Saturday, January 24, 2015

Music Video - Iggy Azalea - Fancy

Music Video - Katy Perry - This Is How We Do

Video - Anti-fascists clash with police during rally in Cremona, Italy

Video Report - Putin blames Kiev for fighting, civilian deaths

New law to further tighten Turkey’s internet controls

The Turkish government has reportedly added a last-minute amendment to an omnibus law that will be discussed in Parliament next week, proposing further tightening of the country's Internet controls.  
The amendment added by the government,  which has increasingly relied on omnibus laws -- called tote-bag laws in Turkish -- to make amendments to major regulations and laws with little or no discussion on the changes, proposes authorities to block access to websites over “dangerous content,” the Hürriyet daily reported on Saturday.
According to Hürriyet, the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) will be able to block access to a website upon the request of the prime ministry or any other ministry if it is not possible to block some certain content on that website.
The proposed amendment suggests these actions when “national security public order are under threat,” Hürriyet said.
Turkey has already tight controls of the Internet with expanded powers given to the telecoms authority late last year. TİB which is headed by a former intelligence official has the authority to block sites if deemed necessary for matters of "national security, the restoration of public order and the prevention of crimes."
Also in February of last year, TİB was authorized to block websites which violate individuals' privacy without seeking permission from a court. The measures also force Internet providers to keep records of users' activity for up to two years and make these available to the authorities upon request.
US-based rights watchdog Freedom House said in December that Internet freedom in Turkey experienced the sharpest decline in five years among 65 countries.
“Turkey declined 13 points as the government increased censorship, granted state agencies broad powers to block content, and charged more people for online expression,” the report said based on tracking results since 2009.

37-month prison sentence possible for Turkish teen over Erdoğan insult

A 16-year-old boy, who was detained on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, may receive a 37-month prison sentence, his lawyer has announced.

The teenager, identified only by his initials M.E.A, was taken away from his school in the Central Anatolian province of Konya last month and remained under custody for two days, in a move that many saw as an attempt to intimidate the opposition in Turkey. 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had expressed his support for the detention, saying, “Everyone should show respect to the office of the president, whoever they are." Turkey's Justice Ministry, then, gave the required approval for the trial of the minor to go ahead this month.

"Now the court will decide for how many months my client will be jailed. If it does not apply any reductions, he can be jailed for some 37 months," said Barış İspir, a lawyer for M.E.A., according to a Doğan News Agency story published on Jan. 24.

The trial will start at the 3rd Children's Court in Konya on March 6.

"I went to school after I was released from prison," M.E.A said, adding that his teachers took a close interest in the issue and he did not face any difficulties. "I am happy to get my school report. I am now thinking of my studies, not the trial," he added.

M.E.A, who is a member of an online group called Democrat High School Students, had given a speech slamming Erdoğan and the government during a meeting organized on Dec. 23, 2014, to commemorate Lieutenant Mustafa Fehmi Kubilay, who was killed by a pro-sharia group in 1930 in the Aegean town of Menemen. 

Turkey's outgoing top boss highlights need for secularism

Turkey must embrace the republic’s principle of secularism in order to progress economically as well as socially and politically, Haluk Dinçer, the outgoing head of the country’s top business organization TÜSİAD, has said, speaking at a meeting where his presidential term ends.

“Turkey has understood the importance of the separation of religious and political affairs from each other, of freedom of religion and conscience, and of not imposing the lifestyle of certain social groups upon any others … Politics is not interested in people’s private lives and moral worlds. We need to embrace the principles of equal citizenship and secularism with our whole heart,” Dinçer said at TÜSİAD’s 45th General Assembly Meeting, during which the group’s new head will be elected.

“I need to emphasize Turkey’s rich republican experience. Some people do not examine this experience as they do not want to understand the importance of this unique experience in world and Islamic history. But the Ottoman Empire showed a willingness to end its deep crisis through a comprehensive reform program around 200 years ago. It is now meaningless to want to return back to the years before, when the empire was not able to foster an industrial revolution, or a transition to the modern state system and a society of democratic citizenship,” he added.

The departing Dinçer also said TÜSİAD plans to meet Turkey’s main political parties in order to share the reform priorities of the business world in the coming weeks.

The relationship between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and TÜSİAD has long been thorny. Erdoğan, the former prime minister, has repeatedly urged TÜSİAD “to mind its own business” after its leaders criticized the government on issues related to democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Dinçer said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) started its journey with a comprehensive road map that included a series of development plans and macroeconomic reforms, but the country was still waiting to see “when these structural transformation programs will be realized.”

He warned that Turkey was “on the brink of a middle-income trap” as crucial reform initiatives have not been completed, urging the return of the AKP’s early reformist zeal.

TÜSİAD’s meetings with the representatives of political parties in order to make suggestions and share assessments together will take place in the months leading up to the June parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, TÜSİAD is expected to elect Cansen Başaran Symes, the only candidate, as its new president at the current General Assembly Meeting. Başaran Symes will be the third female president of the organization, after Doğan TV Holding Chairwoman Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ and Ümit Boyner, a board member of Boyner Holding.

Published 22 January 2015

Video Report - Yazidi women: Slaves of the Caliphate

President Barack Obama condemns ISIL killing of Japanese citizen


President Barack Obama on Saturday condemned the “brutal murder” of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

A video released Tuesday revealed the terror group based in Syria and Iraq kidnapped Yukawa and another Japanese citizen, Kenji Goto, and were threatening to behead them within 72 hours if they didn’t receive a $200 million ransom.

Another video released Saturday by alleged ISIL militants, and deleted soon after, showed that Yukawa had been killed.

“Our condolences today are with the people of Japan for their terrible loss,” the White House statement said. “We renew our call for the immediate release of Kenji Goto and all other remaining hostages. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Japan and applaud its commitment to peace and development in a region far from its shores.”

Earlier Saturday, the National Security Council released a statement saying that the intelligence community was working to confirm the authenticity of the latest video.

Saturday evening, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel released a statement calling for the remaining hostage to be released.

“ISIL’s inhumanity stands in sharp contrast to the generous humanitarian aid Japan has provided to the Iraqi and Syrian people in recent months, and their continued barbarism only serves to strengthen our global coalition’s shared resolve to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Hagel said.

Yukawa was a “42-year-old adventurer fascinated by war” and Goto is a 47-year-old freelance journalist, according to the Associated Press. Japanese officials are still trying to secure the release of Goto.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the murder “outrageous and unforgivable,” the AP reported.

ISIL has previously released videos claiming responsibility for, and in some cases showing, the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig and Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Middle-Class Economics

Pashto Music Video - Malanag De Yam Da Meni

Red tape and skills gap threaten hope of record growth for India

This weekend, with President Barack Obama making his second visit to the Indian capital, many international eyes are on the Indian economy which, after having flagged for several years, is showing significant signs of renewed vitality.
A decade ago, India was frequently bracketed with China as one of the Bric economies – rising global powers whose young population and sheer size gave them huge potential. But while China has romped ahead, growing at double-digit rates, India, the world’s largest democracy, has sometimes struggled to live up to those hopes.
In 2014, India’s economy grew by only 5.8%, against China’s 7.4%, according to forecasts published by the IMF, and by 5% compared with 7.8% for China in 2013.
“That’s a reasonable assessment. China has hit a demographic trap. But India’s working population is increasing all the time, producing, saving and consuming,” said Mohan Guruswamy, a Delhi-based economist and analyst.
Some observers are more conservative in their assessment, but few doubt the dramatic change in atmosphere attributable to the landslide victory of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party in last year’s election, and the appointment of respected economist Raghuram Rajan as governor of the Reserve Bank of India.
Rajan surprised financial markets by cutting interest rates earlier this month, as the falling cost of oil dampened the risks of inflation. Modi, who was elected on a pro-development platform, has promised to push through some of the major reforms long called for by financial institutions and foreign investors, cutting red tape, slashing subsidies and easing the path for overseas firms. Though some are growing impatient at the delay in big-ticket measures, the difference to the sense of drift of the later years of the last administration – led by the centre-left Congress party – is marked. Low oil prices have also given India’s public finances a big boost.
However, the IMF warned that the prospects for a pick-up in growth could be threatened by “any slackening in the reform momentum”.
“I think the reform plans of the new prime minister are promising. We are going to have to see the speed of the implementation,” said Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, deputy director of the IMF’s research department.
“The main challenge for India is creating jobs,” added Guruswamy. “There needs to be rapid industrialisation in India, and that needs reforms of labour laws and land acquisition procedures, among many other things.”
Few doubt, however, the scale of the obstacles that remain. Bureaucracy and red tape, as well as a huge deficit in infrastructure and a severe lack of skilled workers, could all combine to put the brakes on growth. Bad loans are a major issue for India’s banks, and much of the country remains mired in poverty. Ministers admit privately that skill levels are very low.
The government also currently lacks a majority in the upper house of the national assembly, a problem which, thanks to India’s voting system, is unlikely to be resolved until 2017 or later. This makes passing major reforms significantly more difficult.

Major power failure in Pakistan

Pakistan was plunged into darkness after a breakdown of a key power transmission line in southern part of the country early Sunday, another blinding reminder of the country`s crippling energy crisis.
The power failure, one of the worst in the country has experienced, has cause power to be cut in major cities throughout the country including the capital Islamabad.
The blackout began when a 500 kva transmission line carrying electricity from the private sector Hubco Power Plant to the national grid tripped.
The country`s state minister for water and power apologised for inconvenience and said work was under process to restore electricity.
"On the Prime Minister`s directive, we are not to sleep till this problem is resolved," he said in a message on Twitter.
A senior official at the National Grid station in Islamabad said it will take around eight hours to restore electricity to the country.
"Around 80 percent of the country is under the spell of the power breakdown, it will take around eight hours to restore electricity," the official told AFP on conditions of anonymity.
An AFP reporter in the eastern city of Lahore said the airport had also been affected by the power breakdown.
Pakistan`s electricity distribution system is a complex -- and delicate -- web and a major fault at one section often leads to chain reaction and breakdowns of power generation and transmission.
In addition to chronic infrastructure problems, the energy sector is also trapped into a vicious "circular debt" brought on by the dual effect of the government setting low electricity prices and customers failing to pay for it.
State utilities therefore lose money, and cannot pay private power generating companies, which in turn cannot pay the oil and gas suppliers, who cut off the supply.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos to deal with a severe petrol shortage at home.
The fuel crisis began last week when Pakistan State Oil was forced to slash imports because banks refused to extend any more credit to the government-owned company, which supplies 80 percent of the country`s oil.
Solving Pakistan`s energy crisis was a key campaign pledge for Sharif in the run-up to the 2013 general election, and the shortage is heaping fresh pressure on his government.


By Sylvia Mishra
President Barack Obama’s visit to India to attend the Republic Day celebrations is rich in symbolism and has political and diplomatic significance. This is the first time that the President of the United States is the chief guest in India’s Republic Day parade. Obama is also the first American President to visit India twice during his tenure. After a period of drift and unpleasantness, the expectations for the bilateral relationship have rapidly risen since the election of a new government in India last May. Both Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have seized the moment to reinvigourate the bilateral ties. If Modi has put America at the very centre of his dynamic foreign policy strategy, Obama appears eager to work with what is undoubtedly a more vigorous and action-oriented government in Delhi. As Obama told an Indian magazine before his arrival in Delhi the “stars are aligned to finally realise” the long shared vision for a deeper partnership.
The visit is expected to galvanise the bilateral relations, embarking on ‘fast paced engagement’ to elevate Indo-US strategic partnership to the next level. Both the countries have signaled the political will to produce some tangible outcomes from the second summit meeting between the two leaders in less than four months. Four areas – economic, defence, nuclear and climate change are – are likely to see concrete steps forward during Obama’s three-day sojourn in Delhi.

Enhanced economic cooperation

The renewed growth in the US and the launch of long overdue economic reforms in India have set the stage for some significant steps forward in areas relating to economc cooperation, trade and investment. The growing frustration in America about dealing with Indian economic policy making in the second term of the UPA government has given place to hopes about Modi’s promise to significantly improve the ease of doing business in India and create conditions for economic growth and foreign direct investment. Recently, the two countries were successful in negotiating an arrangement to address India’s concerns about food security in the context of multilateral trade negotiations, reviving the stalled World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade facilitation. It is likely that both the countries would also discuss issues surrounding property rights regime thereby, developing a common framework for addressing their long-standing differences on patent protection. As India and US near $100 billion in bilateral trade, there has been sustained discussions on both sides to develop a bilateral investment treaty to simultaneously help provide a framework for American investors. The two countries may also explore the prospects for the negotiation of a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). There are also ongoing talks of finalising a framework to resolve the cases of transfer pricing due to differences between tax authorities of both countries. President Obama is also expected to be meeting and discussing with India-US CEOs during his visit.

Extending scope of defence cooperation

It is expected that both the countries would renew the Framework of Defence Cooperation that was signed in 2005 and is due to expire this year. Media reports have suggested that the new agreement will be bolder than the previous one and bring greater purposefulness to joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, cooperation with third parties, and policy consultations between the civilian leaderships of the two defence establishments. There will be particular emphasis on operationalising the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) by announcing the co production of a number of weapons systems. The DTTI launched under the previous government now dovetails nicely with Modi’s emphasis on “make in India” and the new government’s determination to strengthen India’s domestic defence industrial base by encouraging the participation of domestic private sector and foreign arms companies.
Climate change and clean energy
Both the countries would be exploring opportunities to enhance bilateral partnership on climate change by creating policy frameworks of introducing clean energy, promoting platforms such as CLEAN (Clean Energy Access Network) and phasing downhydroflurocarbons(HFCs). Obama’s India visit is expected to operationalise US-India Partnership for Climate Resilience announced during PM Modi’s visit to the US last September. It is unlikely that India would accede to any US-initiated climate deal similar to US-China bilateral agreement. While China’s industrialisation might have peaked, India’s future depends on further expansion of its power generation. The focus, instead, is likely to be on finding a way to rapidly expand renewable energy production in India and reduce the weight of coal in India’s future energy mix with American assistance and technology transfer.

Making headway to resolve the nuclear logjam

India and the US are expected to engage in discussions that would break the gridlock over India’s nuclear liability law that now prevents American participation in India’s atomic energy programme. Intensive negotiations in the last few weeks have explored ways to work around the stringent provisions of the Indian law that expanded the burdens on suppliers of equipment to India’s nuclear programme. If Washington is focused on liability issues, India wants America to demonstrate greater flexibility on the arrangements for external safeguards on the nuclear programe and strongly support India’s membership of the various non-proliferation regimes including the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Progress on the three fronts would help realise the full promise of the historic civil nuclear initiative that the two governments had unveiled in 2005.
Apart from economic, defence, nuclear and energy issues, both the leaders are also expected to engage in discussions over a gamut of issues ranging from maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, investments in smart cities and industrial hubs, collaboration and partnership in health, higher education and research, solutions to urban issues and cyber security challenges among others.


Notorious takfiri nasbi terrorists of banned Deobandi ASWJ (Sipah-e-Sahaba) ambushed a Shia Muslim in Karachi late on Friday night.

Badar Hashmi was passing through Landhi Cattle Colony (aka Bhains Colony) driving his car when the outlawed ASWJ’s Deobandi takfiri terrorists opened fire upon him.
The targeted firing left Shia Muslim Badar Hashmi critically wounded. He was taken to Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre (aka Jinnah Hospital) for treatment. Relatives have appealed to pray for the early recuperation of the injured Shia Muslim.
Shia leaders and parties have condemned the targeted attack on Shia Muslim in Karachi. They demanded the PPP-led Sindh Government to do something practical to eliminate the terrorists instead of lip-service and empty statement.

Pakistan's Terror Groups - Banned where?

On paper, the bans on Jamaatud Dawa and the Haqqani Network should be effective in cutting off their sources of funding and making it harder for them to operate. Their bank accounts will be frozen and their leaders prevented from travel. But as we have seen in the state’s inability or unwillingness to implement such bans with any degree of seriousness, simply announcing a ban does not guarantee we can curb their activities. On the very day the ban was announced, JuD held a rally in Karachi without being impeded by law-enforcement officials. The group has also vowed to carry on what it calls its charity work since previous Supreme Court verdicts have cleared it of any wrongdoing and Hafiz Saeed has said any ban will be contested before the SC. For JuD to be so openly defiant the day the ban was announced hints at how difficult it will be for the government to move beyond words. The question of JuD and the Haqqani Network has stood at the centre of our confusion over ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants for years with JuD seen by many as a charitable organisation that has raised funds for schools and other activities. This is certainly true -– but it does not mean that the organisation does not also fan extremism. It is widely understood that money is also funnelled towards other activities.

While the Foreign Office has denied that moves on JuD and the Haqqani Netwrok have come as a result of pressure as President Obama visits India, there has certainly been a great deal of pleading from foreign capitals for Islamabad to act more firmly, notably against JuD. Washington is also focused on the Haqqanis based in North Waziristan. Many observers still see it as a possibility that the Haqqani Network may still be used as leverage against the Afghan government now that the US has begun its withdrawal. The operation in North Waziristan and the Peshawar school attack have supposedly changed all that, but only time can tell where all this has led. The US State Department was cautious when asked about the bans, saying it had no information if they had actually taken place. The confusion may stem from the fact that the government has not publicly released a list of banned groups. A suo motu Supreme Court hearing on errors in legal books and journals found that the government had not uploaded any information about banned groups and amendments to anti-terrorism laws on websites, as it is required to do. Whether this is bureaucratic inefficiency or something more sinister needs to be ascertained. One thing is clear. Links with the past and agendas from years gone by need now to be snapped. We must be clear about what is being done against the forces that damage us and our people.

#PeshawarSchoolAttack - Wake Up Calls

The Peshawar attack on Dec. 16th proved to the country that little else can present cause for complete national paralysis as the violent targeting of schools. As parents of school going children battle with their fears every single day, the decision to see their children off each morning has become a matter of complex national debate. From wide-scale arrests to hoax text messages and unverified phone conversations circulating on the media, the parents of Pakistan are now engaging with the problem of extremism in a way they previously did not. There is a powerful connection to their concern, and with the lifting of the iron curtain that separated terrorists events that happened in some remote vacuum in Hangu, now, an event of such tragic scale in an urban power centre in Pakistan has shaken up the elite. In a way this can be seen as an unprincipled realisation.  The TTP has targeted schools for years, albeit in poorer areas especially in KPK, claiming that they follow an un-Islamic, “Western” agenda. Aitzaz Hasan, the school boy in Hangu who gave his life protecting 2,000 school children from a suicide bomber, was unable to shake the concerns of parents across the nation. Reportedly, there were a total of 838 terrorist attacks on schools during 2009-2012, and many proponents of female education have since then been ruthlessly killed. Malala Yousafzai, the nobel peace prize winner from Swat, was herself the target of a terrorist shooting in a school bus. And yet, it was not until the violence came to the urban doorstep, it was not until the violence was suddenly frighteningly relatable, that the power circles of the country stood up to listen. 
As the elite holds its children more dearly close than ever, on Thursday, at Bhatta Chowk Lahore, the Punjab police attacked school children for not vacating the school premises, injuring at least one. And yet, there is almost no news of this incident. If every child’s life- rich or poor- is not taken into careful account, the National Action Plan, or any agenda by this government to root out violence, corruption and extremism will fade into nothingness soon enough.

Punjab police brutality - Beating schoolchildren

Just when we think that the Punjab police cannot sink any lower than the depths of brutality we have witnessed recently, we are proved alarmingly wrong. Countering protesting parents and their children in front of the Government Islamia High School in the Bhati Gate area of Lahore on Thursday with baton charges and high handedness, the deplorable police force has shown, once again, that it is so barbaric that calling the officers animals would indeed be an insult to animals. The parents and schoolchildren were protesting the continuous closure of the school because the studies of all the students were being affected. It was their right to stage a demonstration. The police — the ultimate ‘torchbearer’ of security, law enforcement and service to the citizens — curtailed this right by beating up the protesters, sparing not even the little children present. One child was hurt so badly that he had to go to hospital for stitches.

Islamia High School is a government institution whose running was handed over to an NGO in 2003 for 10 years. That agreement expired in 2013 and new teachers were brought in to replace the old. This was a point of contention for the protesters because, according to them, the old staff was competent and caring. They were not protesting in an objectionable way: holding placards and chanting slogans does not conjure up images of violence. However, the Punjab police made sure that scenes of brutality were witnessed. One would think that after the fiasco in which blind people were molested, pushed and shoved by the Punjab police on the streets during a protest in December last year, strict action would have been taken against this culture of demeaning the citizens and treating them with utter contempt and disregard. Only ‘notice’ has been taken in the past and nothing has been done by the Sharif government, in Punjab and at the Centre, to curb this menace. Once again, notice has been taken and the wily police officials have claimed they were clearing the road without intending any harm. Once again they will be believed and the matter will be left at that.

Smuggler's paradise in Pakistan's Balochistan

Pakistan's largest and poorest province Balochistan has the unfortunate reputation of being a transit route for drug smugglers, who bring products across the border from sellers in the Gulf states and Iran.
It is also a popular marketplace for stolen US and NATO supplies, including weapons, ammunition, vehicles, fuel, and contraband.
Markets in Balochistan, southwest Pakistan, teem with a variety of goods being sold at throwaway prices, and all have been smuggled across Pakistan's borders with Iran and Afghanistan.
Smuggling syndicates have moved with relative ease from Afghanistan, managing to evade stringent security checks at the Wesh-Chaman crossing by using illegal entry points at night along the 1,160km shared border.
They bring with them a wealth of high-demand items to peddle, ranging from illicit goods like drugs, arms, ammunition; to daily essentials such as food, clothing and electronics. But in addition to inanimate items that are smuggled, humans too are transported using the same transit routes.
To stop the smugglers, Pakistan's Border Security has increased patrols and dug a 500km trench which it says is deep enough to make the movement of products difficult. "There is continuous patrolling between posts,” said Second Lieutenant Abid from the Frontier Scouts. “There is no way to slip through and we will catch them if they do. We confiscated cannabis a few weeks ago (from the border)."
But this is not the only frontline Pakistan's authorities have to deal with. There is also Iran, where mostly inexpensive fuel is being smuggled.
The markets in Quetta have a variety to offer. There are some no-go areas where access is only through reference but once in there, even illegal weapons are up for sale.
A 2014 UN Office of Drugs and Crime report estimates that heroin alone yields over US$1.5 billion a year for the smuggling rings who transit through Balochistan. This does not include the combined smuggling revenue that has created a parallel economy in a region with no notable industry and an unemployment rate three times higher than the rest of the country.
The government says it will tackle the issue soon. But for now, the conflict between Pakistan's military and Baloch separatists demanding for greater autonomy has diverted attention away from the smugglers.
"The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 created a difficult situation for Pakistan and many illegal activities have been hard to control since then,” government spokesman Siddiq ul Farooq. “However now that a military operation is underway in the tribal areas and there has been a 20-point national agenda, I believe soon we would be able to control this issue of smuggling as well."
Experts say the government has failed to invest in the development of Balochistan's economy, which has allowed illicit goods to flood the local markets. "Conflict and terrorism etc. have some linkage with the lack of formal economic activity,” said Dr Idrees Khawaja, associate professor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. “If more economic activity can be generated there, insurgency could be curtailed."
People in Balochistan lack the basic social and economic necessities to improve their quality of life - something that functional and corrupt-free governance could provide its citizens. Until then, Balochistan's communities will continue to purchase smuggled goods priced according to the whims and fancies of merchants.

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - GUL DE PA ZULFO