Monday, September 28, 2015

Music Video - Lena Katina - Never Forget

Video - Yemen: 70 civilians killed in Yemen after Saudi airstrike hits wedding party

West must not accept Saudi Arabia’s barbarism and its human rights abuses


IT IS unquestionably obscene that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not only serving on the United Nations Human Rights Council but will be heading a key panel.
This barbaric state is guilty of the type of human rights abuses that Islamic State would be proud of and yet it is on the UNHRC, lecturing the civilised world, including Australia, about how we conduct our affairs.
As you read this, Saudi Arabia’s regime is preparing to behead and crucify a young man for attending a pro-democracy rally when he was 17. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was sentenced to be executed in a closed hearing earlier this month after being arrested in 2012.
The 21-year-old had no legal representation and was most likely tortured to give a statement on trumped up charges; it’s how they do things in the gulf state.
Ali’s uncle, Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who in the past has been critical of the Saudi royal family, is also sentenced to be crucified for the crime of “waging war against God” in the Sunni-dominant country.
Saudi Arabia kills people for attending freedom protests, for adultery, sorcery, apostasy, homosexuality and a raft of other crimes that apparently deserve a prolonged and painful death.
Women, who are subjugated from birth and treated as less than second class citizens, are killed in public for the crime of witchcraft.
It may be 2015 in the civilised world, but oil riches haven’t advanced the Saudis from a feudal mentality. In fact, crucifixion and beheading isn’t the most horrifying method of execution that Saudi authorities mete out; stoning is still permitted under the country’s sharia law. Women guilty of adultery can be sentenced to a fate that is beyond horrifying; they are partially buried and then surrounded by a ring of men with mounds of rocks at their feet that are thrown from some distance until the victim is dead.
It is a torturous way to kill, although it must be noted that recently the courts have shown a preference for beheading misbehaving women as opposed to stoning them.
Public lashings are another popular form of punishment and can end with the victim suffering an agonising death.
Writer and activist Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for insulting Islam.
Despite an international outcry, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence earlier this year. It’s a sentence his wife, Ensaf Haidar, who fled to Canada with the couple’s three children, has described as a “slow death”.
For his efforts in defending Badawi, lawyer Waleed Abulkhair was also jailed, sentenced to 15 years for crimes including “inciting public opinion”. This isn’t tribal law carried out in remote communities; these are judgments of the country’s highest courts.We have read in horror about gang rape victims being sentenced to prison and 200 lashes but it seems that our Western leaders have little interest in exerting pressure on Saudi Arabia to change its ways.
Instead of being ostracised as a savage theocracy, it is welcomed into the UN and celebrated as a friend. World leaders speak glowingly of King Salman and regard the Saudis as vital allies in the Middle East.
But the kingdom isn’t doing all it can to stabilise the region; some argue it is working to encourage the growth of its inhumane interpretation of sharia law.
Much of the financing of acts of terror in the region, and elsewhere, can be traced to Saudi Arabia.
The regime’s reign of terror has also been emulated around the Middle East and by Islamists around the world.
The country’s appetite for violence, death and an irrational adherence to a strict “moral” code is rooted in the Wahhabi or Salafi form of Sunni Islam.
he scale of oppression and carnage is extraordinary yet many in the West prefer to look the other way rather than acknowledge that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 100 people this year.
Then there is the heinous treatment of women, who are segregated, not allowed to drive and forced to wear dehumanising niqabs, burqas or if they’re lucky a hijab — although devout hardliners prefer a woman’s face to be covered in public — and are subjected to archaic restrictions.
It’s not just women who are treated as less than human; the country’s racist, homophobic and religiously intolerant attitudes are enshrined in law. Earlier this year, Middle East Eye, an independently funded news website, compared proscribed punishments for a list of offences in Islamic State and Saudi Arabia. The similarities were stark.
Both regimes believe death is the only just punishment for crimes including blasphemy, adultery, and acts of homosexuality. While the Saudis typically behead gay men, Islamic State prefer to throw them off buildings and then stone them to death if they survive the fall.
Both Islamic State and the Saudis proscribe hand amputation for theft, although sometimes the odd foot is also chopped off.
It’s clear that oil riches don’t buy acumen, decency or humanity but they do buy the international community’s friendship and a seat on the UN’s Human Rights Council.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won a polling by the daughter of Dubai ruler, Sheikha Mahra Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on who should be named as the historical leader of the Arab world.

Asking thousands of fans on her facebook page who deserves to win the title of the historical Arab leader, Mahra saw an astonishingly large number of visitors on her page in the first few minutes.

Some 54.7% of those who took part in the polling voted in President Bashar al-Assad's favor, saying he deserves to be called the historical leader of the Arab world.

The voters also wrote in their comments on Mahra's facebook post that Assad deserves the title since he managed to stand against a rising tide of terrorists entering his country with the help of the army despite the hard siege that the world attempted to lay on him and his nation.

This is while other Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and former head of the UAE Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, could just win 3 votes.

The conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011, has reportedly claimed more than 240,000 lives up until now.

The US and its allies including France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are known as the major supporters of the militants fighting Syria's government forces.

This is while many regional and western officials have eventually come to the conclusion that settling the crisis in Syria without President Assad is impossible.

In relevant remarks on Saturday, Australia’s foreign minister called for a political solution to the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, stressing the need for a national unity government involving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with English-language broadsheet newspaper the Australian published on Saturday, Julie Bishop said there is an emerging consensus that the incumbent Damascus government would likely have a pivotal role in fortifying the Syrian state and stopping the ISIL Takfiri militant group from gaining ground.

"It is evident there must be a political as well as a military solution to the conflict in Syria," the top Australian diplomat said, noting that Canberra would play its part in achieving such an objective.

"There is an emerging view in some quarters that the only conceivable option would be a national unity government involving President Assad," Bishop pointed out.

Bishop’s comments come as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on September 24 that any talks on ending the conflict in Syria should involve Assad.

"We have to speak with many actors, this includes Assad, but others as well. Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia," she told a press conference in Brussels.

On September 22, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French-language daily Le Figaro that a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis is impossible without the country’s president.

"If we require, even before negotiations start, that Assad step down, we won't get far," Fabius underlined.

Will Russia’s move ruin Erdogan’s plan for Syria?

Kadri Gursel 

Turkey's July decision to finally open its air bases near Syria and Iraq, including Incirlik, to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State was a game changer for the region. It meant the coalition’s air raids against IS would become more effective and less costly.

Only days after the first detachment of six American F-16s was deployed to Incirlik in early August, the media reported the deployment of six Russian MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor fighter jets to the Mezze air base near Damascus. Russia’s military presence in Syria continued to grow thereafter, with the number of Russian warplanes said to have reached 28, including long-range Su-27 Flanker interceptor fighter jets.
The Russian military buildup, backed with air-to-ground assault aircraft, attack helicopters, drones, air defense systems, ground assets and a large number of military personnel, is said to have two aims: fighting IS and preventing the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In this sense, the impact of the Russian intervention is much stronger. By dramatically boosting its force and weight in the Syrian equation, Russia has turned upside down the game plans of others, chief among them Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Using some imagination, one could foresee the adverse impacts Russia’s move will have on Ankara’s policies on the ground. Ankara is now likely to be forced to end the de facto situation — virtually a no-fly zone — it has enforced casually in border areas since 2012. In June 2012, after a Turkish reconnaissance plane was shot down by an air defense system in Syria, Ankara announced new rules of engagement, including the interception of Syrian aircraft flying close to Turkish airspace. There has been no indication so far that these rules of engagement have changed. Since the summer of 2012, Turkish media have occasionally reported incidents of Turkish fighter jets taking off from their bases to chase off Syrian planes and helicopters flying “too close” to the border.
Ankara-backed Islamist groups fighting Assad’s regime have emerged as the main beneficiary of these rules of engagement, which have effectively served as a Turkish air cover for their military and logistical operations in border regions.
Now, the following question arises: Will Ankara stick to its rules of engagement if airplanes approaching the border have the Russian star on their wings? My guess is that the rules of engagement will not be enforced against Russian aircraft, thus ending the de facto air cover for the rebels.
Similarly, Ankara’s intention to create a safe zone along the border stretch from Jarablus to Azaz inside Syria has become completely meaningless since the Russian intervention. Preventing Syrian aircraft from flying over the designated area is the first prerequisite for such a zone, which naturally requires the use of an air force. Thus, Russia’s deployment of interceptor fighter jets in Syria can be explained only with one objective: to deter Ankara as an initial step. Another explanation is hardly possible, given that jihadi groups such as IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham do not have an air force.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s problem stems from his priorities, which are different from those of the coalition. Turkey may have opened its air bases to make coalition airstrikes on IS more efficient and less costly, but this doesn’t mean that fighting IS has become a top priority for Erdogan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. IS is not and has never been a priority for the pair — this we have known for ages. Erdogan, for instance, waited until Sept. 25, 2014, to finally brand IS a terrorist group.
For the Erdogan-Davutoglu pair, the use of Turkish air bases against IS had been preconditioned on the simultaneous pursuit of a regime change in Syria, which, in turn, entailed the creation and enforcement of the safe zone they had advocated since 2012. So, what happened that they finally acquiesced to the air base deal in July after months of stubborn foot-dragging?
The decision was driven by three reasons, none of which places the IS threat in the foreground.
First, forces of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), advancing under coalition air cover, captured the border town of Tell Abyad from IS in June. The Erdogan-Davutoglu duo was alarmed that the more it deferred cooperation with the anti-IS coalition the more ground slid from under its feet, while the PYD, the sister organization of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), grew stronger by the day, allied with the coalition.
Turkey is opposed to the idea of the PYD advancing from Kobani to the western bank of the Euphrates to help oust IS from Jarablus. This has been another factor in Ankara’s decision to open the bases. Yet, only time will tell whether Ankara can keep the PYD in Kobani, given that the United States aims to cut all ground links between IS and Turkey, something that the Turkish government forces have failed to deliver.
Second, the supply route from the Turkish border town of Kilis to Aleppo — a vital element in sustaining Ankara’s regime-change policy — came under IS threat in June. The area stretching from the Bab al-Salam border crossing down to Aleppo is controlled by rebel groups officially backed by Ankara. The AKP government needs to preserve this access to Aleppo, without which its ambitions in Syria become completely irrelevant. Thus, allowing the coalition to use Turkish air bases became imperative in light of stopping the IS advance on the eastern side of the route.
Third, the PYD — which has the PKK as its main supplier and supporter — emerged as the United States’ only reliable ally fighting IS in Syria. Driven by domestic political considerations, Ankara resumed its war on the PKK, weakening the sole US ally on the ground. Keeping the bases closed to coalition aircraft in these circumstances would have been a very unwise idea. In other words, the bases were granted as a sort of “hush money” to the US-led coalition. Washington says it has not sanctioned Ankara’s onslaught on the PKK, denying any explicit or implicit “bases-for-PKK” deal. Yet, Ankara’s logic in this equation functions independently from the categorical US attitude.
The United States is quite content with Ankara’s decision to open the bases. Turkey is said to have engaged in more serious cooperation against IS since the spring. Also, US support for the PYD is said to be limited to the fight against IS, not involving the supply of weapons and ammunition.
Stopping IS remains the No. 1 US priority. Had Turkey shared the coalition’s objective to degrade and defeat IS as a top priority, it would not have been affected that much by Russia stepping in against IS and on Damascus’ side. For the Erdogan-Davutoglu pair, IS represents a growing threat due to the reasons mentioned above, but is never a top priority.
Turkey’s No. 1 problem and priority today is the PKK, which it has been fighting since the two-year cease-fire came to an end in July. Yet, for the United States, the PKK’s Syrian extension, the PYD, is not part of the problem but part of the solution. Overthrowing Assad has ceased to be a US priority since IS emerged as a threat on a regional scale.
With Russia’s military moves balancing the gains that other jihadi groups made in Idlib in the north and Daraa in the south earlier this year, Ankara’s priority of toppling Assad has grown even more irrelevant. Ultimately, the Russian move means Ankara will have to settle for much less than it had hoped for by letting the anti-IS coalition use its air bases.

Read more:

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Hillary Clinton knocks Jeb Bush over 'free stuff' remark

By Eric Bradner and Dan Merica

Hillary Clinton lambasted Jeb Bush on Facebook Monday, calling his comment that Democrats offer "free stuff" to African-American voters "deeply insulting."
In a question-and-answer session, Clinton compared Bush to Mitt Romney -- whose comments about low-income voters helped doom his 2012 candidacy -- and Donald Trump.
"I think people are seeing this for what it is: Republicans lecturing people of color instead of offering real solutions to help people get ahead, including facing up to hard truths about race and justice in America," Clinton wrote.
"Not to mention -- Republicans have no problem promising tax breaks and sweetheart deals to their corporate friends, but when Democrats fight to make sure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, early childhood education and job training, that's giving away 'free stuff"?!'" she wrote. "Talk about backwards."
Bush's campaign responded to Clinton, saying the former Florida governor is focused on reaching out to all voters and "communicating that conservative principles and conservative policies are the only path to restoring the right to rise for every single American," according to Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.
Clinton largely stuck to script in her Facebook Q-and-A, taking more than a dozen questions on paid family leave, drug prices and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
    The Democratic presidential front-runner also criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for offering proposals that she said wouldn't guarantee paid family leave -- her latest shot at GOP candidates over an issue her campaign has highlighted in an effort to reach to lower- and middle-class voters.
    "Just last week," she wrote, "Senator Rubio offered a plan that would offer no guarantee and would do little to provide leave for those who don't already have it."
    She also took a shot by name at the head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli -- who came under fire after raising the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750, and being called out publicly by Clinton.
    She noted that Shkreli has promised to lower the price of the drug, but hasn't announced its new rate.
    "He still hasn't said how much the drug will cost going forward, and in the meantime, sick patients still have to wait and worry and continue to pay $750/pill. So Mr. Shkreli, what's it going to be? Do the right thing. Lower the cost today to its original price," Clinton wrote.
    It was an effort to highlight an issue that Clinton's campaign has made a focus in recent days -- including launching a new television ad focused on the prices of prescription drugs. She prodded drug companies to pump money into developing generics on Facebook.
    "Force drug manufacturers to justify their prices, make sure they add real value. Require the largest drug manufacturers to invest a minimum amount in R&D. And -- a new idea to chew on -- let's explore using some of these new research funds to invest directly in producing generic competitors where none exists," she wrote.
    Clinton also discussed some lighter topics. Among them: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes
    She was asked whether she's "a Pumpkin Spice Latte kind of gal."
    "Ha! The true answer is I used to be until I saw how many calories are in them," Clinton responded.

    Putin, Obama Begin Talks at UN General Assembly

    Meeting behind closed doors, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama have begun a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

    This marks the first meeting between the two world leaders in the last two years.
    Both the Kremlin and the White House say that Putin and Obama will discuss the situations in Syria and Ukraine, among other international issues.
    According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the meeting will last approximately 55 minutes, as both leaders have other events scheduled.

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    Journalism in Pakistan: Fear and Favor

    Bina Shah

    In this summer’s feel-good Indian movie “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” a Pakistani TV reporter telephones his boss to tell him he has an explosive story about an Indian spy on Pakistani territory who’s not actually a spy, but a man trying to help a lost Pakistani child find her parents. The boss tells him the story isn’t sensational enough, then hangs up, leaving the reporter grumbling that the channel’s executives care only about making money, rather than telling a good story.
    To anyone familiar with Pakistan’s broadcast media today, the scene will ring true.
    While Pakistan is already known as the most dangerous country in the world for working journalists — one journalist in Pakistan dies every 38 days according to the Sri Lankan media expert Ranga Kalansooriya — Pakistan’s journalists also come under another insidious type of pressure. Corporate interests, political influence, and government attempts to regulate and censor information all put great strain on an institution still emerging from decades of suppression under military dictators. And while recent chaos and conflict have enabled Pakistani print and broadcast media to flourish, the industry now faces a crossroads: It is struggling to maintain journalistic ethics that run contrary to the commercial ethos in which it operates.
    Sherry Rehman, a Pakistani senator and prominent journalist, said recently that the newsroom was no longer a “hermetically sealed environment.” Rather, it has become the “domain of a corporate invasion.” That pattern matches a larger trend throughout South Asia, where a nexus among media proprietors, investors and advertisers limits the media’s ability to report without bias.
    Ms. Rehman was speaking at the recent introduction of a program in which International Media Support, a Danish-government-supported organization, will provide technical, logistical and institutional training and support for the Pakistani media to address some of these issues over the next two years. Mr. Kalansooriya advises the organization.
    Until 2002, Pakistan’s broadcast media was a narrow field; it had one radio station, Radio Pakistan, started in 1947 and one state-owned television channel, Pakistan Television, started in 1964; both were mouthpieces for officially slanted information, alongside privately held print media dominated by three major consortiums: the liberal Jang Group, owned by the media magnate Shakeel ur-Rahman (this group now owns the broadcast and web outlet GEO); the Nawai Waqt Group, which treads a right-wing line, and the English-language Dawn Group, the most moderate of the three (the newspaper Dawn was founded in 1941 in Delhi, India, by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of Pakistan’s independence movement, to promote the moderate ideals of his Muslim League).
    In 1962, the military dictator Ayub Khan curbed the press with an ordinance that gave the government powers to arrest journalists, confiscate newspapers and partly nationalize the press. Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq followed in the 1980s by allowing the state to prosecute publishers for printing stories his administration didn’t like.
    Nevertheless, Pakistani print media gained strength and credibility in that era by fighting the censorship and by reporting, critically and openly, on Pakistan’s myriad ethnic and political conflicts.
    Then, in 2002, Gen. Pervez Musharraf decided to open Pakistan to the global flow of information in order to reverse decades of isolation. He allowed private television channels and FM radio stations to obtain licenses, setting off a media boom. Their reporting during the conflicts that followed 9/11 and spilled over into Pakistan allowed these television channels to flourish, taking viewers away from state media in favor of more independent reporting.
    Ironically, General Musharraf himself forced GEO off the air temporarily in 2007 when the channel criticized his suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. But today, out of office, the general once again flirts with the media as he tries to return to politics.
    The media have grown to 40 news channels, 143 radio stations, and hundreds of national and regional newspapers. For that they are often called “vibrant.”
    Another descriptor is “vulgar.” On prime-time television, news is sensationalized, with ratings the first consideration; alongside hysterical reporting are thrilling or tragic music and crude, insensitive graphics; virtually everything is “breaking news” in no hierarchy of importance. Meanwhile, large corporations like ARY and the Lakson Group have acquired media companies after discovering that controlling media can protect their corporate interests.
    Advertisers get huge influence over what’s published or aired. Advertising breaks are frequent, and banners for commercial products run incessantly. Advertising also dominates front pages: one major newspaper group recently gave front-page ads prominence over headlines on all of its papers.
    Meanwhile, the government still seeks to control the media; Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority wants an existing law amended to permit “de-linking” of television channels from their satellites if they broadcast “objectionable” or “unwanted” material.
    While many in the media retain editorial integrity in the face of these pressures, Pakistani media houses have yet to come up with an industrywide code of conduct or self-regulatory body. Nor have they been able to stay unbiased. Often they blatantly take sides in political conflicts, even while describing themselves as protectors only of the public good.
    So, what is the way forward? Ensuring the safety and security of Pakistani journalists is the best starting point; the industry’s foot soldiers need more training, as well as job tenure and pensions. Forming unions is another necessity, as well as creating a framework of regulation that offers protection against state and corporate pressure.
    But what Pakistan’s media needs most is a unified sense of its own professional conscience, so that it can continue to thrive as it fulfills its ultimate duty to Pakistanis: to report the news free from bias and influence, while telling a good story that will catch citizens’ attention.

    Does the military still control Pakistan?

    Some call it military rule by stealth. Others prefer to describe it as the generals and the politicians working harmoniously in the national interest. But however you look at it, there's no denying the Pakistan army's political power is growing.
    It all dates back to the Peshawar school attack of 16 December 2014 when the Pakistani Taliban murdered 132 schoolboys.
    Within days the civilian leadership had formulated a 20-point National Action Planto confront the militants, curb their hate speeches, control their religious seminaries and cut their finances.
    Aware that the civilian courts are generally reluctant to convict Jihadists, the parliament then passed a constitutional amendment to establish military courts.
    The army then announced new "apex committees" that brought together senior politicians, bureaucrats, intelligence officials and military officers.
    As many as 50,000 suspected militants have been detained or arrested and in another sign of the state's resolve, Malik Ishaq, the leader of a formidable sectarian group, Lashkar e Jhangvi, was shot dead by police in what is widely believed to be an extra-judicial killing.
    The crackdown has led to sharply reduced levels of militant violence.
    And with media highlighting the role of the army chief General Raheel Sharif, the army is enjoying a surge of public support.
    But for all the hopes that the Peshawar School attacks might have marked a significant turning point, some wonder whether the National Action Plan will bring lasting change.
    After all, Pakistanis could be forgiven for thinking they have seen it all before.
    Tens of thousands of suspected militants were detained by General Musharraf's regime in 2007, only to be released a few months later.
    Since the state lacks the capacity to investigate the detainees the same could well happen again.
    When he announced the National Action Plan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated that Pakistan would no longer distinguish between the "good" Taliban (who fight Pakistan's enemies) and the "bad" Taliban (who attack targets in Pakistan itself).

    Selective targets

    But in reality the state is still being selective about which groups it targets.
    Pakistani-based Jihadist groups with a history of fighting Indian forces in the disputed territory of Kashmir are being left alone.
    So too are the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan-facing Haqqani Network which stands accused of mounting recent attacks in Kabul.
    Perhaps most controversially of all Lashkar e Toiba (or as its renamed itself, Jamaat ud Dawa), the group accused of mounting the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has not been confronted.
    The group's leader Hafeez Saeed is frequently quoted in the Pakistan press.
    And no-one is expecting further legal action against, for example, LSE graduate Omar Sheikh who has been convicted of involvement in the 2002 murder of the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl. His appeal has been pending since 2002.
    Nor is there likely to be any resolution of the case of Mumtaz Qadri who in 2011 killed the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer.
    Qadri, who objected to Taseer's calls for reform of the blasphemy laws, enjoys hero status in Pakistan.
    Neither the army nor the government will want to risk undermining public support for the National Action Plan by including Qadri in its net.
    Privately officials say they have to prioritize militants who attack targets within Pakistan.
    But even that claim is questionable. Fearing a violent backlash, the state has hesitated to confront militants in their strongholds in Southern Punjab.
    The risks are real. Within three weeks of Malik Ishaq's death, for example, Lashkar e Jhangvi hit back with a suicide bomb attack that killed the Home Minster of Punjab, Shuja Khanzada.
    There are also questions about the impact of the National Action Plan on Pakistan's notoriously volatile civil/military relations.
    Elected representatives both in the national parliament and provincial assemblies complain that they have been cut out of decision-making.

    Cult of personality

    Some also express fears about an emerging cult of personality around Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.
    Posters of him have appeared on billboards throughout Pakistan's biggest city Karachi.
    Mysterious websites, which seem to have access to images sourced from the military, praise him to the skies.
    After decades of very poor PR, the army is now producing emotive, patriotic rock songs to bolster support for the anti-Jihadist campaign.
    While Pakistani liberals worry about these developments, they simultaneously concede that if the counter narrative to the Jihadists has a militaristic air, its only because the civilians have failed to come up with an effective information strategy of their own.
    The contest for public support has had an impact on Pakistan's previously irrepressible TV news channels.
    Many have become so nervous about upsetting the army that they are making use of a 30-second delay on live broadcasts so that the sound can be muted before it's transmitted.
    Originally brought in to stop uncritical interviews of Jihadists, the mechanism is now being used to protect the army's reputation.
    One prime time TV host described how her voice was muted as soon as she used the word "military".
    The person controlling the mute button did not know if she was going to say something supportive or critical of the men in uniform - so decided to play it safe.
    The army's ascendency means that despite his strong electoral mandate Nawaz Sharif is unable to pursue some of his objectives.
    His desire to improve relations with India has run up against the army's insistence that the intractable Kashmir issue should be at the forefront of any talks process.

    General Raheel Sharif

    • Received his military commission in 1976
    • Studied military leadership in Germany, Canada and Britain
    • Commanded several infantry units, some on the disputed Line of Control in Kashmir
    • His brother, Shabbir Sharif, received two of the country's highest military awards after he was killed during the 1971 India-Pakistan war
    • Previous appointments include inspector-general of training and evaluation at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, and head of the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, Abbottabad.
    • Thought to have played a key role in switching the focus of the army from confronting India to fighting militancy.

    Wary embrace

    Mr Sharif has also been blocked from pursuing legal action against the man who removed him from power last time round, General Musharraf.
    The army is unwilling to see a former chief on trial for treason.
    For now the government and the army are locked in a wary embrace.
    They are working together but in part that is because the civilian politicians fear that if they allow a gap to emerge between them and the military there will be another coup.
    Some wonder how long the current situation can last.
    "Let me tell you what I have learnt from history," said Pakistan's most prominent human rights lawyer, Asma Jahangir.
    "Our army doesn't want power. It wants absolute power."

    Pakistani politican wants to add anti-Ahmadiyya chapter in school syllabus

    Speaking to a KhatmeNabuwat conference in Mardan, speaker of Pakistan’s KP (Khyper Pakhtunkhawa) Provincial Assembly Asad Qaiser said that “Provincial government will soon add a chapter on the belief of KhatmeNabuwat in the syllabus.” Asad Qasier is a politician from Swabi District of KP Province and is affiliated with PTI (Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf) which is considered to be a “liberal nationalist party”, lead by former cricketer Imran Khan.

    Speaking to the conference he further said “Devotees of Prophet Muhammad PBUH will thwart any Qadiani (Ahmadiyya) conspiracies” and said “According to the constitution of Pakistan those who do not believe in Khatm e Nabuwat are outside the fold of Islam” The conference was attended by District Nazim of Mardan Himayatullah Mayar, Vice President of Mardan Divison Mushtaq Seemab, former MNA Muhammad Qasim, former Deputy Speaker Ikramullah Shahid, President of Traders association Ahsanullah Bacha, Vice President Traders association Haji Rehmat Gul & Arshad Manan. District Nazim Mardan also announced a public holiday in the district for next year’s conference. Khatme Nabuwat is an extremist organization that seeks to “educate” Muslims against the dangers of “Qadianiyat” (Ahmadiyya) and has several times openly called for the killing of Ahmadiyya Muslims.

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    Petition in Pakistan court seeks ban on Eid sacrifice by Ahmadiyya Muslims

    A petition seeking directives for Chiniot police to prevent the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from offering ritual sacrifice on Eid ul Adha was disposed of by Lahore High Court with a directive for the DPO to proceed in the matter in accordance with law. On receiving the order a few days before Eid, the DPO sought guidance from the inspector general of Punjab police. The DPO has yet to receive a response from the office of the IGP. In the petition submitted on September 12, Nasir Mahmood, a Faisal Town resident, had submitted that he had read in an online newspaper published by the community that sacrificial animals would be slaughtered on the Eid day at Chenabnagar. He said that the Constitution did not allow the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to sacrifice animals on Eid ul Azha. He had requested the court to direct Chiniot police to prevent the community from sacrificing animals.

    Saleemudin, a Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya spokesperson, lamented that it had become very difficult for community members to sacrifice animals on Eidul Azha. He said he had been receiving reports for several years about use of police force by sectarian groups to prevent community members from performing the ritual. He said that instead of arranging security for community members who wanted to sacrifice animals on Eid, the police were preventing them from doing so. Saleemuddin referred to an incident from last year in Sabzazar area. He said that a few days before Eid Hanjarwal police had raided the house of an Ahmadiyya family and taken into custody a male member. He said the man was released after the family submitted a written undertaking assuring the police that they would not slaughter an animal on the Eid day. He said similar incidents had been reported by community members in Sant Nagar and Township in 2013. Similar incidents were reported this year from Sant Nagar, Township, North Cantonment, Mustafa Town and Johar Town. Male member from Ahmadiyya Muslim families and their sacrificial animals were reportedly detained by the police. They were released after they submitted a written assurance that they would not slaughter any animal during Eid days. Speaking to the Media, North Cantonment DSP Mansoor said he did it to prevent unrest in the area.

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    ‘Marx is back in fashion’ - Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

    Karl Marx has “come back into fashion,” newly appointed Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said, after winning the support of French left-wing economist Thomas Piketty.
    McDonnell told the BBC on Sunday that the 19th century socialist revolutionary thinker was a “definitive analyst” of the capitalist system, even though many “might disagree with his conclusions.
    He added that Marx’s seminal work, “Capital,” is essential reading for anyone trying to understand the capitalist system.
    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment of McDonnell as shadow chancellor ruffled feathers in the party’s parliamentary ranks, with some MPs believing his economic beliefs are not centrist enough to win a general election.
    During his first speech at the Labour party conference in Brighton, McDonnell pledged to launch "aggressive" measures on large tax-dodging corporations like Starbucks and Amazon.
    We are embarking on the immense task of changing the economic discourse in this country. We are throwing off that ridiculous charge that we are deficit deniers,” he said.
    “We are saying, tackling the deficit is important but we are rejecting austerity as the means to do it. We are setting out an alternative based upon dynamically growing our economy, ending the tax cuts for the rich and addressing the scourge of tax evasion and avoidance.” 
    Asked about Marx on BBC Radio 5 Live, McDonnell said: “If you look at our capitalist system, one of the definitive analysts of how it works – not whether it is condemned, or whether it is right or wrong, just the mechanics of how it works, when it was first formed and how it would be developed – actually was Marx.
    “If you look at most of the institutions that are teaching economics today, Marx has come back into fashion because people have gone back to his analysis of just the basics of how the system works.
    “People might disagree with his conclusions about what to do with the system, but actually to understand how the system works he comes up with some interesting analyses that have been built in to traditional and fairly classical economics.”
    His remarks come after celebrated French economist Thomas Piketty accepted a role in Labour’s new economic advisory committee.
    The professor, who won global recognition for his international bestseller, “Capital in the 21st Century,” will “discuss and develop ideas” around the party’s economic policies and strategy.
    I am very happy to take part in this economic advisory committee and assist the Labour Party in constructing an economic policy that helps tackle some of the biggest issues facing people in the UK,” Piketty said.
    “There is now a brilliant opportunity for the Labour Party to construct a fresh and new political economy which will expose austerity for the failure it has been in the UK and Europe.”
    The newly appointed committee will also include, amongst others, Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and professors Ann Pettiffor and Simon Wren-Lewis.
    Corbyn said the group would deliver his "economic vision".
    “I was elected on a clear mandate to oppose austerity and to set out an economic strategy based on investment in skills, jobs and infrastructure. Our economy must deliver security for all, not just riches for a few.
    “I am delighted that John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor has convened this group to advise the leadership as we set out our economic vision.”
    However, “Corbynomics” as it has been dubbed, has been criticized by former City watchdog Lord Turner, who said voters may not be swung by the veteran left-winger’s policies.
    Turner, who chaired the Financial Services Authority (FSA) during the 2008 financial crisis, questioned Corbyn’s policy of people’s quantitative easing.
    The legitimate concern is that if monetary finance is proposed by people who come from a strongly socialist tradition – a tradition that has tended to reject the idea of any disciplines on public expenditure – there is a danger in practice that it would be used to excess. That is the concern which Corbyn would have to address,” he warned Monday.

    World leaders at UN lay out sharply different views on Syria

    World leaders laid out sharply differing views of the Syrian conflict and the world at large Monday, opening a U.N. global gathering that aims to wrestle with other crises like a historic flood of refugees and the rise of groups like the Islamic State.
    The U.N. secretary-general for the first time called for the Syrian crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said its recent nuclear deal with world powers had a broader goal: "We want to suggest a new and constructive way to recreate the international order."
    Chinese President Xi Jinping made a $1 billion pledge for U.N. peace efforts.
    And Jordan's King Abdullah II made a heartfelt defense of the kinder side of the Muslim world in the face of "the outlaws of Islam that operate globally today."
    "When and how did fear and intimidation creep so insidiously into our conversation when there is so much more to be said about the love of God?" he asked, also quoting the Quran on mercy.
    The king has called the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, and the crises they have caused, "a third world war, and I believe we must respond with equal intensity." Jordan borders both Syria and Iraq, and Syrian refugees now make up 20 percent of Jordan's population. Iraq and Turkey also groan under the strain of millions of refugees.
    Ban Ki-moon's state of the world address to leaders from the U.N.'s 193 member states insisted on a political solution to the conflict in Syria, now well into its fifth year with more than a quarter of a million people killed.
    Ban said five countries "hold the key" to a political solution to Syria: Russia, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.
    President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, hours ahead of their first face-to-face meeting in nearly a year, gave no sign of closing their deep divide on the Syrian crisis.
    Obama said of Syrian President Bashar Assad, "when a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not a matter of a nation's internal affairs." The U.S. is prepared to work with any country, including Russia and Iran, to resolve Syria's conflict, Obama said.
    The U.S. president also took jabs at Russia and China, without naming names. "The strong men of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow," Obama warned. And he added in a critique of restrictions on speech, "You can control access to information ... but you cannot turn a lie into truth."
    Putin, who showed up the U.N. gathering for the first time in a decade and was not at Russia's seat in the chamber when Obama spoke, called for the creation of a broad international coalition against terror, following his country's surprising moves in recent weeks to increase its military presence in Syria and to share intelligence on the Islamic State group with Iran, Iraq and Syria.
    The Russian leader dismissed the West's concerns about his country's ambitions in Syria, "as if they have no ambitions at all," and he called it "an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate" with the Syrian government.
    Ukraine's table just in front of the speaker's stand was empty as Putin spoke. The country struggles against pro-Russia separatists in its east, while Russia denies supporting them.
    Rouhani, who entered the chamber smiling, appeared to align with Putin's call for a U.N. Security Council resolution consolidating the fight against terror, saying "we propose that the fight against terrorism be incorporated into a binding international document and no country be allowed to use terrorism for the purpose of intervention in the affairs of other countries."
    Other crises at the center of this week's discussions include the related refugee and migrant crisis, the largest since the upheaval of World War II.
    Ban warned that resources to address these crises are dangerously low. "The global humanitarian system is not broken; it is broke," he said. The U.N. has just half of what it needs to help people in Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen, and just a third of what's needed for Syria.
    The U.N. chief, in unusually hard-hitting words, also blamed "proxy battles of others" for driving the fighting in Yemen, and he warned against "the dangerous drift" in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it is essential for the international community to pressure both sides to re-engage.
    Others speaking Monday included French President Francois Hollande, who again declared that Assad "cannot be part of the solution," and Cuban President Raul Castro, who also has a meeting planned with Obama.

    Some, including Obama, Xi and Hollande, already addressed the General Assembly over the weekend during a separate global summit on sweeping new U.N. development goals for the next 15 years.