Friday, July 26, 2013

Egypt military builds criminal case against Morsi

Interrogators subject ousted Muslim Brotherhood president to barrages of questions about inner workings of his presidency
Egypt’s criminal investigation against the ousted president, announced Friday, is likely just the start of wider legal moves against Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood — ominous prospects for a country seething with violent divisions.During Morsi’s three weeks in secret detention, military intelligence agents have extensively questioned him on the inner workings of his presidency and of the Brotherhood, seeking to prove he committed crimes including handing state secrets to the Islamist group, military officials told The Associated Press. Military intelligence has had sole access to him and has questioned him at least once a day, sometimes for up to five hours, the officials said. At times they have presented him voice recordings of his conversations to question him on them, they said. Throughout, Morsi has been denied access to television and newspapers, they said. He has been moved at least three times between Defense Ministry facilities in armored vehicles under heavy guard. He is currently in a facility outside Cairo, they said, without elaborating. The military appears not to have decided yet what to do with the information it is gathering. But the officials said it could be used to fuel the civilian prosecution already underway, indict other Brotherhood figures or to justify a more dramatic move: renewing the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood itself. The group was banned for decades, but became legal after Mubarak’s fall and was widely seen as the real power and decision-maker behind Morsi during his year in office. Morsi and the group denied it played any role. “We allowed Hosni Mubarak to be put on trial and he is one of our own, so there is nothing to stop us from doing this,” said one military official familiar with the thinking of the military leadership. Mubarak was a career air force officer touted as a war hero before he became president in 1981. After his 2011 ouster, he was put on trial for complicity in killing protesters. Since army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi removed Morsi on July 3, Egypt’s first freely elected president has been held incommunicado by the military. Six well placed military and security officials, including two in military intelligence, spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closed-door questioning. On Friday, civilian prosecutors announced they had launched an investigation into Morsi on charges of murder and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. At the heart of the case are allegations that Morsi and the Brotherhood worked with Hamas to carry out an attack on a prison that broke Morsi and around 30 other members of the group out of detention during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak. The attack killed 14 inmates. The investigation is the first step toward an indictment and possible trial on the charges, which are punishable by death. Prosecutors ordered Morsi detained for 15 days pending the completion of the investigation and security officials late Friday said he was likely to be moved shortly to a civilian, high-security prison south of Cairo. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The Brotherhood and Hamas deny the charges, calling them politically motivated. Morsi and the Brotherhood figures freed with him have said local residents attacked the Wadi el-Natroun prison to free their own relatives and that they escaped amid the chaos. The move to prosecute Morsi shows the “bankruptcy of the leaders of the bloody coup,” Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref said in a statement. Egyptians, he added, will reject “the return of the dictatorial police state and all the repression, tyranny and theft it entails.” But the accounts of Morsi’s interrogations suggest the military has a more ambitious aim to cripple the 85-year-old Brotherhood. A move to ban the group again would likely bring a backlash from Islamists. One senior Brotherhood official, Mohammed el-Beltagy, sought to belittle the significance of such a move. “They can dissolve it if they want. They are dissolving the whole country now,” he told the AP at the site of the group’s main protest sit-in at an eastern Cairo district. Another Brotherhood figure told AP that the group is fully aware that a new ban “cannot be ruled out.” But he warned that the result would be “a tragic phase” that would “end with el-Sissi’s fall.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because the group had not authorized him to discuss the implications of a ban. The Brotherhood has contended that the military is aiming to crush the Islamist movement after the military coup, which the group and its allies say aims to destroy Egyptian democracy. El-Sissi removed Morsi after four days of massive protests against him by millions of Egyptians. The military’s lines of questioning appear aimed at proving the secretive Brotherhood went far beyond its legal status as a non-government organization involved solely in religious work and put itself above the law. Military intelligence agents have interrogated Morsi extensively on his actions as president, the officials said. Among the topics are his discussions with foreign leaders during his trips abroad and his ties with Turkey and top Brotherhood ally Qatar, and with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the officials said. One main avenue is to determine if he gave sensitive state information to Islamist allies abroad or to the Brotherhood, they said. Another line of questioning focuses on the deeply secretive finances of the Brotherhood and its funding channels abroad, they said. As a sign of how enmeshed the Brotherhood was with the president, one senior military official noted an incident soon after Morsi took office on June 30, 2012. Morsi brought 19 members of the Brotherhood’s top leadership body with him for his first briefing by the then-head of the General Intelligence Agency, Maj. Gen. Murad Muwafi. When Muwafi objected to their presence because they had no security clearance, Morsi casually told him, “Come on, general, there are no strangers here.” Muwafi went on to give the briefing but avoided sharing sensitive material, said the official, who was directly involved in contacts between the Morsi administration and the military and intelligence agencies. Several weeks later, Morsi fired Muwafi. The 61-year-old Morsi initially refused to answer investigators’ questions but eventually cautiously cooperated, according to a military official with access to records of the questioning. Throughout, however, he repeatedly declared that he remains Egypt’s legitimate president, the official said. He often insisted he tirelessly served Egypt’s best interests but was thwarted by the “deep state,” the phrase used by Egyptians to refer to Mubarak loyalists and other entrenched powers in the army, security forces and state institutions. Morsi is observing the dawn-to-sunset fast of the holy month of Ramadan and when not being questioned, he has spent his time praying and reading the Quran, Islam’s holy book. He was making a point of praying loudly, seeking God’s assistance against his “oppressors,” several officials said. When confronted with audio recordings and documents, Morsi bristled and said his investigators should treat him with the respect a president is entitled to, said the official with access to the questioning records. At another point, Morsi sarcastically told his interrogators that he did not see the point of them asking him questions since they had video and sound recordings of everything he did while in office, the official said. Another area that Morsi was being interrogated about is his pardon for dozens of jailed militants who once embraced violence. The officials said the military believes many of them move to Sinai and formed jihadi cells that include foreign extremists. In the same vein, the military investigators are questioning Morsi on his perceived attempt to stop the military from pursuing militants behind the killing nearly a year ago of 16 army troops at a remote post near the Israel and Gaza borders in Sinai. During his presidency, Morsi’s aides said he was trying to move away from the approach of security crackdowns in Sinai to negotiations to ease discontent among the population there. Opponents accused him of protecting jihadis. Besides Morsi, five other senior Brotherhood figures have been detained and face investigations by prosecutors on a variety of charges, including inciting violence. More than a dozen others have arrest warrants against them but have not been detained.


Called out by the army, the largest crowds in 2 1/2 years of upheaval filled Egypt's streets Friday, while ousted President Mohammed Morsi was formally placed under investigation on a host of allegations including murder and conspiracy with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Morsi's supporters also showed no signs of backing down, though they turned out in vastly smaller numbers. The demonstrations in Cairo were mostly peaceful into the evening. But by late Friday night in Cairo, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Morsi supporters near a sit-in they held for weeks, setting off clashes that lasted into early Saturday morning — in a possible sign of a new intolerance for marches that block city streets. A field hospital doctor said seven protesters were killed and hundreds injured. In the city of Alexandria, seven people were killed and over 100 were injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi, officials said. The announcement by prosecutors of the investigation against Morsi, which is likely to pave the way to a formal indictment and eventually a trial, was the first word on his legal status since he was deposed by the military July 3. Since then, the Islamist leader has been held incommunicado in a secret location. Both sides tried to show how much public support they enjoy. But the millions who turned out for the pro-army demonstrations overwhelmed the streets in multiple cities in Egypt, including some that rarely seen any rallies since the 2011 uprising. Throngs of people turned out in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in other cities, answering a call by army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who urged them to give him a mandate to stop "potential terrorism" by supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Portraits of the smiling el-Sissi in sunglasses dominated the crowd in Tahrir and one near the presidential palace across town. Posters with his picture were emblazoned with the words "the love of the people," and demonstrators wore small photos of him around their necks or carried a picture of his face on an Egyptian one-pound note. Security was heavy after el-Sissi vowed to protect the rallies from attacks by rivals. Tanks guarded one entrance to Tahrir and police were stationed at other parts. "The army is here to protect the people. They don't lie," said Ezzat Fahmi, a 38-year-old in the crowd. He said el-Sissi called the rallies "so the entire world can see that the Egyptian people don't want the Brotherhood anymore." El-Sissi's plea came at a time when the political standoff with Morsi's supporters showed no sign of resolution. It raised speculation that he may be planning a crackdown on the toppled president's allies, who have held a sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adawiyah Mosque in Cairo and near daily rallies elsewhere in the capital for three weeks. The rallies have often turned violent, with more than 180 people killed this month. The Morsi supporters and opponents blame each other for the bloodshed, and people in both camps have been seen carrying weapons. The unrest, as well as claims that Islamist groups are stockpiling weapons and escalating attacks against troops in the Sinai, were used by the country's new military-backed rulers as a basis for demanding popular support. The interim leader, Adly Mansour, told the private TV station al-Hayat that his government seeks to include everyone, but it will not accept lawlessness, blocked roads and attacks on state institutions. He urged the pro-Morsi protesters to go home, promising they won't be pursued or arrested. "I can't negotiate with whoever has committed a crime. But those who were duped or those who want to belong to Egyptian society, we welcome them," he said. But he added: "The state must interfere (against lawlessness) firmly." Not long after the speech, police moved in quickly to break up a crowd of Morsi supporters marching on a main overpass in Cairo near the pro-Morsi sit-in, firing tear gas. Clashes with security forces ensued as protesters tried to extend their sit-in beyond the mosque into a main boulevard. Witnesses said police forces fired birdshots and live ammunition at the crowd in clashes that lasted for hours. Field hospital doctor Alaa Mohammed said seven people were killed, most of them shot in the head and chest, including a 19-year-old. He said two other protesters were in critical condition, and hundreds were injured. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told a private TV station that the sit-in at the Rabaa mosque will be removed by legal means. He did not elaborate but said residents of the area have filed police reports against the encampment. Police spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif told The Associated Press that 53 pro-Morsi supporters were arrested around Egypt on Friday in possession of weapons, ranging from knives to homemade guns. El-Sissi deposed Morsi after four days of huge protests by millions of Egyptians demanding the removal of the country's first freely elected president following months of disagreements between him and the largely secular opposition. The accusations against Morsi are connected to a prison break during the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Gunmen attacked the Wadi el-Natroun prison northwest of Cairo, freeing inmates, including Morsi and about 30 other figures from the Muslim Brotherhood. The prosecutors allege Morsi and the Brotherhood worked with Hamas to carry out the break, in which 14 guards were killed. Egypt's MENA news agency said Morsi was being investigated over allegations of collaborating with Hamas "to carry out anti-state acts, attacking police stations and army officers and storming prisons, setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as premeditated killing of officers, soldiers and prisoners." In recent months, a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia has heard testimony from prison officials and intelligence officers indicating Morsi and his Brotherhood colleagues were freed when gunmen led by Hamas operatives stormed the prison. Morsi supporters called the investigation politically motivated. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref said the move showed "the complete bankruptcy of the leaders of the bloody coup." Brotherhood officials have said they escaped when local residents broke into the prison to free their relatives and that they had no knowledge of it ahead of time. Hamas has consistently denied any involvement in the jailbreak. A spokesman for the militant group, Sami Abu Zuhri, condemned Morsi's detention order as "an attempt to drag Hamas into the Egyptian conflict." U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki expressed deep concern about reports of Morsi's detention. "I can't speak to the specific charges. But we do believe that it is important that there be a process to work toward his release," she said. "Clearly, this process should respect the personal security of him and take into account the volatile political situation in Egypt and that's where our focus is. We have conveyed publicly and privately that his personal security and treatment is of utmost importance." MENA said Morsi has now been formally detained for 15 days pending the completion of the investigation. It did not say whether he would now be moved to a facility where he could receive family visits. The head of the prison authority, Maj. Gen. Mostafa Baz, said he has not yet received orders for Morsi's transfer to any of his facilities. The news agency indicated that Morsi has already been interrogated. Egyptian institutions lined up behind el-Sissi's call for Friday's pro-military rallies, reflecting the extent of antagonism against the Brotherhood's hold on power in the past year. State TV and most of the private broadcasters showed the pro-army rallies in various cities around Egypt, including aerial footage provided by military helicopters. Nationalist songs and parts of el-Sissi's speech in which he called for support were played throughout the day. On Friday evening, TV networks stopped running soap operas that are wildly popular during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In a further show of support, church bells rang out during evening prayers when hundreds of thousands of protesters broke their Ramadan fasts. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Belbawi participated in the rally held outside the presidential palace. A giant banner stretched across an entrance to Tahrir Square, the cradle of the 2011 uprising. It read: "The people, the source of all power, mandate the army and police to purge terrorism." Three tanks guarded another street leading into the square, and helicopters swooped overhead. "We have no parliament. Today is a quick referendum to support el-Sissi against the Brotherhood, whose members are terrorists," said Mohammed el-Shaer, who stood in Tahrir holding a portrait of the general in a golden frame. El-Shaer held the hand of his 10-year-old daughter, who was dressed in a military fatigues. He called the rally a "popular referendum" on el-Sissi. In eastern Cairo, tens of thousands of Morsi supporters at the Rabaa mosque sit-in chanted against el-Sissi and vowed to continue their push for the president's reinstatement. Others marched through some neighborhoods of Cairo. Their rallies were mostly covered on TV by Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, and pro-Morsi activists emailed journalists videos and links to a live feed. "When I first heard el-Sissi's call I was anxious," said 39-year-old Sayed el-Rawi, protesting outside the mosque. "But today, we saw that his speech encouraged more people to go down in the streets. ... They won't be able to break up the sit in." The rival demonstrations are only deepening the country's divisions since Morsi's fall. Clashes and fistfights broke out between both camps in Alexandria, with seven people killed and over 100 injured, according to health official Ibrahim el-Roubi. Some pro-Morsi supporters took cover inside a major mosque, leading to a standoff with opponents who besieged the place, locking them inside for hours. Skirmishes also broke out in the Mediterranean coastal cities of Damietta and Mahalla, in the southern city of Luxor, and a Cairo neighborhood that left 64 injured, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb and local security officials said. It remains unclear what steps the military is planning after Friday's show of strength — whether it would try to break up sit-ins by Morsi supporters or attempt to arrest more than a dozen Brotherhood figures who have warrants against them. On the front page of the state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper, the word "wanted" in English was plastered across photos of a number of Brotherhood leaders and allies who are facing warrants. Many of them are believed to be taking refuge at the Rabaa al-Adawiyah sit-in. The prosecutors' announcement on Morsi also could signal a greater move to go after the Brotherhood in courts. Besides Morsi, five other senior figures from the group have been detained. Hassan Mohammed, a 30-year old teacher who came from southern Egypt to join the pro-Morsi rally, remained steadfast. "Even if we are going to die, me and my family, we won't leave this place before our president comes back. Even if it takes seven years. We are ready to be martyrs in the name of religion and the nation," he said.

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Moon may influence sleep, study finds

BY Simon Roach
Even if moonlight isn't streaming through your curtains, the phase of the moon may affect how well you sleep
Science and myth rarely agree, but new research suggests that the lunar cycle could have an effect on the quality of sleep. The study by researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland found that even in the absence of moonlight, participants slept less deeply and for shorter periods during the full moon than at other lunar phases. It is a phenomenon already known in other organisms as the "circalunar rhythm", but has never before been shown in humans. Christian Cajochen, who was the lead researcher on the study, said: "A lot of people complain about bad sleep during moon stages, or they claim that 'it was the moon', and there's a lot of myth involved. We decided to go back in our old data to see whether we could effectively quantify such an effect." Previous research has found no association between the phases of the moon and human physiology or behaviour. "While I'm quite cautious and sceptical about the data myself, I have to say after a proper statistical analysis that, to our surprise, we found something there," said Cajochen. "There is a circalunar influence." The brain pattern, eye movements and hormone secretion of volunteers were studied while they slept. Participants were also asked for subjective assessments of their sleep quality. The results, published in Current Biology, showed that around the full moon, subjects' brain activity associated with deep sleep decreased by 30%, they took 5 minutes longer to fall asleep, had 20 minutes less sleep overall and lower levels of melatonin – a hormone known to regulate sleep. These findings correlated with the volunteers' own perception that sleep quality was poorer during the full moon. "I think one issue in the past was that they compared a lot of people by mixing different laboratories, different devices, and including data from patients, so the entire thing was not standardised," Cajochen said. "The advantage here is that we really had a standardised protocol." The data was taken from a previous study that was not originally looking at the moon's influence. Participants were kept in a very controlled environment, with artificial lighting, regulated temperature and no way of checking the time. This ensured that internal body rhythms could be investigated independently of external influences. "The only disadvantage with such a standardised procedure is that we could only investigate 33 people," said Cajochen. "What I would like to do in the future is to increase the number of subjects and then to follow up each person through the entire moon cycle." But such a study would have problems of its own, he added. "If you're actually going to tell people you're investigating the influence of the moon, then you may trigger some expectation or sensitivity in them. Sleep is also a psychological thing, of course." If true, the mechanisms responsible for the phenomenon are unknown. Malcolm von Schantz, a molecular neurobiologist at Surrey University, said: "Essentially it could be either two things: the moon itself has a gravitational pull which somehow affects our physiology. I find that very unlikely as the gravitational pull of the moon is fairly weak. It doesn't cause tides in lakes for example, only in large oceans. In fact, if you're sitting within 15 inches of the wall right now then the wall has a stronger gravitational pull on you than the moon does. So I don't think we have a sort of mini-tide in ourselves. "The alternative is that there is a 'counter', a mechanism which keeps track somehow of the phases of the moon." Marine animals are already known to follow a circalunar rhythm and some believe it is tightly intertwined with the circadian rhythm – the other internal clock that many organisms, humans included, have which is entrained to the sun. "In worms, at least, there is a crossover between these two clocks," said Cajochen. "But we are not worms any more." Other researchers have wondered why a human circalunar clock should exist in the first place. Michael Hastings, a neuroscientist studying circadian rhythms at Cambridge University, said: "In evolutionary terms, it sounds plausible to me at least. If you were a hunter gatherer, you'd want to be out there on a full moon, not a new moon. It might be that there's something about suppression of sleep under those circumstances because you should be out hunting. "I think at best it's intriguing. There's a biological plausibility, if we take the hunter gatherer scenario, with regard to the mechanisms … It is such a striking and unexpected finding that replication by other sleep labs is absolutely critical." Not everyone is concerned that there were only 33 subjects - von Schantz even said these numbers are "fairly sizeable" for such a study. "It's true, the body of negative data on the effects of the moon on a huge number of parameters is fairly impressive," he added. "It's entirely conceivable that all those previous studies are correct, but that there is also an effect in a limited number of other parameters, one of them being sleep, for reasons we don't yet understand."

President Zardari's anti-Taliban legacy has no heirs

President Zardari has urged the Pakistani government to curb terrorism in his last parliament address. But the newly-elected PM Sharif has made it clear he won't go against the Taliban - a path Zardari gladly took. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has never hesitated to call the Islamist extremists his enemies. In fact, he says they are his "personal enemies," as the Taliban allegedly assassinated his wife Bhutto in December 2007 during a public rally in the northeastern city of Rawalpindi. After his Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came into power in 2008, President Zardari allied himself with other liberal movements such as the nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) in the restive northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the southern Sindh province. The alliance was mainly forged to defeat the Taliban.However, all three parties paid the heaviest price for their opposition to the Taliban. Their leaders and workers were killed by the extremists with impunity. Their collaboration with the US in an unpopular "war on terror" in Pakistan also cost them this year's May 11 parliamentary elections. The Pakistani people rejected them and elected instead conservative parties like Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League in Islamabad and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or the Movement for Justice party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The anti-Taliban ANP was wiped out of the province.
The last speech
In his last speech to the joint session of the parliament's lower house (National Assembly) and the upper house (Senate) before the end of his presidency, Zardari made it clear that he was not ready to change his stance on extremism or compromise with the Taliban. Zardari's speech came just hours after Islamist militants targeted NATO supply trucks in a northwestern tribal area near the Afghan border, killing at least six people. "The nation is united against militancy. We need strong leadership to overcome the threat," he said to newly-elected parliamentarians. "We are ready to make peace with those willing to give up violence. But we should also be ready to use force against those who challenge the writ of the state." Zardari also said that the fact that the Pakistani people turned out in a large number to vote in the past national elections, despite the threats of violence, was proof that Pakistanis believed in democracy. But will Prime Minister Sharif pay heed to Zardari's advice? Will he go against the Taliban and other extremist groups in Pakistan or make peace with them? Will Imran Khan, whose party governs the strategically important Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the war against the Taliban, reconsider his policies vis-à-vis the Taliban and terrorism? The answer is a definite 'No'. Both these leaders have avowed that they would make truce with the Islamists and won't follow the Zardari legacy.
Stronger Taliban
Peshawar-based development worker and political activist Maqsood Ahmad Jan believes that Sharif's and Khan's insistence on peace talks with the Taliban are emboldening the extremists in Pakistan. "The new rulers have turned a blind eye to Taliban atrocities. Some parties say that the Taliban are like their children. The result is that the radicals are getting bolder and that kidnappings for ransom are on the rise," Jan told DW. He lamented that Sharif's Muslim League and Khan's PTI offered no words of sympathy to people targeted by the Islamist militants on a regular basis. Jan is of the view that not only the Taliban will get stronger under new rulers, the Sharif government will not be able to deal with various crises that Pakistan is facing, mainly the energy crisis. He thinks this will frustrate the Pakistani people who will probably look towards the PPP and the ANP again in future. "Sharif and Khan have no idea how to deal with the Taliban. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister recently said he did not know who was behind the terrorist attacks."
'Unpopular war'
But experts say that despite the fact that most Pakistanis are against Islamist extremists and prefer liberal and center-right parties over hardline Islamic ones, they want their government to review its support to the US in the protracted war against the Taliban. They want peace and do not care whether it comes at the cost of giving concessions to the militants. According to DW's Peshawar correspondent Faridullah Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been one of the worst hit by the "war on terror" and many people there are against US drone strikes in the semi-governed northwestern tribal areas. In his opinion, many people held the ANP and PPP responsible for this situation. It was something that right-wing groups are benefiting from, he said. Political experts like Malik Siraj Akbar, who is based in the US, are critical of Pakistan's response to the Taliban and the menace of terrorism. Akbar told DW in an interview that the main reason why liberal Pakistani parties faced a dilemma was that Pakistan had not officially "owned" the so-called war on terror. "Pakistan is not ideologically convinced that it is its war." For this reason, counter-terrorism experts in in the country say Zardari and other liberals have not been able to get the masses behind them in the fight against terror.
Another dilemma
The ANP, like the PPP and the MQM, face another ideological dilemma. Not only the Pakistani state, but now also the US, wants to talk to the Taliban and make its peace with the militants. "So what is the future of the parties like the ANP and the PPP who have been supporting the onslaught on the Islamists?" asked Dr. Riaz Ahmed, a political activist in Karachi, who described why he believed the attacks on anti-Taliban leaders had increased. "Politicians who want an offensive against the extremists are now a hindrance in the negotiations with the Taliban. They are being removed from the scene," Ahmed told DW.Muhammad Shah Afridi, a former conservative member of parliament from Khyber Agency, one of the semi-governed tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan, told DW that if the US and NATO could negotiate with the Taliban then Pakistan should do the same. "War is not the solution to this conflict. We will have to talk (to the Taliban)," Afridi said. Zardari had also welcomed the US initiative of "peace talks" with the Taliban. But experts believe it is not enough to convince the Taliban that he and his party are "friends." There are many in the ranks of the PPP and other liberal Pakistani parties who still oppose the Taliban and do not want to change their own ideological course. But experts are not sure how long they will be able to carry on with this legacy. Islamic parties have always been demanding that the government makes peace with the radicals.

President Zardari condemns Parachinar blasts

President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the blasts in the market of Parachinar, Kurrum Agency, on Friday that has claimed several precious lives while injuring many others. The President expressed his sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace of those who embraced martyrdom as a result of the terrorist activity.He called upon the concerned to ensure that the best possible medical assistance was provided to the injured and prayed for early recovery of the injured.

Bangladesh: Rana Plaza disaster

Where is the compensation?
It has been three months since the devastation of Rana Plaza disaster that killed more than 1,100 people, orphaned some 200 children and maimed hundreds. Most families of victims or those fortunate to have survived the ordeal having sustained serious injury have not received any monetary aid from the BGMEA, the foreign buyers or the government. However, we take note of the financial assistance handed over by the prime minister to 123 of the family members of the victims on July 24. This state of affairs is not acceptable. Rehabilitation from injury costs money. And what is to become of the children who have lost one or both parents? Who takes care of them? With all eyes fixed upon the amended Bangladesh Labour Law focusing on workers’ rights, improvement of building and fire safety measures, it appears that the issue of rehabilitation and compensation has been pushed out of the public view. And the discrepancy in compensation could not be starker. Newspaper reports tell us that while some victims received compensation as high as Tk1.5million, others have received only their salaries from BGMEA, while the bulk have been left to fend for themselves. What is now evident is that the manner in which information about actual number of victims was collected was unprofessional. This has created much confusion about who should receive what compensation. Furthermore, there is lack of consensus about precisely who should recompense the victims. It is high time authorities step in to clear up the confusion and set-up a mechanism whereby the survivors can make ends meet.

Suicide bombs kill 39 near Shi'ite mosques in Pakistan

Suicide bombers on motorcycles blew themselves up within a minute of each other outside Shi'ite mosques in a volatile Pakistani town near the Afghan border on Friday, killing at least 39 people, officials said. Sectarian violence has been on the rise in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where hardline Sunni militant groups have been relentlessly attacking Shi'ites whom they see as heretics. The first explosion took place meters away from a Shi'ite mosque near a busy market in Parachinar, capital of the tribal Kurram area. It was followed shortly afterwards by a second blast, close to another mosque in the town. Riaz Mahsud, the top administrator of the Kurram region, said 39 people were killed and 72 wounded, adding that the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers on motorbikes. "Some of the injured are still in critical condition and have been shifted to the main hospital in Parachinar," he said. It was unclear which group carried out the attack and no one immediately claimed responsibility. Shi'ite Muslims make up a little over 10 percent of Pakistan's population of 180 million. Parachinar itself is home to a significant Shi'ite community which has been previously targeted by Sunni militants. Pakistan has suffered a spate of bombings since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sworn in last month, underscoring the challenges he faces in taming sectarian violence as well as an escalating Taliban-linked insurgency. Sabir Hussain, a doctor at the Agency Headquarters Hospital, earlier said 15 dead bodies and 45 people with serious wounds had been brought to his hospital. Both explosions took place before sunset just as people flocked to the market area to buy food for their evening meals after a day of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. "A lot of people usually throng roadside markets in Parachinar before sunset for Iftar (dinner) shopping," said tribesman Haider Ali. "Hundreds of people were present during the blasts and that's why the death toll was high."

Pakistan: Powerful explosions kill 7 people, injure 24 in northwestern Pakistan

Two powerful explosions have claimed the lives of at least seven people in the Shia-dominated town of Parachinar in Pakistan's tribal region of Kurram, leaving 24 injured.

Pakistan: Supreme Court’s politically biased decision to bring the Presidential elections forward

Let Us Build Pakistan
Pakistan’s blatant Pro Taliban and Pro PML-N judiciary once again disgraced itself with its latest unconstitutional and politically biased decision to hold the Presidential elections earlier the Constitutionally scheduled date. The Election Commission of Pakistan reversed its own statement “Earlier the ECP had stated that it was not constitutionally possible to hold early elections.” After all, the Supreme Court had to comply when its political ally, the PML N filed a petition to bring the election day forward. Pakistan’s (Fake) Civil Society whose undignified alliance with the Hamid Guls and Sipah Sahabas in the Lawyer’s Movement to restore the current PCO Chief Justice
is typically silent after yet another disgraceful decision by its beloved Supreme Court. It is only the Jiyalas of PPP who are once again standing up to this Judicial Martial Law of PCO Chaudhary and his Jihadi-complaint Judiciary. After rigging the last elections in favour of the PML N, this judiciary continues to bring shame to Pakistan. Just weeks ago, one of the few respectable and honest judges, Justice Baqar was attacked by the LeJ. After the arrest of the culprits, one major LeJ leader has already boasted about his organization’s planning and implementation of the attack on Justice Baqar, senior judge of the Sindh High Court. The PML N influenced courts of PCO Chaudhary Iftikhar have not even bothered to take Suo Moto action to protect their own judge – probably because he is honest unlike them and also because Justice Baqar has a Shia sounding name. Previously the same courts also released LeJ leader Malik Ishaq inspite of his boastful confessions and future intentions of continuing Shia Genocide in Pakistan. The same courts did not even bother to take a Suo Moto action to provide a bullet proof car for Justice Baqar. This too was provided by the PPP which has previously also supported honest, secular and fair judges like Justice Baqar and Justice Bhatti Shaheed. For supporting an independent judiciary, PPP is rewarded with the judicial murder of Shaheed ZAB and the Judiciary coup of former PM Yusuf Raza Gillani. This PCO Judiciary is once again bringing President Zardari in its cross hairs. imc Of course, the same judiciary has given the go-ahead to Najam Sethi to continue enjoying his underserved perks as PCB adhoc chief. Several qualified and honest bureaucrats appointed by the PPP government have been unconstitutionally dismissed by PCO Chaudhary. This included the last head of FBR whose promising efforts to link national databases to maximize tax collections was derailed by this Judiciary. Meanwhile, Najam Sethi a glorified gossip monger posing as a journalist with no experience in cricket continues to enjoy the perks for his palace intrigues that favour the PML N. For his “services” he was appointed the PCB chief where his major achievements include rehabilitating corrupt Tableeghi Jamaat match fixers like Salman Butt and loosing out on new test series opportunities for Pakistan. While a few honest commentators have called out the judiciary, the Don of Fake Liberals like Najam Sethi promotes the same judiciary through his gossip show on GEO and via his Friday Times blog. Here is an example where he continues to present this pro Taliban Judiciary as an anti-establishment institution just like he continues to portray some of his fellow thugs in the media. The pattern of Judicial Martial Law in Pakistan is clear. Whatever PML N wants outside of the Law, it files a petition. The Supreme Court provides a favourable decision in “indecent haste” and with no regard to breaking the Law and abrogating the Constitution. The media lead by dishonest ISI-fed gossip mongers then use their pulpit to bend public opinion in the favour of the Unholy alliance between PMLN, Judiciary and their Jihadi allies. - See more at:

President Zardari celebrates 58th birthday today

President of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari is celebrating his 58th birthday today. Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who served two nonconsecutive terms as Prime Minister, completed his tenure of five years as the president of the country.
Thousands of the PPP workers celebrated its leader’s birthday in several cities of the country and prayed for his long and healthy life. The president is celebrating the birthday with his children who are out of country these days.

Pakistan: Nothing is safe

Sukkur, a city not known for terrorist attacks, came under heavy assault when an explosives-laden car rammed into the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) office damaging the better part of the building and killing four officials. The attack was followed by intense firing when at least 34 hand grenades were hurled at the security forces and the residents of Barrage Colony. The locality houses the headquarters of the Shahbaz Rangers, Military Intelligence, ISI and other government offices. The DIG and Commissioner also live there. The attack was carried out immediately after Iftar, making passersby going for Maghreb prayers victims of the blast as well. Nearly eight people died while over three dozen had been injured. According to initial reports, four terrorists wearing suicide vests and armed with hand grenades and assault rifles orchestrated the attack on the ISI building. The power supply to the city was suspended for over five hours, adding to the inconvenience of people fasting. There is no immediate claim for the blast but Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is considered to be behind the attack for their similar past attempts. This is not the first time that terrorists have chosen government institutions to vent their anger at the state. This is also not the first time that the government has shown its inability to pre-empt such attacks. The question is, when the country’s premier intelligence agency, supposed to defend the state from hostile forces, could not protect itself, how could it guarantee the safety of other institutions, let alone citizens. This is not a small security breach. It raises a big question mark on the abilities of the intelligence agencies. The country at this juncture could not afford security lapses, especially not around security installations, increasingly the targets of the militants. The place, the timing and the target of the attack have clearly demonstrated that for the militants no place, time or occasion is sacred. They can kill innocent people, make murderous attempts in the month of Ramzan and penetrate into an innocuous city like Sukkur. This calls for a deeper introspection by our security agencies and law enforcers regarding their state of readiness and alertness. Are they doing justice to the duty they are charged with, to defend the security of the state and its citizens? Does not it show that our enemies are better equipped and observant than our law enforces, including the military? They have been striking us time and again, while we remain in reactive mode. Since 2007, now six years, the state has been under siege by the TTP, but the response of the government has been inadequate. The lack of a coordinated and all encompassing security arrangement under the command of a singular entity has created holes that the militants have been exploiting successfully with relative ease to implement their agenda of disrupting the writ of the state. What is holding back the government or the security agencies to realize the consequences of their delayed in building such an institution is a million dollar question, requiring an immediate answer. How many more attacks and blasts do we need to wake up? Now that TTP and its hundred factions have penetrated into our system, the mess is already difficult to unravel. Without a solid and concentrated intelligence system backed by rigorous laws and efficient implementation, we can hardly reach the militants who have already outsmarted our capacity to handle them.

PPP announces boycott of presidential election

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Friday announced its decision to boycott the upcoming presidential election, DawnNews reported. PPP's former Law Minister of Sindh, Ayaz Soomro, informed the Chief Election Commissioner in writing about the party's decision to boycott the presidential election. Addressing a press conference in the federal capital city PPP's presidential candidate and senior leader Senator Raza Rabbani said that his party was left with no other option but to boycott the poll. Rabbani thanked other opposition partners for their support and said their favours could never be repaid. The Awami National Party (ANP) and the Balochistan National Party (BNP) also announced a boycott of the presidential poll. Senator Haji Adeel, belonging to the Awami National Party, said that his party had already announced that it would support any decision taken by the PPP. He further said that the court had taken a 'one-sided decision' which was 'unjust.' DawnNews reported sources as saying that the Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid (PML-Q) had also decided to boycott the election for president. The main opposition party's decision came as it said that enough time was not given to campaign for the presidential election. The Election Commission of Pakistan had originally announced Aug 6 as the date for the presidential poll. The ruling Pakistan Muslim Legue - Nawaz (PML-N) had then written to the election commission requesting to delay the polls as the announced presidential elections were falling in the last 10 days of Ramazan, when most of the lawmakers were to be busy performing Umrah or sitting in Aitekaf. The ECP rejected the government's request following which the PML-N filed a request in the Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking to hold the presidential elections before the last 10 days of Ramazan. The apex court later decided in favour of the PML-N and agreed to the July 30 sought by the government. Pakistan's largely ceremonial president is not elected by popular vote, but by the lawmakers in the Senate, National Assembly and the assemblies of the four provinces.