Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saudis use terrorism as tool against Iran

Iran’s security forces have arrested three terrorists and killed another one in the eastern parts of the country. The forces of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry have seized explosive materials from the terrorist cell. Tehran has called on neighboring states to prevent terrorist groups from crossing the joint borders. Press TV has interviewed a commentator to discuss the threat of terrorism against Iran, which comes from outside of the country.
Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm, a journalist and political analyst, says after the Saudi authorities have failed to stop Iran’s influence in the region by using terrorist attacks against its allies, the Saudis resorted to proxy war through dispatching terrorists inside the Islamic Republic to undermine its security.
“The Saudis have changed the pattern when they found out they cannot topple the Iranian allies in the region like Iraq and [President] Bashar al-Assad in Syria. They have been trying hard to strike at Iran itself, because Iran is the only country, which is enjoying security in the region,” Khoshcheshm said, noting that the Saudis are seeking “to spread their influence in the region and to contain Iran.”  
“This (the use of terrorist groups) has intensified since the nuclear deal [between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries] and they have been trying hard to regroup and to create a chain of these terrorist groups,” he said.
He also noted that “they (the Saudis) have been trying hard to provide financial backup, training, arms and logistics for different terrorist groups that have been operating in Iran throughout the last three decades after the Revolution."
According to the analyst, the Saudi officials support anti-Iran terrorist groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), which has “martyred over 17,000 Iranians and officials in the last three decades.”
Saudi Arabia has paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars to terrorists” inside Pakistan to arm and regroup them to wreak havoc on Iran, he said, adding that the Saudi consulate in Iraq’s Kurdistan region supported a Kurdish separatist group, which is labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey, Iraq and Iran, to enable it to operate terrorist attacks in the region.
Iranian security forces have arrested dozens of terrorists, belonging to the Daesh Takfiris and other groups over the past months.
In July, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry declared its forces had smashed a terrorist cell, which was planning bombings in Tehran and other cities during the holy month of Ramadan.

Yemen: HRW calls for arms embargo on Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Watch on Thursday called for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen, and said the United States might be complicit in atrocities by supplying bombs used unlawfully in the conflict.

The New York-based rights group said more than 160 people were killed in one month, mostly by US bombs sold to the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen's Houthi rebels.
It said the US arms were supplied after earlier violations had been publicized, and were used in airstrikes in September and October.

"The Obama administration is running out of time to completely suspend US arms sales to Saudi Arabia or be forever linked to Yemen wartime atrocities," Human Rights Watch researcher Priyanka Motaparthy said.

A Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States launched an air campaign on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognised government in March 2015. The year before, the Houthis had seized much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and some 3 million have been displaced. The fighting, along with an air and sea blockade by the coalition, has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine.

Rights groups have investigated dozens of airstrikes that targeted weddings, busy markets, hospitals, and schools. They have accused the coalition of committing war crimes and called for an international investigation.

The Human Rights Watch report released Thursday included findings from an investigation into an air raid in Arhab, a town north of Sanaa, on 10 September that killed 31 civilians, including several first responders, and wounded more than 40.

HRW said fragments of the weapons used in the attack show they were produced in the US in October 2015, after several rights groups had already reported alleged violations.
Ten days later, warplanes struck a three-storey house near a funeral, killing more than 28 civilians and wounding 32 in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, the group said.

"Governments selling weapons to Saudi Arabia cannot with any credibility rely on either coalition or Yemeni-led investigations to determine whether these weapons are being used against civilians," Motaparthy said.

"The US, UK, and others selling weapons to Saudi Arabia should suspend these sales until unlawful attacks are curtailed and properly investigated."

Saudi Arabia would allow Israel to use its airspace to attack Iran

Saudi Arabia has reportedly agreed to let Israel use its airspace to attack Iran if necessary according to Israel’s Channel 2 TV station who quoted an unnamed European official.
The official claimed this was an exchange for “some kind of progress” on the Palestine issue.
“The Saudis have declared their readiness for the Israeli Air Force to overfly Saudi air space en route to attack Iran if an attack is necessary,” the report stated.
“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” the European official from Brussels was quoted as saying.
“It is not the first time this issue has been raised, of creating an air corridor from the Saudi Arabia side to Israel to arrive directly to Iran,” Tal Pavel from the International Institute for Counter Terrorism told RT. He noted, however, that “the possibility of an event like this happening is very low.”
If Israel accepts the demand of “restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations,” it would “do a lot to ease the tensions in the Middle East,” Pavel added.

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FBI covered up Russian influence on Trump's election win, Harry Reid claims


Senator calls for James Comey to resign for withholding information revealed in CIA report that Russian operatives gave hacked emails to WikiLeaks.

The FBI covered up information about Russia seeking to tip the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour, a senior Democrat claimed on Saturday, after reports emerged about spy agencies’ investigations into hacks of US political parties. CIA concludes Russia interfered to help Trump win election, say reports
Harry Reid, outgoing Senate minority leader, compared FBI director James Comey to the agency’s notorious founder, J Edgar Hoover, and called for his resignation.
A secret CIA analysis found that people with connections to the Russian government provided emails, hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks in the final months of the election, according to a Washington Post report published late Friday. “The FBI had this material for a long time but Comey, who is of course a Republican, refused to divulge specific information about Russia and the presidental election,” Reid told MSNBC on Saturday. Comey testified to Congress in July that he was no longer a registered Republican, though he belonged to the party most of his life.
“Everyone should know WikiLeaks was involved from the very beginning,” Reid continued. “They leaked the information as if it was run by one of the great political operatives in America when in fact it was run by the political operatives in Russia.
“Russia has a pretty good way of cheating. Look at what they did with athletes,” he added, alluding to the long-running doping scandal of Russian Olympic athletes. Pressed on whether he believed Comey had information on Russia’s influence and sat on it, Reid replied: “That’s right, that is true.”
“I am so disappointed in Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes and that’s why I call him the new J Edgar Hoover, because I believe that,” Reid added, calling for the director’s resignation. “I think he should be investigated by the Senate. He should be investigated by other agencies of the government including the security agencies because if ever there was a matter of security it’s this … I don’t think any of us understood how partisan Comey was.”
Comey had previously angered Democrats when, 10 days before election day, he sent a letter to Capitol Hill leaders indicating the FBI had located additional emails potentially related to its investigation of Clinton’s private email server. Two days before the election, he sent another letter saying the review was complete and that he stood by the bureau’s original conclusion finding no criminal wrongdoing. A month before the election, the US government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber-attacks against Democratic party organisations, with an intention to interfere in the US election. Intelligence officials did not specify that a Trump victory was the ultimate goal at the time. On Friday, Barack Obama ordered a review of evidence that Russia had interfered in the election.
Gene Sperling, a former national economic adviser to Obama and former president Bill Clinton, tweeted: “So at end of close election, FBI deeply hurt HRC [Clinton] based on no evidence, while CIA sat on clear evidence of Putin interference for Trump.”
On Saturday Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House committee on intelligence, said in a statement that though he could not “comment on or confirm any intelligence briefings … one would also have to be wilfully blind not to see that these Russian actions were uniformly damaging to Secretary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump.”
He added: “I do not believe this was coincidental or unintended.”
Trump himself curtly dismissed the reports of the CIA findings. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” his transition team said in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest electoral college victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’.”
The comment earned widespread derision. David Axelrod, a former top adviser to Obama, tweeted that Trump’s “blithe dismissal only deepens concern”, and John Dean, the former White House counsel under former president Richard Nixon, described the response as “remarkably inadequate”. Dean called for the intelligence report on Russia’s role to be made available to the 538 members of the electoral college before 19 December, when they formally vote to elect the next president.
Senior Democrats demanded a congressional investigation next year. “Reports of the CIA’s conclusion that Russia actively sought to help elect Donald Trump are simultaneously stunning and not surprising, given Russia’s disdain for democracy and admiration for autocracy,” said Chuck Schumer, Reid’s successor as Senate minority leader.
“The silence from WikiLeaks and others since election day has been deafening. That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core.” Schumer threw down a gauntlet to Republicans to back the investigation. “It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation.” The call poses a dilemma for Republicans who have increasingly rallied around Trump and do not want to be seen undermining his legitimacy. Trump has repeatedly praised Russian president Vladimir Putin and rejected the intelligence community’s findings. In a recent interview with Time magazine, he said: “I don’t believe they interfered. It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.” Advertisement In its report on the CIA conclusions, the Post quoted an unnamed senior US official who had been briefed on the intelligence agency findings. “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” the official said. “That’s the consensus view.” CIA agents told senators it was “quite clear” that putting Trump in the White House was Russia’s goal, according to officials who spoke to the Post. Meanwhile, a New York Times report suggested that the Republican National Committee was also hacked. “We now have high confidence that they hacked the DNC and the RNC, and conspicuously released no documents” from the RNC, the Times quoted one senior administration official as saying. A senior administration official told Reuters: “That was a major clue to their intent. If all they wanted to do was discredit our political system, why publicise the failings of just one party, especially when you have a target like Trump?” The Kremlin has denied accusations of interference in the US election. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied links with Russia’s government. At the White House on Friday, deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Obama had called for the cyber-attacks review, for release before inauguration day on 20 January, to ensure “the integrity of our elections”. “
We are going to make public as much as we can,” Schultz said. “This is a major priority for the president.”
Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, said that during the election, Republicans had wanted to “avoid the subject altogether and the Obama administration did not want to appear to be influencing the election”. “Now that the election is over, we need a serious , independent, bipartisan investigation to know the facts.” Bruce Riedel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, now director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, called the situation “unprecedented”.
“A foreign adversary has been caught trying to influence an American election. The intelligence community must have certainty that the evidence is concrete to support the conclusion. But revealing the evidence may not be in the national interest and undermine future capabilities to monitor Russia’s next attack on the nation.”

Hillary Clinton warns against proliferation of fake news

In her second public address since her concession speech the day after the November 8 election, Hillary Clinton has spoken out against fake news. This after an attack in a restaurant inspired by a fake news story.
USA Hillary Clinton nachdenklich (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Thew)
Fake news has "real world consequences" that must be addressed in order to protect the nation's democracy, Clinton told US lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington where she was attending a ceremony for outgoing Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid.
"It's now clear that so-called fake news can have real world consequences," Clinton said. "This isn't about politics, or partisanship. Lives are at risk."
Clinton went on to blast "the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year." The "danger" must be addressed quickly, she added.
"It's imperative that leaders from the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy and innocent lives."
When fake news becomes real news
A man wielding a rifle entered a pizza restaurant in Washington last week saying he wanted to investigate a fake news story that mistakenly stated the Comet Ping Pong restaurant was a center for child abduction linked to Clinton and her top advisor, John Podesta.
No one was injured when 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch fired off a round from his AR-15.
Schüsse in Pizzeria Comet Ping Pong (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Lo Scalzo)
Police shut down Connecticut Avenue outside Comet Ping Pong, the pizza restaurant that was the subject of a fake news story
Letting go
"This is not exactly the speech to the Capitol I hoped to be giving after the election," Clinton said to an audience that gave her a standing ovation as she took the stage.
"But after a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods, I thought it would be a good idea to come out."
Afterward Clinton ignored reporters' questions about whether fake news stories had cost her the election.
Trump won the Electoral College vote, 306-232. Clinton leads in the popular vote, 65,432,202 to Trump's 62,793,872.

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Zardari calls for National Charter of Human Rights

Calls for making public the implementation report on the Convention Against Torture
Islamabad, December 9, 2016 : “The poor state of human rights in the country calls for the adoption of a National Charter of Human Rights on the lines of Charter of Democracy”.
This has been sated by the former President Mr Asif Ali Zardari in a message on the international human rights day on Saturday.
“Human rights are indivisible, universal and its frontiers constantly expanding and it requires that political parties agree on some minimum standards that must be achieved within a specified time frame”, he said.
Peace and democracy will elude us as long as there are no human rights because they all are intertwined, he said.
We also need an environment of freedom and liberalism to promote these values the former President said in his message.
Apart from guaranteeing the most fundamental right to life, liberty and security the minimum agreed charter should also guarantee the four basic freedoms: namely freedom of expression, freedom of information, right to assembly and the right to association, he said.
It is a sad thought on the eve of this year’s human rights day that the right to information has been denied by the absence of RTI (Right to Information) legislation at the federal level.
The right to life threatened by enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings, he said.
It is pertinent to recall that the previous PPP government had signed the international human rights conventions on ending torture and ensuring civil and political rights of citizens, he said and demanded that implementation reports of these conventions be made public.
He said that the sometime back the Senate unanimously passed the Bill against torture which is now before the National Assembly.
“I wish to compliment the Senate I also urge the Senate to pass the Bill expeditiously”.
On this day let us also pay homage to those who have suffered in the course of struggle for human rights. We salute the human rights defenders and demand that special protection be given to them for causing of human rights.

بلاول بھٹو زرداری ہی نوجوانوں کے لیڈر ہیں: یوسف رضا گیلانی

انسانی حقوق کی خاطر پیپلز پارٹی نے بہت کام کیا، نوازحکومت کو چاہیئے کہ انسانی حقوق کی فراہمی یقینی بنانے کیلئے کام کرے
اسلام آباد: سابق وزیر اعظم یوسف رضا گیلانی نے کہا ہے کہ چیئرمین پیپلز پارٹی بلاول بھٹو زرداری ہی نوجوانوں کے لیڈر ہیں۔
عالمی دن برائے انسانی حقوق کے حوالے سے منعقدہ تقریب میں میڈیا سے بات کرتے ہوئے سابق وزیر اعظم یوسف رضا گیلانی نے کہا کہ وہ وزیر مملکت پانی و بجلی عابد شیر علی کے بلاول بھٹو پر کمنٹس کو جواب کے قابل بھی نہیں سمجھتے۔
یوسف رضا گیلانی نے کہا کہ چیئرمین بلاول نے اپنے چار مطالبات کے حوالے سے جو کمیٹی بنائی ہے اسکا پہلا اجلاس تیرہ دسمبر میں اسلام آباد میں ہوگا۔
انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ پاکستان کی پینسٹھ فی صد آبادی نوجوانوں پر مشتمل ہے، بلاول بھٹو بھی نوجوانوں کے لیڈر ہیں۔
ایک سوال کے جواب میں انہوں نے بتایا کہ انسانی حقوق کی خاطر پیپلز پارٹی نے بہت کام کیا، 
نوازحکومت کو چاہیئے کہ انسانی حقوق کی فراہمی یقینی بنانے کیلئے کام کرے۔

Bilawal Bhutto strongly condemns killing of a DSP in Peshawar

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the killing of a DSP in a coward attack by terrorists in Peshawar.
DSP Riazul Islam was martyred and his son was injured in a terrorist attack when they were coming out from a mosque after offering Namaz.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prayed to Almighty Allah to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage and fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.
He also directed PPP KPK leadership to visit the bereaved family to express complete solidarity with them and assure them that PPP regards each and every martyr who falls in the fight against terrorism as it own because being the biggest victim of terrorism the PPP understands the depth of their pain.

FATA student leader held for ‘protesting against FCR’

By Mureeb Mohmand

 Peshawar district administration has arrested Fata Student Organisation’s (FSO) central president for ‘protesting’ against the Frontiers Crimes Regulation (FCR).
Shaukat Aziz was rounded up under 3 MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) after he chanted slogans against a tribal chief who spoke in favour of the FCR during the grand jirga called by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) last week.
Grand Jirga over FATA reforms ends in a brawl The scuffle was so intense that security staff evacuated the chief guest, K-P Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, who is also Fata’s chief executive, and the provincial assembly speaker Asad Qaisar. The brawl sparked after provocative comments were made by Khan Marjan, a tribal chief from North Waziristan.
Terming the members of the reforms committee traitors, he said tribal areas had been destroyed and Fata’s public representatives in the National Assembly were unaware of ground realities. “Whatever you (the committee) have written in the report is nothing short of an insult to the tribesmen,” were Marjan’s last words, after which the hall reverberated with anti-FCR slogans.
“After his arrest Aziz has been sent to Central Jail, Peshawar,” said Samreen Wazir, general secretary of FSO’s female wing. “We will hold a protest in Peshawar if he’s not released by tomorrow.” Mohmand, Bajaur jirgas oppose Fata-K-P merger
Wazir claimed that the FSO peacefully carried out their protest, saying “It is our political right to chant slogans against the FCR, and the arrest is against the spirit of democracy.”
Aziz was called by the deputy commissioner and asked to present a surety bond for not protesting in future, FSO president Amir Hamza Kuram told The Express Tribune. However, Aziz was taken into custody and sent to prison before he could submit the bond. DC’s version

However, K-P Deputy Commissioner Riaz Mehsud told The Express Tribune that the FSO president was held after a complainant, Sajid, informed his office that the accused was issuing him death threats.

Pakistan - Deepening fault lines


The on going political schism in Pakistan is manifested in conflict between civilian and military elites over controlling the system for policy making and resource allocation. It is also reflected in a prolonged political confrontation encouraged by the security establishment to put pressure on civilian governments for expanding its control. But since both the civil and military factions of the ruling elites are predominantly Punjabi, the aforementioned power struggle has largely obscured the deepening fault lines representing the growing alienation of oppressed nationalities like Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi and those living in Gilgit-Baltistan from the Pakistani state system. The situation in the largest urban center Karachi also reflects the sense of exclusion felt in the rest of peripheral spheres. Such a development can be comprehended by acknowledging the fact that smaller ethnic groups are marginalised by the said power struggle since the political discourse of the country remains by and large hostage to artificially generated issues leaving no space for genuine and vital challenges faced by the people of oppressed nationalities.
Here I shall make an effort to briefly focus on the growing alienation among Pashtuns in Pakistan during the last few years. This sounds ironic because there were serious efforts underway in the recent past by the democratic political forces, including Pashtun nationalist leadership, to find a solution in a federal democratic structure and there was tangible progress on that front a few years ago. The National Finance Commission Award in 2009 and the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010 are two examples. However, myopic policies of certain state actors have complicated the situation by adopting extremely oppressive policies.
There are three main issues that are responsible for deepening alienation among Pashtuns today. The first and foremost is Pakistan’s Afghan policy formulated and executed by the security establishment. By now it is quite clear that the term “strategic depth” has been an euphemism for a colonial type of control of Afghan/Pashtun people on both sides of the Durand Line by Punjabi dominated Pakistani ruling elite. Project Taliban is the modus operandi for the implementation of this policy, which is aimed at deconstruction of Afghan/Pashtun socio cultural and historical identity. Since military means remain the main instrument for implementation of Talibanisation, it has involved death and destruction on a large scale, deepening Pashtun alienation to dangerous proportions. The naked design of demolition of Afghan state and nationhood that constitute the content of the aforementioned policy has turned it into a zero sum game reviving the animosity that existed between Afghans and the 19th century Punjabi state of Ranjit Singh. It is not a coincidence that inside Pakistan, Pashtun nationalists have had to bear the brunt of Taliban’s target killings. In the past Pashtun nationalists were suppressed by torture, imprisonment and exiles and now their political activities are blocked through terrorist attacks. Interestingly the main justification for the notorious Afghan policy post 9/11 was the “ compulsion” of Pakistan to “support” Pashtuns in Afghanistan (by supporting Taliban) who were supposed to have been marginalised by the domination of the so called Northern Alliance. But now when millions of Afghan/Pashtun refugees are being thrown out of Pakistan by using the most brutal and humiliating methods, Pashtuns in Pakistan are supposed to remain indifferent! The saga of the well-known Afghan refugee woman Sharbat Gula epitomises the arrogance of the aforementioned hegemonic policy. It goes without saying that this situation is totally unacceptable for Pashtuns living in Pakistan. Convergence of almost all political parties active in Pashtun belt on demanding an end to this policy proves it. Similarly, by choking Afghan Transit Trade and by discouraging trade via Torkham and Chaman, Pakistani policy amounts to economic murder of Pashtuns with a political fallout.
The second burning issue for Pashtuns in Pakistan is the fate of their brethren in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Situation in FATA is closely linked with Pakistan’s Afghan policy. FATA has been not only groaning under the colonial structures of governance for the last seventy years even after the independence with no human rights for its people but the area has also been used as a launching pad for three undeclared wars that Pakistan has fought in Afghanistan during the last four decades (1980-89, 1994-2001 and 2003-2016). After 9/11, terrorists coming from different parts of the world were allowed to establish a parallel state in the area for supporting Taliban’s war in Afghanistan. Terrorists occupied the area and turned it into a hell for the Pashtuns living there. Terrorists established their hegemony in the area by killing almost all known tribal leaders and subsequently imposed a reign of terror on the indigenous people while Pakistani state looked the other way. At times clashes would erupt between Pakistan Army and the terrorists and tribal Pashtuns would get caught up in the cross fire. Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched in 2014 has pushed most of the terror syndicate into Afghanistan with some Afghan Taliban bases still operating in FATA. The recent report by a federal government committee (18th such report since 1972) for suggesting merger of FATA in Pakhtunkhwa faces challenges in implementation. It is pretty clear that as long as Pakistan actively supports Taliban’s war in Afghanistan FATA will be kept as a back hole and no go area. Consequently it will remain a socio political backyard and a bleeding wound despite the high sounding rhetoric of the authorities.
The third issue faced by Pashtuns (along with other oppressed nationalities) is their socio economic exclusion. FATA, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan face the highest incidence of poverty even according to the recently released official statistics. The two most prominent examples of the unfairness in state policy are the capping of net profit from hydel power to Pakhtunkhwa since 1992 (in violation of the Constitution) and exclusion of Pashtuns from the CPEC. The net profit of hydel-power enshrined in 1973 Constitution was received for the first time in 1991 after a delay of 18 years and was capped the next year depriving Pakhtunkhwa from its legitimate income. But all political parties with some political base in the area, including the religious groups, are taking a strong stand on all these three issues. Similar fault lines are also deepening in other marginalised communities in Pakistan but the ruling elites can’t pay attention being too busy in power games. Dissatisfied with traditional politics the younger people are bound to make more radical demands.

Pakistan - Farmers protest against Qatari royal family for damaging their crops

Chickpea farmers came out on streets to protest in Mahni area of Mankera Tehsil in the distrcit of Bhakkar on Saturday.
According to media reports, the farmers spoke up for the damage caused to their crops allegedly by the members of the Qatari royal family hunting bustards.
The protesters gathered in Mahni and started marching towards the camps of hunters, but the police stopped them. They further resisted the police order to disperse peacefully, to which they were like chickpeas are the only crops they produce throughout the year.
After that, the police baton-charged the protesters when they tried to continue their march towards the camps.

Pakistan lost opportunities given by President Ghani

The former foreign affairs minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar has said Pakistan should change course in neighboring Afghanistan, a recommendation which comes amid deteriorating relations between Kabul and Islamabad, mainly due to war against terrorism.
In an interview with Gandhara/RFERL, Khar urged urged Islamabad to revive their administration’s foreign policy approach of maintaining good relations with neighboring countries.
In response to a question regarding Kabul’s stance against Pakistan, accusing it for harboring the Afghan militant groups, Khar said “That is the most disheartening thing to see. It causes me personal grief because we had literally poised Pakistan within the region. When I was foreign minister, we tried to concentrate on relations closer to home. And I, as well as my prime minister at that time, have categorically said that Kabul is the most important capital for Pakistan. We invested a great deal of energy and effort to make Kabul as the most important capital for us. As foreign minister of Pakistan, I visited Kabul three times in two years. In contrast, I visited Washington only once. It was because we thought Kabul is more important.”
Khar further added “What this government has been able to do is let the opportunity that came with President Ashraf Ghani go by. We lost that window of opportunity that opened when Ghani came into power. He gave Pakistan a pretty reasonable deal. He offered pretty much everything that Pakistan was asking for. I do not know the internal dynamics of the current government to be able to say what they should do to make amends, but I can say for sure that this government has not been able to sustain its relationship with Afghanistan, India, and Iran.”
The remarks by Khar came as President Ghani once again slammed Pakistan for its reluctance to take actions against the Afghan militant groups using its soil.
President Ghani said during his speech at the 6th Heart of Asia conference on Sunday that “Despite our intense engagement with Pakistan on bilateral and multilateral basis, the undeclared war – the name that I gave to the phenomenon in the winter 2014 – not only has not abated but also intensified during 2016, with special intensity right after the Brussels Conference.”
Citing a Taliban commander’s remarks about Pakistan, President Ghani said “As Mr. Kakazada, one of the key figures in the Taliban movement recently said, if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month.”
President Ghani insisted on the need for intense dialogue and engagement to resolve the issue, including fight against criminal economics, and an Asian and international regime, whatever acceptable, particularly, to Pakistan to verify cross-frontier activities and terrorist operations.
He also added “Thirdly, there is need for a fund to combat extremism. Pakistan has generously pledged 500 million dollars for reconstruction of Afghanistan. This fund, Mr. Aziz, could very well be used for containing extremism because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people. We have been balancing the opportunities and the threats. I am confident that focused, deliberate and systematic efforts can enable us to win a world and to make Afghanistan and Asia secure. Once again, thank you for your attention.”

A Global Nuclear Winter: Avoiding the Unthinkable in India and Pakistan


President-elect Donald Trump’s off the cuff, chaotic approach to foreign policy had at least one thing going for it, even though it was more the feel of a blind pig rooting for acorns than a thought-out international initiative. In speaking with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the New York Times reported, Trump said he wanted “to address and find solutions” to Pakistan’s problems.
And what big problems they are.
Whether Trump understands exactly how dangerous the current tensions between Pakistan and India are, or if anything will come from the November 30 exchange between the two leaders, is anyone’s guess. But it’s more than the Obama administration has done over the past eight years, in spite of the outgoing president’s 2008 election promise to address the ongoing crisis in Kashmir.
Right now that troubled land is the single most dangerous spot on the globe.
War, Famine, and Radiation
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the disputed province in the past six decades and came within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear exchange in 1999. Both countries are on a crash program to produce nuclear weapons, and between them they have enough explosive power to not only kill more than 20 million of their own people, but also to devastate the world’s ozone layer and throw the Northern Hemisphere into a nuclear winter – with a catastrophic impact on agriculture worldwide.
According to studies done at Rutgers, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the University of California-Los Angeles, if both countries detonated 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, it would generate between 1 and 5 million tons of smoke. Within 10 days, that would drive temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere down to levels too cold for wheat production in much of Canada and Russia. The resulting 10 percent drop in rainfall – especially in Asian locales that rely monsoons – would exhaust worldwide food supplies, leading to the starvation of up to 100 million or more people.
Aside from the food crisis, a nuclear war in South Asia would destroy between 25 to 70 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s ozone layer, resulting in a massive increase in dangerous ultraviolent radiation.
Cold Start, Hot War
Lest anyone think that the chances of such a war are slight, consider two recent developments.
One, a decision by Pakistan to deploy low-yield tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons and to give permission for local commanders to decide when to use them.
In an interview with the German newspaper Deutsche WelleGregory Koblentz of the Council on Foreign Relations warned that if a “commander of a forward-deployed nuclear armed unit finds himself in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation and about to be overrun, he might decided to launch his weapons.”
Pakistan’s current defense minister, Muhammad Asif, told Geo TV, “If anyone steps on our soil and if anyone’s designs are a threat to our security, we will not hesitate to use those [nuclear] weapons for our defense.”
Every few years the Pentagon “war games” a clash between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. Every game ends in a nuclear war.
The second dangerous development is the “Cold Start” strategy by India that would send Indian troops across the border to a depth of 30 kilometers in the advent of a terrorist attack like the 1999 Kargill incident in Kashmir, the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, or the 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people.
Since the Indian army is more than twice the size of Pakistan’s, there would be little that Pakistanis could do to stop such an invasion other than using battlefield nukes. India would then be faced with either accepting defeat or responding.
India doesn’t currently have any tactical nukes, only high yield strategic weapons – many aimed at China – whose primary value is to destroy cities. Hence a decision by a Pakistani commander to use a tactical warhead would almost surely lead to a strategic response by India, setting off a full-scale nuclear exchange and the nightmare that would follow in its wake.
A Regional Arms Race
With so much at stake, why is no one but a Twitter-addicted foreign policy apprentice saying anything? What happened to President Obama’s follow through to his 2008 statement that the tensions over Kashmir “won’t be easy” to solve, but that doing so “is important”?
A strategy of pulling India into an alliance against China was dreamed up during the administration of George W. Bush, but it was Obama’s “Asia Pivot” that signed and sealed the deal. With it went a quid pro quo: If India would abandon its traditional neutrality, the Americans would turn a blind eye to Kashmir.
As a sweetener, the U.S. agreed to bypass the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and allow India to buy uranium on the world market, something New Delhi had been banned from doing since it detonated a nuclear bomb in 1974 using fuel it had cribbed from U.S.-supplied nuclear reactors. In any case, because neither India nor Pakistan is a party to the treaty, both should be barred from buying uranium. In India’s case, the US has waived that restriction.
The so-called 1-2-3 Agreement requires India to use any nuclear fuel it purchases in its civilian reactors, but frees it up to use its meager domestic supplies on its nuclear weapons program. India has since built two enormous nuclear production sites at Challakere and near Mysore, where, rumor has it, it is producing a hydrogen bomb. Both sites are off limits to international inspectors.
In 2008, when the Obama administration indicated it was interested in pursuing the 1-2-3 Agreement, then Pakistani Foreign minister Khurshid Kusuni warned that the deal would undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty and lead to a nuclear arms race in Asia. That is exactly what has come to pass. The only countries currently adding to their nuclear arsenals are Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea.
While Pakistan is still frozen out of buying uranium on the world market, it has sufficient domestic supplies to fuel an accelerated program to raise its warhead production. Pakistan is estimated to have between 110 and 130 warheads already, and it’s projected to have developed 200 by 2020, surpassing the United Kingdom.
India has between 110 and 120 nuclear weapons. Both countries have short, medium, and long-range missiles, submarine ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, plus nuclear-capable aircraft that can target each other’s major urban areas.
A New Uprising in Kashmir
One problem in the current crisis is that both countries are essentially talking past one another.
Pakistan does have legitimate security concerns. It has fought and lost three wars with India over Kashmir since 1947, and it’s deeply paranoid about the size of the Indian army.
But India has been the victim of several major terrorist attacks that have Pakistan’s fingerprints all over them. The 1999 Kargill invasion lasted a month and killed hundreds of soldiers on both sides. Reportedly the Pakistanis were considering arming their missiles with nuclear warheads until the Clinton administration convinced them to stand down.
Pakistan’s military has long denied that it has any control over terrorist organizations based in Pakistan, but virtually all intelligence agencies agree that, with the exception of the country’s homegrown Taliban, that is not the case. The Pakistani army certainly knew about a recent attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir that killed 19 soldiers.
In the past, India responded to such attacks with quiet counterattacks of its own, but this time around the right-wing nationalist government of Narendra Modi announced that the Indian military had crossed the border and killed more than 30 militants. It was the first time that India publicly acknowledged a cross-border assault.
Meanwhile the Indian press has whipped up a nationalist fervor that has seen sports events between the two countries canceled and a ban on using Pakistani actors in Indian films. The Pakistani press has been no less jingoistic.
In the meantime, the situation in Kashmir has gone from bad to worse. Early in the summer Indian security forces killed Burhan Wani, a popular leader of the Kashmir independence movement. Since then the province has essentially been paralyzed, with schools closed and massive demonstrations. Thousands of residents have been arrested, close to 100 killed, and hundreds of demonstrators wounded and blinded by the widespread use of birdshot by Indian security forces.
Indian rule in Kashmir has been singularly brutal. Between 50,000 and 80,000 people have died over the past six decades, and thousands of others have been “disappeared” by security forces. While in the past the Pakistani army aided the infiltration of terrorist groups to attack the Indian army, this time around the uprising is homegrown. Kashmiris are simply tired of military rule and a law which gives Indian security forces essentially carte blanche to terrorize the population.
Called the Special Powers Act – modeled after a British provision to suppress of Catholics in Northern Ireland and mirroring practices widely used by the Israelis in the Occupied Territories – the law allows Indian authorities to arrest and imprison people without charge and gives immunity to Indian security forces.
Avenues to Peace
As complex as the situation in Kashmir is, there are avenues to resolve it. A good start would be to suspend the Special Powers Act and send the Indian Army back to the barracks.
The crisis in Kashmir began when the Hindu ruler of the mostly Muslim region opted to join India when the countries were divided in 1947. At the time, the residents were promised that a UN-sponsored referendum would allow residents to choose India, Pakistan, or independence. That referendum has never been held.
Certainly the current situation cannot continue. Kashmir has almost 12 million people, and no army or security force – even one as large as India’s – can maintain a permanent occupation if the residents don’t want it. Instead of resorting to force, India should ratchet down its security forces and negotiate with Kashmiris for an interim increase in local autonomy.
But in the long run, the Kashmiris should have their referendum – and both India and Pakistan will have to accept the results.
What the world cannot afford is for the current tensions to spiral down into a military confrontation that could easily get out of hand. The US, through its aid to Pakistan – $860 million this year – has some leverage, but it cannot play a role if its ultimate goal is an alliance to contain China, a close ally of Pakistan.
Neither country would survive a nuclear war, and neither country should be spending its money on an arms race. Almost 30 percent of Indians live below the poverty line, as do 22 percent of Pakistanis. The $51 billion Indian defense budget and the $7 billion Pakistan spends could be put to far better use.

Pakistan plans to expel Turkish teachers linked to opposition at home

By Pamela Constable and Shaiq Hussain

In a second-grade classroom, decorated with colorful posters of letters, numbers and animals, students were reciting English sentences using the future tense. Down the hall, kindergartners were enjoying a lunchtime party with cupcakes and funny hats.
But something was missing from this picture of studious nurturing. In many classes at the Pak-Turk International School last week, the regular teachers from Turkey were absent. They had been banned from the premises after the Pakistani government abruptly announced on Nov. 15 that they had five days to leave the country.
Since then, the expulsion orders against about 100 Turkish teachers and their families have been challenged in provincial courts, and most have been granted temporary visa extensions. But despite criticism from international rights groups and Pakistani educators, all expect to be forced to leave, and some said they fear being harassed and arrested if they return to Turkey.
“We are really sad about our teachers. They give us parties. They give us love. We don’t want them to go,” said Marosh Zishan, 8, whose English class was being taught by a substitute Pakistani teacher.
Asked what the second-graders had learned from their Turkish teachers, Malisha Shaheed, 7, stood up eagerly. “Not to fight,” she said.
The teachers at Pak-Turk International in Peshawar, and at 27 other such schools with 11,000 students across Pakistan, have not been accused of doing anything wrong. The private schools, established in the 1990s by Turkey’s Gulenist movement, are rated among the best in Pakistan. They meet British university exam standards, and many Pakistani professionals send their children there.
But this summer, the teachers were caught up in an international controversy, stemming from a failed military coup in Turkey in July. After the uprising was quelled, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed a crackdown in which thousands of academics, lawyers and political activists were arrested.
Erdogan also singled out the Gulenists as having influenced the army to rebel and denounced their leader,  Fethullah Gulen, as a mastermind of the revolt. Gulen, 77, a Turkish Muslim cleric, has lived in exile in Pennsylvania for 17 years. He condemned the uprising, writing in the New York Times that his philosophy is “antithetical to armed rebellion.”
Still, Gulen loyalists had worked for years to infiltrate Turkish institutions, according to analysts in Turkey. Many in the police and judiciary used their positions to target military and political leaders, including Erdogan allies. 
Erdogan’s international stature has plummeted since the crackdown, but he remains a valued ally of Pakistan. In mid-November he was welcomed here for a high-profile visit. He addressed a session of Parliament, where he denounced the Gulenists as a “bloody terrorist group” and warned that they could also endanger Pakistan. Before arriving he requested that the teachers be expelled, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif complied.  
The Pak-Turk schools are part of Gulen’s Hizmet program, which has educational and social welfare projects in numerous countries. Gulen’s teachings have a strong Islamic component, but Hizmet publications and members describe it as a “civil society movement” that promotes “human values” including empathy, mutual respect and community service.
Many Pakistani parents of Pak-Turk students have vocally protested the government’s move, participating in demonstrations in various cities over the past several weeks. They insist that the schools do not promote any radical religious ideas, and they praise the Turkish influence as building moral character in the young.
“My children have been going here for four years, and I have never heard anything about the Gulenists,” said Mohammed Zubair, a medical doctor and hospital official in Peshawar who said he chose Pak-Turk over several other highly ranked private schools. “They teach ethical values and build good citizens. This is completely unfair.”
Mohammed Aqeel, 24, who attended the Peshawar school and now teaches there, called the visa cancellations “a shameful event” that had compromised Pakistan’s independence and damaged its educational standards. “There is no foreign ideology here,” he said. “I love this school. It grooms us to be good human beings as well as students.”
The Pakistani government has not fully explained its action, but government lawyers have described it as a “foreign policy matter” and noted that Pakistan has the right to not renew foreign visas. Officials have also suggested that little harm is being done to the students, since the schools will remain open. 
Critical analysts, however, said it was strictly a move to please Erdogan, who is close to Sharif and supports Pakistan in its rivalry with India. Pakistan has been isolated abroad because of accusations that it harbors Islamic terrorists, and Turkey has remained one of its few staunch friends.
Amnesty International condemned the expulsion order, saying Pakistan “needs more classrooms and more teachers, not a politically motivated decision to purge educators at the behest of the Turkish government.” Pakistan’s public school system is poorly funded and equipped, and millions of children work instead.
Babar Sattar, a lawyer and commentator in Islamabad, observed that “asking all Turkish teachers in an excellent school [chain] to exit the country at the drop of a hat, in the middle of the academic term, is an insult to the Turkish teachers and a disservice to their Pakistani students. Why couldn’t our prime minister tell Erdogan that this wasn’t the right thing to do?”
The PakTurk Educational Foundation immediately challenged the expulsion order in Pakistani courts, which have responded in various ways. The Islamabad High Court said the group should petition the Interior Ministry for visa extensions but noted that allowing foreigners to remain is “the sole prerogative of any state.” The Peshawar High Court issued a temporary injunction on the expulsions in November and later extended it until Dec. 13. 
Meanwhile, the teachers remain in limbo, suddenly jobless in Pakistan and fearful of what awaits them in Turkey. One faculty couple with two children, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, said they now rarely leave the rented house they share with another Turkish family. 
“If people at home know I work here, it will be enough to send me straight to jail,” said the husband, 30, who has taught math in PakTurk schools for the past several years. “We have started to sell all our furniture. We don’t know where else we can go and what will happen to us in Turkey,” he said.
His wife, a science teacher, started to cry, then spoke angrily.
“We were so happy here,” she said. “My kids learned Urdu. Then suddenly they told us we were going to be deported in three days. What have we done? If they say we are terrorists, where is the proof?” she demanded. “My parents are telling me it’s too dangerous for us to come back, but we have no choice. We are open targets now.”