Friday, September 6, 2013
"There's a long list of things that are wrong," she adds. Unemployment is higher than one might suspect in the oil-rich nation. Though official figures are hard to come by, there are approximately 1.8 million Saudis enrolled with Hafiz -- the country's unemployment benefits program -- according to Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.The campaign has also drawn attention to a topic that was once considered taboo: Saudi poverty. Accompanying many of the tweets are images and video supposedly depicting Saudis living in squalor; some show Saudi's beggar class while others reveal the existence of Saudi shanties. Lynsey Addario, a photographer who documented Saudi poverty in Riyadh for Time Magazine, recalls how the assignment challenged her expectations. "What you see on the surface are the shiny buildings and the shopping malls and the new universities being built -- the wealthy side. I was actually quite shocked when we went to the slums," she says. She recounted families struggling to pay the bills, and living in single-story, cockroach infested houses in the heart of Saudi Arabia's capital. "Poverty in Saudi challenges many people's assumptions, including some Saudis'," admits Nazer. Poverty and unemployment are particularly rife among Saudi youths (Coogle estimates they make up anywhere between 18 and 35% of the unemployment rate), and even more so among women. According to English-language newspaper the Saudi Gazette, an annual report put out earlier this year by the Ministry of Labor showed Saudi men in the private sector earn an average of $1,516, with women staffers pulling in half that sum. Al Sharif notes that working women are at a further disadvantage due to the many practices that are banned to them. "A woman in Saudi is dependent on men to do just about everything in her life. If a man doesn't exist, she will have to pay for those services she can't do herself, like driving a car, starting her own business or going to court," she notes.Despite its popularity, the campaign has attracted critics who argue Saudis are already too reliant on their government. Nazer himself notes that the campaign risks oversimplifying what is actually a very complex issue. Several factors, he argues, have fed unemployment, including a population explosion -- since the '70s, Saudi has grown from 6 million people to nearly 20 million, with an additional 10 million expats competing with nationals for jobs. Adding to the problem is the fact that in the past, many Saudis chose to study religion and languages -- areas for which there is little demand. "It's a complex situation, as is true of any economy. People who try to trivialize or simplify it miss a lot of variables," says Nazer. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, what's been particularly surprising is the willingness of Saudis -- who traditionally value cultural privacy -- to air their grievances in an international forum. "It's true, we are a very private nation, and we don't want the rest of the world to know anything about us," admits Al Sharif. However, she says, it's a price many Saudis are willing to pay. "Saudis are realizing that you can't isolate yourself from the rest of the world, because the only way we can communicate and read each other's views is through social media. It's our kind of parliament, where we can go and debate, and do things we can't do in the real world."
Beset by divisions at home and abroad, President Barack Obama candidly acknowledged deep challenges Friday in pursuing support for a military strike against Syria from international allies and the U.S. Congress. He refused to say whether he might act on his own, a step that could have major implications for the U.S. as well as for the remainder of his presidency. The White House laid out an intense week of lobbying, with Obama addressing the nation from the White House Tuesday night. "I did not put this before Congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism," Obama said, adding that it would be a mistake to talk about any backup strategy before lawmakers vote on a use-of-force resolution. The president spoke to reporters at the end of a two-day international summit, where he sought backing for a strike against Syria in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack against civilians. But Obama appeared to leave the summit with no more backing than he had when he arrived. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said he was the one with support from the majority of countries attending the Group of 20 meeting. Putin insisted anew that Obama seek approval from the United Nations before taking military action, despite the fact that Russia has blocked previous Security Council efforts to punish Assad throughout Syria's bloody 2½-year civil war. The White House tried to counter Putin's assessment by releasing a joint statement from the U.S. and 10 other countries announcing support for "efforts undertaken by the United States" to enforce an international prohibition on chemical weapons use. The statement did not specify military action against Syria, but administration officials said the intent was to show international support for that type of response. The countries signing the statement with the U.S. were Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Putin said the U.S. push for military action has been supported only by Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France. "The use of force against a sovereign nation is only possible as self-defense — and Syria hasn't attacked the United States — and on approval of the U.N. Security Council," Putin said. "Those who do otherwise place themselves outside the law." Indeed, Obama's coalition appeared anything but strong. Britain's Parliament has already voted against military action. Even French President Francois Hollande, who has expressed willingness to form a military coalition with the U.S. against Syria, displayed sudden caution, saying he would wait until a United Nations investigation into the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack was released before deciding whether to intervene militarily. The U.N. report is not expected to be released until mid-to late-September. Obama and Hollande discussed strategy during a meeting on the sidelines of the summit Friday. The U.S. president also held a surprise meeting with Putin, one that Putin initiated with some small talk during a break in Friday morning's summit session. A senior administration official said the two leaders, who have a strained relationship, eventually moved to a corner, pulled together their chairs and talked for about 20 to 30 minutes as other summit participants looked on. The official was not authorized to describe the meeting publicly and spoke only the condition of anonymity. Both Obama and Putin later said their conversations were candid, but yielded no new agreement on Syria. The burden of undertaking military action appeared to be weighing on Obama throughout his 50-minute post-summit question-and-answer session. He made several references to the immense responsibility the world places on the United States in responding to humanitarian crises, saying that the first question often asked is, "Why isn't the United States doing something about this?" The president departed Russia Friday night, bound for Washington where he also faces tough going in rallying support for military action, including from fellow Democrats. Force-authorization resolutions face an uncertain future in Congress, and a significant segment of the American public opposes a strike. In addition to Obama's Tuesday night speech, administration officials scheduled new classified briefings for lawmakers and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was making the rounds on all five Sunday talk shows. The president admitted his campaign may not succeed. "It's conceivable at the end of the day I don't persuade a majority of the American people that it's the right thing to do," he said. "And then each member of Congress is going to have to decide." The options facing the U.S. and the international community are neither convenient nor appetizing, Obama said. But he appealed for action on moral grounds, citing U.S. estimates that the chemical weapons attack killed more than 1,400 people, including 426 children. Other estimates are somewhat lower. "There are times where we have to make hard choices if we're going to stand up for the things that we care about," he said. "And I believe that this is one of those times." Two recent polls show Americans oppose airstrikes, with a Pew Research Center survey showing 48 percent opposed to 29 percent in favor and a Washington Post-ABC News poll showing 59 percent opposed and 36 in support. Both surveys were taken over the recent Labor Day holiday weekend as the U.S. released its assessment of whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons and Obama announced he would seek congressional approval. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the public sentiment might be different if Americans could see the evidence from the chemical weapons attack, including the convulsions and other side effects of the nerve gases. "They don't know what I know. They haven't heard what I've heard," she said. An Associated Press survey found 34 senators in support or leaning in favor of authorizing military action, 32 against or leaning that way and 34 undecided ahead of votes next week. Tallies in the House show a significant number of Republicans and Democrats are also opposed to military action or leaning against it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday formally introduced the resolution, which would authorize the "limited and specified use" of the U.S. armed forces against Syria for 90 days while prohibiting American ground troops from combat. Lawmakers return from their five-week recess on Monday and will begin to debate, with a Senate vote to move ahead on the resolution expected Wednesday. "I think we're going to get 60 votes. It's a work in progress," Reid said. Obama's unexpected decision last week to seek congressional approval halted what had seemed to be a march toward quick military action in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack the U.S. says was perpetrated by Assad's government. Obama has repeatedly said the deployment of the deadly gases would cross a "red line" and change his calculus regarding a bloody civil war in which he has been reluctant to intervene. If Congress votes down a resolution authorizing force, the president could risk further damage to his credibility if he doesn't follow through on his warnings to Assad. But moving forward against the will of Congress could worsen his already difficult relationship with Republicans and jeopardize the rest of his legislative agenda. Earlier Friday, White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said of the president that it is "neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him." Obama deflected a question about the remark during his news conference, again refusing to give a yes-or-no answer about what he would do if Congress turns him down. On the ground in Syria Friday, a monitoring group said the government sent reinforcements, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, to a predominantly Christian village north of Damascus where rebels have battled government troops this week. Opposition fighters led by an al-Qaida-linked rebel faction had attacked the ancient mountainside sanctuary of Maaloula and briefly entered the village. The assault has spotlighted fears among Syria's religious minorities about the prominent role of Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks fighting to overthrow Assad. Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving warships into the area. That was stoking fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes. The U.S. already has five Navy destroyers armed with Tomahawk missiles on standby in the Mediterranean. ___
An unprecedented face-to-face discussion among world leaders ahead of a possible U.S.-led military mission failed – as expected – to bridge the strong divide over how best to address the Syrian crisis. U.S. President Barack Obama left St. Petersburg, Russia, with a letter of support signed by the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. The discussion took place while Group of 20 leaders met in Russia to discuss global economic issues.“We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons,” the letter states, giving the U.S. new political support. It is clear though by the limited list of signatories that there remain G20 countries – such as Germany and the broader European Union – that are in-between the U.S. position and that of Russia and China, who strongly oppose military intervention in Syria. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for his part, said he strongly urged fellow leaders Thursday night to consider the consequences of inaction in the context of history. “I may be oversimplifying it somewhat, but broadly speaking, we have two camps here,” said Mr. Harper, referring to those who support the position of U.S. and France and those who oppose a military strike in Syria. “We’re at an impasse here in terms of what the world community believes should or shouldn’t be done, and those who want to act have our full support.” He criticized the fact that some G20 leaders are of the view that no action can take place unless it has the support of the UN Security Council, where both Russia and China have a veto. President Obama told reporters that the world needs to consider the consequences of not acting in Syria and the message that would send. He also said that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin did have a conversation on the margins of the summit. The President said that while the media has been analyzing the body language of their exchanges, the conversations between the two of them are always cordial. “On Syria, I said ‘Look, I don’t expect us to agree,’” Mr. Obama said. However he said he reminded Mr. Putin that they both do agree that there must be a political transition in order to end the fighting in Syria and that both of them should work to help that happen. “It remains important for us to work together,” he said. The President declined several times to answer whether or not the U.S. would act in Syria without the support of Congress, dismissing the questions as "parlour games." In a detailed answer that looked back on past military decisions, Mr. Obama said politicians sometimes have to make decisions that are right, but not necessarily popular. "These kinds of actions are always unpopular because they seem distant and removed," he said. "People are struggling with jobs and bills to pay and they don't want their sons or daughters put in harm's way... When people say that it is a terrible stain on all of us that hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Rwandwa, well imagine if Rwanda was going on right now?" On Friday, Canada announced $45-million in additional support for the region. The money is aimed at providing food, clean water and sanitation, medical assistance, shelter and protection – both in Syria and for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Ottawa says it has now contributed $203-million in humanitarian assistance related to the Syrian crisis since January 2013. British Prime Minister David Cameron – who chaired a meeting Friday morning focused on Syria that was attended by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird – announced about $85-million in aid. While speaking with reporters following the summit, Mr. Harper referenced the fact that chemical weapons have not generally been used since the First World War. He noted that he grew up near Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto – created in 1948 as Canada’s largest veterans’ hospital – and had the opportunity to hear from victims of chemical weapons. “Terrible stories,” he said, in reference to visits veterans would make to his classroom. “I can tell you it was a very real recollection when I was a boy that those kinds of things had happened. But as I pointed out last night, even in the Second World War, even in the war against fascism and Hitler, those forces did not on the battlefield resort to chemical weapons. So I really do believe here that if we’re going to sit back and allow a regime to try and win a military conflict through the use of chemical weapons, we are in new territory, we are in brand new territory that is extremely dangerous and that there will be no turning back from. Even the most ferocious, despicable and brutal powers from the past 100 years have all stayed away from this kind of warfare. So as I say, I think we’re in new territory and I think it demands a different kind of response from our allies than we would have been prepared to do in other circumstances.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping told his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on Friday that the crisis in Syria should not be resolved through a military strike and urged him to consider a political solution, state news agency Xinhua said. Xi's are the highest-level comments from China since an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria. They follow remarks by a foreign ministry spokesman, who urged a role for the U.N. Security Council in resolving the crisis after the United States said it had given up trying to work with the council on Syria. "A political solution is the only right way out for the Syrian crisis, and a military strike cannot solve the problem from the root," Xinhua quoted Xi as telling Obama on the sidelines of a G20 summit in St. Petersburg in Russia. "We expect certain countries to have a second thought before action." China has called for a full and impartial investigation by U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria into the attack, and has warned against pre-judging the results. It has also said that whoever used chemical weapons had to be held accountable. Xi stressed to Obama China's position on adhering to the two principles of "maintaining the basic norms of international law and relations" and the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons, according to remarks broadcast by state television. He urged the international community to work toward a meeting on Syria at a second conference in Geneva, with the aim of discussing an open political transition in Syria. Russia and China have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But China has also been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has said a transitional government should be formed. Remarks on Thursday by Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, left no doubt that Washington would not seek U.N. approval for a military strike on Syria in response to the chemical attack. Asked about those comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Security Council needed to be used. "China supports the important role that the U.N. Security Council plays in properly resolving the Syria issue," Hong told a daily news briefing in Beijing. "We hope relevant parties can continue communications and coordination and hold deep consultations so as to resolve the relevant issue in a peaceful way," he added. Separately, Xi urged Obama to adopt an "objective and fair attitude" in matters related to the Asia-Pacific region, where there are disputes over maritime rights and islands. Xi also reiterated China's long-held view on resumption of six-party talks on the Korean peninsula.
Have we failed to stand up to it? WOMEN have become an endangered species in Bangladesh. Hardly a day passes without news of violence against women; of girls, daughters, wives subjected to brutality and torture. Last Friday’s issue of The Daily Star carried not one but three stories of violence perpetrated on women. In one instance a jilted suitor in Barisal reacted by attacking his inamorata, causing her grievous injuries and subsequently her death. In another instance a young girl of fifteen could not bear the humiliation of being stalked, and not finding solace even in her parents, who rebuked her on hearing of the incident instead of giving her the much needed consolation and support, hanged herself. The third woman succumbed to her injuries after an acid attack in her home. These are but only a few instances of the widespread violence against women in the country. Needless to say, most of the violence is perpetrated by persons known to the victims or by those that live in the same vicinity, and also, regrettably, by members of her family. We feel that the state should devise more robust ways to prevent these crimes, and more punitive measures, apart from the existing laws, should be conceived that would act as severe deterrence. For example, the said stalker was arrested and sentenced immediately to one year prison term by a mobile court, but it was too late for the unfortunate girl, and, for an act that has eventually caused the life of the young girl, too little.
http://www.afghanistantimes.af/Under any circumstances are Afghan-India relations ordained to tarnish even in spite of impulsions and compulsions of savages and brutes whose resolve is demoralization and destruction. Strings of relations between both have traditionally been strong and friendly and their determination for amity and harmony will never ever wither with trifling and even significant occurrences. Once again, the Taliban militants attempted to put the long-lasting bonds of Afghanistan and India in harm’s way by killing an Indian national. On Thursday, the Taliban allegedly assassinated Sushmita Banerjee, an Indian author, outside her house in Paktika province. Her body was riddled with loads of bullets, with her hair ripped off. Banerjee who was also known as Sayed Kamala had been running a health clinic in the province. Banerjee, a Calcutta resident who had moved to Afghanistan in 1989 after marrying an Afghan businessman, had recently returned to be with her husband. She was a brave woman who had dared the Taliban two decades ago. She set an example of bravery after she escaped from the clutches of the Taliban in 1994. Banerjee's death came 18 years after the Taliban sentenced her to death for refusing to wear a burqa in public. It’s absurd to regard Banerjee’s murder as less of a shock, because life of every human being is so precious and valuable. Her murder came as a shock to many and was a palpable manifestation of the Taliban fundamentalists’ extreme hatred of philanthropists. Radical Taliban who often prey on the naivet and gullibility of the masses are the foes of Afghanistan and India. They opt for the cruelest acts of barbarism to show their arrogance and defiance against humanitarian services and morality. India became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban regime toppled. Dubbed as Afghanistan’s historical friend, India has been working in various construction projects, as part of its rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. India’s aid to Afghanistan has been vast and generous since then. Its focal strategy in Afghanistan is to build transportation links that bypass Pakistan, helping reduce the Afghan economy's dependence on Pakistan. India has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian and economic aid, making it the largest regional provider of aid for Afghanistan. India's support and collaboration extends to rebuilding of air links, power plants and investing in health and education sectors as well as helping to train Afghan civil servants, diplomats and police. India also seeks the development of supply lines of electricity, oil and natural gas. In 2005, India proposed Afghanistan's membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Both nations also developed strategic and military cooperation against militancy. Afghanistan strengthened its ties with India in wake of persisting tensions and problems with Pakistan. India pursues a policy of close collaboration with Afghanistan. Although India has been targeted on many occasions by the Taliban radicals in Afghanistan, it keeps its resolve intact and doesn’t allow its ties with Afghanistan wane. A top Indian diplomat in her recent visit to Indian consulate in Jalalabad had reassured that militancy can’t deter the friendly relations between Afghanistan and India. No matter how malignant and fierce the intimidations and provocations by the foes of the two countries have been, India has never had the impulse and whims to put its cozy relations with Afghanistan in jeopardy. The Taliban and their extremist affiliates and delinquents should know that they cannot undermine the bonds between Afghanistan and India that shaped a few millennia ago. Their brutality and vicious actions will unleash agony and melancholy upon themselves only and there comes a time when they will answer to their crimes.
http://www.thehindu.com/As Asif Ali Zardari prepares to step down on Sunday, speculation is rife on what he will do in future.
President Asif Ali Zardari is arriving in Lahore on Sept 8, the day his term in presidency ends, in a bid to ‘rejuvenate’ the Pakistan Peoples Party in Punjab. The PPP Punjab executive committee on Thursday passed a resolution, commending President Zardari for completing his five-year term despite various challenges. It also praised him for ‘promoting the politics of tolerance and reconciliation and strengthening democracy in the country’. PPP leaders Manzoor Wattoo, Raja Riaz, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Chaudhry Manzoor, Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, Shaukat Basra, Aslam Gill, Raja Amer, Omar Sharif Bokhari, Beelam Hasnain and Faiza Malik were present in the meeting held here at the Model Town residence of Mr Wattoo. The resolution said the PPP would be more active when Mr Zardari would be free to look after its affairs. Raja Riaz said on the occasion the party would get a new lease of life, especially in Punjab, when Mr Zardari would be among the PPP workers. He said the party needed overhauling and angry workers should be wooed. Wattoo said Mr Zardari during his visit would meet the party workers and reorganise the PPP. The meeting passed another resolution condemning the flaws in the Local Government Bill 2013. “The party has requested PPP Secretary General Sardar Latif Khosa to challenge the bill in the court,” Wattoo told reporters after the meeting. He said the party was more concerned about the holding of local body polls on non-party basis which, he said, was against the spirit of devolution of power. “The bill which empowers the chief minister to sack the chairman of a union council is also unfair. Besides, the government under the constitution cannot undertake the process of delimitation as the power rested with the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he said. Replying to a question about denial of some Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders that their party would not go for an alliance with the PPP in the forthcoming local body elections, Wattoo said there could be cooperation between the two parties with regard to ‘seat adjustment’. Shaukat Basra said the PML-N government had disappointed the masses by allowing price hike, inflation and increase in electricity, fuel and gas prices. “People were expecting relief from the PML-N government but it had extremely disappointed them during its 100 days in power,” he said. Wattoo demanded the government should withdraw the increase in electricity tariff forthwith.
At least eight unidentified people were killed late Friday night when unknown gunmen attacked their vehicles in Peshawar, the capital of troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, said a police official. SHO Badaber Police Station, Abidur Rehman told Dawn.com the incident took place near Gulzar Chowk in Peshawar’s Matni area – a buffer zone between provincial capital and lawless tribal region of Dara Adamkhel. “At least eight people are killed and number of others are inured,” said Rehman. He said vehicles travelling to southern districts including a Karachi-bound Bus on Kohat Road were the apparent target of the attackers. The dead bodies and injured were being shifted to Leady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. Police and other law enforcement forces have cordoned off the area and a search operation to arrest the miscreants was underway. Meanwhile, local residents reportedly came out on the street and exchanged fire with the attackers alongside security forces. The clash lasted for an hour at least. The motive and the perpetrators of the attack were not immediately known. Earlier in the day, at least five people were injured when a motorcycle packed with explosives detonated inside the Hashtnagri police station, located in the centre of the city. More than 40,000 Pakistani people have been killed in attacks by al Qaeda and Taliban-led militants in the last decade. Washington considers the tribal belt as the main hub of Taliban and al Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
At least five people were injured Friday when an explosion rocked a police station in central Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police said. Police Superintendent Ismail Kharak said a motorcycle packed with explosives detonated inside the Hashtnagri police station, located in the centre of the city. The injured, which included three policemen, were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital for emergency care. A number of vehicles parked inside the station were damaged by the blast, he added. Kharak said investigation was underway into how the motorcycle had entered the police station.