issued here, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prayed for all those affected by the earthquake in China. “People of Pakistan and members of PPP share the grief and sorrow of our Chinese brethren as both nations stood like rock as friends through thick and thins in the past,” he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recalled the devastative earthquake in Azad Jammu & Kashmir in 2005 this day, which flattened several townships and hamlets taking thousands of lives. “As we observe 9th anniversary of Kashmir earthquake with mourning, our pain has further deepened due to the last night earthquake in our brotherly country China.”
PPP Chairperson said that China has great capacity and capability to deal with such natural calamities but the people of Pakistan are ready to offer every kind of support and help needed for relief and rescue in the affected areas.
He appealed the people and PPP workers to pray for the victims of earthquake and for the safety of those affected by it.

Polio becomes ‘public health emergency’ in Pakistan as number of cases soars

By Tim Craig
As world health officials struggle to respond to the Ebola epidemic, Pakistan has passed a grim milestone in its efforts to combat another major global health crisis: the fight against polio.
Over the weekend, Pakistan logged its 200th new polio case of 2014, the nation’s highest transmission rate in more than a dozen years. The spread has alarmed Pakistani and international health experts and is prompting fresh doubt about the country’s ability to combat this or future disease outbreaks.
By Tuesday, the number of new polio cases in Pakistan stood at 202, and officials are bracing for potentially dozens of other cases by year’s end. Pakistan now accounts for 80 percent of global cases and is one of only three countries at risk of exporting the disease outside its borders, according to the World Health Organization.
“It’s an emergency, a public health emergency,” said Ayesha Raza Farooq, the polio eradication coordinator for Pakistan’s government. “We want to limit the virus outside of our boundaries and want to work to control it in our boundaries, but it’s certainly a very challenging situation ahead.”
Pakistan has struggled for years to shed its title as one of the last remaining countries with an active polio virus, mostly because of troubles it faces in vaccinating children.
In far-flung areas of the country, some parents and religious leaders are skeptical of the vaccine, requiring considerable face-to-face outreach by vaccination teams.
But the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamist militants have waged a brutal campaign against those teams, killing more than 50 health workers and security officials since 2012. The attacks began after it was discovered that the CIA had used a vaccination campaign to gain information about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.
In May, after new polio cases in Iraq and Syria were linked to travelers from Pakistan, the WHO declared Pakistan’s polio crisis an “extraordinary event” mandating an immediate international response. Ebola is the only other disease that is currently designated by the WHO as a global public health emergency.
In response to the WHO declaration, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to redouble efforts to vaccinate children through house-to-house searches and checkpoints along major travel routes. Pakistan also set up mandatory polio vaccination clinics at airports.
But those efforts were quickly overwhelmed by the country’s continued battle against terrorism, as well as months of political chaos in the capital, Islamabad.
After the Pakistani military launched an operation against militants in North Waziristan in June, more than 1 million residents fled their homes and resettled in other areas of the country. The displaced included about 350,000 children who health officials fear have never been vaccinated.
“It’s like if you break the walls on a dam, the waters come down on the village,” said Bilal Ahmed, a UNICEF health specialist in northwestern Pakistan. “There was high movement of the virus.”
Relief workers were able to administer 700,000 vaccinations to displaced residents this summer. But advocates say the government was distracted by last month’s protests in Islamabad calling on Sharif to resign, hampering follow-through on the country’s polio eradication efforts.
But the capital is again calm, and health experts say they hope Sharif is capable of confronting the polio threat.
Aziz Memon, chairman of the Pakistan PolioPlus Committee, said he met with senior government leaders last week and gave them a dire assessment of the problem.
“I explained to them: This is no longer an emergency. This has become an outbreak,” Memon said. “The government needs to take full ownership . . . and it needs to be done on a war footing.”
Though the United States eradicated polio within its borders by 1979, there remained more than 350,000 cases worldwide as recently as 1988.
Over the past two decades, however, the global fight against polio has made enormous strides. The virus remains endemic in only Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Afghanistan has recorded 10 cases this year while Nigeria has recorded six, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Because of lackluster vaccination protocols and security, the WHO believes Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon are the only countries at risk of exporting the disease.
In Pakistan, officials say they are optimistic that they can make considerable progress vaccinating children this winter and spring.
They point to neighboring India, which this year was declared polio-free. As recently as 2009, there were more than 700 annual polio cases in India. But after an aggressive immunization program, that number had dropped to 74 in 2010 and just one in 2011, officials said.
Ahmed and other UNICEF officials said a key focus will be recruiting more women to serve on the vaccination teams. In conservative and rural parts of the country, he said, parents are more prone to allow a woman into the house than a man.
Still, it remains unclear if such efforts will be enough to prevent the WHO from issuing formal travel restrictions or other sanctions against Pakistan.

2 IED blasts may have triggered current India-Pakistan clashes

Two recent explosions triggered by IEDs smuggled into India from Pakistan may have provided the backdrop for the present escalation of tension along the borders. One could add to it a host of local and international factors — from UN general assembly session to J&K elections and coming winter. The ceasefire violations usually coincide with the festival season with tension mounting through the Dussehra-Eid-Diwali period.
In an IED blast on October 4, a soldier was killed and five others were injured in Balnoi sector of Mendhar in Poonch district. The IED was planted several meters inside the Line of Control, and the only way for it to get to the spot was for it to have been smuggled into the Indian side by Pakistani regulars or someone authorized by them. The soldier killed in the blast was from 1 Mahar Regiment.
The other IED blast had taken place on September 15 in Sunea Gali in Mendhar, in which a porter was killed and two BSF jawans were injured.
In both the instances, Indian security forces were convinced that the IEDs were smuggled into the Indian side. The two blasts significantly contributed to the mistrust and heightened tension in the area. The situation has now deteriorated into the worst ceasefire violation in over a decade.
However, a series of other developments may also have contributed to the ongoing violation. In what began as stray firing around September 15 when the first IED blast took place, it intensified when Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at New York to address the UN General Assembly session.
Some security experts suspect that Islamabad wanted the Indian PM to rake up the issue of ceasefire violation in his UN address, but Modi did not make any specific reference to it.
On the ground, Pakistani side seemed to have been preparing for a round of aggressive ceasefire violations. In the first couple of days of this month, people in many Pakistani villages close to the border were asked to vacate, and their religious prayers and festivities stopped. Pakistan on Monday complained that four of their villagers had been killed in cross-border firing.
Beyond all those reasons, there is another crucial factor which may have contributed to the escalation. This year, the Pakistani side has been very ineffective in pushing in their "bare minimum" number of militants into India. Usually, in a year about a 100 of them come into India before the heavy winter snow sets up. But this time just about 40 may have managed to enter. In fact, even as the present round of ceasefire violations were under way, in Tangdhar sector army killed three suspected militants while they were trying to cross over to India. As J&K prepares for assembly elections, militants are desperate to get active. It's under the cover of cross-border fire that militants are pushed in.
Heightened tension with India would also serve a very important purpose for the Pakistani establishment at home with the Nawaz Sharif government facing opposition fire. There isn't any other factor that could unite Pakistan more like Kashmir and tension with India.

Pakistan : Two killed, one injured in Mohmand Agency explosion

At least two people were killed and one was injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the Alemgar area of Safi tehsil in Mohmand Agency.
Official sources said that suspected militants had planted the device in front of the house of a local named Taj Gul, killing one of his sons Sakhi Gul and his nephew Maskeen on the spot while his other son Muhammad Agul, who is a Union Council polio worker, was left injured.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The injured polio worker was shifted to the Camp Hospital in Muhammad Gat.
Polio team members have been frequently attacked by militants in the Federally administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Militants allege that polio vaccination is a cover for espionage or a Western-conspiracy to sterilise Muslims.
Mohmand is one of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies near the Afghan border which are rife with militancy and are said to be strongholds of Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives.

PPP saved Pakistan from political turmoil

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday said that none becomes a great leader by establishing a hospital, ARY News reported.
Zardari said that our ancestors built Sindh Madressatul Islam which trained an individual like Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah but we never took political advantage out of the fact.
Speaking to party workers in Bilawal House Lahore, Zardari emphasized on the need to focus on the organization of party while claiming that the party and country benefited greatly from the patience shown by PPP workers.
The former president in an apparent jab at PTI chief Imran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif advised his party men to benefit from the situation while two of the leading politicians are wrestling each other.
He claimed that those who used foul language against him in the past are facing the same situation.
About his party’s performance in the 5 year government, he opined that Pakistan was about to turn into another Syria or Iraq but it was PPP who saved Pakistan from such situation.
A determined looking Zardari said that all political parties should take the current political situation seriously.
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