Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sentenced in Saudi Arabia for peaceful activism

By Waleed Abulkhair
Waleed Abulkhair is a human rights activist in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Last month, a judge in Saudi Arabia sentenced me to three months in prison simply because I stood with victims of my country’s flawed and discriminatory criminal justice system.
The legal system is based on uncodified principles of Islamic law, which leaves judges largely free to decide what actions, in their view, are crimes, as well as the appropriate punishments. I believe that the Interior Ministry actively encourages religious extremism and intolerance among the judiciary, recognizing that judges with these views are far more willing to convict human rights and civil society advocates of vague religious and social offenses. One of the principal causes of my conviction was my reaction to the unfair trial of 16 men known as the “Jiddah reformers,” nine of whom were trying to set up a human rights organization. Prosecutors castigated them as extremists and terrorists, and a judge sentenced all of them to lengthy jail terms. I signed a statement in 2012 criticizing the convictions and calling for the men’s release.
The Saudi government allows no public dissent. We who have challenged government policies or social taboos know that we will face Saudi “justice” sooner or later.
I am also on trial before Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal, the Specialized Criminal Court, on charges that include “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and “inflaming public opinion against the ruler.” All of the evidence against me stems from my peaceful activism. If convicted, I could be sentenced to years in prison. As a human rights activist, I have helped many victims of injustice battle for their rights in Saudi courts, including Samar Badawi, whom I helped escape years of physical and emotional abuse by her father. Her father had her jailed for “parental disobedience” after she fled to a women’s shelter. I got Samar out of the shelter and to safety, and we later married.
In early 2012, as I was leaving for a fellowship in the United States, authorities at the Jiddah airport wouldn’t let me board the plane, saying that I had been barred from foreign travel. Prosecutors later told me that I would be facing charges for a variety of vague and spurious offenses, including “insulting the judiciary” and “distorting the reputation of the kingdom.” At no point have prosecutors alleged that I have committed any act an ordinary person would understand to be criminal behavior.
The outcome of my trial before the terrorism tribunal is most likely predetermined, as judicial outcomes often are in Saudi Arabia. As my trials have progressed, I have watched as dozens of political and human rights activists, many of them friends, faced an all-out assault by Saudi Arabia’s flawed and arbitrary criminal justice system. Among them are Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Qahtani, who are serving 11- and 10-year jail sentences, respectively, merely for peacefully calling for political and human rights reforms.
I will appeal my verdict, and if the appeals court upholds the ruling I intend to serve the sentence. Maybe I’ll get a pardon, maybe not.
What is certain, though, is that the rules of the game are changing, and the authorities know it. Empowered by new forms of communication and dissent, particularly social media, ordinary Saudis are voicing opposition to government oppression in record numbers.
Interior Ministry officials think they can end this fledgling activism simply by throwing the most prominent activists in prison for long periods, but we’ve already progressed beyond that point. Saudi citizens aren’t nearly as isolated as they once were, and more are learning every day how their government fails to ensure the most basic degree of justice in society.
It’s increasingly hard for many Saudis to stomach that someone like me, a peaceful activist, could be sentenced to a long jail term for, in part, helping my wife escape terrible abuse, while her father, who committed the abuse, walks free. I don’t know what will happen in the next few months, but one thing is certain: Whether I go to jail or not, I will continue to work for those who, like me, have been caught in the harsh clutches of my country’s arbitrary and cruel justice system.
Read more about this issue: Waleed Abulkhair: Our steadfast pursuit of a freer Saudi Arabia The Post’s View: Saudi Arabia is not driving freedoms forward The Post’s View: In Saudi Arabia, whips for words Richard Cohen : Hamza Kashgari is a test for Saudi Arabia The Post’s View: The Saudi king’s hypocrisy

Americans overwhelmingly support Iran nuclear deal - poll

By a margin of 2-to-1, Americans support the nuclear deal struck with Iran over the weekend. In addition, Americans are strongly against using military force should Tehran renege on the agreed terms, a Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed Tuesday. According to the survey, 44 percent of Americans support the interim deal signed by Iran and the P5+1 powers: US, Russia, UK, France, China, Germany and the European Union. Twenty-two percent oppose the deal. Under the deal struck on Sunday night, Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program for the next 6 months and cease construction work on the Arak reactor. In addition, Tehran agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 per cent in a bid to allay fears that it seeks to construct a nuclear weapon. In return, sanctions on Tehran’s economy will be lightened, allowing Iran access to $4.2 billion in funds frozen as part of financial sanctions. Though Americans didn’t indicate trust in Iranian intentions, the survey showed Americans are not interested in new US military involvement after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if the deal doesn’t hold, 49 percent said they want the US to increase sanctions on Iran, and 31 percent want further diplomacy. Only 20 percent want to use military force against Iran. Congress, for its part, has already demonstrated appetite for further sanctions on the country. The House of Representatives has moved forward legislation that would increase pressure on Iran, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate will not take up the issue until after the legislature’s Thanksgiving break. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already condemned the nuclear deal, saying the world has become a more dangerous place. "What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it was a historic mistake," Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards obtaining the world's most dangerous weapon. "Israel is not committed by this agreement,” Netanyahu said. “The regime in Iran is committed to destroying Israel. [But] Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself from any threat, [and] will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.” Netanyahu said that the international community had actually “agreed for the first time to uranium enrichment in Iran, while ignoring Security Council resolutions that they themselves promoted.” US Secretary of State Kerry assured Israel will be safer over the next six months due to the agreement reached in Geneva. Though “Israel is threatened by what has been going on in Iran,” the deal will keep the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program under supervision and control, said Kerry. "But I believe that from this day - for the next six months - Israel is in fact safer than it was yesterday because we now have a mechanism by which we are going to expand the amount of time in which they (the Iranians) can break out (toward making a nuclear bomb),” he told CNN Sunday. The Reuters/Ipsos online poll, conducted from Sunday through Tuesday with 591 respondents, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Yemen court releases Saudi woman who eloped with her Yemeni boyfriend

A Yemeni court has released a Saudi woman who eloped with her boyfriend, and whose detention for crossing the border illegally became a romantic cause celebre in the traditional Arabian Peninsula society.
The court on Tuesday gave the 22-year-old Huda Abdullah Ali Al Niran three months to seek the help of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees to settle in Yemen and marry her 25-year-old boyfriend, Arafat Taher al-Qadi. The couple's story inspired rallies by young Yemeni men and women outside the courtroom, some carrying banners claiming to answer to the "call of love."
Al-Qadi reportedly told investigators that Al Niran's father rejected his marriage proposal, forcing them to elope. Prosecutors said Al Niran was charged with illegally entering Yemen while al-Qadi was accused of helping her.

In Western swing, Obama goes on offensive over healthcare law

Almost two weeks ago, President Barack Obama, looking down, walked into the White House briefing room and apologized for the flawed rollout of his healthcare reform law.
That picture of a chastened leader now appears to be gone.
During a three-day Western swing through Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Obama touted the accomplishments of his signature law, popularly known as Obamacare, and promised the glitches were going away.
Although he occasionally referred pejoratively to the "darn" website, HealthCare.gov, he made a point of shifting his message to the positive benefits his law had achieved and piling on Republicans for rooting for its failure. "Yes, we decided to fix a broken healthcare system," Obama told workers at DreamWorks Animation on Tuesday, the final day of his trip.
"I was talking to some of the studio execs here and I said, 'You know the rollout of the healthcare marketplace was rough' ... and yet here in California and here across this state, there are thousands of people who are getting healthcare for the first time - for the first time - because of this."
The administration has promised the website will be working for the vast majority of Americans by the end of this month, and White House officials continue to express confidence that goal will be achieved.
"The website is continually working better, so check it out," Obama said to laughter from the crowd.
Democrats are suffering in the polls because of the shaky rollout just as they are trying to keep control of the U.S. Senate and recapture the House of Representatives from Republicans in the 2014 elections. Obama, who has said he feels personally responsible that the law has made things difficult for his fellow Democrats, adopted a more assertive tone when discussing it with donors and supporters - signaling he hoped his fellow party members would follow suit. "We're going to continue to implement the healthcare law. The product is good, people want it and we should not live in a country where people are going bankrupt just because they get sick," he said. "And anybody who is going to keep on pushing against that, they will meet my resistance because I am willing to fix any problems that there are, but I am not going to abandon people to make sure that they have got health insurance in this country."
The DreamWorks Animation studio is famous for the "Shrek" animated films and is led by one of Obama's top political donors, Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The White House said DreamWorks was not chosen because of Katzenberg's financial support.
Obama also met with a who's who of film industry leaders, including the chief executives of Lionsgate Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, The Walt Disney Co, and Warner Brothers. Obama highlighted the entertainment industry as a "bright spot" in the growing U.S. economy. During their meeting, the group also discussed piracy and intellectual property rights, a White House spokesman said. After arriving, Obama toured parts of the studio, including a visit with actors Steve Martin and Jim Parsons, who are voicing lead characters in an upcoming alien film called "Home."
Obama referred to Martin having played banjo at the White House.
"The fact that I played banjo at the White House for the president of the United States was the biggest thrill of his life," Martin quipped.

Music: Da Zamong Watan Afghanistan

Video: President Karzai's meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor

Video: President Obama Immigration Speech

Q&A: 'India warned 26 times' before Mumbai

A recent book, authored by British investigative journalists, offers insight into what led to the deadly Mumbai attacks.
India is observing the fifth anniversary of 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which over 160 people were killed by a group of armed men in almost three days of mayhem.
Now a recent book, The Siege: The Attack on the Taj, authored by British investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, offers an insight into what led to the Mumbai attacks, lapses on the Indian side, the role of the CIA’s proxy elements and the Pakistan-based armed group Lashkar-e-Toiba’s (LeT).
Both authors specialise in investigative journalism and have previously written a controversial book, The Meadow: Kashmir 1995, a meticulous account of a ruthless kidnapping that paved the way for the 9/11 attacks on the US. In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Baba Umar, Adrian Levy talks about the Mumbai attacks, the Pakistani plot to it, the US role and the credibility of Indian intelligence agencies.
Al Jazeera: First The Meadow, now The Siege. These non-fiction thrillers have come back to back in a span of just a few years. Can you tell us about the research process involved in your latest book?
Adrian Levy: "It's a laborious process of hanging facts and characters on a giant exoskeleton. We're both on our hands and knees piecing things together when we see each other. The truth, or versions of it, is compelling and addictive. These kinds of stories require you to reach out and not to censor yourself. South Asia is mostly the common denominator and that's where we have spent so many years."
Al Jazeera: Can you take us to Pakistan where the attack was planned? Your argument is the attacks were ‘deliberate’ and supported by Pakistan's ISI. Who in ISI planned it? And did the government in Pakistan have any clue about it?
Levy: "We spent a good deal of time in Pakistan and there is no evidence that the government there was culpable. In anyway, they were caught out as was everyone else. Lashkar's complex relationship with its mentors in the ISI is more fraught. The outfit is packed with soldiers and spies, but how many are serving and who is influential. Although created as a creature of covert foreign policy, Lashkar was disintegrating after the Lal Masjid raid in 2007, when Pakistani forces stormed a mosque in Islamabad, to end a siege there. A significant section was against the old council, and anti-Pak security establishment. A small section remained loyal. Mumbai was mooted as a band-aid, it seems. It appealed to the old guard as India remained the target, and to the new guard as the West too could be targeted. Jews. Americans. Europeans. "But even though individuals in the ISI seem to have attached themselves to the Mumbai plot, it is less easy to say that the institution was involved."
Al Jazeera: You claim India had prior information about the attacks. Who in India knew about it?
Levy: "There was a clear trail of warnings. We found 26 in all. They were very detailed. RAW [Research and Analysis Wing, the key external intelligence agency] and the Intelligence Bureau knew Mumbai was being targeted and that Lashkar was the author. They knew which targets were being cased too. And that a seal landing was likely. But then the US knew a good deal about 9/11 and could not prevent it, and several of the 7/7 bombers were on the British watch list but evaded capture."
Al Jazeera: The intelligence source inside Lashkar-e-Toiba had given the tip-off. What was the level of this source? Does it mean Lashkar is no longer impenetrable?
Levy: "Lashkar has always been a leaky ship. David Headley penetrated LeT and did it for the US, his supposed clients. He also seems to have done it for himself, as he found within himself a hatred of the West as he embraced Islam. "Headley's information was stripped of identifications and dispatched to India. Would these gobbets have been taken more seriously if India had known the source?"
Al Jazeera: The book also speaks of the presence of a Lashkar super-agent ‘Honey Bee’ in India? Is ‘Honey Bee’ an agent within India’s RAW, IB or what?
Levy: "The ISI claimed to have a super-agent. Was it classic counter espionage? A red herring to make Mumbai appear to come from within and not without? Certainly some training materials found in Karachi seem to have stemmed from India which gave Lashkar an insight into Indian counter hostage strategy. The NSG (Indian National Security Guards) said the same when they confronted the LeT squad in the tower."
Al Jazeera: Has India tried hard to expose this mole?
Levy: "We don't know. India was warned by a Gulf intelligence agency."
Al Jazeera: Hafiz Saeed of Jama'at-ud-Dawa in Pakistan has always denied having any role in the attacks. India blames him directly and wants Pakistan to act? The Pakistani courts have not found anything incriminating against him? Where does he fit in all this?
Levy: "Hafiz Saeed is the emir of the spiritual wing in the same way Sinn Fein is the fig leaf for the IRA. He undoubtedly knew, but being the consummate political animal that he is, he was careful to conceal his presence and there is no hard evidence linking him apart from hearsay. However, LeT is a disciplined outfit and it is inconceivable that Hafiz Saeed did not know. But this is not enough to convict him in court."
Al Jazeera: The Mumbai attack was meticulously planned; the masterminds mixed technology with terror, reconnaissance was done and what not. What do we know about the nine other attackers who came with Ajmal Kasab?
Levy: "Nine of the 10 were similar; peasant boys from dysfunctional families in Eastern and Southern Punjab [in Pakistan]. Some grew up on the Indian border. Others in its shadow. Most of those who made the final team were brought up in areas where Jihad as an aspiration provides the only hope of lifting the populace out of misery."
Al Jazeera: Lashkar-e-Toiba fighters have mostly fought in Kashmir. They took the fight to Mumbai in 2008. Are you among those who believe Kashmir and Mumbai is linked?
Levy: "Lashkar had split after 9/11 and a splinter was going global, having moved to the UK to secure new funding and cadre. It was doing the same across Europe and had even targeted an Australian nuclear site. This was known and the information passed to the White house in 2007. The Bush Administration rejected the dossier as Lashkar was seen as the creature of the Pakistani military, and to attack it would distance the US from its ally, the Pakistani military. Nothing was done. "The Kashmir campaign represented the interests of only one faction within Lashkar. And so the linkage between Kashmir and Mumbai is that the Mumbai operation was conceived to enable Lashkar to continue and the ISI to wield it as part of its Kashmir policy."

India: Important to bring 26/11 perpetrators to justice: UN official

As India marks the fifth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, it is "important" that the perpetrators of the "terrible crime" should be brought to justice, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said. The 26/11 terror attacks, in which 166 people were killed was a "terrible crime, an awful terrorist attack," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told PTI here. "Certainly, it is important that those who were responsible are brought to justice. There has already been some action in that regard," he said. A commemorative event marking the fifth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks has been organized in New York by the American India Public Affairs Committee along with the American Jewish Committee Asia Pacific Region. Five years ago, 10 LeT terrorists launched coordinated attacks across key locations in Mumbai killing 166 people, including American citizens. India has demanded that the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage should be brought to justice and Pakistan should swiftly conclude the 26/11 trial of the accused. It feels Pakistan is not making any progress in its investigation of the attack and those responsible for it. In a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in September, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had demanded effective action to bring to justice the perpetrators of 26/11 terror attack. Sharif had told Singh that action would be taken against the perpetrators. Post a comment

Pakistan still complacent five years after 26/11

Five years ago, a militant group from Pakistan unleashed havoc on the Indian financial hub of Mumbai, killing over 160 people in over two days of terror. Pakistan continues to refuse to confront the issue.
The evening of November 26, 2008 starts like any other in the Indian financial hub of Mumbai. Hundreds of thousands of commuters are on their way home; hotels and restaurants in the south of the city center are filled with people from the city and from all over the world.
And then it happens - the moment "26/11" becomes etched into India's collective memory: without warning, Islamist terrorists create a bloodbath, opening fire on crowds of people using automatic weapons, bombs and hand grenades. Their targets include anyone who appears to be a Jew, American or British national. They take hostages in hotels and shops; a Jewish establishment is stormed. Indian media do not hold back from showing live pictures of the havoc and death being wrought upon the city. The images are broadcast around the world. Fighting between the terrorists and security forces lasts two days. At the end of the ordeal, on November 29, nine terrorists are dead. One of the perpetrators, the Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab, is overpowered and taken into police custody. In the incident, 166 people, mostly Indians, lost their lives. According to Amnesty International, around 300 people were injured.
'War against India'
Shortly after the attack, Pakistani authorities arrest a number of suspects, seven of whom are still being tried by an anti-terrorism court, according to media reports. In 2013, US citizen David Coleman Headley was sentenced to 35 years by a US federal court in Chicago, Illinois, for helping plot the attacks. Kasab was indicted in India and put on trial for "waging war against India." He was sentenced to death and hanged in November 2012. Five years after the attacks, investigators in India and the US have come a long way in getting behind the motives, thanks to confessions by Headley and Kasab. Both of the confessions blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist organization which operates from Lahore, Pakistan, and which has close ties to the Pakistani military secret service Inter-Services Intelligence, and which has for many years been carrying out attacks in Indian Kashmir as a non-state actor. The group was declared a terrorist organization as early as 2001 by the US.
No interest in investigations
Pakistan has so far failed to help with the investigations. Arshad Mahmood, a Pakistani historian, tells DW that Islamabad 's claims that New Delhi hasn't brought forward any hard evidence against the suspects are baseless. "Pakistan clearly doesn't want any investigation linking it to the attacks. This would be a humiliation." But, according to Toqeer Gilani, a political activist in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, there is more behind Islamabad's refusal to cooperate than just an attempt to keep face. "I am convinced that Islamic organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba are supported by Pakistani intelligence agencies. Taking action against the group would be like attacking the components of the state," he said.
Five years on, the dialogue process between the two countries is still sluggish. Vinod Sharma, a journalist working for the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times, views the events of November 26, 2008 as a massive setback. "And the mistrust became even greater, as it became clear that Pakistan wouldn't bring those behind the attack to justice." This view is shared by Mahmood, who says it will be very difficult for India to overcome the trauma of Mumbai as long as Pakistan doesn't take action against those responsible. "And this is not to be expected," he adds.
A difficult dialogue
Sharma is of the opinion that the media in both countries bear some responsibility for the stalemate between the nuclear neighbors. He says it has become common practice in India to attack Pakistan and vice versa. "It helps nobody. Politics must be based on dialogue, but this is something that is ignored by the media in both nations," the journalist criticizes. However, Sharma remains optimistic about the future of bilateral relations. He argues that Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came into office on the promise of normalizing ties with India, something viewed positively by Indians. "We believe that Sharif's election has been the best opportunity in a long time to improve Indo-Pakistani ties. But a lot depends on whether Sharif will be able to assert himself." Analysts suspect, however, this could be difficult, as extremists can even count on support from members of the Muslim League, Sharif's party. But the improvement of relations also depends on India, which is set to hold parliamentary elections next spring. It remains to be seen, however, whether this will lead to better relations with Pakistan. Polls put the India's ruling Congress party behind the Hindu nationalists of the BJP. In the current situation, the government is unlikely to make Pakistan any offer for talks.

Pakistan: ‘56 women killed in 2013 for giving birth to girls’

The Express Tribune
Fifty-six women have been killed in Pakistan this year for giving birth to a girl rather than a boy, human rights activist IA Rehman said at a symposium here on Monday.
“A country where mothers are killed for giving birth to baby girls can’t be called an ethical society,” Rehman said at the symposium, titled ‘Youth emerging as a force for positive change’, meant to mark the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. The event was arranged by the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA). From January 2012 to September 2013, there were also 90 acid attacks on women, 72 cases of burning caused by other means, 491 cases of domestic violence, 344 cases of gang rape and 835 cases of violence, he said. “Young girls are being raped in Pakistan and all we do is shout rather that do anything practical,” he said.
Rehman said that giving girls and boys equal access to education and introducing a uniform education system for the rich and the poor would bring about positive changes in Pakistan. “It has taken us 62 years to say that education is a basic right,” he said. Supreme Court Advocate Shamsa Ali said a third of seats in local government should be reserved for women. This would make local bodies a nursery for young female politicians, she said.
She added that there should be a zero tolerance policy towards violence against women. She said that Pakistan had ratified the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, but had not fully implemented it.
APWA Chairwoman Ruhi Sayid said that the association had taken many initiatives to help victims of violence.

Pakistan: PTI indulging in non-issues

Daily Times
Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) provincial chairman Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao said on Monday that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was indulging in non-issues as it had failed to deliver on its pledges. “The PTI government has totally failed to deliver,” he told a press conference at Watan Kor, the party’s central secretariat in Hayatabad. On the occasion, PTI leader in Nowshera district Malik Fayazur Rehman announced joining QWP along with his dozens of his supporters and workers. Sikandar Sherpao said the issue of law and order in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was worsening day by day, which has slowed down the economic development of the province. “The deteriorating law and order has caused great concern and unrest among people as they feel insecure in the prevailing circumstances,” he maintained. The QWP leader said the provincial government should have solved the problems being faced by people instead of indulging in non-issues. He said the rulers have overlooked the problems, which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. He said the provincial government had miserably failed to play a proactive role in safeguarding the interests of the province. He said the rulers had taken no step to put pressure on the federal government to pay the arrears of the net hydel profit to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was its due right. Sikandar Sherpao said that next year the yield of wheat crop would not be up to the mark due to wrong policies of the provincial government. He said farmers had not been given good quality of wheat seed as flour shortage would hit the province in the next season if corrective steps were not taken forthwith. He said that unannounced and unscheduled power and gas outages had made life miserable for people. He said housewives found it difficult to cook food for their families as the gas supply remains suspended for long hours. staff report

Pakistan: KP’s real issues succumb to PTI’s populist approach

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has not yet come out of its pre-election populist approach and as a result Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s pressing socio-economic issues have suffered oversight by the provincial ruling coalition, according to political analysts. Political scientists and activists, when contacted separately, said that PTI’s extreme position over a foreign policy issue had pushed to oblivion Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s actual issues, including rising unemployment, deteriorating law and order situation, growing price hike, dilapidated infrastructure, and failing social services delivery system. “Pakistan’s politics has always been issue based and political parties always try to make gains, and as a result real issues mostly go unnoticed,” said Dr AZ Hilali, chairman of the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar. He said no one ever talked about unemployment, crimes, and socio-economic problems. PTI was not any different than others, he added. “I have sympathies with Imran Khan, but his approach is benefiting a particular social class at the cost of people belonging to low income groups,” said the academician. Aren’t American drone strikes and Nato supplies real issues of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? Addressing his party’s protest demonstration at Peshawar on Saturday, PTI chief Imran Khan said peace could not be restored in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without stopping American drone strikes. He said 70 per cent industrial units in the province were non-functional because of the security crisis resulted by drone strikes. Many think Mr Khan’s attempt to link the closure of industrial units with drone strikes is factually incorrect. The province has been struggling with a large number of sick industrial units since early 1990s after the federal government withdrew industrial incentive packages, rendering closure of units in Gadoon Amazai industrial estate. Dr Ijaz Khan Khattak, a faculty member of the International Relations Department, UoP, does not agree with the PTI’s position on drone attacks. “There does not seem to have gone some real thinking behind PTI’s slogans and its populist approach,” said Dr Khattak, adding “slogans do carry strong imprints, but compromises cannot be concealed.” PTI, he said, had realised that it was not easy for its provincial coalition government to deliver, as the province had peculiar issues and little resource base. The party, he said, knew well that Nato supplies and drone strikes were international issues that did not come under the domain of the provincial government. “PTI knows disrupting Nato supplies involves implications; Pakistan is legally bound to ensure the supplies to Afghanistan,” said the academician. He said the party had come into power on slogans of ending corruption, improving social services, and restoring peace. “Perhaps, they have realised that they have not been able to deliver on any of the front so they have taken extreme positions on issues that do not come under the purview of a provincial government,” said Dr Khattak. The Awami National Party, too, holds the opinion that PTI has lost the sense of direction, failing to overcome governance issues in the province. “This is petty politics,” said Bushra Gohar, ANP’s ex-MPA. She said: “Governance has not been their strong point, the promises they made in the elections remain unfulfilled, and instead of getting serious about actual things they are holding music shows in the name of protest demos.” She said PTI should tell the nation why did not provincial police cordon off the American drone strike scene in Hangu, who removed the bodies from the scene, and why had not the local police registered a case against the US ambassador to Islamabad after the Hangu drone strike? Instead of blocking trade route that would create problems for people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she said, the PTI should strive to change the country’s Afghan policy. “If they are sincere to what they are saying then they should hold a KP’s real issues succumb to PTI’s populist approach sit-in in front of the General Headquarters to press for changing the country’s policy,” said Ms Gohar. She has reasons to believe that the PTI-led government was lacking in ensuring good governance. She said the provincial government had not produced a fact-finding report about the Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak incident. Its two members of the provincial assembly, she added, were killed in terrorist attacks and the government had not produced any report about their killing as well. The provincial police, she said, could not go near to the Hangu drone strike site either. “They are trying to divert people’s attention,” said Ms Gohar. Dr Hilali said PTI’s position had grave implications and political repercussions for the province in particular and the country in general. He said PTI’s stand against drone strikes was an old demand by Taliban. PTI, he added, had reconciled with the militants’ position. “It is legitimising Taliban’s stand,” he said. “TTP chief and a killer of thousands of Pakistanis, Hakimullah, is being regarded as a martyr and those who lost lives to protect this country their sacrifices are being brought under question, this is hooliganism,” said Dr Hilali. He said PTI and its allies were silent about the Kashmir issue and they had also ignored Pakistan’s demand for transferring the drone technology. According to Dr Khattak, PTI is risking to slip to the right extreme position. “In view of the increasing political polarisation in Pakistan, PTI is pushing itself to the extreme right where it is likely to replace Jamaat-i-Islami,” said Dr Khattak.

11 kidnapped private school teachers freed in Khyber Agency

The terrorists on Tuesday here have released the eleven private school teachers who were earlier kidnapped by them, Geo News reported. These teachers were kidnapped by the terrorists for allowing their school students to work as volunteers for dispensing polio drops to the children living in the surroundings. Sources said that the extremists had kidnapped eleven private school teachers two days ago at a place called Sipah in Tehsil Bara for co-operating in anti-polio campaign and allowing their students to take part in polio drops dispensation. The principal of the school has confirmed that all the abducted teachers have by now been released, sources said.

Pakistan: Rimsha’s Neighbors Remain Homeless, Plead Government For Help

The fearful residents of Rimsha Masih’s neighborhood still living homeless even after a non-violent settlement of Rimsha’s case. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/rimshas-neighbours-remain-homeless-plead-government-for-help/#sthash.LLFqUcWt.dpuf
The Christian residents of Mehrabad were forced to flee from their homes during the Rimsha Masih blasphemy row and are still homeless; getting ever more desperate. In access of 800 to 1,000 Christian families residents of Mehrabad are still living in tents or temporary shelters as they fear a violent welcome upon return to their homes in the area. It has been more than a year since they fled their homes anticipating the grave circumstances amid blasphemy accusation on Rimsha Masih a 14 year old Christian resident of the same locality. The escapees to a large extent lack even basic needs for instance clean water for drinking moreover they fear officials may sooner or latter compel them to move on from their present makeshift shelters.
Some sources say, ”The Christians still fear retaliatory attacks from Islamist extremists enraged by the blasphemy accusations made against Rimsha, a teenager with learning difficulties, in August 2012.”
Rimsha Masih was arrested in August 2012 in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning pages of the Qur’an. She was therefore held in jail for three weeks before she finally was released on bail, however the complainant cleric was later accused of manufacturing fake evidence against her and consequently, the case against the girl was dropped. Rimsha however, could have faced life in prison if found guilty over allegations. This case drew extensive international condemnation. After the case against her was quashed in November, Rimsha Masih and her family were also forced into hiding nonetheless they took refuge under government security the family feared of their lives.
After Rimsha was acquitted of blasphemy in November 2012 and she was later granted asylum, with her family, in Canada. At the same time, Christians in her area were reportedly attacked and were forced to flee amid death threats. Some residents however, tried to return but were ostracised and not allowed to buy food. They’re now seeking government support to find permanent homes. Even if the case against her was thrown out, people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subjected to vigilante justice. Furious mobs have been witnessed attacking and killing people accused of blasphemy notwithstanding two prominent Pakistani politicians who have stood their ground against these acts of vandalism and misuse of blasphemy laws have been killed.
An international organization urges all to: Pray for a safe and permanent home for the many Christians from Mehrabad who are still living in fear. Pray that officials will act quickly now to ensure their safety and well-being. Continue to pray for God’s protection and favour over Rimsha and her family.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/rimshas-neighbours-remain-homeless-plead-government-for-help/#sthash.LLFqUcWt.dpuf

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Yazidi terrorists shot martyred mourning procession’s incharge, wife

Notorious Yazidi nasbi terrorists ferociously shot martyred a mourning procession’s incharge and his wife in Karachi on Monday. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that Muneer Hussain and his wife Razia Begum were on way to their offices when terrorists hit them near Sanubar Cottage.
The ferocious and merciless terrorists fired more than a dozen bullets upon Muneer Hussain and fired shots at the face of his wife. They embraced martyrdom for the fact that they were Shiites. Muneer Hussain was incharge of an azadari procession in Khuda Ki Basti Surjani Town and that procession was attacked earlier this month.
Outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba that has renamed it as Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat, detest the azadari of Imam Hussain (AS) and martyrs of Karbala and its offshoot outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi publicly claimed responsibility for the genocide of Shia Muslims. Shia parties have condemned the targeted murders of Shia notable saying that women and children are not spared that reflected the fact that the Yazidis are not Muslims. They said that enemies of Ahl-e-Bait (AS) have left six children orphans. They demanded of the government to pay compensation and employment to the heirs of the Shia martyrs. They demanded public hangings of the terrorists.

Iranian forces attacked a house in Pakistan's Balochistan, 1 killed 7 injured

A three year-old girl was killed and seven others injured in a missile attack on a house in Kech district of Balochistan on Monday.
According to local sources at least three missiles landed on the house of Mullah Umar Baloch in Kolaho near in Thump on early Monday morning.
Independent sources reported that the missiles have been fired by Iranian forces from across the artificial border.
As a result of the attack the house was destroyed completely resulting in death of three years-old daughter of Umer Baloch and leaving seven others injured. The killed minor has been named has Zalekha and injured were identified as Qayum, his two sons Hassan, Shahid and four women. Umer was not inside the house at the time of attack. Two houses of Umer and his brother Qayum have been completely destroyed whereas their neighbour Arif Salim’s house has also been partially damaged.
It is pertinent to mention that on 14 November the Iranian chopper had entered Pakistani Balochistan airspace from western Balochistan’s Saravan [Iranian occupied] region into Mashkhail area of Washuk district in Balochistan near the border. The Iranian bombed several houses in mashkhail but no one was hurt.
A senior Pakistani government official had confirmed that the Iranian helicopter infiltrated into the Pakistani Balochistan’s airspace at around 1:30 pm returned after flying around for several minutes. Pakistan has not yet raised the issue with Iran.
Iranian officials had threatened that it might even cross the international border into Pakistan to chase what it calls ‘extremist elements’ engaged in anti-state activities in Iran.

Mexico says will award Malala with equality prize

Mexico says it will award its 2013 International Prize for Equality and Non-Discrimination to young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for promoting education for girls and women.
The award seeks to recognize Malala's efforts for "the protection of human rights" and particularly her struggle to protect the right to education without discrimination on "grounds of age, gender, sex and religion," Mexico's official National Council to Prevent Discrimination said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The award ceremony is scheduled to take place in early 2014.
On July 12, Malala celebrated her 16th birthday with a passionate speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York, in which she said education can change the world.
"Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution," she told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and about 1,000 youth leaders from over 100 countries attending an international Youth Assembly at the UN. Malala, who was also nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, was given the European Union's Sakharov human rights prize at a ceremony held on World Children's Day last week. On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militants in the town of Mingora for speaking out against the fanatics and promoting education for girls and women in her home region, the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The UN speech was her first public address since the incident. She has been credited with bringing the issue of women's education to global attention.
"They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed and out of that silence came thousands of voices," Malala said.
"The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born," she stated. A day after she was shot, a bullet which hit Malala’s skull was removed by surgeons in Peshawar. She was later transferred to a military hospital in Rawalpindi for more specialist treatment. She is currently living in Britain, where she underwent successful surgery on her skull and ear. Surgeons replaced part of Malala’s skull with a titanium plate and inserted a cochlear implant in her left ear to restore her hearing. In December 2012, Pakistan and UNESCO unveiled the Malala Plan, which aims to get all the girls in the world into school by the end of 2015.

After Afghanistan, what next for world's biggest military alliance?

What does the world's most powerful military alliance do once the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan winds up next year?
That is a question worrying military commanders at the SHAPE (Supreme headquarters allied powers Europe) Europe in Mons, southern Belgium, and diplomats at the 28-member North Atlantic Council in Brussels. With one or two exceptions, military budgets – in the US as well as Europe – are being cut while Russia, China, and other Asian countries, are increasing theirs. Judging by the polls in Nato countries, there is little appetite for another military intervention. Germany did not take part in Nato's bombing of Libya, nor in the more recent French-led intervention in Mali. Future military operations are likely to depend increasingly on smaller and smaller "coalitions of the willing". Fewer and fewer Nato members are likely to show willing. US General Philip Breedlove, Saceur (supreme allied commander Europe) recognises the uncertainties facing the Nato alliance and the danger of apathy leading to atrophy. "Our training, our exercises will have to be the glue that holds us together", he said on the sidelines of a meeting of Nato maritime commanders in London last week.
Breedlove referred to "Steadfast Jazz", a recent Baltic exercise to which Poland, a Nato country which has actually increased its defence budget, was by far the biggest contributor. The exercise was designed to show the Russians and others that after years bogged down in counter insurgency efforts in Afghanistan, Nato forces are still willing and able to conduct more conventional "high end" military operations.
Nato military chiefs place more credible emphasis on what they call "out of area" operations against less conventional enemies. They point to "Ocean Shield", the name of Nato's counter piracy operations in the Indian ocean. But this is not in any way a controversial military operation – even the EU has managed to agree on a joint naval force there called Operation Atalanta. Russia is cooperating with Nato ships there, as it has done in the Medierranean. The "North Atlantic" alliance is becoming more and more a misnomer. Australia has long been one of the more enthusiatic military interveners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nato commanders refer even to New Zealand, and operations in defence of "global" interests, such as securing trade routes. The next Nato summit will be held in Newport, south Wales in early September next year. During a recent visit to Cardiff, David Cameron, the British prime minister, said: "It's the end of Afghan mission and important to reflect on the future of Nato."
That, prime minister, is certainly true.

Afghan accord near collapse due to new demands

Efforts by the United States and Afghanistan to finalize a long-term security arrangement appeared on the brink of collapse Monday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a new set of demands, and the Obama administration said it would be forced to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of 2014. In a two-hour meeting here, Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s top national security adviser, told Karzai that if he failed to sign the bilateral security agreement by the end of this year, the United States would have “no choice” but withdrawal, according to a statement by the National Security Council in Washington.
Karzai told Rice that he would sign only after the United States helps his government begin peace talks with the Taliban and agrees to release all 17 Afghan citizens being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, according to Afghan and U.S. officials. In addition to those new demands, the Afghan leader reiterated that he will not sign if “another [U.S.] soldier steps foot into an Afghan home,” Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said. The United States has already promised to show “restraint” in “home entries” by U.S. troops and to carry them out only in conjunction with Afghan troops, but the tactic remains a principal part of U.S. operations against insurgents here.
If Rice’s unannounced visit to Afghanistan, her first solo trip abroad in office, was designed to convince Karzai that the Obama administration was not bluffing about a complete withdrawal, it did not appear to work. Instead, Karzai doubled down on the position he staked out Thursday, when he shocked both U.S. officials and an assembly of Afghan elders called to approve the deal by saying that he would not sign it until his growing list of demands was met. The agreement, completed last week after year-long negotiations, outlines the conditions for a follow-on presence of U.S. troops to train and advise the Afghan military and to conduct counterterrorism operations after the Americans and their NATO partners withdraw all combat troops by the end of next year. The administration has said it must be signed before the end of this year if U.S. and NATO planning for post-2014 deployments are to be completed.
On Sunday — despite endorsement of the deal by the assembly, called a loya jirga — Karzai repeated his refusal to sign until after the presidential election here in April. U.S. officials have said they believed that Karzai was bluffing. But “the president said, ‘Madame Rice, the ball is in your court,’ ” Faizi said. “The president said, ‘If you are under the impression the [agreement] will be signed without a peace process, and without a total ban on raids of Afghan homes, this is a serious miscalculation.’ ” Although couched in far more diplomatic language, the National Security Council statement was equally tough, saying that Rice “stressed that we have concluded negotiations and that deferring the signature of the agreement until after next year’s elections is not viable.” It said she “reiterated that, without a prompt signature, the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.”
Failure to sign, Rice told Karzai, would jeopardize not only the $4 billion in international pledges to fund the Afghan military after 2014, but also an additional $4 billion that has been promised for Afghan economic development. A senior U.S. official in Washington, who was not authorized to discuss the sensitive matter on the record, said the Obama administration was deeply frustrated by Karzai’s new demands. “We can continue to disagree, but at the end of the day, we are the ones who have the troops,” the official said.
“He can insist he has new conditions. But we’ve got a plan,” the official said, referring to the agreement. In his Sunday speech to the loya jirga, Karzai also accused the U.S. government of seeking to undermine him and the election, and he said he needed additional assurances. Faizi said that Rice stressed during the meeting that the administration has “no favored candidate in that election” and is “strongly committed to not interfering with it.” “That was a commitment that was made in very strong terms and very strong words, and that clearly satisfied the president,” Faizi said. But when the conversation shifted to other matters, he said, it became more tense. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, and James B. Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, accompanied Rice to the meeting. According to Faizi, Dunford said he has instructed all U.S. commanders in Afghanistan to take “all necessary measures” to try to avoid civilian casualties in military missions. Karzai plans to closely scrutinize U.S. military behavior over the coming weeks, Faizi said. “We need a change in U.S. behavior, so [Karzai] said, ‘Give us Afghans time to see a change in behavior,’ ” Faizi said. Faizi said Cunningham strongly objected to Karzai’s demand for the release of Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. But Karzai noted that the members of the loya jirga had also called for such a release, the spokesman said. The spokesman said the release of the Afghan prisoners is a vital step toward launching a peace process with Taliban militants. Karzai is also expecting the U.S. government to work with Pakistan’s government to start those talks, the spokesman said. “He strongly believes Afghan peace is firmly in the hands of the United States first, and secondly in the hands of Pakistan,” Faizi said. Some militants who launch attacks in Afghanistan are thought to be based in Pakistan. Over the summer, U.S. officials worked with Pakistani leaders to try to arrange peace talks between Karzai’s government and Taliban leaders in Qatar. After the Taliban leaders hoisted their group’s banner at their hotel in Doha, Karzai vowed not to attend.