Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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Turkey is paying a high price for Erdoğan’s ambitions


Turkey has entered a tailspin. The longer the current bloody standoff between the security forces and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) continues, the harder it is going to be to get back to any semblance of peace and normality. Government officials insist they are not against the Kurds and that their only concern is to combat PKK terrorism. But one has to wonder about this, given the way the present cycle of violence was allowed to spiral out of control.  

Of course, a country must respond to terrorism. There is universal agreement on that. But the first priority of responsible politicians should always be to douse a fire that has potentially deep social consequences, rather than to pour fuel on it. One therefore has to wonder whether the Justice and Development Party (AKP), egged on by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, really wants peace. 

Many argue that it does not, hoping that the present turmoil will serve its political interests. Not only does it not want peace, according to this widespread belief, but it also wants to reactivate the sensitive Turkish-Kurdish fault-line by demonizing the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which received the support of a majority of Kurdish voters in the last elections.

According to a Turkish saying, “wolves like misty weather.” This is also the impression that Erdoğan and the AKP are giving. It was, after all, Erdoğan himself who said on July 28 that it was “impossible” to continue with the Kurdish peace process. “I think it is impossible to continue the settlement process with those who target our national unity and brotherhood,” he said as he was departing on a visit to China. 

This is a far cry from the days when the AKP, under Erdoğan, accused ultra-nationalists over their attitude toward Kurds and initiated the now all but dead peace process, which included the bold step of talking to the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan. Erdoğan has now become what he was criticizing then. It seems that he was “play acting” then, for political reasons, and is today revealing his real self.

But the death and destruction of the past three weeks will most likely rebound on him, if he expects this turmoil to drive people to hanker in desperation for a savior, namely himself. For all the vilification of the HDP by him and the AKP, it is unlikely that this party will lose the Kurdish vote it took from the AKP on June 7. It is also likely that the liberals who voted for the HDP will stick with their choice in the event of early elections, which Erdoğan wants. 

It is also unlikely that the present turmoil will drive CHP voters to the AKP, as the latest surveys show. 
Put another way, if the country is being driven to chaos for the sake of Erdoğan’s political ambitions, as many claim, this is a big shame. Despite the fact that it is more or less clear now that the future does not hold for him what he wants, he appears determined to have his shot in the dark, no matter what the cost. 

There are claims that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sees all this and actually wants a coalition with the CHP that will be reformist, and work to reinstate stability, but is being prevented by Erdoğan. One has to give some benefit of the doubt to these claims, while keeping a pinch of salt close at hand, seeing as there is no smoke without fire.

The bottom line, however, is that Erdoğan and his hardline supporters in the AKP are proving to be sore losers. Rather than accept the message that came out of the June 7 elections, they appear desperate to turn the clock back in order to gain the upper ground again so that they can go back to promoting their ideological agenda. 

However, they are bound to realize in the end that the reins of unencumbered power are now out of their hands, and they have no choice other than to democratically share power with others. It seems that Turkey is going to have to bear the cost until this realization finally dawns on them.

Lavrov: We agreed with Saudi FM to continue coordination towards inter-Syrian dialogue

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday there are differences between Russia and Saudi Arabia in relation to the implementation of the items of Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012 on Syria.
“We discussed the goals of implementing the understandings and agreements included in the Communiqué of Geneva 1, and despite that there are some differences in the Russian and Saudi stances on that, I can say that most of the Russian and Saudi stances converge,” said Lavrov addressing the reporters in a press conference held jointly with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow.
He added that both sides agreed to continue thinking about the steps that need to be taken to create the favorable conditions to resume dialogue between the Syrian government and all spectra of the opposition under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Lavrov described his meeting today with al-Jubeir as “very useful” as it came to push forward the understandings reached in the Qatari capital Doha two weeks ago, where the situation in the Middle East and means to solve the crisis in Syria were discussed by Lavrov, al-Jubeir and the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Russia and Saudi Arabia share a unified view on the need for concerted efforts to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the other terrorist organizations, said Lavrov.
In this context and as far as the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative on establishing a wide regional alliance to fight ISIS is concerned, Lavrov stressed that the debate on this initiative will continue, noting that “we have found some features to apply.”
Bogdanov: We are preparing a new expanded meeting for various Syrian opposition groups
Meanwhile, Russian President’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Russia is preparing for a new expanded meeting involving the various groups of the Syrian opposition aimed at solving the crisis in Syria.
He told reporters in a statement that Moscow has made a list of names who will be taking part in the meeting, which it intends to hand to the US and Saudi Arabia.
Russia, Bogdanov said, is willing to hold more contacts in Moscow or Damascus or anywhere else if it would be necessary.
He noted that the date of a meeting between Lavrov and the opposition “National Coalition”, called upon the latter’s request, will be set today or tomorrow, adding that Lavrov’s meetings with other representatives of the opposition might take place during this week or the next one.
Bogdanov also underscored Russia’s willingness to host any new meeting between representatives of the government and the opposition if there is a desire for that.

Is Turkey's 'emergency rule' back?

By Mahmut Bozarslan

Raising the specter of the former emergency rule, a lawyer is challenging recently enacted bans that restrict residents’ movements in areas of eight Turkish provinces.

One of the areas is Geyiksuyu, a village northwest of Tunceli in southeast Turkey, which is in the middle of a beautiful wilderness and surrounded by forests. But now that wilderness is off-limits to civilians following an edict by the provincial governor citing Law 2565 on Military Forbidden Zones and Security Zones. Ostensibly, the bans are designed to protect civilians.
Villagers are upset by the ban, as Geyiksuyu itself is not in the forbidden zone, but residents need access to the restricted areas to run errands and conduct trade.
“There are people who are engaged in beekeeping and animal husbandry in that area,” Haydar Zeytin, Geyiksuyu’s top official, told Al-Monitor. “Beekeepers cannot relocate their hives, because they will lose both the bees and their produce. Winter is coming. People have to stock up on wood, graze their animals. Beekeepers must find a way to enter that zone because otherwise bears will destroy their hives at the peak of the season. What are people to do?”
Thirteen other areas in Tunceli province alone also have been declared forbidden zones. Lawyer Baris Yildirim, spokesman for the Dersim Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Initiative, obtained a court injunction in 2008 to lift a ban imposed at that time. He is preparing to seek court action once again.
He told Al-Monitor the latest bans are advanced versions of the former emergency rule. “One of the powers given to governors under the emergency rule law was to ban access to a zone. But this authority was never used. Instead there were arbitrary bans on populated areas. They declared five provisional security zones in 2008, but we went to court and won all cases.
“In one case we said that military security zones can be declared only for areas for exercises with a 400-meter [0.25-mile] radius. The court ruled in favor of us and canceled the practice. In Tunceli province, there are now 14 special security zones. Nearly all of them are populated areas where people live or keep bees, or highlands where herds are grazed. It is a heavy blow to people. During emergency rule days there were no official decisions, but action was taken on the ground anyway. Now there is an officially declared ban.”
The Dersim Popular Assembly, a group representing civil society organizations and political parties, staged a protest on Aug. 7 demanding the new restrictions be canceled.
The first forbidden zone this time was declared by the governor of Sirnak, who set nine zones off-limits for six months, the longest allowed period for a ban. The governor cited increased activities in the area by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and a plan that is currently in progress to relocate PKK cemeteries.
Nusirevan Elci, president of the Sirnak Bar, told Al-Monitor the decision is de facto implementation of the emergency rule.
“We have been saying for years that the question cannot be resolved with security mentality. This is the result of resorting to security methods by abandoning the normal process,” Elci said.
As of this writing, 37 areas in Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Tunceli, Kars, Agri, Hakkari, Siirt and Sirnak provinces had been declared provisional security zones. The law allows bans from 15 days to six months. Nobody can enter those zones without permission, and doing so could mean fines and imprisonment.
Idris Baluken, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party Parliamentary Group, asked for a parliamentary inquiry about the decision. In a petition to the parliamentary speaker, Baluken said the decision is illegal.
“With this decision for forbidden zones, what is suspended is democracy,” Baluken said. “Rule of law is being violated. In addition to the political ramifications of the decision, there are also the legal aspects. Basic rights of residence, traveling and communications recognized by the constitution are violated. The ‘contract’ between the people and the public authority of law is violated by the authority.”
Although most of the forbidden zones are those where the PKK is known to be active, two areas on the Syrian border were also included on the off-limits list.

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China - Sorry is the hardest word for Jap's Abe

The news that the "draft of Abe's statement contains an 'apology'" made the headlines all day on Japanese broadcaster NHK on Monday. According to the report, the statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday will also include key expressions used in the 1995 statement by then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, including "apology," "deep remorse," "aggression" and "colonial rule." This is so far the first report released saying that Abe's speech will cover this positive content.

Yet over the past few days, a number of Japanese media have been quoting a variety of inside information saying that Abe's remarks will not include terms like "apology." As the day that marks Japan's defeat in WWII approaches, how Abe will talk about it has been placed under global public scrutiny.  

Abe's statement will reflect the future path of the country. If he only reflects on the wartime past but tries to blur the nature of the war by refusing to apologize, or avoiding mention of "aggression," the nation will face serious doubts over whether it is planning to ditch peaceful development, and means to reshape the political and historical pattern that formed after the war. 

Abe has always been beating about the bush, trying to lower the world's anticipation of him echoing the spirit of the Murayama Statement. Not long ago, his cabinet voted through revisions of the country's security rules, which has triggered quite a few domestic protests. His domestic support rate has tumbled sharply, causing him unprecedented pressure since he assumed office as prime minister for the second time.

Abe might compromise, and add those key words from the 1995 Statement. Yet this is not as certain as a compromise to political pressure, rather than his own moral and political responsibility. His historical revisionism is known by all, and opportunism is universally considered as his main principle to adjust strategies over historical issues. Hence, there is a good chance that he may rewrite his statement draft at the last minute. 

Accordingly, instead of the real historical recognition by Abe's administration, the speech will more likely mirror Abe's scheming and calculating among all the pros and cons in the power structure of the Asia-Pacific region.

Even so, a statement that can be accepted by the international community is still worth welcoming. 

Abe's political logic is weird. He should realize that the US is Japan's biggest obstacle on the path toward becoming a "normal state." But he won't let go of the rivalry with China. Some suspect that Tokyo is eager to stay in the good graces of Washington, letting its guard down and seeking a chance to get rid of its control. However, Japan is unable to make that work. 

Abe will find that his ability falls short of his wishes over his strategy in the Western Pacific. We hope he will make the right choice for his statement, whatever the reasons. And history will judge him fairly.

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China - US politicians hype up thorny issues ahead of Xi visit: experts

Chinese experts Wednesday slammed US Secretary of State John Kerry's accusation thatChinese and Russian hackers were probably reading his e-mailssaying that US politicianshave been scrambling to hype up thorny issues such as cyber securityhuman rights andtrade conflicts before Chinese President Xi Jinping's US visit in September.
Speaking on CBS Evening News TuesdayKerry said "very likelyin response to a questionfrom anchor Scott Pelley about whether he thought China and Russia were reading his e-mails.
"The answer is it is very likely," Kerry saidaccording to an AFP report. "Unfortunately,we're living in a world where a number of countriesthe Chinese and Russians included,have consistently been engaged in cyber attacks against American interestsagainst theAmerican government."
Kerry also said that cyber attacks had been a topic of ongoing discussions with China andwould be raised again when US President Barack Obama hosts Xi in Washington nextmonth.
"With no proofKerry's accusation is irresponsible and aimed at indicating that theChinese government is responsible for cyber attacks in the US," Shi Yinhongdirector ofthe Center for American Studies at the Renmin University of Chinatold the Global Times.
Shi added that China has been a victim of cyber attacks and has been pushing back againstsuch attacks.
"The US is always trying to paint itself as a cyber attack victim to cover up their repeatedhacks on other countries," said Li Haidonga professor with the Institute of InternationalRelations at China Foreign Affairs University.
The US media recently reported that Chinese hackers have allegedly been snooping on thepersonal e-mail accounts of top US officials since 2010. In one of the latest attacksthemedia reported in June that the personal data of 4 million federal employees was stolen.
Shi believes that Washington is using these high-profile issues to put pressure on Chinabefore Xi's visit.
Eleven US business groups are lobbying Obama to press Xi on technology protectionismconcerns during Xi's US visitReuters reported WednesdayThe lobbying specified China's"approach to defining its national security interestsas a key concernciting a range ofnew and proposed laws that the US groups said call into question China's commitments toopen markets.
Moreover, 10 US senators on Tuesday urged Obama to make human rights "a key andpublic componentof his talks with Xi.
"Some US politicians want to highlight sensitive issues between the US and China beforeXi's visitThey hope to create an intense atmosphere and make the meeting less fruitful,which may benefit them in the upcoming US president election in 2016," Li said.

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President Obama’s Letter to the Editor

For the cover story of our Aug. 2 issue, Jim Rutenberg wrote about efforts over the last 50 years to dismantle the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the landmark piece of legislation that cleared barriers between black voters and the ballot. The story surveyed a broad sweep of history and characters, from United States Chief Justice John Roberts to ordinary citizens like 94-year-old Rosanell Eaton, a plaintiff in the current North Carolina case arguing to repeal voting restrictions enacted in 2013. The magazine received an unusual volume of responses to this article, most notably from President Barack Obama.
I was inspired to read about unsung American heroes like Rosanell Eaton in Jim Rutenberg’s ‘‘A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.’’
‘‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union. ...’’ It’s a cruel irony that the words that set our democracy in motion were used as part of the so-called literacy test designed to deny Rosanell and so many other African-Americans the right to vote. Yet more than 70 years ago, as she defiantly delivered the Preamble to our Constitution, Rosanell also reaffirmed its fundamental truth. What makes our country great is not that we are perfect, but that with time, courage and effort, we can become more perfect. What makes America special is our capacity to change.
Nearly three decades after Rosanell testified to her unbroken faith in this country, that faith was vindicated. The Voting Rights Act put an end to literacy tests and other forms of discrimination, helping to close the gap between our promise that all of us are created equal and our long history of denying some of us the right to vote. The impact was immediate, and profound — the percentage of African-Americans registered to vote skyrocketed in the years after the Voting Rights Act was passed.
But as Rutenberg chronicles, from the moment the ink was dry on the Voting Rights Act, there has been a concentrated effort to undermine this historic law and turn back the clock on its progress. His article puts the recent push to restrict Americans’ voting rights in its proper context. These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act. Too often, they are rooted in that history. They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations.
I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place. It is now up to us to continue those efforts. Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act. Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier — not harder — for more Americans to have their voices heard. Above all, we must exercise our right as citizens to vote, for the truth is that too often we disenfranchise ourselves.
Rosanell is now 94 years old. She has not given up. She’s still marching. She’s still fighting to make real the promise of America. She still believes that We the People have the awesome power to make our union more perfect. And if we join her, we, too, can reaffirm the fundamental truth of the words Rosanell recited.

President Barack Obama, Washington

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Afghanistan-Pakistan: A False Spring?

Published on Jun 30, 2015

Afghan President Demands That Pakistan Rein In Taliban

The Afghan president has called on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban after a wave of attacks in the capital that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded in Kabul's worst spate of violence since 2009.
In a rare public rebuke of Afghanistan's nuclear-armed neighbor, Ashraf Ghani in a televised address August 10 blamed Pakistan for supporting the insurgents in their 14-year war against Kabul and said he was sending a delegation to Islamabad later this week to demand an end to this.
"The last few days have shown that suicide-bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories that are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan," Ghani said. "We want action against the organizers."
"We know they have sanctuaries there, we know they are active there," Ghani said, referring to Taliban leaders living in tribal-governed regions of Pakistan. "We need all those activities to be stopped."
Since assuming office a year ago, Ghani has pursued closer relations with Pakistan, which wields influence over the insurgent group, hoping that it could use that influence to bring the Taliban into peace negotiations.
But in a sign that he is no longer giving top priority to peace talks, Ghani said: "We hoped for peace, but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistani territory.... We don't want Pakistan to bring the Taliban to peace talks, but to stop the Taliban's activities on their soil."
Lamenting the more than 50 Afghans killed in Taliban attacks in recent days, Ghani said: "We will make peace only with those who believe in the meaning of being a human, Muslim and Afghan, and who do not destroy their own country on orders from foreign masters."
Ghani warned that the recent warming of relations with Pakistan could end.
"Our relations with Pakistan are based on our national interests, on top of which comes security and the safety of our people," he said. "If our people continue to be killed, relations lose meaning.... I hope it will not happen."
Pakistan sought to calm Ghani's anger, saying it remains committed to maintaining good relations with Kabul. A statement from Islamabad's Foreign Ministry said that after losing tens of thousands of its own people to terrorist attacks, Pakistan can feel the "pain and anguish of the brotherly people" of Afghanistan over the latest attacks there.
"Pakistan condemns these deadly attacks in Afghanistan in the strongest terms," the ministry said, adding that Pakistan will continue to support and facilitate an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process" with the Taliban.
Pakistan hosted the first official round of Kabul-Taliban negotiations last month. But a second round that was due at the end of last month was indefinitely postponed after the Afghan government announced the death over two years ago of the reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The Taliban was torn by infighting and rivalries after the swift appointment of Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansur as Omar's replacement by a small council of Taliban leaders in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Despite the divisions, however, the group has only intensified its attacks on Kabul.
Only hours before Ghani's address, a suicide car bombing at a busy roundabout near the entrance to the Kabul airport killed at least five people and wounded 16, officials said. The Taliban said the attack was aimed at a foreign military convoy, but the Interior Ministry said all five victims were civilians, including a woman and child.
Ghani also took his concerns to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation August 10.
Kerry spokesman John Kirby said the two discussed the need for Afghanistan and Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for Taliban insurgents.
The attacks demonstrate the insurgency's "complete disregard for the lives of innocent Afghans," Kirby told reporters in Washington, saying the United States would work with Afghanistan and Pakistan to try to create a "stable, secure, and prosperous region."
Kerry is urging the two countries to go back to working together "to achieve the shared goal of defeating violent extremists," he said. "It is in the urgent interest of both countries to eliminate safe havens and to reduce the operational capacity of the Taliban on both sides of the border."
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for all the recent attacks in Kabul but one -- a truck bomb explosion that flattened a city block, killed 15 people, and wounded 240 as they slept in the early hours August 7.
It is widely believed the truck in that attack detonated prematurely -- CCTV footage on Afghan television showed the truck hitting a speed bump and then blowing up.
Ghani said the recent attacks showed "the war has changed shape."
"The enemy who was fighting to gain territory and claim victory, has now had its backbone broken," he said of the insurgent group. "It is so desperate now that it has turned to cowardly attacks against innocent people just to weaken people's morale."

Christian journalist David Irfan forced to flee from Pakistan

The Editor of “Saawan International”, a monthly Urdu magazine published from Lahore over two decades fled from Pakistan after death threats to him and his family by Islamic extremists.

Mr. David Irfan, Editor and Publisher of “Saawan International” was raising voice for Pakistani Christians with his editorials and covering issues of persecution of religious communities in Pakistan which was never liked by government nor by Islamic militants.

After wide coverage of incidents of Youhanabad Church bombing and Joseph colony setting on fire in “Saawan International” Mr. David Irfan was prime target of Islamic militants who started sending him threatening SMS and phone calls in month of July 2015.

Mr. Irfan went in hiding to safe his life in Pakistan but Muslim tools filed a case in court to put ban on publication of Saawan International blaming it to damage image of Pakistan on International forums that journalist privileges may be taken back from him to make him an easy prey.

The Pakistan Christian Times, an Internet news media also run by Dr. David Irfan reports “A renowned Pakistani Christian journalist namely Mr. David Irfan has not only been hurled threats of dire consequences for putting him to death but also to his other family members. The threat was extended by some Muslim militant extremists from Pakistan. One of the Muslim extremist in Pakistan has gone even to such an extent that through his “declaration” declaratory statement has tried to justify the killing of Mr. David Irfan”

The news of threats to Mr. David Ifran and his fleeing from Pakistan has spread feelings of fear and insecurity among Christian of Pakistan. - See more at:

Pakistan - A Christian man who tried to save Christian girls from street-harassment beaten and shot by Muslims

Two Muslim men allegedly beat a Christian man who barred them of harassing Christian girls.
According to LEAD, a Christian man namely Allah Dita was shot and brutally beaten by two Muslim men namely Abdul Rauf and Tahir Khan, after he prevented them from harassing Christian girls going to church.
LEAD reports that the incident took place in Village 136/16-L, Mian Chanu, District Khanewal on Saturday, July 11, 2015. It was about 6:30 pm, when the two Muslim men who are brothers arrived at Allah Dita’s house, while storming into his house he instantly attacked him beating him severely meanwhile, one of the two attackers shot at Allah Dita.
Reportedly, one of the two attackers beat Allah Dita with a club for the reason that just a few days ago, Allah Ditta stopped them of street-harassment to Church going Christian girls.
Subsequently, one of the fellow villagers called in Rescue 1122 which rescued him from the men and rushed him to Tehsil Head Quartes Hospital, Mian Chanu. He was referred to Nishtar Hospital Multan in a critical condition and is currently under treatment.
Shortly, a complaint of the incident was registered in Saddar Mian Chanu Police station. An FIR No. 233/2015 was registered next day of the incident under Section 324 and 34 of Pakistan Penal Code against two Muslim men allegedly accused Abdul Rauf and Tahir Khan.
After the FIR was lodged, one of the two named was arrested and held on judicial remand meanwhile during the police investigation he was found guilty. Police also recovered the pistol used to shoot Allah Dita. However, the other man named in the FIR is on pre-arrest bail.
However, an uncle of the allegedly accused has filed a petition against Allah Dita maintaining that Allah Dita registred a false case against his nephews. He also claims that allegations of beating were false and that Allah Dita damaged his motorcycle.
The next date set by the court for hearing of this case is August 21, 2015, when the SHO is expected to present a report to the court.
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Pakistan: Ahmadis continued to suffer special legal restrictions in 2014 | US Commission Report

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress, has released its 2015 Annual Report on international religious freedom.

Asserting that "Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom," USCIRF once again called on the US State Department to designate Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" due the state of religious freedom in the Muslim nation. USCIRF recommended 16 other countries, including Saudi Arabia, for the same designation.

The commission says it "bases the recommendations on its statutory mandate and the standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents."

The Annual Report addresses 33 countries around the world and covers the period from January 31, 2014 through January 31, 2015.


Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as “countries of particular concern.” In the past year, the government grappled with a challenging security environment and initiated efforts to fight the Pakistani Taliban. However, despite these efforts, Pakistan continued to experience chronic sectarian violence targeting Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and Hindus. Despite positive rulings by the Supreme Court, the government failed to provide adequate protection to targeted groups or to prosecute perpetrators and those calling for violence.

Pakistan’s repressive blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmadi laws continue to violate religious freedoms and to foster a climate of impunity. USCIRF again recommends in 2015 that Pakistan be designated a "country of particular concern," or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has recommended since 2002.
In 2014, the Pakistani Supreme Court took up the issue of violence against religious minorities on several occasions, going so far as to mandate the creation of special police forces and monitoring bodies. Despite court oversight and democratic institutions, the Pakistani government engaged in and tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief. Pakistan’s legal environment is particularly repressive due to its religiously discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislation, including its blasphemy laws. The government failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence.

During 2014, individual Ahmadis continued to be murdered in religiously-motivated attacks. In May 2014, a Canadian-American Ahmadi doctor visiting Pakistan to do relief work was murdered in front of his family. In July, three Ahmadis – a grandmother and her two grandchildren – were killed in an arson attack by a mob. In December, a major Pakistani television station aired an interview with religious scholars who referred to Ahmadis as “enemies.” Days later, an Ahmadi was murdered; the community suspects motivation from the television broadcast. (See more about the unique legal repression of Ahmadis below.) In addition, local police repeatedly forced Ahmadis to remove Qur’anic scripture from mosques and minarets.
Legal Restrictions on Ahmadis

Ahmadis are subject to severe legal restrictions, both in the constitution and criminal code, and suffer from officially-sanctioned discrimination. 2014 was the 40th anniversary of Pakistan’s second amendment, which amended the constitution to declare Ahmadis to be “non-Muslims.” Other discriminatory penal code provisions make basic acts of Ahmadi worship and interaction criminal offenses. They also are prevented from voting.

Pakistan - NADRA: Disrupting Demographics in Balochistan by Issuing Fake ID Cards

Adnan Aamir
National Databases and Registration Authority (NADRA) is the premier body of Pakistan for issuing nationality related credentials to citizens. Established in early 2000s, NADRA has earned praise for developing a huge database with a reasonable degree of security. Under-developed countries like Sri Lanka have also used the services of NADRA to develop their own nationality database. However, lately several officers of NADRA have been involved in issuing illegal Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) and that has resulted in serious problems especially in Balochistan.
This week it was reported that 40 NADRA officials had been found to be involved in issuing CNICs to terrorists. High profile Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, who were foreigners, possessed Pakistani CNICs. The report had further revealed that 22,000 fake CNICs were issued in 2014 and 64,000 in just seven months of 2015. Although fake CNICs have been issued all over Pakistan but Balochistan is the center stage of this practice where Afghan refugees are the beneficiaries.
It was revealed in a meeting of District Council Chagai that incumbent Afghan President Asharf Ghani also holds a Pakistani CNIC. Member district council, Malik Dilmurad Hasni, presented documentary proof that a Pakistani CNIC was issued to President Ghani. This was shocking news and speaks volumes about the incompetence and corruption prevailing in NADRA Balochistan. President Ghani has never lived in Pakistan and therefore it’s simply unfathomable how he got a Pakistani CNIC issued in his name.
NADRA in Balochistan was repeatedly blamed in the past for issuing CNICs to Afghan refugees. These blames were rejected as political rhetoric and mere allegations until NADRA employees confessed to this crime. In the beginning of this year an anti-corruption court in Quetta sentenced two data entry operators of NADRA, namely Manzoor Osto and Allah Baksh, to 21 years behind bars. They were found guilty of issuing thousands of CNICs to Afghan refugees. Last year, an accountability court in Quetta awarded seven year imprisonment sentences to two assistant directors of NADRA for the same crime; issuing fake CNICs to Afghan refugees after taking bribe.
After conviction of half a dozen NADRA officials in Balochistan, Now it’s a fact that illegal CNICs have been issued to Afghan refugees in huge numbers. During investigation by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) one fake CNIC racket admitted to have issued half million illegal CNICs to afghan refugees.
Issuing fake identity documents anywhere is a crime and not good for the country. However it has greater importance in case of Balochistan. This province has a small population and different ethnic groups have their share in assemblies based on the population mix. Influx of millions of illegal Afghan Refugees with Pakistani CNICs would drastically alter the population mix of the province. The constituency allocation in the province would be affected and it will give rise to another conflict which would be catastrophic for the province.
Balochistan has a Baloch majority population with a sizable population of Pashtun as well. Majority of Afghan refugees are Pashtun and that’s why it’s commonly believed that they would swell the population of Pashtun at detriment of Baloch community. It’s true that Baloch population is the primary victim of Afghan refugees with illegal CNICs but what is not known is that fact that Pashtun population will also suffer. The refugees will get the jobs and other opportunities form the share of Pashtun population. This means that NADRA, by issuing illegal CNICs to Afghan refugees, is badly affecting the interests of both Baloch and Pashtun in Balochistan.
After conviction of its employees, NADRA has blocked CNICs of over 80,000 alleged Afghan refugees in Balochistan. This is not enough because NADRA officials themselves confessed to have issued millions of illegal CNICs, not thousands. According to official figures, Pakistan has 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and another 1 million unregistered. Those refugees that have gained Pakistani CNICs are not a part of the aforementioned figures. So, blocking CNICs of few thousands of people is not the solution of this problem in context of Balochistan.
Two things need to be done on urgent basis to tackle this problem before it becomes too huge to handle. Firstly, across the board governance reforms need to be introduced in NADRA. The internal controls of NADRA should be reviewed and all the necessary improvements should be made to close the door on illegal CNICs forever. All NADRA officials who have any connection with the practice of issuing fake CNICS should be held accountable and there should be zero tolerance for anyone.
Second thing that needs to be done is the audit of all suspected CNICs issued in Balochistan in last ten years. NADRA has a sophisticated database and it will not be very difficult to identify the illegal CNICs issued to Afghan refugees. Having a genuine family tree in Pakistan should be the criterion for differentiating between genuine citizens and afghan refugees. At the same time, Baloch and Pashtun residents of Balochistan should not be harassed by NADRA in any way during issuing of CNICs to them.
Afghan refugees had to leave their homes and flee to Pakistan in aftermath of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It’s a fact that they witnessed a lot of hardships in their initial years in Pakistan. Notwithstanding all sympathies that one should have with Afghan Refugees, they can’t be allowed to possess illegal CNICs and disrupt demographics in Balochistan.

Pakistan - Minorities, finally

House waking up?
Going through the customary motions of Minorities Day our lawmakers must have realised that the House’s contribution to upholding minorities’ rights in this Islamic Republic has been rhetorical at best for a long, long time. Also, while showering praise upon “patriotic minority members who sacrificed their lives in the war against terror – also for their services in… education and health”, the Lower House stopped short of suggesting tangible, quantifiable measures that would, for once, back words with action. Still, the Assembly – however visibly depleted — did spring a surprise, adopting the Quaid’s vision about minorities.
There can be no doubt that the state needs to overhaul its existing system of protecting minorities for the simple reason that it has been an abject failure. And it is strange, to say the least, that a large number of lawmakers hold similar views, apparently, yet are unable to initiate any movement on the issue. There is obvious pressure from their colleagues of the far right of the spectrum. Some say, with credible evidence, that more than political resistance it is threats from the more militant minded Islamists send shivers down many spines in both Houses.
Whatever the reason for the paralysis, nobody can deny that all this while the blasphemy law has been misused, Shi’a, Christians, Ahmedis, etc, have been mercilessly killed, Hindus have been forcefully converted or exiled, and the wronged have found little justice, if any, so far. Since protecting minorities naturally comes within the wider ambit of the war against terrorism, hopefully this time the government will be more serious about walking the talk. That is why this Minorities Day held more symbolic value than usual. And it is telling that Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947, itself a subject of controversy for the religious-conservative lobby, has been projected as the vision for the future.

Pakistan - #ShameNawazRegime - Houbara bustard: Balochistan seeks to legalise hunting of migratory bird

In a bid to legalise hunting of the Houbara bustard, the Balochistan government has requested the apex court to allow what it called “sustainable hunting” of the migratory bird under a strict code of conduct.

Additional Advocate General Balochistan submitted reply in the Supreme Court on Monday, in a matter related to the alleged illegal hunting permits issued to royal visitors from the Gulf countries for hunting the bird.
In his statement the advocate argued that since the Houbara Bustard is a migratory bird, which comes to Pakistan during the winter and returns back in early summer, ‘sustainable hunting’ of the bird should be allowed under strict codes of conduct and should be limited to only those Arab dignitaries who hold permission.
It further said that the hunting should be conducted under strict supervision of the provincial governments (Forest and Wildlife Department) and not through local Pakistani notables posing as representatives of the Arab dignitaries.
The bench is hearing a petition filed by an individual Aamir Zahoorul Haq against the illegal hunting permits issued to royal visitors from Gulf countries for hunting the Houbara bustard.
The petitioner has requested the bench to cancel all the hunting licences, arguing that the foreign office should restrain from issuing such permits to foreigners.
The petitioner claimed that the government had issued the permits despite a ban on hunting of the Houbara bustard. The petitioner also requested the top court to take strict action against the officials who issued the licences.
The bench, during the previous hearing, had sought comprehensive reports from all provincial governments regarding the illegal issuance of permits to foreign visitors.
In compliance of the court’s last order, only the Balochistan government submitted a reply on Tuesday wherein it requested that the petition be dismissed, it being devoid of any merit.
Furthermore, it stated that the provincial government has allowed hunting in view of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC)’s May 2014 decision, adding that the provincial government has allowed hunting of 100 birds from November last year to February this year charging Rs10 million in return.
The Balochistan government rejected the petitioner’s claim that 2,200 birds were killed during the last season.
The bench questioned the advocate under which law had the federal government allowed the hunting of Houbara Bustrad. Justice Dost Muhammad Khan lashed out at the advocate asking if the provincial government had rights to authorise illegal activities under the 18th Amendment.