Monday, February 16, 2015

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Bahraini human rights activist detained, family claim risk of torture

Rori Donaghy

Hussain Jawad is being held by Bahraini police officers for reasons unknown according to family members.
A prominent Bahraini human rights activist was arrested by plain-clothes police officers early on Monday, according to relatives.
The home of Hussain Jawad was raided by 20 masked police officers at dawn and he is now being detained at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), his wife Asma Darwish told MEE. She said a number of riot police vans waiting outside the family home while police searched inside, seizing electronic devices belonging to her husband.
Jawad is the chairperson of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) and has been detained on several occasions by Bahraini authorities. He was released in January after two months custody pending a trial on charges of insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Darwish told MEE charges against him relate to a speech given in the capital Manama in which Jawad “called for democracy, for peaceful struggle and for human rights to be respected.”
She said police flashed a warrant when searching their home on Monday morning but that there was no time to read the document, meaning the family are unaware of the reasons behind Jawad’s latest arrest.
The fourth anniversary of the Bahraini uprising was marked on 14 February with clashes between protesters and police, as the tiny Gulf Island remains deadlocked over calls for political reform.  
Authorities accuse protesters of being Iranian proxies and engaging in violence, citing sporadic attacks that have seen a number of police deaths, while the opposition complain promised reforms are yet to be implemented and allege torture is being systematically used against a bulging political prisoner population.
Both sides reject the other’s allegations.
Jawad has telephoned his wife once since being arrested and she remains concerned he may be ill-treated in custody.
“He called for four seconds and said that he’s okay,” she said. “I asked him if was okay or was being harmed and he answered ‘yes’ and the phone immediately went dead.”
“The CID is popularly known in Bahrain as being a torture centre. I am very concerned my husband will be tortured. I don’t know how to reach out to him.”
Darwish said the family lawyer has been unable to reach Jawad and that authorities have not responded to requests for him to receive legal representation.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication but have repeatedly denied torturing prisoners held in their custody.

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Egypt calls for coalition to fight 'Islamic State'-linked Libya militants

Egypt has called for the international coalition against 'Islamic State" (IS) to turn its attention to Libya. Cairo launched airstrikes in Libya after a video appeared to show the mass execution of Egyptian citizens.
Using the Arabic acronym Da'esh for the group in Iraq and Syria, Egypt said that a tough intervention was needed against jihadis in neighboring Libya.
"Egypt renews its call for the international coalition against the Da'esh terrorist organization ... to take the necessary measures to confront the terrorist Da'esh organization and other similar terrorist organizations on Libyan territories," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
An Egyptian armed forces spokesman on Monday announced that the military had carried out an air strike against militants linked to "Islamic State" (IS). It is the first time Cairo has publicly acknowledged that it is involved in military action in neighboring Libya.
The statement said that Egyptian planes bombed weapons and training camps across the border, before returning home. "The strike has achieved its aims precisely," the army said.
The Reuters news agency reported Libyan air force commander Saqer al-Joroushi as saying up to 50 militants had died in the raids - coordinated between the militaries of both countries.
"There are casualties among the individuals, ammunition and the communication centers belonging to them," al-Joroushi told Egyptian state television on Monday. "The number of deaths are not less than 40 or 50 for sure ... More air strikes will be carried out today and tomorrow in coordination with Egypt," he said.
Hostages killed on camera
Egypt said its raids were carried out in response to a video purporting to show the mass beheading of Coptic Christians from Egypt. The recording appeared to carry hallmarks similar to those released by the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
"Avenging Egyptian blood and retaliating against criminals and killers is a duty we must carry out," the military said. The strikes came hours after Egyptian President Fattah el-Sissi threatened a "suitable response" to the killings.
Libyan media said unidentified aircraft had struck sites around the eastern city of Darna. Broadcaster Al Jazeera reported that two children had been killed when a house on the city's outskirts was hit.
Meanwhile, the Libyan air force hit targets in the cities of Sirte and Benghazi in the east of the country.
Libya's internationally recognized government has been confined to the eastern part of the country since the capital was seized by Islamist-allied militias last year. Meanwhile, Islamist politicians have reinstated a previous government and parliament in the capital, Tripoli, which on Monday condemned the Egyptian air strikes as an "attack on Libyan sovereignty."

Franklin Graham: ‘Imagine the outcry’ if Christians beheaded 21 Muslims


The Rev. Franklin Graham laments what he believes is a religious double standard following the public’s response to a brutal five-minute video purporting to show Islamic State militants beheading more than 20 Egyptian Christians.
“Can you imagine the outcry if 21 Muslims had been beheaded by Christians?” he asked in a Facebook post Monday. “Where is the universal condemnation by Muslim leaders around the world?
“As we mourn with the families of those 21 martyrs, we’d better take this warning seriously as these acts of terror will only spread throughout Europe and the United States,” wrote Mr. Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. “If this concerns you like it does me, share this. The storm is coming.”
Within five hours of being published, the post had been shared nearly 70,000 times.
Mr. Graham’s comments come after 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, who had been abducted in Libya by members of the Islamic State, or ISIL or ISIS, were reportedly executed in a video, titled “A Message Signed With Blood, To The Nation of the Cross,” which was posted online Sunday.
The White House on Sunday condemned the killings, saying the action “only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.”
“We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat,” the Obama administration said in a statement released by press secretary Josh Earnest. “We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.”

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The Narco-State of Afghanistan

Pakistan - Gilgit-Baltistan autonomy under threat

THE appointment of the federal minister for Kashmir affairs as governor of Gilgit-Baltistan has been criticised across the political spectrum. It is being described by political parties as evidence of the PML-N’s ‘pre-poll rigging’ in the region in order to create a tailor-made government in the upcoming legislative assembly elections. The PPP, which ruled the region under the previous elected set-up, is not happy with the appointment of the caretaker cabinet or the governor, while the PTI has voiced its reservations about GB’s chief election commissioner. In fact, on Monday, there were reported protests in GB and Islamabad against the governor’s appointment while even some local N-League leaders are said to be unhappy with the governor’s appointment by the central leadership in Islamabad. Among the leading complaints of all parties is why a serving federal minister from outside the region was selected for the post, instead of a local politician.
It is clear that the PML-N’s efforts to mould the region’s political realities as per its liking are having a divisive effect. Not only is the electoral process being made controversial even before the first vote is cast, GB’s limited autonomy, which it secured in 2009, is in danger of being usurped by Islamabad. While nationwide the trend is to grant the provinces and regions greater devolved powers, attempts are being made to go back to ruling GB through fiat from the federal capital. Change in GB’s administrative set-up began during Gen Musharraf’s rule, but it was the previous PPP-led federal government that promulgated the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009, altering the region’s name from the Northern Areas and giving the local elected leadership a greater degree of power. While these steps helped develop a political culture, local leaders complained that the federal bureaucracy interfered far too much in regional affairs. But moves like appointing a governor from outside the region, without consulting local stakeholders, smack of an attitude opposed to devolution and autonomy. Perhaps the key problem here — which allows the centre to manipulate GB’s affairs — is the lack of constitutional clarity about the region’s status. By linking GB to the Kashmir dispute, the state is denying local people the opportunity to fully participate in national life and to run their own affairs. The region is frankly neither here nor there constitutionally; technically it is not a part of Pakistan, yet its limited autonomy is usurped at will.
A more long-lasting solution to GB’s constitutional dilemma, one that is not dependent on the resolution of the Kashmir question, is needed. It should either have the powers of a province — as its people have demanded — or it be given a status similar to that of Azad Kashmir. Moreover, the PML-N needs to ensure the caretaker set-up is acceptable to all political players in order to make the upcoming polls free of controversy.

#PeshawarAttack - The Peshawar effect

By Christophe Jaffrelot 

Two months after the attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, in which 150 persons were killed, including 134 children, the impact of this tragedy on Pakistan is becoming clearer and can be assessed. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility, saying, “we targeted the school because the army targets our families”, a clear indication that the attack was revenge for the Pakistan military’s operations in North Waziristan.
But instead of weakening the army and dissuading it from fighting the Islamists, this attack has reinforced the military’s position in Pakistan and its determination to take on at least some militants. First, the attack, which resulted in the loss of so many sons of armymen, has given rise to an emotional urge among people to show solidarity with the institution whose soldiers and officers are not just fighting on the ground but suffering tragic bereavements too. Second, in a war-like atmosphere of this kind, more than before, the army appears to be the saviour. Third, the army showed great decisiveness. This is evident from the trip of the chief of army staff, Raheel Sharif, to Kabul on December 17, to persuade the Afghan authorities to help the Pakistan army take on Mullah Fazlullah, chief of the TTP, who was supposed to have been operating from Afghanistan.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also displayed firmness by lifting the moratorium on capital punishment. But the first six people executed were on death row for taking part in the attack against the GHQ in 2009 or being involved in an attempt on General Pervez Musharraf’s life. The government seemed to signal that those who “deserved” to be killed first were people who had targeted the army.
Fourth, the reaction of the government and the Pakistan parliament reinforced the army’s position. On December 24, a national action plan (NAP) was shaped by representatives of the nation. Indeed, all parties with elected members in Parliament, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which seized this opportunity to suspend its six-month-old agitation, and the army were involved in the drafting of the plan. Among the NAP’s 20 points were “zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab”, where the Pakistan Muslim League (N), or PML(N), has been accused of complacency, a commitment that the “execution of convicted terrorists will continue” and the “establishment of special trial courts for two years for speedy trial of terror suspects”.
Something certainly had to be done to fight terrorism and bring the guilty to book more effectively. In Sindh, for instance, the 18 anti-terrorism courts had disposed of only 798 cases between September 2013 and November 2014, out of 2,700 pending cases. The conviction rate is also very low (32 per cent) — of the 798 cases, 543 resulted in acquittals. This dysfunction of the rule of law is generally attributed to the judiciary. But the problems are often due to poor investigation by the police and the absence of witness (and lawyer) protection by the security apparatus. The government’s fear of reprisals also needs to be factored in. Though the judges have sentenced to death about 8,000 criminals who are now on death row, a world record, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government had decided to place a moratorium on capital punishment in 2008. Nawaz Sharif had continued with it till the Peshawar tragedy.
But instead of reforming the judicial process to overcome these limitations, the all-parties conference that gave shape to the 20-point NAP decided to hand terrorism cases over to military courts. Certainly, dissenting voices were heard among Islamic parties — the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) apprehended that the military courts could be used to target religious seminaries and institutions — as well as within the PPP and the PTI. But mostly, the dissidents argued against the need to amend the constitution in order to establish such a practice. PPP senator Aitzaz Ahsan, for instance, while supportive of resorting to military courts in terrorism-related cases, felt that they could be instituted “through a simple amendment to the law, instead of amending the constitution”.
However, the military was adamant: they wanted this transfer of judicial authority, which nullified an important dimension of the separation of powers, to be protected as much as possible from a ruling of the Supreme Court. In the past, the court has struck down laws of the same kind on the grounds that they violated the constitution. The political class offered the military this huge concession on a platter. In that sense, the post-Peshawar scenario has allowed the army to continue to assert its power at the expense of the civilians —  according to Zahid Hussain, “Even the term ‘soft coup’ may not be an appropriate one”.
However, after the Peshawar tragedy, civil society organisations mobilised in a rather unprecedented manner. In Islamabad, demonstrators protested before the Lal Masjid after its main cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, declared that he would not condemn the killing of children in Peshawar and that he would not consider them martyrs. A case was filed against him on December 19. On December 26, the district court of Islamabad issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest on the charge of threatening the demonstrators who had camped for a few days outside the mosque. But, as The Dawn reported, “police officers said they were finding it hard to implement the orders in the case of Abdul Aziz, and feared that his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order may create a law and order situation”.
In fact, the police had already registered 22 cases against him before and after the Lal Masjid siege in 2007. None of them had progressed much, mainly because witnesses reportedly changed their testimony or failed to appear in court. This may be attributed largely to fear. Hardly anything has changed after Peshawar, except that the cleric delivered his Lal Masjid sermons over the phone instead of in person, using the microphone of the mosque, which is run by the government.
Other Islamists have been spared. The Haqqani network and the Jamat-ud-Dawa (the name under which the Lashkar-e-Taiba is functioning) are cases in point. Last month, the US administration welcomed Pakistan’s decision to ban them, but Islamabad had not made any such announcement. It merely indicated that these outfits had been designated as terrorist organisations by the UN and that, as a member of the UN, Pakistan was obligated to “proscribe” the “entities and individuals that are listed”. Except that the Haqqani network as well as the JuD and its chief, Hafiz Saeed, were “listed” by the UN in 2012 and 2008, respectively, and this has hardly made any difference in Pakistan.
In December 2014, for the first time since its inception in the 1980s, the JuD held its annual ijtema (congregation) in Punjab. Saeed addressed a crowd of about 4,00,000. Asked five weeks later about the “ban” announced by the US, Saeed declared that it was “nothing new”: “It has been going on over the past six years”.
On December 24, during a televised address, Nawaz Sharif had declared, “A line has been drawn. On one side are coward terrorists and on the other side stands the whole nation”. He also said, “The Peshawar atrocity has changed Pakistan”. The magnitude of this change is not yet clear. Certainly, civil society has tried to mobilise and the army is pursuing the North Waziristan operation with unprecedented determination, but it is also acquiring more and more power at the expense of the democratisation process. And “good Islamists”, including the JuD leaders, still have a strong presence in the public sphere.
Postscript: Last week, the TTP claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 19 people in a Shia mosque in Peshawar, in retaliation for the executions mentioned above. This shows that the “blood for blood” escalation continues.

Pakistan - PPP calls for appointing foreign minister and APC to chalk out foreign policy

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and senior leader of PPP Syed Khurshid Shah has expressed his dissatisfaction over the existing foreign policy besides demanding the government to appoint a Foreign Minister and call All Parties Conference (APC) to chalk out foreign policy in accordance with the needs of the prevailing situation.
Addressing a Press conference here on Sunday, Syed Khurshid Shah said that it was a matter of concern that the government has not succeeded to find a suitable person to appoint him as Foreign Minister.
He said that PPP hasn’t supported the government or PML-N but supported the democracy and democratic system instead.
The PPP leader said that his party wishes the sitting government to complete its five year tenure.
Khurshid Shah said that at present, terrorism, inflation, poverty and unemployment were the major issues faced by the country and these all needed to be curbed as soon as possible.
The Opposition leader ruled out the rumours regarding differences between PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and said that both have are in consensus over issues and have complete trust in each other.
Commenting over the formation of military courts, he said that though it was tough decision but was vital in the larger interest of country and masses.
He criticised PTI chief Imran Khan for referring to the Shikarpur tragedy as failure of the authorities and question what his party was doing in KP where such occurrences were happening and PTI was in power.
He urged Chairman PTI to end politics of sit-ins, protests and playing role for betterment of country and masses by coming into the Parliament.
Khurshid Shah said that Pakistan is desirous of peace, prosperity and stability in the region but not at the cost of national interests.

Pakistan - PPP stands united, Bilawal rules out reports

Ruling out reports of rifts within the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ranks, party’s patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday claimed in a tweet that the party is united.

“Anyone claiming otherwise and speaking against the leadership is no friend of the party,” said Bilawal.''

The PPP stands united, anyone claiming otherwise and speaking against the leadership is no friend of the party