Friday, June 7, 2013

Xi, Obama meet for 1st summit

CHINESE President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, met today in picturesque estate in Rancho Mirage, California, to exchange views on major issues of common concern. Obama received Xi upon his arrival, and the two heads of state greeted each other. Following the meeting, Xi and Obama are expected to have a working dinner to continue talks on relevant issues. They will meet again on Saturday morning. The summit is the first face-to-face meeting between the presidents of China and the United States since the two countries completed their latest leadership transitions.

TURKEY: Flouting Erdogan, thousands of Turks prepare for weekend protests
Thousands of Turks dug in on Saturday for a weekend of anti-government demonstrations despite Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's demand for an immediate end to the worst political unrest of his decade in power. In central Istanbul's Taksim Square, where riot police backed by helicopters and armored vehicles clashed with protesters a week ago, activists spent the night in a makeshift protest camp, sleeping in tents and vandalized buses, or wrapped in blankets under plane trees. What began as a campaign against the redevelopment of Gezi Park in a corner of Taksim Square spiraled into an unprecedented display of public anger over the perceived authoritarianism of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party. Police firing tear gas and water cannon have clashed with groups of protesters night after night in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities across the country for much of the past week, leaving three dead and some 4,000 injured.Erdogan demanded on Friday an immediate end to the protests, saying they had been founded on a "campaign of lies." He has branded the demonstrators as looters and has said the protests are being manipulated by "terrorist" groups. Erdogan gave no indication of any immediate plans to remove the tent villages that have appeared in Taksim and a park in the capital, Ankara. But the gatherings mark a challenge to a leader whose authority is built on three successive election victories. "Let them attack, they can't stop us," shouted a member of the Turkish Communist Party, shouting through loudspeakers to a cheering crowd from on top of a white van in Taksim Square.
"The AK Party will go. This will be the end."
The protesters have built barricades of paving stones and corrugated iron on access roads to Taksim to try to protect themselves against a potential police assault. But their actions have brought gridlock to part of central Istanbul and it is unclear how long the authorities will tolerate their presence. The square is lined by luxury hotels that should be doing a roaring trade as the summer season starts in one of the world's most-visited cities. But a forced eviction could trigger a repeat of the clashes seen earlier in the week. Anger boils over Erdogan takes the protests as a personal affront. He has enacted many democratic reforms, taming a military that toppled four governments in four decades, starting entry talks with the European Union, reining in rights abuses by police and forging peace talks with Kurdish rebels to end a three-decade-old war that has cost 40,000 lives. Per-capita income has tripled in nominal terms and business has boomed under his rule. But in recent years, critics say his style, always forceful and emotional, has become authoritarian. Media have come under pressure, and the arrests of military and other figures over alleged coup plots as well as moves such as restrictions on alcohol sales have unsettled especially secular middle-class Turks who are sensitive to any encroachment of religion on their daily lives. The fierce crackdown, condemned by foreign powers, on what started as peaceful protests in Gezi Park were the final straw, has caused simmering frustrations with Erdogan's leadership to boil over. "These protests are partly a result of his success in economic and social transformation. There's a new generation who doesn't want to be bullied by the prime minister and who is afraid their lifestyle is in danger," said Joost Lagendijk, a former European parliamentarian and Istanbul-based academic. Sources close to the AK Party that Erdogan founded in 2001, and which only a year later crushed traditional secular parties in elections, suggest a sense of siege within the leadership, with influential if disparate forces keen to remove Erdogan. Citing a party source, the Radikal newspaper said an AK Party executive meeting on Saturday may discuss the possibility of calling early elections, although it could also change party rules to enable Erdogan to seek a fourth term as prime minister rather than running for the presidency. Erdogan has made clear he has no intention of stepping aside – pointing to the AK Party's 50 percent of the vote in the last election – and he has no clear rivals inside the party or outside, with the opposition fragmented on the streets and in parliament.

U.S.CHINA: Forging the new 'big power' relationship

US President Obama and Chinese President Xi are to meet in California to talk about the future of US-China relations. But the two-day summit may be clouded by growing concerns about cyberattacks, human rights and piracy. There will be none of the pomp associated with US-Chinese summits when US President Barack Obama meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands Estate in Southern California this week. In an unprecedented move, both parties agreed to ditch the ties and break from diplomatic protocol. In the private retreat the leaders of the top two economic and trading nations will be holding a shirt-sleeves summit. The global balance of power has been shifting over the past few years. While the US ranks amongst the world's most indebted countries, China has become one of its biggest lenders. By the next decade China is expected to overtake the US as the largest economy on earth. At the Sunnylands residence Obama will be meeting with an assertive Chinese leader seeking a bigger place at the global table. The real essence of the talks scheduled for this Friday and Saturday (June 7-8, 2013) was summed up a year ago by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The United States and China are trying to do something that is historically unprecedented, to write a new answer to the age-old question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet." 'Strategic distrust' Historically speaking, the answer to this question has been in most cases conflict and war. In the current case, ties between the Washington and Beijing have been characterized by mutual suspicion, especially regarding each other's long-term objectives. This has prompted political scientists to describe the relationship as one of "strategic distrust." On the one hand, Beijing has been insinuating that the US government is intent on stemming or even sabotaging China's rise, thus ensuring its own political and economic hegemony. President Obama's "rebalancing" of US foreign policy towards Asia - including a shift of diplomatic and military resources - has given the Chinese even more reason to become suspicious. On the other hand, the Washington is increasingly wary of the possibility of China dominating Asia - at the expense of American influence and interests. Strategists believe US-China ties will take on the form of a zero-sum game rather than a win-win situation. Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia Studies at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations is cautiously optimistic that the two nations will be able to overcome their mutual distrust.Economy told DW that in order to re-establish trust the two parties must find a common ground. The China expert added, however, that this might be a long-term process requiring common values and policy approaches. But Economy also emphasized that the US is not the only country having trust issues with the Chinese. She said other nations are also having disputes with Beijing over intellectual property theft, cyber intrusions and territorial limits. Growing political influence For many years the Chinese chose not to play a major part in international affairs. The dictum followed by the late reformist leader Deng Xiaoping stated that China should "hide its light under a bushel and wait for the appropriate moment." After decades of economic growth it is likely that China's newly appointed leadership considers now to be the right time. The German political scientist Eberhard Sandschneider considers it to be natural for states to translate their strong economic performance into political influence and military might. Spending some 'quality time' He told DW that states with powerful economies gradually become active in the international arena and start developing global interests. "We will have to get used to the idea that China will play an increasingly active role in world affairs," he said. The expert believes that it is prudent for the US and China to get to know each other's objectives better in order to avoid misunderstandings or even conflict. The meeting in California is therefore a "great opportunity" for Obama and Xi to spend some "quality time" together and build mutual trust, Sandschneider added. However, these will not be the first face-to-face talks held between the two leaders. Xi travelled to the US in 2012 as vice president and leader-in-waiting.

Turkish PM’s remarks create rows with EU, US

The U.S. Embassy in Turkey refuted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks on “Occupy Wall Street” death toll on June 7, as a top EU commissioner also voiced dissatisfaction on Ankara’s response to the Gezi Park protests. The embassy released a statement on its official Twitter account that “Reports related to the U.S. Occupy Wall Street movement are inaccurate. No U.S. deaths resulted from police actions in #OWS.” The tweet came only an hour after Erdoğan said 17 activists were killed in the 2011 protests during a speech where he hit at criticism toward the use of police force during their interventions in the Gezi Park protests. “Those who try to lecture us, what did they do about the Wall Street incidents? Tear gas, the death of 17 people happened there. What was the reaction?” Erdoğan said, referring to the criticism of the use of police force against the protesters. The initial sit-in protests against Erdoğan’s plan to build Artillery Barracks and a shopping mall on the Gezi Park has sparked anti-government rallies. Erdoğan was defiant in his speech on June 7, eliciting dissatisfaction from EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle. “Disappointed by the lost opportunity at the #Istanbul conference to reach out to those calling for respect & inclusive dialogue,” Füle wrote on his Twitter account. Earlier in the day, Füle urged Turkey to investigate whether police used excessive force in a crackdown on days of anti-government demonstrations and hold those responsible to account. “Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for ... groups to express their views in a democratic society.”

Why did PPP lose elections 2013?

''Let Us Build Pakistan'' LUBP is currently conducting a series of interviews with Pakistan Peoples Party’s long-time supporters (Jiyalas) and independent political analysts to have their views on the party’s electoral debacle in 2013. The aim of this series is to provide constructive criticism and sincere reflections to the party’s leadership in order to improve the party’s performance as well as perceptions in the future.
Interview with Humza Ikram
Brief introduction: Humza Ikram is a UAE based professional with academic qualifications from Lahore and London. Born into a Jiyala family in Lahore, Humza has served as an editor of the LUBP blog and is a founding member of the PPP Scholars Wing. He has actively supported the PPP through political circles in Lahore and UAE.
LUBP: What is your association with the PPP? Brief history or/and views please?
Humza Ikram: I am a PPP child, i.e., I was born into a pro-PPP family in Lahore.
LUBP: How do you compare PPP with other leading political parties of Pakistan?
Humza Ikram: PPP is very different from the rest of the political parties. PPP has always stood for oppressed and marginalized groups, labour unions, bar councils, fighting back against onslaught of pro-establishment benches and boots. Recently when landless and tenant Punjabi farmers were fighting for their rights, PPP was only party which fought for them.
LUBP: The Shias, Christians and Hindus amongst other numerical minority groups were considered most loyal PPP voting bank. It’s now established that PPP has lost trust and support of these communities due to its apathy, inaction and insensitivity on Shia genocide, and persecution/murder of Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis etc by Jihadist-sectarian groups. To what extent are party’s media and policy advisors responsible for this callous mismanagement?
Humza Ikram: PPP knew Shia community was hurt because of its failure to end systematic target-killing of Shias across Pakistan. The party failed to understand the gravity of their plight. Instead of reaching out to the community which is living in constant fear, the party considered it sufficient to have Shia clergy’s support during elections. Result shows it didn’t work and will not work in future too. Majority of Shia Muslims happen to be liberal, secular leaning and Shia clergy has little influence over their voting preferences.
Similarly, in case of ­Hindus and Christian communities, instead of empowering the lower middle class by giving election ticket to its own Christian workers the party gave election ticket to an exclusive list prepared by APMA (All Pakistan Minority Alliance). In contrast, PML-N empowered the Christian lower middle class and also made Kamran Micheal first Christian senator, who comes from a modest background. Similarly, in case of Sindhi Hindus, the party did not empower the Dalit Hindu workers.
LUBP: Both its supporters and critics are unanimous that the PPP leadership has become disconnected from the masses. Kindly elaborate on this and identify the specific reasons for this distancing.
Humza Ikram: I don’t agree in entirety. Pakistan today is facing multiple fault lines. Unlike other parties, PPP never got the time to reach out to the people and had to face most of these problems alone. Even its coalition partners didn’t have so much responsibilities on their shoulder. The party had to face a hostile apex court which was not only after its leadership but was also striking down unanimous constitutional amendments passed by the parliament. The PPP was left alone by all political parties in crucial times, for instance, the memogate and Kerry Lugar Bill to fight it out with the army. Ironically, all provincial governments including the Islamist Punjab government of PML-N were beneficiaries of the Kerry Lugar Bill and received funds from the USAID afterwards. Later on, when time came for election campaign, TTP (Taliban and their sectarian affiliates) made sure the PPP was deprived of a level playground to campaign for elections. Thus it was made sure that the party remains disconnected from the masses. Apart from these constraints, another reason is that the PPP is still a party of 1980s. When you see people who were made Senator on PPP ticket and check their background, it is hard to imagine they have really made it to Upper House of the Parliament. Almas Parveen from Lyari Karachi to Surayya Amiruddin from Quetta. Faisal Abidi , Saeed Ghani , Farhatullah Babar, Nayyar Bukhari , Farhat Abbas all of these people come from modest middleclass background. Unfortunately Aslam Gill from Lahore didn’t make it to Upper House due to worst manipulation. But somehow all these people dont’ fits in the ‘Naya Pakistan’ and sending them to parliament somehow did not give an impression that party has empowered common man. The party should now realize and accept that not targeting millions of new voters was a big mistake. It’s not just an electoral loss the party is currently facing an existential crisis in Punjab and entire Pakistan.
One of the major causes of PPP’s recent electoral debacle was its perceived inability to manage the energy crisis. Why was the PPP unable to communicate its tangible achievements in this regard?
Humza Ikram:
In my personal view, energy crises is not the sole reason of the electoral debacle. In my personal view, recent outcome is much more than an electoral loss. The party may face extinction. In 1990s, the party lost ground to the rise of Muslim League and Nawaz Sharif in particular but even then we used to get 35- 50,000K votes in many of central Punjab constituencies, and today we got less than 2,000 votes in most of Lahore constituencies. In effect the party has been relegated to number three or even lower position by PML-N and PTI in the Punjab and many other areas.
To what extent has the policy PPP policy of appeasement damaged the party? Humza Ikram: The policy of appeasement has damaged the party severely and created a lot of confusion in its own ranks. The Party tried to appease almost everyone out there, from mullah to military – and it didn’t stop there they had to bow down to MQM pressure and accept a draft of local bodies for which they had to face of a lot of criticism and rightly so from not only Sindhi nationalist but also Sindhi intelligentsia, writers and civil society . Moreover, indecisiveness has inflicted more damage. For example, it took central leadership more than four years to remove Aslam Raisini, CM Baluchistan. Now one can see good number of ministers of Raisani cabinet (Asim Kurd , Sanaullah Zehri etc) who won their respective seats and probably will be a part of the cabinet of N-league led coalition government of Baluchistan. But we (PPP) do not have a single member in Baluchistan assembly to represent the party.

Pakistan: Targeted attacks: Militants destroy school, torch house in Mattani

The Express Tribune
Militants blew up a government high school for boys in Mattani on Wednesday. Locals said dozens of heavily armed militants came to the area and held the watchman hostage while planting four bombs around the school building. The explosions occurred successively, destroying all 17 rooms of the school. Police said around 60 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack. The school is located on the border of Frontier Region Peshawar and Mattani. House destroyed Unidentified militants torched two houses in Jaba. Police said militants attacked Nawaz and his nephew Farman’s house with RPG-7 rockets after surrounding the area. Following a confrontation for about an hour, the house owners realised they were outnumbered and fled, following which the militants set it on fire. In the arson, another house was also damaged. The police said they had heard rumours about militants taking several residents hostage, but discovered the next morning that all those living there had escaped and were safe. This is the second such attack by militants on homes of rivals in the past one month. Previously, four houses in Sheikh Nala were targeted, in which a woman was killed and three others injured.