Friday, September 21, 2012

The international film fury: Pakistan edition

http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com
When people began pouring out onto the streets in Pakistan to protest on Friday, there was little chance that the government would take any action against them. After all, it was a declared public holiday to mark love for Prophet Mohammad, and religious and political groups had taken the government's move as a sign that the protests were sanctioned by the state. Pakistan has been engulfed with protests against the controversial film the Innocence of Muslims. Over the course of a week, members of a religious grouphave broken through police cordons to amass outside the US Consulate in Karachi and protestors attacked the enclave reserved for diplomatic missions in the capital city of Islamabad. In Hyderabad, the second largest city in the Sindh province, a businessman was accused of blasphemy for not participating in the protests. Friday was a free-for-all in Pakistan. Television channels broadcast footage of riots from nearly every major city. Protestors burned down cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar, as well as a church in Mardan, andattacked banks, police vehicles,buildings and evena public hospital. In Karachi, hundreds of members of groups as diverse as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a mainstream political party, to the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan dominated the streets. Dozens of effigies of U.S. President Barack Obama were burned along with American flags, and protestors chanted against the U.S., Israel and the filmmaker behind Innocence of Muslims. Police weredeployedat several key locations, but did not act to stop the protestors. In any case, they were largely outnumbered: about a half-dozen police officers are no match for hundreds of angry rioters. The issue in Pakistan is not just of one day, or one week, of protests. The problem is institutional. The outrage at issues like an allegedly blasphemous film or cartoons has a legal basis, whichstems from controversial laws that make blasphemy punishable by death, and excommunicate an entire sect. Government officials not only support the law, but the Interior Minister Rehman Malik once declared that he would kill a blasphemer himself. In a speech on Friday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf questioned why those denying the Holocaust were punished whilethere was no consideration for the feelings of Muslims. The government has supported the outrage ensuing from the film, not just by declaring a holiday, but also by summoning the current U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Pakistan to protest the film, blocking YouTube and reportedly approaching Interpol. These measures do little to control violence. More importantly, the government has failed to act against banned organizations that operate openly and protest without anyone batting an eyelid. Acting against the protestors -- as the Karachi police did when members of a Shiite group protested outside the U.S. Consulate -- is construed in Pakistan as the state attacking civilians for the sake of protecting ‘foreign governments.' The outrage is also politicized, though not entirely. Many of the groups protesting are used by political parties for support during election campaigns. The Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a coalition of over 40 religious organizations that also protested on Friday, seeks to become a pressure group to raise issues of religious ‘honor' and issues related to foreign policy, and will likely support many of the candidates from coalition parties in the upcoming elections. However, many protestors in Karachi said that they were not linked with political parties or religious groups, but had taken to the streets because they genuinely felt angry over the film. In a country where religious honor is tied in with nationalism, it is not surprising that many felt the need to protest. The protestors were from a wide spectrum, ranging from office workers to students to clerics. And for many of them, it was an opportunity to vent: President Asif Ali Zardari was condemned as vociferously as President Obama was. The protests will likely die down in a few days, if not earlier. The pattern of these protests has been fairly consistent over the years, and the issue will be abandoned in favor of something else. But the question of what the government can do to stop the protests may now be too late. The rot in Pakistan has been many decades in the making. Sectarian conflict has been stoked by successive rulers, including military dictators, religious outrage has received state approval by governments and political parties, and those responsible for massacres of various religious sects continue to fundraise to kill more. The military backs anti-U.S. sentiment, as evidenced during the debate in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar bill, or the outrage over the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. What is undoubtedly worse, though, is that there is no attempt to reverse any of the damage that has been done over the decades. Instead, the current government - and successive ones - will likely play a game of appeasement with religious groups in the hope that they will one day back them. That bet, as history has proven, will not pay off.

The west and the Islamic world should leave one another to live and let live

BY:Deborah Orr
The two have a vast arrogance in common: both want their values universally accepted and both want to win.
If I deliberately wound up an angry, resentful acquaintance to the point where he went on a rampage and murdered someone, I like to think I would have some regrets, that the important detail would not be the fact that it was my right to make the points I did, in the manner I did, but that I had caused someone to kill and someone to die. Similarly, I like to believe that if a teacher called to say my child was insisting on her right to criticise the physical, intellectual and social shortcomings of some of her classmates, and that it was causing those classmates distress, then I would have a word with my child about her behaviour. I would also like to think that were I the editor of a French satirical magazine, having just watched as swaths of people across a number of countries erupted into sometimes fatal anger over a film they believed had insulted them, I would not think: "Cool. Let's see if we can stoke that nightmare right up again." However, an astonishing number of people seem to feel differently. The right to free speech is not in the least abused, it seems, when troublemaking hotheads decide their provocative opinions have more legitimacy than any other consideration within the complex matrix of human responsibility. The right to offend is precious. The right to taunt large numbers of already resentful people is the acme of freedom, civilisation and sophistication. Apparently. Many of the people who defend so ardently the right to offend would call the police immediately if a mob of angry people decided to stand on their doorstep and tell them they were selfish, little narcissists who ought to be ashamed of themselves. Why? Because – no offence – they were all of those things and hypocrites as well. But who really thinks the right to offend is inalienable? Who believes that some hideous error was made when it became untenable to put a sign on the door of your pub saying: "No Irish, no blacks, no dogs"? Is there anyone who thinks the world would be a better place if high levels of homophobia were lauded as a wonderful sign that the right to free speech was being enthusiastically upheld? And who would think it fair and sensible if the primacy of free speech dictated that there could be no such thing as slander or libel? Free speech does not confer the right to be wrong, mistaken, biased or merely a doggedly axe-grinding pain-in-the-ass about your pet hates. It is by no means a settled fact that there is no God, that Muhammad was not his final prophet and that the world would not be a better place if everyone submitted to his teachings. I am absolutely certain that it is bunkum, but I can't prove it. So until someone tries to make me live my life as if Islam were an indisputable fact, I am happy to let Muslims arrange their own lives under whatever legal set of narrative values they prefer. That, to me, is the most vital western value – not the absolute and untrammelled freedom to shoot my mouth off, whatever the ghastly consequences. Happily, the teachings of Islam don't contradict those truly fundamental values. Yes, a lot of hideous acts are perpetrated in the name of Islam, acts that most Muslims abhor. But a lot of hideous acts are perpetrated in the name of liberal democracy, too, without invalidating all aspects of liberalism or democracy. Neither belief system is perfect, and therefore, surely, neither can claim the perfect right to condemn and ridicule the other. Furthermore, many of the Islamic values the west finds so reprehensible were our own settled values too, until embarrassingly recently. Islamic homophobia? Not acceptable. Yet gay people in Britain only achieved the same rights to legal sex as heterosexuals in 2001. Islamic inequality in its treatment of men and women? Don't start me. Yet I remember a time when two women walking into a pub together was like two pheasants wandering on to a shooting range. Barbarous Islamic punishment? We hanged our last murderers in 1964. Some Islamist groups' yearnings for world domination? Britain parcelled out the land of another people like it was the family allotment, as recently as 1948. Of course, most extremist Islamists (not all Muslims) are hypocrites too. They reserve the right to condemn the secular values of the west, even as they threaten to kill those who condemn the religious values they cleave to themselves (or any more handy proxy who happens to be within reach). They demand unconditional respect for Islam, while reserving their own right to despise and revile the west. The worst irony? Despite the many differences between the Islamic world and the west, we have one vast arrogance in common: we won't content ourselves with living and letting live. We each want our values to be universally adopted. We each want to be proved right. We each want to win. The west won't win by antagonising those Muslims who can be relied on to rise to the western dog whistle. It scores a few petty propaganda points, that's all. And Islamists won't win by antagonising those westerners who rise to the Islamic dog whistle. Telling the west it can't criticise Islam, any more than Muslims can, is like a red rag to a bull. Mass Arab street protest thrills the west when we agree with it – as with the Arab spring – and appals if we don't – as when we see a heated anti-American uprising. Yet indiscriminate anti- Americanism is no more or less valid than indiscriminate Islamophobia. Maybe it is time for both western and Islamist hotheads to have a think about this, for example: "Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (Quran 13:11). Smart advice. Works for everyone. Islamists need to stop attacking the west, and issuing fatwas against those outside the Islamic belief system. Likewise, the west needs to solve its own problems, rather than insisting on interfering in the affairs of Muslims, while failing to admit that previous interference might have provoked much of the "Muslim rage" that westerners find so "medieval". In fact, the finger-wagging criticism from Islamaphobic zealots is just more of the "We know what's best; you do what you're told" attitude that has already caused such mayhem. It is time for both parties to get a grip.

Pakistani leaders play religious card as protests boil

Pakistan shut down Friday in a government-sanctioned protest over a film made in the United States that mocks the Prophet Mohammad, highlighting the power of religious parties to shape the political agenda. Protesters incensed by the film and inspired by influential Pakistani religious parties set fire to a motorway toll booth just outside the capital and a cinema in the northwestern city of Peshawar in images broadcast live on television. Pakistan's government, wary of widespread frustration over its failure to provide basic services, declared Friday a day of protest over the film in an apparent bid to exploit anger which has inspired violent protests in several Muslim countries. Critics say this approach is typical of a government that many describe as ineffective in the face of tough challenges; from a stubborn Taliban insurgency to chronic power cuts, which have frequently triggered protests. Others said calling for the "day of Love for the Prophet" was a shrewd political move for the embattled government. "Our heart is crying bloody tears. We can bear everything but disrespect to our Prophet and Koran," said Akbar Saeed Farooqi, spokesman for a religious organization that helped organize demonstrations. The government can use all the help it can get. Prime Minister Pervez Raja Ashraf is under pressure from an increasingly assertive Supreme Court to reopen corruption cases against the president. The court removed his predecessor for failing to do so. Political strife has often distracted civilian leaders and the military, which has ruled the country for more than half of its 65-year history, is seen as the most efficient and decisive institution in times of crisis. Many of the parties orchestrating the protests oppose Pakistan's alliance with the United States, which has only recently begun to recover from a number of setbacks. In Washington, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, and both pledged to work to overcome strains on everything from U.S. drone strikes to the future of Afghanistan policy. "It is important that we are able to build on the positives," Khar said in brief remarks before the meeting, noting that the past 16 months had been "very, very difficult." The government's critics condemned the national holiday as a capitulation to religious rabble-rousers in a young democracy still struggling to define the place of religion in public life. Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people, is overwhelmingly Muslim. Pakistan was carved out of India as a land for Muslims in 1947. For decades, leaders invoked Islam to legitimize their rule and politics is often influenced by religious parties who don't score big votes in polls but can whip up anger on the streets. "All it takes is a couple hundred people and a pile of rocks and you're on TV," said Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. "The religious parties hold the government hostage." "OBSESSED WITH POLITICS" The ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was set up as a centre-left, progressive party with secular leanings but, like most political forces in Pakistan, it has played to the religious parties when under pressure. The PPP and its opponents have started jockeying for advantage ahead of a general election expected next year and that would appear to explain why it is tapping into anger fuelled by clerics over the film, instead of trying to calm it. "The Pakistan People's Party has become so obsessed with domestic politics and getting re-elected they have forgotten what kind of relationship they want with the outside world," said columnist Mehreen Zahra-Malik. Religious parties fared poorly in the last election. But orchestrating protests is an easy way for them to flex political muscle and ensure they can forge alliances with more powerful parties. Lawmaker Ayaz Amir said the government had proclaimed the holiday to undercut the religious parties, an attempt to show it too has Islamic credentials. "The government has stolen a march on them," he said. He said it made sense for the government to try to defuse protesters' anger by giving them an outlet instead of ordering police to shut down rallies and risk alienating people. Most demonstrations in the day's immediately following coverage of the film were small and peaceful. Few people had heard of the film. Then religious groups began running advertisements on television demanding Muslims sacrifice their lives for the Prophet's honor. Signs went up demanding the film-maker be shot. Once protests reach critical mass, it's dangerous for people to oppose them. In Hyderabad city, a cleric directed a mob to attack the house of a shopkeeper who had refused to join a protest, police said. On Thursday, protesters threw stones, smashed cars and burnt a police post in the heart of Islamabad as they tried to force a path to the U.S. embassy. Few protesters interviewed by Reuters had seen the film, yet the government seems to think it can capitalize on the mounting anger in a country where a perception the United States is out to get Muslims fuels anti-American feeling. In a speech to dignitaries marking the holiday, Ashraf appeared to play up those fears about the West. "This was a deliberate premeditated attack based on bias, hatred and prejudice," he said of the amateurish film.

23 Pakistanis killed during protests

PRESS TV
The death toll from Pakistan's protests against a US-made anti-Islam film and sacrilegious cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in France has risen to 23, Press TV reports.
Clashes broke out between enraged protesters and security forces in at least five Pakistani cities on Friday, with police firing tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowds. Hundereds of people were also wounded in the violence. In the capital Islamabad, protesters marched towards the capital’s diplomatic headquarters, demanding the expulsion of the US and French ambassadors to the country. Thousands more marched on US consulates in the cities of Lahore and Karachi. In the northwestern city of Peshawar, protesters set two cinemas on fire and attacked several other buildings.

Pakistani violence 'not in defense of the Prophet'

Deutsche Welle
Thomas Bärthlein
There have been violent protests in a number of countries over a controversial anti-Islamic film, among them Pakistan. South Asia expert Thomas Bärthlein tells DW what he has experienced in the past few days there. DW: In the past few days, a number of people have been killed in Pakistan in violent protests. How have you experienced the situation there? Thomas Bärthlein: The situation in Islamabad is calming down now. The last I heard from an eyewitness near the diplomatic enclave was that about 300 demonstrators were throwing stones at police and trying to get into the enclave where the American embassy is situated. But the police have them under control, attacking the demonstrators with tear gas and pushing them back. The rest of the city is very calm. Nobody is going out in the streets. The government had declared a public holiday today and all the shops are closed. It's a bit of an eerie atmosphere in the city. You have lived in the country for over a year now and you speak the language. What do you say about the climate against Westerners in the country? Has it changed? I don't feel threatened personally. I got information about a French journalist who was in the middle of all these protests - he was apparently attacked. But I can't confirm that right now. But normally you feel safe in Islamabad. I myself was caught up in one hotel, the Serena Hotel, yesterday for three hours when protesters surrounded the hotel. They apparently tried to enter and the security there told us one of their demands was that they hand over the foreigners - the Americans in the hotel - which, of course, the hotel personnel did not. The hotel fought back against these protesters. After the incident last night, we escaped and lots of people in Pakistan who knew I was in that hotel were very concerned. They called me and asked how I was doing. In general, as a Westerner I am welcome in this country. Who are the protesters going out on the streets? They are definitely a small group and they are very well organized. They are mostly young people, like people from the radical student organizations of the Islamist parties which themselves are small parties, but they are well organized and they can call these crowds onto the streets rather quickly. Apparently, yesterday in the protests in Islamabad there was a big contingent of people from Rawalpindi from the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, one of the well-known extremist or terrorist groups, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who are also allegedly responsible for the Mumbai attacks in India. These people are hardcore militants or they are very radical young people who like to let off steam. They've become very destructive over the last two days. They are not getting access to the American consulates or the American embassies; they just destroy about everything that comes their way. They attacked and destroyed little shops in Peshawar today, they destroyed petrol pumps and cinemas in Karachi. They ransacked the chamber of commerce in Peshawar. All of this is not in any way in line with defending the Prophet of Islam. It's just an outlet for them to express frustration and anti-Americanism. The Pakistani government itself called for protests against the video. But they also said the protests should be peaceful. Do you think it has been a mistake to call for the protests? It seems like that now. They had an official meeting with the prime minister addressing the gathering this morning protesting against the video that was made in the United States and they tried to call on people to remain peaceful in their protest. I think I can understand their approach to some extent because they didn't want to be sidelined, they didn't want to become targets themselves, as being seen as less Islamic than the radical groups. They also called in the US ambassador for protests today. They wanted to show that they are also upset about this but then also help keep the protests peaceful. Of course, that's very difficult if you don't allow the people to march before the US consulates and the US embassies, which is where they want to go. In the end it's still the police who are being attacked. Most of the people who were killed today were policemen and it's kind of difficult in a way - by declaring a holiday and declaring their support for the protesters' agenda, the government also gave them justification for doing all of this. Overall, I would think this strategy has backfired, it has not been as successful as they wanted. What kind of long-term consequences to you expect this will have for the United States and Pakistan? From this particular episode I don't expect any big political fallout because the Americans know there is a lot of anti-Americanism in the country. It is a question of security. I was told yesterday that many diplomats actually left Islamabad and went to Lahore for the weekend. Because clearly they were not fully confident that the diplomatic enclave here in Islamabad, which is heavily guarded and which still seems relatively safe, they did not feel a guarantee that they would be safe within this diplomatic enclave. I think it is possible that for some time to come, if these things don't die down quickly, there will be added security concerns for the embassy but they already have very high security and they will probably continue doing their job otherwise. Because as I said, it is not really new information to them that they are not really popular in Pakistan. Thomas Bärthlein is an expert on South Asia and currently works in Islamabad, Pakistan.

19 Reported Dead as Pakistanis Protest Muhammad Video

Violent crowds furious over an anti-Islamic video made in the United States convulsed Pakistan’s largest cities on Friday, leaving up to 19 people dead and more than 160 injured in a day of government-sanctioned protests.
It was the worst single day of violence in a Muslim country over the video, “Innocence of Muslims,” since protests began nearly two weeks ago in Egypt, before spreading to two dozen countries. Protesters have ignored the United States government’s denunciation of the video.
Friday’s violence in Pakistan began with a television station employee dying from gunshot wounds during a protest in the northwestern city of Peshawar, then was amplified through armed protests in the southern port city of Karachi that left between 12 and 14 people dead, Pakistani news media reported.
By nightfall Geo, the leading television station, was reporting 19 deaths around the country. Less violent protests occurred in other Muslim countries but were exacerbated by the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a French satirical weekly. In Bangladesh, several thousand Islamist activists took to the streets of the capital, Dhaka, waving banners and burning a symbolic coffin for President Obama that was draped with the American flag. “Death to the United States and death to French,” they chanted. Local television networks reported that a mobs ransacked and burned an Anglican church in Mardan in northwestern Pakistan. A statement by The Bishop of Peshawar the Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters said that newly installed computers were stolen before the church was set on fire. There were no reports of killings or injuries to the Christians.In Tunisia, the government invoked emergency powers to outlaw all demonstrations; American diplomatic posts in India, Indonesia and elsewhere closed for the day. France closed embassies and other institutions in 20 countries while, in Paris, some Muslim leaders urged their followers to heed a government ban on weekend demonstrations. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up,” said Manuel Valls, the French interior minister. In Pakistan, the streets erupted from early morning in Peshawar, where protesters burned two movie theaters. Two people, including the television employee, Muhammad Amir, were killed. Mr. Amir’s employer broadcast graphic footage of hospital staff giving him emergency treatment shortly before he died, which other Pakistani journalists condemned as insensitive and irresponsible. Some protesters tried to reach the city’s heavily guarded American Consulate, which has a strong Central Intelligence Agency component. By evening, hospital officials said at least five people were dead and more than 50 injured. After Friday Prayer, more severe violence erupted in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi, where normally bustling streets were instead filled with clouds of tear gas and the sound of gunfire. Protesters in Karachi burned effigies, stoned a KFC and engaged in armed clashes with the police that left 14 people dead and more than 80 wounded by evening. Peaceful protests had been approved by Pakistan’s government which declared Friday a national holiday, the “Day of Love for the Prophet Muhammad,” as part of an effort to either control, or politically capitalize on, rage against the inflammatory video, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, as a sexually perverted buffoon. “An attack on the holy prophet is an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims. Therefore, this is something that is unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in an address to a religious conference Friday morning in Islamabad. Mr. Ashraf called on the United Nations and international community to formulate a law outlawing hate speech across the world. “Blasphemy of the kind witnessed in this case is nothing short of hate speech, equal to the worst kind of anti-Semitism or other kind of bigotry,” he said. But chaotic scenes in the streets outside suggested that if the government had aimed to harness public anger on the issue, it had dismally failed. In contrast, the day passed off peacefully in neighboring Afghanistan where officials had been preparing for the protests for days. Clerics at major mosques in the capital, Kabul, acceded to official requests that they preach peace, or another topic entirely; police officers set up a cordon of check posts to search cars, and no street violence occurred. A senior American official in Kabul said his Afghan counterparts had worked hard to mute the impact of the video through the week. That was, in part, a product of their prior experience with what he called “a desecration or religious event.” In Pakistan, however, extremist groups, many of them officially banned by the government, were at the forefront of the upheavals. Karachi marchers included members of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a banned Sunni sectarian group, Harkat-ul Muhahideen, which has fought against Indian troops in Kashmir, and Tehrik-e-Ghalba Islami, a faction of another sectarian group. In Islamabad, Sipa-e-Sahaba Pakistan activists led a march toward the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave, where Western missions had closed for the day. They clashed for hours with police officers outside the five-star Serena Hotel, before eventually being pushed back. Meanwhile in Lahore, activists from the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose leader Hafiz Saeed is subject to a $10 million United States government bounty, led protesters toward the American Consulate, which had its perimeter defenses breached earlier in the week.The devastation caused by the protests belied their relatively small size. The largest street mobs were estimated to have between 5,000 and 10,000 people — less than would typically attend a mainstream political rally, or even a high-profile funeral in some parts of the country. Instead most Pakistanis drifted home after Friday Prayer, apparently keen to avoid the trouble. Still, many analysts questioned the government’s decision to give free rein to the marchers. “Pakistan is a conservative but not a radicalized society,” said Cyril Almeida, a writer with the English-language Dawn newspaper. “But when the radical fringe is bold enough, it can hold society hostage. And that’s what happened today.” The government tried to control the momentum of unrest by cutting off cellphone coverage in large cities for most of the day and, in Islamabad, sealed all exits to the city after Friday Prayer. That left most Pakistanis stuck at home, many relying on e-mail and social media sites, like Twitter, to voice their frustrations. “We are not a nation. We are a mob,” said Nadeem F. Paracha, a cultural commentator with Dawn newspaper, on Twitter. Imran Khan, the cricket hero turned conservative politician, addressed one of the Islamabad protest rallies, and used to occasion to condemn American drone strikes in the northwestern tribal belt.“There is no end to this war,” he said. The State Department spent $70,000 on Urdu-language advertisements that were broadcast on several television channels, dissociating the United States government from the inflammatory video. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the American chargé d’affaires, Ambassador Richard Hoagland, and requested that he have “Innocence of Muslims” removed from YouTube. It seemed a quixotic request, as YouTube had already been entirely blocked in Pakistan for several days previously. In a statement, Mr. Hoagland said he had told Pakistani officials that the video represented “a deeply insensitive decision by a single individual to disseminate hatred" and did not reflect American values. The protests largely abated by nightfall, allowing main roads in most cities to reopen, as hospital staff continued to tend to the injured. The government expressed some frustration at the day’s events. “What kind of a love for the Prophet is this where people are burning and looting?” said Qamar Zaman Kaira, the information minister, in a television interview, before berating the media for giving excessive coverage to the trouble. “You should stop giving live coverage of protests,” he said testily as he spoke to a news presenter. Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris; Julfikar Ali Manik from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Alissa J. Rubin from Kabul, Afghanistan; Salman Masood from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Zia Ur-Rehman from Karachi, Pakistan, and Waqar Gilani from Lahore, Pakistan.

Are Muslims angry at more than film?

Pakistan Protests:15 killed,dozens injured,property destroyed.

Death toll from nationwide anti-Islam film protests rises to 14, dozens injured
Angry and violent protests plunged Pakistan into chaos on Friday as at least 14 people were killed and scores others were injured in addition to widespread damage to private and public property in nationwide protests against a blasphemous, anti-Islam film. Fuming protestors fought pitched battles with police and law enforcing agencies in Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and several other cities of Pakistan. Most of the protests were violent despite repeated calls to hold peaceful rallies by the government, political leaders and religious scholars. KARACHI At least 10 people, including two policemen, were killed and over three dozens wounded as violent protests erupted in Karachi after Friday prayers against a US film mocking the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Angry crowd set ablaze three cinemas, two bank branches, four police mobiles, eight vehicles and a fast food restaurant in the city. Three police mobiles, which were stationed outside Chief Minister House in Red Zone were torched. In addition, protests were witnessed in Baloch Colony, Sohrab Goth, Sultanabad and other areas of the metropolis. A loud explosion was heard near Native Jetty bridge. The stone-pelting agitators smashed window panes of several vehicles and blocked Shara-e-Faisal for traffic by setting tires on fire. Police and protesters continued to clash in many areas, resulting in 10 casualties. PESHAWAR According to reports, four people, including a worker of a private TV channel, were killed and 60 others wounded in Peshawar in clashes and incidents of firing in the city. Two policemen and four protesters were also reported killed in Karachi taking the total death toll in violent protests to 14. Angry protesters in Peshawar burnt three cinema houses while four cinemas were also torched in the country’s financial hub Karachi. ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI In Islamabad, police resorted to aerial firing and shelling to prevent the protesters from entering Red Zone. Two helicopters kept hovering over the Red Zone as part of special security measures. PTI Chairman Imran Khan also led a rally of supporters in Islamabad against the sacrilegious film produced in the US mocking the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Khan appealed to demonstrators to hold peaceful protests and avoid damaging public and private property. Violence was witnessed on Faizabad, where police and protesters clashed throughout the day, leaving many people injured. Five vehicles, including three polic mobiles, were torched in Rawalpindi. ELSEWHERE Violent protests are also reported from elsewhere in the country including Rawalpindi and Faisalabad despite call for peaceful demonstrations by the government and religious scholars. Police fired rubber bullets on protestors at Faizabad Bridge. Several policemen and protesters were injured in the clash. These protests came on Yaum-e-Ishq-Rasool (S.A.W.W.) which is being observed countrywide today on call by the federal government. Elsewhere in the country, the devotees of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) are out on roads in every city to partake in rallies and processions to register love for their beloved Prophet (PBHU). Nawabshah is witnessing complete shutter-down strike with citizens on the roads en messe to observe Yaum-e-Ishq-Rasool (S.A.W.W.). Rallies were also taken out in different areas of Khairpur and Dadu. The business activities are closed in Muzaffarabad with processions being taken out in different areas of the city. In Sargodha also, complete shutter-down strike is in progress and participants of different rallies gathered at Shaheen Chowk and set tires on fire. The devotees of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are also registering their protest in Jhang against the anti-Islam movie. Earlier today, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said the blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is unacceptable under any circumstances. "The anti-Islam movie has harmed the sentiments of all Muslims including me," he asserted, adding the issue does not pertain to the freedom of expression as it was intended to provoke the feelings of Muslims. It is quite natural for Muslims to be roused in rage over disrespect to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), adding the malice-mongering elements targeted the most-respected personality of the world. But he urged Muslims to keep their protests peaceful as harming someone or damaging someone's property who has nothing to do with the film is not in accordance with the teachings of Islam. He also reminded people that attacking foreign consulates is also not permitted according to Islamic teachings. Different political and religious parties also held rallies today. The main procession was organised by Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan and Jamat-e-Ahle-Sunnat at Numaish Chowrangi. The rally under the aegis of Ahle Sunnat Wal-Jamaat was held at Lasbela Chowrangi. Other parties including the MQM, Tehreek-e-Insaf also took out rallies side by side with the traders organizations across the country.

Three killed as Pakistanis clash with police in rally over anti-Islam film

Three people have been killed and another 14 injured on Friday in clashes at Pakistani protests against an anti-Islam film. The government previously declared the day a public holiday, named “The Day of Love." The violence has left two police officers in Karachi and a driver working for a private TV station in Peshawar dead. This comes after Pakistani anti-US protesters have torched two cinemas in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
RT correspondent Paula Slier reports there is a standoff between police and protesters trying to reach the US embassy in Islamabad, and that the army has been called in. Throngs are pelting stones at officers, who in turn teargas them as they attempt to storm the embassy.
“What we’re witnessing is the spark to the fire that is seeing tens of thousands of people take to the streets in these cities to hold the US responsible for what they say is the worst attack ever on Islam,” Slier said. All this is amid the Day of Love, officially dedicated to honoring the Prophet. The government calls for peaceful protests, but the rallies have already turned violent. Shops, markets, petrol stations have been closed in Pakistan, and transport is likely to be halted over concerns that new protests will be held, RT’s Paula Slier tweets. Mobile service has been suspended in 15 Pakistani cities, and won’t resume until at least 6pm (13:00 GMT). The Pakistani government has blocked YouTube and declared a holiday in the country, which has been gripped by violent protests. On Thursday, thousands tried to besiege the American embassy, with police using teargas and batons to disperse the protesters. Most of them were students, officials said.

Two killed in anti-Islam film protests

A policeman was shot dead on Friday, bringing to two the number killed during a day of protests condemning an anti-Islam film, officials said. The policeman was killed and two others wounded in an exchange of fire with protesters in Karachi, police official Mohammad Shakeel said. Thousands took to the streets in Karachi to condemn the anti-Islam film". A driver for a local television station died after being shot in the northwestern city of Peshawar earlier on Friday. Scuffles broke out when protesters tried to march towards the US consulate, throwing stones at police and trying to remove shipping containers that blocked the road, police said. Officers fired off tear gas shells and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, but three policemen were wounded by gunfire from an unknown direction, Shakeel said. "They were shifted to hospital where one of our constables died," he added. In the northwestern city of Peshawar, a TV station employee also died Friday after being shot when protesters set alight and ransacked a cinema. "He was shot in the chest. He was put on a ventilator after surgery but could not survive," said Doctor Mukhtar Khan, head of the Lady Reading Hospital. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he had ordered an investigation into the man's death and repeated government calls for protests to remain peaceful.

Syrian president welcomes dialogue with opposition

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
says talks with the opposition groups are the sole solution to the unrest that has engulfed the Middle Eastern country for more than 18 months. “The door to dialogue is open -- only talks with the opposition will solve the crisis," the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram Al-Arabi on Thursday quoted Assad as saying in an interview whose full text is to appear on Friday. Assad added that “change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention.” The Syrian leader noted that the foreign-backed insurgents fighting against his government will be finally defeated. "The armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society ... they will not be victorious in the end". He also said he was "neither optimistic nor pessimistic" about the mission assigned to international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, whom he met on Saturday. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed opposition to foreign intervention in Syria and called for a peaceful ‘Syrian solution’ to the crisis. He said following a Cairo meeting with his Turkish and Egyptian counterparts that more talks were needed to agree on a plan which meets the demands of all sides. Western states have been calling for Syrian al-Assad to step down. However, Russia and China are strongly opposed to the drive to oust Assad. The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

پښور مظاهرې:یو مړ ۷ ژوبل،سینماو ته اور ورته شوی

http://www.mashaalradio.com
په پاکستان کې د هغه امریکايي فلم پرضد مظاهرې روانې دي، چې پکې د اسلام ستر پيغمبر ته سپکاوی شوی دی.
نن سهار په راولپنډۍ، اسلام اباد، لاهور، کراچۍ، پيښور او نورو لویو و وړو ښارونو کې پيل شوې مظاهرې په وقفه ييز ډول دوام لري. مظاهره کوونکیو د امريکا پرضد شعارونه ورکول او ددې هیواد له حکومته يې د فلم د جوړوونکي او اداکارانو عدالت ته راکښلو غوښتنه کوله. د پاکستان دولت د همدې پيښې په تړاو نن په ټول هیواد کې عمومي رخصتي اعلان کړې. په عین حال کې د پاکستان په ګڼو برخو ورځنۍ چارې په ټپه ولاړې دي، مارکیټونه، دتیلو او ګازو ستیشنونه، ښاري او بار وړونکي ترانسپورت بند دی . همداشان له سهار وختي راهیسې د پيښور، کوټې، کراچۍ، لاهور او اسلام اباد په ګډون په پنځلسو ښارونو کې د مبایل شبکې هم بندې دي. د دې هیواد سرکاري راډیو د کورنیو چارو وزارت له قوله ویلي، چې د مبایل شبکې د دوی په امر بندې کړل شوې دی، چې ترهګر په ورانکارو فعالیتونو کې ترې ګټه وانخلي. له سهاره پیلو شویو مظاهرو د جمعې تر لمانځه وروسته زور واخیست، چې په ځینې ښارونو کې په تاوتریخوالي هم واوښتې. ترټولو خونړۍ او زیانموونکې مظاهرې په پيښور کې شوې دي، چې په نتیجه کې يې د یوه نجي تلویزیون یو خبريال وژل شوی او اووه تنه مظاهره کوونکي پکې ټپيان شوي دي. همداشان مظاهره کوونکیو دوه سینماوې وسوځولې، او ګڼ شمیر نجي املاکو ته يې سخت زیان واړاوه. بلخوا په راولپنډي کې هم یوشمیر سرکاري او نجي املاکو ته زیان اړول شوی دی. بلخوا حکومت وايي، د هرډول تاوتریخوالي د مخنیوي په هدف يې په پيښور اوکراچۍ کې د امريکا کونسلګريو ته تلونکې ټولې لارې تړلي او ګڼ شمير امنيتي سرتیري يې ځای پر ځای کړي دي. له دې وړاندې د پنجشنبې پر ماښام د اسلام اباد د حساسو سیموچې د جمهوري ریاست ماڼۍ، عظمی صدارت او بهرني سفارتونه پکې واقع دي امنیت پوځ ته سپارل شوی. د جماعت اسلامي، جمعیت علمای اسلام، تحریک انصاف او په لسګونو نورو لویو او وړو سیاسي ومذهبي ډلو د جمعې تر لمانځه وروسته د پراخو مظاهرو ترسره کول اعلان کړی دی او له خپلو پلویانو يې غوښتي، چې د اسلام له ستر پيغمبر سره د مینې څرګندونې په هدف دې په دغو مظاهرو کې ګډون وکړي. همداشان د جمعې په خطبو کې ملا امامانو ددغه فلم پرضد ویناوې وکړې او له پاکستانه يې غوښتنه کوله چې ددې پيښې په غبرګون کې دې له امريکا سره هر ډول سفارتي اړيکې پرې کړي. د دغه امریکايي فلم پرضد د مظاهرو دغه لړۍ به نه یواځې نن بلکې په راتلونکیو ورځو کې هم روانه وي، خو یوشمیر علماوو د سرکاري او نجي تلویزیونونو له لارې پر خلکو غږ کړی، چې له هرډول تاوتریخوالي او نجي و سرکاري املاکو ته له زیان رسولو دې ډډه وکړي.

Pakistan TV channel says driver killed in protest

AP
A Pakistani TV reporter says his driver was killed when police fired to disperse protesters of an anti-Islam film who were torching a cinema in the northwest city of Peshawar. Kashif Mahmood says he was sitting with the driver, Mohammad Amir, in their vehicle covering the protest when police opened fire Friday. He said three bullets hit the vehicle, including one that critically wounded Amir. He later died at a hospital. The TV channel ARY showed footage of Amir at the hospital as doctors tried to save him. It also showed the windshield of the vehicle shattered by several gunshots. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Pakistani protesters clash with police on Muslim "Day of Love"

Demonstrators clashed with police in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Friday as anger over insults to the Prophet Mohammad boiled over despite calls from political and religious leaders across the Muslim world for peaceful protest. Western diplomatic missions throughout the Muslim world tightened security, with some closing down on expectation of big protests after Friday prayers. An anti-Islam film made in America has enraged Muslims and led to days of protests across the Muslim world while cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad published in a French magazine on Wednesday were expected to compound the anger. Egypt's highest Islamic legal official said on Thursday Muslims should follow his example of enduring insults without retaliating. But the call looked unlikely to calm the outrage. "An attack upon the Holy Prophet is an attack on the whole 1.5 billion Muslims. Therefore, this is something unacceptable," Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said in a speech to politicians, religious leaders and others. Pakistan has declared Friday a "Day of Love for the Prophet Mohammad". Protesters took to the streets of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, an old frontier town on the main road to Afghanistan, and torched a cinema and clashed with riot police who tried to disperse them with teargas. At least five protesters were hurt, a doctor at the city's main hospital said. In the capital, Islamabad, about 1,000 stone-throwing protesters clashed with police as they tried to force their way to the U.S. embassy on Thursday and the government shut down mobile phone services in more than a dozen cities as part of security arrangements ahead of protests expected on Friday. The U.S. embassy in Pakistan has been running television advertisements, one featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying the government had nothing to do with the film. The U.S. and French embassies were closed on Friday in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, and diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were on lock-down. Police in Kabul said they had been in contact with religious and community leaders to try to prevent violence. "There are some angry demonstrators who will encourage people to violence," senior police officer Mohammad Zahir told Reuters. "There will also be Taliban influence in demonstrations too and they may attack the U.S. and other embassies." "ENDURE INSULTS" The cartoons in France's Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly have provoked relatively little street anger, although about 100 Iranians demonstrated outside the French embassy in Tehran. Western embassies tightened security in Sanaa, fearing the cartoons could lead to more unrest in the Yemeni capital where crowds attacked the U.S. mission last week over an anti-Islam film made in America. In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts, the Islamist-led government decreed a ban on protests planned on Friday against the cartoons. Four people died and almost 30 were wounded last week when protesters incensed by the movie about the Prophet Mohammad stormed the U.S. embassy. An Islamist activist called for attacks in France to avenge the perceived insult to Islam by the "slaves of the cross". Mu'awiyya al-Qahtani said on a website used by Islamist militants and monitored by the U.S.-based SITE intelligence group: "Is there someone who will roll up his sleeves and bring back to us the glory of the hero Mohammed Merah?" He was referring to an al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people, including three Jewish children, in the southern French city of Toulouse in March. Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said on Thursday it showed how polarized the West and the Muslim world had become. Gomaa said Mohammad and his companions had endured "the worst insults from the non-believers of his time. Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed and physically assaulted on numerous occasions. "But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims." In Libya, where militias that helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi still wield much power, the foreign minister offered a further apology for U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens' death to visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on Thursday. Stevens and three other Americans died in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi by gunmen among a crowd protesting against the film that denigrated the Prophet.

Anti-Islam film: Cinema houses in Peshawar burnt

Angry protestors in Peshawar burnt two cinema houses in the city following which police resorted to shelling to disperse the crowd, SAMAA reports on Friday. According to details, demonstrators were protesting against the anti-Islam film but the protest turned violent as protestors burnt a cinema on G T Road while another one located nearby was also torched. Voilents protests are also reported from elsewhere in the country including Rawalpindi and Faisalabad despite call for peaceful demonstrations by the government and religious scholars. These protests came on Yaum-e-Ishq-Rasool (S.A.W.W.) which is being observed countrywide today on call by the federal government. Protests are likely to intensify after Friday prayers. Meanwhile, Islamabad adminstration has imposed section 144 in the city to avoid any untoward incident.

Khar, Kerry for mutual respect

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and John Kerry, a key US Senator, Thursday underscored the need for building mutual trust to overcome the strains in the relationship between the two countries.Hina, who arrived here Tuesday on a four-day visit, said she had ‘frank’ discussions with Kerry (chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and the committee members, reaffirming that Pakistan wanted Islamabad-Washington ties to be based on mutual respect.Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman accompanied the foreign minister to the meeting at the Capitol Hill. Speaking to reporters, Hina reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to peace and security in Afghanistan.“I am encouraged by the frank and honest discussion that we had. I think it is important to have discussion because we had too much mistrust and fears which have inhibited the course of our relations in the past.”She voiced the hope that the “frank and honest discussions,” between the two sides would help “open up new opportunities in pursuing our joint interests.” The people of Pakistan, she said, wanted mutual respect in realigns with the United States and to pursue goals as a sovereign people.“If the US stated objective is peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region then the two countries are pursuing which is also in Islamabad’s interest and a core goal - a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.”The foreign minister emphasised that a peaceful Afghanistan was prerequisite for peace and stability in Pakistan.Underscoring the need for promoting tolerance amidst the unrest triggered by the anti-Islam film, Hina warned fringe elements could force a great wave of chaos. “Islam is a religion of peace and the messenger of Islam Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of peace.”Standing alongside the foreign minister, Senator Kerry described the panel’s meeting with Hina as a “positive step” towards trust building, which he added, takes time.Kerry opposed moves by some Congressmen to cut off all aid for Pakistan, arguing that does not provide the way forward in the relationship.“Walking away is simply not the option, and we are not going to do that.,” he said firmly.But, he added, Congress wants assurances from Pakistan that the countries will work together towards common goals and to foil terrorism plans to make both countries safer.“We need to renew and reaffirm our mutual commitment to working together in order to make both our countries safer.”The Democrat from Massachusetts strongly condemned the sacrilegious contents in an anti-Islam film, which has been made in the United States and whose circulation on the Internet has led to widespread protests in the Islamic world. He said there is room for protests (against the film) but no room for violence and taking lives.On Pakistan-US bilateral relations, Kerry, a former presidential candidate noted that the members of foreign relations panel had “a very frank, extensive, extremely productive” conversation with Pakistan’s chief diplomat.He acknowledged the efforts of Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman and the foreign minister towards improving the bilateral relations.“We are working hard to get this relationship back on track (after a difficult year) because we know the importance of the relationship.”“We are grateful to Pakistan for reopening the supply routes for our troops in Afghanistan.”He also appreciated Pakistan’s key counterterrorism cooperation, particularly against al-Qaeda militants along the Afghan border and intelligence sharing in the fight against terror. The US, he said, is also “very appreciative of the swift response in recent days by Pakistani security (apparatus) to help protect the American consulates” in the face of demonstrations.

Karachi: Diseased sheep dump in urban area protesed

Citizens have taken a strong exception to the dumping of culled Australian sheep in the middle of the residential area in the metropolis, Geo News reported. According to reports, locals resorted to protest when the livestock department was busy disposing of around 3,000 imported sheep suffering from deadly disease in a small farm they were hidden. Earlier, it was reported that around 3,000 of the 22,000 sheep had been relocated to a secret farm away from the main herd. Authorities tracked that splinter herd to a secret farm and launched the culling and dumping process in the same place. Realizing it could lead to health hazards, local residents raised voice against the livestock department’s carelessness demanding of the government to dump the diseased sheep elsewhere. On the other hand, Deputy Director Livestock Department Sindh, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, told Geo News the sheep found suffering from anthrax were burnt before dumping, so they posed no threat to population living around the dumping site. A investigation is underway over the hustling of these 3,000 Australian Merino sheep.

Afghanistan warns Pakistan over cross-border shelling

Afghanistan has called on Pakistan to halt cross-border shelling, warning the UN Security Council that the attacks could jeopardise already tense relations between the two countries. A UN envoy meanwhile said that there were a growing number of “uprisings” against the Taliban in areas of Afghanistan under the group’s control. Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said Thursday that attacks from Pakistan into his country were “a matter of deep and serious concern” and had caused “unprecedented anger and frustration among Afghans.” Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of staging repeated shelling barrages across the poorly policed border into Kunar province. “We reiterate our call for an immediate and complete end to these acts, which have taken the lives of dozen of Afghans, mainly civilians, while leaving many wounded,” Rassoul told the 15-nation council during a meeting. He said the Afghan government was in contact with Pakistan to end the attacks “holistically and resolutely.” Rassoul said that Afghanistan wants “close and fruitful relations” with its neighbour, which has frequently been accused of backing Taliban militants seeking to overthrow President Hamid Karzai’s government. Pakistan in turn says groups of Pakistani Taliban sheltering in Afghanistan have infiltrated the border to resume attacks on its security forces. The UN special representative in Afghanistan Jan Kubis meanwhile told the meeting that “reports of uprisings against the Taliban in various parts of the country are a new development requiring greater analysis”. He added, however, that the causes of the new violence are “complex”. “Desire for local communities to have security and justice led them to taking the situation into their own hands. There is a risk of even greater fragmentation of the security environment,” Kubis said. “Many of these localised conflicts would appear to be resistance to the Taliban, but not necessarily in support of a greater government presence.” Kubis told reporters that most of the “uprisings” were in the south of Afghanistan and could be a protest against Taliban policies against, for example, schools. “This is an invitation to the government to increase support for the communities, to increase the delivery of law and order, to increase delivery of government services,” he added. A US-led international force of some 110,000 troops are in Afghanistan helping the Karzai government fight Taliban insurgents. The force is due to leave by the end of 2014.

Bacha Khan University inauguration: War on terrorism is our war, says ANP chief

The Express Tribune
The war on terror is our own war and we cannot withdraw from it at this crucial juncture, said Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan. He added that if the country pulls out now there will be negative repercussions for future generations. While speaking on Thursday at the inauguration ceremony of Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, he said: “The ANP’s popularity graph has increased manifold and they will sweep the next elections in the province.” The provincial government led by ANP took over the reins of power at a crucial time and is not afraid of the enemies of the Pakhtun, he added. By establishing universities across the province, the government is dedicated in its focus on education and ridding the province off extremism and terrorism, Khan said. He criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao chief, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, for not doing anything while serving as chief minister twice. He neglected his own constituency as well, Khan added.

PRESIDENT ZARDARI TO ADDRESS UN

The President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, had left for London on a three-day private visit to UK and on his way to the United States where he will address the UN General Assembly on September 25 next. Definitely, the President of Pakistan will touch national and international issues and discuss in detail the region security situation informing the world about the ground realities prevailing in the region. Besides delivering his important speech at the UN General Assembly, the President will meet the world leaders on the sidelines of the UN activities and exchanged views on world and regional affairs. Pakistan is one of the biggest stakeholders of the international peace and order and committed to play its destined role in making the world a better place to live amid acts of terrorism, wars and regional conflicts. In addition to it, Pakistan is the big victim of the world terrorism and lost more than 35,000 people, including soldiers and officers of the defence forces of Pakistan. The visit to USA by the President of Pakistan is important for this country breaking its increasing isolation in world diplomacy and explaining the point of view of the Government of Pakistan on world issues, including bilateral issues of Kashmir and problems with the neighbouring countries. Being a seasoned politician, President Asif Ali Zardari will use this visit in improving the economy of the country rechannelizing economic and financial assistance for major economic projects, including building huge dams and big power plants overcoming the power crisis in the country.

U.S. "surge" troops out of Afghanistan

REUTERS
The last of the 33,000 'surge' troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Barack Obama in 2009 have withdrawn from the country, returning the American presence to pre-surge levels, a senior U.S. defense official said on Friday. The surge in American troops was designed to push back the Taliban and create space for NATO forces to build the Afghan army to a point where it could take over Afghanistan's security, allowing for an eventual Western drawdown. The completion of the surge withdrawal had been expected by the end of September. Obama has trumpeted ending the war in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan as he seeks re-election on November 6. The return of U.S. forces to pre-surge levels comes as NATO commanders wrestle with an upswing in "insider attacks" by Afghan forces turning their guns on Western troops. NATO announced this week it was scaling back some joint operations with Afghan troops as a result, raising questions about Obama's plan to stabilize the country ahead of the expected withdrawal of most combat troops by the end of 2014.
</