Monday, August 12, 2013
Amina al-Maidan was asleep in her family's apartment in the Gulf state of Bahrain last October when masked policemen arrived at about 2am searching for her son, Tagi. "They didn't show me any papers or arrest warrants," said Maidan, a Shi'ite Muslim who lives in the village of Sanabis. "They didn't know what he was wanted for. It all happened so fast. I was thinking is this real or not. Am I dreaming?" The police woke Tagi al-Maidan with a kick. "Get up! Come with us!" one officer shouted. The young man was blindfolded, cuffed and driven to an undisclosed location where, he says, he was ordered to stand on one leg for four hours. He says he was beaten repeatedly as threats were made to rape his mother and sisters until he confessed, falsely he says, to attending a memorial for a dead protester and throwing a stone at a burning police vehicle. His alleged crimes, according to the government, include damaging a police car and attempted murder during a disturbance related to Shi'ite demands for change in Bahrain, a country long ruled by its Sunni Muslim minority. If convicted, he could face 15 years in jail. Bahrain denies allegations of torture in the incident. Still, Maidan's case is similar to those of some other Shi'ite Bahraini youths whom local and international rights groups say have been arbitrarily arrested and jailed since 2011 for alleged offences against Bahrain's security forces. But it differs in one crucial respect: Maidan is an American national. His predicament throws a spotlight on the complex relationship between the United States and the small Gulf nation of 1.25 million citizens, around half of whom are expatriates. Bahrain is a U.S. ally in a volatile region and has long provided a base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet; but at the same it faces criticism over its record on human rights which the United States champions. Referring to human rights and security in the Gulf, a U.S. Congressional report last year said: "Bahrain in particular presents Washington with a difficult policy challenge." Bahrain has been ruled since 1783 by the Al-Khalifa family, which follows the Sunni strand of Islam. About 60 percent of the population - Bahrainis disagree on the exact figure - are Shi'ites. They want constitutional reform and more power and, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions, began protesting in the capital, Manama, in February 2011. The government cracked down forcefully on the unrest then. But more than two years on, and with "national dialogue" talks taking place, lower-level unrest persists, with further anti-government protests expected in the next few days. A cat-and-mouse game takes place across the patchwork of Shi'ite villages every night. Youths block roads, security forces move in, and the two trade volleys of Molotov cocktails, tear gas and birdshot. Arrests, arbitrary or otherwise, fuel more anger among the disenfranchised youth. Hundreds of people have been seized this year during night-time raids, according to Human Rights Watch; they include activists "who have made credible allegations of torture that are consistent with previous instances of documented torture," said Nicholas McGeehan, a Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch. Bahrain rejects such allegations. When asked to comment about Maidan's account of his treatment, the office of the Bahraini government's spokeswoman told Reuters in a statement that it has a "zero-tolerance" policy towards torture. Critics accuse the United States of downplaying human rights abuses in Bahrain because of its military and security interest there. The dilemma is similar to that in Egypt, where annual U.S. aid of $1.3 billion to Egypt's armed forces sits uncomfortably with the military's recent overthrow of the democratically-elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. In jail since October, Maidan answered questions posed to him by Reuters through his family and a family friend, who delivered a transcript of his answers. He denies the charges against him; and he, his family and a U.S. based advocacy group that supports human rights in Bahrain say Washington has done little to help him. A U.S. State Department official said the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain has been providing "appropriate consular services" to Maidan. The family says a designated consular officer has seen Maidan several times and has attended his court hearings. The State Department official said Washington has emphasized the importance of Bahrain's commitment to "transparent judicial proceedings in accordance with universal human rights and due process." "SECRET SOURCES" Maidan was born in Connecticut in the United States in 1988 where his Saudi father studied for a Masters degree in public health at Yale University. His mother is a Bahraini, but because Maidan was born on American soil he is a U.S. national. His parents divorced a few years later and Amina returned with her children to Bahrain. Maidan, with only a U.S. passport, could not attend a state university and private colleges were too expensive. He applied several times for work at the U.S. embassy and at the naval base, which hosts thousands of U.S. personnel, but was not offered anything. Instead he undertook a number of odd jobs, including working at a petrol station and setting up internet connections for a telecoms company. The family has stayed away from the protests of the past two years, according to Amina. That includes a memorial service that took place on October 5, 2012, for a Shi'ite man who had been jailed after the February 2011 uprising and later died in hospital. The memorial march turned violent and police used water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters. One water cannon vehicle caught fire when protesters threw petrol bombs and stones. Maidan says he was not at the march but at home, an assertion supported by his close friend, Hussein Traif, who says he asked Maidan to pick him up from the memorial procession, but that Maidan said he did not want to leave home while the situation was tense. Less than two days later, the police came for Maidan. The Bahraini government says he was involved in "setting a police vehicle ablaze (at the memorial service) while the policemen were still inside and then proceeded to attack the policemen on the ground resulting in the injury of three officers." The government say the crimes threatened Bahrain's national security, and Maidan faces charges of attempted murder, intentionally setting ablaze a police vehicle, damaging a police car, illegal gathering and possession of explosives. According to a Bahrain Public Prosecution document, a security officer said his proof Maidan attended the memorial service stems from eight "secret sources" that have not been disclosed. Maidan and his mother say he was forced to confess to being at the event. "After four hours of interrogation I confessed to everything, I signed papers even though I had no idea what had been written on them," Maidan told Reuters through his family. "Out of fear of more beatings, I urinated on myself, and they forced me after signing to speak in front of a camera after making me memorize what to say." The Bahraini government said in a statement that its "secret sources" form only part of the evidence against Maidan, and that "all interrogations and interviews take place in a designated room that is fitted with audio and video recording equipment." Soon after Maidan was taken away, his mother contacted the U.S. embassy in Bahrain for help, partly because she was concerned about her son's medical condition. Maidan has stomach ulcers and suffers from scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. His mother says requests for specialist medical treatment have been denied; Reuters was unable to verify that claim. The U.S. State Department official said: "The consular section has continued to be in contact with the relevant Government of Bahrain authorities, and has repeatedly emphasized to the (government) that Mr. Al Maidan should receive appropriate medical care and food to meet his particular health needs." The Bahraini government told Reuters that Maidan receives proper care while in prison, including health care. MISSED OPPORTUNITY After the initial uprising, in which at least 35 people were killed, Bahrain's government commissioned the prominent Egyptian-American jurist Cherif Bassiouni to lead an independent inquiry into the violence. His report, published in November 2011 and known as the Bassiouni Report, said arrests in the wake of riots showed a pattern of behavior "designed to inspire terror in the arrested persons." The report said authorities had used widespread and excessive force, including torture to extract confessions. The Bahraini government says it has taken steps to address the problems by dismissing those responsible and introducing cameras at police stations. Despite U.S. Congressional criticism of alleged abuses, Washington has approved some military sales to Bahrain. A U.S. State Department fact sheet dated August 28, 2012, stated that military sales to Bahrain since 2000 have totaled $1.4 billion. A former U.S. government official said the fact that the U.S. signed a military package last year tended to communicate "business as usual." He added: "That was perhaps a missed opportunity where the United States could have applied some subtle pressure to get the (Bahraini) monarchy more responsive." Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert at the Congressional Research Service and author of a paper on Bahrain published in April, told Reuters the United States is "basically ... on the side of the government, of the regime" and that U.S. officials do not think the Shi'ite majority have the right to topple the government or call for their demands using violence. Instead, U.S. officials want a compromise so that "there's no disruption to the close security relationship", said Katzman. Another U.S. State Department official praised Bahrain's King Hamad for showing "significant leadership" in initiating the Bassiouni commission and noted that Crown Prince Salman, seen as a figure with a more reformist mindset, had been appointed Bahrain's First Deputy Prime Minister. The move signaled Bahrain's commitment to a "long-term reform program," said the official. But so far talks between the Shi'ite opposition and the government have made little progress. Mutual distrust has stymied any breakthrough. On one side, the Shi'ite opposition insist on a representative of the king being present at the talks; on the other, the government continues to push the message that Iran, a majority Shi'ite nation, and Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Islamist group based in Lebanon, are fomenting the unrest in Bahrain. The opposition, Iran and Hezbollah deny that charge. The Bassiouni Report did not find any discernible link between Iran and the protests of early 2011. Nevertheless, Washington and London view Bahrain partly through the prism of Iran, which is pursuing a program of nuclear development. Iran says it is for peaceful purposes, the West suspects it is to develop weapons. Amid such tensions, the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain is a vital asset. On a patrol with anti-riot forces in Bahrain earlier this year, Reuters journalists witnessed a snapshot of the near-daily clashes that continue to rock the streets. Police drove along main thoroughfares clearing roadblocks set up by angry Shi'ite youths. While police tackled barricades and burning tires, youths often hurled insults and petrol bombs. The police responded with teargas. On other occasions they have sometimes used birdshot. Recently, youths have targeted police patrols, and there have been attacks on a Bahraini lawmaker's house as well as on a mosque in a district where many members of Bahrain's royal family live. "Tamarrod" (Rebel) youths, who have taken inspiration from a similar protest movement in Egypt that led to the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last month, have called for anti-government protests in Bahrain on August 14. Authorities have warned that anyone joining the demonstrations would face the force of law and have toughened penalties against what they consider "terrorist crimes," in moves Human Rights Watch has said would effectively create "a new state of emergency". Meanwhile, Maidan said the U.S. has not done enough to make it clear he is entitled to the rights of a U.S. citizen. He told Reuters he has lost more than 15 kilograms while in prison and has occasionally been restricted to drinking one bottle of water a day. "The embassy has not shown everyone the legal rights I have and the fact that I'm innocent until proven guilty and should have all rights," he said. The Bahraini government told Reuters that Maidan "enjoys all privileges, rights and care that all the inmates receive without any exception." A verdict in his case is expected in September.
A political commentator says Saudi Arabia plays an active role in funding and supporting terrorism and extremism against democratic countries in the Middle East, Press TV reports. Middle East expert from London Zeid al-Isa told Press TV’s Debate program that the formal religious establishment of Saudi Arabia as the staunchest ally of the United States adheres to the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology which is “the most regressive, the most violent and the most backward ideology.” “The Wahhabi-Salafi ideology gives religious legitimacy, religious incentive and religious justification to the atrocities and also to the suicide bombings which are taking place both in Iraq and in Syria,” he stated. In response to a question about the reasons behind recent violent attacks against Shia Muslims in Iraq, Isa noted that the country has been the scene of the worst bloodshed during July and the holy month of Ramadan. “It is reminiscent of the days of 2006 and 2007 bloodshed where Iraq was driven close to the brink of a civil war,” he said. “What is also undeniable is that since 2003 the Saudi regime has refused to recognize the democratic change in Iraq. It has also refused to have any diplomatic representation,” the commentator stated. He reaffirmed the “undeniable” fact that Saudi Arabia has been the staunchest, closest and irreplaceable ally for the United States in the Middle East after the popular uprisings swept into the region. Saudi Arabia is the main strategic US ally, which is the central pillar of executing American policies, he concluded. Iraq has been struggling with a major surge of terror bombings and other violence since the beginning of this year. Over 670 people have been killed in the holy month of Ramadan alone. The United Nations said on August 1 that a total of 1,057 Iraqis were killed and another 2,326 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in the month of July, making it the country’s deadliest month since 2008.
Saudi Arabia, a major supporter of opposition forces in Syria, has increased crackdown on its own dissenters, with 30,000 activists reportedly in jail. In an exclusive interview to RT a Saudi prince defector explained what the monarchy fears most. “Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens,” Human Rights Watch begins the country’s profile on its website. Political parties are banned in Saudi Arabia and human rights groups willing to function legally have to go no further than investigating things like corruption or inadequate services. Campaigning for political freedoms is outlawed. One of such groups, which failed to get its license from the government, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was cited by AFP as saying the kingdom was holding around 30,000 political prisoners. Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Farhan Al-Saud, who spoke to RT from Dusseldorf, Germany, confirmed reports of increased prosecution of anti-government activists and said that it’s exactly what forced him to defect from his family. He accused the monarchy of corruption and silencing all voices of dissent and explained how the Saudi mechanism for suppression functioned.
“There is no independent judiciary, as both police and the prosecutor’s office are accountable to the Interior Ministry. This ministry’s officials investigate ‘crimes’ (they call them crimes), related to freedom of speech. So they fabricate evidence, don’t allow people to have attorneys”, the prince told RT Arabic. “Even if a court rules to release such a ‘criminal’, the Ministry of Interior keeps him in prison, even though there is a court order to release him. There have even been killings! Killings! And as for the external opposition, Saudi intelligence forces find these people abroad! There is no safety inside or outside the country.”The strong wave of oppression is in response to the anti-government forces having grown ever more active. A new opposition group called Saudi Million and claiming independence from any political party was founded in late July. The Saudi youths which mostly constitute the movement say they demand the release of political prisoners and vow to hold regular demonstrations, announcing their dates and locations via Facebook and electronic newspapers. Human rights violations are driving people on to the streets despite the fear of arrest, according to activist Hala Al-Dosari, who spoke to RT from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “We have issues related to political and civil rights, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. These are the main issues that cause a lot of people to be at risk for just voicing out their opinions or trying to form associations, demonstrate or protest, which is banned by the government.” The loudest voice of the Saudi opposition at the moment is a person called ‘Saudi Assange’. His Twitter name is @Mujtahidd, he keeps his identity and whereabouts secret and is prolific in online criticism of the ruling family, which has gained him over a million followers.
“The regime can destroy your credibility easily and deter people from dealing with you if your identity is public,” Mujtahid wrote to RT’s Lindsay France in an email.The Twitter activist’s anonymity is understandable. The most recent example of what can happen to activists is the case of Raif Badawi, the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, who was found guilty of insulting Islam through his online forum and sentenced the activist to 600 lashes and seven years in prison. In June, seven people were sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for ‘inciting protests’ via Facebook. The indicted denied charges and said they were tortured into confession. “The government is obviously scared of the Arab revolutions. And they’ve responded as they usually do: by resorting to oppression, violence, arbitrary law, and arrest,” Prince Khaled says, adding that so far the tougher the measures the government took to suppress the dissent, the louder that dissent’s voice was. “The opposition used to demand wider people’s representation in governing bodies, more rights and freedoms. But the authorities reacted with violence and persecution, instead of a dialogue. So the opposition raised the bar. It demanded constitutional monarchy, similar to what they have in the UK, for example. And the Saudi regime responded with more violence. So now the bar is even higher. Now the opposition wants this regime gone.” There was a time, at the beginning of the Arab Spring movement in the region in 2011, when the government tried to appease opposition activists by a $60 billion handout program by King Abdullah, according to Pepe Escobar, a correspondent for the Asia Times. He calls that move an attempt to “bribe” the population. However there was also a stick with this carrot. “The stick is against the Shiite minority - roughly 10 percent of Saudi Arabia - who live in the Eastern province where most of the oil is, by the way. They don’t want to bring down the House of Saud essentially. They want more participation, judiciary not answering to religious powers and basically more democratic freedoms. This is not going to happen in Saudi Arabia. Period. Nor in the other Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] petro-monarchies”. Escobar points out the hypocrisy of the Saudi Arabian rulers, who feel free to advise other regional powers on how to move towards democracy, despite their poor human rights record. “They say to the Americans that they are intervening in Syria for a more democratic post-Assad Syria and inside Saudi Arabia it’s the Sunni-Shiite divide. They go against 10 percent of their own population.”'Buying favors from West' Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on opposition has been strongly condemned by human rights organizations, but not by Western governments, which usually claim sensitivity to such issues. “The White House certainly does maintain a long-standing alliance with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, cemented by common political, economic and military interests in the Middle East,” said Prince Khaled. Germany came under fierce criticism last week over its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, which have almost tripled in just two years, from 570 million euro in 2011 to almost one-and-a-half billion in 2012. And Angela Merkel's government has approved weapons exports of more than 800 million euro in the first half of this year - suggesting the level will continue to grow. “With arms they [Gulf States] are also buying favors from the West. They are insuring the maintenance of their legitimacy on spending massive amounts of money that are pouring into Western economies,” Dr. Ahmed Badawi, co-executive director of Transform, which studies conflicts and political developments, told RT. In 2012, Amnesty International claimed that German-made small firearms, ammunition and military vehicles were commonly used by Middle Eastern and North African regimes to suppress peaceful demonstrations. “Small arms are becoming real weapons of mass destruction in the world now. There is absolutely no way to guarantee that the weapons that are being sold legally to countries like Saudi Arabia, even Egypt, do not fall into the hands of terrorists. The two important examples are German assault rifles found in the regions in Mexico and also in Libya. And there’s absolutely no way of knowing how these weapons ended up there,” Badawi said.
Prime Minister Erdoğan was ‘misled’ about the Gezi Park protests, according to a report prepared by a research center chaired by a ruling party MPTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was misinformed during the Gezi Park protests and the redevelopment project was not handled in a democratic way, said a report prepared by the Eurasia Global Research Center (AGAM), chaired by İdris Bal, a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy. The report, called “Taksim Incidents Analysis,” said a small-scale local issue turned into a big crisis and chaos since the prime minister was misguided and became the principal side of the dispute. Bal’s report defined the unrest’s beginning as a “strategic mistake.” The Gezi Park protests started May 31 when the Metropolitan Municipality bulldozers attempted to demolish central Istanbul’s unique green area, Gezi Park. The Turkish police’s heavy-handed intervention caused the protests to spread to 79 of 81 provinces. Four protesters were killed by police and some “anti-protest civilians,” and a police officer fell off a bridge during an intervention and died. More than 10 protesters have lost their sight, and nearly 7,000 protesters were injured in almost 40 days of unrest, according to the Turkish Medical Association’s toll. This could have been avoided by early interventions by the local Beyoğlu Municipality or Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and Erdoğan would be the actor to resolve the conflict. The report said the Taksim incidents started with the environmentalist sensitivity of a small group, but the police’s intervention and the lack of dialogue caused the protests to transform to anger at first the prime minister and second at the government. Dialogue required The project should have consulted the community, the report also said, adding that democracy-valuing societies require polls and dialogue between people and the local authorities. A chain of serious problems is seen in the process of the Gezi Park redevelopment project, the report said. Failing to place the prime minister in the crisis properly caused Erdoğan to become the principal side of the crisis, the report said. This was a strategic mistake that gave the opportunity to illegal groups waiting in ambush to benefit from chaos, it said. The report also criticized “ballot box democracy,” saying that winning elections did not mean that governments assumed omnipotent powers and claimed “the luxury to act as they desired until the next election.” Erdoğan reacted as if he had been the conductor of the project and the Beyoğlu local municipality and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality were not considered sides in the project by society. Erdoğan was seen as the first responsible actor, the AKP second, the government third and the state fourth, the report said. If democratic methods had been implemented by the municipality from the beginning, the problems would not have even surfaced, it added. Bal, speaking to daily Radikal, said the question of where the mistake was made should be asked by every side, so that similar mistakes could be avoided.
In stark contrast to the stand taken by a group of retired diplomats and intelligence and military officials, the India chapter of India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSI) has urged the government not to relent in its resolve to improve relations with Pakistan. At the same time, it condemned the killing of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army, an act which “deserves the severest censure and condemnation”. Despite such grave provocations, the former soldiers felt an uninterrupted and an uninterruptible dialogue process was the only option to follow the peace process and resolution. The call for continuing with dialogue despite the killings that had vitiated the atmosphere and set “the clock of peace in the reverse direction” came days after 40 diplomats, intelligence and military officials — many of them holding office when the Kargil conflict and the Kandahar hijacking took place — called on the government not to walk away from the dialogue process. Calling itself sincerely committed to cordial relations and friendship with Pakistan, “as we sincerely believe there are dividends in peace which shall usher prosperity and empowerment of people in both countries”, IPSI pointed out that it had remained committed to the idea of dialogue despite several setbacks. The meeting of 50 India chapter members of IPSI was held in Chandimandir near Chandigarh on August 4, two days before the killing of the five Indian soldiers on the Poonch border. While the group of 40 former Indian government officers appeared to have been swayed by the media focus on the killings, the former soldiers with IPSI reconfirmed the resolution whose core kernel was that it was better to talk rather than go for hostilities, said Cmdr (retd.) Ranjit Rai, who was authorised by IPSI’s India chapter to issue the statement. The India chapter consists of about 150 war veterans who fought the 1965, 1971 and the Kargil war but joined IPSI formed by the late Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande in 1993. The Pakistanis include Brigadier (retd.) Rao Abid Hamid, who had campaigned for the release of Indian spy Roop Lal Saharihya; and Gen. (retd.) Nasir Akhtar, a former corps commander who lost his brother in the 1965 war. Among the former Indian military men are Major General (retd.) Tej Kaul, Brigade Commander in J&K at the peak of militancy in 1997; Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas; and Col. (retd.) Virendra Sahai Verma, who fought two wars against Pakistan.
President Obama began his Martha’s Vineyard vacation in traditional style Sunday, wasting no time in hitting the golf course. Taking a break from wrangling over immigration reform and planning for federal budget debates, the president began his first full day of vacation with a midday round at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs. He was joined by aide Marvin Nicholson and White House chef Sam Kass, with Robert Wolf, a former UBS Americas chairman and one of Obama’s principal Wall Street allies, completing the foursome.But if the president had been hoping to get his vacation off on the right foot, he was out of luck. “His first putt was a miss, which Obama reacted to by leaning back and kicking his knee up, as if trying to coax the ball into breaking right,” according to the pool report from the journalists who watched him play the first hole. “He let out a little, ‘Ooooh,’ as it happened. Next one missed, too. Last one he just dragged in the hole,” the report added. It is the fourth time Obama has vacationed on the upscale island, although he skipped a trip here last year during the presidential campaign. Golf has been his preferred way to unwind — he has played more than a dozen rounds on previous visits. Lee Gibbon, a restaurant owner from Washington state who is vacationing on the island, was sitting in the golf course’s cafe when Obama showed up to play a round. “He said, ‘Isn’t this a great day?,’ and some people wished him well, and he went and teed off,” Gibbon said. He described the president as an “accomplished” rather than a “great” golfer, but said he was impressed by what he saw. “Taking a shot in front of 50 people — that’s a lot of pressure,” Gibbon said. The president arrived with first lady Michelle Obama shortly before 4 p.m. on Saturday. He is due to return to Washington on Sunday, and no public events are planned during his vacation. Aides said he will continue to receive daily updates from national security adviser Susan Rice and deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, both of whom are on the island. Residents on Martha’s Vineyard said they have learned to spot familiar signs indicating that the president is in town. Margaret Saul, a sales clerk at Alley’s Farm Stand, a short distance from where the Obamas are staying, said Secret Service agents had stopped to buy groceries Saturday night. “They tell everyone they are here on a fishing trip,” she said. “They think they are blending in, but it’s obvious,” she added, noting that the agents typically travel in pairs in black cars and often have radio wires in their ears. However, one familiar accompaniment to the president’s trip has been more muted than usual, with Republicans largely avoiding criticizing Obama for vacationing on an island dotted with multimillion-dollar homes. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) was an exception, telling a newspaper last week that the choice made the president appear “tone deaf” because most of Stewart’s constituents “could never afford to visit Martha’s Vineyard.” Islanders rejected that argument, saying they thought that the commander in chief deserved a break and expressing hope that the publicity would encourage more people to visit, boosting the local economy. One retailer was looking to cash in with T-shirts bearing the slogan “I vacationed with Obama — Martha’s Vineyard ’13,” while another store, Portobello Road in Edgartown, had already sold a handmade wooden sign reading “Obama Rules” and was touting a second. The Obamas are again staying on Martha’s Vineyard’s western tip, but in a different home after their previous choice, the 28-acre Blue Heron Farm, was sold to an owner who refused to rent it out. Their new place is a $7.6 million, six-bedroom house overlooking Chilmark Pond and the ocean beyond, and it features a swimming pool and a basketball court. It is owned by David Schulte, a Democratic donor who is a friend of the president and works in corporate restructuring. Because the house is a few hundred feet from a major road, the Secret Service has banned nearby traffic during the eight-day visit, ruffling some feathers. The Vineyard Gazette reported that Chilmark Selectman Warren Doty complained that the new approach would be “very disruptive,” and the town sent out an e-mail advising residents with complaints to contact the White House. But at the twice-weekly artisans fair in West Tisbury, a few miles from where the Obamas are staying, residents and tourists were keen to play down the dispute. “I think everyone is excited and perfectly willing to put up with the road closure here,” Jay Kirch, 81, said as he sat in the shade at a picnic table. “I do believe he needs protection and privacy.” Lorri Hart, 54, who was selling her custom-made jewelry at the fair, echoed Kirch’s view on the traffic disruption, saying, “I’m fine with that as long as he brings a lot of people here to visit.” “We’re used to a lot of important people coming here, but it’s still exciting,” she added.
http://www.egyptindependent.com/The escapes of Al-Qaeda members from the Al-Kuwayfia prison in Libya, the Abu Ghraib and Al-Tagi prisons in Iraq, and another Pakistani prison have alarmed the world. Last week, prisoners escaped in nine different countries, which raised speculations as to whether it was a coincidence. CIA investigations say this was a new strategy for Al-Qaeda, which has actually claimed responsibility. President Barack Obama closed 25 diplomatic missions following an interception of a call between Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leader of the Yemen branch Nasser al-Wahishi, in which Zawahiri ordered operations against U.S. and Western installations to be more violent than those of 11 September 2001. On 27 July, more than 1200 prisoners escaped in Libya as gunmen opened fire from outside the prison and clashed with the guards, while the prisoners burned the facility from the inside. Two days later in northwest Pakistan, militants blew up the gates of a prison, letting 250 prisoners out, of which many were Islamist militants. Twelve people were killed in the attack, including five police officers. In the same week, two Iraqi prisons were attacked by suicide bombers, and more than 500 prisoners escaped, including a number of senior Al-Qaeda members. The Interpol warned security authorities in all countries of the world of the potential consequences of these jailbreaks. On Saturday, US diplomatic missions opened again after closing for a week in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain, Muscat, Sanaa, Tripoli, Antananarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum,Kigali, and Port Louis. US allies, including Britain, France, Germany and Norway, followed suit and closed a number of their diplomatic missions as well. US reports view this development as failure on the part of the US to help these countries achieve security and stability, and to combat Al-Qaeda activity. Experts found a pattern for the jailbreaks, namely suicide bombers, gunmen targeting prison walls, and the use of mortars and RPGs. Other common denominators are that all those countries have weak ruling institutions and security and intelligence bodies despite US support in this regard.
Despite the fact that Afghan security forces have been progressing well and fighting militancy bravely but the security situation on ground has been deteriorating. It clearly means there is still enough room for security improvement. Security measures should be beefed up across the country as during the month of Ramadan there was a marked increase in violence unleashed by the Taliban insurgents. In a recent terror incident the Taliban insurgents killed the son-in-law of a female senator, kidnapped her son and another civilian when they intercepted their vehicle in the Maqur district of southern Ghazni province. The Taliban have so far said nothing about the incident. The incident has just come a week after another female lawmaker and her husband were injured and their daughter killed in a similar attack in Ghazni. Each terror incident adds weight to this notion that the US war in Afghanistan has just been unraveling. And as it unravels violence goes on unabated. This surge in violence and mayhem is quit visible during the sacred month of Ramadan. The militants have become much ruthless as they didn’t spare the lives of innocent civilians on Eid day, Friday, Ramdan or Muharram. Nothing is sacred for them. Looking at the unabated bloodshed of Afghans by the Taliban, now this war-weary nation asks just one question—when will the common man stop becoming victim to violence, suicide attacks and landmine blasts? If anyone has its answer this war-hit nation has been desperately waiting to know. Yes, we are sure there will be no major reversals in post-2014 Afghanistan but despite that we cannot say that everything is okay and there is no problem. If we believe that there is no challenge it is nothing except deceiving our own and beguiling others into believing this notion. Security and peace have been absent particularly during the month of Ramadan and Eid days. But at last why? Was there any security lapse? If yes, it is a criminal inertia. But who is responsible for it, anyway? When the Taliban insurgents carried out three successive attacks in Jalalabad what we heard was that the government was going to reform police in Nangarhar. But unfortunately there has been no follow up. The problem is not only in Jalalabad rather the chaos is so deep rooted that every nook and cranny of the country is red with the blood of the common man. As the withdrawal of foreign forces has just started, Kabul and Washington are quite likely to be knotted in a key security agreement and the Taliban will try their utmost to unleash the floodgates of terror across the country. In such a situation it is highly needed that security measures should be beefed up across the country especially in the areas bordering Pakistan. It is too unfortunate that the security lapses during the past month have emboldened those who don’t want the development of this country and its citizens to accelerate their anti-Afghan deadly activities. To stem the tide of growing terror and militancy, bringing unity among our ranks irrespective of it who is who and what is what is highly needed. Besides that good governance, transparency, fast response justice system, and widening job bank are the factors that will set the foundations of a developed Afghanistan. Therefore, there should be some substantial programs initiated by the government, media, and education centers collectively for bringing unity among the different ethnic groups. If this time we—the different ethnic groups fail to stand united, it will be difficult enough to stem the tide of the growing militancy, which has already plagued our society and snatched away peace from this ill-fated country.
The Bomb Disposal Squad on Monday successfully defused an explosive device in Hayatabad area of Peshawar to avert a major tragedy. According to police, the one-and-half kilogram homemade device was placed in a paint box that was planted in an empty plot along the road near Karkhanoo Bazaar. The police, upon receiving the information about bomb, called bomb disposal squad who defused the explosive device after a labor of 20 minutes. - See more at: http://pakistantribune.com.pk/3884/tragedy-averted-in-karkhanoo-bazaar-peshawar.html#sthash.4hwa4g1I.dpuf
India and Pakistan exchanged more gunfire across the disputed border in Kashmir on Sunday, Indian border guards said, as a 10-year ceasefire frays over accusations of killings of soldiers deployed on the frontline. One Indian border guard was wounded after Pakistan Rangers opened fire on a post in Kanachak, some 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, the Border Security Force said. "It was an unprovoked firing on an International Border post from the other side. However, we responded with utmost restraint," a spokesman of the Border Security Force said. There was no immediate comment from Islamabad. Tensions along the 740-km Line of Control that divides Kashmir rose on Tuesday when an Indian army patrol was ambushed and five soldiers killed in the Poonch region. New Delhi blamed the attack on the Pakistan army. Islamabad denied involvement. The two armies also exchanged heavy fire on Friday in the Poonch region, Indian authorities said, straining the ceasefire that has largely held on the border since November 2003. India has linked the ceasefire violations to attempts by Pakistan to push through militants into its side of Kashmir to revive a decades-old revolt there. Islamabad denies any help and instead has called for talks to resolve the disputes between the neighbors including the long-running row over Kashmir. Underscoring Indian worries over renewed unrest in Kashmir, clashes in the Jammu region erupted after a large group of stone pelting protesters unfurled a Pakistani flag, shouting pro-Islam, pro-independence slogans after offering Eid prayers. Three people were killed in the violence on Friday and the situation remained tense with a curfew imposed in six out of 10 districts of Jammu, state officials said. India has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in Kashmir to put down an armed revolt that began in 1989. In recent years militant violence has ebbed, but there has been little movement on a political settlement of the dispute. On Sunday, army troops patrolled the streets of the violence-hit districts and the local administration blocked mobile data services to stop the spreading of rumors, it said.
Police and jail authorities kept the army in the dark regarding the attack on the central Dera Ismail Khan Jail, according to the initial report on the incident obtained by Express News on Monday. The report states that the Army was notified on their own of the jailbreak to which they summoned five Quick Response Force (QRF) companies. According to the initial report, the police and jail authorities told the army that the militants were inside the jail, whereas the militants had already attacked and left at that point. The escaped militants engaged in a firing combat with the QRF in a nearby neighborhood after. Two militants were killed as a result of the combat. The initial inquiry report has been forwarded to the Islamabad head quarters. The report also states that the army knew a day in advance of the attack and had stationed a “big” rifle on the main gate to handle a potential crisis. However, there was no police present at the main gate and no one used the gun which could have helped the situation. Four policemen were put behind bars for their negligence in the attack by the Tehrik-e-Taliban on the Dera Ismail Khan Jail on August 10. At least six people were killed, including five policemen as the Tehreek-e-Taliban mounted a late night assault on the prison in Dera Ismail Khan late on July 30, in which nearly 250 prisoners managed to escape.
INTERIOR Minister Nisar Ali Khan was in Quetta yesterday and once again spoke plainly about the security threats confronting the country and what will be needed if those threats are ever to be defeated. Alas, the straight-talking interior minister still does not have an actionable plan, the much-vaunted, much-promised and much-talked-about counterterrorism strategy. While it is a case of better late than never that a federal government is looking to draw up a comprehensive anti-terror strategy, it is telling that the PML-N, which has ruled Punjab for the past five years and sat in the opposition in Islamabad, has appeared so out of touch with present-day security realities. From what the interior minister and other PML-N leaders, including the prime minister himself, have said since coming to power, it appears the party simply had no idea about the breadth or depth of the terrorist, militancy and extremism problems. Troubling as that is for what it says about the quality of the country’s political leadership, it matters even more for the next great big problem on the security front: Punjab. The reality is that no counterterrorism policy will be comprehensive, or even adequate, if it stops at addressing the threats that have already exploded into national consciousness. Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in Balochistan, TTP in KP, Fata and Karachi, Al Qaeda in the tribal areas and buried deep inside Pakistani cities — these, and many morethreats must necessarily be addressed in the government’s counterterrorism strategy. But these are threats that have already materialised and demonstrated the damage they can wreak. A policy that stops at confronting them will necessarily be backward looking. What the country needs is a forward-looking anti-terror policy, one that identifies future trouble spots and anticipates where terror can strike down the road. Surely Punjab is not alone in playing host to a dormant militant network — dormant at least in the sense of present-day attacks on home-province soil — but there is a sense that outside of North Waziristan, many of Punjab’s cities, towns and perhaps even villages play host to the most sophisticated, well-financed, committed and trained jihad network in all of Pakistan. Going after the threat in Balochistan, Karachi, Fata and KP and leaving Punjab’s militant threat undisturbed would only create another massive, possibly unmatched, threat down the road. Quite obviously, each area and many of the threats require a tailor-made response. What is needed in the Waziristan agencies is different to what is needed to fight the sectarian threat in Quetta which itself is different from what is needed to quell the separatist threat in swathes of Baloch territory. What Punjab needs is a more forthright political leadership, its intelligence network beefed up, more robust policing and a clear sense of where and when religious conservatism crosses over into extremism and militancy.
Dailu TimesIn what is being called one of the deadliest attacks on the Pakistan police, at least 21 senior and mid-level police officers died amidst high security at the police lines in Quetta on August 7. The entire top police cadre of Balochistan had assembled in the ground adjacent to the mosque in police lines to offer the funeral prayers of one of their officers who had died earlier in the day while he was returning with his two children from Eid shopping. Luckily his children and driver escaped the attack, save a few injuries. As the name denotes, the police lines is one of the highly secure areas of any city. Heavily armed police officers were guarding the gates of the ground when the suicide bomber, wearing a vest containing ball bearings and shrapnel, exploded it while he resisted checking at the entrance. Within seconds the ground presented a scene from some battlefield. Bodies and human flesh were strewn all over. At least 30 people died instantly, most of them police officers. Nearly 62 were reported injured, some sustaining serious injuries. This episode a day before Eid had taken the spirit out of the nation, already inflicted with trauma by incessant terrorist attacks. The unabated spree of terrorism, which has hiked following the new government coming to office, calls for immediate attention. Two months in office and the government has done little to arrest terrorism. The PML-N government is either oblivious of the intensity of the threat confronting the country or is buying time to elicit a favourable response from the stakeholders considered important to develop and implement any National Security Strategy (NSS). The main stakeholder in the anti-terrorism struggle is the Pakistan army, which has been calling the shots on this issue for many years, independent of any government intervention. However, its recent insistence on the government taking ownership of the war on terrorism, though belated, awaits a response. Naturally, reconciling opinions takes time, but given the enormity of the situation, the time lapse is simply putting more energy into the efforts of the terrorists. The terrorists are now being seen as a more unified, determined and well-equipped force, far ahead in capability and preparedness than our soldiers and police. A bad sign indeed. When this serious observation was put to Inspector General (IG) Police Balochistan after the attack, he took exception to the fact. To him the attack was not a security failure. To the IG, blaming the police for the failure to guard its own home, where it was just police everywhere, is tantamount to insulting the sacrifices made by the police in the war on terrorism. According to the IG the police officers had been putting their life at stake to secure the lives of the citizens. One cannot deny the sacrifices made by the police and the army. However, saying that the forces are securing the lives of an ordinary citizen, when anyone could be killed anywhere, depending largely on the whims and plans of the terrorists, is a bit hyperbolic. Getting officers and soldiers killed will not solve the problem. Neither does it add any strength to the national image. These officers are our assets and we need a holistic approach to save them and citizens, instead of making them vulnerable by not appropriating any viable strategy to combat terrorism. The government is expected to announce today the NSS, though the Minister for Interior Chaudry Nisar in his press conference yesterday has hinted at buying more time to develop a composite NSS. However, any delay in developing and implementing a security plan will be detrimental to the sovereignty of the country that we have already blighted by our weakness and inability to understand our national interest.
Norway's prime minister worked secretly as a taxi driver in central Oslo for a day in June, leaving his passengers wondering whether their elected leader had quit the day job. Wearing a taxi driver's uniform and sunglasses, Jens Stoltenberg drove passengers around the streets of the Norwegian capital for several hours, confirming his identity only after his passengers realized who he was. The stunt, dreamed up by an ad agency as part of Stoltenberg's campaign for re-election, was filmed on hidden cameras. A video of the event was published on Sunday by daily newspaper VG and on the PM's Facebook page. Stoltenberg told the newspaper he had wanted to hear people's honest views on politics. "If there is one place where people say what they really mean about most things, it is in a taxi. Right from the gut," he told VG. "So, you have begun driving a taxi," deadpans one passenger after realizing who his chauffeur is. "Have you quit as prime minister?" asks another. The prime minister's passengers were in turn shocked, bemused and curious before their discussions turned to politics. Stoltenberg, who has led the Nordic country for the past eight years, confessed he was not used to driving as he usually sits at the back of his chauffeured car. At one point the prime minister gives the car an abrupt jolt, thinking he is pressing the clutch when in fact he is applying the automatic vehicle's brake. "I am not really happy about the driving," says one passenger. "I guess I will live," says another. "Your driving is really bad," says a third. Politicians in Norway and the other Nordic countries tend to be more accessible than their colleagues in other European countries. One can often bump into Stoltenberg, for instance, at the weekends walking in the woods surrounding Oslo. Asked by VG if he would consider becoming a taxi driver full time were he to lose re-election, Stoltenberg said: "I think the nation and Norwegian taxi passengers are best served if I am the prime minister and not a taxi driver." Parliamentary elections will take place on September 9. Stoltenberg's party, Labour, is trailing in the polls against the opposition Conservatives.
Eid holidays are over but the grave problems facing the nation continue. Terrorism has instead of subsiding escalated; the supply of electricity has not only not improved but even its just distribution which should have helped to share the scarcity evenly has not been achieved. The near-meltdown of economy has not been arrested as yet. Inflation is squeezing the poor as before. Talks of improving the situation all around by the governments of the provinces and the centre are getting louder which adds to the uncertainty as the people see no change for the better in spite of the rhetoric. Karachi bled, in fact bleeding took place in every part of the country, prior to Eid, during the holiday and people realistically fear that the bleeding will not stop. Things are as uncontrolled in Balochistan. There are yet no signs of coordination or sharing of information among the law enforcing departments and intelligence agencies. Especially, in Balochistan the visible signs of coordination between the civil and military authorities are missing if judged by the recent acts of terrorism.. . The above cited are not just chronic but are problems that need immediate solutions. The above mentioned issues mostly need administrative measures and not huge investment. Success can be achieved against these by changing the attitudes of the high ups involved or if that is not possible make appropriate transfers and postings. The nation has seen none of these lately. Authorities have been trying to alley the apprehensions appearing in the formal media whether electronic or printed. However, the social media which is mostly informal and unsupervised and unedited and which for most part of unreliable has been totally discredit. True that most what appears on in the internet in the social media cannot be authenticated. However, the fact remains that the wrongdoing and the ineffectiveness of those in power, the escalating lawlessness, the ever-increasing bloodshed, the rising costs of living and the fact that the inaction of those in power has reached fictional proportions, make what appears on the social media believable. Especially, as no betterment is on the horizon either at individual or on national level. The nation is involved to keep itself in one piece so much, that the citizens have as yet turned their eyes away form the fact that government schools are as crowded, as short on teachers, classrooms and other facilities. Most of the government hospitals are as dirty and the patients experience the same apathy of doctors and other staff and they still have to buy medicines which should have been provided by the hospitals free of cost. Corruption in the government departments is as rampant as before. We should not kid ourselves. Problems in our education, health sectors, and corruption may seem to be not as urgent as terrorism and load shedding but thee three above mentioned, seemingly less urgent problems have plunged us into the current situation in which we are forced live in dark and as victims of perpetual violence. Things cannot go as they are: all the governments whether in the province or the centre have to put their act together and pull the country out of the many crises and bring it together. This country does not need vaguely worded policy statements; nor does it need more hopeful speeches, neither does it need promise of more actions or the press releases issued by various high government functionaries informing us that notice of such and such event or tragedy has been taken. The nation needs urgent and distinct signs of improvement in matters which can be improved by administrative means and which do not cost much money. For example, the real cost of information collections is already incurred when any of the agencies have some vital information regarding terrorism, intimating the information to all other relevant departments costs almost nothing. Still the information is not coordinated with other departments. Also how difficult and time consuming can it be to dislocate known corrupt officials from their profitable posts? Not much but the nation does not see any massive action in this regard to rid it from the scourge. What would it cost if the ministers and the many secretaries were to check in person and make sure that the medicine supposed to be supplied free to patients is in the government hospitals and distributed for free. And how difficult is it to make sure that doctors and staff are there during their duty times and treat the patients as they should be. Not much. All that is needed is rigorous supervision by the high ups and severe punishment to the culprits. We urge the rulers to wake up before the nation gets so upset that it violently overthrows a democratically elected setup. That would be tragic but the governments at all levels are, it seems, willingly working towards that end.
http://www.hindustantimes.com/Pakistani troops violated the bilateral ceasefire thrice since Sunday, firing at Indian positions from across the border, a defence spokesman said on Monday. "Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Digwar village of Poonch district at our positions around 10 pm last night (Sunday), the spokesman told IANS. India responded to the Pakistani fire, and the firing continued till 6 am on Monday, according to reports. No casualities or damage on our side has been reported. Pakistan used heavy weapons to fire at the Indian positions. Earlier on Sunday, Pakistani Rangers had fired at a Border Security Force (BSF) post at Kanachak in Jammu district, injuring a BSF trooper. Pakistan also violated the bilateral ceasefire when it fired at Indian positions at Balakot area in Poonch district. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that violations of ceasefire along the LoC by Pakistan were triggered to force India to respond. He also said these violations were intended to either facilitate infiltration or distract attention from internal failures of Pakistan. A bilateral ceasefire signed by India and Pakistan in November 2003 brought in a modicum of normalcy in the lives of thousands of people living along the LoC and the international in divided Kashmir. Pakistan, meanwhile, continued with its aggressive stance and denied any wrongdoing on Sunday. Officials in Islamabad warned of a possible escalation in tensions with India if the latest initiative of PM Nawaz Sharif failed. Military officials said army movements to bring forces to the Indian border may start in the coming week. "Troops stationed on the Afghan border may be re-deployed if the tensions increase," an army spokesman said. Moreover, Pakistan accused India of attacks in Sialkot. An army official said unprovoked firing from the Indian side targeted Rangers outposts in the sector. In New Delhi, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said India wants the Pakistan government to take responsibility for the killing of five of its soldiers on the LoC on August 6. "The responsibility must rest with the government. Our meeting point is the civilian-elected government of Pakistan, not the Pakistan Army or any other agency," Khurshid told Karan Thapar in CNN IBN's programme Devil's-Advocate that was telecast on Sunday. Meanwhile, BSF jawan Ram Niwas Meena, who was injured in firing in the Samba sector on August 5, succumbed to his wounds on Sunday at AIIMS in Delhi.