Sunday, September 27, 2015
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The stunning human-rights abuses of a U.S. ally.
For Saudi Arabia, sometimes it’s not enough to simply behead a person who has run afoul of the government: On some occasions, there’s nothing like crucifixion to make your point:
A group of U.N. experts has joined rights groups in calling on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a Shiite man convicted of crimes reportedly committed as a teenager during protests inspired by the Arab Spring.
Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of firebrand Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, faces execution by beheading and an additional rare punishment of “crucifixion,” which means publicly displaying the body after death as a warning to others, according to Saudi state media.
Saudi Arabia, of course, is a world champion of human-rights abuse. Freedom, in all of its manifestations, is absent from the country. For an accounting of Saudi Arabia’s dismal human-rights record, please see Amnesty International’s latest country report. (I would direct you to Human Rights Watch’s work, except that Human Rights Watch has a history of—believe it or not—fundraising in Saudi Arabia. It should not, of course, fundraise in any non-democratic, primary-target country, particularly one in which giving to a human-rights group could land the donor in terrible trouble.)
Naturally, Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record makes it, in the eyes of the United Nations, an expert on the subject: Saudi Arabia sits on the UN Human Rights Council and is even part of the committee that helps choose the council’s human-rights experts. The UN Human Rights Council is already a debased body, whose members include Cuba, Venezuela, China, Pakistan, Qatar, and Vietnam. Providing Saudi Arabia with a leadership role in this group is an affront to morality and good sense.
It also puts the United States in a difficult position, as we saw earlier this week, when Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, was asked about Ali al-Nimr, and about the crucial role Saudi Arabia is meant to play in the advancement of human rights. A transcript of the relevant exchange is posted below. I don’t know Toner, but I feel pity for any U.S. government official who believes that he is forced by the nature of his job to cover up for Saudi Arabia:
QUESTION: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was named to head the Human Rights Council, and today I think they announced they are about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Muhammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?
MR. TONER: I’m not aware of the trial that you—or the verdict—death sentence.
QUESTION: Well, apparently, he was arrested when [he] was 17 years old and kept in juvenile detention, then moved on. And now, he’s been scheduled to be executed.
MR. TONER: Right. I mean, we’ve talked about our concerns about some of the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our Human Rights Report, but I don’t have any more to add to it.
QUESTION: So you—
QUESTION: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s—we would welcome it. We’re close allies. If we—
QUESTION: Do you think that they’re an appropriate choice given—I mean, how many pages is—does Saudi Arabia get in the Human Rights Report annually?
MR. TONER: I can’t give that off the top of my head, Matt.
QUESTION: I can’t either, but let’s just say that there’s a lot to write about Saudi Arabia and human rights in that report. I’m just wondering if you [think] that it’s appropriate for them to have a leadership position.
MR. TONER: We have a strong dialogue, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that spans, obviously, many issues. We talk about human-rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it’s an occasion for them to look at human rights around the world but also within their own borders.
So, the United State welcomes the leadership of Saudi Arabia on a body meant to expose the human-rights violations of countries like Saudi Arabia. This is straight-up “Alice in Wonderland” policymaking. There are reasons we are allies with Saudi Arabia, of course, but even Barack Obama has made it clear—even before he was president—that these reasons ought to be scrutinized.
By the way, I’m sure that Saudi Arabia will itself benefit from membership on the Human Rights Council. It will no doubt learn new and exciting torture techniques from its fellow members, some of whom might be able, for reasons of public relations, to guide Saudi Arabia away from crucifixion, and toward less outre forms of punishment.
A senior State Department official said Saturday that the U.S. was concerned about the Islamic State group’s efforts to try to establish a stronghold in Afghanistan.
“It is a newly emerging threat,” the official said in a background briefing on Afghanistan. “It is unpredictable as yet how it might evolve. It is something that we are taking seriously.”
The official commented a day after the United Nations released a report that indicated the militant group was gaining influence in the country.
The report, by the U.N. al-Qaida monitoring team, said the number of individuals and groups who openly declared sympathy with or loyalty to IS had continued to grow in Afghanistan.
The report also said Afghan security forces estimated that about 10 percent of Taliban militants were also Islamic State “sympathizers” and that IS had some form of “branding or sympathy” in about two-thirds of the country’s provinces.
The State Department official said the potential IS threat in Afghanistan was something that the U.S. was factoring into how it engaged with the country and supported Afghanistan’s efforts to improve security and stability.
The official commented after U.S., Afghan and Chinese officials led a high-level meeting Saturday on Afghan development and cooperation.
The meeting, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, included Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry said that while al-Qaida remained a threat in Afghanistan, “the presence of Daesh, ISIL, has brought a new and unprecedented element of risk” into an already “volatile environment.” Daesh and ISIL are acronyms for Islamic State.
Later, in a joint statement, the U.S., China and Afghanistan said meeting participants “reiterated support” for the Afghan-led peace process and its efforts to advance reconciliation with the Taliban.
Appeal to Taliban
When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took office last year, he called on the Taliban and other insurgent groups to join peace talks and end the bloodshed in the country.
However, efforts to negotiate with the Taliban broke down in July when it was revealed that Mullah Omar, the longtime leader of the group, had died two years ago.
Earlier this week, new Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akthar Mansoor said he would reject peace talks with the government unless it revoked security agreements with the U.S. and NATO and required all foreign forces to withdraw from the country.
NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan formally ended last year. However, the Afghan government signed agreements with the U.S. and the foreign military coalition for some troops to remain in the country to continue training and advising Afghan forces.
افغان ولسمشر محمد اشرف غني يو وار بيا ويلي دي چې پاکستان له افغانستان سره په يو نا اعلان شوي جنګ کې ښکېل دی.
ولسمشرغني پرون د ارګ په ماڼۍ کې د یو شمیر ولایتي شوراګانو له استازو سره د لیدلو پر مهال پاکستان ته په اشاره وویل، چې سوله د افغانستان حق دی او د ټينګښت لپاره یې چاته زارۍ نه کوي. نوموړي زیاته کړه :
« موږ د سولې لپاره له پاکستان سره لوی ګامونه واخیستل ، لږ تر لږه څوارلس کاله کیږي چې پاکستان په یو نا اعلام شوي جنګ له افغانستان سره ښکېل دی، موږ دغه جګړه ختمول غواړو. موږ ددې لپاره ننواتې او زارۍ نه کوو ، دا زموږ د ولس حق دی. »
بلخوا څو ورځې وړاندې د پاکستان د ملي امنيت سلاکار ويلي وو چې دوی هڅه کوي د افغان دولت او طالبانو ترمنځ د سولې خبرې بيا پېل شي چې په په نتيجه کې به يې د افغانستان او پاکستان اړيکې ښې شي.
د طالبانو د مشر ملا عمر د مړيني خبر تر راتلو وروسته له طالبانو سره د سولې خبرې وځنډيدې او له دې وروسته په افغانستان او پاکستان کې د ترسره شوو بريدونو تور دواړه هيوادونه پر يو بل لګوي.
"There is anxiety in Pakistan about everything that puts India at the centre on global stage," said former Pakistan's ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani to NDTV, adding that the anxiety will remain "as long as we continue to believe that Pakistan's future lies in constant competition and rivalry with India". His message to Pakistan, "stop competing with India and start focusing on our own welfare".
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Senator Afrasiab Khattak Friday said that Pakistan was fast slipping into the hands of militants who were gaining ground with each passing day and the writ of the government was becoming weaker.
“If the rulers didn’t take proper steps and evolve a proper strategy, the cities will soon fall to militants,” he said told a gathering at the ANP’s Bacha Khan Markaz. The meeting was organised in connection with the 17th death anniversary of Dr Najeebullah, late president of Afghanistan who was killed by Taliban soon after capturing Kabul on September 27, 1996.
The followers and admirers of Dr Najeebullah across the Durand Line regularly observe his death anniversary to pay him homage. Afrasiab Khattak warned the forces who once again want to allow militants to take over Afghanistan that any such move would create Yugoslavia-like chaos in the entire region.
He stressed that the neighbouring countries should not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs and instead allow the Afghans to decide their destiny. Afrasiab Khattak said, “Dr Najeeb was a dynamic, intelligent, energetic and courageous person who stood for the unity of Afghan nation and never compromised on interests of his country.”
The ANP leader said Dr Najeeb was the architect of reconciliatory politics in Afghanistan. “He started negotiations with all the stakeholders. Had he been allowed to succeed in his endeavours, Afghanistan would have been a cohesive, democratic and peaceful country with no signs of terrorism,” he opined.
Bashir Khan Matta, provincial organising secretary of the party, said that Dr Najeeb was beacon of light for those who believe in peace, progress and prosperity of Afghans. He added that the Afghan leader envisioned a free, democratic and developed Afghanistan for which he negotiated with all stakeholders including his bitter rivals.
Former provincial minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that Dr Najeeb was a popular Afghan leader whose bravery and love for his land could be gauged from the fact that despite offers from different quarters to take him out of the country he refused and said that he would rather die on Afghan soil than to live abroad.
He said that Dr Najib was killed in a very humiliating and brutal manner and the Pakhtuns could not forget it and will keep on the struggle against those anti-humanist forces. “Today, we are facing the same enemy that killed Dr Najib and we pledge that the party will continue its efforts till elimination of such evil forces,” he stressed.
ANP leaders and workers, members of Malagary Doctaran, Malgaray Wakeelan, Pukhtun Students Federation and National Youth Organisation were present on the occasion. Dr Saeedur-Rahman, president of Malgaray Doctaran also spoke on the occasion and lauded the sacrifices of Dr Najib.