Wednesday, July 3, 2013

President Morsi overthrown in Egypt

The Egyptian army has overthrown President Mohamed Morsi, announcing a roadmap for the country’s political future that will be implemented by a national reconciliation committee.
The head of Egypt's armed forces issued a declaration on Wednesday evening suspending the constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of state. Morsi's presidential Facebook page quoted the disposed president as saying he rejected the army statement as a military coup. In a televised broadcast, flanked by military leaders, religious authorities and political figures, General AbdelFattah al-Sisi effectively declared the removal of Morsi. Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups. Speaking shortly after al-Sisi's announcement, liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak was relaunched and that the roadmap meets the demand of the protesters for early presidential elections. Egypt's leading Muslim and Christian clerics also backed the army-sponsored roadmap. Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Cairo's ancient seat of Muslim learning, and Pope Tawadros, the head of the Coptic Church, both made brief statements following the announcement by the head of the armed forces. Tawadros said the plan offered a political vision and would ensure security for all Egyptians, about 10 percent of whom are Christian.


President Mohamed Morsi has been stripped of his power by the Egyptian army and the constiution has been suspended, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in a statement. The country's chief justice of the court will be the interim president of the country.
Morsi has moved to an "undisclosed location," a presidential aide told AP. He has said he does not recognize the "military coup," and called on Egyptians to stand against it. The country's constitution has also been suspended. "The address of the president yesterday did not meet the demands of the masses of the people. As a result it was a necessity for the armed forces to consult with certain political and social figures without sidelining any party where the meeting parties agreed upon a future roadmap plan which included initial measures whereby a coherent Egyptian society is achieved without marginalizing any individual political party and putting an end to the state of division," Sisi said. He added that the demands of the people have now been heeded.
"The military's road map consists of dissolving the constitution and holding early presidential elections," Sisi continued. He called for a panel would review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee which would include youth movements. He said the road map had been approved by a range of political groups. Egypt's Pope Tawadros, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, says the road map ensures security for all Egyptians and offers political vision, local media reported."The armed forces had declared that it will keep away from political action and it will maintain this stance," Sisi said. Fireworks have been set off over Cairo's Tahrir Square and across the city in celebration. "The people and the army are one hand," protesters cheered in the square, amid the roar of horns and chanting, a witness told Reuters.

Egyptian Activists Risking Lives to Stop Sexual Assault in Tahrir Square

U.S: More Unfairness Toward Immigrants

One year ago, the Obama administration declared that it was halting the deportations of some unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and would allow them to seek work-authorization papers and Social Security numbers. This raised a question for the states: Would these young people, known as “Dreamers,” also be allowed to drive? Nearly every state has since reached the right conclusion, that Dreamers who now live here legally should be able to drive legally, too, as a straightforward matter of public safety and common sense. Some states have gone further to grant licenses to all qualified applicants regardless of immigration status. New Mexico and Washington already had such laws and were joined this year by Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada and Colorado. California is considering doing the same. Utah issues a certificate to the undocumented that is valid for driving but not for identification. But Arizona and Nebraska persist in trying to keep immigrants out of the driver’s seat, singling out Dreamers as ineligible for licenses. In Arizona, notorious for its anti-immigrant laws, such spitefulness is all-but-official state policy. In Nebraska, Gov. Dave Heineman, said in a news release in August: “The State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver’s licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute.” The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund are among the groups that have sued both states, charging discrimination. In Nebraska’s case, Mr. Heineman is accused of having summarily changed the rules on driver’s license eligibility without proper notice or public hearings. Mr. Heineman has said that “policies that reward illegal behavior are not fair to those individuals that do follow the rules.” He fails to acknowledge that people who seek driver’s licenses are doing their best to follow the rules and that letting them do so is the fairest, safest thing for everyone who shares the road. A remarkable shift in attitude is taking hold in the country, as shown by the immigration bill that passed the United States Senate with broad support last week. Americans understand that integrating immigrants is far better than forcing them to live at society’s edges. It should go without saying that licensed, insured, competent drivers are better than the other kind. Plaintiffs in Arizona and Nebraska should not have to argue the point in court because of noxious immigration politics.

Security forces place travel ban on Egypt's Morsi, top Brotherhood officials

Security forces have placed a travel ban on President Morsi and a number of top Muslim Brotherhood officials. A military coup is underway in Egypt, according to President Mohamed Morsi's national security adviser. The adviser stated that he expects army and police violence to remove pro-Mursi demonstrators from the streets of Cairo. A Morsi presidential aide stated that "no military coup can succeed against popular resistance without considerable bloodshed." Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has offered a consensus government as a way out of the country's crisis, but offered no new compromises. The leader has refused to step down, and instructed the military not to "take sides." The proposed coalition government would include a Prime Minister elected by political powers, according to a presidential statement. The statement added that "the scenario that some parties are trying to impose is rejected by the people." The military ultimatum given to President Mohamed Morsi has come and gone, as hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets. Morsi previously rejected the deadline, which gave him 48 hours to meet the demands of the people before facing army intervention. Just before the afternoon deadline imposed by the military expired, Morsi again rejected army intervention. The leader said that abiding by his electoral legitimacy was the only way to prevent violence. He criticized the military for "taking only one side." "One mistake that cannot be accepted, and I say this as president of all Egyptians, is to take sides," Morsi said in a statement issued by his office. "Justice dictates that the voice of the masses from all squares should be heard." The meeting between Commander-In-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi, and political forces is still ongoing, Al Arabiya reports. The most important issue being discussed is reportedly that of sending reassuring messages to the Brotherhood's leaders. The two sides seem unwilling to budge, with protesters stating that Morsi and his Brotherhood party are pushing an Islamist agenda on Egypt. The Tamarod movement has called on Egyptians to take to the streets and squares immediately, and to listen to the army's speech.

Sexual assaults reported in Cairo

Egypt's experiment with democracy

Tense Egypt awaits army move after deadline

Egypt is bracing for a showdown between the military and President Mohamed Morsi, who has rejected an army ultimatum to end a political crisis with his opponents, vowing to stay in office. The ultimatum expires at 4:30pm (14:30 GMT) on Wednesday but the army said on its Facebook page that it had set no times for issuing statements or speeches.

President Morsy "lost his mind"
The opposition Dostour Party has urged the Armed Forces to intervene to protect Egyptians following a speech by President Mohamed Morsy on Tuesday, in which he defied mass protests demanding his removal and said he would fight to the death to defend his legitimacy. In a statement on Wednesday, the party, lead by Mohamed ElBaradei, asked that the army “protect the lives of Egyptians after Morsy lost his mind and instigated bloodshed.” The statement accused Morsy of bias towards "the faction he belongs to," referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members reportedly engaged in bloody encounters with anti-Morsy demonstrators in several provinces over the past few weeks. The Dostour Party said Morsy "spurred his supporters to fight against the sons of the same nation, claiming to protect a legitimacy that he lost through a series of illegitimate measures."

US State Department stresses importance of listening to Egyptian people

The US is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the foreign minister on Tuesday. According to the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, in a conversation with Mohamed Kamel Amr addressing the current political situation, Kerry asserted “democracy is about more than just elections…it’s also about ensuring the voices of all Egyptians are heard.” He added that the goal is “a peaceful, stable and prosperous Egypt.” The state department spokesperson stressed the US is “not taking sides in this case and that it’s not up to us… to make choices here.” Psaki also expressed concern over “incidents of violence against women, against really any citizen.” She added that the US is in “close contact with counterparts at all levels.” Psaki also responded to a question regarding aid to Egypt and if a military coup would affect the status of US aid to Egypt. She said that this issue is one that the State Department works on with the US congress. She added that this is “hypothetical at this point.” Kerry’s conversation with Amr reflected the message President Barak Obama conveyed to President Mohamed Morsi in a telephone conversation on Monday. Psaki said that the US is aware that Amr has submitted his resignation adding: “he is the appropriate counterpart.” Prime Minister Hesham Qandil is yet to decide if he will accept Amr’s resignation and those of four other ministers. UK Prime Minster David Cameron said on Wednesday morning: “the scenes in Egypt are deeply disturbing. We support proper democratic processes and government by consent.” Cameron’s comments came during weekly prime minister’s questions in the UK parliament. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement released on Tuesday that he has followed recent events in Egypt “with deep concern” and that “these are decisive days for a political shift.” He called on political groups and forces to engage in dialogue and to “to find solutions based on the principles of democracy.” He also warned both sides of the crisis “not to use the threat of violence as a means of political debate.”

President Zardari:Terrorism not problem of FATA only

President Asif Ali Zardari has said that FATA reforms process is aimed at empowering people of the region and it should continue for the sake of better future of tribal people.
He was addressing FATA Convention‚ organized in Islamabad on Wednesday by Shaheed Bhutto Foundation. The President said a suggestion was made to launch the reform process after restoration of peace in FATA but it was decided to implement the reform package simultaneously. He said that FATA reforms process is aimed at empowering people of the region and it should continue for the sake of better future of tribal people. The president said a suggestion was made to launch the reform process after restoration of peace in FATA but it was decided to implement the reform package simultaneously. He terrorism was the problem of the whole country and not just of FATA, he said; adding various local and international elements were involved in FATA unrest.

Pakistan: PTI in defense of Taliban

by A Z
While our national ranks may be swollen with the abundance of apologists for terrorism, nobody does it with such purpose and consistency as the PTI. Here is another lawmaker from the party waxing eloquent how the terrorists have no other choice but to kill innocent and unsuspecting people and how the drone attacks preceded the advent of terrorism in this region. The PTI is a fearless critic of the opponents of Taliban and is ‘incorruptibly’ committed to its ideology. No doubt its case for Taliban is attractively produced and articulately argued in defending terrorists’ proto-existentialist ethic of responsibility that is at odds with morally-detached way of thinking of the victims and those who mourn for them. Now that national liberation movements of the twentieth century are mostly defunct, and the type of terrorism that now exercises our attention seems to have little to do with freedom, PTI does a great job in reminding us that the terror that stalks Pakistan has nothing to do with an ideology, nihilism or misanthropy; instead the use of unbridled terror is an optional tactic rightly adopted in accordance with the tribal areas’ admirable moral inclinations. PTI feels that the terror that has erupted in the process is really a kind of displacement, not a case of ‘going too far’, but precisely a failure to ‘go all the way’ and change society fundamentally. This is what PTI will do when in power. I am confident, it is this revolutionary sensibility –one so at odds with the conformism of today’s Pakistan, whether conservative or liberal– that will enable PTI to cast off old habits and create a ‘New Pakistan’. For the moment it has already started with the KP.

Wrong approach: Pak-Afghan acrimony

IT’S become a near-daily feature of Pak-Afghan relations: one or the other side is blasting away at the other for all manner of sins, perceived and real. Now, it is the alleged faux pas by Sartaj Aziz, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s senior-most adviser on national security and foreign policy, that has riled the Afghans. Mr Aziz, according to Afghan officials, has suggested that Kabul accept some kind of power-sharing agreement with the Afghan Taliban, wherein, again according to Afghan officials, parts of the country may eventually be ceded to Taliban control. Predictably, Pakistan has denied any such suggestion was made but has not exactly gone out of its way to placate the irate Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai. The tremendous difficulties associated with crafting a relatively stable and non-threatening Afghanistan post-2014 are well known. In truth, there are few good options when it comes to stabilising a country with virtually no history of stability or a central government and where the commitment of the international community to engineering long-term stability is certainly suspect. But within that framework of uncertainty, there are at least two things that Pakistan needs to correct when it comes to this country’s approach towards its long-troubled neighbour to the west. First, the Karzai-bashing has to stop — both because it is unseemly and because it is counterproductive. The army’s antipathy towards Mr Karzai appears to have trumped better sense in the army leadership, and the Foreign Office. Trying to so contemptuously sideline the Afghan president in the reconciliation process that Pakistan otherwise maintains should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned is a bad idea. At the very least, Mr Karzai will be in office until April next year, and after the presidential election a Karzai could still be in office, or possibly a Karzai ally. Erratic, aggressive or plain contradictory as Mr Karzai may have become, the reality of the Afghan presidency as an important player — whether positive or as a spoiler — cannot be wished away. Pakistani policy as well as its posturing should reflect that reality. Second, Pakistani policy towards Afghanistan and the articulation of that policy needs to reflect a humility that assuages old fears of this country’s true intentions. Using its undeniable, and un-denied, clout to nudge the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table is one thing; rooting for an eventual takeover of Afghanistan, or just parts of that country, by the Taliban is quite another. Some clarity on that front would go a long way towards clearing the air.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa students bear brunt of militant attacks on schools
The Taliban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have created an environment of fear, under which students are the most affected, observers say.
More than 700 schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have been destroyed or damaged by militants during the past four years, putting thousands of children behind in their studies, according to KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department figures. An estimated 600,000 children are at least one year behind because of militancy in KP, "The State of Pakistan's Children-2011" reported, and hundreds more in Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar were deprived of getting an education when militants bombed the Government High School (GHS) for Boys in Matani June 6. "There is nothing left except debris," Alamzeb Khan, an official at the Matani police station, told Central Asia Online. "The explosions destroyed the school building completely." But Pakistani officials have been trying to respond quickly after such attacks. About 555 of the 750 schools that were damaged in Taliban attacks since 2010 have been rebuilt, according to the KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department. About 200 schools are under renovation or reconstruction now. Atmosphere of fear Still, the continued attacks in Matani are taking a toll on the psyche of the residents. "An atmosphere of total fear prevails in the area as many would not even tell us the name of the school's headmaster when we went there to investigate," Matani Chief Investigation Officer Riaz Khan said. "People in Matani villages don't even step out of their homes at night," he said. "Who would want to be slaughtered [by the Taliban]?" "A deepening sense of fear and torment prevails with students," Muhammad Iqbal, a teacher, said. "They ... live in a constant depressing situation." Bombings are a routine affair in Matani, and as a result, educational activities have been badly affected, he said.
Children are victimised
The militants have shown little regard for civilians and children as they continue their so-called war on education by attacking schools. Educational institutions have accounted for 13 per cent of recorded attacks throughout the war on terror, the Institute for Economics and Peace reported last December in its Global Terrorism Index. "There is not a single school in the Matani area that has not been attacked," Riaz said, noting that, if a room or two remained after a bombing, militants sometimes bomb it again. The GHS for boys in Mashu Khel, Matani, is an example. Terrorists bombed it in January and again one month later. "In the first attack, two rooms were destroyed, and the remaining four rooms that survived the first attack were destroyed in the second bombing," Riaz said. Militants want to traumatise children and weaken the writ of the government, former National Assembly member Bushra Gohar said. "They are creating confusion in society," the Awami National Party (ANP) leader said. "[They are] trying to push back our children to the Stone Age." How can students study and prepare to become successful professionals in such a situation? she asked. Pakistanis find ways to keep schools open Still, Pakistanis try to cope with the situation as best they can. Militants bombed the "first-class" Sherkira GHS in Matani – with 17 rooms, a science laboratory, a library and a playing field in March 2011, one of the school's teachers, Nasrullah, told Central Asia Online. Though the authorities restarted the classes immediately in a rented building, it has only eight classrooms and no laboratory or library. The makeshift quarters also lack sufficient desks and chairs. "But we bought floor mats so students could sit to take lessons," Nasrullah said.
Children are victimised
The continued attacks on schools have also caused problems for the government's development planners and construction companies. "We reconstruct a school one day, and a few days later they destroy another school somewhere else in the province," Waseemuddin, an official development planner, said. Such repetitive terrorism is creating a logistical nightmare and is imposing unexpected costs for the government, he said, but the country is determined to continue providing an education for the children.

U.S. drone strike on Haqqani compound in Pakistan said to have killed 16

A U.S. drone strike targeting a militant compound in Pakistan's volatile tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan has killed 16 people, Pakistani security officials said Wednesday. The officials said the attack early Wednesday struck a compound of the Haqqani Network, a group that carries out attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan and travels back and forth across the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strike killed 16 militants and wounded five others in the Dande Darpakhel area near Miranshah in North Waziristan, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Officials had earlier given a higher death toll of 17. It wasn't immediately clear if any high-profile insurgent figures had been killed in the attack. The militants in the compound were from both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the officials said. The U.S. government has said strikes by the unmanned aircraft are a necessary part of the fight against militant groups. But the attacks have drawn heated opposition in Pakistan because of civilian casualties. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took office last month, has called for the United States to halt drone strikes. In May, U.S. President Barack Obama defended the use of the drone program, but he stopped short of directly commenting on the strikes in Pakistan. In another outbreak of violence in the tribal areas early Wednesday, officials said more than 50 militants attacked a checkpoint of the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force. The attack to place about 40 kilometers southeast of the main city in the region, Peshawar, at a post where 15 members of the constabulary were stationed, said the force's chief, Commandant Majeed Marwat. Six constabulary members were killed during the hour-long firefight that ensued, and seven others were wounded, Marwat said. The constabulary was unable to provide any information on militant casualties from the clash.

Pakistan: For long this bloodshed

Who could be happier than Zarmash as he left for Saudi Arabia last month saying goodbye to an enduring spell of no-work-no-food in the suburbs of Peshawar - for him a life-time dream had come true. But it was too early and his three teenaged sons - Sadarat (18), Riasat (16) and Tariq (13) - had to be on the road as usual to make a living by selling snuff and boiled cobs. On Sunday, they were also there on the Zar Saz road, in the Badabher area, when terrorists struck a Frontier Corps convoy. The convoy escaped but Zarmash's three sons didn't, along with a score others, all innocent including women and children. As fate would have it, Zarmash's happiness didn't last a month - like many others' in Pakistan who too lost their near and dear ones as the terrorists ran riot this past Sunday throughout this 'land of the pure'. If the intended target was the security convoy in Peshawar, in Quetta a suicide-bomber exploded himself at the gate of an Imambargah, in North Waziristan four soldiers were killed in an IED attack and in Naseerabad three labourers were murdered by the roadside. The day's casualty tally ran into more than 50 killed and 100 injured. Since by now the killers have given up their guise so who-killed-whom is no more a mystery. It is not guerrilla warfare, in Pakistan but an open war on the state and people of Pakistan by a multi-faceted enemy who is daring the government 'catch me if you can'. Of course the terrorist bands do join hands for co-ordinated attacks, but generally they conduct ambush on individual basis. If you know the identity of the victim of a terrorist attack the probable identity of the culprit outfit is no big problem. Shia persons and places fall victim to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi; security men and convoys are attacked by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP); small-scale sabotage and ethnic killings is the specialty of the Baloch Liberation Army and targeted killings on the streets of Karachi is generally the work of sectarian hired guns and cracker-throwing is the sport of the extortionists. We would like to thank British Prime Minister David Cameron for his offer of "technical support for the new counter-terrorism policy" the PML-N government is trying to formulate, particularly for the equipment to tackle IEDs. But more than that the government needs to evolve a comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy, not only by way of securing better technology but also by thinking through a political approach. No doubt, the latest spike in terrorist attacks tends to put supporters of the peace talks option on defensive. What is it that the government can possibly concede to the Taliban in return for their demand for obtaining a non-democratic theocratic state, ask the people. But juxtapose this demand with the reality the Taliban are quite familiar with that even much more heightened violence would bring no city under their control to establish their 'caliphate'. If the formula that the peace talks with Taliban can be held only within the framework of the constitution and that they should lay down arms before coming to the negotiating table did not work, then this is proof positive that the enemy is not ready to talk yet. If the adversary is ready to give up on his political dogma and disarm then he is already peaceful, obviating the need for peace talks. History tells us that peace talks are held to end a raging conflict. The insurgency in Balochistan merits similar approach, that's fight, talk. But there can be no talks with the murderers of Shia community or the target killers of Karachi. They are outright criminals and must be dealt with accordingly. Given the stepped up pace of terrorist attacks and the official reaction being only issuance of condemnatory statements the man in the street tends to be pessimistic. He is not sure if this genie can be put back in the bottle. It is therefore imperative that the concerned authorities should stand up to the challenge and evolve a workable strategy. And for this to happen time is of the essence.

Pakistan: Domestic, international borrowings: PML-N govt deviating from election manifesto, warn economists

Economists see the newly-elected Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government as following the borrowing-centric policies of the previous PPP-led government with it to also have embarked on a national and international campaign to add billions of dollars to the heavily-indebted country’s existing debt burden. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is reportedly beating the victory drums for, almost, persuading the international lenders, prominently the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for extending the dollar-hungry Pakistan a bailout package of at least $11 billion in the next couple of months. On the other hand, the central bank, by issuing its quarterly auction calendar on Monday, raised eyebrows in the quarters concerned about the intentions of the heavily-mandated new government that, seemingly, is set to follow the footsteps of its predecessors who ran the country’s affairs for five years through borrowing trillions from the domestic lenders, specially the banks. During the first quarter of FY14, July-September, the State Bank would be raising Rs 1.75 trillion for the cash-strapped federal government through auctioning T-bills worth Rs 1.6 trillion and Pakistan Investment Bonds (PIBs) of Rs 175 billion to the primary dealers, mostly the scheduled banks. This mammoth amount would certainly be borrowed from the risk-averse banks at the expense of an already expanded monetary growth that, official data show, accumulated to 12.66 percent or Rs 967.18 billion by June 21. The analysts believe that this naturally has an inflationary impact as the period under review saw over Rs 312 billion of currency in circulation compared to Rs 218 billion of last year’s corresponding period. “This government’s policies are the continuation of old policies and the PML-N is totally deviating from its election manifesto,” Dr Shahid Hasan Siddiqui told Pakistan Today. The economist said the government’s total emphasis was on taxing the common man and taking domestic as well as foreign loans. “There is no emphasis on enhancing the national savings,” Dr Siddiqui said. “There also is no emphasis on increasing the tax-to-GDP-ratio by taxing incomes, especially in sectors like agriculture, stock exchange and property,” Pakistan, the country of around 200 million people, is among the countries where tax-to-GDP-ratio stands the lowest at 9 percent. The federal finance has vowed, in his budget speech, to gradually boost this number up to 15 percent. Afsar Bin Shahid, another senior analyst, opines that even the most-desired financial bailout packages from bilateral and multilateral agencies such as the IMF, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom, would not work for Pakistan which is faced with the uphill task of improving the ever-deteriorating law and order situation domestically. “Given the prevailing global recessionary climate raising (the reported) $11 billion will not be an easy job for Pakistan,” said the analyst. He said the targeted lenders, sans exception, would love to see first Pakistan demonstrate how it would generate the repayment capacity. He was critical of the new government for not giving even a mention to the recovery of billions of rupees embezzled by the corrupt politicians and bureaucracy in past. “Only the masses are being burdened with taxes,” said Shahid. For Islamabad to bring the troubled economy back on track, the analyst proposed, the improvement of law and order was a must. “The poor security situation and the resultant closure of businesses might adversely impact the lenders’ consideration of Pakistan as a reliable borrower,” said Shahid, a seasoned banker. While Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali in the last Sindh Assembly session had put it at Rs 15 billion, a financial analyst said frequenting strikes in Karachi, the country’s undisputed financial hub, cost the already ailing economy at least Rs 7 billion a day. “The economy will incur a huge annual loss up to Rs 400 billion if these politically-motivated strikes kept the current pace,” the analyst warned and questioned that given such an anti-business situation how the government would be able to generate resources to repay the borrowed billions of dollars. Improving the law and order, he suggested, was a must for restoring the investors’ confidence that, the analyst believed, was the most sustainable remedy to the resource-constrained Pakistan’s financial woes. - See more at:

Afghan-Pakistan mistrust

The latest row that has broken out between Kabul and Islamabad is a familiar script with added recent ‘scenes’. At a Friday meeting between Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Afghan Ambassador Umer Daudzai, the former suggested a power sharing arrangement with the Taliban to usher in peace in Afghanistan, involving a form of federation and ceding power in some Afghan provinces to the Taliban. Reacting bitterly to the suggestion itself and adding Afghan perceptions and suspicions to the proposal, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Ershad Ahmadi said, “We believe this federalism is a means for the Pakistanis to achieve what they could not achieve through their proxy (the Taliban) on the battlefield.” Ahmadi further said the ceremonial opening of a Taliban office in Doha, which raised angry protests in Kabul that the office had the appearance of a government-in-exile, was part of a Pakistani plan to increase the Taliban’s international prestige. He categorized the emerging situation as one in which elements within the Pakistan government had a grand design of using the peace process as a means to undermine the Afghan state and set up little fiefdoms around the country in which their most important strategic asset, the Taliban, would play an influential role. Ahmadi said despite hopes the new Nawaz government may curb meddling in Afghan affairs, Kabul now felt the civilian administration was aiding the double game played by the military and the ISI. However, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry denied any suggestion of ceding territory had been made during the meeting between Sartaj Aziz and Ahmadi. Afghan President Hamid Karzai weighed in with concern about Pakistan’s motives in the peace process during a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Kabul on Saturday. He asserted that “delivering a province or two to the Taliban” would be perceived as an invasion by the Afghan people. Relations between the two neighbouring countries, never easy, seem to have plummeted to new lows after the Taliban office in Doha sported a sign saying ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ and flew the Taliban flag, neither of which Kabul says were approved as part of the peace process and were subsequently removed by the Qatari authorities. Now this expression of outrage and suspicion about Islamabad’s motives vis-à-vis Sartaj Aziz’s power sharing proposal is the icing on the cake. Afghanistan-Pakistan relations watchers will hardly be surprised. Pakistani intervention and interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, stretching over the last four decades, is seen by most Afghans as the root cause of the travails the Afghan people have passed through during this period. Starting with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government supporting the embryonic Afghan mujahideen after Sardar Daud overthrew the Afghan monarchy and declared a republic in 1973, through the resistance to the communist regime that took power in 1978, the subsequent Soviet invasion and occupation that triggered a western-led international effort to defeat the Soviet encroachment and gave birth to jihadi movements from all corners of the Muslim world and beyond, to the ‘solution’ to the internecine mujahideen civil war that followed the retreat of the Soviets in 1989 and the fall of Najib’s communist government in 1992 by overcoming them with the Taliban launched from Pakistani soil, to giving safe havens and permission to the Taliban to relaunch a guerrilla struggle from Pakistani soil after their government fell to the US invasion in 2001 after 9/11, the track record suggests the Afghans have weight in their suspicions about Islamabad. The original riposte by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the Daud coup may have been to counter any actual or future support by Pashtun nationalist Daud to the insurgency in Pakistan’s provinces Balochistan and NWFP (as it was then known), but it subsequently took on a life of its own and produced justifications in Islamabad’s power corridors ranging from a possible final solution of the Durand Line conundrum to strategic depth to preventing a ‘pincer’ encirclement by Indian influence in Kabul. The first two ideas may have exhausted their shelf life, but the third still seems to be alive and kicking. In the nineteenth century, the Czarist Russian and new conqueror of India the British Empire finally learnt the lesson that their rivalry for influence in Kabul was costing them dearly and mutually agreed to make Afghanistan a ‘buffer’ state. Peace of sorts did set in until the British finally left in 1947. Since then, Afghan irredentist claims vis-à-vis the Durand Line and claiming the Pashtun areas east of that Line in Pakistan set the tone and tenor of relations between the two neighbours. The Pakistani interventions in Afghanistan over the last four decades have only served to generate hatred towards Pakistan by a majority of Afghans, despite the role played by Pakistan in hosting millions of Afghan refugees over many years. Islamabad’s interests may have been, and could still be, better served by befriending the Afghan people rather than trying to conquer or control them through jihadi proxies. The chances of such a change in the foreseeable future are slim, to say the least, and that promises more trouble post-US/NATO withdrawal in 2014, with the spillover inevitably making things in Pakistan even worse. Our policy makers should read the writing on the wall.

Pakistan wants to talk to its Taliban, but doesn't know what to say

Despite the Pakistani Taliban’s recent deadly attack on 10 foreign climbers, many Pakistanis still want to hold talks with the group to end a decade long conflict that has killed more than 50,000 people, mostly civilians.Pakistan has a broad consensus in favor of talking to the Taliban. A May 2013 Pew survey found only 35 percent support using the military against the Taliban, and 64 percent saw the US as more of an enemy than a partner. Anecdotal evidence since the attack indicates that’s still the view. “Both sides are interested in peace due to the reason that the government wants to improve its rating among people,” says Mansur Khan Mehsud, research director at the Fata Research Center. But the question is: How? Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s new president, has repeatedly expressed his desire to sit down with the Taliban, also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), but analysts say the hurdles are tremendous. It is highly unlikely that the TTP would ever recognize the current government as legitimate, or that the rest of Pakistan would accept the group's particular interpretation of sharia (Islamic law). Others say ending the US alliance – a major demand from the TTP – is untenable. Civilian impact The principle route for NATO supplies to Afghanistan goes through northwest Pakistan in the Khyber Agency. There, the TTP and Lashkar-e-Islam, an allied militant group, have been fighting the Pakistani Army for control since 2009. More than 370 people have been killed there this year, alone, and Pakistanis are tired of it. Millions have been displaced by the conflict with the TTP in the past decade, and hundreds of thousands have fled to refugee camps scattered throughout the northwest to avoid it. Although the TTP supports the Afghan Taliban's insurgency next door, it has a separate leadership structure. And since 2008, it has focused its efforts on carving out territory for itself in northwest Pakistan, with the stated aim of replacing the Pakistani state with one enforcing their interpretation of sharia law. Three months ago, Porughola, who goes by only one name, and 10 family members fled her home in Bara in the northwest of Pakistan in the Khyber Agency. Now she lives in the Jalozai refugee camp, situated about 21 miles southeast of Peshawar, along with more than 65,000 people from her area. Porughola says her family left with “nothing but the clothes on our backs, no shoes on our feet” after her home was destroyed. “When we fled,” she says, “we didn’t know who was shelling us, the Army, or the extremists.” A shell landed near them and injured her daughter. Refugees from Bara like Porughola have a long journey to Jalaozai, walking eight hours south to Hangu, then paying up to $100 for transportation to the refugee camp. She like many other refugees is glad the military is in Bara, but likes the idea of the government talking to the militants. "I have no idea about any [extremist] movement ... I want peace, peace in our areas," she says.
Starting talks, little consensus
In December, the TTP offered a cease-fire if Pakistan altered its constitution to be “in line with” sharia, ended its alliance with the US, and pulled its troops back from the tribal regions. In previous negotiations, the TTP has also demanded a general amnesty and the release of prisoners. Despite statements from political parties promising talks, the TTP has continued attacks against civilians, and the Pakistani military has continued operations in places like Khyber Agency. Meanwhile, the US continues to target the TTP with drone strikes (though the number has gone down in recent months), which the militant group says would be impossible without Pakistani support. The TTP claimed responsibility for the killing of 10 foreign tourists last week in the mountainous northern region of Gligit-Baltistan. Since then, the TTP has killed two lawmakers belonging to the Pakistan Tehrike-e-Insaaf (PTI), a party that openly called for talks with the group, and was thought to be immune to attacks because of its outspoken stance against the United States. Some say if the TTP was actually interested in talks, it would stop such attacks. “The TTP's target is the Pakistani state,” says Raza Rumi, who heads the Jinnah Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank. “This idea of talks should only happen once they give up arms and come to the negotiation table.” Arbab Muhammad Tahir, of the Awami National Party says the ANP continues to support peace talks, but only if militants “give up terrorism and accept the writ of the government.” He adds: “There cannot be a state within a state.” Some think it is possible to pursue talks, even if the conflict is ongoing. “There is a continuous effort [to hold peace talks],” says Muhammad Asim Khan, a spokesman for the ruling PML-N. He says an investigation of the attacks in Gilgit-Baltistan will be carried out, and any individuals responsible will be prosecuted. “They will be taken to task,” Mr. Khan says, “but those who have accepted the writ of the government, we will talk with them. Our doors are always open.”
The US alliance
“Pakistan can compromise, but not agree to all demands,” says. Mr. Mehsud. He says Pakistan cannot take provocative steps against the US like shooting down drones, or closing NATO supply routes because it depends on US aid, and full-fledged conflict with the US would prove disastrous. But some peace talk supporters say the TTP draws support from Pakistanis who resent their country's involvement in the US “War On Terror,” and talks won’t have any effect until Pakistan ends its alliance with the US. “[If] this war keeps going on, [the TTP] wont stop,” says Sami ul Haqq, an influential cleric who runs Dar-ul-uloom Haqqania, a seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa whose alumni include several of the Afghan Taliban's leaders. The anticipated 2014 US withdrawal from Afghanistan will have a significant impact on the TTP, says Mehsud. The TTP exploits grassroots resentment of the US presence in Afghanistan, arguing the Pakistani state, as an ally of the US, is also a legitimate target. Others say getting the TTP to stop fighting won’t be as simple as ending the US alliance, even if that were possible. “There are apologists in Pakistan who say the Taliban are involved in terrorist activities because we are in league with the US ‘war on terror’,” says Asad Munir, who headed Inter-Services Intelligence in the tribal regions until 2005. “There is no confusion in the armed forces ... they have no doubt the Taliban are anti-Pakistan,” he says. Even if the TTP's demands are untenable, some experts say simply getting them to the table might help stem violence in Pakistan. “The process itself is important,” says Amir Rana, who heads the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. “When [the TTP] make demands, the government will be prepared to understand their mindset,” he says.

Afghan army chief: 'Pakistan controls Taliban'

Fighting in Afghanistan could be stopped "in weeks" if Pakistan told the Taliban to end the insurgency, the head of the Afghan army has told the BBC. Gen Sher Mohammad Karimi said Pakistan controlled and gave shelter to Taliban leaders, deliberately unleashing fighters on Afghanistan. Pakistan denies controlling the militant group. It was one of the Taliban's main supporters from its launch in 1994 until the 2001 fall of the regime. Most of the Taliban's leaders reportedly then fled to Pakistan and the group is still considered to be heavily dependent on the support of certain elements in the country.
Sensitive time
"The Taliban are under [Pakistan's] control - the leadership is in Pakistan," Gen Karimi told the BBC's Today programme. "Madrassas have been closed and all the Taliban have been unleashed to Afghanistan." Afghanistan could achieve peace if this was desired by both the US and Pakistan, said the general. "If [Pakistan] put pressure on [Taliban] leadership or convinced them what to be done, that can help a lot," he added. A Nato report leaked in April said Pakistan was aware that Taliban leaders were taking refuge within its borders. Senior Taliban figures such as Nasiruddin Haqqani were housed close to ISI headquarters in Islamabad, added the report, entitled State of the Taliban. It was based on the interrogations of 27,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and foreign fighters as well as civilians. But Pakistan consistently denies wielding influence over the Taliban, saying many militants have based themselves across the border in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, from where they are known to have carried out attacks in north-western Pakistan. Securing the long, porous border between the two countries has long posed a major challenge to the authorities.
Lack of trust
Gen Karimi's comments come at a sensitive time, says the BBC's Richard Galpin in Islamabad. The US is pushing for peace talks with the Taliban as Nato combat troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan - a process due to be completed next year. Last month the Taliban opened their first official overseas office in the Qatari capital, Doha - the first step ahead of the expected peace talks. US and Afghan leaders want the Taliban to join the Afghan government as a result of the peace process. They say peace talks will succeed when the Taliban finally sever all ties with al-Qaeda, end violence and accept the Afghan constitution, including its protections for women and minorities. Pakistani officials have been involved in the background talks, and generally say Islamabad wants a "friendly, peaceful and sovereign" Afghanistan. But they are adamant that Pakistan's "legitimate interests" in Afghanistan must be recognised after the withdrawal of Nato troops. Within hours of the opening of the Doha office, however, Afghan President Hamid Karzai raised concerns about the process not being Afghan-led and suspended plans for Afghan officials to meet the Taliban. For their part, the Islamist militants said they did not trust the Afghan government and considered it a "puppet" of the US. The Taliban insist on the complete withdrawal of foreign forces as a pre-condition to becoming part of a political settlement in Afghanistan. Although Nato's combat troops are due to leave the country by the end of 2014, the US plans to station forces after that as part of a bilateral security agreement. Details are still to be agreed by Kabul and Washington.

US drone strike kills 4 in NW Pakistan

A US drone strike early Wednesday killed four militants in the northwestern tribal area of Pakistan, local officials said. Four unmanned aircrafts fired as many missiles on a compound in the main market area of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, which is known as a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.Drones were seen flying over Miranshah's main bazar for hours before launching a strike at the militants' compound in the early hours of Wednesday. "Four drone aircrafts were flying over the area at the time of the attack, while two of them fired four missiles on a compound, killing four militants and wounding two others," a local security official told AFP. Another official in Peshawar confirmed the attack. "The attack came when the militants were sleeping in the targeted compound. The death toll from the attack may rise," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media. An AFP reporter saw the drones flying over the area even after the attack.