Tuesday, October 21, 2014

China - Bringing Western Depocrisy to Hong Kong

By David Ferguson
The Western media have secured their prize. Just as it seemed that the Hong Kong Occupy demonstrations were about to peter out, evidence emerged that one of the protestors had been detained and beaten by police. The officers accused have been suspended, and an investigation is under way. The story can return to the top of the front pages. The demonstrators can once more become the heroes of the day.
Owen Jones, a radical left-wing columnist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, hailed the struggle of the demonstrators against“Beijing’s tyrants” with their “murderous record”. “The protestors have a simple, unarguable case”, he fulminated.
China’s leaders are not in fact ‘tyrants’, and if they have a ‘murderous record’, then that record is a distant past echo of the murderous record of the enlightened West - including the Labour Party that Mr Jones supports - which launched a war with Iraq in 2003 based on a pack of outrageous lies. The perpetrators of these lies have never been called to account. Eleven years later, thousands still die in Iraq every month as an aftermath of their actions. Eleven years later,the West is now dropping its bombs on Syria as a direct consequence. In between, they bombed Libya back to the stone age without even declaring war.
But these are arguments for another day. Let us stick to Hong Kong.
With all due respect to the whole of the West, the demonstrators do not have an “unarguable case”. China has reneged on nothing. China has stuck to the schedule to which it agreed in terms of the democratisation process in Hong Kong. While the demonstrators might wish it to be otherwise, China always reserved the right to continue to vet candidates for Hong Kong’s leadership at this stage, and China has every reason to do so. You would have to be blind, deaf and stupid to pretend that America does not shove its interfering nose into every corner of the planet. You would have to be naive beyond belief to pretend that there is no American interference in the Hong Kong demonstrations, when the territory is riddled with ‘foundations’ and ‘endowments’ run by and financed by exactly the same people who have run the ‘Arab Spring’ and the ‘Colour Revolutions’ in Eastern Europe – movements which have brought mostly misery to their unfortunate beneficiaries.
‘Beijing’has a perfectly valid and legitimate case for continuing to vet candidates for the Hong Kong leadership. Beijing is not prepared to run the risk of Hong Kong falling under the control of someone who is a paid-for American stooge.
Let us extend the discussion a little. What is this democracy that America holds so dear, this democracy that America is so keen to offer to the rest of the world at the end of the barrel of a gun, this democracy for which the demonstrators of Hong Kong have taken to the streets? Well, for a start, Americans have precisely what the people of Hong Kong do not have – the right to a free vote. As the Americans like to put it: If you don’t like the leaders you’ve got then hell, you can just “vote ‘em out”!
But this much-vaunted right really has to be subject to a little more demanding scrutiny. Yes, you can vote them out. But who can you put in their place?
The truth about American democracy is this:
Point one.If you want access to any real power, you must belong to one of only two political parties. Unless you have the support of one of these two parties and their machines, you have no prospect whatsoever of ever acceding to any position of real political power.
Point two.Access to any position of real power is restricted to millionaires. No-one who is not already fabulously wealthy has any prospect whatsoever of ever acceding to any position of real political power.
Point three. It costs eye-watering sums of money to conduct a campaign for election to any position of real political power – more money than even most multi-millionaires can afford. So in order to even compete for such a position, you must first sell yourself to other vested interests who are willing to fund your campaign, and who will expect payback if you are successful.
So what does that make American democracy? It makes it the right to cast a vote, every couple of years or so, for one or the other of two millionaire representatives of their party machines, who have already sold themselves to wealthy influences whose interests may well be in direct conflict with your own. If you don’t like one millionaire representative of a party machine who has sold himself to wealthy influences, then you can vote for the other millionaire representative of a party machine who has sold himself to wealthy influences.
Of course you can vote for other people too. Anybody can stand for election in America. But since no-one who is not a millionaire representative of one of the two party machines has any prospects whatsoever of ever acceding to a position of power, if you are going to vote for someone else you might as well do this: Stay at home. Write down the name of an imaginary person on a piece of paper. Mark an ‘X’ beside that name. Throw the piece of paper in the bin.
You might as well do that because it is equally pointless, but it takes less time.
I’m not sure that I would want to fight and die for that kind of democracy. But I’m certain that neverwould I send great armies off to a country on the other side of the world to kill large numbers of people, just so that any survivors could enjoy such an arguable privilege.
So what then? What if you still want genuine change? What if you would still like the real possibility of placing someone in a position of power who is not a millionaire representative of one of the two party machines? Well, in addition to democracy, America enjoys freedom of speech and assembly. So if you can see no way of making change happen from within the system, you can take your case to the streets.
Which is precisely what a tiny group of people tried to do in America back in 2011. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement tried to take its campaign for real change to the streets. But it was forcibly prevented from ever establishing a presence on the streets or public squares of New York. Instead, a few hundred demonstrators formed a camp in the privately-owned Zuccotti Park, where they stayed for several weeks. Until, on November 15th 2011, in the dark of night, their camp was invaded and destroyed by New York Police in riot gear. Many of the demonstrators were beaten with clubs and tazered.
That is how America deals with a rag-bag collection of a few hundred demonstrators in a park, who have no structured agenda for change, and who enjoy little public support. One might wonder how America would deal with tens of thousands of demonstrators erecting barricades on the streets, with a structured agenda for change, who were beginning to win the attention and possibly even the support of the public.
The truth is such speculation is idle. No such course of events would ever be allowed to happen. No such movement would ever be allowed to grow. The whole point of the destruction of the Zuccotti Park camp was that it brought to an end the Occupy Wall Street protest long before it ever had the chance to develop any critical mass.
In Britain, too, the authorities know exactly how to deal with dissent that goes too public. Right at this moment there is something of an ‘Occupy’ protest going on in Parliament Square in London. Several hundred people are trying to use their much-vaunted freedom of speech to demonstrate in favour of fundamental change in British society - the sort of change that isn’t on offer from any of the mainstream political parties who have a stranglehold on political power through Britain’s antiquated ‘first-past-the-post’ electoral system.
I would like to tell you what is happening there, but there’s very little I can say. The British media, who have so much to say on the subject of Hong Kong,seem rather reluctant to find space in their columns to provide any information on their own home-grown protests. On Monday 20th October - three days into the protest - the ever-liberal Guardian did finally manage to script a generous 255-word article, but the loud voices of the BBC have been strangely reluctant to express an opinion. Some prominent China-bashers, like the Daily Telegraph, appear to take the view that it would be best if the British public hears nothing at all about these events.
What I can glean from alternative social media is that the protest has been going on for all of three days, and it appears that the authorities have already sent large numbers of police to put a stop to it. Protesters are now being physically hauled away. In Britain, under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 it is a criminal offence to be in Parliament Square“in possession of items that might be used for sleeping”, and the police have deemed that anyone who is sitting on a tarpaulin to keep off the cold tarmac is guilty of ‘erecting a structure’. I should perhaps emphasise that I am not making any of this up in an attempt to be funny. This is all genuinely happening in a country that seems to spend half its time lording it over the Chinese government for its ‘repressive behaviour’ and denouncing the Chinese media for theirrefusal to report openly on events in China.
The Hong Kong Occupy demonstrators should be careful what they wish for. It is true that they do not have the same right that Americans do, to vote for one of two millionaires who have sold themselves to a group of financial interests, and then to vote a couple of years later for the other one. But tens of thousands of them have been allowed to conduct their protests on the streets of Hong Kong for weeks now, erecting barricades, causing obstructions, and disrupting the lives and the work of their fellow citizens, and their protests have been managed for the most part without violence.
Whereas if tens of thousands of Hong Kong Occupy protestorshad been out with their barricades on the streets of London, they would have been dispersed within day sand many of them would now be in prison.If they had been out with their barricades on the streets of New York, they would have been dispersed within days and many of them would now be in hospital, or the morgue. That’s what I call depocrisy.

Chinese premier calls for global cooperation against Ebola

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday spoke over phone with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the growing Ebola threat and urged the international community to join hands against the deadly virus.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Li noted, has jeopardized the health and lives of the people in the affected countries, severely hindered those nations' economic development and social stability, and posed a pressing threat to global public health.
The international community must strengthen coordination and cooperation to jointly combat the disease, said the Chinese premier.
The top priority now is to provide more supplies, funds and medical workers for Ebola-hit zones, guide the public to look at and deal with the epidemic in the right way, and consolidate the confidence in winning the battle, he added.
For the long run, the world should beef up development aid for African countries and help them improve their competence in public health, suggested the premier.
Pointing out that China and Africa both belong to the developing camp and enjoy a profound traditional friendship, Li said the Chinese side is deeply concerned about the Ebola-stricken countries.
China, he said, sent in humanitarian aid swiftly after the outbreak, and has since offered multiple batches of emergency assistance and dispatched a largest number of medical experts and workers to the affected areas to help with prevention and control efforts.
Now Beijing is actively planning for the next round of assistance, including boosting public-health aid, with the purpose of helping African countries improve their epidemic prevention and control ability, he added.
China attaches great importance to the trust fund set up by the UN and will provide support within its capacity, Li said, adding that Beijing supports the UN playing a leader-and-coordinator role in aiding Africa and combating Ebola.
For his part, Ban briefed Li on the UN's efforts and concerns, and spoke highly of China's aid for the Ebola-hit African countries and its support for the UN.
China's aid, he said, has effectively shored up the fight against Ebola in the affected areas and boosted the confidence of the people there in tackling the epidemic.
The UN will further promote global solidarity and cooperation and give full play to its special taskforce and trust fund, so as to secure more international aid for beleaguered African countries and effectively prevent the spread of the epidemic, Ban added.
The United Nations, he said, is ready to keep close communication and cooperation with China on the matter.


The St.Petersburg Times
By Pyotr Romanov
It became clear just how much the subject of NATO is a sore spot for Russian society when new NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was quoted in a recent interview on Polish television as saying that NATO would base its forces “wherever we want.”
Moscow immediately responded by reminding the West that such a policy would violate agreements between NATO and Russia — prompting Brussels to hurriedly issue a correction, claiming that the Polish translator had misquoted Stoltenberg.
Of course, mistakes happen, but considering that Russian-Polish relations have been far from ideal for centuries, it is entirely possible that the translator heard exactly what Warsaw wanted to hear.
Nor does Moscow’s frustrated and angry response come as any surprise: Russia is convinced that the West broke its promise that NATO would refrain from expanding into Eastern Europe in exchange for the reunification of Germany. True, that pledge was never set down in a legally binding document, but the feeling remains that Russia was betrayed.
The Russian mentality also plays a role here because legal documents do not hold the same sway in this country as they do in the West. Even with all the corruption that exists, a solemn promise carries more weight for many Russians than does a notarized document.
And finally, it is clear why Brussels rushed to issue the correction: Relations have already deteriorated into a new Cold War without adding this problem as well.
And yet, the situation is a double edged sword: It helps NATO find a new purpose following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it provides justification for a Russian military buildup. But other than the military-industrial complexes of both sides, who really stands to gain from a new arms race?
Obviously, Russian politicians, generals and admirals take whatever stance toward NATO their jobs demand.
Every general staff in the world constantly updates its plans with regard to potential opponents — and Russia and NATO do the same with regard to each other, regardless of the peace-loving speeches made by their respective diplomats and political leaders.
And yet that does not preclude Russia partnering with the West on issues where their interests coincide. This relationship will continue for the foreseeable future, with only the degree of confrontation or cooperation varying according to circumstances.
Of greater interest is the attitude the average Russian holds toward NATO. Even before the current strained relations, the fact that NATO expanded ever closer to Russia’s borders, bombed Yugoslavia and brought the former Warsaw Pact states into its fold had irritated Russians.
Now with Western sanctions in place, it is fair to assume that anti-NATO sentiments have only intensified.
On the other hand, if you dig a little deeper, it turns out that very few Russians actually fear NATO. Others see it as a potential though not imminent threat, while many others are simply indifferent to the alliance. There are at least three reasons for such “fearlessness.”
First, Russia’s nuclear capability remains its primary security guarantee. Second, today’s Russians, brought up studying the history of World War II, find it difficult to view the “fighting brotherhood” of the Dutch, Icelanders, Estonians and so on as a threat.
They see that whole motley contingent as not only unfit for battle, but also as an encumbrance that only deprives maneuverability to the U.S. and major European countries.
What’s more, Russians question the effectiveness of NATO’s best-trained forces, knowing that they have only fought against much weaker opponents in recent decades.
Third and finally, the average Russian takes comfort in knowing that, while former President Boris Yeltsin allowed the army to fall into disarray, President Vladimir Putin has slowly but steadily rebuilt the country’s armed forces.
Also, in place of the somewhat doubtful former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, Russia now has a more experienced organizer in current Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Of course, the armed forces alone do not guarantee a country’s peace and security. But truth be told, most Russians do not devote a great deal of serious thought to the pros and cons of the president’s policy.
But to the chagrin of the West and the domestic opposition, those who do think about it tend to conclude that they are satisfied with Putin on the whole — that is, at least for now.

Kiev govt used cluster munitions in populated zones in E. Ukraine – HRW

The forces of the Kiev government used cluster munitions in populated areas in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, says Human Rights Watch. It adds that the use of this forbidden weaponry violates the laws of war.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) was documenting the “widespread use of cluster munitions” in fighting between government troops and self-defense forces, according to investigation carried by the watchdog.
“While it was not possible to conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks, the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk [Donetsk Region, Eastern Ukraine],” says the report.
Donetsk, which before the launch of the Kiev military operation in April had a population of about 1 million people, is now literally in ruins. Heavy shelling claimed hundreds of civilians in the city.
On Monday a huge blast rocked a chemical factory in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the city council says on its website. The blast wave reportedly shattered windows in houses in a radius of several kilometers.
An investigation says that at least six civilians were killed and dozens injured in these attacks. But the real casualty number is probably higher, says HRW, as the watchdog hasn’t yet probed all the allegations of the cluster munition use in the conflict zone.
“It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine,” said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at HRW. “Ukrainian authorities should make an immediate commitment not to use cluster munitions and join the treaty to ban them.”
The danger of cluster munitions is that each of them contains hundreds of smaller submunitions. After the bomb explodes the container opens up “dispersing the submunitions, which are designed to explode when they hit the ground,” says the investigation.
“The submunitions are spread indiscriminately over a wide area, often the size of a football field, putting anyone in the area at the time of attack, whether combatants or civilians, at risk of death or injury.”
The Convention on Cluster Munitions signed in 2009 includes 114 countries so far. However Ukraine has yet to join the treaty.
“There is particularly strong evidence that Ukrainian government forces were responsible for several cluster munition attacks on central Donetsk in early October,” HRW said.
The watchdog identified cluster munitions by the distinctive craters, remnants of the submunitions found at the impact sites, and remnants of the rockets found in the vicinity.
“Ukrainian forces should immediately make a commitment to not use cluster munitions and to investigate and hold accountable any personnel responsible for firing cluster munitions into populated areas. Ukraine should accede to the treaty banning their use,” HRW said. Ukraine’s authorities neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, says the group, adding that Kiev didn’t respond to a letter sent by the Cluster Munition Coalition in July or a letter sent by HRW on October 13.
“Firing cluster munitions into populated areas is utterly irresponsible and those who ordered such attacks should be held to account,” Hiznay said. “The best way for the Ukrainian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to protect civilians would be an immediate promise to stop using cluster munitions.”

Video - Russia: Lavrov pledges to help UN solve Syria crisis

Video - Police uproot crying Occupiers at London anti-corruption protest

London's Occupy Democracy protesters were forcibly removed by the Metropolitan Police Force from Parliament Square Tuesday, as protesters cried and made their bodies dead-weights.

Video Report - Video claims to show U.S. military aid in Islamic State hands

Bilawal Bhutto to celebrate Diwali with Hindus in Naudero

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party will celebrate Diwali with the members of Hindu community at Naudero House on October 23. He has invited Hindu communities to join him in the celebrating the Festival of Lights at Naudero House in Larkana. He also directed the PPP leaders including District Presidents to celebrate Diwali in their respective areas together with the Hindu communities.

Four Afghan Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack

Billions Of American Dollars Fail To Halt Thriving Poppy Production In Afghanistan

By Avaneesh Pandey
Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit a record high in 2013 despite years of American efforts to curb its production and trade, according to a new report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. As of June 2014, the United States has spent nearly $7.6 billion to combat Afghan poppy cultivation, the report said.
Afghanistan produces more than 80 percent of the world's illicit opium, which reportedly helps fund the Taliban and other insurgent groups. The U.S. government blames poppy production for “undermining good governance and public health, subverting the legal economy, and fuelling corruption and insecurity.” According to the report, in 2013, the value of opium and its derivative products produced in Afghanistan stood at $3 billion, up from $2 billion in 2012.
“Poppy-growing provinces that were once declared ‘poppy free’ have seen a resurgence in cultivation. Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, considered a model for successful counterinsurgency and counternarcotics efforts and deemed ‘poppy free’ by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) in 2008, saw a fourfold increase in opium poppy cultivation between 2012 and 2013,” according to the report.
Citing the UNODC, the report said that Afghan farmers "grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007." Between 2002 and 2013, the area under poppy cultivation increased by over 125,000 hectares, according to the report.
“With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014,” the report said.
Responding to the SIGAR report, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said that the increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is “disappointing news.”Citing the UNODC, the report said that Afghan farmers "grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007." Between 2002 and 2013, the area under poppy cultivation increased by over 125,000 hectares, according to the report. “With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014,” the report said. Responding to the SIGAR report, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said that the increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is “disappointing news.” “Essentially, poppy cultivation has shifted from areas where government presence is broadly supported and security has improved, toward more remote and isolated areas where governance is weak and security is inadequate,” Charles Randolph, a program coordinator at the embassy, said in a statement. “Only consistent and long-term application of a broad spectrum of programs, addressing both supply and demand, are likely to result in counternarcotics successes in Afghanistan.” “Essentially, poppy cultivation has shifted from areas where government presence is broadly supported and security has improved, toward more remote and isolated areas where governance is weak and security is inadequate,” Charles Randolph, a program coordinator at the embassy, said in a statement. “Only consistent and long-term application of a broad spectrum of programs, addressing both supply and demand, are likely to result in counternarcotics successes in Afghanistan.”

The West Made Lots of Promises to Afghan Girls, Now It’s Breaking Them

Heather Barr
One reason given for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was to educate girls. But as the Western military shrinks there, so does the funding for those schools.
The girls of Afghanistan have been betrayed. When Taliban rule ended almost 13 years ago, international donors rushed in to promise that young women would no longer be denied an education. Western governments spent a decade patting themselves on the back for what they touted as exceptional work supporting schools for the beleaguered girls of Afghanistan. They talked about bringing women out of purdah, literally as well as figuratively, so they could help their families and their country to prosper.
But the closing of one school after another exposes the hollowness of those promises. In fact, the state of education in Afghanistan is still so shaky that only about half of Afghan girls manage to go to school, and those numbers are set to decline.
In the volatile southern province of Kandahar, for instance, an innovative school for teenage girls will soon close its doors. The Kandahar Institute for Modern Studies, established in 2006 with funding and encouragement from the Canadian government, has run out of donors. And it is only one of a number of Afghan schools to face the budget axe swung by distant governments and cost-cutting politicians.
Other schools have been shuttered because of attacks and threats stemming from the war that continues to engulf the country. In July, girls’ schools closed in one entire district, depriving 40,000 girls of education.
The website of the U.S. development agency proudly proclaims, “In 2013, one million Afghan learners are enrolled in schools with USAID assistance, and over 5 million primary grade students benefitted from USAID assistance.” But in January 2014, the U.S. Congress cut the U.S. government’s allocation of development aid for Afghanistan by half.
Then there’s the United Kingdom. “We agree that expanded access to good quality secondary education that produces skills for employment is essential for Afghanistan’s future prosperity,” the British government wrote in 2013. Yet in a 2012 report the U.K. government had already decided that it had “built too much” in terms of schools and health clinics in Afghanistan and that only “critical” facilities would remain open.
Getting Afghan girls into school wasn’t just a benign-but-unintended by-product of the international military intervention in Afghanistan. Soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. and the invasion of Afghanistan, world leaders explicitly cited the extreme oppression suffered by women and girls under the Taliban as a justification for the operation.
“The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women,” said Laura Bush, wife of then-U.S. President George W. Bush, in November 2001, giving the weekly presidential radio address in place of her husband.
“The women of Afghanistan still have a spirit that belies their unfair, downtrodden image,” said Cherie Blair, wife of then-U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, also in November 2001. “We need to help them free that spirit and give them their voice back, so they can create the better Afghanistan we all want to see.”
But today, as crises in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and West Africa compete for attention, Afghanistan is not even yesterday’s news—it’s last year’s news. Journalists are leaving Kabul, embassies are downsizing, and donors are quietly and drastically scaling back.
“How’s it going?” I asked a friend who runs aid programs at the U.S. embassy in Kabul not long ago.
“Oh, you know,” he said. “Just shutting things down.”
Military disengagement from Afghanistan is advancing; the newly signed Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S. and Status of Forces Agreement with NATO pave the way for a continued, but very limited, international military involvement in Afghanistan.
Donor involvement is more important than ever, however. President Hamid Karzai handed over to Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, not just the reins of power but also a badly overdrawn checking account. Ghani’s government has been forced to seek a $537 million bailout from donors just to continue paying civil servant salaries. There are hopes that this new government, fronted by Ghani, a technocrat who was formerly Afghanistan’s finance minister and spent several decades with the World Bank, will bring much-needed fiscal stability to the Afghan economy. But that won’t happen tomorrow.
Afghanistan will have to pay for its own schools one day, and one hopes it is moving in that direction. But it can’t possibly do so right now. The ones who will pay first and worst are the country’s girls as they slide back toward the devastation of illiteracy.
A November donor conference in London will bring together all of Afghanistan’s donors to take stock of commitments made at the 2012 Tokyo Conference and to craft a new partnership going forward. Donors should come to the conference mindful not just of commitments they have made to the Afghan government, but also the solemn pledges they first made to support Afghan women and girls in 2001, and have made over and over since then.
Earlier this month, after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two children’s rights activists, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Yousafzai, a 17-year old from Pakistan, would be travelling to Canada to accept honorary Canadian citizenship, an honor only five others, including Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, have ever received. U.S. President Barack Obama was quick to congratulate the Nobel winners as well, saying, “As we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek—one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”
That’s what Afghan girls want. And that’s what the countries that marched into Afghanistan 13 years ago promised them. This is no time to break that promise.

Video Report - Wide Angle: Political transition in Afghanistan

Pakistan isn’t losing any sleep over ISIS

By Jamie Schram
There’s at least one nation that’s not sweating ISIS.
Pakistan officials seemed cool as a cucumber on Friday after reports surfaced this week of a potentially deadly merger between the bloodthirsty jihadis and the equally barbaric Pakistan Taliban in their country.
“It shows a desperate effort by a decimated [Pakistan Taliban] to find external support for survival,” an Embassy of Pakistan spokesman said. “They are a weak and broken group because of the successful operations of the Pakistani forces.”
In a dramatic announcement Tuesday, six prominent members of the Pakistan Taliban turned their allegiance away from Afghan Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar to the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“I pledge allegiance to the Caliph of Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Pakistan Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said. “I will listen to and obey his every order, even if the situation is difficult, whether I like the order or not.”
Five regional commanders also declared their unbridled support for al-Baghdadi, who, in June, declared himself the Caliph of the Muslim world and ordered all Muslims pledge their allegiance to him.
The proposed merger of the two terror groups was seen as a serious threat to the security of Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons.
But the Pakistan Embassy spokesman stressed that they’re laser focused on dismantling every terror group in their country. “Our security forces are successfully moving forward with ground operations in [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] as well as intelligence driven operations in the urban areas of Pakistan to eliminate any potential terrorist cells,” the spokesman said.

Even Beloved Figure Is Prey to Robbers in Pakistani City

Street crime in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest metropolis, has long been so bad that a kind of resigned pessimism has set in among residents. Ghazi Salahuddin, a columnist and human rights activist here, has made a parlor game out of it: He asks party guests how many of them have been mugged, and usually at least a third raise their hands, he says.
But even in Karachi, there are sacrosanct lines, and armed robbers crossed a huge one early Sunday morning when they held up Abdul Sattar Edhi, an 86-year-old philanthropist whose name has become synonymous with humanitarian causes in Pakistan.
Mr. Edhi was asleep in the building that serves as his residence and headquarters in the chaotic Mithadar neighborhood of Karachi when robbers entered the office, where they held him and others at gunpoint.
Half an hour later, the gunmen had cleaned out the premises of over $1 million and more than 10 pounds of gold jewelry that had been donated to the Edhi Foundation, which runs the largest private ambulance service in the country, as well as orphanages and retirement homes.
The Karachi police said that they were investigating the robbery and that a suspect had been identified, but gave no further details.
For decades, Mr. Edhi and his foundation have taken on the burden of a wide range of charitable causes, from picking up and burying the bodies of those killed in gang warfare to leading relief work in disaster zones across the country.
And though his foundation channels millions of dollars for needy Pakistanis, Mr. Edhi himself is famous for his humble way of living. He thinks sugar is an unnecessary expense, and he is usually seen wearing an often-mended tunic.
After the robbery was reported, social media websites bubbled over with outrage from Pakistanis, and government and police officials made a beeline to Mr. Edhi’s office.
“I had never imagined that this could happen to me,” Mr. Edhi said in an interview.
Increasingly, though, it has become clear that almost no one is off limits to Karachi’s criminals.
In September, a young woman was shot dead in the upscale neighborhood of Defence after she tried to resist a mugger. In recent years, victims of muggings and robberies have included a former Olympian hockey player and lawmakers with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party, which has long run the city.
The Karachi police have recently claimed success in controlling crime, mostly focusing on rampant political and gang violence. But a spokesman, Atiq Shaikh, said, “Street crime is where the numbers go against us.”
Cellphone theft, for instance, has become epidemic. More than 13,000 muggings focused on phone theft have been reported in Karachi since January, an increase of over 6,000 from the same period last year. There has also been an increase in the theft of motorcycles.
Mr. Shaikh blamed wealthy traders running the associations that govern electronic goods markets for reselling phones that had clearly been stolen. “They’re not ashamed of selling them, and we’re not ashamed of buying them,” he said. “Civil society and the media need to work together on this.”
Street crime in Karachi is prevalent enough that at least one newspaper, Dawn, runs a regular guide on personal security. It has also inspired satirists: A stand-up comic, Danish Ali, produced a sketch last year spoofing a popular crime show host hunting for a mugger.
A new Pakistani film, “Unidentified People,” has its protagonists hatching a plot while using street violence as a cover
Mr. Edhi’s son Faisal, who helps run the foundation, said his father was incredibly hurt by the robbery.
“He had always believed that no one could touch the center, that it was a safe refuge. He has really taken it to heart,” he said. “He had always thought no one would enter the office, but clearly criminals have fallen to such a low.”

Tensions between India and Pakistan in Kashmir lead to 'worst violence in a decade'

Tensions are spiking again along Kashmir's Line of Control between Indian and Pakistan. Over the past few days, the two neighbors have exchanged gunfire at the border, killing 17 civilians and causing thousands more to flee the area.
The new hostilities began roughly two weeks ago, on October 7, when Indian and Pakistani soldiers killed nine bystanders, while shooting at each other. Following the confrontation, both sides blamed each other for inciting the violence. Calm has proven elusive in the days days since, with the two countries trading mortar and machine gun fire, killing another six locals, including three children.
In an effort to relieve tensions, military commanders in India and Pakistan established a telephone hotline to keep each nation's armed forces in regular contact. So far, the effort hasn't accomplished much.
India and Pakistan created the LOC in 1972, following violent clashes over Kashmir. The geographical invention failed to bring peace, but the two countries did sign a formal ceasefire in 2003, after a particularly long 14-year stretch of gun battles along the border.
The latest unrest along the LOC has been called the region's “worst in a decade,” and many fear it could destroy the 2003 ceasefire altogether. Efforts to repair ties have fared poorly. India refused to join Pakistan in meetings with Kashmir's separatists, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ominously cancelled plans in August to speak with his counterpart in Pakistan earlier this year.
According to Pakistani officials, Islamabad did nothing to provoke Indian attacks. “We fail to understand why the Indians are targeting Pakistani civilian populations,” a Pakistani major general told the press on October 8.
Indian forces tell a similar tale, with the roles reversed.
Mass media coverage about the skirmishes has been polarized. The Times of India, for example, has published articles like “Pakistan May Continue Border Firing Until Diwali,” where the newspaper accuses Islamabad of “violating the ceasefire once again.” The Express Tribune, on the other hand, has proven to be more pro-Pakistani, publishing work like “Escalating Tensions: As India Resumes Shelling, Pakistan Warns of Payback,” implying that India instigated the recent violence. The strongly liberal newspaper Karachi Post has also blamed Indian troops for shooting first.
Since the beginning of October, the ceasefire has been violated 11 times, and neither India nor Pakistan formally acknowledges responsibility for initiating the conflict.

Pakistan Pulls Anti-Government TV Channel off Air

An anti-government TV news channel in Pakistan was taken off air for 15 days after a high court ruled that the broadcaster was "maligning" the country's judiciary, the country's media regulation authority said.
The closure is apparently linked to the infighting among Pakistan's numerous media outlets over their coverage of the two-month-long anti-government protests demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down over alleged election fraud.
Most of the media have firmly aligned themselves either in support of Sharif's government or in favor of the opposition, providing plenty of fodder for bitter reports and opinionated talk show hosts.
The Pakistan Media Regulation Authority said on Tuesday that it was forced to act on a court order and shut down the private ARY News channel. PEMRA also said the court banned one of the broadcaster's anchors, Mubashar Luqman, from appearing on any national TV. The ARY was also ordered to pay a fine of 10 million Pakistani Rupees, or $97,000.
The high court in the eastern city of Lahore acted on its own in taking up the case — what is known in legal terms as suo moto — and issued its ruling last week.
ARY has been taking a distinctly pro-opposition stance in its coverage of the protest rallies, which are led by Pakistan's famous cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.
Luqman, the banned anchor, was a prominent participant in the rallies, sometimes appearing in public with Khan during the former cricket star's anti-government speeches outside the parliament.
Hundreds of supporters of Khan and Qadri have been camped for several weeks outside the Pakistani parliament in Islamabad.
ARY is said to have earned top ratings ever since it took up the popular anti-government narrative against its business rival Geo TV, which has long been Pakistan's most popular TV channel.
In June, PEMRA also banned Geo TV for 15 days after a spat between the broadcaster and the military's powerful spy agency, the ISI.
The intelligence agency had filed a suit against Geo TV, seeking its closure after it alleged that the spy agency chief was behind an assassination attempt against one of the station's anchors, Hamid Mir.
Sharif's government backed Geo TV at the time, and the station later sided with Sharif in its coverage of the protest rallies.
After decades of tight control over the media, Pakistan now has a vibrant journalism community with numerous television channels and newspapers that compete fiercely for readers and viewers.
The media have been especially focused on confrontations between Pakistan's executive branch, military and its judiciary.

Pakistan - Will Aasia Bibi ever see justice?

Nasir Saeed
It is a growing trend among extremists to kill anyone accused of blasphemy and to become heroes in this world to secure a place in ‘paradise’ after death.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law is once again in the headlines. The world’s media is talking about Aasia Bibi’s sorrowful story. She was accused of blasphemy in 2009 and, since 2010, has been on death row. On October 16, 2014 the Lahore High Court (LHC) rejected her appeal; her suffering will continue for many more years because of the country’s blasphemy laws. A further appeal is due to be submitted in the Supreme Court (SC) and, although there is hope that she will be freed, there is no guarantee that after an acquittal she will be safe and able to lead a normal life.
Aasia’s blasphemy case will be the second in Pakistan’s history to be heard by the SC. The majority of cases are decided in the high courts with convictions being quashed but this time, unfortunately and unexpectedly, the LHC upheld her death sentence. Aasia has been facing great threats to her life as a bounty had been announced and attempts were even made to attack her in prison. It is being said the judges were swayed because of pressure from the dozens of Islamists who were present in court. Unfortunately, extremists have become so powerful that sometimes judges and the police become helpless, as seen in the case of Rashid Rehman, a lawyer who was openly threatened in court and then killed in his office for defending university lecturer Junaid Hafeez. It is terrifying to think what kind of society we have developed into and how religiously intolerant we have become.
How can we forget the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was killed by his own police guard, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, for supporting Aasia Bibi and talking to then president Zardari about her pardon. Another Christian minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also killed for supporting Aasia and demanding changes in the blasphemy law, increasingly being misused against Christians who consider it a root cause of their persecution. Qadri has proudly admitted his crime, telling the court, “I acted against a blasphemer as per the guidelines of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).” He is treated like a hero and, therefore, when he was sentenced to death by Judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah, the lawyers and Islamists surrounded his court and threatened to kill him, forcing him to flee Pakistan.
It is a growing trend among extremists to kill anyone accused of blasphemy and to become heroes in this world to secure a place in ‘paradise’ after death. The government’s silence encourages this mindset, despite it being its responsibility to protect all its citizens, even those who are in prison. It is unlikely that Aasia will be executed but still it is difficult to predict whether she will get justice as today’s judiciary is very different to that which set aside the high court’s decision on August 15, 2002 and set free Ayub Masih. His was the first case to reach the SC and one of the country’s most famous lawyers, Abid Hasan Minto, agreed to represent him. His previous lawyer, Asma Jahangir, is said to have refused to represent Ayub any further after receiving death threats. She had also successfully represented Salamat and Rehmat, two teens charged with blasphemy, in the LHC but the judge who freed them was murdered by extremists. This sent a ripple of fear through the legal fraternity. The refusal of lawyers to take up blasphemy cases greatly upset Bishop Dr John Joseph and, therefore, when Ayub Masih was sentenced to death, he shot himself dead in front of the same court in Sahiwal in protest at the injustice being done to Christians in the name of religion.
Although many politicians, including the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were saddened by the tragic death of the bishop and promises were made to look into the matter, the changing situation of the country because of the Indian nuclear explosions saw a change in priorities and the whole matter was put aside.
The suffering caused by the blasphemy law is severe and its impact is palpable as several churches, temples and Christian towns have been reduced to ashes and several innocent people have lost their lives in vigilante killings. Mob justice is becoming more popular because no one is ever questioned and victims are not even given a chance to prove themselves innocent. Very often, due process is denied to the victims of the blasphemy law.
Aasia’s case is another chance for Nawaz Sharif to look into this matter. He owes this to Bishop John Joseph. It is also a chance for him to stop the law from making a mockery of Pakistan and to promote a positive image of the country. It is also the responsibility of the present government to prevent this law from further misuse so people like Aasia Bibi do not have to suffer in prison for years, and nobody is killed for a crime they have never committed. Aasia vehemently denies the charges against her but still she has been denied justice. Now, after the court’s decision, she will have to spend several more years in prison. She and many other people falsely charged under the blasphemy law are suffering needlessly. It is the government’s duty to bring this matter to parliament, to debate and amend it appropriately.
Recently, we have seen the news that Ireland is going to announce a referendum to remove the blasphemy law from its constitution. Why should the Pakistani parliament not learn from this? Since Aasia’s appeal is going to be submitted to the SC, I remain hopeful that the judges will decide her case diligently and without any fear and pressure, and that she will finally get justice.

Pakistan - Polio workers refuse to vaccinate Khyber kids

Polio workers in some parts of Khyber Agency on Monday refused to vaccinate children at the start of a three-day drive with at least 116,000 children likely to be vaccinated in the tribal region.
The workers in some parts of Khyber refused to carry on with the drive over non-payment of stipends from the previous three campaigns, sources said.
Workers in some areas of Landi Kotal and Jamrud have also refused to conduct the vaccination drive, citing non-payment of their previous dues.
On the other hand, authorities said that the released funds had been embezzled at the local level, adding that the matter was being investigated. Dr Sarfaraz Afridi, coordinator for the polio vaccination drive in Khyber Agency, said that the funds had been released but fraudulently withdrawn at the local level. He added that the political administration and authorities concerned have been asked to probe into the matter.
Two days earlier, another polio case had been reported in Khyber in 18-month-old girl from the Akakhel area of Bara.
The government’s failure to reach out to unvaccinated children has already taken up the total number of polio cases in Khyber to 46. Khyber also has the highest number of reported polio cases after the restive North Waziristan Agency. Moreover, a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report said Pakistan was responsible for nearly 80 percent of polio cases reported globally.

Pakistan: Nawaz regime spends Rs 11m per month on legal team: report

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spends a massive amount of money on its law officers on official and private cases, said a report in a local daily.
According to an official list, the government pays the attorney general (AG) Rs 1 million per month, six additional attorney generals (AAGs) get Rs 700,000 per month, while 38 deputy attorney generals are paid Rs 150,000 each month. These add up to a wage bill of Rs 10.9 million; and they are not the only ones. The government also employs standing counsel, at the rate of Rs 100,000 per month.
In addition, all these law officers enjoy perks and privileges, such as chauffeur-driven official vehicles and a personal security detail, among other benefits.
There are a total of 130 law officers on the federal government’s panel, but they have not had the best success rate when it comes to getting the government out of tight spots, said the report in Dawn.
The most recent case where the government’s attorneys managed to obtain relief for the PML-N leadership came when an FIR – registered against the prime minister and other key ministers over the August 30 violence at the Constitution Avenue – was suspended by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Despite having 130 highly-paid law officers on its payroll, ruling party still forced to engage private counsel
However, according to the criminal law experts, the suspension of one FIR is not enough.
The quashed case was registered on the complaint of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). But another, similar case, filed by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) continues to hang like a sword over the government’s neck.
Former deputy attorney general Raja Aleem Khan Abbasi told the paper that the individuals nominated in the cases would not be ‘home free’ unless both FIRs were quashed. “Merely getting FIR suspended cannot be called a breakthrough on the part of the government’s legal team,” he added.
According to the report, of the 130 lawyers, at least 47 law officers have political loyalties to the ruling PML-N, 24 belong to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), 20 are affiliated with Hamid Khan’s ‘Professional Group’ – which is also contesting the upcoming Supreme Court Bar Association elections – while incumbent AG Salman Aslam Butt and some others were appointed by former president Pervez Musharraf and his ally, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q).
Over the last couple of months, the federal government’s law officers could not effectively defend themselves against applications filed under Section 22-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) after which a sessions court ordered the registration of an FIR against the prime minister, a number of federal ministers and senior government officials including senior police officials.
These included a case filed by PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi where a sessions court, on September 27, ordered registration of an FIR against the prime minister and others.
Earlier, on September 15, a sessions court had already given a similar order on an identical petition, filed by PAT.
Wary of adverse decisions against it, the PML-N government engaged a private lawyer, Sardar Mohammad Ishaq, to defend its case against the PTI petition but to no avail.
Again, in the case regarding the appointment of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulator Authority chairman, Barrister Mehmood A. Sheikh, a private counsel, is pleading the federal government’s case. In another PEMRA-related matter, newly-appointed DAG Hasnain Ibrahim Kazmi is appearing before the IHC, not from the government’s side but as a private counsel.
Before this, on August 28, a Lahore court ordered an FIR against the prime minister, the Punjab chief minister and others in connection with the Model Town tragedy, which claimed the lives of at least 14 PAT activists.
Similarly, since both protesting parties launched their march on Islamabad, the federation’s law officers could not defend the measures the government took to impeded the marchers’ progress, in court.
On August 18, after PTI lawyers challenged the detention of its activists under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), the government had to withdraw its notification regarding the arrest of at least 20 people under the MPO and had to set them free.
In September, police arrested around 1,000 individuals for violation of Section 144 of the CrPC, but all of them were released after the IHC held that their arrest and detention was illegal.
Both protesting parties had also challenged the imposition of Section 144 before the IHC. Initially, the court suspended the notification imposing Section 144 and, subsequently, the government attorney announced in the open court that following the order’s expiry on October 12, the district magistrate was in no mood to re-issue the notification to keep Section 144 in force in the capital.

Pakistan - Targeting the Edhi Foundation’s - A national shame

OUTRAGE, disbelief and despondency are some of the emotions triggered by news of the armed robbery targeting the Edhi Foundation’s headquarters on Sunday morning.
While hold-ups and robberies in the chaotic environs of Karachi are very common, as armed thugs loot citizens on a daily basis in this unfortunate city, it is the audacity of the criminals to target the country’s most outstanding social workers that is particularly unnerving.
As per reports, a number of armed men barged into the Edhi Foundation’s premises in the old city area and fled with gold and cash worth around Rs30m. The marauders held the staff at gunpoint and also threatened Mr Edhi, who was asleep when the criminals struck.
Clearly not in a hurry, the armed robbers spent around 30 minutes in the office. There are indications that they may have had inside information as they knew the location of the cash and valuables. Speaking after the incident, Mr Edhi told a foreign media organisation that he felt “heartbroken” and “violated”.
Most people in Pakistan have a good idea of the role Abdul Sattar Edhi and his foundation play in this country.
The iconic social worker cares for those whom state and society have forgotten or choose not to remember. For decades, his organisation has been a shelter for the dispossessed, the abandoned and the weak.
His fleet of ambulances and other social services are literally life-saving endeavours filling in the vast space the state — due to its negligence and disinterest — has left vacant. That is why the shock over this crime is so great.
It seems that in Pakistan, crime and militancy have devolved to such unenviable depths that even a saviour like Mr Edhi is not safe from the depredations of marauders. The incident shows that everything is fair game in this country, that all targets are kosher. Indeed, the question swirling in many minds is that if a personality such as Abdul Sattar Edhi can be robbed, what else is left?
But then, we as a nation have been falling through a bottomless pit for some time now. Criminals and terrorists have no qualms about attacking funerals and hospitals, even killing women and children if they happen to get in the way.
In this country, flawed ideologies have led to the murder of doctors, teachers and polio vaccinators, all doing the work of messiahs. But where is society’s condemnation? Or have we become numb?
The robbery has been condemned by the high and mighty of this land, including the prime minister. However, while we are hopeful that Mr Edhi will recover and continue his mission to serve humanity, we are not so sure if the authorities will be moved by this latest outrage to act decisively and crack down on urban crime so that citizens’ lives and properties are made safe.

PPP KPK delegation calls on PPP Co-Chairman and Chairperson

A delegation of PPP KPK led by its President Khanzada Khan called on PPP Co-Chairman former President Asif Ali Zardari and Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari here at Bilawal House Monday evening.

Pakistan - Steady rise of Militants’ narrative greatest fault line of Pakistan’s body politic

The steady rise of the militants’ narrative, supported by the far right and Islamists, is a new and far more dangerous fault line of Pakistan’s body politic and this rise of the one-sided narrative of the extremists is a failure of the state and society.
There is a dire need to correct the narrative to win this war. However, we will not be able to correct the narrative until we address the perception that militants have been encouraged by state policies and addressed the perception that some militant outfits for advancing our foreign and security policy objectives.
This was started by Senator Farhatullah Babar speaking at a seminar on the ideological dimensions of militancy organized by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security studies at a local hotel in Islamabad.
We must admit that a course correction is needed.
When the chief of a religo political party says that the soldiers killed in the war are not martyrs, when the head of another religo politcal party says that even a dog killed by the US is a martyr and when quite a few argue that the west has awarded Malala the Nobel Prize only to use her as a ‘pawn’ in their new crusade against Islam, clearly the militants’ narrative seems to be winning.
The existing narrative on war against militancy is based on four pillars namely that it is jehad, is directed against the US and foreign troops in the region, is against the drone strikes and that this is US war and not the war of Pakistan.
There is an element of intellectual confusion and both the state of Pakistan and international community has contributed to this ideological confusion.
The state of Pakistan contributed to it when Zia embraced the jehad ideology and formally decreed ‘Iman, Taqwa, jehad fee sabillillah’ as the battle cry of the troops.
The international community contributed to it when President Reagan described the eights mujahideen leaders who were invited to the White House “the moral equivalents of George Washington”.
It is less difficult to fight militants but more difficult to fight the mindset.
We are also not serious in addressing the issue, he said.
The National Security Policy announced several months ago admitted ‘large number of terrorists either are or have been students of madaris where they were brainwashed to take up arms against the state’ and promised to mainstream 23,000 madaris in the national and provincial educational establishment in just one year. Yet not a single rupee was allocated to NCTA in the 2014 budget.
We will not win the war of narrative until we candidly answer the question whether the state is still patronizing some groups and why?
Questions do arise when Asmatullah Muawiya, the Punjabi Taliban leader, publicly declares ceasefire against Pakistan and directs his guns towards Afghanistan and the state remains silent