Friday, December 19, 2014
The international community should adhere to unified standards in order to effectively deter terrorism, a Chinese envoy to the United Nations said Friday.
"Double standards and selectivity should not be used in fighting terrorism, let alone linking terrorism with a specific ethnic group or religion," said Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the United Nations.
Counter-terrorism activities should abide by the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, and respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the countries concerned, Liu said at a Security Council meeting on terrorism and cross-border crimes.
"All countries should, in accordance with global counter-terrorism strategy and relevant Security Council resolutions, adopt effective measures to cut terrorist organizations' access to people, funds, and equipment as well as their incitement and propaganda channels while adopting integrated measures to eradicate their breeding ground for terrorism," he added.
Noting that in some regions, especially in Africa, terrorism and cross-border crime organizations are closely linked, Liu said the counter-terrorism work should be well targeted.
"The international community should assist relevant countries and African countries in particular to strengthen their capacity-building in border control, customs and counter-narcotics," he added.
In addition, he said the international community should pay attention to cross-border crimes of terrorism organizations by using information and communication technology, such as the Internet.
As a victim of terrorism, China supports African countries in independently choosing their own way of development, and will continue to conduct bilateral and multilateral exchanges and cooperation on counter-terrorism and cross-border crimes with the international community, especially African countries, he said.
"China will do what it can to provide assistance in material and capacity-building to relevant countries, with a view to advancing our effort in fighting international terrorism and maintaining regional and world peace and stability," he added.
BY DANIEL TROTTA AND ROSA TANIA VALDÉS
Stepping out of his legendary brother's shadow, President Raul Castro has scored a diplomatic triumph and a surge in popular support with the deal that ends decades of open hostility with the United States.
For many Cubans, the restoration of diplomatic relations and President Barack Obama's promise to dismantle economic sanctions against the communist-run island have raised hopes of a more prosperous future.
Just as important, in exchange for one American prisoner and dozens of little-known Cubans, Castro won the freedom of three Cuban spies widely exalted at home as heroes who were wrongly imprisoned in the United States for 16 years.
The deal with Obama this week has triggered marches of support in the capital Havana. More and more, demonstrators chant "Viva Raul!", a significant change in a country long dominated by the outsized personality of his older brother, Fidel Castro.
Meanwhile, Fidel Castro has not been seen or heard from, secluded in retirement at his Havana villa.
Raul Castro, 83, took over as president from an ailing Fidel in 2008 and while he has pushed through a raft of market-style economic reforms, he has until now been a low-key leader, clearly lacking his brother's charisma.
But now, more Cubans appreciate his new brand of leadership.
"Raul Castro is doing things that Cuba needs. A lot of people didn't believe in him, but his work is on display. He is changing the country quietly, without speeches, and without bragging about it," said Jose Fernandez, a 55-year-old math teacher as he waited for a bus to work on Friday.
With Fidel Castro in retirement and rarely seen, any increase in Raul's popularity helps legitimize communist rule as Cubans adjust to his economic reforms and now a new relationship with the United States.
Reinaldo Haten, a 45-year-old Havana real estate agent, said the president is making his own mark on Cuba and changing it for the better."I thank Raul, because he is making history. With all that he has done in less than five years of his government, he has made a huge change in society," said Haten, who was looking for home buyers at an informal outdoor real estate market in Havana.
One expert who has followed the Castro brothers for decades said Raul Castro has always been underestimated and that he maintains "a very firm, controlling grip" on the country.
"He's always been a very, very powerful figure," said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst. "He was Fidel’s most essential and indispensable ally. I don’t think Fidel would have lasted as long as he did without Raul."
The younger Castro spent his entire childhood and 50 years of public life as an adult eclipsed by Fidel, the older brother he adored and obeyed. In the revolution that brought Fidel to power in 1959, Raul played a crucial role in turning the upstart rebels into an organized fighting force.
While Fidel Castro was the grandiose front man rallying Cubans to support the revolution and defy the United States, Raul Castro was his loyal defense minister, building a strong military.
Together they survived the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, sent Cuban troops to Cold War battlegrounds in Africa and weathered the economic embargo and countless U.S. efforts to force them from power.
To their enemies, the Castro brothers will always be seen as partners who stole power and repressed the population, but they maintained significant popular support inside Cuba.
When Fidel Castro became sick in the summer of 2006 with an intestinal disorder, he handed power provisionally to Raul. The transfer became definitive in February 2008.
Raul proved himself more steady, organized and businesslike than the mercurial Fidel.
Many Cubans presume Raul consults with his brother on major decisions but Fidel's precise role is unknown. He occasionally writes a newspaper column or receives foreign dignitaries.
This week, it has been Raul's show. When he addressed the nation on Wednesday to announce the deal with Obama, he was in typical form, speaking without fanfare or hyperbole, calmly reading the statement in his deliberate, rough-edged baritone.
While the end of hostility between Cuba and the United States has the greater historic importance, the release of the three Cuban spies had a huge impact in Cuba.
It culminated a 16-year campaign to win the freedom of five "anti-terrorist heroes," who had been jailed in the United States for spying on anti-Castro exiles in Florida.
The other two had already returned home in 2013 and 2014 upon serving their terms, and the freedom of the final three was met with jubilation.
U.S. officials say the five were caught red-handed but in Cuba they were seen as heroes who infiltrated extremist groups at a time when anti-Castro extremists were bombing hotels in Havana.
Images of the men returning home, hugging Castro and their relatives in the airport, have dominated the state-controlled media in a Cuban feel-good story.
"His popularity has risen since that moment," said Carlos Alzugaray, a retired Cuban diplomat. "He has been pragmatic, giving Obama the space he needed to make this happen, allowing Obama to come off in a good light. He's been very smart about this."
Castro's daughter Mariela, a member of parliament, said on Friday she was proud of her father. "He's not interested in his place in history. He just wants Cuba to do well, for our ship to sail."
Allahabad High Court has ruled that the religious conversion of girls "without their faith and belief in Islam" and "solely for the purpose of marriage" to Muslim boys could not be held valid.In a significant judgement, the
Two convicted terrorists were today hanged in Pakistan two days after the government ended a moratorium on capital punishment in terror-related cases.
Dr Usman, a former serviceman who was found guilty for his involvement on the attack on the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, was executed along with another ex-military personnel, Arshad.
On Thursday, Pakistan's military chief had signed death warrants for six terrorists on death row. Security officials said the six had been convicted by a military court and were awaiting execution.
The announcement came hours after the government warned prison officials of a possible jailbreak in the restive northwest province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa following the end of the moratorium.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Wednesday an end to the moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases after a Pakistani Taliban massacre at a military-run school killed 148 people, mostly children.
The assault in the northwestern city of Peshawar is the deadliest ever terror attack in Pakistan and has shocked the nation.
Political and military leaders have vowed in response to wipe out the homegrown Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of ordinary Pakistanis in recent years.
Pakistan imposed a de facto moratorium on civilian executions in 2008, though hanging remains on the statute book and judges continue to pass the death sentence.
Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.
As the United States moves out of Afghanistan, ISIS is moving in to compete with al Qaeda and the Taliban in the legendary region of Khorasan, which also includes Pakistan and Iran. Few sayings of the Prophet Mohammed have a stronger hold on the imagination of the world’s jihadists than his prophecy about the flags: "If you see the black banners coming from Khorasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice,” he is supposed to have admonished the faithful. “No power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Baitul Maqdisi”—Jerusalem— “where they will erect flags." And where was this magical land of Khorasan, whence the conquerors would come? Think Afghanistan and pieces of all the countries that surround it, including and especially Iran. For the great ideologues of modern jihadist terror, Ayman al Zawahiri of al Qaeda and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi of the so-called Islamic State, the strategic and symbolic importance of Khorasan is huge, and there are already signs that they are competing for control there. Some factions of both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and some members of al Qaeda in the area have pledged allegiance to Baghdadi’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Zawahiri’s most elite group of operatives, meanwhile, has become known as the Khorasan Group. As terrorists compete for prestige and authority, they are under attack by the governments of the region. To make their mark on the minds of potential followers, they carry out ever more desperate and horrifying acts, like the slaughter of children at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, earlier this week. A central figure in these dangerous wider developments is a soft-spoken scholar, journalist and poet, Sheikh Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, who spent more than three years as a prisoner of the Americans at Guantanamo, then found himself imprisoned again by the Pakistanis. News reports in the region recently named his as the Islamic State-appointed governor or wali of Khorasan. A few days ago, Muslim Dost, whom I have known for years, and whose voice I recognize, left two long messages on my cell-phone answering machine. He said the news of his appointment was not true, that it was disinformation spread by “some intelligence agency and my rivals.” But Muslim Dost made it clear he answers to the Islamic State, widely known by the acronyms ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh, and he called on all Muslims to defend it. To make their mark on the minds of potential followers, they carry out ever more desperate and horrifying acts, like the slaughter of children at a school in Peshawar. In fact, whatever his nominal position, Muslim Dost is part of an ISIS strategy that, once again, appears to be several steps ahead of most Western thinking. According to anthropologist Scott Atran, who has conducted extensive studies of jihadist ideologies, Baghdadi outlined his strategy clearly in what’s been called his “Volcanoes of Jihad” speech on November 13: “Glad tidings, O Muslims, for we give you good news by announcing the expansion of the Islamic State to new lands, to the lands of [Saudi Arabia] and Yemen, to Egypt, Libya and Algeria” Baghdadi said. “We announce the acceptance of bayah [allegiance] … the announcement of new wilayat [provinces] for the Islamic State, and the appointment of [leaders] for them.” With the naming of governors outside of Syria-Iraq, Baghdadi “was telling the world that the Caliphate was going global,” says Atran. These stretched from Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah splinters in the Philippines and Indonesia to al-Maqdis in the Wilaya of Sinai, Egypt, to Jun al-Khalifa in Algeria. In Libya, threewilayat were declared: Tripoli, Fazzan and Barqay (which contains Darna, where whole neighborhoods of young men had earlier joined the jihads in Iraq). Thus ISIS “is preempting al Qaeda’s claim to be the vanguard of global jihad,” says Atran. Baghadi is creating what amounts to an ideological archipelago “where associated jihadi insurgencies in geographically distant and separated regions can fight for the Caliphate under one supreme leader, with an eye toward eventual unification of all territories.” Khorasan is vital to this strategy not only because of the Prophet’s predictions, says Atran, but because it is where, in the jihadist view, “the Iranian Shia—the devil—pretends to rule.” Muslim Dost played on those sentiments in the messages he left me. “It is our Islamic obligation to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and give it our Islamic fealty,” he said. The implementation of the will of God could only be carried out by “the resurrection of the Islamic caliphate”, and “since an Islamic caliphate has been restored, it is obligatory for every Muslim to announce his allegiance and support for it.” To fail to do so would mark a believer as ignorant of his holy obligation, and Muslim Dost claimed that his public support for ISIS is only for that purpose and disclaimed any “personal interest or aim.” But in the same breath, he issued a call to arms. “Apostates and infidels worldwide have made a big alliance against the Islamic Caliphate,” he said, “so Muslims are advised to be united and make sacrifices for the Caliphate, and should not hesitate to give their all.” According to a Western intelligence source in Kabul, “there is good potential for ISIS to grow in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.” The source told me, when I saw him recently, that “ISIS and Baghdadi are mentioned widely and with respect in intercepted conversations among militants and al Qaeda’s residual elements in the region.” “Even among the Taliban,” according to this source, “there are some that might be willing to pledge to ISIS, or have done so already in secret and will reveal themselves in the near future.” A former minister in the old Taliban government says that ISIS militants already are on the ground in “Khorasan” waiting for the day when the mainstream Taliban factions enter serious peace talks with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. At that point they will position themselves as the anti-peace-talk group to build support, he said. “If the minds of Muslims in Europe and the United States can be inspired by the call of ISIS,” says the ex-minister, “think how easy it is to integrate jihadists from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Central Asia and India.”
by PAT KENNELLY
2014 marks the deadliest year in Afghanistan for civilians, fighters, and foreigners. The situation has reached a new low as the myth of the Afghan state continues. Thirteen years into America’s longest war, the international community argues that Afghanistan is growing stronger, despite nearly all indicators suggesting otherwise. Most recently, the central government failed (again) to conduct fair and organized elections or demonstrate their sovereignty. Instead, John Kerry flew into the country and arranged new national leadership. The cameras rolled and a unity government was declared. Foreign leaders meeting in London decided on new aid packages and financing for the nascent ‘unity government.’ Within days, the United Nations helped broker a deal to keep foreign forces in the country, while simultaneously President Obama declared the war was ending—even as he increased the number of troops on the ground. In Afghanistan, President Ghani dissolved the cabinet and many people are speculating the 2015 parliamentary elections will be postponed.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups continue to gain traction and have pulled increasing parts of the country under their control. Throughout the provinces, and even in some of the major cities, the Taliban have begun collecting taxes and are working to secure key roadways. Kabul—a city that has been called the most fortified city on earth—has been on edge due to multiple suicide bombings. The attacks on various targets, ranging from high schools to houses for foreign workers, the military, and even the office of Kabul’s police chief have clearly communicated the ability of anti-government forces to strike at will. In response to the growing crisis, the Emergency Hospital in Kabul has been forced to stop treating non-trauma patients in order continue to treat the growing number of people harmed by guns, bombs, suicide explosions, and mines.
After four years of traveling to Afghanistan to conduct interviews, I have heard ordinary Afghans whisper about Afghanistan as a failing state, even as the media has touted growth, development, and democracy. Using dark humor to comment on current conditions Afghans joke that everything is working as it should; they acknowledge an unspeakable reality. They point out that more than 101,000 foreign forces trained to fight and use violence who have used their training well—by using violence; that arms merchants have ensured that all parties can continue fighting for years to come by supplying weapons to all sides; that foreign funders backing resistance groups and mercenaries can complete their missions—resulting in both increased violence and an absence of accountability; that the international NGO community implements programs and has profited from over $100 billion in aid; and that the majority of those investments ended up deposited in foreign bank accounts, primarily benefiting foreigners and a few elite Afghans. Further, many of the supposedly “impartial” international bodies, as well as some of the major NGOs, have aligned themselves with various fighting forces. Thus even basic humanitarian aid has become militarized and politicized. For the ordinary Afghan the reality is clear. Thirteen years of investing in militarization and liberalization has left the country in the hands of foreign powers, ineffective NGOs, and infighting between many of the same warlords and Taliban. The result is the current unstable, deteriorating situation rather than a sovereign state.
Yet, during my trips to Afghanistan, I have also heard another unspeakable whispered, in contrast to the narrative told by mainstream media. That is, that there is another possibility, that the old way has not worked, and it is time for change; that nonviolence may resolve some of the challenges facing the country. In Kabul, the Border Free Center—a community center in which young people can explore their role in improving society,–is exploring the use of nonviolence to engage in serious attempts at peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. These young adults are engaging in demonstration projects to show how different ethnic groups can work and live together. They are creating alternative economies that do not rely on violence in order to provide livelihoods for all Afghans, especially vulnerable widows and children. They are educating street children and developing plans to decrease weapons in the country. They are working to preserve the environment and to create model organic farms to show how to heal the land. Their work is demonstrating the unspeakable in Afghanistan—that when people engage in the work of peace, real progress can be achieved.
Perhaps if the last 13 years had been less focused on foreign political motives and military aid and more focused on initiatives like the Border Free Center, the situation in Afghanistan might be different. If energies were focused on peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, perhaps people could acknowledge the reality of the situation and create a true transformation of the Afghan state.
BY SYED RAZA HASSAN
Pakistani prosecutors are to appeal against a court decision to grant bail to a man accused of plotting a 2008 militant assault in India's financial capital that killed 166 people and seriously strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
The decision on Thursday to grant bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi came two days after Pakistan's worst ever militant attack, the killing by Pakistani Taliban gunmen of 132 children and nine members of staff at a school in the city of Peshawar.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the prospect of bail for the man India accused of masterminding the attack on Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.
The Pakistani government appeared to have been taken by surprise by the court decision and state prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar said it would be challenged.
"We will go to Islamabad High Court on Monday to file the application," Azhar told Reuters on Friday.
Lakhvi would not be able to leave the prison until then, he said.
The decision to grant bail to Lakhvi comes two months after India and Pakistan were engaged in their worst cross-border violence in more than a decade, in the disputed Kashmir region.
"This type of attitude is a setback for all those who believe in humanitarianism," Modi told lawmakers in parliament in New Delhi, referring to the Pakistani court's ruling.
"We have conveyed the message in appropriate words to Pakistan."
India blamed the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai attack, in which 10 gunmen spent three days spraying bullets and throwing grenades around city landmarks.
Indian investigators said Lakhvi was the group's military chief and the sole surviving gunman had identified him as the mastermind of the assault.
Lakhvi was arrested in Pakistan in 2009 and jailed.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been trying to repair relations with India, which he sees as vital to kickstarting Pakistan's sluggish economy.
Modi, a hawkish nationalist whose party has struggled to shake off accusations it favors majority Hindus at the expense of religious minorities, had earlier condemned the Peshawar school attack saying India was as pained as Pakistan over the massacre of the children.
Relations between the neighbors have been rocky ever since independence from Britain in 1947. They have fought three wars, two over the largely Muslim region of Kashmir.