Thursday, August 15, 2013

PPP Patron-in-Chief hails Zamrud Khan’s bravery
Patron in Chief of Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has saluted the courage and valour of PPP leader Zamrud Khan. He said that it was always PPP Jiyalas who came forward and put their lives in danger in the time of need.

Video: Zamrud Khan of PPP approached and tried to grab him

Islamabad standoff comes to a heroic end; culprit held

The armed standoff, which continued in Islamabad for hours, finally came to a heroic end after an unarmed Pakistan Peoples Party leader, Zamarud Khan risking his life attacked the armed man leading to his arrest, Geo News reported. Khan engaged the armed man in negotiation and then tried to overpower him but the latter slipped out of his hands. Police opened aerial fire which scared the culprit and he surrendered himself to police by lying on ground. No one including the culprit, his wife, and children were hurt in the action, however two policemen including DSP Arif Hussian sustained injured by the shots fired by the perpetrator. Zamarud Khan also remained unscathed in the action. Using a woman and two children as human shield, an armed man, demanding the imposition of Shariah system in Pakistan and the ouster of the incumbent government, held the whole city hostage for several hours ago. It all started after the man, later identified as Malik Sikander, armed with at least two assault rifles, an AK-47 and an SMG, started shooting near Jinnah Avenue. "The man fired several shots after which police and media arrived at the scene", an eyewitness said. His wife and two children, a boy and a girl, are also with him, who seem to be calm despite a heavy police contingent with guns aimed at them positioned nearby. One of the kids is injured evident from a bandage on his forehead, the TV footage showed. The car he is driving is a black Toyota Corolla, which according to sources was rented from Islamabad. The car's front fender is hanging loose, which eyewitnesses said came off after Siikander rammed the car into a police mobile to launch his insane mission. As of now the man stands surrounded by Islamabad police and elite force sharpshooters, but he appears calm, smoking cigarettes and downing energy drinks. He has plenty of water with him to last him even through the night, sources, however, said the police had offered to provide food for his children. Witnessing this nail-biting real-life thriller, which is no where near a climax, the whole country is glued to their TV screens. Hundreds people including mediamen, law enforcers and onlookers are at the scene as the drama is unfolding not far from the Parliament House and Presidency, and Prime Minister House. His wife, who has been shuttling between the police and her armed husband as a messenger, told the police that her husband would only negotiate with a high-ranking police official. Upon this SSP operations, Dr Rizwan walked over to him and tried to talk him into dropping his weapons but to no avail. So far several such negotiations have taken place but the stalemate persists. He many a times successfully had the police commandoes, who were stealthily trying to close in, pushed back by threatening to open fire. According to reports along with a safe passage and protection to his family an over-the-board imposition of Islamic Shariah system across Pakistan as well as ouster of the current government is among his demands. The police have blocked out the spot by setting up tent-cloth-screens around the car of the armed man. Sources said that it showed the lawmen were likely preparing for a decisive action. Meanwhile, police have also raided his house in his hometown for clues to as to what could be on his mind with regard to his further line of action. The police interrogated his relatives to gather more information about him. However, they did not disclose anything. According to certain callers claiming to be his relatives or neighbors, Sikander belongs to Hafizabad and is a bigamist. However no one could confirm the woman, who is by his side right now, is also his wife. There are conflicting reports that he is a former Pakistan Air Force serviceman. Now unemployed, Sikander just recently returned from Dubai, where he was reportedly employed as a migrant worker. It was also reported that the man was psychotic. Another report said that Siikander was deported from Dubai in 1990. He had also married a 45-year-old Arab woman, however there was no word on the status of that relation, the report said.

Egypt's interim PM defends deadly crackdown

Egypt's army-backed interim prime minister has defended the government's decision to order the crushing of camps of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, saying the authorities had no choice but to act. In a televised statement late on Wednesday, Hazem el-Beblawi said the decision to break up the protests "was not easy" and came only after the government had given mediation efforts a chance."We found that matters had reached a point that no self respecting state could accept," he said, citing what he described as "the spread of anarchy and attacks on hospitals and police stations". The streets of Egypt's second city Alexandria were almost deserted on Wednesday night as security forces enforced a curfew. The government imposed a month-long state of emergency after riot police backed by armoured vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters swept away two encampments of pro-Morsi supporters, setting off running street battles in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Security forces shot dead scores of people in their assault on the camps, defying international pleas to show restraint after a six-week stand-off with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei resigned saying peaceful means could still have been found to end the confrontation, but other members of the government have rallied behind the decision to use force. Beblawi said the state of emergency would be for the shortest period possible, adding that the government was committed to an army-backed road map to restore democracy. The measure, scheduled to last for a month, imposes a curfew in Cairo and several other provinces between 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT) and 06:00. "There was a need for the state to intervene with an extraordinary measure which is the emergency law. God willing, we will continue. We will build our democratic, civilian state," he said.

Egypt: Attacks on police facilities, churches continue as pro-Morsy sit-ins dispersed by force
Three unidentified people fired at a Central Security Forces (CSF) camp using automatic rifles in Port Said early Thursday. Two soldiers were injured and transferred to a hospital.
Attacks on police facilities continued for a second day after the security forces broke up by force the sit-ins of toppled President Mohamed Morsy supporters in Cairo and Giza Wednesday. According to the Health Ministry, 421 protesters died during the breaking up of both sit-ins. The streets of Port Said were deserted at night although the curfew was not imposed there as it was in other governorates. The police and armed forces set up checkpoints and intensified their presence in Port Said's streets to inspect cars. According to DPA, a security source said some pro-Morsy protesters attacked Thursday morning Sahel Selim police station in Assuit using mortar shells. The incident resulted in the demolition of the station's wall and some policemen were injured, the source said. There were confrontations between security forces and attackers after the police identified their opponents' location, according to the same source. The Interior Ministry announced Wednesday that 43 policemen were killed in clashes during the breaking up of the pro-Morsy sit-ins. Hundreds of pro-Islamist protesters set on fire St. Youhanna Diocese in Abanoub, the source told DPA. It added that security forces were unable to control the fire.

EGYPT: Foreign governments and media ignore attacks on Christians

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused foreign governments and international media of ignoring recent attacks on Egypt’s Christian communities and misrepresenting the Al-Nahda Square and Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square sit-ins as peaceful. The ministry also claim that the violence that swept the country following the clearing of the sit-ins was the Muslim Brotherhood’s “plan B” for either regaining power or “bringing the entire Egyptian house down with them. In a statement published in English on Thursday the ministry said: “Beyond overlooking the violent and dangerous reality of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, a number of foreign governments and international media outlets have also chosen to overlook the recent increase in killings and attacks that are once again targeting Egypt’s Christian community.” The ministry pointed out that attacks on Churches occurred around the country after the sit-ins in Cairo and Giza were dispersed. The statement added: “Mobs of Moslem [sic] Brotherhood members and their supporters, at the behest of extremist preachers, are threatening and attacking Egypt’s Christians.” Because of the recent international attention given to the situation in Egypt the ministry said, “it is only natural” for Egyptians to “wonder why foreign governments and international media outlets have decided to exclude the intensified attacks on the Egypt’s Christian community from their field of vision.” The ministry stressed: “The Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins were not exclusively peaceful gatherings, and they posed a clear danger to Egypt’s national security.”

Inside Quetta: daily life in a terrorist haven

Pakistan’s Balochistan province is a hotbed for violent attacks driven by local Baloch separatists and Taliban-linked Sunni extremists. Our Observers in the provincial capital of Quetta describe daily life in a town once known for craftsmanship and colourful bazaars, but that is now more popular with terrorists than tourists. Pakistan’s Balochistan province is a sparsely-populated, hostile place prone to deadly sectarian and separatist attacks. In the capital, Quetta, almost forty people died in a suicide blast during a policeman’s funeral last Thursday, August 8. The following day, ten people were killed when gunmen stormed a mosque while Eïd prayers were in full-swing. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks.
The southwestern province is home to two bitter conflicts: the Baloch Liberation Army’s (BLA) separatist struggle, and Sunni extremist attacks on the minority Hazara Shia community. Sunni extremists from Afghanistan settled in neighbouring Balochistan province after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Numerous groups wreak havoc on the Hazara population but the most prominent is the al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). It is infamous for attacking buses of Hazara pilgrims, mosques and markets. The Pakistan Human Rights Commission estimates over two thousand Hazara have perished since 2001 and fifty thousand have fled Quetta, leaving the remaining half a million squashed into the only two areas they feel relatively safe enough to live in: Hazara Town and Alamdar Road. Struggling for an independent Baloch nation, the BLA regularly aim deadly attacks at the security forces. Non-terrorist Balochs claim security officers and corrupt officials retaliate by kidnapping Balochs for ransom, under the pretext they are suspected nationalist terrorists. A no-go place for many, including foreign journalists without an escort, information about daily life in Quetta is rarely leaked.
“I would do anything to have Quetta back how it was…we used to welcome tourists from around the world”
Zarak Khan is a banker who lives in Quetta. A Pashtun and Sunni, his family has lived there for 700 years. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Pashtun, Bolachi or Haraza, no one is safe here. Everyone in Quetta is stressed and depressed: you don’t see people smiling in the streets, groups of people laughing or watching football matchs. You used to, but not anymore. Now people go to funerals all the time. I would do anything to have Quetta back how it was. It used to be a calm, peaceful city, and we used to welcome tourists from around the world. The security forces are everywhere, but seeing vehicles with ammunition driving around everywhere gives an element of fear. The blast last week that killed the police officers depressed everyone in the city. The next day was Eïd, and for the first time in my life I didn’t go to the mosque: my father told me I couldn’t because it was too dangerous.My only hope is with the security forces: the army and the police. I don’t think the elected officials can help us. The security forces have sacrificed themselves for us. We saw that last week. Everyone in this city has experienced an attack. In 2007, a roadside bomb went off near me and my cousins. It scared them so much they left Quetta afterwards. Two years ago a rocket, launched from the mountains by separatists, landed outside my house. In January, I was right by the snooker club when it was attacked by suicide bombers. 120 people died that day [Editor’s note: the LeJ claimed responsibility for the attack at the snooker club on Alamdar Road, a Hazara-dominated neighbourhood]. Our lives start and end at home. The biggest part of our social lives is our journey to and from work. Most people avoid leaving the house. So you can imagine how bad things are for us. In the last six months, even schools are no longer safe. So every parent with a child at school is scared. Eventually I will have to move out. I’ve been thinking about it seriously for the last six months. It’s not easy when your life and all your assets are in one city. But we can’t stay here.
“If the police can’t protect themselves, how can they protect us?”
Basit Ali is a photographer and Hazara Shia Muslim who lives in the Alamdar Road area in Quetta. Life here for us, the Hazara Shia community, is like being birds trapped in a cage. The only areas which are safe for us to go are the Alamdar Road area, where I live and work, and the Hazara Town. We used to consider Toghi Road as safe, but after so many of our people were killed, we can’t live there any longer. We don’t go shopping out of our safe areas, we can’t attend universities. We’re socially paralysed. The Sunnis used to live here with us, but they’ve all moved out now because they’re scared they will be targeted and bombed by the extremists because we’re here.
Sunni terrorists have dens right in the city where they hide immediately after they attack the Hazara. Our streets have been drenched in blood for a decade now. The last two attacks -- on the mosque and the police funeral -- show how the city has been handed over to the terrorists. If the police can’t protect themselves, how can they protect us? The Hazara graveyard is getting bigger all the time, because there are so many deaths from suicide blasts and attacks.
“The police stop and search us all the time. We’re not all terrorists!”
Abdul is a Balochi teacher who lives in Quetta. These days the Balochs are insecure. Thousands of Baloch people have been taken away and then killed by the authorities, who suspect them of being nationalist terrorists. The police took my cousin away and killed him. They suspected he was from the BLA, but he wasn’t. His body was left on the outskirts of Quetta, and we had to go in the car and collect it. The family members of missing people, many of which are dead, protest to demand their loved ones are found. Almost every Baloch has a member of their family who has fallen victim to this atrocity.

Cameron Handed 70,000-Name Afghan Interpreters Petition
Winston Churchill's great-grandson on Wednesday delivered a petition with more than 70,000 signatures to Prime Minister David Cameron's office, demanding action to protect Afghan interpreters who have served with British troops. Alexander Perkins, a former soldier who has served two tours in Afghanistan himself, said Britain owed the interpreters a "huge debt" and they would be "sent to their deaths" if they were not offered asylum. Some 600 Afghan interpreters who served on the frontline with British forces are being offered UK visas under a relocation package announced in May, while around 600 others will qualify for training or education in Afghanistan as well as payment for up to five years. But Perkins, 27, said that the deal falls "short of the mark" as it offers only five-year visas rather than permanent residence in Britain, and only applies to interpreters with 12 months' continuous service before December 19, 2012. "We're pulling out in 2014 and we're going to leave these guys behind," Perkins said as he handed in the petition. "There's a fair chance that a large number of these guys are going to be persecuted by the Taliban, and some of them probably will end up being killed." Perkins set up the petition on the website, calling for Britain to offer resettlement to interpreters who completed their duties between 2006 and 2011. He added that his great-grandfather Churchill "would have been shocked by the way our government is treating men who risked their lives to help British forces". Britain is withdrawing 3,800 of its 9,000 troops from Afghanistan this year, as NATO prepares for a full security handover to Afghan forces at the end of 2014. A government spokesman described the redundancy package for Afghan staff as "comprehensive", adding that Britain ensures protection, including the possibility of relocation, is offered to any former employees facing threats regardless of when they worked. "The prime minister has been very clear that we should not turn our backs on our local staff in Afghanistan," the spokesman said.

Ex-NATO Chief: 15,000 Troops Should Stay In Afghanistan After 2014

The United States and its allies should immediately announce how many troops will stay on in Afghanistan after 2014, former NATO supreme commander Admiral James Stavridis argued on Wednesday. Stavridis, who recently finished a four-year stint as the alliance's top military leader, said it was vital to unveil the troop plans quickly to counter Taliban propaganda claiming foreign troops are abandoning the country. In a commentary, Stavridis wrote that he supported keeping 15,000 US and allied forces in the country after the bulk of coalition troops withdraw as planned in 2014. "I believe the correct number is about 9,000 US and 6,000 allied troops, for a total of about 15,000 allied trainers who would focus on mentoring, training, and advising the 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces," Stavridis wrote in Foreign Policy. "Instead of waiting for months, we should move now to decide and publicly reveal the commitment," the admiral said. There are now roughly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan in the NATO-led coalition, with the Americans making up about two-thirds of the force. US officials have long suggested they expected to retain a smaller force of about 8,000 to 12,000 troops after 2014. But, amid difficult negotiations on a long-term security accord with Kabul, White House officials have spoken of a possible "zero option" with no US boots on the ground after next year. The former top commander of US and alliance forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has called for keeping 13,600 American troops in the country, as well as a number of NATO forces. He too has urged President Barack Obama to announce the troop decision as soon as possible. By announcing troop plans now, Stavridis said the allies "would break the Taliban narrative decisively, making a lie of their oft-repeated trope that 'the foreigners are leaving,'" the admiral wrote. The move "would reassure the Afghans" and "demonstrate needed leadership to the large international coalition that is awaiting US decisions," he wrote. "It would also encourage the conclusion of the strategic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, " he added. The current head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, has indicated he would provide recommendations on troop numbers after this year's "fighting season" ends in October. While acknowledging serious difficulties in the war effort, Stavridis defined "success" in Afghanistan as a "democratic (if somewhat corrupt) nation that has reasonable control over its borders" and dominance over an insurgency that does not pose a dire threat to the state. If 15,000 allied troops stay in Afghanistan, there was cause to be "cautiously optimistic" the country would meet the criteria of success, he wrote. But if no foreign troops remain after 2014, that would mean "probable mission failure," according to Stavridis.
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Pakistan: Writ of state must prevail

Is it their desperation over failure to win the hearts and minds of people of Pakistan or elation over spectacular jailbreak and wanton killings that motivated the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan offer to engage in dialogue with the government, there is no agreed answer as yet. But for the government to say 'yes' to the dialogue offer it is all the more difficult now given an almost impossible to meet precondition put forward by them. Don't hang our men is the precondition. Belonging to Punjabi Taliban affiliate of the TTP these four men are on death row, and now that Zardari-enforced moratorium on hanging has been lifted they are due for execution next week. Should the Nawaz Sharif government go ahead with executions "it will have to pay the price", warns Maulana Asmatullah Muavia, the spokesman for the TTP (Punjab). He hasn't quantified the 'price' as such but did threaten withdrawal of dialogue offer, as he says was the case when TTP's second-in-command Waliur Rehman was killed in a drone strike and the offer was withdrawn. The Maulana has tried to sell also a thesis that per se the PML (N) and PTI are not against the Taliban, but it's the "pro-establishment and pro-Indian lobbies" that are out to sabotage the dialogue. How ironic it is that the very people whose hands carry the blood of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and who have spared no effort whatsoever to undermine the strategic potentialities of Pakistan, the only country in the world created in the name of Islam, should be telling us who is our friend and who is our enemy. We hope the PML (N) government would not be taken in by this blackmail and go ahead with executions under the law. That the Pakistan government should be forced to spare the criminals under threat of negative reprisals is not on. But the drama does not end here. There are some people in here who are still espousing the cause of the Taliban. On Monday, the Jamaat-i-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hussain called upon the government to take the Taliban's offer of peace talks "seriously and hold a meaningful dialogue with militants". JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman too advocates the same approach. No wonder then both of them have been nominated by the TTP as 'guarantors' on behalf of the government. The JI chief is upset that the government has yet to respond to the Taliban offer, and tauntingly asks 'if it is waiting for a green signal from the US government'. According to him, if the Americans can talk to the Afghan Taliban then what is wrong if there is a Pakistan government-Taliban dialogue? With due respect to the Jamaat chief's prognosis, one would like him to comprehend the enormity of the mismatch between these two situations. The Afghan Taliban are fighting against foreign occupation. But is this the case in Pakistan? TTP is fighting its own people. While the chief of Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar has modified his stand for the cause of peace in his country by signalling to his opponents that the 'Islamic Emirate doesn't think of monopolizing power, rather we believe in reaching understanding with Afghans regarding an Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles'. Do we know, or does anybody know of any such accommodation offered by the TTP. Even when it's difficult to find out what has prompted the TTP has renewed its offer talks to the government, one thing can be said with certainty is that this killing machine has no future in Pakistan. It may kill many thousands more but it can never win hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. What is it that it is left with to talk about with the government? Talks or no talks the writ of the state must prevail, and no leader worth his salt would spare a convict under a threat like the one made by the Punjabi Taliban to the Nawaz Sharif government.

PakIndia: Unremitting tensions on the LoC

Since the deaths of five Indian soldiers in an ambush on the Line of Control (LoC), the tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have increased manifold. The disputed and much fought over Kashmir region is now, once again, in the grip of fear and threat. While minor skirmishes have been seen time and again along the LoC, the 10-year-old ceasefire has held by and large. But the series of incidents of exchange of firing in the area for the last nine days are alarming because they show no signs of abating. According to the Pakistani authorities, fresh cross-border shelling has resulted in further civilian casualties and tensions rising a notch further. The Indian government has gone so far as to say that it fears Pakistan’s intentions, which may be to focus the proxy militants’ attention on Kashmir once again after the US’s 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan. While Pakistan vehemently denies this, the fact that precisely this chain of events occurred in 1989 after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan does not escape those worried minds advocating peace and amity on both sides of the border. While a typical knee-jerk reaction can be seen by the authorities on both sides, the attitude of the media in India and Pakistan is not at all conducive towards any kind of lasting stability. The media-fed hysteria is mounting by the day, with jingoism and propaganda playing a huge part in not helping to defuse the volatility. Since August 6, the overall goodwill seen of late between the two countries has dissipated, giving way to fiery Indian protests against the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, threats to PIA’s offices throughout India, stoppage of a Lahore-bound Dosti (Friendship) bus, and now Pakistan’s foreign office contemplating a withdrawal of its diplomats from New Delhi because of the possible threat to their safety. Hafiz Saeed of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa has reinforced Indian fears that the militants are just waiting to fight in Kashmir after 2014. It is time to end this spiralling descent into madness. It is for the Nawaz Sharif government to understand that those who aim to sabotage its efforts towards peace with India are the very elements it aids with funds. People like Hafiz Saeed must be put behind bars, war cries must be silenced, and military commanders, who have been keeping the peace on the LoC all these years, be allowed to control the situation through their hotlines and field meetings. We have been working at the negotiation process with India too hard and for too long after the 2008 Mumbai attacks to see it flounder because of undesirable elements whose vested interest lies in continued conflict, not peace, amity and progress.

Missing CM: ANP moves adjournment motion against PTI's Khattak

The Express Tribune
The Awami National Party has submitted an adjournment motion in the Senate against Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak because of his absence from the flag hoisting ceremony on Independence Day. Khattak, who represents the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was missing from the flag hoisting ceremony held at Police Lines on August 14. This was the first ceremony being held under the PTI government. As per standard procedure, chief minister (CM) was the chief guest at the main ceremony at police lines. However, just before the ceremony kicked off, it was learnt CM Pervez Khattak will not be attending the ceremony and Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai and Information Minister Shah Farman will be presiding over the event instead. The chief minister’s spokesperson said that he was in Islamabad to attend a meeting with United Nations (UN) General Secretary Ban Ki-moon so the health minister was asked to attend the flag hoisting ceremony instead. Awami National Party (ANP) leader Zahid Khan, speaking outside the Senate, said that it was unfortunate that things that had never happened before were now happening since the PTI government took over. He claimed that Khattak was not in Islamabad and had not woken up in the morning, which is why he had missed the ceremony.

Pakistan: Absence of leadership and changing global scenario

Mujtaba Haider Zaidi
Islamic Republic of Pakistan is rightly viewed to be a state that keeps on carrying out her long and dreary journey towards the path of constant fall without experiencing the rise and glory during the last sixty-six years since she came into existence in August 1947. The learners studying the history of rise and fall of the world nations could be surprised by the misfortunes the country had undergone predominantly due to the absence of visionary, committed and dedicated leadership throughout. One of the most significant reasons behind the absence of true and rational leadership in the country includes the lack of education, training and exposure the Pakistan masses maintained while electing the political leadership whenever they had been blessed with the chances of demonstrating their performance for the same. Consequently, the Pakistanis either elected the dictator-like statesmen for deciding their fate, or directly and/or indirectly supported the civilian and military dictators, which would keep the interests of their western masters in utmost priority rather than strengthening the political, social, cultural and economic institutions of their motherland by rendering services to their nation. It is true that the masses quite mistakenly elected the wrong leadership to rule over them in one occasion or the other; somehow, instead of learning something from the pages of history, the nation repeatedly allowed chances to one and the same opportunist groups that would bless them with nothing other than tears, blood and woe whenever they are at the helm of the governmental affairs in the wake of getting elected through the ballot box or coup d’état! Here I would like to ask one single question from the Pakistan subjects i.e. does a man deserve to be their leader who does not hesitate while proceeding to a foreign country in order to perform the umrah, an optional religious activity that he has already performed several times at the expense of the Pakistan nation in past, along with a heavy delegation consists of over 53 persons of his choice immediately after throwing the petroleum bomb on the poor and hapless masses already being crushed under the throbbing price hike, getting unable to perform their compulsory religious obligations in the sacred month of Ramazan because of unabated power breakdown and uncontrollable rise in the price of all commodities of everyday use! If a political leader is unaware of the needs and requirements the people have been looking for, and prefers his luxuries to their utter needs, how does such a man could steer the ship of the nation to the safe harbours particularly at a time when the country comes across the gravest challenges in the wake of the threats inflicted upon the nation jointly by the traitors, terrorists and enemy states in general. On the one side, the traditional foe i.e. neighbouring India sticks to launch her age-old blame game in the aftermath of every trouble she discovers within her territorial zones; and on the one side, our prime minister appears to be begging for peace and harmony towards India without taking the national prestige and dignity into least consideration. Though no one should get determined to ever enter into any war adventure against the other for nothing; nevertheless, if someone dares to put the honour and dignity of other at stake, by killing the personnel from armed forces, inflicting water aggression, imposing severe terrorism allegations, and displaying opposition at all international forums, why should the other remain bound to adopt the policy of appeasement without dignity for years and years by blowing the trumpet of peace and solidarity towards the dedicated enemy? It is the time when the dark clouds of another global war appear to be hovering over the heads, and the entire world predicts the viability of an evident third World War, and the great states like Russia, China, Germany and Japan, along with the brave small states including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Syria and others appear to be making preparations to fight against the US imperialistic New World Order, our irrational and superficial leadership appears to be engaged in exploiting the faith in order to prove itself to be the most pious and religious-minded group of society. What if a ruler regularly visits church or mosque, but carries out the nefarious designs of exercising tyranny on the subjects by keeping them in the inferno of miseries and woes by increasing the prices of electricity, petroleum and other commodities, and turns their life unbearable? No use of exhibiting the pictures of offering prayers if one has not developed the noble teachings the faith commands to follow at heart and in his real life. No one can please his Lord by molesting the people and making their lives on the earth to be equivalent to punishment and tragedy in the real sense of the words. All of the Pakistan masses are equally responsible for their misfortunes because of their observing silence and escaping the protests to be organized and launched against each and every tyrannical act and unjust policy devised and implemented by the government. We really need a visionary, dedicated and compassionate leader in order to earn a respectable place for Pakistan at the international arena; otherwise, we should throw off the cloak of being one of the atomic powers existing on the face of the earth, and must make preparations to lead a life several weak and worthless mushroom-like states have been leading for the last few decades on the map of the world.

In remembrance of Bangabandhu ( Sheikh Mujibur Rahman )

WE remember with respect the stupendous contribution Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made to the creation of Bangladesh and pay our homage to him. We also recall with a heavy heart the tragedy that befell him and members of his family.
The brutality and the inhumanity of the event is a matter of great shame for the nation. It is of great historical significance that the notorious Indemnity Act was repealed, paving the way for a trial of the killers and meting out justice to most of them. Some, however, remain absconding and efforts are underway to get them back to pay for their heinous crime. On this sad day, we are further saddened by the fact that the values that this great man stood for have been eroded both nationally as well as within the AL party. AL has been elected twice to power and has been in the opposition twice. So, the manner in which it conducted itself contributed to the shape of politics and governance in the country. What we have seen over the long haul is a deterioration of ethics in politics, rampant abuse of power and intolerance of political dissent. Corruption has also crept into the system. In all, the party that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led to glories and a pride of place in the annals of the country, in many ways is left to look somewhat of a shadow of its former self. To truly appreciate his sacrifices for the dream of building a golden Bangladesh, Awami League should have committed itself to strengthening the institutions of democracy rather than weakening them. We urge the Awami League to be remindful of the great ideals that Bangabandhu stood for and lived by.

India: Ties with Pak can't improve if terror acts continue

In a strong message to Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said anti-India activities emanating from there will have to stop for relations to improve and asserted that all steps will be taken to prevent "dastardly" acts like the recent killing of jawans on the LoC. Addressing the nation on the 67th Independence Day from the ramparts of Red Fort, the Prime Minister said terrorist and naxal violence in the country have reduced but the area of national security calls for constant vigil. India, he said, has strived for friendship with its neighbouring countries. "However, for relations with Pakistan to improve it is essential they prevent the use of their territory and territory under their control for any anti-India activity," he said. Referring to the August 6 killing of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army in a cross-LoC attack in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, he termed it as a "dastardly" act and said "we will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in the future." In his 30-minute speech, Singh also appeared to target the BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying there was no place for "narrow and sectarian ideologies" in modern, progressive and secular India. He warned such ideologies will "divide" society and "weaken our democracy". "We should prevent them from growing," he said. Singh, in his 10th consecutive Independence Day address and his last before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, stressed that there was a need to strengthen secular traditions to promote tolerance. "I would appeal to all political parties, all sections of our society and public at large to work in this direction," he said.

India: 66 years on, an incomplete quest for national identity

By: Paramita Ghosh , Hindustan Times
For years, Indians have dribbled the same ball across the length and breadth of India and asked what it should be as a country. Can it be nationalist when it is pulled in different directions by strong regional sentiments? Is it secular when it has had a mixed record in undermining religious majoritarianism? Is it politically democratic with a one-man-one-vote system but socially undemocratic because of the same reason? And has its flagship theme, unity in diversity, actually meant a management of differences and not their embrace? The HT-C fore survey reveals what being Indian means to Indians 66 years after Independence. A high 45% disapprove of inter-caste/faith/community marriages. ‘Close friendship’ with people from other religious communities/caste groups is possible (58%) but 29% said the differences were considered. Pan-Indianism as an idea is popular (59%) but cracks under socio-economic pressures. More people (55%) feel natives of a state should get preference in jobs/education in their own state. Rival, and often contradictory, pulls have, in fact, been built into India’s identity from the start. In The Idea of India, Sunil Khilnani points out how the triumph of Nehru’s modern political vision was, ironically enough, guaranteed precisely through the preservation of pre-modern hierarchies and privileges such as rural property orders.“A principle of positive discrimination, or affirmative action, in compensation for past injuries inflicted on the lowest in the social order was introduced in the form of reservation thus establishing a language of community rights in a society where the liberal language of individual rights and equality was little used,” he writes. Has nothing changed? For young urban Indians, caste or religion is not a factor. “That could be because we are apathetic,” said Ritesh, a Mumbai-based manager. This is perhaps why though a high percentage (43%) of 18-35 year-olds surveyed said they “approve” of mixed unions, they don’t resist or put up a fight when parents disapprove. “When we love someone, we don’t ask about caste, but when it’s marriage, many give in and obey their parents,” said Ritesh. Sub-national movements like Telangana are also being seen by many as a challenge to the ‘idea of India’. Columnist Shobhaa De has called the birth of new states a “Balkanization.” Radha Kumar, director general, Delhi Policy Group, however, said: “Creating new administrative units in one country can only become problematic if there is no rule of the Constitution and the freedoms of movement, employment, citizenship are not guaranteed.” For Manju Nath, a teacher in Patna — for whom a sense of state is strong as with 16% of Indians in the survey — said an Indian identity should have no quarrel with regional aspirations. “Smaller units lead to better governance I feel,” she said.Shared vision Social scientist Yogendra Yadav argued that the model of integration that India followed was not the European model of nation-state, that of homogenisation, a looking for unity in sameness such as followed by countries such as France or Germany. “What India followed was the state-nation, not nation-state, in which unity was not a function of singular cultural traditions, therefore it does not search for one language, one culture, one religion. There has been an attempt to try to create unity through political identity and through a shared vision of the future, ” he said. But how has this model of unity among diversity fared? Laxman Singh, a Dalit student in Noida, describes his cultural and nationalistic experience of being a lower caste well. “In the cities no one asks you your caste anymore, but the caste system is diluted not broken. Economic policies that ensure lower castes stay poor continue.” So while he is “not gloomy” about the future of India, he said he is no nationalist. “Gandhi said if you want to know how progressive a country is, go to the last poor man standing. Nationalism is for the elite,” he said. Religion, or rather its place in the politico-cultural identity of India, is also an area that has not been settled. Sunandan Roychowdhury, professor at Amity University has an optimistic take: “If you graph days of riots or conflicts with days of peace, in India, the latter outnumbers the former.” But does that make us truly secular? Nineteen percent of people surveyed are ready to snap ties with a sibling or child if she were to marry someone from a different religious background. Just like in our electoral democracy, in which the right to vote is equal for a rich and a poor man and yet does not change existing socio-economic structures, have we made peace with secularism only so as to leave it open to all kinds of uses?