Friday, March 1, 2013


Turkish PM's Zionism comments "objectionable"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday criticized a comment by Turkey's prime minister likening Zionism to crimes against humanity in a disagreement that cast a shadow over talks between the NATO allies. Kerry, on his first trip to a Muslim nation since taking office, met Turkish leaders for talks meant to focus on the civil war in neighboring Syria and bilateral interests from energy security and Iran's nuclear program to counter-terrorism. But the comment by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a U.N. meeting in Vienna this week, condemned by his Israeli counterpart, the White House and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has clouded his visit. "We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable," Kerry told a news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, saying he raised the issue "very directly" with Davutoglu and would do so with Erdogan. Erdogan told the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations meeting in Vienna on Wednesday: "Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity." The Turkish prime minister's caustic rhetoric on Israel has in the past won applause from conservative supporters at home but raised increasing concern among Western allies. Kerry said Turkey and Israel were both key U.S. allies and urged them to restore closer ties. "Given the many challenges that the neighborhood faces, it is essential that both Turkey and Israel find a way to take steps ... to rekindle their historic cooperation," Kerry said. "I think that's possible but obviously we have to get beyond the kind of rhetoric that we've just seen recently." After Kerry and Erdogan met, a senior U.S. State Department official said that the secretary of state "had a respectful but frank discussion of the (prime minister's) speech in Vienna, and how to move forward. The Secretary made U.S. concerns very clear." . The official said the two sides also discussed Middle East peace, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Gulf security and how to deepen their economic relations. Washington needs all the allies it can get as it navigates the political currents of the Middle East, and sees Turkey as a key player in supporting Syria's opposition and planning for the era after President Bashar al-Assad. Ties between Israel and Turkey have been frosty since 2010, when Israeli marines killed nine Turks in fighting aboard a Palestinian aid ship that tried to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. "If we must talk about hostile acts, then Israel's attitude and its brutal killing of nine of our civilian citizens in international waters may be called hostile," Davutoglu said, adding Turkey had always stood against anti-Semitism. "No single statement carries a price higher than the blood of a person ... If Israel wants to hear positive statements from Turkey it needs to reconsider its attitude both towards us and towards the West Bank," he told the news conference. Turkey has demanded a formal apology for the 2010 incident, compensation for victims and their families and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. Israel has voiced "regret" and has offered to pay into what it called a "humanitarian fund" through which casualties and relatives could be compensated. SUPPORT FOR SYRIAN OPPOSITION Erdogan appeared displeased when Kerry arrived late for their evening talks, remarking there was not much time left, according to a U.S. media pool reporter who attended the picture-taking session at the start of the meeting. Kerry, in turn, apologized, saying that he had a good meeting with Davutoglu, according to the pool reporter. Erdogan, speaking through an interpreter, replied that they "must have spoken about everything so there is nothing left for us to talk about." In a joking tone of voice, Kerry said: "We need you to sign off on everything." Turkey's relations with the United States have always been prickly. And Erdogan's populist rhetoric, sometimes at apparent odds with U.S. interests, is aimed partly at a domestic audience wary of Washington's influence. Ahead of Kerry's talks with Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, officials said Syria would top the agenda, building on this week's discussions in Rome between 11 mostly European and Arab nations within the "Friends of Syria" group. After the Rome meeting, Kerry said on Thursday the United States would for the first time give non-lethal aid to the rebels and more than double support to the civilian opposition, although Western powers stopped short of pledging arms. Turkey has been one of Assad's fiercest critics, hosting a NATO Patriot missile defense system, including two U.S. batteries, to protect against a spillover of violence and leading calls for international intervention. It has spent more than $600 million sheltering refugees from the conflict that began almost two years ago, housing some 180,000 in camps near the border and tens of thousands more who are staying with relatives or in private accommodation.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi behind 80% of terrorist attacks in Pakistan

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik says the anti-Shia terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has been involved in 80 percent of terrorist incidents in the country. He made the remarks at a press conference in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Friday, the Pakistani television network Dawn News reported. Malik criticized the local government of the country’s largest province, Punjab, for not taking appropriate action against the outlawed group. He stated that all information regarding the LeJ was given to the Punjab government and that it should explain why it has not taken any action against the terrorist group. On February 16, a bomb attack targeting Shia Muslims in the main bazaar of the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta killed at least 90 people, including women and children, and injured more 200 others. According to the police, most of the victims were Hazara Shias. On January 10, a twin bomb attack at a crowded billiard hall killed more than 90 people, mostly Shia Muslims, in Quetta, which is the capital of Balochistan province. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the two bombings in Quetta. Following the terrorist incidents in Quetta, massive demonstrations were held across the country to denounce the violence against Shia Muslims. The demonstrators shouted slogans against the government and criticized Pakistan’s security forces for failing to provide security to the country’s Shia Muslims. They also denounced the Saudi Arabian policy of funding extremist groups that commit acts of violence against Muslims in Pakistan. In addition, the protesters called on the government to take immediate action against the forces involved in the sectarian killings.

Hundreds demonstrate in Tahrir Square

Hundreds of people turned out in Tahrir Square on Friday to protest against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Protesters chanted against the regime and the Brotherhood, and held placards displaying demands, including the resignation of the prosecutor general. The same sign also compared the police with the Brotherhood. Others held signs calling for civil disobedience, which has been occurring in governorates throughout the country all week. The Al-Dostour Party organised a march from the Sheikh Kishk Mosque to the Al-Qubba presidential palace, the demands of which were published on the party’s official Facebook page: “Bread, freedom, social justice, human dignity, and justice for the martyrs.” Sheriff Abdul Samia, an Al-Dostour member and the coordinator of the march, said on Friday afternoon that the march would gain more momentum come the evening. Khaled Al-Masry, the spokesperson for the 6 April Youth Movement said: “We are not marching today because there were calls for the army to intervene politically, and this goes against what we believe in.” He confirmed that there have been calls for civil disobedience in Ismailia but said that this is not specific to the 6 April Youth Movement. He added: “We were the first organisation to call for civil disobedience, even before the revolution. Now it needs more support from the people for it to be beneficial.” Another demonstration took place at the Al-Menassa monument in Nasr City calling for military intervention in the current political situation.

Obama signs order activating deep spending cuts

Politics trumped progress on Friday as President Barack Obama and Republican leaders traded blame for $85 billion in forced spending cuts after they failed to come up with a compromise to avert the harshest impacts. The president signed an order required by law that set in motion the automatic, government-wide cuts. Obama and congressional leaders from both parties met for about 45 minutes at the White House, but no agreement emerged to avert the cuts that both sides oppose. After weeks of campaign-style events intended to inspire public outrage over the cuts, Obama sought to temper his description of their impact while making clear he thinks Republican intransigence prevented a deal to avoid the economic harm they'll cause."We will get through this," he told reporters. "This is not going to be an apocalypse as some people have said. It's just dumb and it's going to hurt.Still, a White House budget office report sent to Congress and released with Obama's order said the cuts would be "deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions." The action was described in the report as "a blunt and indiscriminate instrument" that was "never intended to be implemented and does not represent a responsible way" for the country to realize deficit reduction.In a sign of the potential impact, the Department of Justice sent furlough notices to employees that warned they may be forced to take days off without pay in coming months. Similar furloughs, as well as reduced services, were expected at other agencies if the cuts don't get replaced or eliminated. Military leaders have warned of impaired readiness of U.S. forces.However, the full impact of the cuts weren't expected until April at the earliest. The cuts amount to roughly 9% for a broad range of non-defense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30. They were included in a 2011 deal to raise the federal borrowing limit as an unacceptable outcome if Congress failed to agree on a comprehensive deficit reduction plan. However, election-year politics stymied progress on such a deal, leading to the situation Friday in which both sides acknowledged being unable to prevent something neither wanted. "There are smarter ways to cut spending," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, after the meeting with Obama. Boehner repeated his past assertion that the GOP-led House has offered proposals to replace the forced spending cuts while the Democratic-led Senate has not, as well as his party's opposition to any increased tax revenue to offset the forced spending cuts. Others who also took part in the White House gathering were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In the White House briefing room, Obama told reporters that Republicans in Congress "allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful (tax) loophole to help reduce the deficit." "As recently as yesterday, they decided to protect special interest tax breaks for the well off and the well connected and they think that that's apparently more important than protecting our military or middle class families from the pain of these cuts," Obama said. He was referring to a procedural vote on Thursday in which Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic proposal that called for eliminating some tax loopholes as part of a package with spending cuts. Boehner and Republicans say the president and Democrats have yet to propose a serious plan to reduce spending, including costly entitlement programs, on a scale necessary to bring chronic federal deficits and debt under control. Both Obama and Boehner foreshadowed the next major spending showdown - a March 27 deadline for Congress to authorize funding to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year. Boehner told reporters that the House will take up a measure next week to authorize federal funding beyond that deadline. "The president and leaders agreed legislation should be enacted this month to prevent a government shutdown while we continue to work on a solution to replace the" forced spending cuts, said a statement by Boehner's office. Although the funding measure is unconnected to the spending cuts, Obama indicated he was open to a broader agreement that would resolve both issues. "I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes then let these cuts go through," said Obama in response to questions from reporters. "... In the coming days and the coming weeks, I'm going to keeping on reaching out to them -- both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House -- and say to them, 'Let's fix this, not just for a month or two, but for years to come,' because the greatest nation on Earth does not conduct its business in month-to-month increments or by careening from crisis to crisis," Obama said.

Pervez accuses Shahbaz of massive corruption

Addressing a public gathering here on Friday, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said he had completed many mega projects for the social and economic uplift of the people during his tenure including provision of free medicines in hospitals and free books for school students. He said that Shahbaz Sharif had nothing to do with the public issues as he spent budget of medicine on ‘jangla bus’. Pervez further said that Shahbaz Sharif was enemy of education who closed four thousand schools in the province. He said PML-Q would execute many development projects after coming into power. The Deputy PM accused PML-N of committing massive corruption and looting the money in the name of sasti roti‚ jangla project‚ Danish school and Ashiana housing scheme.

Senior Journalist Mahmood Afridi Gunned Down in Kalat

The Baloch Hal
The president of the Kalat Press Club and senior reporter, Mahmood Afridi, was shot dead by unidentified people on Friday evening, officials confirmed. According to the details, Mahmood Afridi, the Kalat correspondent of the Hub-based Urdu daily, Intekhab, was gunned down in Kalat’s Old Bazaar. He was ambushed by the attackers near the local bus station. The attackers managed to escape while authorities said they were hunting for the killers. Mr. Afridi also worked with a private news channel, News One. He used to regularly contribute a political diary in Daily Intekhab highlighting the local political, economic and social issues. He had interviewed several top government and opposition leaders. He was ranked among some of the best district correspondents in Balochistan for the fine work he did while covering his troubled district. No group has accepted responsibility for the killing nor could it be confirmed whether or not Mr. Afridi had previously received threats from any quarters in the recent past. In Balochistan, journalists say they face threats from the government, underground pro-government death squads, Baloch nationalists, sectarian groups and local gangs. Both sides had been accused in the past for killing journalists. Mr. Afridi is the fourth media personnel from Balochistan to be killed this year. Earlier, on January 3, three media personnel, including a reporter, a press photographer and a cameraman, were killed in Quetta city in a massive blast that killed more than one hundred people. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (C.P.J.) has described Balochistan as the ‘epicenter of violence’ against journalists within Pakistan.

Groundbreaking of IP gas pipeline on March 11

The groundbreaking of Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline will be performed on March 11, Petroleum Advisor Dr Asim Hussain said. Talking to Geo news, Dr Asim said that the groundbreaking is going to be performed on March 11. The date was announced after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari held talks in Tehran with Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who urged Islamabad to press ahead with the project. Dr Asim said the ceremony would mark the start of work by an Iranian-Pakistani consortium on the 781-kilometre pipeline earmarked for the Pakistani side of the border, which is said to cost some $1.5 billion. - See more at:

Bangladesh: Death for a war criminal

EDITORIAL : Daily Times
A war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has finally closed one of the chapters in the country’s long, hard journey from the atrocities of 1971. Sentencing Delwar Hossain Sayedee, the 73-year-old vice president of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to death, the tribunal has shown just how far Bangladesh has come when bringing to justice those who really deserve it. Delwar Hossain has been found guilty of heinous war crimes such as looting, kidnapping, rape and murder. He is guilty of leading a militia — Al Badar — consisting of JI recruits, on a mass campaign of murder and rape in 1971. This man has been held accountable for two murders, 100 forced conversions of Hindus to Islam and the rape of three Hindu girls over a period of one week. Militias such as this were the non-state arms of the Pakistan army doing with wanton abandon what our national army could not. Supported and endorsed by Pakistan, the amount of suffering and misery we inflicted on our brothers and sisters in what was then East Pakistan is only now being brought to light and justice by the war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has had its own tormented history full of military intervention and struggles for democracy. Now that the country has found a stable democratic footing, it is looking to bring to book those who are suspected of war crimes most foul. Delwar Hossain’s sentencing has brought his JI loyalists out onto the streets in protests that have killed more than 50 people. This is nothing but further testament to the pain and suffering this one man inflicted. Bangladesh is, meanwhile, considering a complete ban on the JI, which is a statement in itself. The wounds of 1971 are finally beginning to heal for a country that was once a part of us. Pakistan is still far from this space of accountability as it has yet to reconcile itself to the truth. We have brushed the atrocities of 1971 under the carpet — the reign of terror and outright murder has been suppressed by our power brass so much so that our collective memory has been wiped clean of the fact that the war of 1971 ever happened. Even our school curriculums and textbooks have erased all references to East Pakistan, leaving our coming generations clueless as to what actually happened. While Bangladesh is taking hard but determined decisions to open old wounds, Pakistan is still ignoring its role in these war crimes. It would do us a world of good to open our eyes to the truth the whole world has seen for too long now.

Pakistan signed agreement with Iran for import of gas despite foreign pressure

Radio Pakistan
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that Pakistan signed agreement with Iran for import of gas despite foreign pressure as the project is in the interest of the country. He was addressing a public gathering at Lala Musa this evening (Friday) where he also inaugurated supply of gas to Islampura. The Minister said the power crisis emerges as past governments did not add electricity to the national grid but the present Government has initiated a number of projects that would change the situation. The Minister said the Government did everything for which it was given mandate by people of Pakistan. Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the whole politics of PML (N) evolves around the Punjab and they have done nothing for the welfare of the people of Southern Punjab. He said that PML (N) has a shameful record as it had made alliance with dictators‚ terrorists and separatists. He said PML (N) leaders have been sponsoring and supporting the terrorists and extremists who are massacring the innocent people.