YAHOO NEWSPresident Barack Obama's re-election campaign and the White House defended his handling of world affairs from a scathing attack by Republican challenger Mitt Romney, arguing that the former Massachusetts governor is fond of "chest-pounding" and "saber-rattling." "This is somebody who leads with chest-pounding rhetoric," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. "He's surrounded himself with a number of people who were advisers to past President Bush, people who have used saber-rattling rhetoric when it comes to Syria and Iran," she said. "And that's something that we think the American people should take a look at." But she also claimed that Romney's speech at the Virginia Military Institute aimed to "reboot" his foreign policy after a series of troubled attempts—notably a summertime overseas trip marred by verbal missteps. "When you're commander in chief you don't get to bring an Etch A Sketch into the Oval Office. You don't get second chances, never mind seventh chances," she said. (But presidential foreign policy has to adapt: Obama's approach to Iran, for example, went from offering unconditional negotiations during the 2008 campaign to overseeing the toughest economic sanctions regime against Tehran by 2012.) Psaki noted Romney's criticisms of the troop withdrawal from Iraq, saying "that's one of the president's proudest accomplishments." And she scolded the Republican for saying Obama had not signed any trade agreements, calling that charge "absurd" and "inaccurate" since the president "renegotiated" commercial pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and then signed them. White House press secretary Jay Carney accused Romney of making "an attempt to draw a distinction and to suggest that this president's commitment to Israel's security is not strong." "And yet Israel's leaders themselves have said that military cooperation and support, and intelligence cooperation and support from this president and this administration is unprecedented in the U.S.-Israeli relationship," Carney said. Obama's personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is famously frosty, and Romney is closer to Netanyahu on the Iran nuclear issue. Obama has said he won't rule out the use of military force to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Romney (and Netanyahu) has said the key is preventing Tehran from attaining the ability to build a nuclear weapon. On Iran, "there has been a lot of heated rhetoric and chest-thumping," Carney told reporters. "But every concrete prescription that the president's critics, including Gov. Romney, have put forward—concrete prescriptions that make sense—have been acted on," he said. Psaki and Carney also defended Obama's handling of the broader Middle East. Romney "said that the president and his team are not doing enough when it comes to Syria, when it comes to Libya, and several events in the Middle East," Psaki said. "What exactly are they suggesting we do? What exactly is their plan and their proposal? So if they're going farther, they should say that."
Monday, October 8, 2012
Last month, the police in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, arrested four women and one man for engaging in prostitution, a crime punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The High Court in Peshawar released them after acknowledging that a lack of employment opportunities often forces women into selling sex. But it also ordered Neelam, who was charged with running a brothel, to attend an hour-long class with a cleric at a local mosque every day for a month. After that the police will assess her moral progress and report back to the court. The ruling provoked jokes in cyberspace: "Hope the cleric stays focused and doesn't become a client," read one comment. But it also raised serious concerns about the Pakistani state's growing deference to religiosity, even at the expense of due process. Liberals are alarmed that Neelam was sentenced to repent without being convicted of a crime and that her guilt may have been assumed: the order that she receive religious instruction was issued during a bail plea, before a proper trial. Defense lawyers also say that the police arrested the accused without obtaining search warrants and produced no written complaints and no witnesses during the bail hearing. Nor were any medical examinations conducted for evidence. Islam is the state religion of Pakistan and the Constitution mandates that laws conform with its principles, but most laws, including criminal ones, are based on British secular law. And yet the Pakistani state is increasingly seeking opportunities to assert its Islamic identity in order to keep in step with the Pakistani public, which is growing more anti-American and looking to defend Islam from perceived attacks by the West. The Peshawar High Court's order against Neelam is worrisome not only because it violates her rights, but also because it will likely embolden extremists and spark more instances of religious vigilante justice. In March 2007, in one of the most publicized cases of moral policing in Pakistan, female students of the Jamia Hafsa seminary in Islamabad abducted three women and accused one of them, Shamim, of running a brothel. They released Shamim only after forcing her to "confess" her sins, publicly repent and vow to devote herself to Islam. That incident along with other violent acts in the students' Islamizing campaign of spring 2007 - the abduction of seven Chinese nationals, the intimidation of DVD store owners and the hijacking of a children's library - led to a major armed showdown in July 2007 between the seminary students and state security forces at the Red Mosque, where the students and the religious extremists who supported them sought sanctuary. Today, however, the state seems willing to mimic, rather than condemn, such actions. In August, after entertaining petitions against "vulgarity" in the Pakistani media, the Supreme Court ordered PEMRA, the media regulatory authority, to define obscene content in order to censor it. PEMRA is considering whether to ask the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body that ensures Pakistan's laws comply with Islamic principles, to define obscenity for the purposes of media censorship. The recent court ruling against Neelam comes on the heels of the Pakistani government's naked and opportunistic attempt to burnish its Islamic credentials recently. After announcing a day of protests against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" - which the Pakistani prime minister has called "an attack on the whole 1.5 billion Muslims" - it declared Sept. 21 a "day of love for the Prophet" and then sat back while the country erupted on the new holiday. (Protests in Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad and other Pakistani cities, left 19 people dead.) The government also blocked access to YouTube because the site has not removed the film. The state's zealous, and at times unconstitutional, embrace of Islam is a worrying trend in a country struggling against extremist groups, sectarian violence and routine discrimination against religious minorities. As one newspaper editorial put it, when "a branch of government gets involved in proselytizing," it sets a "dangerous precedent."
Venezuelans re-elected incumbent President Hugo Chavez on Sunday, giving him another six-year mandate to pursue his "21st century socialism" project of greater nationalization. Chavez, who has nationalized ever larger sections of the economy and initiated a wide range of programs benefiting the nation's poor, declared victory in the name of the 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar. Dressed in a signature red shirt, Chavez, 58, led throngs of cheering supporters in celebration from the balcony of his Miraflores presidential palace and pledged to press ahead with a socialist revolution. "Today we've shown that Venezuela's democracy is one of the best democracies in the world, and we will continue to show it," he said, brandishing a replica sword of Bolivar, who was born in Caracas. "Venezuela will continue its march toward the democratic socialism of the 21st century," said Chavez, who won the third re-election in nearly 14 years in office. His new six-year term begins on Jan. 10. Chavez also called on the opposition to unite with him and seek a peaceful future for the South American country. "I would like to thank, first of all, the opposition leadership, because they have recognized the truth, the truth of people's victory," he said. "That is why I begin by thanking them, because we are all brothers in Simon Bolivar's fatherland." "The voice of the majority must respect the voice of the minority. That is the first step towards our living in peace together," he added. A fan of Bolivar, Chavez often says that his policy of expanding nationalization and increasing rights to the poor as a fulfillment of Bolivar's original plans some 200 years ago. Between words, Chavez sang the national anthem to the crowd of supporters, who waved flags and wore red shirts of the Great Diplomatic Pole coalition that Chavez led to power again. The election began at 6:00 a.m. (1030 GMT) and was supposed to close at 6:00 p.m. local time (2230 GMT). Many remained open beyond their planned shutdown because voters were still queuing up to vote. The National Electoral Council said that with 90 percent of the ballots counted, Chavez garnered 54.42 percent of the vote, compared with 44.47 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who represents the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition. Capriles, a 40-year-old law graduate, promptly conceded defeat at a televised press conference, saying that "For me, the will of the people is sacred. And I would like to thank the more than 6 million Venezuelans who placed their trust in me." Chavez's victory speech marked a huge difference to the tone in the campaign, during which his supporters accused Capriles of seeking to destroy the social programs created by the Chavez government. Capriles had been campaigning as a self-style "progressive," which he described was seeking an efficient implementation of social programs, rather than their abolition. However, one of his allies called the programs as a "tremendous drain on the state" and documents leaked to the media ahead of the election day showed that MUD plans to slash eligibility and raise prices for such welfare programs. Chavez received swift congratulations via social media from Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia, some of which he read to the audience in the city center of Caracas. Sunday's election was widely considered free and peaceful. Five domestic observer groups and several international observer watchdogs monitored the elections. Some 19 million Venezuelans were eligible to vote. Voter turnout was an unprecedented 81 percent, compared to 75 percent in 2006. Local television showed citizens queuing outside polling stations from as early as 5 a.m. local time. The election was praised for its transparency and efficiency. Around 90 percent of the vote was counted by 10 p.m. thanks to automated voting systems across the nation. Voting machines were also laid out in a so-called "horseshoe" in most polling stations, a shape that allowed five people to vote secretly at the same time. As Venezuela's youngest president at the age of 44 in 1998, Chavez embarked on reforming the constitution and reducing the power of Congress and easily won the 2000 election. An opposition attempt in 2004 to oust him in a recall referendum was defeated by popular vote. Elected to a second six-year term in 2006, Chavez then won a 2009 referendum that abolished the two-term limit and enabled him to run indefinitely.
http://rt.comA Bahraini court has rejected a request from Nabeel Rajab’s defense team to suspend his sentence and release him from jail. The Human rights activist is serving three years term for “participation in illegal demonstrations.” The request was made by Rajab's lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi. Nabeel Rajab is expected to appear before the Bahraini Appeals Court on October 16. Meanwhile, Rajab went on ”dry” hunger strike on October, 6, after he was allowed out of jail for three days to bury his mother but then was suddenly barred in the first day from attending a condolence gathering. Bahraini authorities claimed that Rajab was not allowed to stay out of prison longer because he violated the terms of his release and "delivered a speech inciting mourners to stage illegal protests". However Rajab argued that his speech was a "peaceful expression of opinion." Rajab has been in police custody since July 9, and on August 16 a lower Bahraini court sentenced him to three years for “involvement in illegal practices, inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorized marches through social networking sites.” The court has recently satisfied the lawyers’ request to merge Rajab’s three cases related to his participation in rallies into one single appeal. The three-year sentence followed a three-month prison term, handed down to him on Jul9th, for posting anti-government messages on Twitter. In August, Rajab was cleared of defamation, winning his legal battle against the three-month sentence for allegedly r criticizing the country’s Prime Minister on Twitter, where Rajab has over 170,000 followers. Rajab is a fierce critic of the Bahraini authorities and a prominent international human rights activist. He is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Middle East Division of Human Rights Watch. He is also one of Bahrain’s best-known bloggers. A position that hasn’t deminished, despite his prison term. Bahrain has been repeatedly criticized for violence and repression towards opposition activists. Thousands have been arrested and put on military trial since the uprisings began a year ago. The country’s Shiite opposition is pushing for a transition to democracy and greater representation in the country’s Sunni government. Despite Washington’s calls for Bahrain to negotiate with the opposition, clashes continue to erupt on a daily basis in the turmoil-afflicted nation. Amnesty International says a total of 60 people have been killed in Bahrain since the violence began on February 14, 2011. The Bahraini interior ministry says that more than 700 people, including a number of police officers, have been injured in protests.
BBC News has uncovered evidence that weapons intended for the Saudi military have been diverted to Syrian rebels.The crates of ammunition found in an Aleppo mosque were made by the Ukrainian firm Dastan, which specialises in naval weapons and missile complexes. What was in the crates is unknown, says the BBC's Ian Pannell, who has been in Aleppo, as is how they ended up there. But their presence clearly suggests that someone in the Gulf is actively helping the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, our correspondent says. When contacted by the BBC, Saudi officials refused to comment. The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says Saudi Arabia generally prefers to conduct its foreign affairs through low-key, behind-the-scenes discretion. The apparent discovery of Saudi ammunition in a Syrian mosque could attract unwelcome attention, he adds. Privately, opposition sources have confirmed to the BBC that they are receiving assistance from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The New York Times reports that Saudi and Qatari officials are sending small arms to the rebels, but are holding off sending heavier equipment, such as shoulder-fired missiles. This is in part because they have been discouraged by the United States, which fears the heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists, the newspaper says. Meanwhile, in a speech on foreign policy on Monday, US presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said that if elected, he would back Western-friendly elements among the Syrian rebels. Extracts of his speech released by his campaign include the following pledge on Syria: "I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets." The UN has warned of rising tensions and has urged those supplying weapons to both sides to stop doing so. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said tensions were increasing in the region, adding that he was "deeply concerned" by the continued flow of arms to both sides, despite international embargoes. "I urge again those countries providing arms to stop doing so. Militarisation only aggravates the situation," he told the World Forum for Democracy, in the French city of Strasbourg. Syria is not on the agenda at this week's meeting of Nato foreign ministers, but in an interview with the BBC, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Turkey - a Nato member - could count on solidarity. Nato had no intention of interfering militarily in Syria, he said, but plans were in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary.
http://www.indiatvnews.comIn a major sting operation carried out in July, August and September ahead of the recently concluded ICC World Cup T20 tournament, India TV undercover reporters exposed six ICC umpires, belonging to Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, willing to fix matches for money during T20 matches. The entire sting operation was telecast on Monday prime time by India TV. The six umpires who were exposed in the sting named "Operation World Cup" are : Nadeem Ghauri and Anees Siddiqui of Pakistan, Nadir Shah of Bangaldesh, and Gamini Dissanayake, Maurice Winston and Sagara Gallage of Sri Lanka. The seventh umpire Sharfudoullah Shahid Saikat of Bangladesh refused to give any favour in lieu of money. Sting No. 1: Bangladesh umpire Nadir Shah told the India TV undercover reporter that he was ready to fix any match - whether international, county or legaue matches. Nadir Shah offered to give decisions like "out", "not out" in any format of the game. He has officiated in 40-plus one-day internationals, six test matches as TV umpire and three tests as reserve umpire. Nadir Shah also revealed on hidden camera that Pakistan's opening batsman Nasir Jamshed 'fixed' several matches during the Bangladesh Premier League. He also said, umpires from Bangladesh are always ready to 'help' their country's cricketers. Sting No. 2: Sri Lankan premier panel umpire Sagara Gallage was the fourth umpire at the crucial India-Pakistan T20 World Cup match on Sept 17. For a payment of Rs 50,000, Sagara agreed to reveal the match pitch report, weather report, toss report, and even the playing elevens of both teams. Galage promised to give Pak batsman Imran Nazir out, even if he was not out, in exchange of money in Sri Lankan Premier League. Galage even promised the undercover reporter to get a decision made in favour of India in course of the match by 'managing' the match referee and other officials. Sting No.3: Pakistan's ICC international panel umpire Nadeem Ghauri also agreed to help Team India in all manners. As quid pro quo, he agreed to take all amounts underhand in "black". Nadeem Ghauri has stood in 43 ODIs, 14 test matches and four T20 matches. He promised to do any kind of favour for any player in umpiring. Sting No.4: Sri Lankan's premier panel umpire Maurice Winston Dela Zilwa's name was recommended by another Sri Lankan umpire Sagara Galade to the India TV undercover reporter. For the crucial T20 world cup match on Sept 17 between Australia and England, Maurice Winston shared the pitch report, toss report and playing elevens of both teams and demanded Rs 50,000 bribe.
http://www.thenewstribe.com/A Tribal Jirga led by a provincial assembly member in Balochistan has decreed to Vani 13 girls as retaliation over killing of a person. According to reports received by Independent UK-based News Website The News Tribe, the decision was taken over killing of a person by his opponent Roshan Khan Maisori. The person from Maisori tribe killed a family member of Karam Khan Shahani and the Jirga was called to settle the dispute at Dera Bugti, a prominent city of Pakistan’s largest province by area, Balochistan.
Incidents of motor vehicle snatching increased 15% as 54 districts reported 836 cases in July compared with preceding month's 723 recorded in 56 districts, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report. The report said Lahore (92), Faisalabad (91) and Karachi Central (68) had the most vehicle snatching cases. However, motor vehicle lifting figures remained unchanged (34 cases per district), it said. FAFEN crime monitors visited 99 offices of District Police Officers (DPOs) to collect data on First Information Reports (FIRs) registered for 27 offences falling under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The data shows criminal misappropriation cases increased up from seven FIRs in two districts to 33 in a single district. Criminal trespass cases also saw an increase, 651 FIRs lodged in 29 districts - going up from 410 cases in 23 districts recorded in June. However, FIRs for robbery and dacoity and theft declined 14% and 5% respectively. The monitoring revealed a 6% increase per district in FIR numbers. Ninety nine districts had 46,346 FIRs registered - the previous figures being 42,780 in 97 districts. 'Other crimes' constituted 61 percent of the total FIRs, followed by crimes pertaining to property (17%), crimes involving physical harm (12%), threat and fraud (7%) and crimes against women (2%). The regional break-up had Punjab reporting the highest crime burden (64%) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (20%), Sindh (13%), Balochistan (2%) and ICT (less than 1%) following. Better outreach, lack of parallel judicial systems and a higher confidence level between the police and the people are said to be the reasons for better crime reportage in Punjab than other regions. Among crimes involving physical harm, attempted murder and accidental death (qatl-i-khata) rose 7% and 25%. Eighty-eight districts reported 1338 attempted murder cases, up from 1232 cases lodged in June. Similarly, accidental death cases increased from 223 in 51 districts to 253 in 50 districts. However, hurt FIRs fell 3%. Also registering a drop were terrorism and accidental death (qatl-bis-sabab) cases - both down from four FIRs per district to three. Except for cases of offences against public tranquility and counterfeiting currency, all other crimes in the threat and fraud category remained constant. Offences against public tranquility increased 41% - 187 FIRs filed in six districts as against June's 110 reported in five. Counterfeiting currency cases decreased 6% - from 47 per district in June to 44. In the crimes against women category, incidents of outraging women's modesty and insulting modesty through word, gesture or act, increased. Forty one districts had 386 cases of outraging women's modesty - the previous numbers being 332 FIRs in 40 districts. Similarly, FIRs for insulting modesty through word, gesture or act rose from 12 in seven districts to 34 in four. Ten districts reported 46% of the total FIRs - Punjab (seven districts), KP (two) and Sindh (one). Lahore (13%), Faisalabad (7%) and Rahimyar Khan (5%) were the highest reporting districts.
THE BALOCH HAL
By Malik Siraj AkbarAs Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s boisterous trip to Islamabad comes to an eventful end, the leader of Balochistan National Party (BNP), the troubled province’s largest nationalist group, and his aides must be sitting down somewhere to reassess whether or not the journey to Islamabad was worth it. Some of them still wonder if the former chief minister’s appearance before the Supreme Court has won them more friends or developed new rivalries. In the midst of the hullaballoo in the media about possible reconciliation between disgruntled Baloch nationalists and the government, the darker and often unnoticed side of the picture has something totally different to say: More trouble for Mengal. The BNP complains that it is the most misunderstood political force in Balochistan. It has tens of thousands of voters and party offices in every district and tehsil of the province. Some of its central leaders include ethnic Pashtuns, too. The party enjoys a cadre of ardent student followers through one of the three wings of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO). Despite this, BNP’s politics, the party leaders grumble, is seemingly unacceptable to the ‘establishment’ and militant Baloch nationalists. Several top BNP leaders, including the Party’s secretary general and former Senator Habib Jalib Baloch, have been killed allegedly by what Sardar Mengal calls as the death squads of the intelligence agencies. For the country’s security apparatus, BNP’s overt demand for Baloch people’s right to self-determination is too hard an expression to tolerate. Officials in the military say the BNP cannot be fully trusted because its temporary goal may be the attainment of provincial autonomy but eventually even the BNP will end up joining hands with the forces that seek Balochistan’s independence. On the other hand, Baloch political parties and armed groups that advocate for an independent Balochistan view BNP as “too soft” to qualify as a “genuine nationalist” party. They believe that the BNP is a collaborator with Islamabad to mitigate the Baloch demand for independence. Some militant nationalists think the Pakistan establishment is trying to pit Mengal against pro-independence leaders like Hairbayar Marri and Bhramdagh Bugti by helping him in the upcoming general elections. BNP denies such charges. Mengal’s visit has alerted at least three groups of political players in Balochistan. All of them have reacted differently to his appearance before the Supreme Court and meetings with popular opposition leaders, including Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League and Imran Khan of PTI. Those exiled treat Mengal’s return as a “compromise” and a sell-out to the government. After all, Mengal’s visit to Islamabad was the first official contact between disillusioned Baloch nationalists and the State through the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Suleman Dawood, the Khan of Kalat who convened a grand Jirga in 2006 to take Balochistan’s case against Pakistan at the International Court of Justice, accused Mengal of brokering a deal with the government. “No one can return to Pakistan and hold negotiations in Islamabad without the approval of the establishment,” said Dawood who now lives on political asylum in United Kingdom. Balochistan’s former leader of the opposition in the Balochistan Assembly, Kachkol Ali strongly condemned Mengal’s decision. He said Mengal had “significantly undermined” the efforts of the international organisations to help the Baloch while referring to the US Congress that held a hearing on Balochistan in February and the UN Working Group on enforced disappearances which recently visited Balochistan. Mengal’s visit has alarmed the members of the Balochistan government who fear being replaced by nationalists in the near future. If Mengal holds talks with the government and agrees to return to the national mainstream, his tribal and political opponents fear he is going to take away their jobs and authority. Consequently, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani immediately reacted to Mengal’s media interactions and brushed aside the charges of corruption and bad governance in his province. The CM said it was easy to accuse his government of corruption but hard to substantiate the charges. “Accusation of corruption against the elected Balochistan government is ‘an insult to public mandate’,” said Raisani. Provincial leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), such as Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, a powerful tribal chief in Mengal’s native district of Khuzdar, were not very happy with their party chief’s meeting with Mengal. In Quetta, he insisted before the local media that Sharif had not endorsed Mengal’s Six Points. Talal Bugti, the head of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), also immediately rushed to Lahore to meet Nawaz Sharif, days after Mengal’s meeting, in order to make sure that Sharif had not removed him from his list of trusted Baloch leaders. Mengal’s old friends from the moderate National Party did not go to meet him in Islamabad because they also felt politically challenged on his arrival. Some federal ministers and sections of the establishment have questioned Mengal’s commitment to Pakistan. They view his approach and Six Points similar to that of Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman of East Pakistan. They suspect Mengal is making efforts to dismember the country and defame the armed forces. Not only did the government representatives refrain from meeting Mengal, they also completely rejected his Six Points in an official submission at the Supreme Court saying that the intelligence agencies did not maintain any death squads nor were the missing persons in their custody. “Mengal should stop defaming the army,” warned Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister. The national media and civil society groups reacted to Mengal’s return to Pakistan with such overexcitement that the BNP now feels it has been misunderstood both by the media and the hardliner Baloch nationalists. They say Sardar Mengal’s Six Points, if wholeheartedly implemented, should not be confused with the actual Baloch demands. These points should only lead to developing trust between the Baloch people and the government. A Supreme Court verdict on Balochistan will not mean much in terms of deescalating tensions. More tangible measures backed by the parliament, such as the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan and the passage of the 18th Constitutional amendment too did not help in normalising the situation in Balochistan because of the government’s failure to fulfill the promises made to the province on these two occasions. Some of Mengal’s demands, such as the release of the missing persons, were included in the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-Balochistan Package but never met. Mengal is no Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman. He does not lead any of the fierce armed groups like the Baloch Liberation Army or Baloch Republican Army. The only threat he poses is that of street power. The government’s treatment of him with suspicion will undermine the interests of those who want to keep Balochistan as a part of Pakistan. Mengal is a moderate Baloch leader who finds himself sandwiched between an unaccommodating Pakistani military and an irreconcilable Baloch militant movement. He says his party will not contest elections in a ‘war-like-situation’ whereas the hardliner nationalists accuse him of having already jumped off the ‘freedom ship’. If Islamabad does not comply with Mengal’s list of political demands, it will be renewing the lifecycle of the insurgency in Balochistan. Mengal is among the last generation of the reconcilable Baloch nationalists. This cost is very high if the government fails to do business with him.
EDITORIALImran Khan (IK) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s (PTI’s) Waziristan March against drone strikes and for peace set off with a bang, but ended in anti-climax with a whimper. For days, if not weeks before the start of the march, IK and the PTI had raised the pitch of expectations from the march to unprecedented heights. If these statements were to be taken at face value, it seemed as though the resurrected ‘tsunami’ of the PTI would overcome all obstacles in its path and sweep all before it on the way to establishing peace in Waziristan. However, a reality check was, and is, in order. First and foremost, the PTI’s extremely ambitious and risky initial plan to march into North Waziristan (NW) was soon abandoned in the face of the very real dangers in that Agency, well known as it is for being the hotbed of jihadi extremists. Better sense having prevailed, the PTI then turned its guns towards South Waziristan (SW), which is comparatively secure after the military operation had forced the extremists to abandon their bases there and move to NW and other areas in the face of overwhelmingly superior military force. However, even before the march roared off, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government and the Political Agent of SW had stated in categorical terms that the marchers would not be allowed into SW, especially since there were foreigners in the ranks who, under the existing rules, could not be allowed into FATA without prior permission (unlikely to be available even if it had been applied for). The march was eventually halted before the SW boundary, and turned back to Tank, where IK addressed a consolation rally. So much for all the hype about not allowing anything to stand in the way. For the federal and KP governments, the affair had potentially embarrassing implications. IK, on the eve of the march, had declared that if anything happened to the marchers, he would hold President Asif Ali Zardari responsible. This rhetoric hardly made any sense. That notwithstanding, reports indicated that the Taliban had dispatched nine suicide bombers to attack the march. This may not have deterred the PTI, but it did pose potentially embarrassing management risks for the authorities, particularly because of the presence of foreigners in the ranks of the marchers, which could have resulted in a diplomatic incident. As things turned out however, none of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) threats transpired. The TTP in any case had been vacillating since the original threat to harm IK and the marchers if they attempted to enter SW. Be all that as it may, it is a matter of relief that no untoward incident occurred and the march remained peaceful. Before we turn to an assessment of the gains and losses for the PTI from this march, an interesting sidelight is the timing of the Amn (Peace) March in Karachi called by the MQM for exactly the same day and virtually the same time as the PTI march up north. Whether coincidence or deliberate, it certainly resulted in distracting the minute-by-minute coverage by the electronic media of the PTI march towards the MQM protest in Karachi. To sum up the results of the PTI march, despite the fact that the vehicular procession was unable to reach its final destination, the publicity dividend the call and the march itself garnered for the PTI has certainly helped the flagging fortunes of the declining PTI ‘tsunami’, which of late seemed to be sputtering out, largely because of the PTI’s inherent and recent problems. IK’s foray into politics since 1996 has seen mixed fortunes. The inherent problems of the PTI revolved around one, the lack of electable candidates with the exception of IK himself, and two, the lack of a countrywide party machine that could deliver in any elections. The first bottleneck was sought to be overcome by inducting prominent dissidents from other parties. Their placement centre-stage in the party caused much angst and heartburn amongst the older cadre who had consistently worked for the PTI for 16 long and largely fruitless years. The idea of holding internal party elections to set a new example has also run into heavy weather because of internal dissidence and factionalism. The party machine issue still hangs fire.