Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Angus McDowallRenewed unrest among minority Shi'ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia have exposed a rift between their traditional leaders and a younger, more radical generation exasperated by what they see as persistent discrimination in the mainly Sunni Muslim kingdom. Three young men were shot dead by security forces in exchanges of fire in the country's east this month sparked by the arrest of a radical cleric on July 8, raising the death toll from such incidents since November to nine. “The youth, the young people, want a change. They want something different. They are telling the old generation (of Shi'ite leaders): 'Stay away. You've tried for 30 years and have achieved nothing,'” an activist from the flashpoint village of Awamiya said in a phone interview, who asked not to be named. Shi'ites have long accused the government of systematic bias by denying them important state jobs, restricting their places of worship and limiting their educational opportunities, charges Riyadh denies. The government has pointed to efforts to include Shi'ites in a “national dialogue” started by King Abdullah last decade, the appointment of Shi'ites to the advisory Shoura Council and a relaxation of policy to allow them more freedom to worship. It views the protests in the context of tensions with Shi'ite power and regional rival Iran, which it accuses of fomenting the unrest, and says it has only used force when its security forces have been physically attacked. An Interior Ministry spokesman did not respond to repeated calls and an email and a text message requesting comment. “The Iranians are not hiding their sympathies. When relations with Iran improve and tensions decrease, the Shia will feel more relaxed and the government will feel more confident in allowing reform,” said prominent Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Shi'ites, who mostly live in the oil-rich Eastern Province, have for decades followed a group of leaders who directed anti-government protests in 1979 before striking a deal in 1993 to quit active opposition in return for gradual reforms. However, as a younger generation of activists has come of age at a time when Arab Spring uprisings have toppled autocrats in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, they have increasingly questioned the ability of their leaders to deliver real change. While online calls to protest were almost entirely ignored by Sunni Saudis in the spring of 2011, hundreds of Shi'ites did hit the streets for rallies, encouraged by radical leaders like Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whose arrest prompted this month's unrest. In October, when 11 members of the Saudi security forces were injured in a protest outside a police station, Shi'ite leaders visited the families of men it thought might be involved to appeal for calm - but were rebuffed. “We said: 'Enough. We don't want the situation to deteriorate towards violence. There will be blood and killings. Stop.' But nobody listened. They said to the leaders: 'You stop. You haven't delivered what you have promised. Now we will do our best,'” said Tawfiq al-Saif, a prominent community leader. In a further sign of a rupture in the once tight-knit Shi'ite community, a letter from top clerics calling for calm collected only 25 signatures, compared to dozens after previous bouts of protest, Saif said, whereas a letter demanding faster change was signed by 37 clergymen. Nimr, who was shot in the leg during his arrest, had for several years preached an uncompromising message of demanding more rights for the minority and built a following in the Qatif district, one of Saudi Arabia's main Shi'ite centres. Films uploaded to YouTube on consecutive days earlier this month showed night protests in Qatif and Awamiya as crowds marched with placards in support of Nimr and chanted “down with the House of Saud”, the kingdom's long-ruling family. IRAN CONCERNS From Riyadh, capital of a kingdom that follows the strict Wahhabi Sunni doctrine in which Shi'ism is viewed as heresy, the protests are viewed in the context of regional frictions. Locked in a bitter geo-political rivalry with Iran involving sectarian struggles in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and neighbouring Bahrain, Riyadh regards the heightened tensions in Qatif as evidence of foreign interference. When protests engulfed a police station in October, the Interior Ministry blamed “a foreign country which tried to undermine the security of the homeland in a blatant act of interference”. Officials have confirmed this meant Iran. Saudi Arabia has also accused Tehran of whipping up disturbances in Bahrain, a Gulf island nation that adjoins the Eastern Province and where majority Shi'ites have rebelled against a Sunni monarchy closely aligned with Riyadh. Iran denies these charges. But in a sign of links between the Shi'ite communities of both Arab countries, demonstrators in Qatif were this month pictured in films posted online carrying Bahraini flags.
Protesters in the United States have clashed with the police in Orange County, California, over the controversial fatal shooting of an unarmed Latino man by a police officer, Press TV reports. Chanting "no justice, no peace" and "cops, pigs, murderers," the crowd swarmed the Anaheim Police headquarters after an Anaheim police officer killed 24-year-old Manuel Diaz on Saturday afternoon. The killing sparked violent protests and outrage in the neighborhood. Also on Saturday, protesters gathered near the shooting scene and set fire to a trash bin and threw rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators to collect evidence. The police used pepper balls and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Videos of the scene showed the police unleashing a K-9 dog into the crowd. The dog charged several people, including a woman and a child in a stroller, before biting a man in the arm. Five people have been arrested in Anaheim during two days of protests, the latest in a series of actions by families of shooting victims, some of whom have been holding weekly protests for nearly two years at police headquarters in Orange County. According to Anaheim Police Chief John Welter, the Saturday shooting occurred after two officers spotted three men acting suspiciously in a neighborhood in northeastern Anaheim. One of the officers chased Diaz and shot him. Diaz later died in the hospital. Welter said two officers were placed on paid leave, but did not say what had prompted the officer to open fire. “He was shot first in the back, but he was down," Diaz’s mother, Genevieve Huizar, said, adding that “then they shot him a second time. They shot him in the head.” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has called for an independent investigation into the shooting and has asked the Attorney General’s Office in California to get involved in the case. "Transparency is essential,” Tait said, noting, “The investigation will seek the truth. And whatever the truth is, we will own it.” Late on Sunday, in another incident several miles away from the scene of the Saturday afternoon shooting, an officer shot and killed a man the police said was shooting at them.
http://rt.comRussian President Putin has warned that if the Assad government is overthrown, the ensuing civil war in Syria may see no end. Speaking after a meeting with Italian PM Monti, Putin said thatt in the case if the Syrian authorities are displaced, “they will simply swap places with the current opposition and this will cause a civil war that would go on for no one knows how long.” Putin also called on the conflicting parties to reach a compromise, saying this is the only path which ensures the country has a future. “The incumbent Syrian authorities as well as the so- called armed opposition must find strength to organize the talks and find a mutually acceptable compromise for the country’s future,” Putin told reporters. “We believe that the following should be the course of action: halting the violence, conducting negotiations, searching for a solution, laying down a constitutional basis for the future society, and only then introducing structural changes, not vice versa. Doing things the other way around would only cause chaos,” Putin continued. Prime Minister Monti told the press that a provisional government modeled on Lebanon's could be the best solution to the crisis. He added that such a government should include all elements of Syrian society, and that Russia should support such a move once it goes through the UN. Putin replied that Russia’s position on the subject remained the same – the priority being putting an end to violence. “Both the government side and the armed opposition must end the violence and get to the negotiation table,” the Russian President said. “We hold that the country’s future must be decided not on the basis of a military defeat or a military victory by one of the sides, but on the basis of the process of talks, on the basis of agreements and compromise,” Putin said. “The agreements that were reached in the UN on prolonging the UN mission testify to the fact that despite certain splits in defining what is primary and what is secondary, compromises can be found on UN grounds and a settlement made with all sides for the benefit of the Syrian people,” Putin added. Putin’s words echoed the statements made earlier by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other top Russian diplomats. Russia insists that both sides of the Syrian conflict take part in the settlement, sharply criticizing the unilateral approach of those nations who have blamed the crisis solely on President Assad and his government. Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed UN resolutions that threatened the Syrian regime with sanctions if the conflict continued, arguing that both the rebels and the government should be held responsible for the current situation. Earlier this month, Russian officials received two delegations from the Syrian opposition in Moscow. Following the talks, the Syrian opposition recognized Russia’s roll in helping stabilize the situation in the country. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to prolong the international monitors’ stay in Syria, a move suggested by Pakistan and supported by Russia.
By HussainPrime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has been asserting that state organs should work within the parameters described in the constitution. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has also said on many occasions that each institution should strictly work according to the constitution as it is the supreme law of the country. The relevant question here is which state organs they are talking about — executive, parliament or the judiciary — all of which have crossed multiple red lines in the past four years. The contempt law that was promulgated in 2003 by General Pervez Musharraf has been applied by the superior court to remove prime minister Gilani. In which other democratic country of the world has an elected prime minister been sent home on a contempt of court charge despite the former prime minister's claim that he cannot obey an order that will result in his breaching the constitutional oath? Article 248 extends immunity to the president while in office. How then can the prime minister write a letter against the president to reopen a case by the Swiss authorities that the Musharraf government requested the Swiss authorities to be considered a closed case as far as the government of Pakistan was concerned. Why are we so keen to look like a fool in front of another country's government and people? Why has this corruption case been allowed to linger for over a decade? Why was a former judge of the Lahore High Court forced to resign after it was proved that he was asking the government what verdict he should give on the case and later, the same judge became an attorney general and wrote a letter to close the Swiss case? President Asif Ali Zardari had spent over a decade in jail without being found guilty of cases against him. What further punishment should he undergo for his sins? Considering the PPP's stated arguments for not writing to the Swiss, why has the Supreme Court not set up a commission to send a letter directly to the Swiss authorities and avoid unnecessary fighting with the former on this issue? President Zardari is not the only president in the world who has assets in a foreign country with an unknown source of income. Then there is rampant corruption in the judiciary as well, which among the primary ten institutions of the country has been ranked number three in 2010's International Transparency Report. Is there any judicial accountability system working that has punished any judge involved in corruption? I think a great error has been committed by the apex court to disqualify and remove Yousaf Raza Gilani from the post of prime minister who did not ridicule or defame the Supreme Court at any time. He took the stand based on the immunity given to the president under Article 248(2) of the Constitution. In a parliamentary form of government, the prime minister holds office as long as he has the confidence of parliament, not the Supreme Court. Article 63(1) g cannot be utilised by the court to oust the prime minister. S T HUSSAIN Chief Executive, Consumer Awareness and Welfare Association Lahore
EDITORIAL:THE FRONTIER POSTThe government contends that it is following the constitution. The judiciary too maintains that it is acting in accordance with the constitution. And the lawmakers insist that they abide by the constitutional privilege to amend the constitution and enact laws. Then why is so much of hullabaloo when each and all are respectable of the constitution and its true followers? Why all that tension and friction in the air? The bland fact is that after decades of military dictatorships and, yes, civilian autocratic rules, the state institutions are perhaps for the first time finding a climate of openness to breathe in. They are evolving and finding their feet. In the process, things are happening that were unimaginable before. The higher judicial appointments were once the closed preserve of the superior judiciary alone. But now the legislative branch too has a say in them. Likewise, parliamentary enactments were earlier deemed the last word. Now they are open to judicial scrutiny for their constitutionality. And the judiciary is now treading in the fields erstwhile deemed to be the executive's sole turf, while the executive is defying the judiciary on certain issues that it insists are within its own pale. Such confusions and bickering would persist inevitably until the institutions evolve to establish mutually acceptable and accommodative practices and traditions. But, then, tiffs and disputes are not unknown even to the established democracies with long-held traditions and norms. For months, US president Bill Clinton ran his administration on ad hoc funding arrangements as the Congress was adamant not to approve his proposed budget. And currently President Barack Obama has seen his health reforms being challenged in the Supreme Court, even though these had been approved by the Congress. Yet a clutch of Republican state governors and senators approached the apex court to shoot them down. Nevertheless, the court ruled in favour of the reforms, although with a contentious divided vote. Given this, there is nothing quaint about the chaotic conditions presently prevalent in the inter-institution relationships in the country. In time, as the institutions evolve, their mutual frictions will largely stand ironed out and greater harmony in their relationships will ensue. Until then, bonhomie is unrealistic to expect. Perhaps, a broad dialogue between the top leaders of the executive, legislative and judicial branches could help smoothen this evolution process to occur in a harmonious way. But that frankly looks just not feasible in the given conditions. Still, some effort to this end could be worth it, particularly when no institution wants any harm to come to the country and all mean good for the nation. Presently, a lot of vitiation is stemming forth from the Swiss letter episode, which indeed is poisoning the relationship between the judiciary and the executive worrisomely. Both have their stands rooted in the constitution. The Supreme Court is unhappy that by defying writing the letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen the money laundering case against President Asif Zardari, the government is ridiculing the judiciary, which a constitutional provision forbids. And the government insists that the president enjoys constitutional immunity and hence the letter it would not write. The imbroglio has given birth to a whole lot of difficulties and acts that could potentially hurt the system irreparably. A way out of the impasse thus needs to be found out so that the apex court's verdict is carried out and the government's reservation is also pacified. In this, the thinking class can play a role. It can moot out some plausible third way to go about the whole imbroglio to the satisfaction of both the apex court and the government. But, appallingly, certain segments of this thinking class are displaying quite a churlish cavalierism at this point in time when they are expected to act responsibly and with wisdom and sagacity. Instead of bridging the gulfs between the judiciary and the executive, they are out trying to widen chasms between the two. What point is there when the apex court has taken up a suo moto notice to flood it with many more petitions on the issue? The court will rule in the best of its light whether it is single petition or many more. Indeed, this kind of a joke of these strands of the thinking class this nation can hardly afford, placed as it is so fragilely at present.
The Express Tribune