Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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Video - Slow quake relief raising tensions in Nepal

Video - UN: 8 million people affected by Nepal 7.8 quake

Video - CrossTalk: Putin's 15 Years

Video Report - Running on empty in Yemen

Video - NYC Rally to Protest Death of Freddie Gray

Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar pose serious threat acting as hotbeds of extremism

Assistant Foreign and Expatriates Minister Ayman Sousan said Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, acting as hotbeds of extremism and obscurantist thinking, pose a serious threat to the international and regional stability and peace.
He was speaking to a delegation of Syrian expatriates from Sweden whom he briefed on the reality of the terrorist aggression waged against Syria, during a meeting on Wednesday.
Sousan said the threat posed by the afore-mentioned countries necessitates that the international community take a serious stand to compel them to abide by the Security Council resolutions related to fighting terrorism and halting support to the terrorist organizations.
He dismissed in particular Turkey’s direct involvement in the aggression on Syria as a flagrant violation of the international law.
The Syrian people, nevertheless, are bent on confronting this aggression with the same determination and will by which they had previously brought an end to the Turkish occupation of the Arab countries, Sousan said.
For their part, the delegation members voiced the solidarity of the Syrians abroad with the homeland and their readiness to provide everything necessary to boost Syria’s steadfastness in the face of the aggression.

Saudis ‘floundering’ over Yemen war, analyst says

Press TV has conducted an interview with Mark Sleboda, an international relations and security analyst in Moscow, to discuss Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aggression against Yemen.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Mark Sleboda over 30 days now these Saudi airstrikes, US-backed in terms of at least what we are looking at in terms of their planes and now we noticed not even a Saudi coalition, at least our sources says this is a Saudi attack on Yemen. What is your reading into this?
Sleboda: First of all, this is Saudi-US axis and we have to make it perfectly clear the United States is a full partner. The US is at war in another Middle East country. They are providing C4ISR, reconnaissance, intelligence, re-fueling, ammunitions for the Saudi and their lackey [P]GCC allies’ attacks on Yemen.   
First of all that the attacks are going very badly. The Saudis principally have two goals on this case. First is to stop the Houthi alliance advance and the other one is to restore their ousted puppet [Yemen’s former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour] Hadi to power.
It is impossible to see how they might achieve either one of them without a truly massive ground intervention of hundreds of thousands of troops from them and neighboring countries and we have seen before Saudi ground interference in Yemen has failed disastrously time and time again over the last half a century.
So they are very reluctant to do this. I think they do not know what to do. They have tried to rebrand their attacks on Yemen calling it “hope” instead of “storm” but I do not think any of that really matters on the ground. 
On the ground we see two principle effects. The Houthi alliance is advancing despite the attacks, and also the opponents of both them and supposedly the ousted president, al-Qaeda is advancing as well.
We could have a very possible result of all of this, is that al-Qaeda makes some of the greatest gains because of the Saudi attacks.
Press TV: Do you think a ground invasion is eminent?
Sleboda: I think Saudi Arabia intended a ground invasion at some point but some cooler and more level heads seem to have at least put this process on pause. They are re-assessing and seeing how that alone is not a guarantee of any success.
The Saudi-US axis and their allies want to achieve a political result against the prevailing popular sentiments in the ground in Yemen by military force. The US itself when it put its full military force to bear has failed at this time and time again in the Middle East and Saudi supported only from behind the scenes by the US and only tacitly by other [Persian] Gulf state Arab allies ...
I do not think they know what they are doing at this point. They are floundering. They do not know what to do.

337 Bahraini Opponents Sentenced to 2845 Years in Jail in 1st Quarter: Report

More than 1600 detainees in Jow central prison were subjected to torture, humiliating treatment and deprivation of basic rights during the first quarter of 2015, LHRD said in its report.
The report further said that 653 people, including 16 women and 119 children, were detained in the January-March period.
337 political prisoners were sentenced to a total of 2845 years, including 32 life sentences. Three were sentenced to death.
Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi, the head of the Liberties and Human Rights Department in Al Wefaq, said 2691 peaceful protests have been held across the country, including 1022 protests that were suppressed by the regime forces that used tear gas and shotguns.
The report added that 413 torture cases were recorded in the 3-month period.
559 house raids were also reported, the report said, adding that 278 were arrested during the house raids.
72 opponents, including 49 political and human right activists abroad, were stripped of their nationality, according to the report.
Referring to the continued detention of Sheikh Ali Salman, the secretary general of Al Wefaq, al-Mousawi called for his immediate release, saying the charges against him are baseless.
He also referred to the detention of Sayed Jamil Kadhem, the head of Al Wefaq Shura Council, and Nabeel Rajab, the prominent human rights activist, during the 3-month period.
Anti-government protesters have been holding peaceful demonstrations across Bahrain since mid-February 2011, calling for an end to the al-Khalifa dynasty.
Violence against the defenseless people escalated after a Saudi-led conglomerate of police, security and military forces from the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) member states - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar - were dispatched to the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom on March 2011, to help Manama crack down on peaceful protestors.
So far, hundreds of protesters have been killed, hundreds more have gone missing and thousands of others have been injured.

Everyone Is Losing Yemen’s War


    Saudi Arabia wants to convince the world that it is on the verge of victory in the poverty-stricken country. The truth is, only more destruction and death lies ahead.
     On April 26, I had the privilege of witnessing Yemen’s acting foreign minister, Riad Yassin, deliver a press conference to a rapt audience in London. From an opulent hotel in Kensington, he issued a full-throated defense of his boss, embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is exiled in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after fleeing from the advancing Houthis, a Zaidi Shiite rebel group that has gradually taken over much of Yemen. The Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh — Hadi’s predecessor — Yassin stressed, are responsible for Yemen’s ills; the only solution is international backing for Hadi and his adversaries’ total defeat.
    These exercises in public relations have grown all the more common since a Saudi-led coalition launched Operation Decisive Storm, a military offensive ostensibly to bolster Hadi and defeat the Houthis and their ally, former President Saleh. The key message of these speeches is always that — despite the pernicious nature of their adversaries — victory is just around the corner. Saudi Arabia’s military spokesman has cast the offensive as a historic success, even saying that the alliance achieved its goals within the first 15 minutes of the operation. Houthi leaders, meanwhile, claim that they’ve weakened Saudi Arabia tremendously, going as far as to claim that they’ll soon be on Mecca’s doorstep.
    Saudi Arabia made another victory lap last week, announcing the end of Operation Decisive Storm and the beginning a new phase, dubbed Operation Renewal of Hope. A statement from Riyadh explained the change by saying the previous operation had “achieved its goals” and had successfully protected Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries from the Houthis. But though the kingdom initially signaled an end to the air campaign and the beginning of a political process, virtually nothing has changed on the ground — coalition airstrikes have continued in Sanaa, the capital, and elsewhere as the two sides seemingly remain locked in a zero-sum struggle for power.
    The truth, however, is that no one is winning this war. And while all parties involved in Yemen seem far from reaching their goals, there is one clear loser: the Yemeni people.
    Even if the war stopped tomorrow, rebuilding the damage would still take years. The airstrikes have destroyed swaths of Sanaa, the Houthis’ heartland of Saada, the central city of Taiz, and other cities, while a brutal air and sea blockade has essentially prevented food and water from reaching the impoverished country. The World Health Organization has warned of the “imminent collapse of health care services,” and reports have put the death toll at more than 1,000 people — but that’s just in the major cities. A number of diplomats and officials from countries active in funding development projects in Yemen have quietly grumbled that the military action of the past month has effectively erased decades of work.
    But despite furious diplomatic efforts, it is hard to believe that a peace deal is in the cards. In the heated climate, any unilateral concessions risk being interpreted as signs of weakness. Houthi leaders have defended their actions by casting their situation as an existential battle; unsurprisingly, many of the Houthis’ opponents do the same. The conflict’s increasing regionalization has gone so far as to elide Yemenis’ agency in the whole struggle, suggesting that the power to resolve the conflict may be slipping from their hands.
    There is simply little if any trust among Yemen’s various factions. Amid the rubble, Yemen’s social fabric has also been destroyed: The incursions of Saleh-backed troops and Houthi fighters have likely managed to destroy the few remaining tatters of Yemen’s unity, as the largely northern forces have laid waste to the once-charming port city of Aden, causing dozens — if not hundreds — of civilian casualties. Derogatory, hateful terms for Shiites, directed at the Houthis, pour out of the mouths of many Yemeni Sunnis — most of whom would have scarcely imagined using them a few years ago. In the early, hopeful days of the 2011 protests, members of the Sunni IslamistIslah party worked with the Houthis against Saleh, optimistically casting any tensions as the result of the problems of the old order. Many of them are now in Houthi detention, while still others — in a mirror of Houthi rhetoric casting Islah as a virtual arm of al Qaeda — have brazenly called all Houthis the enemies of God.
    It’s worth stressing that the Saudi-led coalition has made some progress. The Saudis and their allies have succeeded in taking out the bulk of the aerial and ballistic capabilities of the Houthis and their allies in the Yemeni armed forces. But the Saudis have failed to weaken the Houthis’ hold on Sanaa or pave the way for Hadi’s return. Nor have they managed to spur the creation of a united anti-Houthi force. The motley mix of Islamists, tribesmen, and southern separatists are arguably only united by what they oppose.
    I — admittedly, somewhat selfishly — constantly think back to my many Yemeni friends. This war is not even over, and Yemenis have already lost so much; it has been chilling to hear friends tell of the destruction of their homes in one breath and thank God for the survival of their loved ones in another.
    During past crises, whenever a friend would bring up the possibility of leaving Yemen for greener pastures, I’d strongly advise them against it, stressing how much good they could do in their own country. In light of recent events, however, I’ve increasingly questioned the wisdom of such advice. Does remaining in Yemen spell doom for intelligent and ambitious Yemenis? Is their country trapped in a downward spiral from which there is nothing to do but escape and not look back? Or, when the dust eventually begins to clear, will they be the ones who must take up the mantle of rebuilding Yemen, finally paving the way to the brighter day that once — just a few years ago — seemed in reach?

    Video - Hillary Clinton on 'hard truths about race and justice'

    President Obama Addresses Baltimore Riots on The Steve Harvey Morning Show: 'Police Need to Build More Trust'

    President Barack Obama once again condemned the violent riots in Baltimorein the wake of 25-year-old Freddie Gray's death, as he spoke on The Steve Harvey Morning Show Wednesday. 
    "Unfortunately we've seen these police-related killings or deaths too often now, and obviously everybody is starting to recognize that this is not just an isolated incident in Ferguson or New York, but we've got some broader issues," Obama told host Steve Harvey on the radio show. 

    "The kind of violence that we saw from a handful of individuals in Baltimore – there's no excuse for that," he said. "That's just criminal behavior. It's counter-productive because it hurts the very communities that are already suffering a tragedy with Freddie Gray's death."
    Gray died after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody earlier this month. His family called for an end to the horrific violence, which saw rioters setting fire to buildings across Baltimore on Monday evening. "Instead what you got is focus on a CVS burning," Obama said. "People who engage in that kind of violence, it needs to stop." 

    He added: "My hope is that people heed the call of Freddie Gray's family." 

    Obama went on to say that it's important for all communities, not just Baltimore, to address these problems in a serious way. "This is not just a job for the Justice Department; it's a job for all of us as a society." 

    While he commended the police officers who have helped quell the unrest in Baltimore, he urged them to try to focus on building up their relationship with the community in the future. 

    Police officers "have got to build more trust. It's in their interest to root out people who aren't doing their job … instead of the closing of the ranks we see," Obama said. 

    "My heart goes out to the police officers who were injured in the past few days," he added. "They showed extraordinary restraint … It shows how tough a job like policing can be." 

    Continued Obama: "We put them into communities … where young people think it's much more likely they're going to prison than going to college … You've got communities that have been disinvested for years. If you send police officers into those situations, where the drug trade is the primary economy and you say your job is to basically contain that … then it's not surprising that you end up with a situation of enormous tension between those communities and those police officers. 

    "We're not going to change this overnight," Obama concluded. "It requires focus."

    Video - President Obama Celebrates the 2015 National Teacher of the Year

    U.S. - What Came Before Baltimore’s Riots

    The riots that devastated urban America during the 1960s were often ignited by acts of police brutality that inflamed poor African-American communities where the police were seen not as protectors but as an occupying force. These same tensions resurfaced last year in the suburban St. Louis community of Ferguson, Mo., where riots broke out after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a black teenager. They have now erupted on a larger stage, in Baltimore, after the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who suffered a catastrophic injury while in police custody.
    President Obama has condemned as inexcusable the looting and arson that spread across the face of the city after of Mr. Gray’s funeral. But he also implied that the Baltimore Police Department had “to do some soul-searching.” Indeed it does: A well-documented history of extreme brutality and misconduct set the stage for just this kind of unrest.
    Proof can be found in a meticulously reported investigation by The Baltimore Sun of lawsuits and settlements that had been generated by police-brutality claims. “Over the past four years,” the investigation noted, “more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations.” The victims included a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant woman who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
    The report, published last fall, detailed what it called “a frightful human toll” inflicted by the police: broken bones, head trauma, organ failure, and even death, occurring during questionable arrests. It found that judges and prosecutors routinely dismissed charges against the victims and that city policies helped to hide the extent of the human damage. Settlements prohibited the victims from making public statements. The Sun estimated that the cash-strapped city had spent $5.7 million on settlements and $5.8 million on legal fees since January 2011.
    Baltimore residents were familiar with these and other stories of police abuse when Mr. Gray’s case fell into the public spotlight earlier this month. The police chased and apprehended him on April 12, allegedly because he had “made eye contact” with a lieutenant and then ran away. Cellphone videos of his arrest showed him being dragged into a police van, appearing limp and screaming in pain. The police have acknowledged that they delayed in calling for medical help. When he arrived at the police station, medics rushed him to the hospital, where he slipped into a coma and died a week later. His family has said that 80 percent of his spinal cord was severed and that his larynx had been crushed. This account is at odds with a police report claiming that “the defendant was arrested without force or incident.”
    The Baltimore Police Department has a particularly egregious history and has entered into a voluntary reform agreement with the Justice Department. But there is no reason to believe that it is unique in terms of its toxic relations with the people it is meant to protect.
    Indeed, over the last five years, the Justice Department has opened 21 investigations into local police departments around the country and is enforcing reform agreements with 15 departments, some investigated by previous administrations.
    Mr. Obama was right on the mark when he observed on Tuesday that tensions with law enforcement had simmered in African-American communities for decades and now seemed to be bursting into view once a week.
    “This has been a slow-rolling crisis,” he said. “This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.”
    He also said that addressing the problem would require not only new police tactics but new policies aimed at helping communities where jobs have disappeared, improving education and helping ex-offenders find jobs. The big mistake, he said, is that we tend to focus on these communities only when buildings are burning down.

    Hillary Clinton: Baltimore Unrest Shows Need for Change

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke out on the unrest in Baltimore Wednesday in a speech in New York. She is the first presidential candidate to publicly address the situation in detail, though some of the Republican presidential contenders have touched on the issue, deploring street violence and urging calm.

    Clinton’s remarks came in a speech at Columbia University.  “What we have seen in Baltimore should, indeed I think does, tear at our soul.  My heart breaks for these young men and their families.  We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America," she said.

    Clinton said the U.S. needs to confront a number of issues in the wake of the unrest in Baltimore following the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, in police custody.  The Gray case is the latest in a series of deadly encounters between young black men and police around the country over the past several months.

    Clinton said it was time to end what she called “the era of mass incarceration” of young, low-level criminal offenders, as well as the lack of funding for drug and mental health programs.

    But Clinton also said those behind the recent violence in Baltimore should be held accountable.  “So the violence has to stop," she said. "But more broadly let’s remember that everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law.”

    Clinton is the only announced Democratic candidate for the November 2016 election, although that likely will change on Thursday, when Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who usually votes with the chamber's minority Democrats, is scheduled to join the race.

    Obama’s View

    To some extent, Clinton’s remarks echoed those of President Barack Obama, who spoke at length about the violence in Baltimore in a White House appearance on Tuesday. Obama sought to strike a balance between shining a spotlight on the some of the deep-seated problems behind the violence in Baltimore, and on those who were intent on taking advantage of the situation.  “That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It is people - a handful of people - taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes. And they need to be treated as criminals," said President Obama.

    The president noted a number of recent incidents involving young black men and police across the country that resulted in the use of deadly force, and said these raise troubling questions in many communities.  “Moms and dads across the country might start saying this is a crisis," he told his audience at the White House, which included news media. "What I would say is, this has been a slow rolling crisis and this has been going on for a long time.”

    Republican Contenders Speak Out

    Republican presidential contenders have also weighed in.  Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said the violence in Baltimore emphasized the need for a “commitment to the rule of law and law enforcement.”

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tweeted that he is praying “for the restoration of peace” in Baltimore.

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of three announced Republican candidates, said the Freddie Gray case should be “thoroughly and impartially investigated.” He condemned those behind the violence and looting in Baltimore.

    One Republican who has become prominent in connection with the unrest is Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who is newly elected and is not running for president. Baltimore was reported calmer Tuesday night after police enforced a curfew. Hogan said: “Our primary mission again is to maintain order and to begin to repair the damage inflicted by the violence.  Acts of violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated.”

    Ghani seeks to renew India's commitment in Afghanistan

    Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani is on a trip to India in a bid to boost trade and reassure New Delhi of his country's commitment despite warming ties with Pakistan. But will it be enough? DW talks to analyst Smruti Pattanaik.
     Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (R), walks with the Afghan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani during their meeting in New Delhi, India, 28 April 2015
    (Photo: EPA/STR)
    "India and Afghanistan have (a) million ties," Ghani told reporters at a joint media briefing in the Indian capital following talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 28. The Afghan president is on a three-day visit to India aimed at renewing New Delhi's commitment to Afghan development and the fight against the Taliban as well as at shoring up Indian investment in the conflict-ridden country.
    New Delhi has had close ties to Kabul since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, especially during the term of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. India has granted Afghanistan $2.2 billion in aid over the past decade - the biggest it has ever given to any country. However, concerns were raised in New Delhi when, shortly after his election, President Ghani decided to reach out to India's rivals Pakistan and China before visiting India.
    In a DW interview, Smruti Pattanaik, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, talks about India's view of Afghanistan's warming relations with Islamabad, and explains how India can contribute to Afghanistan's economic development.
     Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a business meeting in New Delhi, India, April 29, 2015
    (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
    India's contribution to Afghanistan's economic growth is immense, says Pattanaik
    DW: What are the key aims of Ghani's visit to India?
    Smruti Pattanaik: Several elements of this visit are significant. First, Ghani wants to assure India that it remains an important strategic partner. Second, he wants to assure that its investment in Afghanistan is secured and would be protected from attacks by the insurgent groups. Third, Ghani is seeking more investment to accelerate the process of building the Chahbahar port in Iran.
    Why has Ghani taken so long to visit India?
    After the controversial electoral process that got Ghani elected as Afghan president, the main issues that have confronted his political leadership have been post-transition security challenges and talks with the Taliban aimed at concluding a negotiated political settlement that would bring lasting peace to the war torn country.
    Keeping these two objectives in mind, President Ghani has sought the help of the US, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. New Delhi cannot deliver on these immediate needs. However, India remains an important partner and a popular country to the people of Afghanistan. Ghani understands this and knows that India would remain a strategic challenge to Pakistan's intention to dominate Afghanistan through its proxies.
    How important is Afghanistan to India?
    Afghanistan forms the lynchpin of India's central Asia strategy, as it provides connectivity to these landlocked countries. Second, a peaceful Afghanistan would contribute significantly to regional peace. India does not want to see Afghanistan as a surrogate state of Pakistan. Therefore, it has laid emphasis on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
    Third, India doesn't want Afghanistan to emerge as a fertile ground from where Pakistan can sponsor terrorism against India, as has been the case in the past. Fourth, India would not like to see emergence of Taliban or radical Islamists as a major force in Afghanistan politics which is likely to patronize radical groups elsewhere. Fifth, India has mining interests in Hajigok, and without peace in Afghanistan it would be difficult to extract the minerals.
    How does the Indian government view Ghani's warming relationship with Islamabad?
    India is carefully watching the unfolding Afghan-Pakistani relations. Islamabad is important for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan as it continues to host the Taliban leadership. India does not have any objection, rather it would be happy, if Pakistan was able to bring the Taliban leadership to hold a dialogue with the Afghanistan government.
    There are, however, a lot of doubts as to whether Pakistan is willing to give up its leverage without a price. So there is much concern in India about how the Pakistan-brokered talks will pan out. Nonetheless, India does not see Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan and its relations with Afghanistan as zero sum game.
    How can India help develop Afghanistan economically?
    In spite of geographical constraints, India's contribution to accelerate economic growth is immense. For economic development in any country to succeed it requires three things: first, it needs good roads and communication network; then it needs electricity and human resources. In this context, India is prioritizing the construction of Chahbahar port to provide Afghanistan access to sea which will provide Kabul with crucial access to port facility and reduce its complete dependence on Pakistan.
    Gen Raheel Sharif Pakistan Army chief in a meeting with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan
    Pattanaik: 'India is carefully watching the unfolding Afghan-Pakistani relations'
    India has also built 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul. It is in the process of completing the Salma dam project, which - although delayed for security reasons – is set to change the irrigation map of Afghanistan, as it will increase cultivatable land from 35,000 hectares to 80,000 hectares and would produce 42MW of electricity once completed. Moreover, Afghan bureaucrats receive training in India and it also provides 1000 scholarships to Afghan students.
    How do you see bilateral ties unfolding in the coming months?
    India and Afghanistan have historically shared very good relations except the few years of Taliban rule. A significant landmark has been the construction of Parliament house which symbolizes Afghanistan's transformational politics – from Taliban to democracy - and reflects India's commitment to help in Afghanistan transition. In the coming months the priority will be to complete the Chahbahar port, expand the infrastructure network and concentrate on capacity building. All these would contribute to make Afghanistan a stable and viable state.
    Major challenges to India's effort would be the ongoing security threat posed by the resurgent Taliban who continue to receive support and sustenance from Pakistan.

    Pakistan - Arab Bedouin & Politics Of Hunting Permits

    By Haroon Janjua 

    Will they (Arab Royals) continue hunting and dinning in the Pakistani deserts till the endangered species meet their extinction?

     “Every time we lose a species we break a life chain which has evolved over 3.5 billion years.” – Jeffrey McNeely
    issue6When you consider the actual scene of hunting, and picture the hunter with possibly the most modern weapon, firing lethal ammunition, it’s a pitiful and inequitable mind that would not for a moment imagine in abhorrence and revulsion the contest between armed death and a rather defenseless life, that of the hunted.
    There is a gross disparity in our appreciation of the human life, in comparison to most other life forms, which we have traditionally and often views as worthy of ‘game’, of hunting and taking down with the lethal weapons at our disposal.
    The mindset needs to be called into question. The world has been progressing towards universalization of certain ideals and principles, which seek to ensure a certain quality of life and rights to not only the humans but also to the living creatures that inhabit this wider earth (and) including the ones who dwell in the wild.
    issue2It must concern everyone that certain Arab royals are able to get the permits and even state patronage to a great extent, for the annual spectacle of killing an enormous number of houbara bustard in Pakistan, a bloody sport that has been gaining popularity and patronage for several decades now.
    Houbara bustard is a klutzy, Turkey-sized bird, with lankly legs and a long neck, and is often associated with absurd and obscure mating ritual. There is not much remarkable about this species with the exception of one thing: it is the object of obsession for Arab falconers, who have chased this feathered creature for many years and in such large numbers that it is almost on the verge of extinction in the Persian Gulf.
    As the houbara migrated from its breeding grounds in Siberia, newly enriched Persian Gulf royalty flocked to the deserts and fields of Pakistan, where they were welcomed with open arms by the country’s leaders. For the Pakistanis, the hunt has become an opportunity to earn money and engage in a form of soft diplomacy.
    issue3What’s more glaring and shocking is that in the course of recent years, it has turned into a repetitive annual fare, in a bizarre geopolitical show, emphasizing affluent Arab sheikhs, the CIA, and Osama bin Laden.
    J. Dana Stuster, highlighted the close association of Arabs hunting around the porous Pak-Afghan Durand-Line, when a singular Arab contingent managed to kill off 2100 houbaras in a matter of just three weeks, 20 times the quota granted to it by the gracious state of Pakistan that hosts them. In his article ‘Meet the Houbara Bustard: the Rare, Oversized, War-on-Terror Chicken’ in Foreign Policy, it was for the first time, that there was a close association of this blood sport established with the ongoing war on terror.
    For the Arabs, this serves multiple objectives bizarrely enough. The Arabs consider the bitter and false-smelling meat of the houbara bustard to be full of aphrodisiacs, secondly to maintain the Sunni hegemony here, and in addition to that the Sheikhs find time for supporting their Jihadist chicken in the very region, Blissful indeed!
    Steve Coll narrates in his book Ghost Wars, that in February 1999, CIA was able to zero in on the location of Osama bin Laden to a houbara hunting camp in southern Afghanistan. There was an Emirati royal who had set up his houbara hunting camp in the area. The agency intended to launch cruise missiles at the camp to kill the terror leader, however, according to Coll, the presence of this important Arab royal prevented them from taking out Bin Laden, given the probability of the valued royal likely dying in the attack as well.
    issue4The fact that Bin Laden`s escape in 1999 from houbara hunting camp was made possible due to U.S. concern for the Arab Royal accompanying Laden only means that U.S.’s counter terrorism policy has necessarily been ambivalent and flirtatious on either side of the terrain.
    It’s not only the houbara-falcon alone that Saudi’s have been keen on but they have often appeared to be on the good sides of the likes of Pak-Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaida. In relevance of USA’s preference for the Saudis this does imply that U.S. counter terrorism policy is essentially selective and limited to a great extent by who they are friends with.
    And the Americans have also indirectly benefitted from the Saudi generosity. In the 90’s, Saudis developed airstrips in southern Afghanistan, to facilitate shipment of houbara hunting infrastructure, SUV’s, Tents, Hunting Equipment etc, sometimes actually using the massive C130 transport carrier for the job. After 2001, when the Americans invaded Afghanistan, they used the same airstrips to build the Shamsi airbase around them.
    Nearly every bird species in the deserts of Gulf has been eliminated by excessive hunting by Arab royals. And now, the petro-dollar rich Arab royals have arrived in Pakistan, with the host state’s patronage, for hunting the endangered species of houbara bustard.
    These birds transitionally migrate to Afghanistan and Pakistan in winter season. The Arab Sheikhs spend huge fortunes, by local standards, for hunting and killing these birds for fun.  They visit these areas every year and live in makeshift camp. This massive hunting has severely reduced the population of the houbara. The International Union for the Conservation of Wildlife must take action to help the hapless and defenseless bird from going extinct. If this bird is officially declared a preserved species, then it outlaws their hunting. This will deter the government of Pakistan from issuing licenses to the Arabs.
    issue7The unhinged U.S. support and protection of the Saudi Monarchs has left them uncontrollable and they do whatever they like in the Gulf and in Pakistan as well. The Gulf Sheikdoms, Princes and Sheikhs of Saudi Arabia have been visiting the South Pakistan territories for not only hunting of birds but also to ‘quench their lust of sexual desires’, which has another grave set of repercussions on this country’s social & spiritual health and calls into question the morality of the religious righteous in the country, who also happen to be the strongest and the staunchest votaries of Pakistan’s subservience to the Saudi petro-dollars.
    “This is a clear admission of servility to the rich Arabs. They come here, hunt with impunity, and are given police protection in spite of the fact that they are violating local laws.” says Pervez Hooddbhoy, a physics professor and long time critic of what he calls “Saudization” in Pakistan, on some Saudis continuing to be allowed to hunt a  houbara bustard, in Baluchistan despite a ban on hunting permits.
    issue7The Baluchistan High Court cancelled all foreign hunting permits in response to complaints from conservationists. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has termed the houbara a vulnerable species, and India has banned the hunt. The Baluchistan court order in November cited Pakistan’s obligation to international conservation treaties. However, in a bid to overcome the court ban, the Baluchistan government has lodged an appeal in Pakistan’s Supreme Court that is likely to be heard soon.
    Saudi Arabia has recently injected $1.5 billion into Mr. Sharif’s government to help prop up the ailing economy. Last year in Islamabad, Mr. Sharif laid out a lavish welcome for the other Saudi hunting permit holder: Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, now the King.
    It remains to be seen whether the apex court will uphold the Baluchistan Court’s order or will succumb to pressure to let the Saudis have their way. Houbara bustard indeed is in danger of extinction.  It is the duty of every nature lover and conservationist to rise to its defence and ensure its survival.


    Wahhabi terrorists on Wednesday shot dead a Sunni-Barelvi teacher of University of Karachi (KU) in Federal B area.
    Dr Syed Wahidur Rahman, alias Yasir Rizvi, was killed when four unidentified attackers riding two motorcycles opened fire on his car.
    After the murder of Karachi University dean of Islamic Studies Prof Dr Shakeel Auj, this was the second murder of a Sunni-Barelvi teacher. The slain teachers was famous for denouncing the heinous crimes of Wahhabist Jihadists in his lectures. Some close associates of Dr Rahman told Shiite News that the slain teacher had mentioned many times that he could be murdered because of his name, Yasir Rizvi, which showed that he was Shia. It is learned that after the murder of Prof Dr Shakeel Auj, Dr Rahman was supporting the grieved family of the slain professor in term of seeking justice in the murder case.
    Police surgeon Dr Jalil Qadir said Dr Rahman received five bullets wounds on his face, neck, chest, abdomen and arm while police reportedly recovered eight bullet cases from the site. The assailants managed to flee the scene soon after the attack.
    Dr Rahman's body was taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi. In the wake of Dr Rehman's death, university activities have been suspended for two days.
    It is also worth mentioning that Police in Jan 2015 had claimed the arrest of a suspect who had allegedly confessed to his involvement in the murders of Karachi University dean of Islamic Studies Prof Dr Shakeel Auj and Prof Syed Sibte Jafar.
    Earlier this month, the vice-principal of the Jinnah Medical and Dental College's student affairs wing Debra Lobo was shot and seriously injured on Shaheed-e-Millat Road in Karachi.

    Pakistan - Hazara Under Attack

    The Hazara community continues to face violent persecution owing to its religious identity. On Monday, two more Hazara men were killed and another injured in a gun attack on the booking office of a coach service in Satellite Town. They were purchasing tickets to travel to Taftan at the time of the attack. Had they successfully bought the tickets and left, they might still have been targeted during the journey perhaps by a different set of people but for the very same reasons. That is the reality of their lives; one that is intolerable for them but easily palatable for the state. A series of horrifying attacks has firmly established that the Hazara are under attack. It is also common knowledge who their attackers are; they proudly claim responsibility each time. The victims are known, the attackers are known and yet, the state is consistently failing to protect the former from the latter. When violent sectarian groups hold public rallies in Quetta and chant, “Shiites are infidels!” – in the same Quetta valley where the Hazara reside – and the state does absolutely nothing, it means that it is either impotent or complicit or even both. There is evidence for both. 
    Other than instances where high-profile sectarian terrorists managed to escape from military prisons, images of sectarian leaders with security personnel provided by the state, immunity from action and free mobility – it is also worth remembering that Baloch tribes are not sectarian. This much, even former dictator Pervez Musharraf conceded during an interview. Is the state countering insurgencies by promoting religious extremists? By establishing religious seminaries and giving sole access to Jamat-ud-Dawa for relief work in earthquake-hit areas while refusing others, the leadership is making familiar mistakes that have already cost this country and its people far too much. The Hazara may not be very important to strategists forever engaged in one great game or the other, but they are citizens of Pakistan who must be protected. The state can begin by acknowledging its failure. Those who swore to serve and protect have done neither in Balochistan; at least the Hazara do not think so. Until or unless, there is visible action against sectarian elements in Balochistan and elsewhere, the state cannot expect citizens to believe that it has mended its ways.

    Pakistan - Peshawar pummelled

    In an event unprecedented for this time of the year, Peshawar had to brace itself on Sunday night when a massive storm came swooping in leaving death and destruction in its wake. Experts have called this freak occurrence a “mini-cyclone” and considering the toll it has taken on the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that would be a fair description. As many as 35 people are reported to have died and 150 injured in winds that are said to have reached 110 kilometres an hour. The death count is slated to rise and the questions are also mounting why this was allowed to occur without any preparedness.

    We are living in strange times. Weather patterns are changing. We should have been languishing in the initial flutterings of a hot summer but now we are witnessing high speed winds, unexpected storms, surprising rain showers and the like. It is becoming evident that we can no longer depend upon the seasons to help us prepare and handle climate trajectories. We now need year round preparedness and measures taken to effectively reduce the human toll changing weather patterns can exact. However, our disaster management authorities leave much to be desired. The provincial disaster management authorities issued warnings to the hapless citizens after the storm had caused most of the damage, what to say of evacuating the people. Trees came crashing down, billboards were swept away and power transmission lines were massively damaged, plunging many parts of the province into darkness for a number of hours. To add to this chaos, hospitals started to overflow with people who had been caught in the storm and, for some time on Sunday night, it felt as though the citizens of Peshawar had been left stranded.

    Relief and rehabilitation efforts, spluttering to a start after the ordeal, are all well and good but something should have been done to issue a warning to the people who could have saved themselves; maybe we would have seen a lower death count. There are some basics that should have been looked at and ensured even if we were caught by surprise. Public drainage systems must be kept functional so that low lying areas do not have to confront the menace of being drowned in rain water, which subsequently attracts the dengue mosquito. Even now aftershocks and tremors from the earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday are being felt in Peshawar and elsewhere in Pakistan. All this goes to show that nature’s capriciousness is increasing and all we can do is prepare for the worst. In Pakistan, we cannot seem to do even that.