Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Baloch Human Rights Council (UK) demonstration on 27 March 2011

The Baloch Human Rights Council (UK) is organising a peaceful demonstration in front of American embassy in London on 27 March 2011 with the collaboration of World Sindhi Congress, Balochistan Liberation Organisation, Sindhi Baloch Forum, Raaje Zrombesh, Balochistan Peoples Party, Balochistan United Front federal and International Voice for Baloch missing Persons (UK) against the forcible annexation and illegal Occupation of Balochistan by Pakistan on 27 March 1948.

*Pakistani forces forcibly and illegally annexed Balochistan 63 years ago in March 1948

*Since then Pakistan’s military has carried out a number of ruthless military operations to suppress Baloch aspirations for liberty, peace and justice

*A full fledge military operation has been going on for the last six years

*Pakistan’s military has abducted, tortured and killed thousands of innocent Balochs and Sindhis

*Just in the last four months, more than 100 mutilated bodies of Balochs have been found

Egypt’s Appetite for Politics

Pakistan in the War on Terror

Terrorists had spread its tentacles in the length and breadth of Pakistan. Increasing intolerance and violence has created havoc in the country. Within a short span of two months two high profile murders in the federal capital and suicide attacks in different parts of the country, with no let up, shows an extremely grim picture of peace and security in the country. Tehrik-e-Taliban is the main culprit behind the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and federal minister for allegedly amending blasphemy law and suicide attacks. A radical change seems in their strategy in eliminating high profile personalities through snipers, killing and harassing civilians and law enforcement personnel in bomb attacks. Pakistan is the worst victim of terrorism in the world in terms of human and financial losses with paralyzed economy, capital flight and shattered investors confidence, both, domestic and foreign. However, lack of vision, strong political will, weak institutions and undue favors of some political and religious leaders towards militants creates confusion and uncertainty in the public and embolden terrorists.

It is very unfortunate that terrorists has clarity in their mission, planning and successful execution to achieve their cherished goals whereas the priorities and strategies of government leadership are completely incoherent and misplaced. There are some political, legal, religious and social factors which affects anti terrorism efforts despite military success in the last three years.

The aim of terrorists is to acquire and use power and get media attention. For this purpose terrorists creates fear, panic, intimidate entire nation, rival groups, sects, and undermining the confidence of the government to submit or agree to their demands which are clearly identified to have a territory as their emirate, levy taxes, impose their obsolete and unacceptable worldly outlook on the majority and use its territory against states in the region and beyond. They justify their acts by being excluded or frustrated by the process to bring about a political change. But those who are engaged in terror acts have no grievances of political oppression, cultural domination, economic exploitation, ethnic discrimination, religious persecution, unequal distribution of wealth and power because they represent not a single section of the society. These are anti state elements. Those who have such grievances can be brought to mainstream politics, to join political and democratic process, exploit all forums of free press and independent judiciary to achieve their goals politically and constitutionally.

Terrorists choose their target carefully gathering detailed reconnaissance and intelligence about a target, its defense capability, vulnerabilities and pattern of daily activities. They have communication and logistic facilities to transport huge amount of explosives and weapons for conducting operation to hit the target. May be in collusion with local population or some black sheep present in the security and law enforcement personnel. Due to serious security lapses terrorists has achieved successfully their objectives. No one knows how terrorist receives information about movement of high profile personalities in the federal capital.

In fact terrorists have change their strategy and achieved success in hitting selected targets but in counter terrorism Pakistan military has the capability, strength and resources to wipe out terrorists strongholds in the tribal belt but in the urban areas civilian law enforcement agencies need popular back up, required training, resources and new flawless strategy to stand up to and pulverize this private militia. It requires close cooperation, coordination among institutions and timely intelligence sharing to dismantle terrorist’s hideouts. Most of the times security forces arrest terrorists who are released by the courts and get scot free due to loopholes in the anti terrorism law. Another important aspect is the lack of security to judges, prosecutors, jail authorities, witnesses and agents of investigating agencies receives threats to their life which badly affects courts trial and therefore conviction ratio is negligible. Anyway framing an anti terrorism law and provision of security to all is state’s responsibility. To save the country from this monster all and sundry to show conspicuous gallantry in these adverse circumstances to defeat this mindset militarily as well as ideologically. Just issues statements of strong condemnation whose empty slogans and lack of political will hardly convince citizenry is not enough. After three years elected government has made no serious and concerted efforts to frame an anti terrorism law. According to media reports a draft of anti terrorism law is shuttling between the law and interior ministries. Further negligence in the matters of national security will have dire consequences.

In the country where there is a clear division among politicians, religious leaders, intellectuals and media persons, which creates confusion and uncertainty, merely for petty personal gains making overall environment conducive for terrorists. Some politicians are engaged in the blame game while other deny their existence despite the fact that not an inch of the state’s territory, including federal capital, is safe and secure. No one was sacked of his job even after the assassination of Governor Taseer and federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Another reason in the fuelling of terrorism is the frequent and effective use of mosque’s pulpit, modern means of communication, for delivering venomous speeches and publication of hate materials to instigate and recruit youth for this dirty job. Their acts does not know sanctity and innocence in hitting a target. Their targets ranges from shrines and places of worship to security forces, educational institutions to funeral procession and Jirgas to crowds of innocent citizens. All the religions, moral and human values fail to condone these acts. In short this violent ideology is out rightly opposed to constitution, democracy, parliamentary system and superior judiciary.

To sum it up, In fighting this mindset and violent ideology unified efforts must be made to effectively use print and electronic media for awareness in the people as well as to revamp the educational system. In this war politicians, Ulemas, intellectuals, lawyers, Teachers and civil society supported by common masses with clarity in mission and unity in their ranks and file will prove helpful in wining this long drawn war. This is the war of survival.

Six Pak engineers kidnapped in Afghanistan

Unknown gunmen kidnapped six Pakistani engineers and two workers of the GTZ, a German non-governmental organisation in the northern Jowzjan province of Afghanistan, police said Friday.

The gunmen kidnapped the Pakistani engineers in Zaka area on the Jowzjan-Sar-i-Pul Highway late Thursday, Colonel Muhammad Ibrahim, security chief of Jowzjan province, told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).

He said the gunmen also seized an engineer of GTZ and his colleague in the same area. Sources, however, told AIP that of the six people picked up by the gunmen, four were Afghans and two belong to Pakistan. The sources said the engineers were conducting survey of the highway to asphalt it, adding the GTZ engineer and his colleague were passing through the area when intercepted by the gunmen.

Another source said the engineers and GTZ workers were kidnapped by the brother of a known anti-government commander, Hazrat Chonta, to make a deal with government for the release of his brother.

Hazrat Chonta was detained by Afghan forces sometimes back. No claim of responsibility for the kidnappings has yet been made by the Taliban or any other group.

Our Landikotal correspondent adds: The bodies of the two Pakistani drivers killed in Afghanistan were handed over to their relatives at the Torkham border on Friday, border officials said.

Afghan Taliban had ambushed a convoy of Nato oil tankers in Orzugan province in Afghanistan on Wednesday in which two Pakistani transporters, besides several others, were killed. The dead were identified as Irfan Afridi of Nikikhel village in Landikotal tehsil and Taj Malook of Chakesar in Shangla district.

The bodies were brought to the Torkham border and then shifted to their native areas for burial, the officials said.

Afghan official says security up ahead of holiday

Police and military forces were on high alert Saturday to prevent attacks targeting next week's celebration of the Afghan new year, when President Hamid Karzai is to announce a plan for the gradual handover of security duties from NATO to local forces, the Interior Ministry said.
Authorities fear insurgents will strike March 21 to disrupt the holiday Nowruz, which marks the beginning of spring and the traditional New Year in Afghanistan, Iran and other countries of central Asia. The Taliban discouraged Afghans from celebrating Nowruz when they ruled the country in the 1990s because they deemed it un-Islamic.
There have been unconfirmed reports that suicide bombers from areas near the Pakistani border have been trying to infiltrate Kabul and other major cities for weeks. Many insurgent groups are based in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas along Afghanistan's eastern borders.
"There is no doubt that the enemies of the Afghan people are trying to disrupt these happy days," Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said Saturday.
But he said U.S.-led forces were ready to help out as all Afghan forces — including police, army and the intelligence service — work to prevent attacks.
Also Saturday, NATO said three of its service members were killed. Two died in a shooting involving a security guard in southern Afghanistan and another died in a roadside bombing in the east. They did not release the nationalities of the dead or any other details, according to standard practice. The deaths brought the number of coalition troops killed this month to 19 and 84 since the start of the year.
Bashary said that all police and army leaves had been canceled ahead of the holiday and that more than 13,000 security forces would be deployed in Kabul. Kabul hospitals and the city's ambulance service had also been placed on alert, he added.
Other major cities, such as Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, were also increasing security. Mazar-i-Sharif, site of a major Shiite shrine and focal point for the celebrations, was expecting thousands of visitors this year, including many from outside Afghanistan.
During last year's Nowruz celebrations, a series of bombings, including one suicide attack, killed 11 people in eastern Afghanistan. One day before, five coalition soldiers were killed in three attacks in the south.
There are worries the Taliban will try to stage spectacular attacks in the spring, in an effort to undermine people's faith in Karzai's often ineffectual administration as it slowly tries to assert control over the country. The U.S. and its international partners are preparing to start a gradual handover of administrative and security responsibilities to the Afghan government, a transition process that will be completed by the end of 2014.
Karzai is to announce during a Nowruz address the first six areas that will be handed over, and the U.S. is expected to start pulling out some of its forces in July.
Coalition forces are also preparing for what many officials have described as a bloody spring and summer as the Taliban try to retake some of the lands they lost since last summer_ mostly in the south. The Afghan fighting season traditionally starts in the spring, when insurgents finish harvesting their fields and many pour back into the country from safe havens in Pakistan.

Yemen's US-backed leader fails to stop uprising

A crackdown that killed dozens failed to stop massive demonstrations against Yemen's U.S.-backed president, as crowds of thousands clashed Saturday with security forces smashing their protest camps and even seized control of one southern city.

In the capital, the government had to bring out tank units and other military forces to protect key buildings as crowds swelled. Protesters also stood their ground in the southern city of Mualla, surging out of their destroyed encampment and encircling a police station.
More than a month of daily protests calling for political freedoms and an end to corruption have presented President Ali Abdullah Saleh with the most dire challenge to his 32 years of running Yemen, a deeply impoverished land of restive tribes and numerous conflicts on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

In the bloodiest single day of the uprising, Yemeni forces killed at least 46 people and injured hundreds in the capital on Friday, including with snipers firing on demonstrators from rooftops. That prompted condemnation from the U.N. and the United States, which backs his government with hundreds of millions in military aid to battle a potent al-Qaida offshoot based in Yemen's mountainous hinterlands.
The intensifying crackdown followed failed attempts by Saleh early on to end the revolt, including by pledging not to run for re-election in 2013 or to hand power to his son. The opposition has also spurned his calls for dialogue on a possible unity government. All the while, allies have abandoned him to join the protesters, including two Cabinet ministers, powerful tribal leaders and members of his Congress Party.
On Saturday, police fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters at a makeshift camp in Mualla, a city in the southern province of Aden. At least 13 people were wounded, including three hit by the live rounds, demonstrators told The Associated Press by telephone.

Thousands surged out of the camp and surrounded a nearby police station in an attempt to seize it. Police fired in the air to hold them back, protesters told the AP. They said security troops managed to uproot their encampment there but confrontations continued.
In the same province, witnesses said protesters chased security authorities out of the city of Dar Saad and were now in control. Dar Saad, with a population of around 150,000, has witnessed some of the deadliest clashes in the past few days — seven people have been killed. It is considered the gateway to the key port of Aden.
If their hold lasts, it would be the first city where protesters have gained control over security forces.
During confrontations there over the past few days, protesters set fire to the main police station, torched several police cars and blocked roads to stop security troops from bringing in reinforcements.
Residents said were now forming popular committees to administer their own affairs.
Even before the uprising, many parts of Yemen were effectively beyond the weak government's direct control, as well-armed tribes run affairs in their areas.
Protests also continued Saturday in the capital, Sanaa, as soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers took up positions at intersections and key buildings, including the presidential palace, the state TV building and other government institutions. Soldiers searched motorists and passers-by.
Security and judicial officials told AP that orders to implement a large-scale military operation aimed at emptying main squares from protesters within the next 48 hours had been issued at a meeting of the higher defense council that was headed by Saleh Friday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the decisions taken. They said authorities were also planning to arrest opposition leaders in the next days.
Many of the victims in Friday's violence in Sanaa were shot in the head and neck, their bodies left sprawled on the ground. They included a Yemeni news photographer, Jamal al-Sharaabi, who was the first journalist killed in the unrest.
The violence was condemned by the United States, which has long relied on Saleh for help fighting the al-Qaida branch based in the country and is sending Yemen's government $250 million in military aid this year.
Saleh blamed the opposition for "incitement and chaos" that led to violent confrontations and deaths and declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the "martyrs of democracy."
Several more prominent members of Saleh's ruling Congress Party announced their resignations Saturday. Among them were two former culture ministers, the head of the state-run Saba news agency, Nasr Taha Moustafa, who has close ties to Saleh, as well as the Yemeni ambassador to Beirut.
A group of Yemeni private sector businessmen, traditionally supporters of the regime because of shared business interests, also said in a statement Saturday that they were siding with the opposition in support of their "rightful and legitimate call for change."
Saba also reported that the Information Ministry deported two Al-Jazeera TV correspondents Saturday for the network's coverage of protests.
Yemen has largely stopped issuing journalist visas as it tries to control coverage of the protests and has been cracking down on reporters already in the country. On Monday, armed Yemeni security forces raided an apartment shared by four Western journalists — two Americans and two Britons — and deported them because of their coverage.

Egypt votes freely for first time in half-century

Millions of Egyptians voted freely on Sunday for the first time in more than half a century, joyfully waiting for hours to cast their ballots on a package of constitutional changes eliminating much-hated restrictions on political rights and civil liberties.
Young people traded mobile-phone pictures of ink-stained fingers that showed they voted. Others called relatives to boast of casting the first vote of their lives. In the well-off Cairo neighborhood of Maadi, a man hoisted his elderly, infirm father on his shoulder and carried him to a polling station.
"My vote today will make a difference. It's as simple as that," said first-time voter Hossam Bishay, 48.
The first test of Egypt's transition to democracy offered ominous hints of widening sectarian division, however.
Many were drawn to the polls in a massive, last-minute effort by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that is Egypt's largest and most coherent political organization after the widely despised National Democratic Party of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted last month in a national popular uprising.
Among other changes, the constitutional amendments would open elections to independent candidates, allowing parliamentary and presidential elections to replace the caretaker military government by early 2012.
Critics say that would allow the Brotherhood and NDP to easily outpoll the dozens of political groups born out of the anti-Mubarak uprising, dividing power between former regime loyalists and supporters of a fundamentalist state — a nightmare scenario for both Western powers and many inside Egypt.
Among those most fearful of the Brotherhood's rising power are Egypt's estimated 8 million Coptic Christians, whose leaders rallied the faithful to vote "no."
"If the Brotherhood comes to power, they will not benefit anyone, Muslims or Christians," Fawziya Lamie, a 39-year-old Christian nanny, said after casting her "no" vote in the Cairo district of Manial.
The NDP is blamed for the rampant corruption and the fraud that marred every election during Mubarak's 29-year rule, and its members have been accused of attempting to disrupt Egypt's transition to democracy for fear of losing further power.
Reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei and a group of his supporters were pelted with rocks, bottles and cans outside a polling center at Cairo's Mokattam district in an attack he blamed on followers of the old regime.
The day was otherwise almost entirely peaceful. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement said it expected the turnout to reach 50 percent, more than three times the average level in the rigged elections under Mubarak.
Hundreds of Egyptians formed lines outside polling centers before they opened. They snaked along the streets in Cairo and other cities, with men and women standing in separate lines as is customary in the conservative and mainly Muslim nation.
"This is a historic day for Egypt," Deputy Prime Minister Yahya al-Gamal said after casting his vote in Cairo. "I had never seen such large numbers of voters in Egypt. Finally, the people of Egypt have come to realize that their vote counts."
Saturday's vote was by far the freest since the military seized power in a 1952 coup, toppling the monarchy and ending decades of a multiparty system that functioned while Britain was Egypt's colonial master. Only men with military backgrounds have ruled Egypt since.
While Mubarak's overthrow has left Egyptians euphoric about their newfound freedoms, many are also worried about the social tensions and instability that could spiral in the wake of the autocratic leader's departure.
Christian-Muslim clashes this month left at least 13 killed and more than 100 wounded in the worst sectarian clashes in years. On Jan. 1, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing at least 22 worshippers and wounding scores. A few days later, a policeman shot dead an elderly Christian man on a train.
The Brotherhood, which has strongly campaigned for the adoption of the changes, advocates the installment of an Islamic government in Egypt. The ambivalence of its position on what role women and minority Christians play under their hoped-for Islamic government — like whether they could run for president or be judges — worry large segments of society.
In the province of Luxor, thousands of Brotherhood supporters and Salafis, zealous adherents to practices from Islam's early days, held separate demonstrations in the city center to campaign for a "yes" vote.
Churches handed out fliers to worshippers calling on them to vote "no."
To the north in the province of Assiut, home to one of the country's largest Christian communities, priests organized buses to ferry worshippers from churches to polling centers to cast their "no" vote. Islamists using loudspeakers in pickup trucks roaming Assiut's streets were calling on voters to cast "yes" ballots.
"The voice of freedom, truth and power is the voice of The Muslim Brotherhood," said one bearded Islamist. "No voice is louder than the voice of Islam."
"Marking your ballot with a 'yes' is a religious duty," said another.
"What worries me is that this is going to be a rehearsal for the upcoming parliamentary elections, playing with not only religion but the country's democratic future," said Sameh Fawzy, a Christian commentator. "This is very dangerous."
Hossam Tamam, an expert on religious groups, said the polarization over the amendments has taken sectarian overtones, with the "yes" vote associated with Muslims and the "no" with Christians.
"The Brotherhood's discourse included intimidation, pressure and exploitation of ordinary Egyptians," he said. "In response, we have seen a sectarian polarization with all Christians voting 'no,' emboldening the Islamists to label the 'no' vote a Christian choice."
Voters were asked to choose 'yes' or 'no' for the whole package of nine changes, which would also impose presidential term limits and curtail 30-year-old emergency laws that give police near-unlimited powers.
Preliminary results will be announced Sunday.
The attack on ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, forced him to flee in an SUV without casting his ballot. The crowd also smashed the car windows and shouted, "You traitor. We don't want you." ElBaradei supporters at the scene countered by chanting"we want you."
The Nobel laureate later tweeted that "organized thugs" were to blame for the attack. In a second Twitter posting, he said Mubarak regime figures were seeking to undermine the revolution, a reference to the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 uprising.
More than half of Egypt's 80 million people are eligible voters. The military, in a bid to get the vote out, has decreed that they would be allowed to cast ballots at any polling center in the country with their national ID cards the only required proof of identity. They were required to dip their index finger in ink after voting to prevent multiple balloting.
The constitutional amendments were drawn up by a panel of military-appointed legal scholars and intended to bring just enough change to the current constitution — which was adopted in 1971 and suspended by the military after it came to power — to ensure that upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections are free and fair.

Tuberculosis claims 68,000 lives annually

Experts at a seminar said on Saturday that Tuberculosis (TB) claims 68,000 lives annually in the country while an untreated patient transfers the disease to 10-15 people during this period.

They informed this at a seminar organised by the Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases of Dow University of Health Sciences at its campus to mark the World Tuberculosis (TB) Day here on Saturday. A walk and a drama skit were also organised on this occasion.

The walk was led by Secretary Health Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi and Vice Chancellor DUHS Prof. Masood Hameed Khan. The speakers said that TB is a deadly disease and at present 0.7 million people were suffering from it in the country.

Secretary Health Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi said that the government was taking serious measures to curb this disease. He said the Sindh province had 1000 treatment and 272 diagnostic centers where all the medicines and related investigation were provided free of cost.

The secretary said the TB Control Program 2009-2012 was running smoothly in Sindh at a cost of Rs 213 million and it would be extended in the future. He assured his full support in the TB Control Program activities.

Vice Chancellor Dow University Prof. Masood Hameed said that the negligence, carelessness and unawareness about TB leads to a very cruel and complicated form of the disease known as Multi Drug Resistant-Tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

He informed that the seriousness could be understand that in Ojha Hospital 100 MDR TB patients were on waiting list for the TB treatment. The Dow University through its own resources would provide treatment to those waiting patients.

He said that the Dow University would soon start web based training program for family physician. He requested the philanthropist to generously donate for the cause of TB.

Director TB Control Dr. Ismat Ara stated that 50,986 TB patients had been registered in 2010 in Sindh alone while 88% of them were treated successfully.

Director Ojha Dr Iftikhar Ahmed said that at present more than 4,000 TB patients were being treated in its four filter clinics in the city. He said that 3,000 people were being treated in its main hospitals every year all of these patients were not charged for even a penny.

Internationally renowned social personality, including Chairman Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Muhammad Siddique, APWA Chairman Jahan Ara Hai, Director TB Control Sindh Dr. Ismat Ara and other eminent personalities from different walks of life, also attended the walk. haris hanif

Condemnation that merits concern

EDITORIAL: Daily Times

The sudden release and departure of Raymond Davis, the
deadly drone attack in Datta Khel and the harsh criticism that has been voiced by the highest echelons of the land; this certainly has been an eventful time in Pakistan. Of all these, the event that baffles the most is the tremendous amount of concern and objections that are emanating from the highest offices in the land after the Datta Khel drone strike where, reportedly, some 40 tribal elders were killed. The Foreign Office (FO) summoned the American Ambassador, Cameron Munter; he has been told that the US should not take Pakistan “for granted” nor should it treat the country as a client state. The FO has made it clear that Islamabad expects nothing less than an apology from Washington. In an unexpected outburst, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani condemned the attack by calling it “a complete violation of human rights”. Prime Minister Gilani followed suit by saying that the attack was unacceptable. Not just limiting their condemnation to mere words, officials in Islamabad have announced that Pakistan has pulled out of an upcoming trilateral meeting with Afghanistan and the US scheduled for next week. It is because of all these actions that we find ourselves once again asking: why now?

FATA, which is a part of Pakistan, has been at the mercy of drone strikes for quite a few years now, with a death toll of over 2,000, and never before have we heard even a whimper of protest from the government (cosmetic condemnations notwithstanding), the army or our intelligence establishment. Never before have we seen Pakistan being audacious enough to pull out of a meeting with the US (the last trilateral meeting saw the US pull out because of the Davis affair). Never before has the Pakistan Army positioned itself as a champion of human rights like it has now. So why the change of stance? If insider reports are to be believed, the target of the drone strike was not as innocent as some would have us believe. It is being said that a commander of the Haqqani network was among the dead in this strike. Yes, there was some collateral damage but, apparently, there were significant militant deaths also. Datta Khel is a known Taliban hub in North Waziristan, a place that has, so far, not been touched by the Pakistan Army.

It is common knowledge that drone attacks cannot be coordinated effectively without the active involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence establishment. It is also no secret that there may be targets that the US is keen to obliterate but is not given the help (and go-ahead) they need from an establishment that has made clear differentiations between what it deems as good Taliban and bad Taliban. Could it be that the loud condemnations are due to the fact that this strike was carried out without the establishment’s green signal? Could it be that the US, finally sick and tried of the dual policies of the establishment, have decided to go it alone when it comes to effectively rooting out the militants? Could it be that our military/intelligence system has been left out in the cold by a US that is now on the warpath? These are questions that cannot go unanswered. It is plain to see that Islamabad and the army have over-reacted to a situation they should have been condemning right from the beginning but did not.

It would be foolish of us to think that the Americans will feel differently towards the war on terror after the Davis release. Their only objectives are rooting out militancy and terror and they will do it with or without our help. Pakistan has not triumphed in the Raymond case. It will not triumph until it drops its support for the Afghan Taliban — the prime US target. It is time we see these over-reactions for what they may very well be: condemnations by the increasingly isolated. *

The Proxy Battle in Bahrain

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has demonstrated one lesson learned from the course of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East: The world may cheer when autocrats resign, but it picks carefully which autocrats to punish for opening fire on their citizens.That cynical bit of realpolitik seems to have led the king to send troops last week over the causeway from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, where they backed up a violent crackdown on unarmed protesters by Bahrain’s own security forces.

The move had immediate consequences for Middle East politics, and for American policy: It transformed Bahrain into the latest proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional dominance. And it called into question which model of stability and governance will prevail in the Middle East, and which Washington will help build: one based on consensus and hopes for democracy, or continued reliance on strongmen who intimidate opponents, sow fear and co-opt reformist forces while protecting American interests like ensuring access to oil and opposing Iran.

For Saudi Arabia, the issue in Bahrain is less whether Bahrain will attain popular rule than whether Iranian and Shiite influence will grow.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have sparred on many fronts since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 — a Shiite Muslim theocracy in Tehran versus a deeply conservative Sunni Muslim monarchy in Riyadh — in a struggle for supremacy in the world’s most oil-rich region. The animosity was evident in Saudi Arabia’s support for Iraq during its war with Iran, and it still shows in Iran’s backing for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Now, after a decade that seemed to tilt the regional balance toward Iran, Saudi Arabia decided that Bahrain was the place to put its thumb more heavily on the scale. It sent troops under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council to help crush pro-democracy demonstrations because most of the protesters were Shiites challenging a Sunni king.

“If the political opposition in Bahrain wins, Saudi loses in this regional context,” said Mustafa el-Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “Saudi is regarding itself as the defender of Sunnis. And Iran is trying to defend Shiites in the region.”

The problem for the United States, however, is that Bahrain, at Saudi urging, chose to resolve its fears with force, rather than by addressing the protesters’ demands for democratic reform, as American officials had publicly encouraged.

And for that reason, the military deployment may now have a profound impact on the United States and its primary strategic interest in Bahrain, the Navy base it maintains there.

Because Washington did not ultimately support the protesters’ demands — as it came to do in Egypt and as it has now, very late in the game, come to back foreign intervention in Libya — many protesters believe that the Saudi troops were sent in with American complicity, or at least with an expectation of American acquiescence. So, among the protesters, who turned out by the tens of thousands, the crackdown may well yield animosity toward America and its Navy when events finally settle down.

One American expert in the Persian Gulf who advises policymakers in Washington said the Saudi king’s action was taken without regard for what might happen if it fails — if the violence leads only to more violence. The Saudi policy, he said, “is risky and could potentially draw us into conflicts we have not looked for.”

“What if the Bahrain venture fails, who will bail them out? It will have to be us.”

Saudi Arabia’s supporters acknowledge that this confrontation can escalate, but they tend to place the responsibility on Iran. “It can lead to that direct conflict if Iran were to interfere and use this as an excuse to interfere,” said Abdulaziz O. Sager, chairman of the Gulf Research Center, which is based in Dubai. “I hope Iran can understand that any interference will not be acceptable.”There has been no evidence that Iran played a part in Bahrain’s uprising, which was led by young Bahrainis from the Shiite majority. Still, many protesters have said, it is reasonable to expect Shiites to be more receptive to Iran if they do gain power. There is little doubt, they also say, that a Shiite-led government would be less receptive to the Saudis.Even some of the Iranian regime’s harshest critics are saying the Saudi military venture in Bahrain will change the narrative of the region in Iran’s favor. Abbas Milani, an Iranian who went into exile after the 1979 revolution and is now director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, put it this way: “Iran, as the most brutal authoritarian regime in the region, will now have the chance to seem to stand with the democratic aspirations of the people, and against authoritarians clinging to power.”

The Saudi king’s decision to back King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s crackdown in Bahrain also underscored the challenge the United States often faces with its closest allies in the Middle East, where some interests align — like protecting the flow of oil — and others do not, like financing global terrorism. Saudi Arabia has moved aggressively to cut off radical Islamic terrorism within its own borders, but it has addressed the global phenomenon with far less conviction, many American experts have said.

One of those experts was Richard C. Holbrooke, the United States special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Shortly before his death last year, he was asked if heroin was the top source of funds for the Taliban. The answer was no. “It’s the gulf,” he said, meaning cash from sources in Saudi Arabia and another American ally, Kuwait.

One effect of the crackdown was to underscore President Obama’s failure to close the gap in expectations between his talk of democracy during his historic speech in Cairo in 2009 and his actions on the ground. The contortions needed to preserve the old model of stability while supporting aspirations for democracy were strikingly evident in a comment by Senator John Kerry, an ally of the president. “They are not looking for violence in the streets,” the senator said of the Saudi troops moving into Bahrain. “They would like to encourage the king and others to engage in reforms and a dialogue.”

Time quickly proved him wrong. The violence started the next day, and it was not only Iran that blamed Washington. “Where are the Americans, where are the Americans, why are they allowing this, they are killing us with heavy guns, where are the Americans?” shrieked Hussein Muhammad, 37, a bookstore owner and political activist, in a breathless phone call Wednesday from Manama.

When the tear gas cleared, the streets of Manama were littered with canisters that said, on their side, that they had been made in the United States.

While Washington has pressed for restraint, it has also continued to support the monarchy.

“My guess is that there are probably very significant parts of our government that were happy with this,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a professor at Princeton who was ambassador to Egypt under President Bill Clinton, and to Israel under President George W. Bush. “Although they are not able to say it, because other parts of our government see it as destabilizing. I think parts of our government are looking at the Iranian threat and the possibility of Bahrain being the first dominoes in the gulf to fall.”

Mr. Kurtzer pointed to an irony in that line of thought: the decision to support Bahrain’s king this time may undermine short-run interests the United States thought it was protecting. For 60 years, the United States has based the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. It operates openly, and its personnel have enjoyed largely unrestricted freedom of movement around the kingdom.

But last week, the Navy authorized family members and nonessential personnel to leave. The question now is: How safe will United States ships and personnel be surrounded by a population that may see Americans as complicit in the crackdown?

In Yemen, Opposition Encourages Protesters

For the first time since demonstrators began camping out in front of Sana University calling for an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s opposition leaders attended the protest as a group on Saturday afternoon to voice their support.“When the people come to the square of change, there is no voice louder than theirs,” Yassin Saeed Noman, a socialist leader and the head of the Joint Meetings Parties, Yemen’s opposition coalition, told the crowd of hundreds. “You are the generation that will bring the revolution to Yemen.”

Mr. Noman was surrounded by other opposition leaders, including those from Yemen’s Islamist party.

Their appearance came a day after the worst instance of violence by government supporters against demonstrators since the protest began more than a month ago. At least 45 people were killed and more than 200 injured when gunmen fired on the crowd here in the capital.

On Saturday, a group of several hundred watched, applauded, and chanted antigovernment slogans during Mr. Noman’s speech. Still, most of the protesters, weary-looking tribesmen from outside the capital, sat in their tents, uninterested. And many of the student leaders who first organized the Sana demonstrations also stayed in their tents, apparently exhausted after the earlier clashes.

Blood still stained the ground where the shootings took place down the street from Saturday’s rally.

Immediately after the noon Friday Prayer, snipers from nearby buildings opened fire on the demonstrators. According to volunteers who staff a makeshift clinic inside a nearby mosque, the more than 200 people wounded had been hurt by gunfire and rocks. The deaths from Friday’s attack more than doubled the number of demonstrators killed nationwide in the last month.

“The ruling elite has definitely committed a criminal act that people cannot forget or erase from their memories for ages,” said a high-ranking government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The excessive use of power has added to the pressure on the president because he knows very well who the perpetrators are and who gave them the orders.”

At least some of the houses from which snipers in civilian clothing fired on demonstrators on Friday belonged to officials from Yemen’s ruling party, including the governor of Mahweet, a mountainous district near the capital.

In protest of the violence against the demonstrators, Yemen’s ambassador to Lebanon, Faisal Amin Abu-Ras, resigned on Saturday.

“Before the horror of the massacre of Sana and respect for the sacrifices of the martyrs and the wounded from this great people in Sana, Aden, Taiz, Hadramout and other places, I find myself compelled to offer my resignation and join the ranks of the people,” said the text of Mr. Abu-Ras’s resignation letter.

On Friday night, the minister of tourism, Nabil Hasan al-Faqih, also resigned from his position and the ruling party. And on Saturday, at the demonstration here, the head of Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency, Nasser Taha Mustapha, announced that he would quit his job, as did at least two editors in chief of state-run newspapers.

Also on Saturday, four antigovernment protesters were wounded in the southern port city of Aden when security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators, according to local reports.

Here in the capital, tensions remained high on Saturday. Extra security forces with automatic weapons and tanks lined a major road. For the first time in his presidency, Mr. Saleh declared a monthlong state of emergency on Friday after the violence shut down half the capital, though Yemen’s Constitution does not specify what a state of emergency entails.

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, condemned the violence and urged the United States to withdraw foreign aid to Mr. Saleh’s government.

“Time and again, President Saleh promises he will stop attacks on peaceful protesters, and yet the number of dead keeps rising,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the rights organization’s Middle East director, said in a statement. “The United States should back up its words condemning the carnage with action, and halt military aid to Yemen.”

American assistance to Yemen more than doubled in the last year after an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger plane by the Qaeda franchise in this impoverished country was foiled.

In a restaurant within the walls of Sana’s old city, employees spoke out Saturday against the ruling party.

“We hope the American government goes on the side of the Yemeni people, not on the side of the Yemeni president,” said Riyadh al-Qadisi, a waiter, naming the six United States presidents who have held office in the 32 years that Mr. Saleh has been in power.

US begins assault against Libyan air defenses

The U.S. military has launched a missile attack against Libya's air defenses.

A senior U.S. military official says the strike was aimed at sites along the Libyan coast. The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy vessels in the Mediterranean.

Full details were not immediately available.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military operations.
A senior U.S. military official says the strike was aimed at sites along the Libyan coast. The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy vessels in the Mediterranean.

Bahrain govt. 'gagging' journalists

A senior leader from Bahrain Freedom Movement has condemned the monarchy's “gagging” of activists and journalists covering anti-regime protests.

Speaking to Press TV during a London rally, Saeed al-Shahabi said the Bahrainis no longer trust the king's call for national dialogue following the deployment of Saudi Arabian and UAE troops in Bahrain to crack down on protesters.

“I think the people have passed that stage. They are not interested now in talking to somebody who is killing them, who is bringing foreign forces to occupy their country, who is attacking religious symbols, who is gagging all journalists and arresting political leaders,” al-Shahabi said.

Many foreign journalists have been barred from covering anti-regime protests in Bahrain which have so far led to the death of at least 12 people and the injury of about 1,000 others.

Press TV's correspondent in Manama Johnny Miller is among the many journalists who have been mistreated and deported from Bahrain.

Al-Shahabi said the government's crackdown on civil liberties was “massive.”

He also confirmed earlier reports that several opposition leaders were arrested in Manama on Friday.

Demonstrators in the Shia-majority country have been demanding the ouster of the 230-year-old Sunni-led monarchy as well as constitutional reforms, with hundreds camping out peacefully in the capital's Pearl Square since February 14.

UAE soldiers arrived in crisis-hit Bahrain on Friday to join Saudi Arabian troops, who were sent there earlier this week, to help the Bahraini government's deadly crackdown on anti-government protests.

Yemen ambassador to Lebanon resigns

The Yemeni ambassador to Lebanon has resigned following a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters that left 52 people dead and many others injured.

Iraqis rally to condemn Saudi meddling

housands of Iraqis protest in Basra against Saudi Arabia's move to deploy troops in Bahrain to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations by the Shia majority opposition.

Around 7,000 people, including government officials and clerics, protested in Iraq's second-largest city on Saturday, Reuters reported. They waved Bahraini flags and shouted slogans like, "The clock of change is ticking. After Bahrain, the Saudi king is next," and "Woe to those hostile to Shias.”

More than 20,000 people demonstrated in Baghdad and Najaf on Friday, and several thousand on Wednesday. The demonstrations were organized by Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

People in Lebanon, Iran and various cities of Saudi Arabia have also held rallies against Saudi troops' presence in Bahrain.

"The Saudi government practices a double standard. On the one hand it is with the Libyan people, and on the other hand it is a strong arm against Bahrain's people and suppressing them," said Muhanad Sahib, a protester demonstrating in Basra.

In addition, a smaller demonstration was held in Baghdad on Saturday, reportedly organized by the Shia Dawa Party.

Saudi Arabia has deployed more than 1,000 troops to Bahrain at the request of Manama to help the Al Khalifa monarchy crush the anti-government protests. In a similar move, the UAE has dispatched around 500 police forces to assist the Sunni-led regime.

More than 12 people have so far been killed and about 1,000 injured in Bahrain since February 14.

Saudi forces have reportedly arrested opposition leaders and taken them to Saudi Arabia. Matar Matar of the main opposition Shia bloc Al-Wefaq has stated that approximately 60 Bahraini protesters have gone missing since Wednesday.

Protesters are demanding the ouster of the Al Khalifa monarchy and constitutional reforms.

Saudi Activists disappointed by reforms

Saudi reform activists responded with disappointment Friday after the king promised a major package of reforms meant to quell growing dissatisfaction in his country.
Other than a pledge to set up an anti-corruption agency, the activists said, King Abdullah promised little to meet their demands. Instead, the long list of new measures simply expands powers for the kingdom and the religious establishment.

"I feel disappointed, to say the least," said one Saudi activist who did not give his name for fear of reprisals. "I do believe after these decrees, instead of sweeping reforms, they'll start sweeping up the activists. I'm afraid there will be a crackdown on activists here."
After the king made his rare short speech, his spokesman went on the air for more than half an hour to announce the list of reforms -- one of which involves sanctions for any member of the media who does not respect the views of Muslim scholars and the Quran.
Other measures promise billions of dollars in housing for Saudi citizens, new hospitals and medical centers, and the refurbishment of public spaces.
Saudi human rights activist Mohammed Al-Qahtani, the head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, said the financial package was the easiest thing to propose.
"It's basically trying to buy out people so they won't go out into the streets," Al-Qahtani said. "It supports these repressive mechanisms."
Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the region, has seen increased demonstrations in recent months. Unlike other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, however, the demands of Saudi protesters are focused more on reforms and liberalization rather than demands for freedom or an end to the government's rule.

French jets flying over Libya

Gadhafi is warned to stop attacks.
Fighter jets soar over Libya to counter Moammar Gadhafi's military forces, who appear intent on destroying the opposition in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Obama: Get Out Of Jail Free For Saudi Arabia And UAE In Bahrain

Iran calls on Saudi Arabia, UAE to leave Bahrain "immediately"

The National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iranian Parliament (Majlis) issued a statement in support of the Bahraini people and called on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to leave Bahrain's soil immediately, the Satellite Press TV reported on Saturday.

"The oppressed people of Bahrain are a part of the Islamic world and the Islamic Republic of Iran feels obligated to support them," the statement was cited as saying on Saturday.

The United States is definitely responsible for the murder of Bahrainis by ordering its "regional mercenaries" to invade the country and repress peaceful protesters, the statement added.

The statement also called on the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to take serious actions on regional developments.

Bahrain has slammed Iran's "interference" in its internal affairs after the latter communicated with international organizations expressing concern about the situation in the Kingdom.

On Thursday, Hamad Al Amer, Bahrain's Foreign Ministry official in charge of Regional and Gulf Cooperation Council Affairs, described the Iranian step as a "very strange act and an encroachment" on the sovereignty of Bahrain.

Bahrain fourth protester dies

Bahrain cut curfew hours on Saturday and urged Bahrainis to return to work after a crackdown on mainly Shi'ite Muslim protesters this week raised tensions in the world's largest oil-producing region.

The call came as a fourth protester died of wounds sustained when troops and police moved on Wednesday to end weeks of unrest that prompted the king to declare martial law and led to troops being sent from Bahrain's Sunni-ruled neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain's largest Shi'ite Muslim group, Wefaq, said the latest death brought the number of protesters killed since the start of the unrest last month to 11. Four police have also been killed this week, some of them mown down by protesters in cars.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain has since arrested at least nine opposition activists, including two doctors from Manama's largest public hospital, which remains surrounded by troops who check identities and carry out regular searches.

The ferocity of the crackdown, in which troops and police fanned out across Bahrain, imposed a curfew and banned all public gatherings and marches, has stunned Bahrain's Shi'ites and angered the region's non-Arab Shi'ite Muslim power, Iran.

Mourners at the funeral of one of the protesters killed in this week's crackdown were defiant. Shaking their fists and shouting "down with King Hamad," thousands gathered at the burial of computer technician Ahmed Abdullah Ahsan in the Shi'ite suburb of Diah on Saturday.

"I'm not angry. I'm proud of my son. He is a martyr," his mother said. "He wanted the end of this regime."

Ahsan was buried in a plot near the first man killed in the uprising that began last month and whose grave was covered in flowers and photographs. As men lowered the body into the grave, the women, clad in black chadors broke off to hold a small protest at the side of the road.

"Down with the regime," they shouted.

Ahsan was the second protester to be buried this week, and police and troops have not intervened to disperse mourners despite a blanket ban on all public gatherings.


In an effort to bring life gradually back to normal, Bahrain's military rulers cut back by four hours on Saturday a 12 hour curfew that had been imposed on large areas of the capital Manama. The curfew now runs from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. from the Seef Mall area in Manama, through the Pearl roundabout and the financial district to the diplomatic area.

Bahrain also urged employees working in the public sector and both public and private sector schools and universities to return to work after days of closures and shortened hours.

Some of the larger malls began to reopen on Saturday, after days of closures and there were fewer checkpoints in the streets, though helicopters still buzz over Shi'ite areas.

On Friday, diggers tore down the statue at the center of Pearl roundabout, focal point of weeks of protests, in what the foreign minister said was an effort to erase "bad memories."

Obama Arrives in Brazil

President Obama and his family arrived here on Saturday morning for his first trip to South America, a five-day tour intended to underscore economic ties to the region but overshadowed by crises in the Middle East .