Saturday, October 24, 2015

Video - Bill Clinton, Katy Perry Support Hillary in Iowa

Video - Statement by PM Netanyahu Regarding the Temple Mount

Israel - Netanyahu: 'Muslims pray on the Temple Mount, non-Muslims visit'

Only Muslims can worship on the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Saturday night as he continued to dismiss charges that Israel had violated the status quo on the site where the Al-Aksa Mosque compound is located.

“Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy:  Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said.

“Those who visit or worship on the Temple Mount must be allowed to do so in peace, free from violence, from threats, from intimidation and from provocations. We will continue to ensure access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshipers and visitors, while maintaining public order and security,” Netanyahu said.

"Recognizing the importance of the Temple Mount to peoples of all three monotheistic faiths – Jews, Muslims and Christians:  Israel re-affirms its commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice,” Netanyahu said.

“Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise,” Netanyahu said.

It is the latest in a series of statements Netanyahu has made in past weeks in an attempt to halt attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. He has charged that the attacks are fueled by Palestinian warnings, including from its leadership, that the Al-Aksa mosque is in danger.

He issued the statement after an intense flurry of diplomatic activity to restore calm. US Secretary of State John Kerry held separate meetings in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah on Saturday. Those meetings followed a face-to-face conversation he had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany on Thursday and a gathering of the Middle East Quartet there on Friday.

Kerry told reporters in Amman that 24 hour video cameras would be placed at the Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif, in an attempt to quell the violence making making all actions there transparent. 

An Israeli official said that it was in the country’s best interest to have the security cameras “to refute claims that Israel is changing the status quo. We want to show that Israel is not acting provocatively.”

Kerry also dismissed charges against Israeli actions on the Temple Mount and affirmed Jordan’s special status to the site, which is under the custodianship of the Islamic Wakf and King Abdullah.

Hours later Netanyahu echoed Kerry, when he said, “We respect the importance of the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as reflected in the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, and the historical role of King Abdullah II.”

The prime minister said that coordination between Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Wakf would be increased to ensure security at the site

“We support the call for the immediate restoration of calm, and for all the appropriate steps to be taken to ensure that violence ceases, that provocative actions are avoided, and that the situation returns to normalcy in a way that promotes the prospects for peace,” Netanyahu said. 

“We look forward to working cooperatively to lower tensions, stop incitement and discourage violence," he said.

The Palestinians, however, have not been swayed by Netanyahu’s continued statements on the Temple Mount.

Abbas told Kerry on Saturday that Netanyahu was violating the status quo on the Temple Mount and that he was lying when he stated otherwise, according to PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.

“Before the year 2000, tourists used to enter the Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount] under the guard of the employees of the Wakf department and non-Muslims were not allowed to pray there,” Erekat said. 

“But now the Israelis have changed the regulations and tourists visit the site after receiving permits from Israeli authorities and under protection of the Israel Police.”

He said the Palestinians are now waiting to see whether the Israeli government would take serious measures to calm the situation.

Abbas holds the Israeli government fully responsible for the current wave of violence because of its policy of expanding settlements,”Judaizing’ Jerusalem,” as well as land confiscation and “ethnic cleansing,” Erekat said.

Ankara’s Anti-Assad Rhetoric 'Profound Mistake'

The deputy chairman of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party claims that the policy pursued by the Turkish government toward Syria has been a serious mistake.

The policy pursued by the Turkish government toward Syria has been a serious mistake, the deputy chairman of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said Friday.

Turkey is one of the countries calling for the current Syrian president resignation.

"Turkey’s Syrian policy has long been criticized within the society. Although the Syrian leadership is acting by dictatorial methods, interference in the internal affairs of another country, supporting one of the warring sides is a profound mistake," Atila Kaya told RIA Novosti.

According to him, meddling in the Syrian conflict has caused millions of Syrians to flee their homes and arrive in Turkey.

"The attacks similar to those that occur in Iraq and Syria — the bombings in Reyhanli, Suruc and Ankara — all these terror attacks are the outcomes of Turkey's interference in the Syrian affairs," he added.

The Turkish nationalist party stands for the territorial integrity of Syria, and urges Russia to be careful while launching airstrikes on ISIL positions, fearing the Syrian Turkmen tormented by both ISIL and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party might be targeted, Kaya noted.

"In this regard, the Russian Air Force, which has received approval of the Syrian government on the bombing terrorist targets, should be very careful about the Turkmen’s places of residence since they are the people, who have been hit from different sides," the politician stressed.

Since the beginning of Moscow's aerial campaign on September 30, the Russian Aerospace Forces have carried out some 830 strikes, killing several hundred militants and destroying dozens of command centers, and depots used by the terrorists.

Targets are selected on the basis of intelligence data collected and distributed among Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Ambassador of Syria to Russia Riyad Haddad previously confirmed that strikes are precisely terrorist armed groups and not by the opposition and the civilian population.

Earlier in October, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Ryad Haddad confirmed that the strikes were being carried out against armed terrorist organizations and not political opposition factions or civilians.

Read more:

Video - Syria: Assad troops launch offensive in Latakia

Hillary Clinton's triumphant October sees political observers' doubts fade

Sabrina Siddiqui - Tom McCarthy

''After a month that saw an impressive debate performance and a measured response to aggressive questioning over Benghazi, Howard Dean says the Democratic frontrunner has ‘weathered the worst’ of campaign hurdles.'' 

 When Hillary Clinton took the stage before 3,500 energized supporters in a historic district of northern Virginia on Friday, the scene glowed with the sense of a presidential campaign on an upward trajectory.
The sun shone brightly on an uncharacteristically warm afternoon in late October as Terry McAuliffe, the state’s Democratic governor and a longtime friend of Clinton, fired up the crowd with an impassioned introduction.
McAuliffe was only midway through his remarks when the audience broke into chants of “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary”. Their excitement was compounded when he invoked a marathon hearing a day before, in which the former secretary of state maintained her composure as Republicans grilled her in the most dramatic fashion regarding the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
“You want to talk about a fighter – how about those 11 hours of testimony yesterday?” McAuliffe said. “I almost want to thank [the Republicans], because you saw in that 11 hours of testimony, this is why she needs to be our commander-in-chief.”
The crowd roared in agreement.
While Clinton has appeared before countless crowds of supporters since launching her second presidential campaign, there was a palpable buoyancy to this audience –the kind of grassroots enthusiasm political observers have wondered if Clinton is capable of generating.
But a lot has changed since the soft launch of her campaign in April, and many believe the month of October has solidified her standing as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
It has been a rollercoaster six months since Clinton declared her candidacy with an upbeat web video, followed by a cross-country trip in a Chevy van nicknamed “Scooby”. Discussions with voters at stops in Iowa were meant to display that for all her celebrity, she remained relatable – comfortable in conversations with everyday Americans, a good listener.
That image was disrupted, however, by frustration among the press over Clinton’s avoidance of questions as she visited key early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. The emphasis of early reports was not the substance of Clinton’s dialogue with voters, but rather on when she last fielded a question from a journalist. The Washington Post built a Clinton question clock that ran for most of May without her answering one.
A portrait emerged of a controlled campaign, in which roundtable participants were hand-picked and questions screened. At a July parade in New Hampshire, Clinton aides whipped out a rope and corralled journalists, fueling a sense that the candidate was off-limits.
The email issue, meanwhile, continued to percolate. Clinton’s use of a personal email account and private server while serving as President Obama’s first secretary of state was first reported in early March. Critics voiced alarm that she had handled classified information inappropriately or had sought to avoid the transparency requirements of public service.
Her campaign said she had wanted to avoid the inconvenience of carrying two mobile devices – one work and one personal – and that the government’s email system was so bad that other top officials did not use it, either. Clinton said she had not handled classified information on the account, although that contention was later called into question. Evidence either way has not so far been made public.
A congressional inquiry was launched, but more disturbingly for Clinton supporters, the FBI decided to investigate. The Republicans pounced with selective leaks to the press as part of a broader effort to tie Clinton’s email server to questions surrounding the attacks in Benghazi, in which four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed.
In September, a Washington Post poll found that support for Clinton among Democratic female voters had slid 29 points in eight weeks.
But as much as the rise of the emails controversy and Clinton’s slide in the polls correlated, the line of causation was much less clear. While the media reported relentlessly on Clinton’s emails, there was little polling to indicate that the issue had gained traction with the public. Clinton’s favorability among Democrats remained at the top of the pack, at nearly 74%, and her lead nationally over the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders dipped only once, briefly, below 20 points.
“She came in as the prohibitive favorite,” said Howard Dean, a former Democratic governor of Vermont and one-time presidential candidate. “And the press hates the prohibitive favorite. But she rallied, and she hung in there … I think she’s earned what she’s got.”
Indeed, the unexpected rise of Sanders in certain early primary states gave way to a new narrative: that Clinton’s second bid for the White House was becoming a redux of 2008, when her campaign was blindsided by a relatively unknown senator named Barack Obama. 
Parallels were drawn to the unmistakable energy among grassroots supporters in favor of Sanders, an independent running on an impassioned plea for economic equality. In August, Sanders staged rallies in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, that drew overflow crowds of almost 30,000 each – five times the size of the biggest Clinton event at the time.
Campaign finance filings made Sanders’ advantage with the grassroots even more stark. In the third quarter, he raised more than $20m – or 77% of his total – from small donors giving less than $200 apiece. Clinton raised only $5.2m of her $28 million haul from small donors. Sanders passed her in polling in New Hampshire, the state with the first primary voting, and closed the gap in Iowa, the site of the first caucuses.
Next to Sanders was another Democrat causing the Clinton campaign anxiety. For months, Vice-President Joe Biden had seemed unable to decide whether to mount a presidential run. Biden’s indecision directly undercut Clinton, with some donors urging the two-time presidential candidate to once again enter the race.
The competing pressures were enough to push the Clinton campaign in September to change direction, but even the resulting announcement became a moment for mirth. From now on, her campaign said, Clinton would exhibit more spontaneity, empathy and warmth. It sounded like something out of the satirical newspaper The Onion, tweeted former top Obama advisor David Axelrod.
But even as the 24/7 news cycle established an account of a candidate in deep trouble, Clinton’s campaign maintained its confidence.
Although the decisions to come out against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and Obama’s historic 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact reflected the tangible impact of the Democratic primary on her campaign, Clinton sustained her focus on the general election.
The campaign steadily rolled out policy proposals – from criminal justice and campaign finance reform to energy policy and financial reform – while contrasting her vision with that of the Republican Party. The choice, she said, was clear: her progressive platform or a decidedly regressive Republican agenda.
It was the very same message Clinton took to the national stage in Las Vegas on 13 October, at the first Democratic presidential debate. Even as she stood next to Sanders for the first time in months, Clinton came off as the more authoritative, agile and at ease contender. To believe the pollsters afterward, it was she who had won.
Clinton also did not shy away from going after Sanders over his failure to back gun control legislation and was, not unexpectedly, the most well-versed candidate on foreign policy. And then there was an exchange with Sanders that became an instant classic in the annals of presidential debates.
“The American public is sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” Sanders said.
It was the biggest applause line of the night.
One week later, Biden announced he would not seek the presidency. His speech, delivered from the White House Rose Garden with Obama by his side, appeared to have been written with the opposite intention. There were thinly disguised jabs at both Clinton and Sanders, whom the vice-president implied had unnecessarily distanced themselves from the legacy of the Obama administration.
“Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record. They should run on the record,” he said.
It seemed as though Biden had envisioned himself in that role, but the support simply wasn’t there as Clinton looked increasingly unstoppable. And despite several moves to the left of Obama, it was not as though Clinton had run away from the administration in which she served.
Much of her stump speech on the campaign trail, in fact, casts the Obama administration’s work as critical progress upon which only another Democratic president can build.
Just a day after Biden’s decision, Clinton was made to revisit her tenure leading the State Department under Obama. In a drafty hearing room on Capitol Hill, Republicans on a select committee established to investigate the Benghazi attacksberated her for 11 hours.
Clinton didn’t give an inch, remaining calm and measured in her responses even as she was interrupted, shouted at and accused of not caring for the four Americans who died at the compound on 11 September 2012.
She had received a major assist from Republicans themselves, when House majority whip Kevin McCarthy earlier bragged about how the committee had driven down her poll numbers.
It was a Kinsley gaffe – a politician’s unintended revealing of an obvious truth, as defined by the journalist Michael Kinsley – if there ever were one. That the committee’s focus was not to probe the attacks in Benghazi, which had already been the subject of eight investigations, but to damage Clinton politically as she sought the nation’s highest office, was suspected by most. Until McCarthy spoke, it had not been so baldly stated.
In the end, Clinton did not simply emerge unscathed. Praise for her performance echoed the reception of her debate outing, to the extent that even conservative commentators seethed about how the Republicans on the panel may as well have giftwrapped and handed Clinton the entire election.
Standing at the packed campaign rally in Virginia a day later, a defiant Clinton announced that her campaign now had more than 500,000 donors.
Her aides quickly followed up with details highlighting the impact of October: 100,000 new donors this month alone and a record hour of online donations as soon as the Benghazi hearing concluded – even though the Clinton campaign did not issue any fundraising calls around the proceedings.
More than half of the donations that poured in on the day of the hearing, the campaign added, were from new donors; 99% of them were smaller donations of $250 or less.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the campaign, said the hearing and the debate underscored that even when Republicans and others tried to test her, “Hillary Clinton is battle-ready”.
“She came off as extremely in command, knowledgeable, quite presidential,” he told reporters before the rally on Friday.
“While we think there will continue to be a rhythm to the campaign over time, where there’ll be high moments and other moments that are more challenging, the fundamental truism that we saw in the last couple of weeks is the more that voters get to see her and hear from her in an unfiltered forum, we see that moves people and people respond.”
That was not to say Clinton’s surrogates are not well aware the narrative could change at any moment. But they were confident that Republicans had overplayed their hand and would now struggle to gain the same kind of traction over issues like the email server and Benghazi.
“This all goes in cycles. And there’ll be another cycle of bad press,” said Dean. “But she’s weathered the worst of this.”

Katy Perry Makes a Big Roar on Hillary Clinton's Instagram Ahead of Campaign Rally

Video Report - Bill Clinton hits the campaign trail

President Obama plan limits standardized testing to no more than 2% of class time

President Obama says students are spending too much time in the classroom taking tests, many of them unnecessary, and urged officials in the country’s schools to take steps to administer fewer and more meaningful exams.
The White House said Saturday the proliferation of testing in the United States — a problem the administration acknowledged it has played a role in — has taken away too much valuable time that could be better spent on learning, teaching and fostering creativity in schools. To curb excessive testing, Obama recommended limiting standardized exams to no more than 2% of a student's instructional time in the classroom.
‘‘Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,’’ Obama said in a video posted on Facebook. ‘‘So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.’’
Obama said in “moderation, smart, strategic” tests can help assess the progress of children in schools and help them learn. But he said that parents are concerned that too much time is being spent on testing, and teachers are under too much pressure to prepare students for exams.
In a 10-page plan, the White House outlined a series of steps to help educators end assessment that is burdensome or not benefiting students or teachers. The administration said the tests should be “worth taking,” time-limited and provide a “clearer picture” of whether students are learning.
Students in big-city public schools will take about 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and high school graduation, according to a study of 66 school districts released Saturday by the Council of Great City Schools.
The average amount of time devoted to taking mandated tests during the 2014-15 school year was 4.2 days, or 2.3% of school time, for the average eighth-grader—the grade with the most mandated testing time.
Standardized testing has been a controversial issue as Congress looks to write a replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act. Parents, teacher groups and some local educators who have spoken out about the volume of testing in schools called the White House plan a victory.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the decision to rein in testing is “common sense” and an effort supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans.
“The fixation on high-stakes testing hasn't moved the needle on student achievement,” Weingarten said. “It's a big deal that the president and the secretaries of education — both current and future — are saying that they get it and are pledging to address the fixation on testing in tangible ways.”
A PDK/Gallup poll released this summer found a majority of about 4,500 adults reached by phone and online said there is too much emphasis being placed on standardized testing in public schools. The results showed that 64% of those who participated in the poll believe there is “too much emphasis on standardized testing” while 19% said it is “about the right amount.”
Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are expected to meet Monday with teachers and school officials to outline their plan.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Protecting our Planet for Future Generations

Music Video - Agar Tum Mil Jao - Tassawar Khanum

New President, Same Problems in Afghanistan


One year after a new U.S. ally took office, troubling results project a dim future.

The Taliban is on the rise. Corruption plagues Afghanistan's government, fueled by an illicit narcotics trade that funds insurgency now more than ever before, and many senior leadership positions in Kabul remain vacant.
Voters in Afghanistan and U.S. officials funneling billions into the war zone expected to see some signs of change under President Ashraf Ghani, who ushered in the fledgling government's first democratic transition of power and was hailed as the solution the West had been waiting for. But to some, after a year in office, he doesn't seem any more effective than his discredited predecessor at delivering on the reforms Afghans thought would come quickly.
"I was so hopeful, with all the promises he had made," says Ahmed, an aid worker based in Kabul who asked his name not be revealed for fear of government retribution. "He seems to be not the person who portrayed himself during the election."
A recent report by an independent monitoring agency cited incremental changes in fighting corruption in Afghanistan in the last year but faulted Ghani's government for not filling the key cabinet post of attorney general. A​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​nother group, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, also criticized the Afghan government recently over the findings of a survey showing the government has fallen short in being transparent with how it spends public money.
The critical position of defense minister also remains unfilled, leaving the military without a clear line of political leadership. Ghani has so far not been able to nominate a defense minister the Afghan parliament will approve, in part due to confirmation he must secure for such appointments from Abdullah Abdullah, his former political opponent with whom he now splits an awkward power arrangement. His most recent nominee for the job, Masoom Stanekzai, held a shaky relationship with top officers in the army, and the nominee before him withdrew after footage showed him making ethnically controversial comments.
Ghani's inability to corral parliament has sown discontent among an Afghan population weary of government dysfunction – an $8.2 billion U.S. effort to counter illicit narcotics production, for example, ​ has largely failed, and Afghanistan remains the world's largest producer of opium.
Local citizens are also fearful of crumbling security nationwide.
Taliban forces have advanced on former strongholds and retaken territory this year. Its militants were able to mass on the town of Kunduz and seize it last month, without the U.S. or Afghanistan anticipating the attack. National security forces were ultimately able to retake the town, but the operation reinforced the perception that the Taliban is preparing to seize territory it formerly held as the U.S.-led coalition draws down its presence in the country.
Earlier this week, reports emerged that the Taliban had captured yet another area, this time the Ghormach district of Faryab province. And it claimed credit for shooting small-arms fire at an American F-16, which the Pentagon confirmed was forced to jettison its fuel tanks and ordnance as a result of the damage before returning to Bagram Air Base.
Western leaders and war planners, despite a plan to withdraw military personnel from Afghanistan, continue to tout refreshed relations through Ghani's reign, which likely contributed to the decision last week to extend U.S. contributions to the conflict there. Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited this new special friendship at a press conference, recalling how Ghani thanked members of the U.S. military and their families for their sacrifice as a way to offset the string of bad news coming out of what has been America's longest involvement in a war zone.
"Today, we deliver our own message to President Ghani and the Afghan people: We are with you. We support you and we are not going to give up the gains we fought so hard to achieve," Carter said.
Indeed, Ghani has said all the right things to appease his Western benefactors, unlike former President Hamid Karzai. The leader once heralded by the U.S. over the weekend continued what has become standard rhetoric in recent years, saying the American-led war effort has only made the situation in Afghanistan worse.
"Terrorism gained further strength" during the presence of foreign forces, he said, adding that a bilateral security agreement widened the scope of war and harmed the Afghan people.
And Ghani, at least for now, has secured America's support – something Karzai likely could not have counted on if he had remained in power. President Barack Obama promised during his first presidential campaign that he would end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and clung to that promise throughout his presidency, repeatedly telegraphing the U.S. strategy for winnowing combat forces down to zero by the end of 2016. His departure from that promise in last week's announcement served as a great coup for the current Afghan leader, who will continue to enjoy U.S.-provided security as well as the support and financial aid that comes with it.
“From a Western point of view only, he has been very good about maintaining a much better view of the West than Karzai.”
But while a government's chief responsibility may be to protect its citizenry, Ghani pretty soon will need to address his domestic priorities.
"He's going to have to – particularly now in the aftermath of Kunduz – conduct an internal reassessment of how he's been conducting business and start to make some of these begrudging compromises that I think are more in line with the reality of Afghanistan," says Jason Campbell, an Afghanistan analyst with the Rand Corp. Campbell cites the difficulties of finding suitable candidates for senior government positions whom Abdullah will approve and who fit into the complicated scheme of having all the major ethnic groups represented in leadership offices.
"He's tried thus far to push things through, bang his fist on the table and demand changes," says Campbell, citing issues like fighting corruption. "Where the rubber meets the road, it's not happening. And it's not just going to happen by decree."
Ghani notoriously fired his entire cabinet late last year after frustrations in appointing new leaders. But perhaps one of the most visceral examples of his impatience is the Kabul Bank scandal, in which reports emerged that bank executives had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into their own coffers. Despite pressure from the U.S., Karzai – whose brother, Mahmoud, was a bank shareholder connected to the scandal – ultimately balked at an investigation or instituting banking reforms.
Ghani campaigned on reopening the case and did so shortly after taking office, vowing a full investigation and a nationwide fight against corruption. One year later, no results have materialized.
His inability at home to produce the kind of swift change voters perhaps naively expected may also stem from his inexperience in domestic dealings – unlike Karzai, the proud Pashtun with deeply rooted connections in Afghanistan who seemed to close observers always to have some sort of side deal in the works. Ghani, on the other hand, has a background in global finance and academia and lived outside Afghanistan for more than two decades before returning in 2001.
"He doesn't have a domestic support base," says Nora Bensahel, a scholar-in-residence at American University and Afghanistan expert with the Atlantic Council. "It plays with tribal politics and especially as the security situation has gotten worse in places. That becomes a liability with the internal governance issues."
"From a Western point of view only, he has been very good about maintaining a much better view of the West than Karzai."
So is Ghani as unlikely to produce reforms in his country as his predecessor? In fairness, his tenure is only a year old and it's been a tumultuous one. And a large portion of his duties focused on securing the backing of the world's only remaining superpower, which has been eager not to repeat mistakes made in Iraq four​ years ago.
At least for Ghani, right now, it appears there will be an Afghanistan next year he can continue to try to fix.

Pakistani Shiites seek protection after bombing kills 18

Suicide bomber targeted an Ashoura procession on Friday night.

Pakistani Shiites are demanding protection after a suicide bomber targeted an Ashoura procession Friday night, killing at least 18 people and wounding 40 others.
Senior police officer Zafar Malik said on Saturday that the bomber detonated his device during an Ashoura rally in Jacobabad, a city in the southern province of Sindh. He said mourners were preparing for mass funerals and that the government had protectively deployed extra troops to handle any “untoward situation.”
10-day ritual
Minority Shiite Muslims hold public rallies to mark Ashoura, a 10-day ritual that commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and an iconic Shiite martyr.
On Saturday, Shiite community leader Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi demanded protection and asked the government to take action against those who orchestrated Friday’s bombing.

Pakistan - Sectarian attacks

Another Muharram, another sectarian attack on a Shia congregation: the regularity with which this horrific scenario repeats itself is a depressing reminder of Pakistan’s succumbing to the forces of religious extremism and the precarious daily reality suffered by minorities in a country that does not seem to care. On the eve of 9th Muharram, a suicide attacker blew himself up outside an Imambargah in Bolan, Balochistan. The attack claimed more than 10 lives and injured dozens; six of the dead were children, many others were women. As the site of the blast was not a major town, rescue operations have been handicapped due to there being only one ill-equipped Basic Health Unit (BHU) in the area. The attacker has been described by a local official as an 18-year-old youth disguised in a woman’s burqa. No group has so far taken responsibility for this heinous crime. In the aftermath of the attack, the security of the area has been reportedly beefed up. 

These are the facts of the case and are dishearteningly familiar and interchangeable with hundreds of other incidents throughout the country over the past few years where the Shias have been specifically targeted. The dead of Bolan are but an addition to the statistic of ‘the number of victims of sectarian attacks’, the answer to which is in the thousands. Beefing up security after the fact is another frequently repeated pointless show of the state’s machinery when the damage has already been done.

Due to the heightened tensions during Muharram and the country’s long and unfortunate history of sectarian conflicts, threats of an attack like this are ever present. Balochistan in particular is a prime site of anti-Shia violence committed by Sunni extremists, especially due to the province having the highest representation of the distinctive Hazara population (who predominantly practice the Shia version of Islam), and because many Shia pilgrims pass through on their way to or from Iran and thus are easily targeted. Given the prevailing situation, and in the light of a bus bombing not a week ago in Quetta, efforts to prevent and pre-empt this attack are conspicuous by their absence. The governments, federal and provincial, cannot let their guard down. It is folly to think that the terrorists are on their way out due to Operation Zarb-e-Azb; it has become painfully clear in the spate of recent attacks that they have focused their attentions on minor towns and cities where the security forces are complacent and unprepared. This latest attack and the preventable bloodshed once again underlines the dire need to have a centralied, collective response amongst the various law enforcement and security agencies against the menace of terrorist networks. It is hoped that Ashura today passes peacefully and stringent measures are taken to prevent any more acts of carnage.

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - آشنا لاس راکه غرقیږم ـ عبدالهادي مُلا

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - Protests and traffic in Peshawar

By Amina Khan

Not a single day passes without a protest, strike or a rally breaking out in Peshawar. Locals believe that the only way to fulfill their needs and express their opinion freely is through protests. The Peshawar Press Club (PPC) road, located near Sher Shah Suri Road, is the busiest thoroughfare within the premises of the Cantonment. All protests are held in front of the PPC and nearby areas. The drawback of having the press club located in that particular area is that a single protest is enough to block the main road and thus people are forced to take alternative routes, leading to traffic jams.
Views cannot be expressed freely in this country, as has been demonstrated when protesters such as doctors and others are baton-charged and injured. In London, Hyde Park is famous for its Speaker’s Corner. The park is a public venue for demonstrations and protests, and locals freely express their views, insult one another, release their frustration and anger knowing very well that no one will stop them.
Our government should also provide a platform for the people of Peshawar to peacefully hold protests, express their opinion without being baton-charged and ensure that no roads are blocked as a result of demonstrations. The traffic problem has always been a burning issue of the city. It has never reduced, only increased. Roadside accidents and security vehicles often lead to hours-long traffic jams, with the added element of sit-ins and protests only worsening the situation.
While there might have been some decline in VIP culture, traffic jams still occur regularly, with vehicles being stopped for 15 to 20 minutes on the side of roads, as a public official passes by.
Another pertinent point to note here is that Peshawar has been ranked as the world’s ninth most polluted city. It is most certainly filled with dust and noise, and heavy traffic is one of the main causes of this pollution.
The problems are numerous, and solutions are available, but they will only be of utility if the authorities implement them. The city of Peshawar needs a proper place for protests, more flyovers, more bridges and more roads. The work of the newly hired traffic wardens is praiseworthy, but more change is needed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. One of these could be the provision of free driving lessons to taxi and rickshaw drivers, who clearly don’t know how to negotiate heavy traffic, and only end up compounding the problem.

Pakistani media blacks out Sharif heckling incident in US

Pakistani media blacked out coverage of the country's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being heckled by a Baloch activist during his speech in the US.

On Friday, Ahmar Mustikhan interrupted Sharif's speech and demanded freedom of Balochistan Province, where the Pakistani Army has been engaged in acts of torture and killing of Baloch who are demanding freedom. The activist also called Sharif a 'friend of al-Qaida founder Osama Bin Laden'.

"I hope my small minute contribution will reach the ears of thousands of Baloch martyr families. My voice was also meant to expose Pakistan terror in Afghanistan and war crimes in Balochistan," Mustikhan told ANI in an exclusive interview.
The incident took place during Sharif's most anticipated visit to the United States. Even though the Pakistani media, including the Dawn, Geo TV, Express Tribune and The Nation left no stone unturned to cover each and every move of their Prime Minister, they conveniently choose to black out the coverage of a Baloch activist disrupting his address to a renowned US think tank (name the institution and give brief background of it).

The question remains whether it is self censorship or an instruction from the higher ups.

The media in Pakistan frequently goes to the town discussing alleged atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir, but chooses to look in another direction when the worsening situation in Balochistan and Azad Kashmir is highlighted. Sharif has raised the Kashmir issue at many international for a, but unfortunately, has maintained silence on security-related brutalities in the region.

The blackout also imposed a curb on freedom of expression of thousands of Pakistanis who have been struggling for freedom.