Monday, February 2, 2015

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Rebels Pound Ukrainian Troops After Peace Talks Fail

Separatist rockets streaked across hills in eastern Ukraine on Monday as rebels pounded the positions of Ukrainian government troops holding a strategic rail town while both sides pressed ahead with mobilizing more forces for combat.
Kiev's military said five more Ukrainian soldiers were killed in clashes while municipal authorities in the big rebel-controlled city of Donetsk said 15 civilians were killed on the weekend by shelling in a surge of violence following the collapse of a new peace effort on Saturday.
Talks between Ukraine, Russia and rebel officials in Minsk, Belarus, had raised hopes of a new cease-fire to stem the violence in a conflict which has claimed more than 5,000 lives. But they broke up without progress with Ukraine and the separatists accusing each other of sabotaging the meeting.
Donetsk reverberated to the thud of artillery and mortar fire through the night and several homes were destroyed with at least one civilian death on Monday.
But separatists kept up attacks on Debaltseve, a strategic rail hub to the northeast of Donetsk, in an attempt to dislodge government forces there.
The outskirts of Yenakieve and Vuhlegirsk, both on the main highway to Debaltseve, were under heavy artillery fire as rebel multiple rocket launchers and artillery pummeled the positions of Ukrainian troops in the area.
At one point, a salvo of around three dozen rockets fired from rebel positions screamed across surrounding hills towards Debaltseve. It was followed 15 minutes later by incoming fire from government forces.
"The toughest situation is around Debaltseve where the illegal armed formations are continuing to storm the positions of Ukrainian military," military spokesman Andriy Lutsenko told a briefing. But he said Ukraine's forces in the town were enough to hold it and he denied government forces were encircled.

General Mobilization

The separatists, whom the West says are armed by Russia and supported by several thousand Russian troops, defiantly announced a general mobilization plan which they said would boost their fighting forces to 100,000 men.
Kiev itself is also pressing ahead with a fourth wave of military call-up aimed at raising an extra 50,000 men.
The Western powers support Kiev's view that a peace deal reached last September, which included a cease-fire and a commitment for foreign fighters and military equipment to be withdrawn from Ukraine, is the only viable roadmap to ending the conflict.
But the separatists, who have declared their own "people's republics" and have notched up several military successes since then, including taking Donetsk airport from government troops, now appear to want to negotiate a new blueprint.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed for a cease-fire to be urgently restored in Ukraine, under the terms of the Minsk peace plan, and said Germany would not support Kiev's military forces through deliveries of weapons.
The New York Times reported Sunday that President Barack Obama's administration was, however, taking a new look at providing Ukrainian forces with defensive weapons and equipment in the face of the rebel offensive.
The separatist rebellion erupted last April after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in response to the ousting of a Moscow-backed president by street protests in Kiev, which ushered in a government committed to integration with Europe.
Moscow denies it has any regular troops in Ukraine despite what the West and Kiev say is incontrovertible proof.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is "extremely concerned" over the situation in east Ukraine and has called on rival sides to end the fighting, the TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Monday.
In a street on Yenakieve outskirts, a shell landed directly onto a third-floor apartment of a nine-story building, instantly killing a woman and wounding her husband.
"We had to climb across the balcony to evacuate the man, and we left her lying in the rubble. She was picked up later by a sanitary team," said Anatoly Pomazanov, 42, who owns a grocery shop in the building.
"It is like this every day. The shelling is incessant. We keep children in cellars. We let them out only during lulls in shelling, for about 30 minutes at most. I want to ask President [Petro] Poroshenko: Are we also Ukrainians or simply targets?"
Several residents were seen loading bags in cars and hastily leaving the neighborhood.
Natalya, 68, who with her daughter lives in an apartment a floor below the one destroyed, was weeping. "Tell me, what do I do now? This is all I had, the soldiers are two kilometers away, there are no targets here."
Dmytro Boichuk, 78, a retired miner, said people were already immune to the shelling.
"We are numb. We go about our businesses. Someone gets killed, someone gets wounded, but we carry on."

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Behind Obama's budget proposals, a gloomy view of the future

Beneath President Barack Obama's plan to fight income inequality lies a gloomy view of an economy that is growing slower and creating fewer rewards for its workers than it did in much of the last century.
In a budget proposal unveiled on Monday, the White House cut forecasts for an array of economic variables, depicting less growth, weaker inflation and lower interest rates than officials expected only a year ago.
This comes despite an unemployment rate that the Obama administration expects to hit the 5.2 percent level considered to be roughly in line with full employment sometime this year.
The administration's take on the economy moves it closer to the growing view among economists that the United States could be stuck in a prolonged period of stagnation.
"In the 21st century, real GDP growth in the United States is likely to be slower than it was in earlier eras," the budget proposal says.
Obama's $3.99 trillion budget plan for fiscal 2016 would mark a spending increase of about $240 billion from the current year.
The economic vision presented in the plan is all-the-more pessimistic given that it incorporates the impact of higher spending on infrastructure and education, as well as overhauls of tax and immigration laws. Many of those proposals are unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Congress.
Even with these measures, which are aimed to counter rising income inequality, weaker growth would leave the economy about $500 billion smaller in 2020 than the administration projected a year ago. The administration expects the share of national income going to labor - as opposed to capital - to hold near historic lows for years to come.
An aging population that is less inclined to work could help limit long-run economic growth to around 2.3 percent annually, the budget says, a rate that would be roughly a percentage point lower than the average since World War Two.
In the White House view, the jobless rate could drop to as low as 4.9 percent in 2017. But even that is not expected to lead to substantial wage or price increases, suggesting officials are sympathetic to stagnation arguments made prominent by economists, such as former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who have argued the government should spend more to make up for weak private sector demand.
While the White House's estimate of potential growth was unchanged from a year ago, it now sees interest rates holding lower for years even under the assumption that the government boosts spending substantially, something that in other eras would lead lenders to jack up interest rates more.
"The administration forecast projects that interest rates will stabilize below their historical averages," while inflation is expected to remain low for years to come, according to the budget documents.
    Other developed economies are confronting a similar set of circumstances, and slowly acknowledging that their long-run potential may be constrained. The Obama administration has been pressing European nations, primarily Germany, to act accordingly and lift government spending to make up for weak household and business demand.
    In the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis, the administration was restrained in its own response, as it tried to control the deficits generated by stimulus programs set in motion to battle the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The impact of budget cuts continued to be felt through last year.
    The latest budget document marks a turn in that debate as Obama makes the case for more government pump priming.

Obama Unveils $4T Proposed Federal Budget

U.S. President Barack Obama sent a $4 trillion spending proposal to Congress that calls for higher taxes on the wealthy in 2016, an end to mandated spending cuts, and more money to help the country's financially-strapped middle class.

The Democratic president acknowledged Monday many of his proposals will face stiff opposition from Republican's in Congress.  But he said the country has "some fundamental choices to make about the kind of country we want to be.
"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well," he asked a group of Homeland Security government workers, "or are we going to build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?"
With the U.S. economy, the world's largest, steadily improving, Obama is calling for a one-time 14 percent tax on overseas corporate profits.

The tax would help pay for nearly $500 billion in improvements to the nation's highways, deteriorating bridges and other key infrastructure, while the bigger bills for affluent taxpayers would fund $300 billion for low- and middle-income tax credits.
First, some good news: the federal deficit has fallen by more than 50 percent in recent years.
America’s improved finances allow for a renewed focus on domestic needs that have gone unmet in recent years, Obama said.
"First, middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change," he said. "That means helping folks afford child care, college, health care, a home, retirement, and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year."
The president’s budget is expected to cancel automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have impacted everything from U.S. military preparedness to the response to health crises like Ebola.
But the fiscal outlook is not all rosy. 
Any deficit, no matter how small, causes the accumulated $18 trillion national debt to rise further, a fact pointed out by Republican lawmakers, who say Obama’s budget is "dead on arrival." 
Republican Senator John Cornyn is among those troubled with the country’s rising debt.
"I am concerned that the budget will be loaded with more taxes, more spending, and more debt. And that certainly is not a sustainable path forward for the country. We are still spending money we do not have," Cornyn said.
Congressional committees will craft spending proposals that reflect Republican priorities: constraining domestic spending while providing tax incentives to further spur economic activity.
But their professed concern about fiscal imbalances ignores recent history, when deficits and debt exploded under Republican rule, according to Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.
“I am delighted that some of my Republican friends have expressed great concern about our deficit and our national debt. I would ask them where they were several years ago when we went to war in Iraq and forgot to pay for that war,” Sanders said.
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse: to pass laws on taxes and spending.
But the president can sign or veto budget bills, meaning that an agreement between the two branches of government will have to be hammered out if the U.S. government is to remain open beyond September, when the current budget expires.

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Pakistanis Outraged at Saudi Prince's Arrival for Hunting Rare Birds Despite Court Ban

Saudi Prince's arrival in Chagai district of Balochistan for hunting rare birds, despite a ban issued by the court, has irked many citizens of Pakistan.
As part of its diplomatic tie-ups with the Gulf state, the country's government issues special permits to members of royal families allowing them to hunt the protected houbara bustard in Chagai district.
Last year, the Saudi prince drew international condemnation after it was reported that he and his guests had killed 2,100 rare houbara bustards.
Reports found that the prince himself was responsible for the deaths of 1,977 birds, while his entourage are claimed to have killed a further 123. Conservationists warn that this species is on the brink of extinction.
Following the international outcry, the Balochistan High Court (BHC) recently cancelled all special hunting permits issued by the federal government to Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud - the governor of Tabuk region in Saudi Arabia.
Several Pakistanis took to social media to voice their anger after learning that the Saudiprince had landed at the Dalbandin airport on Sunday. Later, the hunting party reportedly moved closer to Barthagazi area, located near a desert.

Islamic State Launches Operations in Afghanistan, Plans Expansion

Around 70 Islamic State militants are operating in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz with plans to expand, according to Kunduz Governor Mohammad Safi.

The Islamic State (IS) began operations in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz and plans to launch operations in other northern areas of the country, the Kunduz governor said Monday.
Governor Mohammad Safi said that about 70 IS militants are operating in several districts of Kunduz and plan to expand operations to neighboring provinces, Afghan news agency Khaama Press reported.
According to Khaama, the extremist group also launched operations in the south of the country, namely in the Zabul, Helmand and Ghazni provinces, where it has been battling the local Taliban militant group.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday there was not “a great deal” of evidence the IS was operating in Afghanistan. Bishop, however, agreed that there was the danger of the radical group working with the Taliban.

"But there is the concern that should ISIL [IS] turn its attentions away from Iraq and Syria there is an element of the Taleban [Taliban] that would be receptive to its brutal ideology. We are aware of it,” Bishop was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.
In January, NATO confirmed that the IS was recruiting fighters in Afghanistan, in areas with Taliban presence. Despite the two groups having differing ideologies, there is a possibility of Taliban defectors working with the IS.
The IS Sunni extremist group began fighting the Syrian government in 2012, later expanding into Iraq. The militant group controls large swathes of land in both countries and declared a caliphate on the areas it controls. The Taliban, which increased its activities in 2014, also intends to establish an Islamic state in Afghanistan.

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Rise of IS disrupts prospects of potential mediation in Afghanistan

By Farman Nawaz 

The news that some of the Afghan Taliban went to Beijing late last year to show their willingness for Chinese mediation between the Afghan government and the Taliban was surprising. In the past, there was little willingness on the part of the Taliban to look to regional powers for support.

Although past Chinese ambassadors to Afghanistan have met with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and there were some reports of Chinese endeavors to make the power sector operational in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, American attacks on Afghanistan destroyed the regional makeover. 

Bringing the warring Taliban to table for talks will be a tremendous achievement of China. But the Afghan Taliban are the descendants of the Afghan Mujahideen who fought against the USSR and later on among themselves. 

It must be kept in mind that great powers in the beginning provided funds to these fighters against the USSR and later left them on their own. The umbrella of Talibanization was provided to reorganize fighters against the Northern Alliance. The murder of famous leader Ahmad Shah Massoud just before the 9/11 attacks was the turning point and afterward the rise of the Taliban as a whole could not provide enough impetus to unite the warring groups. Different factions of the Taliban pursued opposing objectives. 

Now the battle is on between the umbrellas of Talibanization and the Islamic State (IS) to organize the different factions of the Taliban. The real task is not to mediate between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government but to save the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban from becoming part of the IS movement. The IS threat to regional countries is not a rumor. 

The declining Al Qaeda is no longer able to unite the Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban were separated from the Afghan Taliban and used against Pakistan. Similarly, there is no guarantee of unity among the Afghan Taliban even if Chinese mediation is accepted by the leadership and the Afghan government. The forces which want to destabilize the region can extend the umbrella of IS to Afghanistan and Pakistan to disrupt the peace process.

IS plans for expansion in the next five years include Pakistan, Afghanistan and possibly China. IS emergence will require it to recruit from warring factions of Pakistani, Afghan and Chinese extremists. Compared to Pakistan and China, the Afghan mountains can provide a better shelter to IS. The Taliban movement will surely find safe haven under the IS umbrella.

Reports of top leaders and fighters of the Pakistani Taliban now being included in IS are an example of a tilt among warring factions toward the new top dog. The Guardian reported that "The dramatic rise of IS in Syria and Iraq is helping to tear apart the Pakistani Taliban, the beleaguered militant group beset by infighting and splits."

Al Arabiya, with Reuters, also noted that the Pakistani Taliban have declared its support to IS and ordered their fighters across the region to help the Middle Eastern extremists. Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported last year that "Leaflets calling for support for IS were seen in parts of northwest Pakistan, and at least five Pakistani Taliban commanders and three lesser cadres from the Afghan Taliban have pledged their support." 

The Chinese initiative to facilitate negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government can only be successful if the IS threat is handled in a timely fashion, or regional extremists will find a new patron.

End Blasphemy Laws – a new campaign by IHEU

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is today among the founding partners heading a new, unified campaign for the abolition of “blasphemy” laws worldwide.

The End Blasphemy Laws campaign is being run by a new International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws bringing together organizations that share the same goal: campaigning to repeal “blasphemy” and related laws worldwide.

The campaign has three strategic goals:

Blasphemy out of Europe, out of “western” states: We want to see the remaining laws against blasphemy and religious insult in Europe, Canada, and New Zealand repealed. Despite the clear international human rights consensus against blasphemy laws, there is an obvious double-standard at work when, for example, the European Union has taken a clear stand against blasphemy laws internationally, but some of its Members States cling on to existing anti-“blasphemy” legislation. It must be abolished, and although there’s no reason in principle that western states must repeal such laws first, there is a clear historical direction of travel, and in abolishing “blasphemy” in Europe and the “west”, promoting the international human rights consensus against “blasphemy” laws will become significantly more achievable.

Defending and promoting the international human rights consensus against “blasphemy” laws: We want to increase understanding of the already-agreed international human rights treaties and other instruments among the public, and lawmakers themselves. We are calling on international bodies and world leaders to look on “blasphemy” laws as they might look on laws restricting press freedom: as a clear restriction on free expression and an indicator of wider social harm.

A mutually supporting and robust international network: We want to see all advocates for freedom of expression against “blasphemy” laws around the world networked together, supporting each other, including secular, religious and human rights groups, human rights lawyers, and progressive lawmakers. Part of the problem of opposing “blasphemy” laws is that precisely where restrictions are most severe, advocates for free expression face the biggest challenges in speaking out. In Pakistan, calling for repeal of “blasphemy” laws has been declared “blasphemous”. In Saudi Arabia, for writing about unjust religious institutions, you can be jailed and flogged. In Mauritania, criticising the religious justification of modern slavery has earned a blogger a death sentence. Those of us in the most hard hit parts of the world need the most help. As a coalition we aim to make the most of our shared contacts and memberships to connect and support groups and individuals around the world.

There’s more about how the campaign will operate on the website as well as the campaign launch announcement and a growing list of coalition partners.

A history with blasphemy

IHEU’s work on “blasphemy” laws goes back a long way. IHEU has long-campaigned on the issue at the United Nations, in New York and Geneva. Our delegations have been at the centre of resistance to calls by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to ban “defamation of religion”. Our Member Organizations have variously resisted and been part of successful campaigns to repeal national “blasphemy” laws for example in the UK and the Netherlands.

IHEU’s work around the accusations and exile of Taslima Nasreen, and more recently Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, have helped draw attention to the plight of those accused of blasphemy and similar so-called crimes. In addition, the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report has drawn international attention to issues of freedom of thought and expression especially relating to discrimination against the non-religious.

A future of unified action

IHEU’s Director of Communications Bob Churchill said today, “Last year, IHEU began planning for a joint campaign on “blasphemy” laws with our colleagues at the European Humanist Federation. Then, following the events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo killings and the carrying out of Raif Badawi’s flogging sentence in recent weeks, we brought forward our plans.

“Suddenly, the world is waking up to the fact that laws against “blasphemy” lend legitimacy to violence; whether that violence is carried out by gunmen against satirists in Paris, by mobs targeting Christians at the merest breath of a ‘blasphemy’ accusation in Islamabad, or by the state itself jailing and flogging a young writer in Jeddah, for nothing more than writing about secularism and calling for freedom.

“Many people and organizations have begun talking once again about the dangers and detriments of “blasphemy” laws, and reiterating calls for their abolition. We felt the time was right to bring forward and renew our efforts, to unite and lead a worldwide campaign. We soon found that other humanist and secular organizations had been similarly galvanized, and this new, huge coalition was born.

“The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign is a joint initiative, we are inviting all potential partner organizations to take part in the campaign. In countries with remaining “blasphemy” and “insult to religion” laws there is the most work to be done – but all humanist groups and other organizations can join the rallying cry to End Blasphemy Laws!”

The website opens today, and supporters can sign up to an “Action List” for future updates, campaign actions, news alerts and opportunities. The website will function as an ongoing hub for work by all the coalition partners on the subject of “blasphemy” laws around the world.

Bangladesh - Pakistani diplomat withdrawn - involvement in terror funding

The move comes after Dhaka contacts Islamabad as intelligence finds his involvement in terror funding, setting up fake currency network.

A Pakistani diplomat was withdrawn from Bangladesh on Saturday after intelligence dug out his involvement in terror financing and currency forgery racket.
Mohammad Mazhar Khan, attaché at the consular section of Pakistan high commission in Dhaka, was also an agent of his country's secret service ISI, foreign ministry officials said.
He had set up a wide network of producing and distributing fake Indian currency, they added.
An intelligence report said Mazhar in collaboration with some colleagues at the high commission used to channel the money earned through his currency scam to Hizb ut-Tahir, Ansarullah Bangla Team and Jamaat-e-Islami.
Mazhar left Dhaka with his family after the foreign ministry, instead of going for harsher measures like deportation, asked Islamabad to withdraw the diplomat in a week, officials said.
Contacted, a senior diplomat at the Pakistan high commission said, “We have nothing to say on the matter. Whatever response would come would be from our foreign affairs spokesperson.”
A top official at the foreign ministry yesterday confirmed that the Pak high commission notified them of Mazhar leaving Dhaka on January 31 and surrendering the diplomatic identification card.

Pakistan - The right to education

The right to a free education for all children is still only a theoretical one in Pakistan. Our constitution makes education a guaranteed right up to the age of 16 but this is a clause observed only in the breach. Other than the perennially neglected Balochistan, nowhere is the situation worse than in Sindh, especially in its rural areas. The stark numbers were recently revealed in the Annual Status of Education Report by the Sindh Education Foundation and the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi. One-third of children between the ages of six and 16 do not attend school and the figure is even worse for children between the ages of three and six, out of whom 63 percent are not receiving any schooling. The country has long had a gender divide in education too as girls, even if they receive primary schooling, are usually pulled out of school early. This is why less than 10 percent of public schools in Sindh offer secondary education. The fault lies not just in a society that is yet to understand the importance of educating women but a provincial government and bureaucracy that is content in letting things be as they are rather than making the effort to enrol more girls and provide the opportunities that would make this education financially feasible.

Equally distressing is the shift in enrolment away from public to private schools. The report says that the percentage of students now in private schools is 17 percent, a stunning increase of seven percentage points in the last year. This trend is both worrying and understandable. There is already a problem of ‘ghost’ schools which exist only on paper; on top of that the schools that are physically present are barely functional. Over 40 percent of public schools, according to the report, do not have potable water or usable bathroom facilities. The idea that a school should provide students with a hot meal, something they may not get at home, seems not to exist. This explains why parents are increasingly choosing private schools, which come with a host of problems of their own. Many private schools are solely money-making ventures that tend to charge exorbitant fees for substandard education. What the government, in Sindh and the rest of the country, needs to realise is that education cannot be treated like any other commodity which the private sector can provide in a more efficient manner. The profit motive should not be a factor when it comes to public services which will determine the future of our country. 

Pakistan - Sarwar, Punjab’s ex-governor

When Mohammad Sarwar, Punjab’s ex-governor resigned last week, it was amidst the flaring suspicions of the people of Pakistan. To imagine that no political scandal lay behind the resignation, was a laughable idea. Journalists and analysts around the country set out to find the “real reason” the governor resigned and after a few scattered conspiracies, most have had to resign to the fact that there was little more than met the eye. The ex-governor left, by his own admission, because he felt there was not enough he could do to serve Pakistan in his position. 
It is significant to see a man of his experience resign from an important post to “do more.” If the motivations really are as straightforward as the ex- governor has stated, then they are important to analyse. Most significantly perhaps, they quite simply are incorrect. As the constitutional head of the province, Sarwar enjoyed a great deal of clout and influence. Not very long ago, we did have a Punjab governor who extended his work to noble and charitable causes, like lobbying for the rights of minorities and protesting the blasphemy law. The fact is, one might not have the powers to strictly do but does have the influence to eventually get it done by getting one’s priorities out to the right people. Resigning in protest, though rather symbolic, is usually utterly useless. In this case, it might not matter to the Punjab in a strictly legislative sense, but here was a decent, well-respected man, and in a country where mere honesty is a rare political ability, his loss will be felt. It is important for our honest men in politics to realise: we do not need more Imran Khans; we need good people who are willing to work with and within the system to change it.

Pakistan - Influential Muslims Grab Houses Of Seven Christian Families In Kasur District

According to media reports, homes of seven Christian families were seized and bulldozed in Rao Khan Wala, a village of Kasur. A local Christian Boota Masih, approached a Rights activist while informing him about the incident. According to him, local Muslim men namely Shahid Khan, Jaffar Ali, Zafar Iqbal and Munir Bhatti conspired by producing fake documents with the help of local Patwari. Afterwards, homes of these Christian families were seized and bull dozed.
Those who are affected by the land grabbers are Rafique Masih, Shangara Masih , Farzana Bibi , Iruma Bibi (Widow) , Bagh Masih , William Masih , Samar Masih and Gama Bibi (widow). Moreover, the land grabbers threatened these Christians to either kill them or name in them false criminal cases. The land grabbers allegedly threw out families’ belongings on road.
What is alarming that the land grabbers gave an only option to the Christian families for return of their houses- convert to Islam. All of these seven Christian families have been now rendered homeless and shelterless truly vulnerable to any sectarian violence.
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Pakistan's Shia Genocide - Shikarpur blast linked to terror outfit in Quetta: Report

In a major breakthrough in Shikarpur imambargah blast probe, investigators have reported that a banned group involved in terror activities in Quetta is responsible for the tragic incident that claimed 57 lives and injured dozens during Friday prayers last week, Dunya News reported on Monday.
According to investigators, Naeem Bukhari and Usman Kurd group of a banned organization are involved in suicide attack on Karbala-e-Moalla Imambargah in Lakhidar area of Shikarpur district in Sindh, around 470 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi.
There is similarity in Shikarpur blast and terror activities in Quetta, officials told.
Fingerprints and DNA samples of the suspected suicide attacker would be sent to Islamabad for tests today.
Earlier Reuters reported that Jundullah, a splinter group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan which last year pledged support for the Islamic State group based in Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility of the attack.
The attack came as Pakistan tries to adopt new measures to tackle extremists following a massacre of 134 children last month at an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
The government has pledged to crack down on all militant groups, reintroduce the death penalty, set up military courts to speed convictions and widen its military campaign in lawless tribal areas.


By Eye Ali
Deobandi takfiri “Junudul Shaitan” (Soldiers of Satan) that claims wrongly themselves as Jundullah has claimed responsibility for the massacre of Shia Muslim namazis (worshippers) at Lakhi Dar Shikarpur’s Masjid and Imam Bargah Karbala Moalla. But, ultimate responsibility goes to the 2 former governments and present PMLN government for not hanging the ringleader of Soldiers of Satan. Judiciary cannot be absolved because judges could have hastened the legal process and ensure his death through suo motu notice.

The Deobandi outfits mainly Jamaat-e-Islami and both factions of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) are also equally responsible for the Shia genocide in Pakistan because they have formed a Deobandis alliance in which banned terrorist outfit ASWJ/Sipah-e-Sahaba/Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are also one of the allies. That encouraged them to continue their anti-humanity and anti-Islam fanaticism and terrorism in the name of Wahhabis-allied Deobandi Islam.
Sheikh Ataur Rehman, the jailed ameer (chief) of Jund-us-Shaitan (the Army of Satan), was sentenced to death for the June 10, 2004 bomb attack on the cavalcade of the then Corps Commander Karachi, Lt Gen Ahsan Saleem Hayat. But, he keeps dodging death for a decade.
“Our target was the Shia community mosque. They are our enemies,” said Fahad Marwat, the central spokesperson of Wahhabis-allied Deobandi-takfiri Jund-ush-Shaitan in a statement released from an undisclosed location.
The spokesman had earlier announced allegiance of his group to the Arab Wahhabi takfiri Daish (ISIL or ISIS) on November 17, 2014 after holding a meeting with a three-member takfiri Daish delegation which had travelled from Syria under the leadership of Al Zubair Al Kuwaiti for the moot. “They (ISIL) are our brothers, whatever plan they have we will support them,” said Fahad Marwat after the meeting.

JuSh, which used to be an affiliate of the Deobandi takfiri Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) before pledging allegiance to the ISIL or Daish recently, confirmed the Balochistan meeting between them and Daish leaders.
Before carrying out the Shikarpur bombing, JuSh had claimed responsibility for the November 26, 2014 killing of four anti-polio workers in Karachi, including three women. They had also claimed credit for the October 23, 2014 suicide attack on Deobandi JUI-F leader Fazlur Rahman in Quetta who had a narrow escape because of the bullet-proof land cruiser he was travelling in. after that attack, Fazlur Rehman was scared and he immediately formed an alliance with takfiri Deobandi terrorist outfit ASWJ/Sipah-e-Sahaba in the name of Deobandis alliance.
The founding ameer of JuSh, Sheikh Ataur Rehman, used to be a student leader of the Karachi University, belonging to the Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT), student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. He was handed down death sentence by an Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) of Karachi for the June 2004 bombing on the convoy of the then Karachi Corps Commander Karachi Lt Gen Ahsan Saleem Hayat. . Investigations into the Clifton bridge attack on the motorcade, revealed the involvement of Jund-ush-Shaitan (JuSh), which at that time was led by Ataur Rehman and patronized by the South Waziristan-based Deobandi takfiri Taliban commander, Nek Mohammad.
Barely six days after the botched attack Nek Mohammad was killed in the first-ever US drone strike on the Pakistani soil, on June 17, 2004. However, Sheikh Ataur Rehman, who is currently imprisoned at the Karachi Central Jail, is lucky enough to have dodged the gallows even after a lapse of ten years, as the Sindh High Court has yet to decide his appeal against the death sentence handed down by the Karachi ATC.

Amir Mir has reported in The News that according to the information gathered by the security agencies, an intriguing common aspect in the profiles of most of the JuSh members is their past association with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the IJT. JuSh, which was established by Ataur Rehman, was originally a small cell of 20 Deobandi takfiri militants, most of them in their twenties and thirties; educated from professional working classes and mostly belonging to IJT. Ataur Rehman was assisted in recruiting youngsters to wage ‘jihad’ by Karachi’s Dr Arshad Waheed, an orthopaedic surgeon, his brother Dr Akmal Waheed, also a neurosurgeon and Engineer Ahsan Aziz. They were not only active members of the JI’s Medical Wing, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, but also had close links with Kashmiri Salahuddin-led Hizbul Mujahideen.

In short, modern takfiri terrorism originated from Afghan war that was hijacked by the U.S.-led West through its intelligence agency CIA and allied-Saudi intelligence who invented al-Qaeda and Taliban to advance their illegitimate and imperialistic interests around the world. Takfiris also defamed Kashmiri resistance to Indian occupation by hijacking the legitimate freedom struggle.
So, Wahhabis, their allied Deobandis and their patrons within ruling establishment of Pakistan are responsible for Shikarpur Imam Bargah Massacre and unabated Shia genocide across Pakistan alongside terrorist attacks on innocent Pakistani Sunni and non-Muslim civilians.

Pakistan - Shikarpur blast 'failure of intelligence agencies'

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khurshid Shah on Monday claimed that the blast in Shikarpur was a failure of the intelligence agencies who he said had the prime responsibility to counter terrorist acts.
Initiating the debate to discuss the Shikarpur attack, the opposition leader also questioned the absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was present in Karachi on Friday to review the law and order situation in the province.
“It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was present in Karachi but avoided visiting Shikarpur to meet the families of the victims who lost their loved ones in the blast,” Shah said.
He stated that it was the responsibility of the intelligence agencies to share information with police and law enforcement agencies to counter terrorist activities.
“During the ongoing circumstances, can we say that Pakistan is a nuclear state,” the opposition leader questioned.
He also said that almost all opposition parties have supported the PL-N government to strengthen democracy in the country, but the PM was not present in today’s session to explain the government's position regarding the terrorist attack.
He suggested the PM should visit Shikarpur as soon as possible to meet the victim’s families who lost their relatives.
Shah also said that the government cannot counter terrorism without improving the intelligence network.
Meanwhile, PML-F MNA Ghous Bux Khan Mahar stated that the provincial and the federal governments had failed to counter the Shikarpur attack, which he said was a question mark on the intelligence agencies performance.
MQM MNA Saman Jafri said that the government had failed to implement the death penalty of Ata-ur-Rehman, the chief of Jandullah – the banned outfit which claimed responsibility for the blast.
The MQM lawmaker also said that the government has refused to acknowledge the presence of ISIS in Pakistan which she claimed distributes pamphlets in different areas of Karachi to kill people.
“The government should also take action against the apologists of militants who are present in our society,” Jafri added.
QWP MNA Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, PPP lawmaker Aftab Shaban Mirani and Molana Amir Zaman also demanded of the government to implement the recommendations of the National Action Plan to counter terrorism.

Pakistan - PMLN govt not people’s friendly and certainly anti-farmers

The parsimonious of the government is limitless as it while reducing the price of petroleum products earlier had raised the GST from 17% to 22% last time and now from 22% to 27%, that tantamount to giving with one hand and talking away with other hand, said Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, President Central Punjab, in a statement issued from here today.
He also pointed out that the relief to the consumers was grossly disprotionate to the reduction of the oil prices in the international market that clearly manifested that the government of the PML (N) was generous in showering favours through SROs, running into billions of rupees, on the capitalists by granting exemptions on custom duties but quite miser in providing due relief to the common people.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo demanded that the latest raise in the GST be withdrawn immediately adding that the prices of Mobil oil should also be reduced accordingly because its prices also had slashed in the international market like other petroleum products.
He said that Mobil oil was used in the all types of machinery under the use of people including by the farmers to run their tube wells. The government should not be always in the look out to swindle the common consumers to the maximum extent, he stated.
He pointed out that the government apparently deliberately ignored the reduction in Mobil oil prices due to its inclination to squeeze the poor dry as a source of easy money and that too without troubling the big industrialists.
He observed that it was tyrannical on the part of the rulers to deprive the common man from the benefits accruing out of the working of the international market forces adding while it was quite efficient to pass on the burden on the consumers without delay when the international market prices showed upward trends in prices.
He argued that the government was not people’s friendly and certainly anti-farmers.

Peshawar incident investigation, parents give 48 hours ultimatum

Parents of students martyred in Army Public School (APS) attack and members of ‘Ghazi forum’ on Monday have demanded an investigation into the tragic Peshawar incident. The aggrieved parents have given the government a 48 hours ultimatum to make report of the investigation public.

The ultimatum was given during a press conference by the grieving mothers.

According to the details, mothers of kids martyred in APS attack along with those whose children survived the APS attack were seen crying uncontrollably as thoughts of their children kept them in a constant state of mourning that has no end. Their grief was so severe that its effects won’t be gone anytime soon.
The grieving mothers have said that they would start a protest and organize rallies if the government does not give them theanswers they deserve within the next 48 hours.

The weeping mothers complained they had been paying money every month in the name of security. But no security was provided to their kids, they lamented. They stated that the government was aware of the terrorist threats received by the school but still failed to do anything in regards to it. Nobody could save their kids, cried the mothers.

They requested the government during the press conference to award the martyred kids with ‘Nishan-e-Haider’. They also said that the parents of the martyred kids should be given the same package as given to the martyrs of Pakistan Army.