Friday, July 31, 2015


Raymond Ibrahim

A case study on the plight of Christians in the ‘Land of the Pure.’

Pakistan’s authorities appear to have found a solution to at least one of their problems in the international arena: Aasiya Noreen, or “Asia Bibi,” a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of five who has been on death row for six years for allegedly insulting Muhammad.
Instead of executing Asia Bibi and further advertising to the international community that theirs is a savage and backwards nation — and instead of releasing her and provoking millions of angry Muslims to turn on the government and accuse it of supporting “apostasy” — Pakistan’s authorities appear to be letting time, wretched conditions, severe maltreatment, and beatings slowly kill her.
Recent reports state that she is deathly ill and “so weak she could hardly walk.” Mission Network News says that Asia Bibi has “internal bleeding, abdominal pain, and is vomiting blood. If she does not receive immediate medical care, she could die.”
According to Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International, “She suffers terrible pain, and she can hardly eat. … Here’s this woman, languishing in a prison under this death sentence for a crime that she vehemently denies.”
In June 2009, while working as a farm laborer on a hot day, Asia Bibi was told to fetch water. Because she had drunk some of the water, the Muslim workers refused it: both the cup and the water were, they said, unclean because a Christian had touched them. (See this video of an Egyptian cleric saying how disgusted he is by Christians and how he could not drink from a cup that was merely touched by a Christian.)
Before the “cup” incident, it seems, a feud between Asia and one of her Muslim neighbors concerning property damage had existed.
After the “cup” incident, her enemies and some of the Muslim workers complained to a Muslim cleric. They accused Asia Bibi of making insulting statements about the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. Her official “crime,” therefore, which she vehemently denies, is “insulting” the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Shortly after the complaint was registered, a mob stormed her home and severely beat her and her family, including her children. They put a noose around her neck and dragged her through the streets. She was then arrested; and in November 2010, a Punjabi court fined her and sentenced her to death by hanging, in accordance to Section 295-C, which prohibits on pain of death any insult against the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Because her case attracted attention and condemnation from the international community, six years later, she has not been executed. Instead, however, sick, isolated and regularly beaten by prison guards and Muslim inmates, she has evidently been left to rot to death.
In late 2011, a female prison-officer — assigned to provide security for Asia — was discovered beating her, “allegedly because of the Muslim officer’s anti-Christian bias, while other staff members deployed for her security looked on in silence.”
In late December 2013, Asia Bibi, a Catholic, sent a message to Pope Francis, saying,
Only God will be able to free me. … I also hope that every Christian has been able to celebrate the Christmas just past with joy. Like many other prisoners, I also celebrated the birth of the Lord in prison in Multan, here in Pakistan… I would have liked to be in St. Peter’s for Christmas to pray with you, but I trust in God’s plan for me and hopefully it will be achieved next year.
It was not. In 2014, a Pakistani court upheld her death penalty. Recently, Pope Francis called for clemency for Asia Bibi while the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom pressed the Obama administration to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern.”
Last year, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, citing Asia Bibi in particular, as well others, called for the use of the $900 million in U.S. aid to Pakistan as leverage to help persecuted religious minorities. If these funds are not used as leverage, nearly $1 billion in U.S. aid can be seen as “rewarding” Pakistan for being openly unjust to its minorities.
Christian minorities are still arrested for “defaming Muhammad” — that is, if a Muslim mob does not get to them first and burn them alive, as happened to a Christian couple last year, and as was recently attempted against a mentally disabled Christian man.
According to Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association:
Asia Bibi is by no means the only Christian on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan. There are a number of others, and there are also other Christians who are in there for crimes they did not commit, and are in effect in there because they are Christians.
People have to contact leaders of their nations and ask them to engage on dialogue with the Pakistani government for humanitarian rights alone renew the primary place of human rights when they engage in dialogue with foreign governments which habitually violate them. We see what happens when someone tries to challenge the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, it got two key politicians killed.
In a country with such animosity against Christians, I don’t believe a Supreme Court judge will be brave enough to exonerate her.
report from 2012 found that “Since 1990 alone, fifty-two people have been extra-judicially murdered on charges of blasphemy” in Pakistan.

130 Christians face Pakistani blasphemy charges

The priest who directs the Dominican order’s peace centre in Lahore said that 130 Christians are now facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan.
“According to my estimate, there are 130 Christians whose trials are proceeding,” Fr James Channan told Aid to the Church in Need. “But people will be surprised to learn that there are about 950 Muslims currently held under the law. But there is a big difference between accusations of Muslims and Christians: if one Muslim is accused, just one Muslim is accused,” he continued. 
“But in the case of a Christian being accused, an entire community, an entire neighbourhood is accused. And in several cases the entire Christian village or a Christian neighbourhood has been burned to ashes.”
- See more at:


According to the Shiite News correspondent, a Shia man Abid Hussain was martyr by Saudi funded banned outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) terrorists in Parachinar.
The terrorist target Abid Hussain in Parachinar area near the village Baghdi and he was martyred on the spot.

Pakistan - The Drive Against Polio

The recent declaration, that no new cases of polio have come up in Nigeria in the last one-year, should put pressure on Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate polio. Afghanistan and Pakistan now remain the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. One could argue that every country has its own set of issues and hence Nigeria cannot be compared to Pakistan, yet when 197 countries in the world are polio free, it is quite humiliating to be the only country that has failed.

Much of the effort that goes into the eradication of polio is dependable on external factors like militancy and illiteracy. Boko Haram, the hardcore militant group in Nigeria, has been targeting polio workers and earlier this year they killed nine polio workers. However, the anti-polio battle had enough commitment to make a real change.

Over twelve high-risk polio districts have been identified across Pakistan and will be under special focus during the low-transmission season starting September. The disease is somewhat isolated to these pockets mostly in FATA, Khyber and Quetta. The government has a good chance in eliminating the disease once and for all by targeting high-risk areas, no matter that the opposition. We must remember that apart from militancy, most the responsibility is on the parent, to demand from the state and society that their children are safe from disease.

Under the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication (2015-16), the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) is strengthening cooperation between national, provincial and district level authorities, and collecting scientific data at the grassroots level to identify vulnerable segments and direct their focus on these areas. Polio cases identified in the first quarter of this year have already fallen to one quarter of what they were last year. Maybe next year, Pakistan too can be free from polio.

Pakistan - ANP on top in LG re-polling in Charsada

The local government re-polling was peacefully held here at 15 Union Councils of the district amid tight security measures.

According to unofficial results, the ANP stood at top by securing 17 seats out of a total of 49. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Qaumi Wattan party secured 11 seats each while JUI-F won seven seats and the Jamaat-e-Islami got three seats.

A total 189 polling booths were set up including 128 for females and 61 for males.

Pakistan’s population to exceed 300 million by 2050: UN report

A United Nations report says Pakistan is among six of the 10 largest countries in the world whose population is projected to exceed 300 million by 2050.
Key findings of the ‘World Population Prospects 2015’ released by the UN on Wednesday listed China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the United States the other five countries to have 300 million population by 2050. Pakistan’s current population has been estimated to be around 190 million. By the year 2030, the population would be 244 million, and by 2100 Pakistan’s population could be 364 million, according to the revised projections made in the report.
Among the 10 largest countries, five are in Asia and Pakistan is among them. Other countries are Bangladesh, China, India and Indonesia.
During 2015-2050, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, US, Indonesia and Uganda.
Within seven years, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China. Currently, China’s population is approximately 1.38 billion compared with 1.31 billion of India.
World population continues to grow though more slowly than in the recent past. Ten years ago, it was growing by 1.24 per cent per year. Today, it is growing by 1.18 per cent per year or approximately an additional 83 million people annually.

Are India and Pakistan Sliding toward War?

"Increasing violence along the Line of Control and near the India-Pakistan border is a clear and concerning marker of the deterioration of India-Pakistan relations on a broader scale..."

The ceasefire agreement reached between India and Pakistan in November 2003 is now unrecognizable, with firing growing steadily since late 2012. Monday’s attack on a police station in the Punjabi town of Gurdaspur, signals a new uptick in violence. The Pakistani press has blamed Kashmiri extremists for the attack, but this could well be the work of a group like the Lashkar e-Taiba. Diplomatic overtures between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif have been high on visuals, low on substance, and limited to multilateral settings. Conditions are ripe for a crisis in this strained environment, even more so if a terrorist attack on Indian soil—such as Monday’s—is traced back to extremist groups supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). These rising tensions make crisis management more difficult and increase the risk of a conflict with nuclear dimensions.
Prime Minister Modi’s government has warned Pakistan that it would respond severely to provocations—whether along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir or elsewhere. During the election campaign, Modi took a hard line on Pakistan, criticizing the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s “weak stand.” In May 2015, government officials were forced to downplay Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s comments on neutralizing “terrorists with terrorists only.” Regarding the Line of Control, in October 2014, then-Defence Minister Arun Jaitley threatened to inflict “unaffordable” costs on Pakistan. In December 2014, Parrikar said that if attacked, Indian forces would “react with double the force.” These deterrent threats—to respond manifold to violence—have failed to diminish violence.
Line of Control ceasefire violations were reported on 21 percent of days in 2013. Violence reached its highest levels since the 2001-2002 “Twin Peaks” crisis sparked by the December 2001 attack by Pakistani-based extremists on the Indian Parliament. This attack, accompanied by heavy firing along the Line of Control, nearly led to war. Almost one million soldiers mobilized. Violence in 2014 and 2015 has remained high, with ceasefire violations reported on 20 percent of days in 2014, and 23 percent of days in the first three months of 2015. By way of comparison, ceasefire violations along the Line of Control were reported on only ten percent of days in 2012.  
In this strained environment, Monday’s attack is especially concerning. India and Pakistan have been unable to establish effective diplomatic channels to address outstanding issues. These channels are used only sporadically and in multilateral settings. Efforts to improve trade relations and visa liberalization are proceeding slowly, and there is no forward movement on confidence-building and nuclear risk reduction measures.   
Violence migrating from along the Line of Control in Kashmir into Punjab not only poses a barrier to improved ties, but also makes crisis management more difficult and the risks of escalation greater. Terrorist attacks on Indian soil by Pakistan-based extremists sparked two recent crises: in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks, and the 2001-2002 “Twin Peaks” crisis. It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Modi will show the restraint of his predecessors.
Recent events highlight nuclear risks associated with any India-Pakistan crisis and the wisdom of exerting greater effort to improve bilateral relations. The Line of Control is the only place on Earth where two nuclear-armed rivals regularly exchange fire. Nuclear dangers are reduced when the Line of Control is quiet; they are more worrisome when Indian and Pakistani troops exchange heavy fire.
Increasing violence along the Line of Control and near the India-Pakistan border is a clear and concerning marker of the deterioration of India-Pakistan relations on a broader scale, and makes substantive diplomatic progress between India and Pakistan less likely. Conditions are ripe for a crisis, and violence along the Line of Control will complicate crisis management. The ceasefire put into effect after the 2001-2002 “Twin Peaks” crisis has deteriorated badly. One way for India and Pakistan to stabilize relations would be to reestablish a ceasefire. India and Pakistan have not agreed to new confidence-building measures since 2007. Quieting the Line of Control would be a good place to start.  

PPP leaders called on Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari #PPPHelpingFloodAffected

 Central leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, former Coordinator to the then President Asif Ali Zardari Chuadhry Naveed and Ex: PPP MNA from Faisalabad Tariq Bajwa called on Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari separately at Bilawal House today.
The PPP leaders from Punjab discussed over all current political situation of country, the outcome of Judicial Commission report and the reaction from different political parties on the report.
They also apprised the Party Chairman about the Party structure in the Punjab and dispelled the impression that Party workers are disappointed.
PPP leaders also gave message of the workers to Chairman that they are looking towards him as a great hope and the PPP workers will be re-energized when Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrives in Punjab.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PPP has faced worst situations in the dictatorial rules of martial laws and all the loyal workers stood by the Party.
He further said that Workers are backbone of the Party are and their sacrifices shall always be respected. “PPP workers should keep in mind that Bhuttoism is our ideology and we will continue struggle for our ideology to restore rights of the downtrodden” he stated.
He asked the leaders to keep contact with the workers and people at grass-root level and spread the Party message door-to-door.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Israeli Music Video - Elad.b - Set Dance Israeli - סט דאנס ישראלי

Well That’s Embarrassing: Israel May Be Indirectly Giving Weapons to Iran

Israel has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, citing fears of an attack. But Tel Aviv may be inadvertently supplying Tehran with its own military technology, thanks to a deal between Tehran and the Chinese government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, seeing his nation as a prime target should its nemesis use the lifting of sanctions to develop nuclear weapons.
"They’re going to get hundreds of billions of dollars to fuel their terror and military machine," he told NBC News earlier this month.

Most other nations of the world agree that Iran poses no threat, and is only interested in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But even if Netanyahu is correct, he appears to be contributing to the very threat he’s warned against.
According to Israeli military website Debka File, Iran is finalizing a deal with the Chinese government for the purchase of 150 Chengdu J-10 "Vigorous Dragon" fighter jets. That plane comes in both single-seat and two-seat versions, is ideal for both ground assaults and electronic warfare, and is evidently identical to the Lavi fighter designed by Israeli aerospace companies.
Unveiled by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2006, many military experts immediately noticed its resemblance to the Lavi, a jet developed jointly by Israel and the United States in the 1980s, but which never saw production.
How did the Chinese government end up with the blueprints? Israel allegedly sold them the plans directly.
"…After Israel discontinued the largely US-funded project, it sold China the plans for the Lavi and the associated secret US technology," military affairs writer Tim Kennedy wrote for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in 1996.
That decision, naturally, upset officials in Washington, angered that the US had now inadvertently aided the Chinese military.

Of course, now that those planes are going to find their way into the hands of Iran, everything seems to have come full circle.
Tehran is also reportedly weighing purchasing options from other nations. It may buy 250 Sukhoi-Su-30 "Flanker H" fighter jets from Moscow. This followed a purchase earlier this month of 100 Midas in-flight refueling planes from Russia.
But as far we know, Israel didn’t have anything to do with those.

Read more:

Commentary: What’s Behind Saudi Arabia’s Connection to IS?

By Ben Rich 

Many claim that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Islamic State (IS) is one of patron and client. IS, they argue, is a pawn of the Saudi regime, used to check the “rising” Shiite power of Iran in the Middle East.
This allegation typically presents certain shared principles between the official Saudi interpretation of Islam and the doctrine motivating IS as damning evidence of complicity between the two.
Although there is a certain truth to this, it assumes a wilful agency on Saudi Arabia’s part that simply isn’t there. Saudi citizens supporting IS’s activities in Iraq and Syria are not the result of a coherent plan directed by the kingdom’s rulers, but the overflow of a long-standing system used to maintain its domestic legitimacy.
Evolution of state control
The Saudi state has relied on the ultra-conservative Wahhabi movement since both emerged in the mid-18th century.
Wahhabism was built on the desire to stamp out religious innovation and restore the “proper” Islam. Its initial power rested on two sources – the common distaste among the inhabitants of Central Arabia for such innovation and preacher Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab’s ability to channel this grievance into a populist doctrine.
The call produced something never encountered before in the region: a proper mass movement.
The Saudis, a small clan of oasis nobility, formed a symbiotic relationship with Wahhab. It lent him military support in return for the movement’s resources and legitimacy. Wahhab agreed to defer all matters of state and politics, restricting clerical activities to administering the social and metaphysical spheres.
As “guardians” of Islam, the Saudis were able to differentiate themselves from their local competitors. Revivalism attached a mass appeal to their mission of conquest in an environment typified by disparate local identities and “petty sheikhs.” The resultant state came to be viewed as key to safeguarding the Wahhabi community, a central factor in its expansion over much of the Arabian Peninsula by the late 19th century.
Realising the importance of the ongoing ideological support of its subjects, the Saudi regime sought to instil Wahhabism throughout conquered territories. The primary motivation for Saudi leaders was political. By instilling the revivalist identity into greater numbers of its subjects, the state was creating demand for its own rule.
Key to this effort was the securitisation of heterodox sects, such as the Shiites. These “others” were presented as a threat to the community’s metaphysical integrity due to their inauthentic practices, which were not encountered during Islam’s early period. The logic dictated that their existence necessitated a higher authority to moderate society and ensure the correct Islamic form was maintained.
This is hardly a novel concept. States commonly construct threats of external war and terror in order to gain domestic power. A by-product of such activities has often been the rise of destructive exclusivist nationalism and xenophobia.
Where the Saudi state remains novel is in its use of a purely metaphysical threat, the extent that it has relied on this to maintain its position, and the longevity of the effort itself.
Glitches in the system
The state’s arms have commonly been employed to ensure this status quo. Saudi Arabia’s education system has been criticized for promoting a radicalizing, sectarian narrative that encourages violence against those outside the sanctioned community.
But while Saudi Arabia has carefully crafted an image as Islam’s protector, it nevertheless has aimed to keep policymaking pragmatic, not ideological. Decisions of economic and foreign policy have tended to be dominated by technocrats, not clerics. In this, religion is often invoked, but generally when it is instrumental to a wider political goal.
Ironically, for Saudis this arrangement has meant that the state has been a prominent promoter of the “innovation” so detested in classical revivalist thought.
This tension has occasionally produced outbreaks of violence. The 1927 Ikhwan revolt was sparked in part by King Abd al-Aziz’s refusal to exterminate the Shiites of Al-Hasa and his diplomatic relations with external “infidel” powers.
Similarly, the 1979 Siege of Mecca was a rejection of the previous two decades of radical modernization initiated by King Faisal. The 2003 attacks by Al-Qaeda inside Saudi Arabia were partially motivated by its accommodation of “infidels.”
Historically, this blowback has been largely domestic. Only since the 1990s have these types of unintended outcomes been felt internationally.
This shift can be attributed to several factors. The most prominent among them was Saudi Arabia’s tacit support for participation in the Afghanistan wars of the 1980s.
The primary motivation for this was not one of ideology, but political pragmatism. Saudi Arabia was experiencing an economic downturn in which household incomes fell by more than half and unemployment skyrocketed. At the same time the regime was struggling with a rising Islamist current in the wake of the Iranian revolution, which was increasingly calling into question its legitimacy to rule.
With a large number of disenfranchised young men at home, a rival power walking into a geopolitical beartrap and a need to appear to the Muslim community to be increasingly activist, the decision was aimed at killing three birds with one stone. Thanks to its strong influence over domestic Islamic identity, it took little encouragement to mobilize thousands of young Saudis into a conflict with a new infidel threat. Although Saudi Arabia began actively discouraging such behavior after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the genie had been let out of the bottle.
Saudis continued to flock to “pan-Islamic” conflicts throughout the 1990s and the 2000s – in Kosovo, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Iraq and, most recently, Syria. They gravitated towards religiously hard-line groups, whose ideologies meshed well with the sectarian narrative of their upbringing.
Treating the symptom, not the wound
While Saudi Arabia has made several attempts to stem the flow of fighters and finances to groups like IS, it has been careful not to appear overly oppressive for fear of antagonizing its own constituents. It may decry such groups, but it continues to promote a system that inadvertently supports them.
Revivalist scholars claim that Saudi Arabia’s doctrine is intrinsically opposed to the IS worldview. They cite esoteric textual minutiae to support such assertions. But such arguments miss a wider point: the issues at play are far less about literary nuance than the wider emotional, psychological and sociological themes that Saudi Arabia promotes in its populace.
Such structures created a demand for sectarian confrontation in some people that cannot be met by the state and which drives them towards radical action. Until such deeper issues are dealt with, other responses will merely be token.
Unfortunately, the domestic efficacy of Saudi Arabia’s control means that it is unlikely to be reformed any time soon. The state’s manipulation of its population’s sectarianism during the Arab Spring, for example, was key to its effective management of the 2011 crisis.
Within this wider context, the ruling elite see the extremist habits of a small number of Saudis as an unfortunate yet tolerable side-effect of a system that has allowed them to remain in power for nearly 300 years.
This certainly does not diminish the Saudi state’s culpability. But it does pose the question: how does one change an entire system of popular governance that inadvertently produces such outcomes and appears structurally incapable of preventing them?

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Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is launching a five-nation tour of the Middle East and South Asia on Friday in a bid to strengthen economic and security ties and ease concerns about the Iran nuclear deal.
Kerry will begin his trip in Cairo, where he and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will co-host a strategic dialogue, focusing on a broad range of issues.
“The real challenge for Secretary Kerry in his meetings in Egypt is how to discuss the regional picture — the regional fight against terrorism and the domestic situation in Egypt — and how the two fit together,” said Michele Dunne, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Warplanes to Egypt
Ahead of the trip, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo announced the U.S was delivering eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as part of “ongoing” support to Egypt and the region.
“The F-16s provide a valuable capability that is needed during these times of regional instability,” said Major General Charles Hooper, a senior U.S. Embassy defense official.
In March, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. was lifting a hold on U.S. military aid to Egypt that was put in place following the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
The U.S. provides Egypt with about $1.3 billion in annual military assistance.
Despite the resumption of aid, U.S. officials have continued to voice concerns about Egypt’s repression of Morsi supporters.
GCC concerns
In Qatar, Kerry will meet with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, a group that has raised concerns that the Iran nuclear deal could be destabilizing to the region.
Some Gulf ministers fear that the sanctions relief for Iran, which would result from the country’s compliance with the deal, could empower Tehran to widen its influence in the region and broaden its support of militant groups.
Earlier this week, Kerry defended the Iran nuclear deal.
“I understand the fear,” said Kerry in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “But we believe what we have laid out here is a way of making Israel and the region, in fact, safer.”
It is uncertain whether Kerry will be able to allay Gulf allies' nuclear concerns about Iran, said Daniel Serwer, a Middle East Institute scholar and professor at Johns Hopkins University.
“It seems to me if I lived in the Gulf, I would feel a lot more comfortable with Iran backed off from nuclear weapons and not being able to pursue them for 10 or 15 years than I would without a deal,” he said.
Kerry, Lavrov in Doha
While in Doha, Kerry will also meet with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. They will discuss security issues, including efforts to combat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
State Department officials said they would also discuss the situation in Ukraine, where the government has been battling Russian-backed separatists.
On Thursday, the U.S. imposed more sanctions on individuals and entities in connection with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
A U.S. Treasury Department official, acting Foreign Assets Control Director John Smith, said the action underscored U.S. resolve to “maintain pressure on Russia for violating international law and fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the action was a way to strengthen existing sanctions so that they would continue to have “maximum impact.”
Ties in South Asia
From Qatar, Kerry will travel to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The three Southeast Asian nations are among the 12 countries involved in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that would cut tariffs and trade barriers among participants.
In Kuala Lumpur, Kerry will also attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum.

In both Singapore and Vietnam, he will discuss bilateral and regional issues. While in Hanoi, Kerry will also take part in an event marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic ties.

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Afghanistan: Still the King of Opium


Afghanistan remains awash in opium, despite $8.2 billion in American taxpayer dollars spent since 2002 to curb its rampant drug production and trade, a U.S. reconstruction watchdog concluded Thursday.
The country’s own drug use rates remain among the highest in the world, according to a new quarterly report by the congressionally mandated Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

A 2014 World Drug Report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime confirmed Afghanistan again leads the world in opium production and for the third consecutive year saw more land being used for poppy farming — a record 520,000 acres — despite U.S. efforts.

But it looks like the U.S. military has had about enough. With 9,800 American troops focused on training Afghan forces and running counterterrorism missions before withdrawing in December 2016, SIGAR reported that the Defense Department will use $2.8 billion earmarked for counternarcotics activities this year to pay for other needs.

In all, Congress has appropriated $109 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction since 2002.

For years, American military and policy leaders favored an aggressive approach to poppy eradication. That fostered resentment among local farmers and put money in the pockets of warlords, who then were contracted to do the work. But as part of the war’s more recent counterinsurgency missions, more of an effort was made to introduce alternative crops, which also failed.

And Afghan opium continues to flood drug markets, including 90 percent of Canada’s supply and 85 percent of the worldwide market, according to the SIGAR report. Yet hardly any Afghan heroin makes its way to the United States, despite the growing appetite for the drug. Overall, the U.N. found that Afghan heroin accounted for only 4 percent of drugs sold in the United States.

In Afghanistan itself, a full 11 percent of the population tested positive for one or more drugs, according to the U.N.’s survey. To put that into context, the global average is about 5.2 percent.

Mullah Omar death: Why is Pakistan silent?

By M Ilyas Khan
The Taliban have confirmed that their leader Mullah Omar is dead, and are thought to have appointed Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the movement's official head.
But there has been an eerie silence in Pakistani quarters in the 24 hours since the Afghan government announced that Mullah Omar died in a Pakistani hospital in April 2013.
This was despite reports that the top leadership council of the Taliban had been meeting in the Pakistani city of Quetta to choose the successor.
Pakistan's state television has ignored the news for the most part since it first broke.
The private media mostly followed the BBC line, and held debates in which the usual ex-military analysts, while refraining from confirming or denying the death, focused on the timing of the leak, saying it was meant to defame Pakistan and undermine Taliban-Kabul talks, which Pakistan had been set to host.
Some even suggested the Indians might have forced the hand of the Afghan officials who leaked it to the BBC.
A day after Kabul's announcement, a Pakistani foreign office spokesman said he wouldn't like to comment on "rumours" of Mullah Omar's death.
Few are impressed at Pakistan's stance.

Osama Bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan even though for years Pakistan denied he was present on its soil.
Now Afghan intelligence officials have gone ahead with the claim that Mullah Omar died in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.
While there may never be official Pakistani confirmation of this, few doubt claims that he lived most of his post-9/11 life in southern Pakistan.
The reason lies in the origin of the Taliban movement, and its symbiotic relationship with Pakistan.
The movement was originally confined to some parts of Kandahar province, and was mainly a localised reaction to extortion and moral crimes by local warlords.
But it gained strength in the later part of 1994 when Pakistanis dressed as madrassah students descended on the border town of Spin Boldak, busted a huge arms cache of a former mujahideen group, and then rolled up the Kandahar highway to free a Pakistani trade convoy to central Asia which had been held hostage by local warlords.
Subsequent years saw former mujahideen fighters joining the Taliban movement in their hundreds in a blitzkrieg in which the southern cities fell to the Taliban one after the other.
Security analysts in Pakistan and the US have long held that Pakistan provided the Taliban with logistics and tactical leadership to capture such important regional centres as Herat in the west, Jalalabad in the east and finally Kabul in 1996.
Post-9/11, when the US-led coalition dislodged the Taliban regime, Pakistan allowed the fleeing militants to carve a sanctuary on its soil in the border town of Wana in South Waziristan tribal district.
This sanctuary later expanded to an entire north-western belt along the Afghan border, called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
This played a major role in the Taliban's ability to survive, and finally take the battle to the US-led coalition troops inside Afghanistan.
All this while, and despite Pakistan's denials, it was common knowledge the entire Taliban leadership set up bases in Quetta and Peshawar, and later in Karachi, from where they guided operations inside Afghanistan.
After the end of Nato's mission in Afghanistan last year, Pakistan moved to clear these sanctuaries of unwanted groups that the Taliban-al-Qaeda militant network had spawned over a decade.
In recent months, it has also reverted to securing peace in Afghanistan, without which it cannot successfully implement a major economic corridor the Chinese are building across the length of the country to connect China with the Arabian Sea.
But Pakistan's need to keep Indian influence out of Afghanistan continues to cause suspicions among some sections of Afghan ruling circles, who believe Pakistan will manipulate peace talks to achieve its own objectives at the cost of Afghan interests.
Many believe the Pakistanis would have kept Mullah Omar's death a secret in order to prevent rifts within Taliban.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials believe that the Afghan intelligence service, the NDS, has been leaking news of the Taliban's engagement with Kabul to embarrass the Taliban leadership and to encourage defections from their ranks.
They feel by confirming the news of Mullah Omar's death on Wednesday, the NDS pushed President Ashraf Ghani, who was opposed to making the news public, into a corner.
Whether this move by the NDS will achieve peace in Afghanistan is a question only time will answer, but many believe that the Taliban movement will no longer be the monolithic force it remained until about three years ago.
And the NDS will also now be able to sell their long-held view to domestic and international audiences that the Taliban leadership is but a lackey of Pakistan.

Violence erupts as LeJ chief Terrorist Malik Ishaq is buried

Angry protests flared into violence at the funeral for chief of the banned Sunni terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Maliq Ishaq, officials said Thursday, as at least two people were killed in an apparent reprisal attack on a police checkpost.
Malik Ishaq, behind numerous bloody attacks on Shia Muslims, was killed in a shootout with police in the early hours of Wednesday, along with 13 fellow militants.
Police said violence broke out in Ishaq’s hometown of Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab when the bodies arrived for burial late on Wednesday evening.
“Protesters tried to damage a Shia mosque and private properties and attacked police with stones,” district police officer Tariq Mastoi told AFP. Mastoi said police flooded the streets with around 5,000 officers and brought the disturbances under control.
Hours later, a group of around 10 militants attacked a police post in Gujrat, sparking a gun battle that left two attackers dead and two policemen seriously wounded.
Malik Mansoor, a senior police official in Gujrat, said LeJ members armed with guns and hand grenades attacked the post apparently to avenge the killing of Ishaq and other senior commanders.
“One of the killed militants has been identified as Muhammad Mumtaz, who is a long-time activist of LeJ and was wanted in several cases of targeted killings,” he said.
Wednesday’s shootout appears to have wiped out much of the top leadership of LeJ, a driving force in a rising tide of violence targeting Shias.
Under Ishaq’s leadership, LeJ claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest attacks on Shias in Pakistan’s recent history, including two suicide bombings in Quetta in early 2013 that killed more than 180 people.
Ishaq, who had been in and out of police custody in recent years, was arrested on Saturday and was being moved when loyalists attacked the convoy in Muzaffargarh. Those killed with him reportedly included Ghulam Rasool Shah, a hardline LeJ chief who acted as the group’s leader when Ishaq was behind bars.
Wednesday’s killings were the latest blow to militancy in Pakistan, where in the past year authorities have cracked down hard on the myriad insurgent groups that have plagued the country for a decade.
The offensive intensified after Taliban gunmen slaughtered more than 130 children at the Army Public School in December.

Bilawal Bhutto directs MPAs to visit their areas and review flood situation

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed regrets over flood devastation in Sindh and directed MPAs to visit their areas and review flood situation.
According to details, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed regrets over flood devastation in Sindh and directed MPAs to visit their areas and review flood situation. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that strict action will be taken if MPAs were found neglecting their responsibilities.

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A dreadful wakeup call for Turkey

The attack in Suruç is a dreadful wakeup call for Turkey. It’s a shame that this call comes at the expense of so many lives, most of them young people - 24 of which were university students. Looking at the picture of these idealistic young girls and boys, who only wanted to take aid and friendship to Kobane and comparing them to the pictures of rabid militants from radical Islamic groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one has to be totally blind not to see who provides hope and promise for a modern Turkey that is respected internationally.

It boggles the mind therefore to think that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government could have in anyway, directly or indirectly, given passage to or turned a blind eye to the activities of groups like ISIL or al-Nusra in the hope that they would expedite the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria. This is not the sort of thing responsible governments do.

The U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia aided the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s, in a bid to undermine the Soviet Union, and succeeded to an extent, but just look at what they ultimately spawned for themselves. There are tomes that have been written about this. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and 9/11 are all the products of that era. Daily Cumhuriyet’s headline commentary on the Suruç attack on July 21 carried a very apt title when it quoted a Turkish saying: “Feed the crow so it can turn around and poke your eye out.” 

It is equally mind boggling that the AKP, with help from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, should have provided grist to the mill, which claims that the Syrian Kurds are somehow more dangerous for Turkey than ISIL. The time has come for the AKP to not only act more decisively together with Turkey’s allies against real and immediate threats to the country, but also to stop politicking in thinly veiled bid to promote its Islamist ideological worldview.

Religion has to be sent back to the private domain where it belongs. In other words, it is time for Turkey to return to its secular mode of governance for the sake of the country as a whole, rather than trying to promote an agenda which less than half the population supports. Erdoğan himself told the Egyptian satellite channel Dream TV in 2010 that secularism is not irreligion. 

“Secularism is definitely not atheism. I recommend a secular constitution for Egypt,” he said, after the country’s dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled.  “I, as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, am a Muslim and not secular. But I am the prime minister of a secular country. In a secular country, people have the freedom to be religious or not,” he said (For the original Turkish story:

Wise words but he did not stand behind them. He went on to say that he wanted to see a religious youth emerge in Turkey. Well, it is clear that a portion of the Islamic youth he desires to see in this country is not just religious but also deeply vengeful, carrying no respect for human life. 

Turkey was always a predominantly conservative and religious country – not unlike the U.S. - even when it adopted a secular form of government. This is why such remarks from Erdoğan always made people think that he was after more than he was claiming.  But using politics to impose religious values on society as a whole has not brought any advantages to Turkey, which is a heterogeneous country when it comes to creeds. 

The June 7 elections have given the AKP a chance to change tack and work for the better of the country as a whole. A grand coalition with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is a historic opportunity in this respect that should not be wasted for the sake of promoting the religious worldview. Suruç should act as a wakeup call in this respect. It remains to be seen if the AKP will use this opportunity or squander it.