Friday, April 24, 2015

Music Video - Guns N' Roses - November Rain

Bahrainis stage massive rally

A large number of Bahraini demonstrators have once again held a massive protest rally to show their outrage at a court decision to extend the detention of the main opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman.

On Friday, the regime forces launched another heavy-handed crackdown on demonstrators, who had taken to the streets to demand the immediate release of Salman, the leader of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the country’s main opposition group.
Local residents and witnesses say the rally in an area around the capital Manama turned violent after Al Khalifa forces fired teargas and birdshots to disperse the anti-regime protesters.
Bahraini people have recently staged nationwide protests against a court decision to adjourn Salman’s trial. He was set to be tried on Wednesday, but the trial has been postponed until May 20.
This is the second time Salman’s trial has been put to a later date. In late March, a Bahraini court adjourned Salman’s trial until April 22 and extended his remand.
Salman’s lawyers say the case against their client is politically motivated and lacks legitimate legal basis.
Back in December 2014, Salman was arrested on charges of seeking regime change and collaborating with foreign powers. He has strongly denied the allegations.
A Bahraini protester prepares to throw back a teargas canister during clashes with police following a demonstration on February 13, 2015. (AFP photo)
His arrest has triggered condemnation inside and outside Bahrain, with leaders, governments and international organizations across the world calling for his immediate release.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have frequently called on the Bahraini government to release all political prisoners.
Bahrain has been witnessing almost daily protests against the Al Khalifa regime since early 2011, when an uprising began in the kingdom. Since then, thousands of protesters have held numerous rallies in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

Leave the Middle East Be


Like Europe in the 17th century, the Middle East is undergoing a great upheaval, and the U.S. should butt out.

Prof. Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army War College has told me he believes the Middle East is in the midst of a 30 Years War, similar to the one that roiled Europe from 1618-1648. It is an intriguing comparison with which I largely agree.
The 30 Years War wasn’t just one war, but actually a series of wars fought by numerous nations for a variety of reasons, including religious, dynastic, territorial and commercial rivalries. Its destructive campaigns and battles occurred over most of Europe. It is conventionally held to have begun after the future Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II, in his role as king of Bohemia, attempted to limit the religious activities of non-Catholic groups and impose Roman Catholicism on his domain. Needless to say, the Protestant nobles of Bohemia and Austria rose up in rebellion.
When the war ended, the notion of a Roman Catholic empire in Europe, headed spiritually by a pope and temporally by an emperor, was permanently abandoned. With the signing of the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the essential structure of modern Europe as a community of sovereign states was established.
As was the European 30 Years War, the mayhem in the Middle East today is fueled by a series of wars fought by multiple nations on multiple fronts, ranging from the borders of Iran to the borders of Turkey and down to the Arabian Sea. The reasons behind the wars in the Middle East are as numerous and complex as the ones that drove the the 30 Years War.
Overlay on top of this the fact that the map of the Middle East as we know it now is largely the creation of France and Britain, the early 20th century’s colonial powers. Maps of the region prior to World War I have none of the countries that are at the heart of today’s war-torn Middle East. Today’s Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen were created by the colonial powers after they carved up the Ottoman Empire, whose collapse was a casualty of the war. The borders of these countries are no more than lines in the sand created for commercial reasons to suit the balance sheets of the colonial powers. Likewise, today’s Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar came to be in the years after World War I. All three rose to prominence after the discovery of oil, and they are largely dependent on a ongoing a commercial understanding with the West: These countries receive protection from the West, which seeks, in return, a steady flow of oil.
This artificial map of the Middle East has existed for a century now through a tenuous balance of power among states run mainly by autocrats. Goodson believes the Middle East’s 30 Years War began when this balance of power was blown apart by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which means we are at the midpoint of the remaking of the Middle East.
Just as the battles fought from 1618 to 1648 in Europe led to the formation of the modern nation-state, the battles fought in World War I and II led to the transformation of the modern nation-state. That 20th-century transformation came to a head with the formation of the modern European Union, which is undoubtedly the most significant geopolitical development in recent history. The Middle East will have to travel along a path similar to Europe's to reach a more sustainable and stable state.
When all is said and done, the Middle East will emerge from its torment stronger and more stable than it is now. The new map of the region probably will not look anything like it does now. It may have new borders, countries and even governments. And in the end, this is a conflict that cannot and should not be influenced by the United States. It is a transformation that must be undertaken by the Arabs themselves.
Goodson’s analogy offers as plausible a framework on which to build U.S. grand strategy for the Middle East, as I have seen. My only quarrel with his analogy to the European 30 Years War is that the War of the Middle East will likely go on for twice that long, if not longer.

Key must speak up on human rights in Saudi Arabia

In the grainy video footage a woman on the floor begs for her life, while above her a man dressed in white raises a sword above his head. What happens next is too appalling to recount.
But this isn't the work of the so-called "Islamic State" or even Boko Haram. This is the government of one of the world's wealthiest countries: Saudi Arabia.
Responsible for probably the largest number of beheadings of modern times, the Saudi government runs a sham justice system where confessions are extracted by torture - often for 'offences' that shouldn't be crimes at all. It executes without regard to whether its victims are mentally unwell, intellectually handicapped or even children.
And its horrific and growing enthusiasm for public beheadings (50 people are believed to have been executed already this year) is just the start of its breath-taking disregard for human rights.
The churlishness of Saudi government control extends to being the only country in the world to ban women from driving. Writer Raif Badawi made headlines in January when he was publicly flogged 50 times for setting up an online political forum. Badawi faces 950 more lashings plus 10 years in prison. These outrageous cases give the world a glimpse of the dark underbelly of the glittery Saudi regime, in which virtually all forms of dissent are brutally punished.
In his authorisation of military involvement in Iraq, John Key stated that he's not afraid to use his office to confront evil. As he said at the time, "I will not stand by while people are beheaded". Next week Key will be the first New Zealand prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia.
Knowing how to engage with draconian governments is one of the toughest dilemmas heads of states must face. Is it better to boycott any high-level official contact, or to engage and keep the lines of communication open?
But as all good politicians know, in the real world the questions aren't so simple, let alone the answers.
In my role at Amnesty International I'm often asked whether the heads of countries like New Zealand should be visiting governments like Saudi Arabia at all.
For many good reasons Amnesty International doesn't take positions either way on boycotts, so these aren't calls I'll need to make. But as someone who witnesses the trials and the triumphs of human rights activists in places like Saudi Arabia, I know how a government like ours can send a powerful message.
And so I offer three suggestions to Key based on the 50 years of experience Amnesty International has gained working to influence despotic governments around the world.
Firstly, if a prime minister does decide to visit a country that commits atrocities, they must represent more than just New Zealand's trading interests.
They must also represent the values that New Zealand holds dear, like respect for the law and human rights.
  There's a big difference between quietly going through the motions to tick the "I raised human rights" box, and making it a strong focus of the trip and the ongoing relationship.
To achieve this the concerns that are raised need to be specific and tangible. It's never enough to talk generally about human rights without presenting examples of the concrete issues – like the criminalisation of dissent – and the actual cases of people like Badawi that tell the true story. Government leaders from Canada, Norway, Germany, the US, and Britain have all spoken out on  his behalf. Will our government take this opportunity to do the same?
Secondly, while it's right to raise human rights concerns in closed-door meetings, it's never enough by itself.
To be effective the concerns should also be repeated in public through the media. Adding to the international call for change encourages other countries to do the same, and it gives courage to citizens like Badawi to know they are not alone when they put their lives and families' futures on the line to speak up for freedom.
And finally, the visit and relationship should reinforce the international laws that we expect our trading partners to live up to.
This is more salient than ever now that New Zealand is on the United Nations Security Council. When raisingBadawi's case, Saudi Arabia's woefully neglected commitments as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture would be a good place for Mr Key to start.
None of this is easy when economic interest is at stake. But the mark of a true statesman is a consistency of values and approach that makes it very clear where your country stands, even with trading partners.
Our prime minister has the opportunity to do something meaningful for the brave people in Saudi Arabia who are risking their lives for the basic rights Kiwis use every day.
Next week Key can choose to speak out for those facing torture or beheading in the Saudi sham justice system, or he can let his silence be New Zealand's complicity.
We will be listening and hope to hear our prime minister make human rights a central part of the conversation in Saudi Arabia.

Catastrophe in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen’s civil war was always a risky gamble. Now there’s evidence showing just how damaging four weeks of airstrikes have been: more than 1,000 civilians killed, more than 4,000 wounded, and 150,000 displaced. Meanwhile, the fighting and a Saudi-led blockade have deprived Yemenis of food, fuel, water and medicines, causing what a Red Cross official called a humanitarian catastrophe. Yemen has long been a weak state, and with each day it draws closer to collapse.
The Saudis claim the airstrikes have punished the Houthi rebels, who have tried to take over Yemen, by wiping out many of their weapons and military installations around the country. But the rebels, who are supported by Shiite Iran, are still on the march. The Saudis, who lead a coalition of Sunni Arab nations, are nowhere near to restoring the Yemeni president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Mr. Hadi was ousted by the Houthis in January and driven into exile in Saudi Arabia.
The Obama administration has helped the Saudis with intelligence and tactical advice and by deploying warships off the Yemeni coast. Now it is wisely urging them to end the bombing. The White House seems to have realized that the Saudis appear to have no credible strategy for achieving their political goals, or even managing their intervention. On Tuesday, they declared a halt to most military operations, only to resume bombing hours later. More airstrikes followed on Thursday as warplanes from the coalition struck Houthi targets around the Yemeni cities of Aden and Ibb.
The Sunnis constitute a majority in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries intervened because they feared that a Houthi takeover would extend the influence of Iran, which also has footholds in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. That fear appears to be exaggerated in Yemen. Nevertheless, the intervention has threatened to turn what has been a civil war between competing branches of Islam into a wider regional struggle involving Iran.
Saudi Arabia has been further unnerved by the possibility of a nuclear deal involving the United States, other major powers and Iran. Such a deal, it fears, would help make Iran the dominant regional power and spur reconciliation with the United States, thus putting Saudi Arabia’s security relationship with Washington in jeopardy. This has left American policy makers with a formidable diplomatic challenge: reassuring the Sunni nations of continued support while trying to see if Iran, an adversary since 1979, could be nudged into a more productive relationship.
The deployment of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and other warships to the Arabian Sea this week was intended as proof of that reassurance. American officials said they were prepared to intercept a nine-ship Iranian convoy headed for Yemen and believed to be carrying weapons for the rebels. Fortunately, the Iranian vessels turned around, avoiding a possible confrontation.
The fighting needs to end, relief supplies need to be delivered quickly and a political dialogue needs to be restarted. Before the outbreak of the Houthi offensive, a United Nations-led diplomatic initiative had made some progress, but the Security Council never gave it enough support and attention. And now, the United Nations official who led the negotiations, Jamal Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat, has resigned and returned to New York.
Finding a political solution will not be easy; it may not even be possible. For one thing, it will require Saudi Arabia to accept the Houthis, an indigenous Yemeni group, as part of the governing power structure. But such a solution is the only hope for bringing some stability to the country and refocusing international and Yemeni resources on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most lethal Al Qaeda affiliate, which is the real beneficiary of the widening chaos.

Armenian Music Video - Arman Tovmasyan feat. Ksenona - Jana jana

Video - The Genocide Word by Raphael Lemkin #ArmenianGenocide

Armenian Mass Killings: Who Says 'Genocide' And Who Doesn't

By Glenn Kates

Armenians -- and many others -- say there is no doubt that the World War I-era mass killings and deportations of up to 1.5 million Armenians in the eastern stretches of the Ottoman Empire constitute the 20th century's first genocide. 
But 100 years later, using the term -- or refusing to do so -- comes with weighty political implications.

Turkey, whose modern borderlands include territories where Armenians once predominated, admits that there was large loss of life among the largely Christian group. But it says there was no orchestrated Ottoman effort to wipe out the empire's Christian minority -- and that the historical context was a brutal war where hundreds of thousands of Muslim Turks died as well.
Ankara recoils at the term "genocide" -- which isdefined as a deliberate attempt to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group in whole or in part  -- and typically lashes out when its foreign counterparts use it. When Pope Francis recently called the mass killings genocide, Turkey quickly recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.

With the 100th anniversary of the start of the massacres being marked on April 24, here's a rundown of the sometimes complicated terminology in common use.

At Least 22 Countries Call It Genocide

The list includes Armenia itself, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

The government in Germany, Turkey's largest European trading partner, has said it supports a draft parliamentary resolution that would for the first time link the killings to genocide.

The European Parliament voted to recognize the killings as genocide in 1987, and in April of this year, it angered Turkey by passing a nonbinding resolution calling on Ankara to do the same and to normalize ties with Armenia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the vote would "go into one ear and out the other."

Four European Countries Outlaw 'Armenian Genocide' Denial…

...but enforcing it is hard.

Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovakia, and Greece have all approved laws similar to legislation against Holocaust denial, but in 2013 the European Court of Justice ruled that a Swiss court's decision to fine a visiting Turkish politician for calling claims of genocide an "international lie" violated his freedom of expression.

The court said that, unlike the Holocaust, which is a historical fact, there is a still a "contradictory debate" around the Armenian killings.

In 2012 France's Constitutional Court overturned a new law criminalizing "Armenian genocide" denial.

U.S. Says 'Great Calamity' But Not Genocide

As a U.S. presidential candidate, Barack Obama called the mass killings "genocide." But, like past presidents, his administration has so far refused to use the term, instead opting for the Armenian-language Meds Yeghern, or "great calamity."

Amid pressure from Turkey, the administrations of George W. Bush (in 2007) and Obama (in 2010) both successfully pressured the House of Representatives to avoid voting on proposals to recognize the World War I events as genocide.

UN Chief Says 'Atrocity Crimes'

Shortly after Pope Francis called the mass killings genocide, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he considered the events "atrocity crimes."

A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute purportedly shows Armenians hung by Ottoman forces in Constantinople in June 1915.
The UN uses the term to describe "three legally defined international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes."

The spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said Ban is "fully aware of the sensitivities related to the characterization of what happened in 1915."

 Turkey Says 'Communal Violence'

The words katliam, which means massacre, and tehcir, meaning forced relocations, are frequently used in Turkey to describe the events of 1915.  Mukatele, meaning mutual killings or communal violence, is also sometimes used by officials to imply culpability on all sides.

Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalizes insulting the "Turkish nation." In the past Turkish citizens have been prosecuted under the law for appearing to blame Turks for the mass killings, but in an April interview with Al Jazeera, Etyen Mahcupyan, a Turkish-Armenian adviser to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said that there are no longer such cases.

Still, speaking publicly about the deaths can be dangerous. In 2007, a nationalist assassinated Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who had written extensively about what he termed genocide.  In 2008, 13 people were arrested in a plot to kill Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk, who had emphasized the Turkish role in the mass killings.

A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, dated 1915, which purportedly shows soldiers standing over skulls of victims from the Armenian village of Sheyxalan in eastern Turkey during World War I.The Turkish word for genocide, soykirim, is used to describe other ethnic slaughters, including the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the massacre of Muslims by Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica in 1995.
A picture released by the

 Baku May Be Even More 'Antigenocide' Than Turkey

Azerbaijan and Armenia are bitter rivals who have been locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh for the past 20 years. The territory is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani but is controlled by ethnic Armenians.

The mass deaths of 1915 are rarely discussed in Azerbaijan. When officials use the term "genocide" in relation to the events of 100 years ago they typically precede it with a derisive adjective.

For instance, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov recently lashed out at the European Parliament's resolution, referring to the "fictional Armenian genocide."

New York Times Says Genocide, Other Media Don't

The New York Times reported extensively on the massacres of Armenians as they happened 100 years ago. At the time, the word "genocide" did not yet exist, but phrases like "Turks Accused Of Plan To Exterminate Whole Population" appear to fit with the modern definition of the term.

Fascinating from @NYTArchives, August 1915. 100 years later, still debating what to call it. 

The paper now calls it a genocide and has done so regularly for the past 11 years.

Explaining his decision to The New Yorker in 2004, then-executive editor Bill Keller said, "I don't feel I'm particularly qualified to judge exactly what a precise functional definition of genocide is, but it seemed a no-brainer that killing a million people because they were Armenians fit the definition."

The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe also use the term. Other news organizations, including Reuters, the BBC, and RFE/RL's English-language website, stick to terms such as "mass killings" while describing the Armenian and Turkish positions.

Armenians Are Clear: This Was Genocide

Armenians have long battled for international recognition of what they say was clearly a genocide.

They frequently point to the words of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who fled to the United States during the Nazi invasion of Poland and is credited with coining the term.  

"I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times,"Lemkin said in a 1949 interview. "It happened to the Armenians, and after the Armenians Hitler took action."

Putin in Yerevan for 100th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide

Armenia marked the centenary on Friday of a mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks with a simple flower-laying ceremony attended by foreign leaders — including Russian president Vladimir Putin — as Germany became the latest country to respond to its calls for recognition that it was genocide.
Turkey denies the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in what is now Turkey in 1915, at the height of World War I, constitutes genocide and relations with Armenia are still blighted by the dispute.
The parliament in Germany, Turkey's biggest trade partner in the European Union, risked a diplomatic rupture with Ankara and upsetting its own many ethnic Turkish residents by joining the many Western scholars and two dozen countries to use the word.
Its resolution, approved overwhelmingly, marks a significant change of stance in a country which has worked hard to come to terms with its responsibility for the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he "shared the pain" of Armenians, but as recently as Thursday he again refuted the description of the killings as genocide and has shown no sign of changing his mind.
The French and Russian presidents, Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin, were among guests who placed a yellow carnation in a wreath of forget-me-nots at a hilltop memorial near the Armenian capital Yerevan and led calls for reconciliation.
"Recognition of the genocide is a triumph of human conscience and justice over intolerance and hatred," Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said in speech under gray skies, with many guests wrapped in coats or blankets.
In a speech at the ceremony that was met by warm applause, Hollande said a law adopted by France in 2001 on recognition of the killings as genocide was "an act of truth.”
"France fights against revisionism and destruction of evidence, because denial amounts to repeat of massacres," he said, describing his own attendance as "a contribution to reconciliation."
Putin warned that neo-fascism and nationalism was on the rise in the world, the same terminology he uses to describe what Russia regards as radical elements in Ukraine, whose forces are trying to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in the east. "But remembering the tragic events of the past years we must be optimistic about our future and believe in the ideals of friendship … and mutual support," Putin said.

Peace Accords Withdrawn

The European Parliament also refers to the killing in 1915 as genocide, as did Pope Francis this month, prompting Turkey to summon the Vatican's envoy and recall its own.
Other countries, including the United States, have refrained from using the term.
Predominantly Muslim Turkey, which has no diplomatic ties with Armenia, says many Christian Armenians were killed in partisan fighting during the war but denies it amounted to genocide. It says there was no organized campaign to wipe out Armenians and no evidence of any such orders from the Ottoman authorities.
In February, Armenia, a poor country of 3.2 million that for decades was part of the Soviet Union, withdrew landmark peace accords with Turkey from parliament, setting back U.S.-backed efforts to bury a century of hostility between the neighbors.
But Sarksyan said Wednesday that he was ready to normalize relations with Turkey, stating that there should be no preconditions in restarting the peace process and would not insist the Turks accept they committed genocide.
In another sign of reconciliation, European Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir attended a memorial service at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul, the first time a Turkish government official has taken part in commemoration events since 1916.
Anniversary events in Armenia this week included an open-air ceremony on Thursday at which the Armenian Apostolic Church made saints of the victims of 1915, and will culminate in a torch-lit march on Friday evening.
"We are glad to see that more countries and even the Pope recognize Armenian genocide. It should be done so that it is never repeated," Susana Karapetyan, a 32-year-old resident of Yerevan, said earlier this week.
Members of the Armenian diaspora around the world were also expected to hold ceremonies remembering the dead.

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In step with Ghani’s Afghanistan

Suhasini Haider

As India prepares to welcome Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, it must recognise that political changes and new regional equations, rather than past years of goodwill, will be the most important determinants of the future course of India-Afghanistan relations

On a visit to Afghanistan in February 2014, it looked as though relations between India and Afghanistan were on a high. Relations were set to get into a new pace, with India committing to projects as part of the total package of $2 billion for development aid and to a request from Afghanistan for helicopters. The helicopters, three upgraded ‘Cheetals’ from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, were to be delivered “soon”.
“Soon” has meant more than a year later. The helicopters will now be handed over when Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani visits New Delhi on April 27. But the Afghanistan they will land in has changed vastly in the past year, and their impact may not be as deeply felt as when they were needed a year ago. What has changed? New governments in New Delhi and Kabul are the most visible change; so have Afghanistan’s regional equations with Pakistan, Iran, and China, especially since its President, Hamid Karzai, demitted office.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to welcome Mr. Ghani, it is this change, rather than past years of goodwill, that will be the most important determinant of the future course of India-Afghanistan relations.
Turnaround with Pakistan

Mr. Ghani’s turnaround with Pakistan is probably the most dramatic shift in Kabul’s foreign policy. From the moment he assumed office, he has shunned making any comments on Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) support to the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) insurgents in the way Mr. Karzai had, and has pursued closer ties on the military front. He has invited Pakistan’s Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, the ISI Chief, Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar, and two corps commanders to Kabul. He went to Pakistan in November, visiting the Army General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. Mr. Ghani agreed to send the first batch of six officers to Abbottabad for training in February this year. The Peshawar school massacre in December 2014 and the Kabul embassy attack might have brought the two countries closer, evident in their sharing information on the terror groups responsible. The other part to this closeness comes from Mr. Ghani’s desire to restart talks with the Taliban. Much will depend on how much Pakistan delivers in terms of persuading senior Taliban leaders to appear for talks, even while curbing attacks by the groups under its control in Afghanistan.
Engagement with China, Iran

Talks with the Taliban have changed the nature of Afghanistan’s engagement with China as well. China has traditionally stayed away from playing an overt role in the internal political process of countries it invests in. Yet, in February this year, its Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, announced at a press conference in Islamabad that China was “ready to play a constructive role” and would “provide necessary facilitation at any time if it is required by various parties in Afghanistan.” What he didn’t say then, but which is well known, is that Beijing has already hosted a team headed by the leader of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Qari Din Mohammad, to discuss the way forward. The Taliban visit came a month after Mr. Ghani had been to Beijing, in October 2014, and issued a public invitation for talks to the Taliban when at a press conference with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Around the same time, a senior Minister in the Ghani cabinet visited India and his message to the Indian government was clear; “For peace in Afghanistan, we need a handle on the Taliban, for which we need a handle on Pakistan, for which we need China.”
For China, the move to reach out is clearly driven by Mr. Xi’s desire to clear the path to Central Asia with his Silk Route “One Belt, One Road” initiative, spanning cities from Xian to Venice. The project — which involves hundreds of billions of dollars to be spent on infrastructure along the route from China to Europe — envisages Afghanistan as an investment hub, while also securing energy supplies for China’s burgeoning needs. Mr. Xi is making it known that he is willing to spend, and spend big on the venture, along with a more modest “Maritime Silk Route” initiative. His announcement of a $46 billion plan to build an economic corridor through Pakistan to the Gwadar port, and which the Chinese will manage, is in line with that. His plan to link Afghanistan to Pakistan through highways, and new railway lines will also boost more trade along the route. Simultaneously, the Chinese outlay of $40 billion in the Silk Route Fund will strengthen Afghan transport and trade links with Central Asian countries.
Finally, in the discussion on Afghanistan’s neighbourhood, there is Iran, a country now poised on the brink of big changes. The P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) agreement to work on a deal over Iran’s nuclear programme by June 30 opens up many possibilities for Afghanistan, which had a go-slow at several points on trade with Tehran because of sanctions by the United States. There is no doubt that the economic landscape of Afghanistan will change with the development of trade routes through Iran and Pakistan.
A role for India

Where does India fit in in all this? Has Mr. Ghani spoken with his feet, by travelling to China on his first state visit, in October 2014, and later to Pakistan, in November, leaving India to much later, after a visit to the U.S. in March 2015? Does India risk being left out of the loop when it comes to strategy, trade and development with Afghanistan? This in a changing region where the U.S.’s influence is receding, China’s influence is rising, Pakistan is more powerful, and Iran is showing the potential to be the economic powerhouse in its neighbourhood? The answer: not necessarily. But as Mr. Ghani comes to New Delhi, it is necessary to recognise the contours of this changing world as well as build a new dynamism into the India-Afghanistan relationship.
Negative impulses

To begin with, policymakers in New Delhi will have to acknowledge that three essentially negative impulses have dogged most of the moves made over the past few years. These are: manoeuvres against Pakistan’s terror threat; measures cutting trade with Iran because of U.S. sanctions; and moves countering China’s rise in the neighbourhood.
The decision to refuse Afghanistan’s demands of military transport and combat assistance was essentially driven by India’s nervousness over Pakistan’s reaction, and attacks by the LeT on Indian nationals. Eventually, Afghanistan’s government gave up waiting, and Mr. Ghani withdrew the requests, made by Mr. Karzai in 2012-13. While India may still not wish to accede to the Afghan plea for lethal weaponry and combat assistance on the ground, it is necessary that the government moves quickly on other requests for helicopters, jeeps, and plans for an academy to train security forces in Kabul. The delivery of the Cheetal helicopters in a few days could be the signal that India is finally ready to do much more. At the same time, Mr. Modi may have to accept the inevitability of a dialogue with Pakistan on cooperating on transit trade with Afghanistan. This would strengthen Mr. Ghani’s request to the Pakistan Commerce Minister, Khurram Dastgir Khan, to include India in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA) in talks this month.
Second, the delays in the alternate route through Iran’s Chabahar port can be attributed to U.S. pressure against deals with Iran. Putting off work on this route will ignore Indian sacrifices already made in order to build the Zaranj-Delaram highway on the Afghanistan side. It is imperative that India makes good on its promise to quickly refurbish the Iranian port, and re-establishes full trade relations with Iran in order to have a head-start on the new trade route to Afghanistan, that will no doubt emerge as a consequence of the P5+1 agreement with Iran.
Third, the government’s opposition to China’s Silk Route initiative in the neighbourhood should be revisited. If China is willing to invest in the region’s infrastructure, this is something India can also benefit from, by developing its own trade relations with each of the countries along the Silk and Maritime Silk Routes. India’s influence over its neighbours, be it in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region or in the Indian Ocean region has always been in a historical and cultural context, and involving a large-heartedness in sharing its resources with its neighbours. India must extend its generosity of spirit by encouraging its neighbours to benefit from Chinese prosperity, while “being the Un-China” itself and reaching out in ways China can’t. Mr. Modi’s visit to the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, in March 2015, underlined just what this engagement could look like.
Afghanistan has shown that it values relations with India, even as it essays the new opportunities in its own neighbourhood, and Mr. Ghani’s visit will be a chance to repose confidence in those ties. In his inaugural address, Mr. Ghani outlined his country’s “five-circle foreign policy”: relations with neighbours, Asian countries, the Islamic world, donor countries and international institutions. As one of its most reliable donors — as the architect of development projects as prominent as the Parliament, highways and the Salma dam, a provider of health and education to lakhs of Afghans, and as a strategic partner with a long history of shared culture and faith — India already has a big place in the Afghan heart. Now, it can well occupy a significant part of each of these circles.


At least five Pakistani security personnel were injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast on a van of the police's Quick Response Force in Peshawar's Gulbahar area on Friday morning.
A police official said the quick response force van was on a routine patrol when the IED planted on a roadside detonated. As a result, five members of the force were injured.
Saudi funded notorious terrorist outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) spokesman Muhammad Khorasani in a statement claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to the Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU), two kilogrammes of explosives were used in the remote-controlled blast.
The BDU said the IED was planted under a bridge and was hidden among flower pots.
The injured were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital for treatment where a policeman was reported to be in critical condition.
Police cordoned off the area immediately after the blast and started an investigation into the incident.
Sauida demanded of the pakistan's support in Saudi-led aggression in Muslim Country Yemen but on other hand Saudi-funded banned outfits targeting the Pakistani security forces, notables and common people across the country to destablize the country.

Christians continue to be persecuted in Pakistan without any sign of change

By Nasir Saeed

Persecution continues to escalate against Christians in Pakistan, and this is despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's reiterated statements that minorities will be protected. 

Pakistan’s minorities, particularly Christians, have been suffering since the country's inception and have been living under constant fear for their lives for several decades. They are under constant attack and unfortunately a large number of atrocities are being committed against them by extremist groups in Punjab, which is a stronghold of the present government PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League). Since PML-N has close ties with these groups, it is unlikely that the Punjab government will take any stern action against them. 

The recent attack on two churches in Youhanabad, the subsequent setting on fire and killing of teenage boy, Nauman, after he was identified as Christian, gunmen opening fire on Christian schools, and last month's shooting at St. Peter’s Catholic Church and High School in Township, Lahore, are just a few recent examples of attacks against Christians.

The situation is extremely worrying and there is enough evidence to force any government to look in to the causes of why one particular minority group is being victimised, and then make some action plan to control the situation. But unfortunately the Punjab government still seems far from any pragmatic approach. There is no hope of improvement, instead signs of the situation sadly deteriorating. 

The ongoing situation against Christians is internationally recognised with the UNO, Commonwealth, politicians in the west and church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis, expressing their concern. However it seems to all be falling on the deaf ears of the Pakistani government and its policy makers. 

It is therefore very important for all of us to approach those influential people who can speak to the Pakistani government and are in a position to make a difference. It is equally important to keep praying for Pakistani Christians and others who are suffering because of their faith, that God protects them and they may find peace in Him.

Law Open to Abuse Blasphemy Law In Pakistan

The blasphemy law is a part of the PPC, which was introduced in 1860 by the British Government to protect religious feelings. It may be observed that Section 295 provides protections to worship places of all classes of religions living in the subcontinent. It does not contain element of discrimination or preference to any class. It maintains equality of all before the law. The law appears to maintain mutual harmony and peace as well as to promote sense of mutual tolerance, understanding and respect in the multifaceted society of the subcontinent. This section represents the typical example of a secular democratic law for benefit of all and loss to none. But it gradually was envenomed and the addition in it made this law a weapon of annihilation.
There have been instances of intolerance relating to the blasphemy laws, promulgated by General Zia in 1985. They state that whoever says anything disparaging about Holy Qur’an and Muslim can be punished by life imprisonment and that anyone who blaspheme against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is liable to the death penalty.
The blasphemy law continues to be abused because of its vague formulation, which allows arbitrary enforcement. In additional, it only takes the testimony of four Muslims to bring about a conviction. It is not worthy that in several cases complains have been filed at the insistence of local clerics or members of the Islamic parties. The motives are varied and some seem to be purely because the accused is the member of minority faith.  In other cases this fact is exacerbated by economic or profession rivalry.
Original Sections of 1860 Code: 295-298
Section 295
Injuring (or) Defiling Place of Worship, with intent to insult the Religion of any class ‘whoever destroys, damages, or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.’
Section 296
Disturbing Religious assembly ‘Whoever voluntarily causes disturbance to an assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship, or religious ceremonies shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.’
Section 297
Trespassing on burial places, etc ‘Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely of sepulture, or any place set apart for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or cause disturbance to any person assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine or with both.’
Section 298
Uttering words etc with deliberate intention to wound Religious feelings ‘Whoever with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or make any gesture in the sight of that person, or place any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine or with both.’
First Addition
In 1972 section 295-A was introduced as a result of the failure to convict one Rajpal who had written a scurrilous tract against the holy Prophet [PBUH]. Rajpal’s acquitted led to serious Muslim-Hindus communal tension. To fill the lacunae in the law that had enable his acquitted 295-A was introduced by Act XXV of 1927. This was the second blasphemy law.
Section 295-A
Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage Religious feelings of any class by insulting its Religious (or) Religious believers ‘Whoever, with deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of His Majesty’s subjects, by word either spoken or written, or by visible representations, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to years, or with fine, or with both.
Additions by General Zia-ul-Haq 
Thereafter the laws remained unchanged until 1980. Between 1918 and 1947 there are only 4 reported cases in India under sections 298 and 295-A i.e. the blasphemy laws. Between 1947 and 1986 there were only 5 reported cases in Pakistan.
All the above laws also continue to be part of Indian and Bangladesh Penal Codes.
In 1980 section 298-A was introduced. This was the third blasphemy law.
Section 298-A
Use of derogatory remarks etc in respect of Holy personage ‘Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife [Ummul Mumineen], or members of the family [Ahle-bait], of the Holy Prophet [PBUH]or any of the righteous Caliph [Khulafa-e-Raashideen] or companions [Sahaaba] of the holy Prophet [PBUH] shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both.’
Section 295-B
Defiling etc of copy of Holy Qur’an ‘Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.’
Section 295-C
Use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet [PBUH] ‘Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or in directly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad[PBUH] shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.’
The two technical changes introduced with this law are that for the first time blasphemy becomes a capital offence. Further, in 1991 the Federal Shariat Court ruled that the option of life imprisonment was to be removed and the death penalty became the mandatory punishment for this offence. The second innovation is that this is the only law in the entire PC that requires the presiding judge be a Muslim. The other noteworthy aspect of this section in the absence of the expression willfully or intentionally in the text of the law. Disregard of the element of will or intention in the law makes the whole environment suspicious of the reason that “will” or “intention” is an essential part f human behavior in the context of identifying a criminal offence. Thus under section 295-C, a person committing offence without “will” or “intention” is awarded death sentence at par  with one committing it “willfully” or “intentionally”. We can see that law is required to punish the “unintentional” offence on the same scale as in the case of “intentional” one, without any justification.
Blasphemy laws, like other discriminatory laws, gave change the fate of Christians in Pakistan, the Ahmadi community and even the Muslims are not safe from this brutal and savage law.
Christians and Ahmadis are the main target of the fundamentalist and religious-political parties. The law is being used for forced conversions, forcibly taking the lands and the businesses of non-Muslims and for settling personal scores, rivalries and vengeance. These laws have also hindered the preaching of any other faith except Islam. Nevertheless, these laws have proved to be the most injurious weapons for active religious persecution used by the extremists.
Once a person is held under blasphemy charges, the victim and his\her family are sore-pressed and are harassed with problems. As a matter of fact, none of the victims has ever availed relief from the lower courts and have to go in appeal in the higher or even if the person get relief from the higher courts he\she can never go back to this place and have to live in danger for his\her entire life.