Thursday, August 1, 2013

Obama's trump card on immigration

By Nelson Peacock
The president can push ahead on reform without Congress.
President Obama is tantalizingly close to passing comprehensive immigration reform, a legacy achievement. The Senate has provided a bipartisan bill, and the House is working on reform. The key issues are border security and a legal pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million who are here illegally. The political reasons for the House to negotiate a deal are many. A recent Gallup poll showed that 87% of Americans support comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. Moreover, growing numbers of Latino voters in key states turned out in historic numbers for Obama in last year's election, which strongly suggests that, in the long run, Republicans need to address this constituency or continue to lose votes. However, Speaker John A. Boehner, the Republican's point man in the House, doesn't have the luxury of operating in the long term. The conservative bloc of House Republicans is digging in against reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and with what promises to be a bloody spending fight with Democrats looming, the speaker needs to strengthen his position with his conference. It's no wonder the speaker has instructed his committee chairmen to send up smaller, incremental bills for consideration, with a final decision on the path forward to come this fall. Regardless of what Boehner and the committee chairmen come up with, most of the millions of unauthorized immigrants here now will almost surely stay because it is expensive and time-consuming to deport them. The immigration enforcement system is currently funded to deport roughly 400,000 immigrants a year, funding that's unlikely to increase in difficult budgetary times, and it can take years to get many cases in front of immigration judges. In part for those reasons, the Department of Homeland Security does not treat all deportations equally. In recent years, the agency has expanded its use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement, focusing on recent border crossings and public safety threats. Today, deportations of immigrants with strong connections to the U.S. are unlikely. Indeed, prosecutorial discretion is a guiding principle of this administration's immigration enforcement policy. With it, the administration has moved immigration enforcement from an ad hoc system in which individuals are removed indiscriminately to one that prioritizes criminals, recent border crossers and fugitives. In 2012, 96% of all removals were based on these priorities. Opponents of the policy call it amnesty, but with limited resources, it's obvious why an agency charged with protecting the homeland is focusing its deportation efforts on national security and public safety. For Obama, expanding prosecutorial discretion in deportations has been good policy and politics. It might just be the trump card he needs to bring House Republicans to the negotiating table. Last summer, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which established the first program in which a subset of those here illegally could come forward and register with the government. If you were brought here as a child, are currently in school or the military and have no criminal record, you can get protection from deportation and you can petition for work authorization. This program, aimed at so-called Dreamers, triggered a wave of enthusiasm in the Latino community, and many political analysts believe it helped the president weather 50% disapproval ratings last summer and win a historic 75% of the Latino vote in November. Nearly 520,000 people have received relief under this program since it was announced. Now the president should turn again to this playbook and expand the program to other sympathetic categories of immigrants, such as those with a longtime presence in the United States or those with U.S.-citizen family members. The legal parameters and operational protocols have been established, and because this program, like the original Deferred Action program, would be funded from immigrants' fees, it would not require a congressional appropriation. An expanded Deferred Action program could be up and running within weeks. Of course, those committed to defeating reform would trot out the tired criticism that the president doesn't enforce the laws on the books. They conveniently forget that both parties share the blame for the current system, and they ignore the record-low estimates of border crossing attempts and the record-high number of deportations. (A recent Pew Hispanic Center analysis found net migration from Mexico has fallen to zero in recent years.) Nothing the administration does would change their minds. It is a near-certainty that expansion of prosecutorial discretion will occur if the House defeats all reform efforts or the House and Senate can't reach an agreement. Perhaps the president can force negotiations by reminding critics that, in the absence of real reform, a president — any party's president — still has to govern. For Boehner and the House GOP, the alternative to negotiating would be expanding "amnesty" without any of the security and business enhancements that the Republicans want and the nation desperately needs. If the president acts boldly, he might be able to wrest a bill from Congress that could establish his legacy and, more important, secure the real immigration policy changes this country needs.
Nelson Peacock is a vice president with Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington and the former assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.

Egyptian FM says Morsi not "shrine" for visitors

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was not a "shrine" for visitors and he was being investigated in connection with a number of issues, newly-appointed Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said Wednesday. Visits to Morsi by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and an African Union (AU) delegation were aimed at allowing the visitors to get information from Morsi on what happened in Egypt, he explained. But it did not mean that Morsi was an attraction site for visitors, Fahmy was quoted as saying by Egypt's official news agency MENA. All people who have met Morsi reiterated support for Egypt's roadmap plan, as well as their condemnation of acts of violence and terrorism, he added. The foreign minister said an Egyptian human rights group also wanted to visit Morsi, but the deposed president refused to meet them. Meanwhile, Mohamed Fayiq, who headed the human rights group, told Xinhua that Morsi was "treated with dignity and respect" and that his health and living conditions were "good." Fayiq said he has met Rifaah el-Tahtawy, who had been assigned by the toppled leader to talk with the human rights group. Morsi, deposed on July 3 after massive protests against his rule, is being detained at an undisclosed location. He has not been seen publicly since his ouster. On Friday, a top Egyptian court ordered the detention of Morsi for 15 days for investigations over charges of spying and jailbreak during the 2011 unrest that toppled then President Hosni Mubarak. Ashton was given access to Morsi late Monday. Her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Twitter that the two had two-hour "in-depth" talks. Following Ashton's visit, a nine-member AU delegation, headed by former Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, also met with Morsi. However, Egyptian authorities on Wednesday turned down a request by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to meet the deposed president, saying he was under investigation over charges of conspiring with the Palestinian Islamic movement of Hamas during the 2011 unrest, MENA reported.

President Zardari calls upon world community, US to prepare ‘Marshal Plan’ for Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday called upon the international community especially the United States to step forward and prepare a ‘Marshall plan’ for Pakistan for strategic economic stability and advancement of Pakistan’s development agenda. The people of Pakistan had suffered greatly as a result of the ongoing fight against militancy and terrorism and there was need for the international community to give our people the peace dividend by way of massive economic assistance, energy development and greater market access.
The President said this during his one on one and delegation level meetings with John Kerry, US Secretary of State at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, while briefing about the meetings said that Secretary Kerry congratulated the President on the peaceful and democratic transfer of civilian power in the country and lauded his overseeing various phases of the smooth transition. He termed the smooth power transfer a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democratic progress and said that people of Pakistan have affirmed commitment to democratic rule, which he said is critical to achieving peace and prosperity. Thanking Secretary John Kerry, the President stated that the credit for first ever smooth power transfer went to the democratic forces, all the political parties, the Parliament and all the people of Pakistan for enthusiastic participation in the electoral process despite threats from militants and extremists. The President said that smooth transition reflected the democratic ethos of the people. The President also appreciated John Kerry’s expressed support to the people of Pakistan. The Spokesperson said that Pak-US bilateral relations, reconciliation in Afghanistan, drone attacks and global and regional issues were discussed during the meeting. On drone attacks, the President said that drone strikes in FATA by the US violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and was also negatively impacting on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region. President Zardari called for an end to the drone attacks and said that these strikes are counter-productive, entails loss of innocent civilian lives and also fuels anti American feelings. The President called for sustainable and positive relationship between Pakistan and United States on the basis of mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual interest. The goal of establishing a long-term and durable Pak-US equation would remain elusive till the issue of trust deficit is addressed in an effective manner. He urged the need for enhanced trade and investment ties between the twocountries and increased market access of Pakistani goods to the US. The President said that enhanced market access for Pakistan’s exports inthe US will translate into economic growth and decreased poverty which he saidwas needed to decrease incentive for unemployed youth to be recruited by terrorists. The President stressed for closer cooperation in areas such as economy,trade, energy, socio-economic development, agriculture and water issues, scienceand technology and defence cooperation. He urged the need for more concerted steps on both sides to double thetrade volume from existing US $5.1 billion between the two countries. The President said that the Strategic Dialogue was a successful platformfor substantive discussions on cooperation and partnership and called forrestoring the previous ministerial level of the dialogue. Discussing regional situation, the President said that Pakistan believedregional peace and security was vital for its own peace, security and development. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to continue to play its helpfulrole at restoring peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and in the region. The President said Pakistan supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peaceprocess and welcomed all efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution tothe long drawn conflict in Afghanistan. He expressed hope that the efforts made would also take into accountlegitimate concerns of all the stakeholders. Discussing militancy and terrorism, the President said that Pakistan hassuffered the most in terms of human and financial losses in the ongoing fightagainst militancy and reiterated that Pakistan will continue to fight the menacetill its logical conclusion. He however called for a Marshall Plan for Pakistan to overcome the problemsin the wake of fight against militancy. Those who were present during the meeting included US ambassador inIslamabad Richard Olson, John Bass, executive Secretary State Office, JamesDobbins, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and other senior officials. Pakistan side included Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on National Security andForeign Affairs, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, ForeignSecretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Secretary to the President Ms. Nasreen Haq.

U.S. factory, jobless data point to firming economy

U.S. factory activity jumped to a two-year high in July and first-time applications for jobless benefits hit a 5-1/2-year low last week, bolstering views economic growth would accelerate in the second half of the year. The burst of strength in the economy as the third quarter started keeps on track expectations that the Federal Reserve will start reducing its monetary stimulus later this year. "The future growth outlook remains on a highly positive trajectory, keeping the September tapering timeline firmly intact despite the Fed's nod to below-target inflation," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York. The Institute for Supply Management said on Thursday its index of national factory activity rose to 55.4 last month from 50.9 in June, buoyed by a surge in new orders and production. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector, which hit a soft patch in the spring. The pick-up in manufacturing was also corroborated by financial data firm Markit, which said its U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to a four-month high in its final July reading. Measures of factory jobs rose in both reports, with the ISM employment index reaching its highest since June last year. The improvement in employment dovetailed with a separate report from the U.S. Labor Department showing initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000 last week, the lowest since January 2008. While claims are usually volatile in July due to auto plant shutdowns, economists who had expected new filings to rise to 345,000 said the general tone of the report was consistent with a pick-up in job growth. The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,500 to 341,250. "This suggests the labor market is still expanding. There is no sign that it's slowing. It might actually be picking up a bit," said David Sloan, senior economist at 4Cast in New York. Automakers traditionally close assembly plants for retooling in July but they have now either shortened the shutdown period or forgone closures altogether, throwing off the model that the government uses to adjust the data for seasonal variations. Stocks on Wall Street pushed higher, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index topping the 1,700 level for the first time. U.S. Treasury debt prices fell, while the dollar rallied against a basket of currencies.
Last week's claims data has no bearing on Friday's U.S. employment report for July as it falls outside the survey period. The government is expected to report nonfarm payrolls increased 184,000 last month after rising 195,000 in June, according to a Reuters survey of economists. The jobless rate is seen ticking down a tenth of a point to 7.5 percent. However, there is a risk payrolls could surprise on the upside after a report on Wednesday showed U.S. private employers maintained a high pace of hiring in July. Overall U.S. job gains in the second quarter averaged 196,300 per month. In another report, consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas said planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell 4.2 percent in July. The factory data and steadily improving labor market conditions suggested the economy got off to a good start in the third quarter. Gross domestic product grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter, up from a pedestrian 1.1 percent pace in the first three months of the year. New orders in the ISM survey touched their highest in two years and a drop in inventories suggested further strength in order books was in the cards. "We have been arguing that manufacturing growth would strengthen in the second half of the year as the drag from Europe diminished and as capital spending picked up," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York. "This report is consistent with this view and, given the size of the gain in new orders and the drop in inventories, it suggests the faster growth rate will be maintained into August." Manufacturing could get a boost from robust demand for trucks, thanks to a strengthening housing market. General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group reported strong truck sales in July. However, low inventory of some popular car models slowed automobile sales. While Federal Reserve policy-makers on Wednesday after a two-day meeting offered no indication they planned to reduce the U.S. central bank's monthly $85 billion in bond purchases at their next meeting in September, economists said the silence on that issue was aimed at keeping market-set interest rates tamped down. "For the Fed, it clearly wants to taper (bond purchases) reasonably soon. We are still on a path toward tapering," said Pierre Ellis, senior global economist at Decision Economics in New York. A sixth report, from the U.S. Commerce Department, showed an unexpected drop in construction spending in June. Economists were little concerned about the decline, however, noting that May and April's construction outlays had been revised higher. "Significant upward revisions to May and April left an overall positive picture for the second quarter, consistent with the solid growth in residential and structures investment seen in yesterday's second-quarter GDP report," said Peter Newland, a senior economist at Barclays in New York. Construction spending dropped 0.6 percent to an annual rate of $884 billion, the Commerce Department said.

Saudi Arabia’s Latest Savagery

Islamic authorities sentenced a Liberal journalist to 600 lashes and seven years in prison, after he questioned the role of religion. David Keyes reports on the latest outrage in the Kingdom.
On July 29, Raif Badawi, founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, was sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison. His crime? Insulting Islam, speaking ill of Saudi Arabia’s religious police and, most puzzling of all, “parental disobedience.” Badawi is a 30-year-old man. Can an adult be imprisoned for disobeying his father? In Saudi Arabia, where all citizens are treated as children, the answer to that question is ‘yes.’ The Saudi dictatorship doesn’t trust its citizens to speak their mind, and so impose paternalistic and draconian laws to keep in check those who might think differently.
Women in particular are infantilized, and their ability to move around, unaccompanied by a male guardian, is severely restricted. Women are banned from driving. They cannot go to coffee shops or restaurants alone. And according to Saudi law, a woman cannot decide for herself to go on religious pilgrimage. She must have a man’s approval and be accompanied by her guardian. Saudi Arabia is considered a close U.S. ally. Yet every few weeks a case like Badawi’s reminds us that despite a massive PR effort, the Kingdom remains a vicious tyranny that will lock you away for speaking openly about politics or religion.In June, seven men were convicted and sentenced to prison terms up to ten years for writing posts on Facebook about political protests. The men were held in prison for a year and a half before they were even charged and tried, according to international human rights organizations. Also in June, two prominent women’s rights activists, Wajeha al Huweidar and Fawzia Al-Oyouni, were convicted and sentenced to a ten-month prison term on charges of inciting separation between a husband and a wife. Reportedly, they had tried to help a Quebec woman escape her abusive husband and bring her to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh. In fact, the Saudi government had been consistently harassing these women and used these trumped up charges to finally silence them. And the list goes on. The 23-year-old poet and writer Hamza Kashgari, who was accused of insulting the prophet Muhammed after he tweeted three short messages on twitter describing an imagined meeting with the prophet, has spent almost a year and a half in prison, and his fate is still uncertain. Khaled al Johani, a teacher in Riyadh, was thrown in prison in 2011 after he gave an interview to the BBC, calling for democracy in Saudi Arabia. He was released last year. Since its creation in 1932, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the male descendants of the kingdom’s eponymous founder, Ibn Saud. The current ruler, King Abdullah, has been lauded in recent years for taking steps toward reform such as the inauguration in 2009 of the King Abdullah Science and Technology University where men and women can study together - a first in the kingdom. And last year in Vienna, he opened the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue – a center supposedly aimed at promoting comity and respect between religions. But if the Saudi king was really interested in dialogue and respect, he might have started in his own theocratic, gender-apartheid dictatorship. Why did he need to fund a $20 million a year center in Austria when his own country bans Christians from importing Bibles and building houses of worship? Why, indeed, did he need to fly to Europe for such ceremonial ribbon-cutting when in his own country he could have stopped the beheading of Abdul Hamid Al Fakki and Amina bint Nasser for “witchcraft”? If he cared about respecting people of other faiths, how about letting non-Muslims step foot in the city of Mecca where they are banned? Or not arresting people for celebrating Christmas? Why not stop the printing of Saudi textbooks that call Jews and Christians “apes and pigs”? Let’s be clear. Saudi Arabia is still a brutal dictatorship that harasses and imprisons liberals, democrats, activists, bloggers and journalists. It’s a place where women don’t have freedom of movement or access to the same services as men. The guardianship system ensures that women are treated as children who needs a man’s permission to do anything of consequence. We look away because Saudi Arabia buys Western arms and sells oil at a steady price. It may seem like a good, stable arrangement. But it’s a devil’s bargain and lurking beneath the surface are deeper trends--the same ones that led to chaos and collapse in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Syria in the past two years alone. Betting on Saudi stability is a crucial mistake. Activists such as Badawi are silenced in order to sow fear among others who might dare to challenge the dictatorship. This week, by imprisoning the young campaigner, the Saudi government proved, yet again, that it cannot tolerate those who think differently. A government that treats its people with such contempt deserves respect from no one. And rather than maintain the cozy diplomatic relations with this tyranny, the West should apply massive pressure to get Badawi and other political prisoners released. Saudi Arabia remains a barbaric dictatorship. It’s time the West start treating it as such.

Bahrain: Parliament Moves to Curtail Basic Rights

The Bahrain parliament’s call at an extraordinary meeting on July 28, 2013, to impose a series of emergency measures will severely restrict basic rights. The action would give the authorities excessive powers to act arbitrarily to restrict such rights as freedom of assembly and speech. Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdulla al-Khalifa said the meeting was convened “to toughen legal penalties with respect to the protection of community from terrorism acts.” On July 29, King Hamad instructed the prime minister to codify the recommendations into law as soon as possible. Antigovernment groups told Human Rights Watch that the government is exaggerating the threat of terrorist activity to justify a renewed crackdown in advance of protest demonstrations set for August 14.
“Bahrain has spent the last two years cracking down on peaceful protest, violating people’s rights from start to finish,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “Now it’s planning a whole new set of draconian restrictions, effectively creating a new state of emergency, even while peaceful protesters from the last round are sitting in prison with long sentences.”
The parliament specifically set out 22 recommendations calling for new restrictions on freedom of expression, and an indefinite ban on all public gatherings in the capital, Manama. It also called for the authorities to revoke the citizenship of Bahrainis who have been convicted of terrorist offenses, and proposed declaring a “state of national safety” in order “to impose civic security and peace.” Bahrain’s government previously declared a National Safety Law on March 15, 2011, one month after large scale antigovernment protests began on February 14. The emergency law provided for the institution of national safety courts, which Human Rights Watch found repeatedly failed to respect and protect basic fair trial rights. The National Safety Law also granted wide ranging authority to the commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defense Force to issue regulations governing all manner of conduct and to enforce those regulations as well as existing laws. The emergency law ended on June 1, 2011. The parliament’s “Recommendation 2” called for the authorities to revoke the citizenship “of those who carry out terrorist crimes and their instigators,” raising the prospect that Bahrainis opposed to the government will be arbitrarily deprived of their citizenship rights after unfair trials on terrorism charges. The parliament’s recommendations, when codified into law, will suspend the right to free assembly indefinitely in Manama and may severely curtail free speech. “Recommendation 6” calls for the prohibition of all “sit-ins, rallies, and gatherings in the capital, Manama.” “Recommendation 16,” although vaguely worded, says that government measures should affect “basic liberties, particularly freedom of opinion, […] so as to strike a balance between law enforcement and human rights protection.”
“The parallels with the 2011 protests and the government’s heavy-handed response then are of the utmost concern,” Houry said. “Clamping down further on people who have legitimate grievances will only fuel discontent and escalate an already tense situation.” Fifty people are currently on trial accused of “illegally establishing and managing” the 14th February Group – an informal loose-knit group whom authorities have linked to acts of violence – andof “engaging in violence against the persons and assets of state security” or “participation” in the group. Thirteen of the 50 are in custody. According to court documents obtained by Human Rights Watch, the others have either left the country or have not been apprehended. The documents say that nine of the 13 have either “confessed” to charges or “confirmed” allegations put to them in police questioning during their pretrial detention. They include Naji Fateel, the alleged leader and founder of the 14th February Group. Fateel alleges that police tortured him in detention following his arrest on May 2, 2013, and that he signed a “confession” rather than endure further torture. In July 2008, a Bahrain court convicted him of destroying police property and stealing a weapon after a trial that Human Rights Watch found was “tainted with abuse.” He was sentenced to five years in prison, though he was released after nine months. On July 23, 2013, local media reported that another of the defendants, Ali Mohammed Ashoor, belongs to “an extremist group” known as the al-Ashtar Brigades that allegedly claimed responsibility for planting a car bomb that exploded near a Sunni mosque in the suburb of Riffa on July 17. No one was killed or injured in the explosion. Revoking citizenship on the basis of unfair trial convictions would violate the rights of Bahraini nationals under international law. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is considered reflective of customary international law, states that, “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” and, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.” Unlawful deportations would also violate other rights, such as the right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference with family life under article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 2006, permits some restrictions on certain rights during an officially proclaimed public emergency that “threatens the life of the nation.” It requires countries to publicly declare a state of emergency and to ensure that any suspensions or limitations of rights are temporary and strictly required by the exigencies of the situation. Although Bahrain has faced sustained domestic unrest, it is questionable whether this amounts to an emergency threatening the life of the nation, Human Rights Watch said. It also appears that the measures approved by the parliament are neither appropriate nor proportionate, particularly as they would appear to virtually end any opportunity to exercise the right to peaceful assembly. Moreover, recent history suggests that any declaration of a National Safety Law will open the way for a new government crackdown in which citizens who oppose the government will face severe penalties for exercising their rights to free assembly and expression. The national safety courts created under the 2011 law flouted basic requirements of international human rights law, as well as many provisions of Bahraini criminal law. As Human Rights Watch documented, the courts demonstrated a lack of competence, impartiality, and independence, and they served primarily as a vehicle to convict defendants of alleged crimes stemming from the exercise of fundamental rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Under international law, countries may not invoke a public emergency to permit arbitrary deprivations of liberty or unacknowledged detentions, nor may they deviate from fundamental principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence. People held as administrative detainees under a lawful state of emergency should, at a minimum, have the right to be brought before a judicial authority promptly after arrest, be informed of the reasons for detention, and have immediate access to legal counsel and family. They also should be allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a fair hearing, and to seek a remedy for mistreatment and arbitrary detention. Certain fundamental rights – such as the right to life, the right to be secure from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment – must always be respected, even during a public emergency. “The government has talked a lot about the need for national reconciliation but, once again, its actions in taking on a raft of stern new measures to suppress legitimate protest is undermining any prospects for successful dialogue,” Houry said.

Assad visits troops in Damascus suburb, Syrian TV reports

The Associated Press
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad greeted his troops in a tense suburb of Damascus on Thursday to mark Army Day and pledge victory over rebels fighting to topple him.
Assad’s visit to Daraya is his first known public trip outside the Syrian capital, his seat of power, since he visited the battered Baba Amr district in the central city of Homs after troops seized it from rebels in March 2012. It was also the latest sign of confidence by Assad, whose troops have been on the offensive and scored significant gains against rebels in recent months. Syrian TV did not provide details of the visit but the presidency’s Facebook page released a photo of Assad in a blue suit and tie, chatting with two soldiers before what appears to be a damaged building in Daraya. Daraya, just south of Damascus, was held by rebels for months and it took the army weeks of heavy fighting to regain control of the suburb earlier this year. Before his trip to Daraya, Assad lauded his troops’ accomplishments in the battle against opposition forces. “You have stunned the entire world with your steadfastness and ability to overcome the difficulties and score achievements in the face of the fiercest barbaric war the modern history has ever witnessed,” he said in comments released on the occasion of Army Day. “Had we in Syria not been confident of victory, we wouldn’t have been able to resist” for over two years, Assad said. The statement was carried by the state news agency SANA.Assad’s comments on Thursday followed several major gains against the rebels on key battlefields recently, mostly in the central province of Homs and near Damascus. The rebels suffered two major setbacks during a wide-ranging government offensive in central Syria. In June, Assad’s army recaptured the strategic town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border, and earlier this week, government troops took control of a district in the city of Homs that had long been an opposition stronghold.

Egypt's interior ministry calls on pro-Morsi protesters to end sit-ins

Egypt's interior ministry called Thursday on pro-Morsi protesters to "resort to mind" and end their sit-ins in a televised statement. "In the frame of its full commitment to its duties and keenness on the national interests, the interior ministry calls on all protesters in squares of Rabaa Al Adawiya and al-Nahda to 'resort to mind' and evacuate both squares for the sake of all people's safety," the ministry's spokesman Hany Abdel-Latif said in the statement. Abdel-Latif stressed the ministry's pledge of "safe exit" and " full protection" for those who would respond to this call. The statement came upon the cabinet's decision Wednesday that tasked the interior minister with necessary procedures to end the sit-ins and deal with any threats on national security. Information Minister Doriah Sharaf el-Din said late Wednesday that the continuation of dangerous situation at Rabaa Al Adawiya Square in Cairo and al-Nahda Square in Giza is a threat to national security and citizens. "The cabinet has decided to take all measures to confront these risks and put an end to them," Doriah said. "Terrorism and road blockages are no longer acceptable." The cabinet's decision came after people took to the streets on July 26 upon a call by Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi to condemn terrorism and violence and authorize the military to deal with outlaws, the statement said.

Bangladesh: ‘Jamaat now a criminal group’

The 14-Party Alliance has welcomed the High Court verdict that declared illegal Jamaat-e-Islami’s registration with the Election Commission.The Jamaat opposed Bangladesh's independence and collborated with the Pakistani military effort to suppress it. In an instant response, Awami League’s Joint General Secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif told, “I welcome the verdict of the High Court. Jamaat-e-Islami was involved in war crimes and later became a criminal group feared for their violent activities.” Jamaat-e-Islami’s direct involvement in war crimes during 1971 was revealed through various verdicts of the International Crimes Tribunals against its leaders who faced a slew of charges for crimes against humanity. One verdict described Jamaat as a ‘criminal’ outfit. Hanif said, “The court’s verdict is correct. Jamaat is no longer a political group, but just a criminal front.” The High Court cancelled the registration of the Islamist party on Thursday following a writ petition. It will prevent the party from contesting the forthcoming parliament election due end of this year or early next. The bench of justices M Moazzam Husain, M Enayetur Rahim, and Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque announced the verdict. Mujahidul Islam Selim, President of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, a member of the alliance, said, “We had told the Election Commission that Jamaat was not eligible for registration. This was when the Election Commission was still soft on them. That flaw has now been corrected through today’s verdict.” “Jamaat is a banned organisation which was legalised through illegal means.” He also demanded that Jamaat be banned from politics. “Jamaat is a banned outfit, the move that gave them legality was illegal. We want them to be banned immediately. Their sources of finance will have to be dismantled.” The Workers Party of Bangladesh President Rashed Khan Menon also greeted the verdict. “We too have been campaigning for this for long. How was it that they were given registration when they don’t have the right to do politics here?” He also joined the growing chorus to ban Jamaat. “I for long have been demanding a ban on Jamaat’s politics. They are not fit for our constitution and state. So I demand that they be banned as a political party.”

BANGLADESH: Jamaat-e-Islami registration illegal

The High Court Thursday declared illegal the registration of Jamaat-e-Islami with the Election Commission. A three-member panel of the HC passed the judgement after accepting a writ petition that challenged the legality of Jamaat-e-Islami’s registration as a political party. Bangladesh Tariqat Federation’s Secretary General Rezaul Haque Chandpuri and 24 others filed the writ petition on January 25, 2009. In the petition, they said Jamaat-e-Islami was a religion-based political party and it did not believe in independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. On November 14, 2008, the Election Commission (EC) listed Jamaat as a registered political party in violation of the Constitution and the spirit of the Representation of People Order (RPO) Ordinance, 2008, petitioners said. During Thursday’s judgement, two judges of the three-panel bench, declared the registration illegal after accepting the writ petition. The remaining member of the panel however disagreed with the decision of his two colleagues. The observation of the judge could not be known immediately. Justice M Moazzam Husain who led the three-member panel announced the short verdict without making an observation. Justice Moazzem however did not reveal the names of two judges who declared the Jamaat registration unlawful. He also refrained from mentioning the name of the judge who passed the dissenting opinion. Two other judges of the panel are: Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque. The HC bench concluded hearing on the petition on June 12, saying it would deliver its verdict any day. On January 27, 2009, the HC had issued a rule asking Jamaat’s chief and its secretary general, and the EC to explain why the party’s registration should not be declared illegal. In reply to the rule, the EC told the HC that some provisions of Jamaat’s charter were against the country’s constitution and RPO, while Jamaat said the EC had not done any illegality by registering the party. During the hearing on the petition, petitioners’ lawyer Tania Amir told the court that some provisions of Jamaat-e-Islami’s charter are contrary to Bangladesh’s constitution, the RPO, and the Charter of Medina. The Charter of Medina, signed and executed by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and representatives of other religions around 1,400 years ago, was inherently secular and essentially democratic, she added. Tania also said the EC’s decision to register Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party was illegal and unconstitutional, as Jamaat is a communal political party and does not believe in Bangladesh’s independence and sovereignty. As per the constitution, Bangladesh’s political parties cannot have an office abroad, but Jamaat was floated in India and has offices abroad, she said. Meanwhile, Jamaat’s chief counsel Abdur Razzaq argued that the writ petition was not acceptable, since Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, which the petitioners belong to, is a religion-based party and not a secular political party. They cannot challenge the legality of any other political party’s registration, he said, adding that Jamaat-e-Islami is a democratic political party. The EC has not committed any illegality while registering Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party, since the commission has done it to uphold its democratic norms, Razzaq added.

Pakistan jailbreak proves Taliban's growing power

Pakistan has elected a new president but experts are skeptical about the new government's ability to deal with the Taliban, who have proved their might again by raiding a jail and freeing nearly 250 of their comrades. Hours before Pakistani lawmakers began voting to elect President Asif Ali Zardari's successor on Tuesday, July 30, Taliban militants launched a massive attack on the Central Prison in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan, which is 367 kilometers away from the capital Islamabad. Up to 40 gunmen dressed in police uniforms bombed the outside wall of the jail and opened fire on the security guards, managing to free at least 250 of their comrades, including some who had been considered to be dangerous terrorists. It took the Taliban only a few hours to accomplish their mission despite the fact that the Pakistani military has a base camp close to the jail. It is not the first time the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban have broken into jails. In April 2012, nearly 400 prisoners escaped from a jail outside northwestern town of Bannu during a similar militant raid. A year later, almost 500 Taliban inmates made it out of an Afghan prison in southern Kandahar province.Experts say that the latest jailbreak proves two things: One, that the Taliban are more powerful in Pakistan than ever; and two, that the new Pakistani government - which has categorically said it will not pursue the preceding Pakistan People's Party's government's anti-Taliban policy - has no grip on security. The 73-year-old Mamnoon Hussain - a close ally of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - has been elected as the Islamic republic's new president but unlike President Zardari, the President-elect Hussain will largely be a ceremonial president following the orders of his party chief, PM Nawaz Sharif. He will have no say in determining government policies. It is Sharif who calls the shots. After winning the May 11 parliamentary elections, Sharif had made it clear that his conservative Muslim League party would rather engage in "peace talks" with Islamist militants than launching military operations. Center-right Tehreek-e-Insaf or the Movement for Justice party of Imran Khan, which has a government in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is also against military action against the Taliban.
Connivance or incompetence?
Mahnaz Rahman, a veteran rights activist in Karachi, told DW that the Taliban prison raid was just another sign how bold the militants had become in Pakistan. "It definitely shows the incompetence of Pakistan's law enforcing agencies but I also think that an attack of this scale could not have been successful without the connivance of intelligence and security forces," Rahman said, adding that the Taliban had probably known they would not face much resistance from the police. Rahman is not the only person who thinks like this. Many in Pakistan and abroad believe that certain segments of Pakistani intelligence agencies and the army covertly support the Taliban.Siegfried O'Wolf, a political science expert at Heidelberg University, says he is convinced that several elements within the Pakistan security apparatus support the Taliban. Matt Waldman, a researcher on the Afghanistan conflict at Harvard University, is also of the opinion that there is "evidence" that the ISI continues with its policy to support the Taliban and other Islamist organizations. These experts believe that the Taliban cannot launch attacks so freely in most parts of the country without the support from government agencies. Media reports suggest that the Islamists are spreading from semi-governed tribal areas to major Pakistani cities. The Taliban have killed several thousand Pakistanis in the last ten years and have attacked both civilians and security forces. The militants want to impose their strict Shariah law upon people in Pakistan.
Experts say the new government seems clueless about how to deal with the Taliban and other Islamist militants. The most recent jailbreak incident has made things even more confused for the new leaders. Sharif's and Khan's parties both blame each other for the deteriorating security situation. Sharif's central government in Islamabad says it is the responsibility of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's provincial government to deal with the issue of militancy whereas Khan's party claims the central government and the military decide security and anti-terrorism policies. Peshawar-based development worker and political activist Maqsood Ahmad Jan believes the new rulers are confused and have no clear-cut strategy on how to counter terrorism in the country. "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 in his province," said Jan. Jan is of the opinion that the new rulers have turned a blind eye to Taliban atrocities and that such incidents are happening because Sharif and Khan are in favor of talks with the extremists. "The result is that the radicals are getting bolder," Jan told DW. Muhammad Qasim Khan, an advisor to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's chief minister Pervez Khatak, told DW that Sharif's government was deliberately trying to create problems for the provincial government. "We asked the central government to move the Taliban prisoners to more secure jails. The Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) come under Islamabad's jurisdiction and so do the prisoners from these areas. But it is obvious that Islamabad wants us to fail," Khan said.
Zardari's controversial legacy
President Zardari - whose five-year-term is ending on September 9 - was clear about his government's policy towards the Islamists. Several military operations were launched against the Taliban during his presidency, albeit not enough to curb the militancy. His alliance with the United States and support of its unpopular "war on terror" in Pakistan cost him his government though. Pakistanis rejected his People's Party in May 11 elections and instead voted for parties which were ready to make peace with the Taliban.In his last speech to the joint session of the parliament's lower house and upper house, or National Assembly and Senate respectively, before the end of his presidency, Zardari urged the new government to stand firm against the militants. "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." But will the new government pay heed to Zardari's advice? Can the Dera Ismail Khan prison break be a watershed event for the new rulers, upon which they finally decide to act against the Islamists? Rahman thinks it is unlikely but "we should give the new rulers at least 100 days" before reaching a conclusion about their anti-terrorism stance. Others think it will probably be too late by then.

Afghanistan: US remains optimistic about BSA
Afghanistan and the United States would be able to conclude the Bilateral Security Agreement on an American military presence in the war-torn country beyond 2014, a senior Obama administration official hoped on Thursday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Islamabad: "We're moving ahead, we're working on it. I am personally optimistic we will conclude this accord. Satisfied with the progress made thus far on the pact, the visiting secretary said he was comfortable where the two sides were. “I expect this agreement to be completed in an appropriate time,” Kerry remarked, when asked about the BSA. While angrily reacting to the way the Taliban’s political office was opened in Qatar on June 18, Kabul announced suspending BSA negotiations with Washington. It blamed the US for failing to keep its promises on the issue. On June 30, President Hamid Karzai discussed with jihadi leaders and political figures Afghanistan’s stance on the BSA. Participants of the consultative session agreed the talks should resume after the Taliban’s representatives in Doha entered reconciliation parleys with High Peace Council members. They stressed signing of the security pact must guarantee Afghanistan’s stability and economic growth on the one hand and equipping its security personnel, including the air force, on the other. The meeting asked the United States to come to the aid of its ally in case of foreign aggression in line with Article 9 of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, the statement added.

Afghan mining deal with China facing failure

Afghan natural resources are valued at $3 trillion. But for security reasons, a multibillion-dollar mining deal between Kabul and Beijing is now in jeopardy. Its failure would have a big impact on the Afghan economy. It was meant to be the largest foreign investment in the history of Afghanistan. In 2007, the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) acquired the extraction rights to the Mes Aynak mine in Logar province for $3.5 billion (2.6 billion euros). The mine, located in eastern Afghanistan, is believed to sit on one of the largest unexploited copper deposits in the world. The Chinese put its current value at $10 billion, but the ambitious project is now on the brink of failure. Not a single gram of copper has been extracted in almost five years. The Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum, Wahidullah Shahrani, blames the "precarious security situation" for the delay. But he also stresses that the site is home to 1,500-year-old Buddhist temples, which must first be secured by archeologists. "To be very upfront with you, the MCC doesn't seem to be that active," Shahrani said, adding that he would meet the Chinese sometime soon to talk about the project's future.So far, the Chinese have failed to fulfill their obligations with the Afghan government. Alongside the payment for the mining rights, the contract includes an $808 million bonus as well as the construction of a railway line and a 400-megawatt power plant. Protection money Zarghona Rassa, from the Afghanistan Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), therefore believes that the Afghans will seek to review the agreement. "The government of Afghanistan is not happy with the way the Chinese are dealing with the contract," Rassa told DW, adding that a cancellation of the deal was no longer off the table. But it seems that it's not only the Afghans, but also the Chinese who are unhappy with the current state of affairs. Jawed Noorani, from the Afghan NGO Integrity Watch Afghanistan, says the MCC no longer regards the deal as profitable and is therefore using the Buddhist temples as an excuse to gain time for new negotiations. On top of that, a third player is now demanding protection money. "The security situation has worsened dramatically," said Noorani. The Chinese had already agreed to invest in the railway line, the gas project and the power plant to get the electricity for extracting the copper. "Now the Taliban want a slice of the pie and that's simply too much for the Chinese. This is why they want to renegotiate."Wang Lian, professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, considers the lack of security and the impending withdrawal of ISAF troops to be the main reasons for the possible failure of the project. "Several political forces in Afghanistan are fighting for power, so it is understandable that the MCC is not particularly active." Wang says he is confident that the corporation will press ahead with its investment projects as soon as the security situation in Afghanistan stabilizes. "An economically stronger Afghanistan is also in China's interest," he adds.
'Big impact on investments'
The Chinese were not the only ones competing for the mining rights to Mes Aynak. Kazakhstan, for instance, had a fair chance, but refused to construct the railway line. However, Stephen Carter, from the international NGO Global Witness warns that Afghanistan would be in a much weaker position should it decide to re-commission the project. "The Chinese company has now put the Afghan government in a delicate position. If the current contract fails, it is not clear whether another company will offer the same terms as before," Carter told DW. The expert is of the opinion that the possible failure of the largest foreign investment project to date could have a big impact on future investments.
Big hopes on mining
Minister Shahrani is keen on relying on mining as an engine for economic growth. "Our goal is for the country to be able to stand on its own feet by the end of 2014. The mining industry should be able by then to provide the state with $4 billion in revenue every year." Afghan security forces keep watch as smoke rises from the site of an attack in Kabul, July 2, 2013. Currently, 90 percent of Afghanistan's budget is supported by foreign donors. According to Afghan authorities, the country is in possession of over 2.3 trillion euros worth of natural resources, including rare earth minerals, lithium, iron, tungsten, copper, lead, zinc, among others. It is especially lithium and rare earths which interest Germany as an industrial country. They can be used in the manufacturing of turbines for wind energy. Mining is a welcome source of income for the war-torn country, but without the Chinese or similar investment partners, this dream could shatter.

Hindus, Sikhs warn of leaving Afghanistan
The Council of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan on Wednesday warned of leaving the country if they were not given proper representation in the lower house of parliament. Flanked by civil society representatives, Rail Singh, the council’s deputy head, asked the government to take effective measures to address the problems being faced by the minorities. In the original draft election law, a seat had been reserved for the Hindus and Sikh, he told a news conference. But the parliament deleted the clause, he regretted. “We are very much concerned about the abolition of the reserved seat,” remarked Singh, whose community has no representation in parliament. No parliamentarian bothered to discuss the problems being faced by the minority, he deplored. Sikhs and Hindus could not win a single Wolesi Jirga because their numbers were very small, he said, adding most of their families had left Afghanistan as a result of infighting in the country. Singh explained 800 of his community families still lived in Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni, Helmand, Nangarhar, Kunduz and Balkh provinces. Over the last couple of years, Hindus and Sikhs had been deprived of their properties and homes by powerful individuals, he alleged. Their kids could neither play on streets nor go to school because of harassment by other children, he complained. He said both Hindus and Sikhs had approached various departments and officials to have their problems resolved but no one addressed their concerns. “If our demands are not accepted, we will be forced to write to the United Nations to provide us asylum in a foreign country,” Singh announced. Ajmal Baloch, a member of civil society, asked the state to take steps to set aside a seat for the minorities in the Wolesi Jirga. He said Hindus and Sikhs had equally contributed to the strength of Afghanistan.

Malala’s struggle critics are blinded by anti-westernism

By Babar Ayaz
If today Gordon Brown, the US and UN support the women’s education cause in Pakistan and Afghanistan, should we stop supporting the right cause?
If I am killed by a stray bullet in a gunfight between the security forces and terrorists or dacoits, as bad luck would have it I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But surely I would not be and should not be labelled as a ‘martyr’ or a ‘hero’. Why? Because I have in this case either died or was injured by accident serving no greater cause.
That is one of the many differences between Malala Yousafzai who was targeted by the Taliban for criticising them and those non-combatants who are killed in just and unjust wars around the world. Terrorists who fight an unconventional war are never hesitant to use human shields. They stay/hide in houses that have women and children, sometimes by force and many a times with sympathisers. Sometimes they have their own family. So when they are killed in a war waged by the jihadists, they cannot be compared with Malala because their death is by accident. More innocent people have been killed in terrorist attacks of jihadist organisations in Pakistan than by drones and Pakistani forces. But the ultra-nationalists’ statements are apologetic as they plead that the Taliban’s terrorism is only a reaction to the US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s support to them. I think there is lot of confusion on the international recognition given to Malala. The Taliban and their allies are visibly irritated because Malala’s message was carried around the world effectively. They have changed their position against women’s education and said that Malala was attacked because of her opposition to their ‘just jihad’ waged to bring sharia in the country and not because she wanted to study. However, they have rejected all modern education as an imperialist forces conspiracy to spread democracy and secular thinking. They are still stuck with the British Raj’s conspiracies and reject modern education. The trouble is that Muslim societies reject rationalism and believe in blind faith strongly. It is something confusing for vacillating Muslims who are living in the modern global village. On the other hand there are some confused liberals/left extremists who are criticising Malala for playing in the hands of the west, whom they detest. True the US, UK, and other forces invaded Iraq under the flimsy cover of looking for WMDs. We all condemn that. But we should not dismiss some of the gains and losses made by the people as a result of the American invasion. The gain is that Iraq has now an elected government instead of a ruthless dictator; the Iraqi Kurds have more autonomy, which was denied to them by Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi Shia population has now their due share in government after suffering massacres during Hussein’s regime. The downside is that the simmering Shia-Sunni conflict has now flared up, incited by the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It has now engulfed almost all Arab countries and Pakistan. Again hundreds of people have died in these sectarian killings. In Afghanistan and Pakistan the case was and is different. We all know that the Americans had left Afghanistan after their objective to oust the Soviets forces was achieved. Many in Pakistan criticised the Americans for dumping the garbage of the Afghan War on Pakistan. Afghanistan was damaged more by the same so-called Mujahideen groups than it was in the anti-Soviet war. We were all clear on the issue that the Afghan Mujahideen and their Islamic jihad would have disastrous implications for Pakistan. At that time Ziaul Haq’s treacherous government maintained that the Afghan war was in the national interest. Even some left extremists and liberals supported the CIA covert operation as a national liberation war. Today the same lobby believes that the ISI-backed Afghan Taliban are fighting a national liberation war.
Nobody can deny that the Pakistan-backed Taliban established a fascist government and made Afghanistan a granary of Islamist terrorists of the world. Thus any sympathy for them among the liberals and left extremists is due to lack of understanding about what qualifies as a ‘national liberation war’. The Taliban do not believe in democracy, instead, they want Khilafat where one man rules a theocratic state. No pluralism is tolerated whether it is of religion, thought or ethnicity.
The Pakistani Taliban are ideologically and organically an extension of the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, which is evident if one reads the Taliban’s own literature to understand their worldview. They banned not only women’s education but restricted their movement and forced them to wear tent-like burqas. Malala stood against the Swat Taliban’s plot courageously for defending women’s right to education. All of us have to support this cause without casting aspersions on her efforts. The stupid political formulations that support what the enemy opposes and oppose what the enemy supports is being extended by the argumentative critics of Malala. Their stance is an extension of this political formulation, which is neither logical nor Marxist as they want us to believe. The question our confused friends should ask themselves is that if today Gordon Brown, the US and UN support the women’s education cause in Pakistan and Afghanistan, should we stop supporting the right cause? If today religious extremism is opposed by the west, should we start supporting the Taliban and their many allied jihadi outfits? If today the Taliban want to impose a medieval theocracy on the people through the barrel of a gun and it is opposed by the west for whatever reasons, should we adopt the Taliban’s primitive agenda and reject democracy just because western countries also support it? The point that should be noted is that we support causes that are pro-people and if the west supports them, that is because it suits them and we should not be distracted and shun their support. In politics on different points, interests of different forces converge; we should not be blinded by our anti-west theories, without understanding the fact that we live in a post-industrial period where globalisation is both good and bad for the people. (Re-reading of the Communist Manifesto and Volume One of Das Kapital to understand the role of capitalism may help confused left friends.) We should stop seeing issues and things in black and white. There are many shades of grey in between.
The writer is the author of the recently published book What’s Wrong With Pakistan?

Imran Khan’s reaction to Bannu jailbreak vs his reaction to D.I.Khan jailbreak
In April 2012, Takfiri terrorists of Taliban and Sipah Sahaba (ASWJ-LeJ) attacked Bannu prison. More than 200 heavily armed Deobandi Taliban militants travelling in several vehicles attacked the Central Jail in Bannu, Southern District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, releasing 384 prisoners in a pre-dawn assault on Sunday, 15 April 2012. Imran Khan’s reaction to Bannu jailbreak was: “Bannu jail incident again shows total collapse of ANP governance & with it law and order in KP”.
On 29 July 2013, once again Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of Taliban and Sipah Sahaba (ASWJ-LeJ) attacked a prison, this time in D.I.Khan city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. More than 150 Deobandi terrorist attacked the D.I.Khan prison and were able to secure release of more than 250 terrorists, many of them belonging to Sipah Sahaba / Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The only difference this time was that while in April 2012, ANP ruled the province, in July 2013, it was Imran Khan’s PTI that ruled the KP province.
Imran Khan’s reaction to D.I.Khan jailbreak is: “DIKhan jail break has shown the total failure of prev gov’s intel/sec set up. KP will be strengthening police/setting up strong intel immed. KP police in frontline of fire totally exposed with no tech aids or proper intel. Need to have proper provincial intel-security structures.” Imran Khan criticized ANP when Bannu jail was attacked. Now he is blaming the Federal government as well as intelligence agenices.
However, this report by Dawn newspaper shows that agencies had informed KPK government about the imminent attack: Jailbreak: it wasn’t an intelligence failure for once IF it was for intelligence information, Dera Ismail Khan’s Central Prison debacle should not have happened.
On July 27, a letter marked “secret” and “most immediate” by the country’s intelligence agency addressed to the commissioner, deputy commissioner, deputy inspector general of police, district police officer and the superintendent of Dera Ismail Khan central jail, stated: “It has been reliably learnt that miscreants namely Umer Khitab and his associates affiliated with Gandapur Group/TTP are planning to carry out terrorist attack against Central Jail – Dera Ismail Khan on the pattern similar to Bannu jailbreak in near future. According to information, miscreants are in possession of sketch/map of Jail and have reached in the vicinity of Dera Ismail Khan for this purpose.” The letter went out the day skirmishes broke out inside the prison between prisoners and guards, which say some security officials, was probably the day the attack could have been launched. To ensure that the letter reached its destination, properly signed receipts were also obtained from offices of the respective officers mentioned in the letter. The warning was followed by another demarche to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the following day, on July 28, from the National Crisis Management Cell, Ministry of Interior, Islamabad. The letter marked “secret” and “most immediate” “Threat Alert 699” said: “It has been learnt through reliable source that Umer Khitab, along with TTP elements, are planning to carry out Bannu jailbreak-like attack on Dera Ismail Khan Central Prison and for this purpose, the group has reached the vicinity of Dera Ismail Khan.” The letter went to the KP Home Secretary, Peshawar, Provincial Police Officer, Additional Chief Secretary Fata, Inspector General of Frontier Corps, Inspector General, Prison, KP and Commandant Frontier Constabulary, KP, Peshawar. To reinforce the urgency of the matter further, officers were again warned through text messages on Sunday to take appropriate security measures. As a consequence, civil and military officers visited the prison to work out a security plan. The home secretary followed up on the threat. On July 29, hours before the most audacious attack on the prison located in the middle of a populated area, the Dera commissioner held a conference of all law-enforcement agencies and the civil administration to discuss the issue. The intelligence was not merely confined to information about gathering of militants in Dera. The administration was warned that militants would be launching a three-pronged attack from Sabzi Mandi, Girls Degree College and Town Hall where they parked their 14 vehicles. Also, the administration was told that militants might blow up power transmission line to cause a blackout and they were in possession of night vision goggles. Additionally, they were told that the convergence of hardcore militants in 12-A Barrack inside the prison was a recipe for disaster and that immediate steps be taken for their dispersal. As it happened, 105 jail guards and 75 men from the Frontier Reserve Police (FRP) were least prepared to forestall the ferocious attack with rocket-propelled grenades, time devices, other explosives and heavy firearms. The attack took place at around 11.30pm and went on till 2am – three hours with one hour inside the jail compound. The militants equipped with megaphones called out names of their brothers-in-faith and broke open their cells with explosive devices, all the while raising slogans of Allah-o-Akbar and TTP Zindabad. Then they went on a slaughtering spree, beheading four inmates, taking away heads of two of them. In all, by the last count, 248 prisoners have escaped, among them 30 hardcore militants, including Qari Asif and Khalil, the group involved in bombing in Dera Ismail Khan that had left 25 mourners dead on the ninth and tenth of Muharram last year. Law-enforcement agencies scrambled and the army was called in but what they found in pitched darkness were bodies of the slain prison guards, slaughtered and beheaded inmates, a strong stench of explosives and smouldering lockups. The hundred or so militants, along with a horde of escaped prisoners, melted away amid the ensuing mayhem and confusion. The incident has thus become the biggest jailbreak in Pakistan’s history. That no lessons were learnt from the Bannu jailbreak hardly comes as a surprise. Pakistanis as a nation, it appears, never learn from history, but what boggles the mind is that the administration would take its time to prepare for an assault which, it thought would come at a time of their choosing, said one official. They were upstaged by militants. The irony is, according to a senior official, the civil and military authorities had done mock exercises, assigned specific tasks and roles and worked out a clear standard operating procedure of who was to do what. “On paper everything was worked out meticulously to prepare for both day and night assault. It was a video game played out in real time,” the official said. What seems more bizarre, the minutes of the meeting presided over by the commissioner were properly recorded. “Everybody had taken the threat alert seriously,” the official said. Light machinegun-mounted armoured personnel carriers and mobiles of the Elite Police force were deployed and guards deployed on rooftops. But what happened was even more unbelievable. When the attack came, the mobiles disappeared along with the Elite force which was to stop the assault. The district police officer went to seek help from the brigade commander, but neither showed up. “The gun was there, but there was no one to pull the trigger,” an official said. There was no breach of wall of the prison. The main gate remains intact and the guard manning the gate told investigators that when he saw the militants blowing up the APC and when they approached the gate and ordered him to open it he had no option but to open it. The militants walked in, made announcements on the megaphones and took away their men. And to cap it all, the statements of the KP chief minister and his hand-picked Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai that no intelligence was shared with KP on the Dera jail assault were brazenly misleading and untrue. “We could not have been more specific,” said an angry security official. It was incompetence and lack of preparedness, he said. The answer to Dera jail debacle was not setting up another intelligence agency within the police at a cost of Rs3 billion, as the PTI chairman said on Tuesday as clearly, the intelligence was there. It was a tactical failure. The Elite Police which had been assigned the task to guard the prison in view of the intelligence did not respond when the attack came. Neither was this an intelligence failure nor coordination failure. It was a failure of nerves and it all boils down to one stark reality: cowardice. - See more at:

Jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan: ''Pakistan's Intelligence test''

A couple of days after the incident, more details are emerging about the Taliban jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan. We now know with reasonable certainty that the attack wasn’t the result of an intelligence failure. In fact, the commissioner, deputy commissioner and other police officials at the prison were told on July 27 that an attack reminiscent of the Bannu jailbreak last year was imminent. The information was also passed on to the Khyber Pakthunkhwa government. This directly contradicts the KP chief minister and information minister’s claims that they received no intelligence warnings. This is no time to mince words and spare those in power. They must be forced to account for their deceit, something the PTI chief may look into seriously and quickly. The provincial government cannot become complacent and react to this attack as it has to all others by simply suspending a few officers for a short time. We must find out why security at the jail wasn’t heightened when there was advance warning of a threat. If it was because elements in the police were cooperating with the Taliban, then they must be identified and put on trial as terrorists. If it was simply incompetence then there are a lot of police officials who should be out of a job very soon. Given the number of intelligence agencies we have, we should be doing much better in our efforts against militants. Instead we seem to have ended with a sort of muddle, with no one apparently doing anything. We cannot hope to get very far if the major intelligence agencies are reluctant to work together or locked in some foolish sense of competition that prevents them from sharing information with each other. A divided force cannot succeed and the suggestion made by Imran Khan that a separate intelligence force be set up to deal with the militant threat does not really address the problem. We have too many intelligence agencies already and, in addition, police intelligence units as well. What we need to do is build cooperation between these various entities rather than establishing a whole new force working on its own and possibly contributing to the mess instead of helping sort it out. Certainly, the entire intelligence structure needs to be reviewed. There can be no doubt at all that good intelligence is vital to defeating militancy. Simply blocking mobile phones at specific times is not something that can resolve the security threat we face. We need an expert analysis of why our intelligence system has failed so badly, in the north, in Karachi, in Balochistan and elsewhere so that we can begin to take measures to correct all that has gone wrong, and thereby build a solid foundation on which to construct the strategy for a battle against terrorism. It can only be called criminal collusion when intelligence reports were available and the administration failed to act. The political parties also need to stop blaming each other and look inwards. All of them have contributed to the security challenges we face today. The PPP government abdicated all responsibility for security in the country, essentially indulging in leisurely inactivity and allowing the military to set the security agenda. The PML-N government still refuses to acknowledge that a sectarian war is being waged on the country’s Shia population and many of its most vicious practitioners hail from Punjab. The PTI, meanwhile, has not been sobered by its first couple of months in power. It still takes a head-in-the-sand approach to terrorism. The Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak should come as a shattering reality check to everyone in power – from the political parties to law-enforcement officials. All of them have failed the country and it is time they paid the price for that.

PPP wants CJP to step down

The Pakistan Peoples Party has demanded Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry should step down ‘to save the sanctity of the judiciary’, seeking fresh presidential election.
“After the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Fakharuddin G Ebrahim, the PPP asks Chief Justice Chaudhry to follow suit. The resignation of Mr Ebrahim has vindicated the party’s stance,” PPP Secretary-General Sardar Latif Khosa told Dawn on Wednesday. Mr Khosa said the chief justice had made the highest judicial office controversial by violating the Constitution in the verdict on presidential election. “After the resignation of the CEC, there is a constitutional crisis in the country and the PPP thinks it can only be resolved through the resignation of the chief justice,” he said. A general house meeting of the Lahore High Court Bar Association had also adopted a resolution demanding presidential references against CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Jawad S Khwaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed for their alleged violation of the constitution in their judgment on the election of the president. “The cat has come out of the bag in the presidential election as the alliance of the troika – PML-N, judiciary and ECP – is now known to everyone,” he said. Mr Khosa said by advancing the presidential election schedule, the Supreme Court not only violated its mandate but also deprived the PPP of a level playing field, making the party demand fresh presidential election. He said the PTI should also have boycotted the presidential election.
Mr Khosa said the chief justice should have stepped down when allegations of making money through illegal means had surfaced against his son Arsalan. “Arsalan got away scot-free. Had someone else been involved in such a scandal, even his accomplices would also have been behind the bars,” he said.

Pakistan: SC in the eye of the storm

In the latest chain of events in which the Supreme Court has featured promiently, the Court has issued a notice of contempt to PTI chief Imran Khan and summoned him on 2nd August. The contempt is on the remarks of Imran Khan in which he had hurled accusations not just at the apex court but the Election Commission as well. The Chief Election has sent his resignation today, but the Supreme Court has reacted differently. It has decided to take the bull by the horn. The Supreme Court which was restored after long and valiant struggle by lawyers, political leaders, workers and other sections of civil society, is currently in the eye of the storm. Those who had once cherished it for its independence and undiluted stance on justice and law are now its most ardent critics. And with the passage of time, the number of its distracters is increasing and their rhetoric against is hardening. The cause of the recent spat of criticism is the Supreme Courts order to shift the date of presidential polls from August 6, to July 30. However, more than the decision to change the date has been the manner in which the SC reached it. PML-N's Raja Zafar ul Haq filed a plea in the apex court for the change of date, as the Election Commission after once announcing the date refused to change it and said it will change the date only on orders from the Supreme Court. While hearing the plea, the Supreme Court ignored the other stakeholders in the presidential race and did not summon either the other presidential candidates or their parties and get their point of view. Basically, everybody agrees that the omission of the due process of law was not just unexpected from this the court but grave as well. They argue that when such omissions take place in the lower judiciary, the decisions are overturned by the higher courts. However this is not the only gripe that the critics have: There is a list of cases in which it has been complained that justice was either delayed or denied, which to some, amounts to the same thing. There also is the complaint regarding the preference of the order of hearing of cases by the Court. Some cases are, it is said, are heard on day to day bases; in other cases, hearings are in fits and starts. The initial hearings of certain cases are in quick succession, and then these cases are put on the back burner. There also have been objections to the way the Court has reacted to reports of corruption in certain newspapers by converting the reports into pleas and foundations for suo motto actions. The PPP government was involved in a four-year tussle with the apex court and has been accusing it of interfering in the jurisdiction of the Parliament and the executive branch of the government. Also the way, this Court made the highest-level bureaucrats run around to bring relevant papers or to take orders from their political bosses within hours, in some instances even an hour, has been considered as very inappropriate by many. The PPP complains that the Court has been targeting its leaders and government. Imran Khan, who for long had supported the justices of the highest court of the land, has a gripe of his own. He complained that the High judiciary and the Election Commission had joined to hold the most rigged elections in the country's history. He had also complained that the court was dragging its feet on giving decision on his party's petition to hold a recount of four constituency by checking the thumbprints of the voters. Top lawyers and leaders in the movement for restoration of the original judiciary like Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmed Kurd and retired Justice ® Mahmud have been critical from time to time. Of course, Aitzaz lost his cool when he appeared as lawyer for the then prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani but couldn't convince the judges; Kurd had called the justice, to put it lightly, arrogant; Justice Tariq's criticism has been mostly critical on technical grounds but more often than not. But the most potent of all the accusation is the one in which most accusers join in unison and say that the Court is partial in favour of PML-N. What is worrisome is that while most of the above maybe accused of have an axe to grind, there are lawyers, intellectuals and leaders of civil society who have voiced similar views. Without going into the merits and demerits of the accusations it would be appropriate to say that in the interest of judiciary, justice and the country, the Supreme Court has to turn around the negative impressions. It has to ponder and find ways to make sure that justice is not only done but seen to be done.

Pakistan: POL prices increased by up to Rs4.99/litre

The prices of petroleum products have been raised by up to Rs4.99 per litre from August 1. According to Ministry of Finance, with an increase of Rs2.73 the retail price of petrol has now reached Rs104.50 per litre. Analysts say it will adversely impact the poor masses as transport, which are unable to get CNG because of gas shortage in the country will charge more in the wake of this mammoth raise. The ministry also increased per litre prices of diesel, kerosene oil, and light diesel oil (LD) by Rs3, Rs4.99, and Rs3.95 respectively. The new per litre price of diesel has jumped to Rs109.76 from a previous Rs106.76, kerosene oil Rs101.28 from Rs96.29, and petrol Rs104.50 from Rs101.77. Ministry of Finance also said that Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority had suggested a raise of at least Rs4 in the price of diesel.