Tuesday, November 4, 2014

US mid-terms: Republicans win control of the Senate

The Republican Party has won control of the Senate in the US mid-term elections, increasing its power in the final years of Barack Obama's presidency.
The party took Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell will lead the chamber.
The party is also set to strengthen its majority in the lower House of Representatives.
As the early results came in late on Tuesday, it became clear the Republicans had made convincing gains in the roughly one-third of the 100 Senate seats up for election.
The party retained seats in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
One of the key early results came in Kentucky, where Republican Senate Minority Leader McConnell fended off Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes Mr McConnell will now become the Senate majority leader.
"I've heard your concerns, I've made them my own, you will be heard in Washington," he said as he declared victory.
"When you get right down to it that's what this campaign was really all about. It's wasn't about me or my opponent. It was about a government that people can no longer trust."
As well as in the Senate races, the Republicans had a strong showing in the election for the 435 members of the House of Representatives, where they are projected to increase their majority.
In Florida and Wisconsin, Republican governors have survived tough re-election battles.
Now that they control both houses of Congress, the Republicans have the power to shut down Mr Obama's policies in the last two years of his term.
For the past year, political gridlock in Congress has reached historical levels and analysts say this win could make the situation even worse before the president poll in 2016.

Music Video - KISS - I Was Made For Lovin' You

Music Video - KISS - Rock 'n Roll all Night

WAHABISM: The Islamic State’s Ideology is Grounded in Saudi Education

According to an article published Oct. 21 on Al-Monitor, the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) has issued new regulations for the school systems under its control in Iraq and Syria. The announced purpose of the so-called guidelines, which carried the imprimatur of the group’s “Amir al-Mu’minin,” presumably leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is to “eradicate ignorance and disseminate Sharia sciences.”
Although the “guidelines” are extreme, controlling, and regressive, some of the key elements in IS educational program are similar to what one finds in Saudi textbooks, especially those that are taught in Saudi public middle and high schools. The ideological foundations of Saudi public school education are based on Wahhabi-Salafi-Hanbali theology.
One key difference focuses on the nation-state. Whereas Saudi education accepts the Saudi and other Arab and Muslim states, with recognized boundaries and national ethos, IS rejects national boundaries within Dar al-Islam, or the Abode of Islam, and individual states. Instead, it calls for one Islamic State or a “Caliphate.”
The new guidelines call on teachers to emphasize creationism, reject Darwinism, eliminate music and the arts, teach history from a Sunni-Islamic perspective, discard modernity, and of course segregate the sexes.
Saudi Textbooks
Much of IS’s educational “curriculum” finds its roots in Saudi textbooks, especially at the middle school and high school levels. Arabic, literature, history, civic education, cultural values, and norms of behavior—whether in a home or societal setting—are all taught according to a particular interpretation of Sunni Islam.
The Wahhabi-Salafi-Hanbali interpretation also permeates religion or theology classes, especially those that focus on elements of Sharia, fiqh (jurisprudence), or the Hadith. The biological and physical sciences are taught from a pre-ordained creationist perspective, which rejects modernity in favor of traditionalism.
Science experiments are allowed with the understanding that the doctrine of “Tawheed” or “Oneness” of God permeates the universe. God created everything and every creature. There is no “Big Bang” theory and no evolution of the human, animal, or plant species.
Even the geography curriculum discusses the region from an Islamic perspective. For example, kids are taught that the “Zionists” have occupied Palestine illegally, and the Islamic umma one day must re-establish Muslim control over Jerusalem, the “Third Qibla” of Islam, to which Muslims turn to pray after Mecca and Medina. “Israel,” for example, does not appear on maps of the Arab world in Saudi geography textbooks.
The Saudi curriculum, much like what IS is urging Syrians and Iraqis under its control to teach and preach, imparts to the youth a narrow-minded, conservative, traditional worldview. It is intolerant of other religions and even of other sects in Islam. Oftentimes, Shia Muslims are considered “apostates,” or “rejectionists,” and could be subject to discrimination and even death. The Shia in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are excluded from key government, defense, and national security positions.
The Saudi youth are socialized in public schools on the importance of Islam in the personal, familial, social, and national levels. Whenever Islam, as a faith and a territory, is threatened or invaded, Muslims have a duty to do jihad against the perceived “enemies” of Islam.
Saudi education espouses this ideology, so do al-Qaeda and IS. In the past three decades, Muslim youth have participated in large numbers in jihad across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to Chechnya, and from the Balkans to Iraq and Syria.
The Saudi government participates in the anti-IS coalition, yet IS’s jihadist ideology resonates with Saudi educated youth. Their government talks about a possible peace with Israel should it withdraw to the 1967 borders, yet Saudi youth do not see Israel on the maps in their textbooks.
If the Saudi youth are taught about the duty of jihad in the face of a “war on Islam,” as Bin Ladin had preached for years, and view IS rightly or wrongly as the “defender” of Islam, they can’t understand why their government is fighting on the side of Islam’s “enemies.” This is particularly poignant, especially since some Saudi clerics have strongly endorsed the type of educational curriculum that is currently being pushed by IS in Iraq and Syria.
Textbooks play a central role in educating and socializing Saudi youth and many of their teachers. Many Saudi grade school teachers do not have a college degree and rely on the textbook to guide them through the course. Those who are college graduates usually receive their degrees from teachers’ colleges, which teach a curriculum heavily imbued with Islamic studies and Arabic language, grammar, and literature.
The ministries of education and religious affairs, which are heavily staffed by Salafi Islamists, approve the curriculums and have the final say on what’s taught in schools.
Teachers are not allowed to stray away from the textbook or offer analytic judgments or opinions either on the material in the text or current issues that might relate to the subject under discussion. Both teaching and learning are done almost by rote memory. No critical thinking is allowed and no logical extrapolation is encouraged.
Teachers and students accept whatever interpretations are offered in the textbooks, especially if such an interpretation is attributed to the Koran, the Hadith, or Sharia. Such attributions and religious quotations permeate the textbooks regardless of the subject matter. Policy Implications
So what if the educational curriculum of IS tracks with Saudi education? Should the US and other countries do anything about it, and can they?
Several years back, I briefed senior policymakers in the United States and other countries on the Saudi curriculum, the jihadist message it transmits to youth, and the radicalization that was sure to follow. It was “actionable” intelligence in that Western diplomats could speak to Saudi leaders about a very specific problem, which they could address.
According to media reports, Saudi officials were amenable to review their textbooks with an eye toward softening the Islamist message. Unfortunately, not much was done.
Saudi clerics objected to any revisions of the textbooks on the grounds that non-Muslim outsiders were interfering with religious teachings in the kingdom. Some of them went even further to depict suggestions along these lines as a “conspiracy” against Islam. Western diplomats, who had pushed the issue, backed off.
Other interests in recent years—including Iran, Iraq, the aftermath of the Arab Spring, counterterrorism, commerce, oil, arming anti-Assad jihadists, and more recently, building a coalition against IS—have in all candor trumped Western interests in “reforming” Saudi textbooks.
I argued in previous articles on this blog that although IS is defeatable and containable, the ideological root causes must be dealt with. Otherwise, other Islamist terrorist organizations would rise on the ashes of IS.
The latest educational “guidelines” issued by the Islamic State are a stark example of what’s wrong with our strategic policy planning on the root causes of terrorism. Discussing Saudi textbooks is the first step toward “degrading and defeating” IS.

Why Is Bahrain Outsourcing Extremism?

The Bahraini government has been working overtime to crush pro-democracy activists. But what about followers of the Islamic State?
Against the backdrop of a beautiful green landscape along the Euphrates River, four young men carrying assault rifles walk up a hill in slow motion, carrying the distinctive flag of the Islamic State (IS). A voice informs us that these "warriors of the doctrine" are carrying out the "noble mission" of "purifying" Iraq. Speaking to the camera, the four deliver messages to their "Sunni family" in Bahrain. Aside from the expected pleas to join their jihad, the key purpose of the film is to encourage members of their home country's security forces to join IS. They also urge fellow Bahrainis to boycott November's parliamentary election.
The video is graphic evidence that Bahrain has a burgeoning problem with Salafi radicalization.
Support for extremist groups has flourished even as the state has been cracking down on the non-violent, pro-democracy opposition. The regime's response to the film, which has been viewed around 100,000 times since it was uploaded in September, has been muted, though officials admit that at least 100 Bahrainis have joined IS and several have been killed. That number is small but significant. Not only is there a direct link between IS and Bahrain's security services (as the video suggests), but the Bahraini cohort in the Islamic State includes Turki al-Binali, one of the movement's most influential radical preachers.
Bahrain's public stance on the war against IS contrasts sharply with its lack of action at home. The kingdom has attempted to present itself as the leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) anti-IS efforts. At the start of the air campaign launched against IS by the United States and a select group of allies in September, Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, made prominent appearances in the Western media, including the BBC and CNN, to announce Bahrain's membership in the U.S. military coalition. Khalifa even spoke of the need to rid the region of the "deviated cult."
Some Bahrainis may have been wondering, however, at what point this cult was viewed to have "deviated." In June, Information Minister Sameera Rajab appeared to tweet sympathetically about the advances IS was then making, suggesting that they might represent "a revolution against the injustice and oppression that has reigned over Iraq for more than 10 years" -- a view echoed by many prominent figures in Bahrain.
Nor have the authorities given the impression that they are treating the threat of internal IS recruitment with anything like the seriousness they apply to "rooting out traitors" -- a reference to the pro-democracy activists that have been taking to the streets to demand reform since 2011. So far, only one of those in the IS video has been identified -- a former lieutenant in the Bahraini police force, Mohammed Isa al-Binali -- although it is hard to believe that discovering the identities of the other three would be too difficult in a country with a native population of under 600,000.
In contrast to the grand rhetoric employed against political dissenters, the authorities tend to dismiss radicalization as the result of "misguided" youth who have been "led astray." There is no acknowledgement that books printed and distributed by the Bahraini Army itself have promoted the takfiri thought that underpins IS and other extremist groups. Adel Jassim Flaifel, a former colonel in the state security service who has been accused of torture and openly preaches sectarian hate speech, was only recently arrested -- though he was convicted only on lesser charges of financial irregularities. Before he was detained this summer he had spent three years openly preaching extremist views in Muharraq, Bahrain's third largest city.
So far there doesn't appear to have been any documented trial of any person on charges of IS-related terrorist activity despite government vows to pursue and monitor their activities.
So far there doesn't appear to have been any documented trial of any person on charges of IS-related terrorist activity despite government vows to pursue and monitor their activities. The government offered a two-week amnesty for former jihadists in March of this year. (A Bahraini IS fighter responded by ripping up his Bahraini passport on YouTube.) Commenters on Bahraini websites supporting IS brag about the freedom they enjoy in the kingdom, compared with other Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates.
By contrast, the government has violently repressed the largely peaceful, non-sectarian movement -- led by activists like Nabeel Rajab, the president of the banned Bahrain Center for Human Rights -- that continues to fight for equality, freedom, and human rights. Rajab was arrested on Oct. 1 for tweeting that "Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator." He was charged with "offending national institutions," a crime punishable by up to three years' imprisonment. (He's supposed to receive his sentence today, Oct. 29.) He has already served two years on charges that included criticizing the prime minister, and was only released in May.
For three years, the regime has destroyed Shiite mosques, carried out sectarian profiling, and "cleansed" state institutions in a crackdown during which up to 15,000 people have been arrested; around 3,000 remain in prison. The government's sectarian narrative -- that the Sunni regime and its loyalists are threatened by the Shiites, who make up two-thirds of the Muslim population -- is the paradigm that has been used to frame the Bahraini pro-democracy uprising right from the start. The opposition does include Shiites, who are justly aggrieved by decades of exclusion, but also many others whose longstanding demand has been for a constitutional monarchy and human and civil rights.
Last month, the NGO I cofounded, Bahrain Watch, uncovered a list of 77 people targeted by Bahraini intelligence agencies using British surveillance technology. Those named consisted almost entirely of lawyers, activists, and journalists who support political reform. This interpretation of what constitutes a "threat to national security" exemplifies the Bahraini regime's warped worldview -- that peaceful dissent is more of a threat than crime and terrorism.
The greatest Bahraini contribution to IS has not, however, been only in the form of fighters and funding. It has been through ideological and moral support, in particular from the radical Bahraini cleric Turki al-Binali, the now Mosul-based spiritual ideologue of IS whose writings have set out the case for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's credentials as the righteous caliph to whom all Muslims owe allegiance. His sermons in Bahrain, Libya, and Tunisia can all be found on YouTube, and he was freely traveling and preaching up until at least the end of 2013, if not later. (In the photo above, Binali leads a terrorism class in Mosul.) Last year, he led a protest outside the American embassy in Manama, the Bahraini capital, with no sign of the tear gas and crowd control usually employed during pro-democracy gatherings, despite the fact that the demonstrators were waving al Qaeda flags and pictures of Osama Bin Laden.
For years, Turki al-Binali has been expanding his influence in Bahrain and recruiting for his cause with little or no interference from the authorities. Bahrain's society is small and interconnected, and this may explain why he's enjoyed impunity for so long. The Binalis are an important family in the country due to their close historical and tribal ties to the ruling al-Khalifas. (Turki al-Binali is also related to Mohamed al-Binali, the renegade police official.)
Of course, some IS support was initially motivated as much by genuine feelings of solidarity with fellow Arabs suffering the oppression of the Syrian regime as by ideological Salafism. But the Bahraini government had also been nurturing and nourishing extremist groups and their sectarian ideology to counter the so-called "Shiite threat" posed by the pro-democracy uprising. For decades, the government has excluding Shiites from sensitive positions, a policy of exclusion that has included filling the security forces with mercenaries from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Baluchistan. Many of these "New Bahrainis" have been fast-tracked into citizenship. The popularity of IS ideology within the Bahraini security services shows just how clearly this policy has backfired.
Far from showing gratitude for this support, however, IS has been denouncing the ruling Khalifas as "heretics" for allowing the Americans to launch airstrikes against the jihadists in Syria and Iraq from the U.S. Navy base in Bahrain. IS is also attacking the royal family for allowing the sale of alcohol and for "placing themselves as gods next to Allah."
Meanwhile, negotiations between the regime and Al Wefaq, the main opposition party, have broken down, and Al Wefaq has decided to boycott the parliamentary elections scheduled for November. The king has offered concessions, but they have been minimal, abstract, and insufficient to persuade Al Wefaq to participate. (Among the party's demands: an equal voting system, an elected government, and a fair and independent judiciary.) Impartial polling data in Bahrain is virtually impossible to obtain, but social media sentiment suggests that the boycott enjoys wide support. In response, a judge has now banned the party for three months. This dangerous move to completely outlaw all political activity will push the democracy movement underground, and will push it toward the use of violence.
Now that Bahrain is "at war," however, talk of reform and reconciliation has been relegated to the back seat.
Now that Bahrain is "at war," however, talk of reform and reconciliation has been relegated to the back seat. The monarchy's Western allies are also more concerned about the monstrosity growing in the bosom of the Arab world rather than the environment that bred and nourished it. But that is a mistake. The bigger question that needs to be addressed in the Gulf region is how to fight the extremist radicalization that has served as the material and "ideological incubator" of IS. It is not enough to tackle the enemy by military means without tackling the root causes of sectarianism and the specific environments and cultures in which it arises. The Bahraini regime needs first to dismantle a system that encourages extremism, promotes sectarianism, enforces exclusionary policies, and survives on repression.
Bahrain's rulers may regard the country's role in the coalition as necessary for their own self-preservation. If they lose their Western allies, and if their already small base of Sunni loyalists defects to the extremists, the already bare threads of sovereign legitimacy may not be strong enough to keep the dynasty in power. The regime hopes that it can reduce the external pressure for democratic change by strengthening its alliance with the West. But its allies, above all the United States and the United Kingdom, must not let the regime's participation in the military offensive serve as a quid pro quo for avoiding genuine democratization.
The reality is that Bahrain, like many other Arab states, is in urgent need of a national unity that can only be achieved by forging a new social contract around democratic constitutions that represent the will of the people. Democracy is the only beacon of hope for a region that is drowning in a cesspool of extremism and authoritarianism.
So far, however, the ruling elites across the region only know how to respond by force, with the help of economic fuel provided by the richer Gulf states. Many believe the future lies in a regional bargain between the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Iran but it is not clear to anyone if democracy is a stake in this bargain at all.

Bahraini regime forces attack Shia mourners

Bahrain regime forces have attacked a group of Shia Muslims participating in a religious procession marking the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Bahraini soldiers roamed the streets in the village of Nuwaidrat, situated about 10 kilometers (six miles) south of the capital, Manama, in armored vehicles on Tuesday, as people marched through the streets to observe the rituals of Ashura, the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram.
Bahraini regime forces in riot gear then engaged in scuffles with the mourners, and fired tear gas canisters to disperse them.
On Saturday, Bahraini troops attacked Shia mourners commemorating the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in several villages across the country.
They destroyed and removed all banners, flags and black cloths hoisted to mark Ashura.
Bahrain’s Shia community has long complained of discrimination in the Persian Gulf island state.
Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has called on the Manama regime to stop police from arresting civilians for their religious beliefs.
Imam Hussein (PBUH), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and 72 of his loyal companions, were martyred on Ashura in the battle of Karbala against the second Umayyad caliph, Yazid I, in 680 A.D. Imam Hussein (PBUH) was killed after he refused to pledge allegiance to the tyrant ruler. The mourning rituals have been in place worldwide since the beginning of Muharram.
Meanwhile, thousands of anti-regime protesters have been holding numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain since mid-February 2011, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

Where's the outrage over Saudi treatment of women?

Garry Linnell
Imagine a nation that treats a huge section of its population as little more than slaves. A nation where many are not allowed access to a full education or a professional career. Picture a place where some citizens can count themselves lucky if they are allowed to show their faces in public, let alone attend a sporting event.
Now imagine this: a football stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this Sunday. A sweltering cauldron of sound. The Western Sydney Wanderers run on to the pitch to play the second leg of the final of the Asian Champions League against Al-Hilal.
Then, at the opening kick-off, the Wanderers all sit down and decline to play until Saudi Arabia agrees to recognise women as equals.
Our apologies. We'll now interrupt this broadcast and return to normal programming.
You can safely assume this Sunday's final will pass without a mention of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. There may be only one woman in the crowd of 65,000 - devout Wanderers fan Kate Durnell. And she has only been given permission to attend because she will be accompanied by her father and will wear a hijab.
Where is the anger, much less the outrage? Whatever happened to that generation in the 1970s who helped change the world? Did they all grow fat and old and decide sport was no longer a worthy weapon in the battle for human rights?
Say what you like about the 1970s. The naff idealism. The quaint notions of peace amid the threat of nuclear holocaust. At least it was a time when the world belatedly woke up to the evils of the apartheid system in South Africa and decided to do something about it.
Australian sport caught up with public opinion as Sir Donald Bradman directed that a cricket tour of South Africa be cancelled.
"We will not play them until they choose a team on a non-racist basis," declared Bradman who, just a year earlier, had not believed politics should mix with sport.
When the Springboks arrived in 1971 for a series of Tests, more than 700 Australians were arrested for disrupting the tour.
Such was the public outcry that games were played behind barbed wire. Unions banded together, forcing the tourists to travel around the country on air force planes.
These strident public protests eventually led to a stiffening in the resolve of politicians.
By the late 1970s, the world was condemning South Africa. And, little more than a decade later, the practice of measuring a person by the colour of their skin in that country was peeled away.
So where is the outcry as the Western Sydney Wanderers head to Saudi Arabia?
This is a nation that has long suppressed its women. They are not allowed to drive a car. In fact women under the age of 45 require a male guardian's permission to open a bank account, to seek a job, to undergo elective surgery and even to travel.
Enforcement is often swift and brutal and carried out by the Mutaween – a select group of religious police with the powers to detain Saudis and foreigners for whatever they deem "immoral".
Where's the moral outrage? Have we had to look the other way because of the diplomatic nuances required to live in a post 9/11 world? Does our reliance on the Middle East oil pipeline preclude the West from speaking out against clear and present human injustices? Or maybe we've just lost the zeal, the passion and the desire to make the world a better place.
Maybe we decided that soccer superiority beats civil rights hands down.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/wheres-the-outrage-over-saudi-treatment-of-women-20141029-11dijm.html#ixzz3IA8jOkbr


Saudi Arabia has developed an international reputation for regularly violating women's rights, one the nation continues to feed with a new law issued by the country’s religious police, the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, outlawing “tempting eyes.”
What are "tempting" eyes? One Saudi journalist mused on condition of anonymity that they are "uncovered eyes with a nice shape and makeup. Or even without makeup, if they are beautiful, the woman will be in trouble." The Orwellian-named committee did not provide a definition of tempting, but if they happen to rely on Merriam-Webster, then it means "having an appeal." What is an appeal? According to the dictionary, it is "arousing a sympathetic response." And what is sympathetic? "Showing empathy," according to Merriam-Webster.
An unnamed journalist told AINA the law is “so stupid” and “people will oppose” the new law. But the religious police are very powerful in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah provided the organization $53 million in March. Prince Neif, heir to the throne, supports the police.
"The committee is supported by all sides,” he said. “It should be supported because it is a pillar from Islam. If you are a Muslim, you should support the committee."
The police monitor public behavior according to the Wahhabi School of Sunni Islam. A few “crimes” include homosexuality, fornication, attempts to convert anyone away from Islam, and socializing with unrelated males and females. The police make sure stores abide by the Muslim dietary laws and close at prayer times.
Sheik Abdulatif al-Sheik replaced Shaikh Aziz Al Humain as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in January 2012. He promised to help improve the woman’s place in society.
"I cannot deny that there were several violations committed by members of the force, some of which happened because of the lack of clear guidelines or understanding," he said. "So we are planning, God willing, to introduce clear guidelines and mechanisms for the field work of the members of the force."
Yet, women are still oppressed in Saudi Arabia. A court sentenced a businesswoman to 50 lashes because she cursed at the religious police. The officers checked her café for breaches of morality, and the men claim a few of her employees ran away because they were illegal.
In February, Saudi women rebelled when the CPVPV passed a law that forbids a woman to attend a doctor's appointment without a male guardian. "Islamic law does not permit women to visit their doctors without male guardians. Women are prohibited from exposing body parts to male doctors in Islamic law, especially during childbirth,” said Council of Senior Scholars member Qais al-Mubarek. In October 2013, Saudi women took to the streets to protest the Saudi law against women drivers. Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan added more international outrage when he said driving harms a woman’s ovaries.
"If a woman drives a car it could have a negative physiological impact,” he said. “Medical studies show that it would automatically affect a woman's ovaries and that it pushes the pelvis upward. We find that for women who continuously drive cars, their children are born with varying degrees of clinical problems."

Saudi Arabia Shia-linked gun battles 'leave nine dead'

At least nine people have died in two separate gun battles in Saudi Arabia.
In the first incident on Monday, masked gunmen killed at least five people in the town of Dalwah, a Shia Muslim area in eastern Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday in a shootout believed to be linked to that attack, two suspected militants and two Saudi policemen were killed in Buraida, north of Riyadh.
Shias, who make up less than 15% of the Sunni-majority nation, are currently marking the festival of Ashura. It commemorates the death of a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
Monday's attack was in Dalwah in Ahsa district, one of the centres for Shia Muslims. At least three attackers fired machineguns and pistols at a crowd that was leaving a building where ceremonies had been taking place, police said. At least 15 people have been arrested in connection with the shooting.
One resident of Eastern Province, Nasima al-Sada, told Agence France-Presse: "It's very surprising because it's the first time. We are shocked."
Saudi Arabia's supreme council of Sunni clerics condemned the attack, saying: "The enemies of our religion and our homeland aim to attack our unity and stability."
There were few details of the second gun battle.
The Saudi Press Agency said that in addition to the dead, two security officers were wounded.
The interior ministry said the gun battle began when officers tried to arrest suspects believed to be involved in Monday's incident.
Shia Muslims have long complained of marginalisation by the Sunni royal family, with the Eastern Province, where most of the country's Shia live, seeing a spate of protests in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The Saudi government denies allegations of discrimination and blames Iran for stirring up discontent.

What will be discussed at the upcoming Presidential Meeting between Xi and Obama?

People's Daily
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Barack Obama will attend the APEC Informal Leadership Meeting and pay a state visit to China from 10 to 12 November. The two leaders will have an in-depth exchange of views on China-US relations and on major international and regional issues of common concern.
Experts say that topics including China-US trade, energy, anti-terrorism, and the DPRK nuclear issue will be covered at the meeting. APEC Senior official Wang Xiaomin said in August that the two leaders would have discussions on China-US trade, counter-terrorism, the DPRK nuclear issue, network security, bilateral cooperation, and disagreements.
Wang Fan, vice president of China Foreign Affairs University, remarked that this Presidential Meeting will cover China-US relations, as well as regional and global hot issues.
From the bilateral perspective, Wang Fan believes that China's advocacy of jointly building a new type of great power relationship will be reaffirmed and emphasized at the meeting.
In terms of China-US cooperation, climate change and energy issues may be the focus. "US think tanks also think that these are key issues," said Wang. "It will be easier for both sides to reach an agreement on such relatively soft issues".
As to foreign affairs, Wang believes that measures against terrorism is one of the issues to be discussed. "Overall, China and the U.S. share the same view on counter-terrorism. The two countries can engage in greater cooperation. However, we hope the U.S. will stop applying double standards in the fight against terrorism".
According to Wang Fan, hot issues surrounding China cannot be avoided. China-Japan relations and the DPRK nuclear issue will be discussed. "Such hot issues touch upon China's core interests. China wishes that the U.S. would play a constructive role instead of exacerbating the situation", said Wang.
On the global level, the two sides will have communication and exchanges over serious current security issues including the Ebola epidemic, the Islamic State, and Ukraine.
Sun Zhe, director of China-US Relations Research Center at Tsinghua University, also said that the topics of the Presidential Meeting will begin with China-US relations, and that Asia-Pacific stability will be the focus when they talk about regional and global situations.
Wang Fan believes the Presidential Meeting is of positive significance to keep the surrounding hot issues under control. In addition, "Two leaders might have a long talk, like the meeting held at the Annenberg Estate last year. This meeting will deepen their trust and understanding, and the trust between the two leaders can further strengthen the trust between the two countries".

Video - Ron Paul: US elections are a one party monopoly

Video - Republicans may win big in mid-term elections

U.S. governors seeking re-election face dissatisfied voters

More than 30 U.S. governors' races will be decided on Tuesday, with more than a dozen considered too close to call and a large number of incumbents struggling to defend their economic policies as they seek to remain in office.
Hot-button issues from gun control to abortion restrictions and healthcare figure in some races.
For many voters, however, the economy has remained the central issue. An uneven recovery could prove the undoing of several incumbents, including the governors of Kansas and Pennsylvania, who are being held accountable for their states' fiscal woes.
"We've had a very difficult economy for years and anyone in office is going to be held partly accountable, especially governors," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "They're not called 'little presidents' for nothing."
Fiscal issues in Kansas, for example, have pushed Republican Governor Sam Brownback into a tough struggle against Democrat Paul Davis.
Brownback slashed taxes in an effort to boost the economy, prompting a downgrading of the state's credit rating, and his policies coincided with a sharp decline in state revenue and mounting fears about funding shortfalls for schools.
Davis, a state representative, has promised to end Brownback's "experiment," while tailoring a campaign to lure Republicans in a state normally reliable for that party, while not losing Democrats.
Fourteen governors' races are seen as toss-ups, according to the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes campaigns and elections. At least 10 incumbent governors are battling to save their jobs, experts project.
"There's a strong anti-incumbent mode," said John Green, professor of political science at the University of Akron and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.
In Florida, where Republican Governor Rick Scott faced off against Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor turned Democrat, some voters at the polls on Tuesday said their ballots were meant to punish the incumbent.
"It's really a vote against Rick Scott," said Diane Darby, 45, a Miami Beach accountant who said she voted for Crist.
At an election center in Tallahassee where turnout was higher than in previous midterm elections, Charles Boyd was among disgruntled state workers who do not like Scott's 3 percent payroll fee for the Florida Retirement System, which was previously all employer-paid.
"The Democrats could have run a ferret and I would have voted for the ferret," said Boyd, 70, who works for the Florida Department of Transportation and who voted for Crist.
Another Republican governor facing voters' anti-incumbent feelings is Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett. He has trailed badly in polls against Democrat Tom Wolf, a businessman who has poured his personal fortune into the race.
If Corbett, who has been criticized for cuts in education funding and escalating pension liabilities during his tenure, fails to win his second term, he would become the first incumbent governor to do so in the state's history.
"Although the economy is definitely better than it was a year ago, it's not up to anybody's expectations, and governors are in a real hot spot," Green said. "They're the ones who have to cut programs or raise taxes."
An early rush to the polls in Pennsylvania drew better than expected turnout in Harrisburg, where registered Republican Rod Kautz, a retired executive, said he was disappointed by Corbett and would vote for Wolf. In Philadelphia, Democrat Elizabeth Stegner said Corbett's education cuts were driving a steady stream of voters to the polls.
"Corbett really bit himself in the butt on that one. At one point principals didn't have someone to answer the phones for them," said Stegner, who serves on the Democratic Committee representing West Philadelphia.
Among governors looking to keep their jobs are potential 2016 presidential hopeful Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Republican who became a champion of conservatives when the state cut back the powers of public-sector unions.
Recent polls have him running neck and neck with Democrat Mary Burke, a former business executive.
Party control of governorships is considered important in the 2016 White House contest, when candidates use governors to help build state-by-state support toward a possible nomination. Going into Tuesday, Republicans hold 29 governorships compared with the Democrats' 21.
Nathan Gonzalez, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said having so many competitive governors' races was "extraordinary."
"Many of them are extremely close in the final hours," he said.

U. S. - Math is forbidding for Democrats in struggle for Senate

By David A. Fahrenthold, Katie Zezima and Paul Kane
On the last day of the 2014 campaign, Democrats knew they were in trouble.
Long ago, the party had given up hope of winning back the House in Tuesday’s midterm elections. By Monday, it had skipped ahead to winning the post-election blame game. “House Democrats have succeeded on every measure within our control,” the party’s House campaign committee announced preemptively in the early afternoon.
And at the end of a bitter and massively expensive campaign, it appeared the Senate might be slipping from Democrats’ grasp as well.
In all, there are 13 states where Senate seats might change from one party to the other. Republicans need to win nine of them to attain a 51-seat majority in the Senate for the first time since 2007. On Monday, Republicans seemed to be leading, by a lot or by a little, in eight of those races.
If the GOP wins all eight, they will need just one more win — one of the tossup races in Alaska and Kansas, or perhaps the runoff race that’s expected in Louisiana.
“Victory is in the air,” declared Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, who is set to become majority leader if the Republicans take over. McConnell was beginning the last swing of his own reelection campaign against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Like other contests around the country, that race seemed to be tilting toward Republicans in the last days. “Let’s go out there and sock it to them!” the usually subdued McConnell said in closing, as a loudspeaker started blasting out “Eye of the Tiger.”
There also will be gubernatorial elections Tuesday in 36 states, including Florida, Massachusetts, Kansas, Maine and Wisconsin, where potential presidential candidate Scott Walker (R) is in a close race to keep his position. Republicans, who already control a majority of the country’s state legislative chambers, seem likely to win several more.
The campaign to control it began last spring, and it became a monster that has dominated television commercial breaks for months. At last count, an estimated $423 million had been spent to air 878,000 TV spots about Senate races, according to Kantar Media data analyzed by the Wesleyan Media Project.
Republicans largely campaigned against President Obama, casting their opponents as rubber stamps for an unpopular chief executive. Most Democrats didn’t seem to like Obama much, either, and many ran as centrists skeptical of the president. In Alaska, Sen. Mark Begich (D) proudly declared himself “a thorn” in Obama’s posterior.
In the past week, campaign volunteers from both parties have knocked on thousands of doors, trying to gin up the traditionally low midterm turnout. The Begich campaign claims to have knocked on 50,000 doors in the past week, equivalent to about one in six likely Alaska voters.
Even the candidates seemed to be tired of hearing about the candidates.
“I’m looking forward to turning on the TV on Wednesday morning and seeing a car commercial and not my face,” said Thom Tillis, the Republican challenger to Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in North Carolina. That is one of two competitive Senate races, along with New Hampshire, where the Democrat holds a small lead in polling averages.
Tillis’s mother, Margie, came from Tennessee to Cornelius, N.C., to make phone calls for her son, who is speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. She said Election Day would be a relief for her, as well.
“I’m tired of hearing these horrible things about someone who I know is a great person,” Margie Tillis said.
By tradition, the last Monday of any campaign reflects poorly on America’s great experiment with democracy — a time for calculated outrage, last-minute trickery and overtired people saying impolitic things into microphones. This Monday was no different.
In Kansas, Republicans continued to make hay of a comment made by independent Senate candidate Greg Orman. Deriding former senator Robert J. Dole (Kan.) and other GOP veterans who had campaigned for incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), Orman compared the strategy to “a Washington establishment clown car. . . . Every day a new person comes out of that car.”
Republicans were “outraged.”
“Greg Orman is shameful for calling Bob Dole a clown,” Roberts’s campaign tweeted Monday. Dole later released an e-mail from Orman himself, in which the candidate sought to explain the difference between a clown and a clown car. “I certainly wasn’t calling you — or any of the others supporting Senator Roberts — a ‘clown,’ ” Orman wrote.
Elsewhere, it came out that some last-minute campaigners had said dumb things on video. In Iowa, retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D) attacked Republican candidate Joni Ernst by talking about her looks — and by comparing her to pop star Taylor Swift. In New Hampshire, a GOP official compared the last hours of the Senate campaign to committing homicide by drowning.
“We need to crush it. We need to grab it, run with it, push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore,” said Jennifer Horn, the state Republican Party chair.
Harkin later apologized. Horn did not.
For Democrats, the Senate race has become a bleak math problem. Three of 13 key Senate races were deemed definitely lost: West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. Two more states were almost as far gone: McConnell was ahead in Kentucky, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D) was trailing his Republican opponent in Arkansas.
Three more also seemed to be turning against the Democrats in recent days. In Iowa, a weekend Des Moines Register poll showed Rep. Bruce Braley (D) trailing Ernst by seven points, though other polls have shown the race much closer. In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn, who led for weeks, was slightly behind.
And in Colorado, polls show Rep. Cory Gardner (R) leading incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D). Republicans held a distinct advantage in the early voting statistics: Registered Republicans accounted for 40.5 percent of the 1.3 million people who had cast a ballot, compared with 32.5 percent who were registered Democrats, according to state records.
That left Colorado Democrats hoping for a last-minute rescue by a voter base that tends to procrastinate. On Monday, Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D) addressed students gathered at Metropolitan State University of Denver as part of a series of rallies dubbed ­“#MarkYourBallot.”
“If you haven’t cast that vote, if you haven’t pulled your roommate out of their dorm room or out of their bed and got them to the polls, you’ve got to do it,” Bennet said.
Fahrenthold reported from Washington, Kane from Louisville and Zezima from Denver. Also contributing to this report were Wesley Lowery in Cornelius, N.C.; Ed O’Keefe in Atlanta; Jose DelReal in New London, N.H.; Elahe Izadi in Wichita; Hunter Schwartz in Little Rock; Sebastian Payne in Anchorage; Karen Heller in St. Amant, La.; Ben Terris in Newton, Iowa; and Robert Costa and Reid Wilson in Washington.

President Obama and Control of the Senate on the Line

The rise of political Islam in Turkey: how the West got it wrong

Political Islamism has undermined the Turkish Republic's secular social order, education and legal systems and Western pundits manifestly failed to see this coming, argues Turkish opposition MP, Safak Pavey.
The end of the Cold War did not free the world of polarised ideologies. Once the Berlin Wall fell, we hoped a new world would finally move beyond the conflict ridden past. Yet, not only did we face continuous conflicts but with the revival of religious traditions, God's role in politics was rekindled. We thought that the time for belief systems and politics which derive their legitimacy from God was over. But we were wrong. The current administration of Turkey, which was lauded as an example of a modern Islamic democracy, derives a considerable part of its mandate from the belief that they are carrying out God's mission of revenge against the godless secular system.
Islamism has hijacked my country, the Middle East and the 'Arab Spring', not only politically, but culturally as well.
Let us take the case of ISIS. It gave the Christians of Rakka three options: convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay the protection tax of the non-Muslim believers and submit to strict rules, or be prepared to die. The protection tax amounts to 14 grams of pure gold per capita. Some of the rules include prohibitions on making repairs to churches, wearing the cross or other religious symbols outside church and ringing the church bell.
Turkey's Islamists have not implemented these restrictive practices and rules formally because this would still require a major overhaul of the legal system, and they see ISIS as "uncivilized". But in everyday life social pressure is exercised in more subtle ways and people are intimidated through quiet repression on the street.
Our current situation is explained away by Western intellectuals who had nothing but praise for Erdogan ten years ago, and now claim he has transformed into a tyrant. The latest conclusion of these international commentators who sing the praises of Islamic democracy is that democracy befits our culture, but that the problem is with Erdogan's personality.
It would be a mistake to underestimate Erdogan. Ever since he entered politics at a young age, he aimed to become head of state because he believed only he could abolish the 'infidel / heretic' social system; that is how the secular state is perceived by political Islamists. But attributing the Islamic transformation of Turkey only to him, would be paying him too generous a compliment.
It would also be wrong to explain this turn of events with reference to differences between right and left, since these distinctions are far more complex in Turkey. The biggest chasm between left and right in our politics now is religion; it all hinges on whether "you are pious or not." The cosmetic reforms that have been attributed to Erdogan and his Government, bringing him high repute, turned out to be window dressing to impress the West. Indeed, they all melted away swiftly within the repressive structure of emerging political Islam. Law came at the top the list of casualties. Government supporters are granted privileges and are above the law, while opponents are meted out the harshest sentences. Formal law is no longer implemented with the purpose of delivering justice but rather as a tool to deliver punishments to detractors.
It was only his Western counterparts and pundits who were hoping that someone with strong loyalties to Sharia would abide by secular law. By now, they must be amazed at how wrong they got it.
AKP has transformed Sunni identity into the dominant one in Turkey through religious references. Addressing the West, the AKP claimed that it was waging war on deeply rooted nationalism, but all the while it was spreading a far more insidious ideology. In fact, any scholar who works on Turkey knows that Middle Eastern style nationalism has always relied on religious pillars to survive.
In the course of Turkey's republican history we had the best attempts at democracy that could have come out of Islamic countries, despite stumbling, interruptions and the tests of perseverance we had to endure. AKP has been calling this political system the regime of secular elites who think it is their right to govern the republic. Yet political Islamists have been involved in various centre-right organizations and parties, and have been the recipients of many privileges - strengthening their presence progressively. For example, some of the staff who have served Erdogan include ministers and high level bureaucrats who have held these positions ever since they became civil servants decades ago.
However, Turkey's political Islamists were not content with the symbiotic relations they had created with the centre-right parties. They worked diligently to take over the host organization and reached managerial positions with a perseverance that is praised and advised in Islam through the act of taqiyya (a form of religious dissimulation that permits believers to conceal the truth in pursuit of their goals).
So we have come to this situation. The system that protected social rights and liberties, and was supported by a considerable number of citizens, has been destroyed by an invisible bulldozer, and the political Islamists now claim absolute victory. In their eyes, 'the infidel, heretic' secular republic has been defeated.
The most significant fallout of political Islam is its destruction of secular education.
This issue is so important to Erdogan that he did not trust even his most loyal advisors, and instead put his own son in charge of the Islamization of education. In 2002, the number of pupils studying and graduating from the imam-hatip schools set up to train clerics was seventy thousand, now their number is one million. This number does not include the pupils who attend schools known as "hidden" cleric schools that are functioning under the guise of being regular public schools.
According to legal judicial investigation tapes, Bilal Erdoğan has himself stated that the handful of "the remaining pupils in the secular secondary education" have been integrated into the hidden imam-hatip cleric schools in order for them not to pose a threat to the Islamic regime in the future.
This aim has been achieved by assigning eleven hours of the forty hour week of lessons to Sunni religious education in state schools and prep schools. This is because the future generation cannot be left to the guidance of science; it must be conditioned to collective obedience through religion as the political Islamists demand.
Yet another policy devised by Erdogan's son has been the creation of a fraudulent demand for imam-hatip cleric schools through mosques and the media.
Women's behaviour, the laughter of a young woman, how much beer a young man drinks, who shares a house with whom and what kind of toilet they use (whether traditional or modern), all have to be under their surveillance. Living arrangements outside the prescriptions of the Holy Book are not crimes, but are considered to be sins to be eradicated. For instance, AKP politicians have destroyed as many modern toilets as modern sculptures. Tradition dismisses the comforts of modern life far too easily and readily.
Islamists define the morality of society in terms of woman's virtue and her relations with the opposite sex. This is why, in their eyes, girls and boys have to be segregated. Boys and girls cannot be on the same school grounds, and this includes university dorms. Students of different gender cannot be taught in the same building prior to university. Most school grounds have been gender-segregated in the past ten years. My cousin has been a physics teacher for twenty years. During the last five years she was made to hand over her physics classes to a member of an Islamic tariqat (order). She was told to remain at the teacher's common room during her class periods, so that it looked as if physics was being taught at that hour as stated in the curriculum. For five years those pupils learned nothing about physics - and all about jihad. She felt incapable of changing the situation and therefore she resigned.
Unfortunately this hidden policy has been implemented surreptitiously and frequently over the past ten years, and is now being implemented openly. Boys are pushed to attend boarding schools, and thus kept away from their families, and girls are being encouraged to marry young and become housewives.
Now that Turkey has gone off the rails from its journey towards modernity, where does that leave us?
The Islamists in Turkey are at the zenith of their power. They can be a difficult partner and even threaten to become an enemy to the West. Indeed, hostility towards the West is part of the conspiracy discourse that is widespread all over the Middle East.
Nonetheless there are significant numbers of people in Turkey who are resisting, and who struggle for the survival of civility and modern life. And the outcome of our struggle for survival will have much broader global repercussions than Western policy makers would like to think. Can you imagine a Turkey without its secularists? It would lead to a Europe that is confined to its continent, and it would turn it into a prison for us. "No one can leave this woeful story with their head held high" said Dani Rodrik, an academic at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. Not the so-called secular-military elite that governed the country harshly for years, that scorned and yet used the Islamists and thus almost single-handedly guaranteed their reactionary attitudes; not Turkey's Western friends who pretended not to see the colossal infringements of social liberty; and certainly not the pseudo-intellectuals with their egregious interpretations of the events that legitimised the butchering of secular law in the hope that political Islam will produce democracy.
Those who ten years ago expected an Islamic reform from Turkey that would serve as a model for the world are, at this point, striving to prevent Turkey from turning into a hostile country model.
To conclude with a sentence from Turkey's political Islamists: "Those who expect Islam to reform want us to give up our religion. We will not rise to the bait of the infidel." If this is a clear statement of intent, so too is the resolve of those of us who intend to resist and struggle in defence of our freedoms and our Human Rights.

Video : Message of Bilawal Bhutto on Yaum e Ashura

Pakistani Christian Couple burnt alive in Kasur Punjab

A couple was burnt alive in a brick kiln in the outskirts of Kasure, Geo News reported. Sources said the incident took place in Kot Radha Kishan. Police sources said Shahzad and her wife Shama Bibi came to Chak 59 for their livelihood where the owner of the Kiln Yousuf Gujjar put them in a room.
He put different allegation on them over non-payment of advance money and gathered villagers. Later, the infuriated villagers through them in the brick kiln and set them alive.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/pakistani-christian-couple-burnt-alive-in-kasur-punjab/#sthash.7SNUovBR.dpuf
قصورکےعلاقےکوٹ رادھا کشن میں مشتعل دیہاتیوں نے میاں بیوی کو بھٹے میں پھینک کر زندہ جلا دیا ۔پولیس ذرائع کےمطابق24سالہ شمع بی بی اوراس کاشوہرشہزاداینٹیں بنانے والے بھٹےپرمزدوری کےلئے دوسرےعلاقےسے کوٹ رادھا کشن کے چک 59 آئے ہوئےتھے جہاں بھٹے کے مالک یوسف گجر نے ایڈوانس دی ہوئی رقم نہ ملنے پر میاں بیوی پر مختلف الزامات لگا کر ایک کمرے میں بند کرکے لوگوں کو اکھٹا کرلیا اور دونوں کوبھٹے میں پھینک کر زندہ جلا دیاگیا۔عینی شاہدین کےمطابق پولیس چوکی فیکٹری ایریا کے5پولیس اہلکارموقع پر پہنچےبھی تھےمگر مشتعل لوگوں نےانہیں قریب نہ آنے دیا۔ - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/pakistani-christian-couple-burnt-alive-in-kasur-punjab/#sthash.7SNUovBR.dpuf

Pakistan: Law-enforcers arrest five pro-ISIS terrorists of ASWJ in Karachi

Law-enforcing agencies on Tuesday arrested five suspected pro-ISISI takfiri terrorists belonging Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) known as banned Sipah-e-Sahaba outfit in Karachi, The Shia Post reports.
Sources said the suspects were arrested during a raid conducted on a house in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Buner locality. The alleged ISIS takfiri terrorists were shifted to undisclosed location for interrogation, officials said.
According to officials, the terrorists were planing to attack on Shia mourners after they were returning from the central Ashura procession.
A huge cache of weapons and explosive material have been recovered from the possession terrorists.

Balochistan: 15,000 People Have Migrated From Makran And Kharan: HRCP

Shezad Baloch
Losing hope against the tide of lawlessness, at least 15,000 people have migrated from the districts of Makran, Kharan and Awaran, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.
“It is a rough estimate because there has been a huge migration of local Baloch from Turbat, Panjgur, Gwadar, Awaran and Kharan districts,” the head of HRCP’s Balochistan chapter Tahir Hussain Khan told The Express Tribune.
He said many schools in Turbat are closed due to the volatile situation there.
“Families have relocated as the schools are closed in these areas due to poor law and order conditions,” Tahir said. Most of the families have moved to Karachi, Islamabad and Quetta.
He said the people of Makran prefer Karachi as they have many relatives there.
Recently, The Express Tribune interviewed in Quetta a family that has migrated from Turbat. Members of the family said frequent search operations and clashes between armed groups in Dasht Guran area of Kech forced them to migrate.
“We were caught up in a war. I could not send my children to school,” said the head of the family on condition of anonymity.
Balochistan’s Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani dismissed the findings of the HRCP report, saying it was “baseless and unreliable”. “It is not an authentic report because law and order has improved in Makran, Kalat, Khuzdar and other areas in recent years,” he said.

Interview: Pakistan must not allow extremists to act as a 'Sunni Wall' against Iran

By Shamil Shams
Pakistani-Iranian ties are gradually turning into a hostile affair as the two neighbors continue to engage in border clashes. Analyst Siegfried O. Wolf tells DW why Islamabad needs to re-evaluate its regional policies.
Border tensions between Pakistan and Iran have flared over the past few months, with Teheran accusing Islamabad of allowing Sunni militant groups to infiltrate its eastern border. Pakistan denies backing the armed outfits.
Last month, the Iranian security forces entered Pakistan to engage in a battle with these militants, resulting in a skirmish with the Pakistani border guards. This comes at a time when Pakistan is also engaged in a gun battle on its eastern border with India, and its relations with Afghanistan are also not very cordial.
Siegfried O. Wolf, a senior research fellow and lecturer in International and Comparative Politics at the University of Heidelberg's South Asia Institute, says in a DW interview that it is likely that the Pakistani extremist groups are operating without the support of the South Asian country's government and the military. But he adds that Islamabad must go after Islamists wholeheartedly if it seeks to improve ties with its neighbors.
DW: The border clashes between Iran and Pakistan have increased, with Teheran accusing Islamabad of allowing Sunni militants to enter its Sistan and Baluchistan provinces. How credible are Iran's claims?
iegfried O. Wolf: Looking at the history of Iranian-Pakistani border tensions, Teheran's claims could well be true. However, the only force in Pakistan that can allow such border conflict to occur, is the country's powerful military. But it is unlikely that the Pakistani army or its intelligence organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), would be interested in confrontation with Iran.
Pakistan is tied up fighting militant groups as well as keeping major urban areas and the country's troubled northwestern border with Afghanistan under control. In addition, the army is also trading fire with India at the Kashmir border. Therefore, opening a third front in the southwest would not be wise.
In my opinion, Iran's claims are credible, but it seems that these groups are not working on Islamabad's directives.
Is it possible that these armed groups can infiltrate Iran unilaterally without Islamabad's support?
There is no doubt that Pakistan in the past didn't do much to stop international terrorist groups from using its territory. There have been accusations that Pakistan was getting financial and logistical support from Saudi Arabia to nurture anti-Iranian organizations. But I doubt Pakistan's security forces are still able to control terrorist groups like the radical Jaish al-Adl outfit, which carried out the recent attacks against Iranian border guards.
Is Pakistan being used as a proxy in the ongoing Saudi Arabia-Iran regional rivalry?
It will be hard to prove that Pakistan functions as Saudi Arabia's proxy. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent many years in Saudi Arabia during his exile period, and subsequently developed close links to the Saudi monarchs. Pakistani officials will avoid upsetting Riyadh as the country's energy security is one of Sharif's major concerns. Therefore, I don't think that his government will be interested in provoking Tehran too much and, hence, putting bilateral gas pipeline projects at risk.
Having said that, I think that Pakistan's international relations and its regional position are getting more complicated by the day. The likelihood of a US-Iranian convergence, the ongoing China-Russia rapprochement, an increased cooperation between Teheran and New Delhi, and the situation in Afghanistan are signs of changing regional dynamics. The Pakistani establishment is unhappy with these developments. These new security paradigms might force Islamabad to forge even closer ties with Saudi Arabia.
With reports coming in about an increased cooperation between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and the Middle Eastern Sunni jihadist group "Islamic State" (IS), do you see these groups causing trouble for Iran in the coming months or years?
For Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists, the country is already a "Sunni Wall" against Shiite Iran. The policy of containing the Shiite influence in the region was seriously affected after the collapse of the Sunni-Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. These events created a power vacuum which is now being increasingly filled by Tehran. Saudi Arabia does not want to see the rise of Iran and will continue to do anything to ensure Sunni dominance.
In this context, one has to emphasize that most of the Sunni militant groups operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region believe in the Saudi Arabian ultraconservative and puritanical Wahhabism and the Takfiri ideology, which commits it followers to fight the enemy from within – for instance, the Shiite people.
Here we find a common ideological bond between IS and the Taliban. But it seems that neither the civilian government nor the military is willing to identify IS as a threat. This will have serious implications not only for religious minorities in Pakistan but also for the country's ties with Iran.
What should Pakistan do to stay out of the Shiite-Sunni war in the Middle East which is apparently spilling over into its borders?
Pakistan should stop differentiating between the "good" and "bad" Taliban. In other words, the country should give up the notion that one can negotiate and cooperate with Islamic extremists. Also, Pakistan should finally launch a comprehensive military campaign against the whole Taliban movement and other affiliated militant organizations.
This must include ending financial and logistical support for militant groups which are perceived by Pakistan's neighbors as a security threat. It should also include a serious re-assessment of Islamabad's relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan - #Wagah - The silliness can wait

Ayaz Amir
When something like the Wagah suicide bombing happens the immediate focus, to the exclusion of everything else, should be on the victims. Are they being taken care of? How are the hospitals responding? Are there enough medicines? Is there a need for blood donations?
Silly statements like that of the interior minister that a warning had been issued about such an incident are meaningless, and grating to boot. If they have any relevance at all, the immediate aftermath of such an event is not the time for point-scoring and spreading the blame.
Obviously, when such a disaster occurs there is a security breach, a loophole somewhere…otherwise the incident would not have happened. But the time to look into these aspects comes a bit later. Responsible officials don’t get into the blame game immediately. There is always enough time for such exercises when the dust settles down a bit.
There’s another silliness to avoid: statements such as those from the prime minister’s office that the PM has asked for a report on the incident. God in heaven, a report, with its attendant obfuscations, will be prepared in due course. Is this the level of our confidence that we must hammer the obvious at such moments?
The Edhi Foundation does not issue statements when something untoward like this happens. It goes about its business quietly, without fuss and without any banging of drums, helping the victims and bringing them medical attention. Is this too much for governments to learn, that it is more useful to move first and put the statements on hold?
The state of Lahore’s hospitals is not very good. The health department remains under-funded and healthcare, sadly, is not one of the provincial government’s leading priorities. In fact public healthcare is neglected nation-wide but this is not the time to go into this discussion. Many of the victims will be requiring complicated medical procedures, perhaps expensive medicines. This should be everyone’s focus, not just the government’s but of all those in a position to help. Would it be too great a sacrifice to ask of leading surgeons in hospitals such as Mayo, Services, etc, to forego their private practices for some time and concentrate on their hospitals where the blast victims may be admitted?
At the time of the 2005 earthquake doctors from across the world came to help us. Pakistani doctors also rose to the occasion, teams of leading doctors from Karachi – Jinnah Hospital, etc – rushing to Muzaffarabad and Hazara. In Abbottabad I came across a team of British-Pakistani doctors who had come from the UK, an old man, his eyes wet, telling me that they had saved the hand of his young son after a seven-hour operation when doctors at the district hospital had told him earlier that it might be best to have it amputated. There were countless stories of the same sort.
At PIMs in Islamabad I was informed that a team of leading doctors from Russia had come straight from the airport to the operation theatre, refusing to first check in at their hotel. Cuba made a huge contribution with doctors and nurses. So did the US, the UAE, Saudi Arabia…the list is long.
At the height of this medical emergency I called the office of the then head of the Rawalpindi Medical College, a competent surgeon, and asked for a private appointment. Come anytime, I was told. But given the earthquake and doctors from all over the world arriving to help, wouldn’t the professor be busy? Oh no, his clinic was open. I called up the surgeon general of the army. He too, Allah be praised, was available for private appointments. That’s why the hesitant plea: can Lahore government doctors give their private clinics a miss for a few days?
The terrorists are not winning. Although this can hardly be any consolation for the victims, the Wagah incident is almost an admission of failure, that this was the only vulnerable spot they could target. The victims are all ordinary Pakistanis plus a few Rangers’ personnel. And the terrorists are fighting for the greater glory of Islam. Their victims for the most part turn out to be the less-privileged. This is their understanding of Islam. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is also fighting for the greater glory of the faith. One tactic for which it has earned notoriety is the beheading of real or imagined enemies. Again, all this is being done in the name of Islam.
In the aftermath of this incident can we give thought to another thing? Isn’t it time we thought about curbing some of the histrionic excesses which have become part of the flag-lowering ceremony at Wagah? Both the Indian Border Security Force and our Rangers seek to outdo each other in exaggerated parade gestures, doubtless their way of displaying their resoluteness. Crowds on both sides gather to see this spectacle and are in turn swept by a tide of patriotic fervour.
Is this uplifting? To a certain extent perhaps. But on the whole it is in questionable taste and gives the impression that Pakistan and India for all their claims of representing ancient civilisations are caught up in some juvenile game. The stamping of feet is far too pronounced. It’s not even impressive in any athletic sense because, if you take a closer look, when the guards raise their legs they can’t keep their backs straight…they slightly bend at the knees.
Watch the marching in Tiananmen Square on Revolution Day: even as soldiers of all the services, including women, raise their legs in a goosestep, waists are held tight and backs are absolutely straight. At the time of the changing of the guard in Red Square in front of the Kremlin, soldiers of the presidential guard (if I am not mistaken, from the Preobrazhensky Regiment, founded by Peter the Great) raise their legs high as they march, almost impossibly high as it seems to me, but their backs are straight.
We have been cursed with the British style of marching, legs moving just a bit while the arms are swung shoulder-high. When you fling about the arms too much the poise and balance of the body are affected. In ballet, in synchronised gymnastics, in ice skating, the movement of the arms is an embellishment but the elegance of the whole comes from the movement of the legs. In the British style of marching the backside is compressed – a natural effect when you swing the arms too much – which doesn’t make for elegant movement. The British army now marches in a slightly more relaxed manner. Our drill could do with some improvement.
But bent backs apart, the lowering of the flag is a tribute to the setting sun, an affirmation that the day is done. It is a solemn moment marked by the playing of poignant and sombre music. Vulgar exhibitionism doesn’t fit the bill. Thus the way the retreat is sounded at Wagah doesn’t redound to the credit of either country. Quite apart from the whipping up of false emotion, for which there should be no need, as I have said it is not in good taste.
On a related subject, at some of our military ceremonies such as the shuhada commemoration at General Headquarters or on parades such as on August 14 this year in Islamabad some of the accompanying commentary is so gushing and over-the-top that it is embarrassing. Is there no one to notice this? A military parade is not a second-rate mushaira and should not be conducted like one. Armies look good when they enhance their firepower not when they exaggerate their dramatic skills.
But after the Lahore blast, first the care and rehabilitation of the victims…let there be no fakery and grandstanding about that. There will be time enough for the usual reports later.

Pakistan: Carnage at Wagah

The suicide attack near the border at Wagah which killed 60 people, during the daily flag-lowering ceremony, is the most devastating attack in the country since the military operation in North Waziristan was launched. The loss of life, which includes Rangers officials and civilians who were there only to watch the daily parade, shows once again the inhumanity of militants who strive only to cause the most damage possible without caring that they overwhelmingly kill non-combatants. True to this inhumanity, the militants struck in the month of Muharram, so near Ashura, when the qualities of self-sacrifice and courage are stressed and observed. In a moving tribute to the lives lost, the ceremony at the border went on as usual the day after the attack. That the attack was so close to the Wagah border will also serve the already-hawkish Narendra Modi in India, who may surely claim that Pakistan doesn’t make enough effort to prevent the infiltration of militants. The issue of who is responsible for the attack also raises questions about our approach to tackling the scourge of militancy. So far three different groups – Jundallah, Jamaatul Ahrar and the breakaway TTP group led by Mahar Mehsud – have all claimed responsibility. If even one of these groups ultimately turns out to be responsible it casts doubt on our strategy of solely pursuing a military option and that too only against the main TTP. Militant groups in the country have become so diffused and splintered that even destroying one organisation will not end terrorist violence in the country.
It is also worth examining in detail the various groups that have stepped forward to own the attack. Jundallah is mainly based in Balochistan and Karachi and has never before attacked in Punjab. Few believe that it even has the capability to do so and it has, in the past, falsely taken credit for attacks. Jamaatul Ahrar – a local offshoot of the Islamic State – was formed by seven defecting commanders of the TTP and so should, in theory, have the capacity to launch an attack of this nature, with the same being true of the Mahar Mehsud faction of the TTP. None of these groups, however, have had a large presence in Punjab, which has been the domain of Asmatullah Muawiya’s Punjabi Taliban and local groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. There is a large possibility that whoever planned this attack had help from local elements. The Punjabi Taliban had sworn off attacks in Pakistan in favour of concentrating on Afghanistan and it will be a major development if they have gone back on their word. The other militant groups in Punjab have thrived with patronage from mainstream political groups so their involvement would also be an indictment of our state. No matter who is responsible, the Wagah attack shows that our strategies for destroying militancy need to see a lot of improvement if they are not to end up as a conspicuous failure.

Pakistan: 5 killed in Landikotal landmine explosions

The Express Tribune News
Five people were killed in twin landmine explosions in Landikotal on Tuesday, four of whom were security personnel, Express News reported.
The explosives went off in Painda Cheena village, Khyber Agency.
The landmine in the first explosion was placed on a road in a marketplace and killed two security officials and a civilian, while the second blast claimed lives of two more officials.
The mines are usually planted by militants to target security forces’ convoys, however, security forces also plant these explosive devices near their check-posts to avoid terrorist attacks.

Message from Wagah: Suicide bombing demonstrates Pakistan’s real challenge is from within, not from India

Strapping border guards lowering flags and closing gates at the Attari-Wagah border every day with a carefully constructed choreography of contempt, martial music and macho-comic aggression have long symbolised the India-Pakistan face-off. The tragic suicide bombing on the Pakistani side of the check-post, which killed 50 people and injured another 110, is yet another wake-up call that the real danger is not across borders but the cancer of terror growing within.
Wagah hosts probably the most ritualistic border confrontation drama in the world but ironically, Pakistani guards and innocent tourists — many of them women and children — who had gathered to watch the daily ceremony were killed from behind their own lines. The Pakistani Rangers have announced a three-day halt to the border ceremony after this senseless tragedy. Perhaps the time has come to end it altogether and to refocus energies on fighting real issues that confront both countries.
For Pakistan, the Wagah bombing illustrates once again the scale of the challenge facing its army. It also shows how out of control terror outfits on its soil are as they seek to destroy the very edifice of the country. Jundallah, also behind a church bombing in Peshawar last year, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter offshoot of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, have both taken responsibility. The Jamaat claims it was avenging the Pakistan army’s Operation Zarb-i-Azb — tackling militants in North Waziristan while militants elsewhere are nurtured under Pakistan’s Janus-faced ‘good terrorists, bad terrorists’ doctrine.
From Imran Khan to Bilawal Bhutto, the default crisis impulse among Pakistan’s politicians is to ratchet up temperatures with India. Yet, snakes in its own backyard are threatening to devour Pakistan from within. Since 2008, Pakistan had deployed more than 1,50,000 soldiers in northwestern areas and suffered many casualties. As the Americans draw down in Afghanistan, the regional arc of instability will only intensify. With al-Qaida opening a new South Asia chapter while Islamic State shows interest, Pakistan needs to brace for it. So does India. At a time when new hardline Islamist groups make their predecessors seem like friendly neighbourhood uncles, the spectre of mindless terror calls for a new understanding across borders and a new approach. The central security problem of our time is not India versus Pakistan but Pakistan versus Pakistan.

Pakistan: Tragedy At Wagah

Up to five kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast at Wagah, and included the use of ball bearings to inflict maximum damage. The suicide bomber was trying to make it to the Wagah parade but was stopped at a security checkpoint. There are three checkpoints on the way to the parade ground. It would seem he passed through the first and the second without incident. How did this happen? Law-enforcement agencies had been alerted about the possibility of an attack at Wagah amongst other locations in Lahore a day earlier. They were informed about a missing young boy who might be used as a suicide bomber. Even with this intelligence at hand, they were unable to prevent an attack and the significant loss of civilian life. At the time of the writing of this editorial, at least 60 people have died.
Two groups have separately claimed responsibility for the Wagah border attack. Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group from the TTP claimed that the single-bomber attack was a response to the army operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. They refuted an earlier claim made by Jundullah, another outlawed outfit quick to claim responsibility. It is relevant to understand the significance of the attack, and where it came. This has been the biggest retaliatory attack by militants since the beginning of Zarb-e-Azb, and the choice of venue is not random. The incident occurred at Wagah Border which is symbolic for what it means for law enforcement agencies, and the state of Pakistan. It is a message: if such an audacious attack can be carried out at a heavily guarded border checkpoint, then no place is safe. The series now includes attacks on Military Headquarters in Rawalpindi, on the Police Training Academy in Lahore and Karachi Airport.
The fourth suicide attack this year in the Punjab has rightly set into motion an important debate about the need for a comprehensive strategy and narrative that tackles militancy. While the army fights militancy in the north, the problem continues to thrive in the centre. If the fight against militants does not focus on the need for a counter-narrative, ready recruits for suicide bombings will always exist. The IG Punjab Police said it was difficult to check suicide bombers in time; yes, by the time the police gets involved it is too late. But it is possible to get them when they are still children taken off the streets into madrassas that feed them twice a day. It is still possible when, failed by the state, they fall victim to narratives of hate and revenge. Then, it is still possible to give them something else to hold on to. And that is the only way, the only time, to stop them.

Pakistan - #Wagah - Criminal negligence

The Punjab government and the Rangers officials had been forewarned about the suicide attack that killed over 60 people at Wagah. The bomber succeeded because of a highly deplorable security lapse on the part of the civilian and military authorities. They simply failed to conduct the required recce and did not put plain-clothes men in an around the high security zone. This is borne out by the discovery next day of a suicide jacket and an IED in the parking area. The bomber was supposedly wearing a suicide jacket weighing 10-15 kilos. Had intelligence sleuths been around the eateries and shops where he blew himself up, they could have recognised and overpowered him before the crowds left the parade venue.
It is difficult in view of contradictory statements by the relevant authorities to determine whether the bomber acted outside the security barriers or well inside them. A thorough inquiry is therefore needed to determine the facts. The incident however is too serious to be treated like a dispute between two police stations over jurisdiction. All the more so when both the civil and military authorities knew about the date and the precise target of the bomber. Unless those responsible for the negligence at the highest level are taken to task and heads roll, negligence of the sort will continue to characterise the working of the law enforcement agencies.
This is precisely what Pakistan cannot afford. The TTP has been defeated and several groups of terrorists killed or made to leave North Waziristan. The terrorist network has been demoralised and has broken up into groups which level accusations on one another. The incident shows that while the snake is scorched it is still alive and impatient to strike back. The government cannot afford to have chinks in its armour. There are disturbing reports about the ISIS trying to create a foothold. Extraordinary vigilance is therefore required on the part of all stakeholders, civilian as well as military. The suicide attack at Wagah shows it is lacking.

Pakistan's IDPs - The Forgotten War

The number of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Pakistan has crept beyond the one million mark, and the number keeps swelling. The operation in North Waziristan has still not been concluded and Operation Khyber 1 has been launched, sparking another exodus. While the military races ahead at a blistering pace, the debris in its wake needs to be looked after. This is an insurgency – an ideology – that is being fought, not a concrete state or a defined enemy. When one head is cut off, two more grow to take its place.
The state has forgotten the IDPs, or at least put them on the back burner. With juicy political shenanigans, natural disasters, and border skirmishes, the government has its hands full. The IDPs have silently slipped from public discourse; no media channel picks it up, no politician raises a hue and cry. The system established to deal with the issue is wholly inadequate; squalid camps consisting of tents pitched in open air, bereft of necessities like running water and insulation, and crippled by mismanagement. There are constant protests against lack of food items and promised cash awards, the latest in Latamber, on Sunday. There are thousands more who forsake the dreary camps and try their luck in Peshawar or Bannu. Here they occupy abandoned shops and schools, run pillar to post for federal assistance and mill around without reprieve. All the while, thinking, reflecting and fuming.
Terrorists survive off the inhabitants of the land, who are either sympathetic to the cause or coerced into cooperating. The IDPs are these inhabitants; they have lived in the tribal belt, and have had little interaction with the state. The impression they take away from the state effort will colour their actions in coming times. The state needs to be pro-active and welcoming. They need to see the state as an efficient, empathetic, and egalitarian organization. Someone that cares, that can be respected and followed. Otherwise what is to separate the state from a tribal chieftain, or the Taliban? The state needs to be sold to these people who have lived without the writ of the state, to truly bring them into the fold of Pakistan and shake off other loyalties. Instead they are met with apathy and hardship; which hardens their hearts and makes the tales of the Taliban easier to believe. Furthermore, it is in these hellish camps that people resort to crime and partisanship to ward off hunger and gain security, which then evolves into other problems. The Afghan refugee problem should have taught us that.