By Rong Xiaoqing
Monday, April 30, 2012
As Vladimir Putin begins his third term as president, we ask if Russia can become a superpower once again.Russia is the largest country on the planet. It straddles nine time zones, is the largest energy producer and possesses half the world's nuclear warheads. But Russia is not the former Soviet Union. Since the Cold War ended two decades ago, the new emerging Russia has been largely defined by two men, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin presided over the dismemberment of the old Soviet Union and the reckless privatisation of state assets. Washington saw this chaotic free-for-all as a new wild west and assisted the plunder. When Putin took over the presidency in 2000, he was determined to rid Russia of Yeltsin's embarrassing legacy and to stop the rot. As Putin begins his third term as president, flexing his muscles at home and abroad, we ask: Can Russia be a superpower once again?
rediff.comVictims of forced conversions are often girls from poor backgrounds who are unable to defend themselves against extremists because their community is deprived, defenceless and marginalised, reports Amir Mir While Pakistan's Hindu minority community is already disturbed over the rising incidents of kidnapping of young Hindu girls and their forced conversion to Islam, the conditions for the country's Christian minority are equally antagonising. They too are being forced by fanatic Muslims to convert to Islam, making them wonder if they still have a place in Pakistan. "There is no compulsion in religion," is a well-known saying that most Pakistanis who live in the land of the pure often tend to forget. While religion encourages conversions, it in no way tolerates coercion. But that is what the Christian community in Pakistan says is happening. With 1.6 per cent of the population and some three million believers, the Christian minority in Pakistan is the second largest religious minority after Hindus. Available figures show that on average, eight to ten Christians are being forced every month by fanatic Muslims to convert to Islam, mostly in Sindh and Punjab provinces. Victims are often poor girls The victims of forced conversions are often girls from poor backgrounds who are then subjected to harrowing and extremely traumatic ordeals. Most of them are extremely vulnerable and are unable to defend themselves against extremists because their community is deprived, defenceless and marginalised. Christians, who constitute just about two percent of the Pakistani population, are paying a high price for being a part of the minority community. This is despite the fact that at the time of independence, the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had pledged to create a secular and liberal environment in the country where all religions could thrive. But a gradual Islamisation of the Pakistani state and the society in the 1970s by the martial law regime of General Ziaul Haq led to the enforcement of controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan to force more and more Hindu and Christian minority members to abandon their religions and convert to Islam. Allegations of forced conversion of Hindu women, which were endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), have already brought to light the dilemma faced by the minority Hindu community. However, many recent examples of forced conversion of Christian girls in Sindh and Punjab have come to light recently. In the first instance, Sidra Bibi, 14, was abducted and raped by a Muslim in her village in the Sheikhupura district of the Pakistani Punjab. Her abductor instantly converted her to Islam by threatening to kill her. Although Sidra became pregnant as a result of the abuse, she was lucky enough to have managed to escape from her abductor and find her way back to her family. Sidra and her family members tried to lodge a complaint with the police in a bid to get justice, but they were refused the chance due to the fact that the abductors were influential people of the area.
Rights groups have urged the United Arab Emirates to immediately end crackdowns on perceived political opponents and release nine activists in custody. On Monday, two international rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on authorities to stop threatening to revoke the citizenship of some of the detainees because of their political activities. The appeal follows the detention of Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed al-Qasimi, who is a reformist relative of the ruler of the Ras al-Khaimah Emirate and one of the elders of the UAE sheikhs. Al-Qasimi was arrested without a warrant. The rights organizations say UAE officials are holding at least nine activists, with seven of them connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been critical of some policies of the country's Western-allied leaders. Rights groups said some of the men are among 130 people who signed a petition in March 2011 seeking political reforms in the UAE. The UAE has arrested pro-reform activists and charged them with serious crimes to prevent the Arab Spring, a popular uprisings that swept some Arab countries last year, from reaching its territory. Formation of political parties is banned in the small Persian Gulf state.
The Express TribuneA community police personnel was killed and a policeman sustained serious injuries after a bomb exploded on Charsadda Road near Garhi Sobat Khan in Peshawar on Monday evening. Police officials talking to The Expess Tribune said that a police party, mix of regular police and community police personnel, were on a routine patrol within the remits of Khazana Police Station when they came under a bomb attack which injured two police men. One of the injured was identified as Javed. They were rushed to the hospital where Javed succumbed to his injuries. DSP Riazul Islam told The Express Tribune that it was a powerful bomb attack which targeted a police patrol. “Gulzar and Javed are among the injured men. Javed is a community police personnel, who was hired on a two year contract,” he explained. Islam said that the entire area has been cordoned off and a search operation is underway in the area. “Javed expired in the hospital while the other injured is out of danger now,” said the DSP. Earlier on April 16, a six year old student was killed, while another one was injured when unidentified miscreants threw a hand grenade into a school in the Chargo Kalay area of Peshawar. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Peshawar has been regularly targeted by militants, attacking schools and tribal leaders for supporting the government in quashing militancy in the province.
DAILY TIMESInterior Minister Rehman Malik took on the Sharif brothers again on Sunday when he accused them of ‘robbing’ the country’s banks of billions of rupees. Continuing his tirade for the second consecutive day, Malik, at a news conference, said he would present all documentary evidence against Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif in court to help unearth their corruption. He claimed that he had evidence that the PML-N leaders had embezzled public funds worth $32 million. Referring to the long march threats by the PML-N, Malik said the PPP’s reconciliation policy should not be taken as its weakness, adding it is being pursued for consolidation of democracy and in the best national interest. He threatened that hardcore PPP workers would march against the PML-N if they continued confronting the ruling party. “We are not wearing bangles. PPP jiyalas from all over Pakistan will march to Raiwind against Sharif brothers,” he added. The minister announced to present evidence of the Sharifs’ alleged corruption before the Supreme Court within a week, adding that if Nawaz and Shahbaz had the “courage” they could challenge his claims. He said people wanted to know about the money they allegedly embezzled, their empire at Raiwand and other places in and outside the country. “If PML-N leadership, including Pervaiz Rashid, thinks that the allegations levelled against the Sharif brothers are false, why don’t they file a libel case against the interior minister? They should approach the courts and get a verdict against the interior minister. He would welcome any defamation suit against him,” said a note distributed on the occasion.
theaustralian.comHORRIFIED agencies yesterday condemned the murder of a Red Cross worker taken hostage in Pakistan whose bullet-riddled body was found in an orchard yesterday, decapitated, with a note attached to his body saying he had been killed because no ransom was paid. Khalil Rasjed Dale, 60, a Scot who was engaged to be married to a nurse in Australia, was seized by armed men in January in Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan. "This was a shocking and merciless act by people with no respect for human life and the rule of law. Khalil Dale has dedicated many years of his life to helping some of the most vulnerable people in the world," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. The director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, condemned the "barbaric act". "It's unbelievable what they've done to Ken," a friend and former colleague, Sheila Howat, said. "It's soul-destroying. For someone who has ... devoted their life to caring for others - it's just so wrong. Ken was an absolutely lovely person who saw good in everybody. He wanted to make the world a better place for people who had nothing."Ms Howat said Mr Dale's fiancee, Anne, lived in Australia. "I was so happy that he had finally found happiness. I think their engagement happened quite recently." Mr Dale, 60, had been awarded the MBE for his humanitarian work overseas. He changed his name from Ken when he became a Muslim. Quetta police chief Ahsan Mahboob said the note attached to it read: "This is the body of Khalil who we have slaughtered for not paying a ransom." Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, lies close to the Afghan border and for decades has hosted thousands of refugees from that country. The Red Cross operates clinics in the city. A Pakistani foreign office statement condemned the crime, promising to bring its perpetrators to justice. However, arrests for this type of crime are rare. Much of Baluchistan and the tribal regions close to Afghanistan are out of Pakistani government control, and make good places to keep hostages. Large ransoms are often paid to secure their release, but such payments are rarely confirmed. Last August, a 70-year-old American humanitarian aid worker was kidnapped from his house in the Punjabi city of Lahore. Al-Qa'ida claimed to be holding the man, Warren Weinstein, and said in a video he would be released if the US stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.