Thursday, January 16, 2014

Turkey removes top prosecutors probing corruption

Turkey has removed a number of prosecutors from a corruption probe targeting the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors said on Thursday that it has reassigned 20 prosecutors. Among those removed is Istanbul's chief prosecutor, Turhan Colakkadi, who was overseeing the corruption investigation. The board has also approved a probe into several top prosecutors who led the graft inquiry and have already been removed from their positions. The announcement comes after Erdogan offered compromise over his plans to curb the judiciary’s powers, and give the Justice Ministry more authority over appointing judges and prosecutors. Muharrem Yilmaz, the head of the Turkish Industry and Business Association, said that Turkey is becoming a police state. "We are facing a heavy agenda in which the judiciary has become the battlefield of a political struggle," Yilmaz said at a conference this week. "A state that doesn't abide by its own rules cannot be described as a state of law, not even as a state with laws. It can only be described as a police state," he said. On December 25, 2013, the Turkish premier replaced the economy, interior, and environment ministers, whose sons have all been arrested as part of investigations into the spiraling corruption scandal. Erdogan denounced the probe as a plot to undermine his government ahead of the local elections in March, adding that the graft allegations against businesspersons and government officials are hindering the economic growth. In a speech in Istanbul on January 4, Erdogan said the corruption scandal was cover for an assassination attempt. "What they wanted to do was an attempted assassination of the national will.” “They tried to carry out a judicial coup in Turkey... But we are going to oppose this operation, this December 17 plot that targeted the future, the stability of our country," he noted.

'No indication Geneva 2 will be a meaningful decision'

Australia's extreme heat melts chocolate in under 3 minutes

A blistering heatwave in Australia is illustrated by a Lindt chocolate, melting on pavement in less than 3 minutes.

Polar vortex freezes Niagara Falls

Christie hires law firm to fight "Bridgegate" scandal

Ariel Sharon: Peacemaker, hero... and butcher

Any other Middle Eastern leader who survived eight years in a coma would have been the butt of every cartoonist in the world. Hafez el-Assad would have appeared in his death bed, ordering his son to commit massacres; Khomeini would have been pictured demanding more executions as his life was endlessly prolonged. But of Sharon – the butcher of Sabra and Shatila for almost every Palestinian – there has been an almost sacred silence.
Cursed in life as a killer by quite a few Israeli soldiers as well as by the Arab world – which has proved pretty efficient at slaughtering its own people these past few years – Sharon was respected in his eight years of near-death, no sacrilegious cartoons to damage his reputation; and he will, be assured, receive the funeral of a hero and a peacemaker.
Thus do we remake history. How speedily did toady journalists in Washington and New York patch up this brutal man's image. After sending his army's pet Lebanese militia into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982, where they massacred up to 1,700 Palestinians, Israel's own official enquiry announced that Sharon bore "personal" responsibility for the bloodbath.
He it was who had led Israel's catastrophic invasion of Lebanon three months earlier, lying to his own prime minister that his forces would advance only a few miles across the frontier, then laying siege to Beirut – at a cost of around 17,000 lives. But by slowly re-ascending Israel's dangerous political ladder, he emerged as prime minister, clearing Jewish settlements out of the Gaza Strip and thus, in the words of his own spokesman, putting any hope of a Palestinian state into "formaldehyde".
By the time of his political and mental death in 2006, Sharon – with the help of the 2001 crimes against humanity in the US and his successful but mendacious claim that Arafat backed bin Laden – had become, of all things, a peacemaker, while Arafat, who made more concessions to Israeli demands than any other Palestinian leader, was portrayed as a super-terrorist. The world forgot that Sharon had opposed the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, voted against a withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 1985, opposed Israel's participation in the 1991 Madrid peace conference – and the Knesset plenum vote on the Oslo agreement in 1993, abstained on a vote for a peace with Jordan the next year and voted against the Hebron agreement in 1997. Sharon condemned the manner of Israel's 2000 retreat from Lebanon and by 2002 had built 34 new illegal Jewish colonies on Arab land.
Quite a peacemaker! When an Israeli pilot bombed an apartment block in Gaza, killing nine small children as well as his Hamas target, Sharon described the "operation" as "a great success", and the Americans were silent. For he bamboozled his Western allies into the insane notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was part of Bush's monstrous battle against "world terror", that Arafat was himself a bin Laden, and that the world's last colonial war was part of the cosmic clash of religious extremism.
The final, ghastly – in other circumstances, hilarious – political response to Sharon's behaviour was George W Bush's contention that Ariel Sharon was "a man of peace". When he became prime minister, media profiles noted not Sharon's cruelty but his "pragmatism", recalling, over and over, that he was known as "the bulldozer". And, of course, real bulldozers will go on clearing Arab land for Jewish colonies for years after Sharon's death, thus ensuring there will never – ever – be a Palestinian state.

U.S. urges Syrian opposition to attend peace conference

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday urged the Syrian opposition to attend a key peace conference which aims at bringing an end to the three-year conflict in Syria. Kerry called on the Syrian Opposition Coalition to vote favorably at a meeting on Friday to participate in the much- anticipated peace conference in Geneva on Jan. 22. "We do so knowing that the Geneva peace conference is not the end, but rather the beginning," Kerry said. The top U.S. envoy said the conference, known as Geneva II, is a process that is the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goal of a political solution "for this terrible conflict that has taken many, many, too many lives." Kerry reiterated that the goal of the conference is to establish a process to form a transitional governing body in Syria to bring about an end to the civil war. The war has triggered "one of the planet's most severe humanitarian disasters" and created the seeding grounds for extremism, he noted. He added that any names put forward for leadership of Syria's transition must be agreed to by both the government and the opposition, which is "the very definition of mutual consent." Kerry also expressed deep concern about the rise of extremism in Syria, which he said is the "strongest magnet for terror of any place today." Western governments have backed the opposition fighting against the Syrian government but are increasingly concerned about the growing influence of Jihadist groups in Syria. Media reports said U.S., British and German intelligence agencies have visited Syria to discuss security cooperation with the Syrian government amid worries about Islamist extremists among the opposition. In a telephone talk on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the growing security challenge posed by extremist groups in Syria and the region, White House said in a statement. The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the Geneva II process designed to address the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict, said the statement.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari grieved over school bus accident in Benazirabad (Nawabshah)
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed deep grief and sorrow over a traffic accident between a school bus and a truck resulting in loss of twenty-two precious lives of students and public. In a message the former President said that he was saddened with the news of accident and his heart goes out to the parents of the children who were killed in this tragedy. He prayed to Almighty Allah to grant courage and strength to bear this irreparable loss and eternal peace to the departed souls. Asif Ali Zardari asked Sindh Government to look after the grieved families and provide best care to the injured.

PPP delegation visits Shaheed Aitezaz Hassan family, laid floral wreath on his grave
On the special directives of former President Asif Ali Zardari, Senator Farhatullah Babar led a delegation of Pakistan Peoples Party which visited the family of Shaheed Aitezaz Hassan in his home town Hangu and laid floral wreath on his grave on behalf of former President Asif Ali Zardari.
Senator Farhatullah Babar also handed over one million rupees to father of Shaheed Aitezaz Hassan on behalf of former President Asif Ali Zardari. General Secretary PPP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Engineer Humayun Khan was also present at the occasion.
Speaking on the occasion, Senator Farhatullah Babar conveyed heartfelt condolences of former President Asif Ali Zardari to the family and deep appreciation for the courage of Aitezaz Hassan. He said by voluntarily laying down his life in the fight against militants, Shaheed Aitezaz Hassan has made a powerful political statement against militants and rejected the efforts by some political parties to weakened the national narrative against militants. Denouncing the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader is confusing the people by wrongly and cowardly calling militants as just misguided friends instead of enemies of state and people. Future historians will never forget the PTI leader for inflicting such a grievous blow to the national consensus and body politics, he said.

Syria grappling with Saudi-backed crisis

A political commentator says the Al Saud regime has been using its assets to fund nearly three years of bloody violence plaguing the Syrian nation, Press TV reports.
Webster Griffin Tarpley, a US-based author and historian, told Press TV on Wednesday that Syria has been grappling with an influx of “foreign fighters, terrorists and adventurists from around the world” since March 2011, adding, “But none of this would have been possible without the funding” from Saudi Arabia.
The analyst further stressed that nearly three years into the crisis in Syria, the Al Saud regime has now realized that the “death squads” and Wahhabi extremists that it has unleashed in Syria are not capable of “militarily" overthrowing the Syrian government.
Tarpley went on to say that the Takfiri extremists “who have engaged in cannibalism and massacres [and] for whom beheadings seems to be a common practice” cannot shape the civilization of countries such as Syria. Saudi Arabia is now attempting to foster terrorism in Syria’s neighboring countries, including Lebanon and Iraq, to vent its frustration over the defeats and failures in Syria, added Tarpley.
In a Wednesday meeting with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned that Saudi Arabia’s political and religious ideology of Wahhabism threatens “the whole world,” calling on Syrians and other people in the Middle East to confront Wahhabism.
Saudi Arabia has been among the main supporters of the Takfiri militants operating against the government of President Assad since the outbreak of the violence, which has so far killed more than 100,000 people according to figures released by the United Nations.

Fire crews battle massive blaze near Los Angeles

Hundreds of fire fighters work to contain a 125-acre brush fire encroaching on Glendora, a posh residential community near Los Angeles.

Even President Obama Thinks That Facebook Isn’t Cool Anymore
Ask anyone under the age of 30 if they love Facebook. Chances are, the answer will be no.
The once dominant social network has most certainly fallen from its hyper-exclusive, hyper-popular beginnings to become the place where moms and uncles post their political opinions and baby pictures. (At least, I think. I haven’t been on Facebook in forever.)
In fact, Facebook has lost so much of its cool factor that even President Obama knows it. As it turns out, the Atlantic’s associate editor covering tech Robinson Meyer happened to be sitting near Obama at a coffee shop, of all places, during a meeting the President was having to learn more about 18-34 year olds. The goal was to get more people in this demographic to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. For Meyer, the goal was to overhear the president say something relevant to his beat and — as it so happens — President Obama gave him a gem.
“It seems like they don’t use Facebook anymore,” said President Obama.
Meyer tries to get to the bottom of the President’s use of “they.” Perhaps it was the age group he was researching, between 18 and 34, or maybe it was the all-encompassing, third-person singular, gender-neutral pronoun, muses Meyer.
But we know who “they” is. It’s the cool crowd of teenagers and twenty-somethings that make social services popular to begin with.
Meyer’s eavesdropped interview also revealed that the president knows what Snapchat and Instagram are, though his interest and/or enthusiasm toward the up-and-coming social powerhouses is unclear. What is clear is that Facebook has lost its swagger. Since Facebook bought Onavo, which was one of very few services that could provide empirical data into this downward spiral, there is only one other service that can offer insight into the competitive landscape of Facebook and other social players. According to App Annie, Facebook was ranked in the 50′s in downloads on the U.S. iTunes store. Meanwhile, Snapchat was ranked in the teens and even single digits. In August, some sort of algorithm change suddenly bumped Facebook into the teens as well. (App Annie told TechCrunch that it had “observed changes in the iOS App Store rankings around August” but refused to clarify whether Apple was the sole source of this shift for Facebook.) Even at the current rank of 14th overall and 3rd in social, Facebook is still ranked lower than Snapchat (6th) and Instagram (11th). Instagram (arguably the coolest part of Facebook) is still ranked lower than Snapchat in Photo and Video categories.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily paint a picture of a Facebook in trouble. The company is home to over 1 billion users, with the third most popular website on the internet behind Google and YouTube. Plus, this data actually proves that Facebook and Facebook Messenger are often downloaded by people when they buy new phones, showing the apps are still necessities.
But the cool kids are gone.
Facebook is no longer where we flirt with college classmates and spend hours posting photos. That use-case became nearly impossible when Facebook stopped being exclusively for college students and opened up to everyone. Inevitably, younger cousins and aunts and uncles and parents got on the platform. It started feeling more like a family reunion photo site than a hot social network.
And then, the generation that was champing at the bit to get on Facebook realized that their parents were champing at the bit, too. Instead of being a network full of 14- to 22-year olds, it became a network of 12- to 50-year olds. Nowadays to the cool young kids, it’s an address book, with an email function, and perhaps the option to stalk if the person of interest doesn’t have Instagram. It’s a skeleton for all the other social apps we use, so signing up is easier and finding friends isn’t a repetitive process each time you download a new app.
Will Oremus hits the nail on the head. You can either have “everyone” or the cool kids, but you can’t have both.
Facebook has chosen everyone, and it makes sense — their business model depends on ubiquity. If you have everyone’s social data, you can sell ads about anything and convert. And up until recently, Facebook’s been wildly successful with this. When Instagram posed a threat with 30 million super engaged and young users, Facebook instantly neutralized that threat with a cool $1 billion. After a shaky IPO, Facebook’s ad business is killing it. But now up-and-comer Snapchat is posing a threat. Facebook first tried to fight it with a clone called Poke, which flopped, and then offered $3 billion to buy the app. Snapchat, unlike other social competitors, is not reliant on Facebook at all, instead opting to use the Address Book for friend finding. Meanwhile, we’re seeing Instagram users rain down hellfire on Instagram ads as the once hip and cool photo-sharing app gets swallowed up, now a cog in the Facebook corporate machine. With every day that passes, Facebook starts to look less and less like an Apple and more and more like a Dell. Luckily, there’s still no Apple on the horizon. While younger, hotter social networks spring up and solve problems, no one but Google has tried to make an all-encompassing social network to compete with Facebook. And we all know how that worked out. Zuck is aware of all this. He admitted on an earnings call that Facebook is losing steam with teens, but that he’s more concerned with Facebook being useful than cool. And it still is useful. The company will continue to see downloads, as it’s now necessary to have Facebook if you want to use other social apps. Facebook will continue to make money on ads (now that it knows everything about us) and Messenger will remain a truly popular tool among text-obsessed teens.
But things have changed. Obama even said so.
The cool kids are officially on the hunt for something else, and it’s only a matter of time before another Evan Spiegel pops up, too stubborn to take cash from Zuck, but this time with an all-purpose social network. And being young and VC-funded, this social network won’t show ads for years. And, being different from the incumbent, it will become wildly attractive to teenagers and twenty-somethings.
But that’s way in the future. Right?

World economy on recovery road, but weak inflation threatens: Reuters poll

A much better year lies in store for most of the world's major developed economies, although weak inflation will persist, complicating central banks' ability to get interest rates back to normal, Reuters polls forecast on Thursday.
As in the last few years, the United States looks set to the lead the way, with growth also quickening in Britain and Germany.
However, Japan looks set to disappoint and the euro zone will probably lag again compared with its Western peers. Emerging markets again look a mixed bag. Perhaps the main difference this year is that forecasts from the 300 or so economists polled across the world over the last week at least suggest little prospect of a return to recession in the euro zone, the world's largest trading bloc.
Overall, the poll showed the world economy will grow 3.6 percent this year compared with 2.9 percent in 2013.
That would snap a three-year stretch of slowing global growth since the world economy first rebounded from the severe recession of 2009. The last few months have been marked by steeply falling inflation in many of the top developed economies, with consumer prices rises in some cases far below stability targets set by their central banks.
Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, on Wednesday warned of the risk of deflation - a damaging and sustained spiral of falling prices - even as she was optimistic about improving economic growth.
Although the poll suggested deflation itself looks unlikely, weak inflation will remain widespread. Consumer prices are expected to rise tepidly in most of the countries polled - even in the euro zone, where inflation slowed to 0.8 percent in December. "We're not forecasting a descent into outright deflation. Instead, we're highlighting the risk that inflation remains too low or, worse, that it continues to sink over the next two years," said Stephen King, group chief economist at HSBC, in its global outlook for the year. MIXED FORTUNES Thursday's Reuters polls suggested mixed fortunes ahead for emerging markets. Mexico's ambitious reform agenda will start to pay off after a very disappointing 2013, but the recovery will not likely be as strong as previously hoped as Latin America braces for a bumpy year for local markets. Turkey too is on course for a difficult year ahead, although growth prospects in South Africa look better in 2014. The consensus for the world's largest economy, the United States, was upgraded slightly compared with a poll last month. It is expected to grow 2.9 percent, up from 2.6 percent in the December poll and versus an estimated 1.9 percent in 2013. "It seems we are putting the Great Recession further and further behind us," said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Services. "Consumers have reduced debt, corporate balance sheets are in better shape. There are lots of positives that are going to help rather than hinder growth." In Japan, the world's No.3 economy, inflation will stay well below target, with the poll suggesting companies there are cautious about passing on their higher profits to employees - seen as vital for the country's economic revitalization. Indeed, Japan's economic growth is expected to slow to just 0.7 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year, compared with 2.5 percent for the previous period. The euro zone, by comparison, looks a long way from getting to that point. While this year promises some modest economic growth - around 1.0 percent compared with a 0.4 percent contraction this year - the low level of inflation remains worrisome.
"Core prices pressures will remain low over the medium term," said Herve Amourda, economist at Societe Generale.
"In addition, risks are broadly tilted to the downside over the medium term, as we have identified a strong (euro), falling commodity prices or even stronger deceleration in unit labor costs to be the major threats to our scenario."
Britain looks on course to lead the way in terms of economic growth among Europe's heavyweight economies, where unemployment looks set to fall at a faster pace than the Bank of England's expectations that underpin its monetary policy stance.
The UK economy is expected to grow 0.6 percent per quarter through to the middle of next year, the end of the forecast horizon and the highest forecasts to date. Reuters will publish its economic outlook polls for the top Asian economies outside Japan next week.

Ghazal: 'Peene Walo Suno'

Tensions Between Afghanistan and U.S. Increase as Airstrike Kills Civilians

A coalition airstrike in a province north of Kabul killed at least two Afghan villagers on Wednesday morning, prompting President Hamid Karzai to order an official inquiry and escalating tensions yet again between the allies over civilian deaths.
While details of the fighting in the Seya Gerd district of Parwan Province remained sketchy, officials confirmed that a strike had been called in after Afghan and coalition Special Operations advisers took heavy fire during a mission to clear the area. The gunfight, which took place in an insurgent stronghold used to carry out attacks on Bagram Air Base, claimed the life of one coalition soldier, at least 10 Taliban fighters and several civilians, though the exact number was not yet clear, coalition and Afghan officials said.
Civilian casualties have always been a contentious issue in Afghanistan, but perhaps never more so than now. With the fate of a long-term security deal between the United States and Afghanistan hanging in the balance, Mr. Karzai has made a cessation of the airstrikes, which take the biggest toll on civilians, a precondition of any agreement. In late November, after a drone strike claimed the lives of civilians in southern Helmand Province, the president all but threatened to cancel the deal.
The civilian deaths on Wednesday are likely to worsen the relationship between the Afghans and Americans, a partnership that seems to grow more strained with every passing week. Mr. Karzai’s recent order to release dozens of prisoners believed to have killed American forces, despite weeks of threats of a troop withdrawal by the United States, caused the latest dispute between the allies.
A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Aimal Faizi, said eight civilians had been killed in the airstrike. “Of course, this is exactly about one of our conditions about the signing” of a long-term security agreement, he said, “but it seems like it is not understood. How many more innocent Afghans have to die so it gets the attention of U.S. officials?”
So heavy is the tension over the issue of civilian casualties that, after the episode in Parwan, the presidential palace, the coalition and even the Taliban released statements giving it their own spin. The palace said it had appointed a fact-finding delegation that would report back with details in three days. The coalition, in addition to offering an apology for any civilian casualties, sought to offer context to the “Afghan-led” operation in its statement. “This deliberately planned clearing operation was conducted to disrupt insurgent activities in the district, including attacks on Bagram Air Field, and in support of Afghan National Security Forces’ tactical priorities,” the statement said. “Local district and provincial officials were informed in advance of the operation and were provided updates during and after the actions.” The Taliban, for their part, seized the opportunity to score a propaganda point. While the Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, sent a note to reporters saying that his email address had been hacked “by the enemy,” the insurgent group managed to put out a brief statement about the deaths.
“Last night foreign and local forces targeted and bombed civilian homes,” the statement said. “Four children and two women were martyred, and a number of them were wounded. The misery is still going on.”
The Seya Gerd district of Parwan, and the neighboring Wazghar Valley, has been a hotbed of the insurgency for the last few months, according to Afghan officials. Taliban fighters frequently attack the local police in the area, and it is believed that several recent attacks on Bagram Air Base were carried out from the area. Aziz Ahmad Zaki, a spokesman for the governor of Parwan, said that the coalition Special Operations advisers had come to assist the Afghan forces in the area, setting up alongside them in a district check post that quickly came under fire from Taliban attackers on Tuesday.
Around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Afghan and coalition forces began a clearance operation in the Wazghar Valley, but ran into a Taliban ambush, taking fire from several compounds in the area at once, officials said.
“Afghan and coalition forces returned fire and required defensive air support to suppress the enemy fire,” according to the coalition statement. “The insurgents in this area enjoy freedom of movement allowing them to harass and threaten the local population as well as stage and facilitate attacks,” the statement said. “Tragically, two civilians inside a building from which insurgents were firing on the commandos were killed.”
The fallout from the deaths remains to be seen. The early statement from the presidential palace was measured when compared with the outrage expressed after the civilian deaths in Helmand in late November. At the time, the president threatened to cancel the long-term security deal if such “arbitrary acts and oppression of foreign forces continue.”

Eight killed, dozens injured in Peshawar blast

At least eight worshipers, including two children, were killed and 55 others injured in a powerful bomb blast at a Tableeghi Markaz (Islamic preaching centre and mosque) here on Thursday. "The explosion ripped through the Tableeghi Markaz located on Charsaddah Road when worshipers were offering prayer," Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Najib-ur-Rehman said. Rehman also confirmed the deaths and feared a rise in the toll. Initially it was suspected to be a cylinder blast, but a foot deep crater between two pillars of the prayer hall dismissed that theory. Furthermore, the distinctive smell of explosives and the crater strongly pointed to a planted device, which was later confirmed by the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS). Concluding that it was not a suicide bombing, Additional Inspector General of Bomb Disposal Squad, Shafqat Malik, said a timer device with at least 5 kilograms of explosive was used in the bombing. "The timed improvised explosive device (IED) was hidden inside an empty canister of ghee,", Malik said. The casualties were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital not only by the emergency responders but also volunteers. According to hospital sources at least 55 injured have so far been brought to the emergency room -- many of them critical. The head of the hospital confirmed the number of the casualties. A wounded worshiper told Geo News that they had just started offering Namaz-e Maghrib (prayer offered just after sunset) when the explosion struck. "The bomb went off while we were in the middle of first Rakat (a unit of Muslim prayer)", said he. He added that faithfuls were still pouring in as it was a special worship night, which attracted a lot many preachers and Muslims at large from and out of the city. "This special 3-day preaching session starts on Thursday night and the terrorists struck when the attendance peaked", an official said. A search and clearance operation is underway at the moment.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide : Shia intelligence official injured in Yazidi terrorists attack in Karachi
Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba shot injured a Shia official of Pakistani intelligence agency in Karachi on Thursday. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that the gory incident occurred in Gulistan-e-Johar near Continental Bakery where Yazidi terrorists of outlawed terrorist group ambushed Shia intelligence official namely Syed Wasi Haider. The wounded Wasi Haider was rushed to hospital for treatment where his condition is said to be critical. The attack has brought stiffened reaction from the Sunni and Shia Muslims who said that the PMLN government and the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf were responsible for unabated terrorism in the country because their inaction has emboldened the terrorists. They demanded that instead of a policy of appeasement, targeted military operation be launched to eliminate the terrorists.

Blast at Peshawar Tableeghi Markaz kills 2, injures 20
At least two people were killed while 20 others injured in an explosion at Tableeghi Markaz on Charsadda Road in Peshawar. Within minutes of the explosion, rescue teams and police rushed to the site while emergency has been declared at all hospitals. The blast occurred on rooftop of Tableeghi Markaz when people were gathering to offer Maghrib prayer. Fear and chaos gripped the area soon after the blast. Meanwhile, the injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital. More than 800 people were present in Tableeghi Markaz at the time of the blast. The nature of the blast is yet to be ascertained.

Peshawar Blast: Scores injured in blast near Tableeghi Markaz

A bomb blast has been reported to have struck a Tableeghi Markaz (preaching centre) here on Thursday evening, Geo News reported. Sources quoted eyewitnesses as saying that several people have been injured in the blast that ripped through a the Tableeghi Markaz located on Charsaddah Road. Rescue sources confirmed casualties, but did not give a word on the number of victims. The injured are being rushed to hospital. The police have reached the site and started search and clearance operation. Further details are awaited.

Pakistan Facing Disaster as Taliban Infiltrates Nuclear Nation

By Arnaud De Borchgrave
From Libya to Iraq, including Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, the Arab world, seldom tranquil, is monopolizing world headlines. But the more alarming news is further east in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan is a nuclear power balanced on the edge of another disaster.
While the Obama administration is trying to disengage from Afghanistan without ceding power to Taliban guerrillas, Taliban in Pakistan, a nuclear power, are everywhere, including Karachi, the country's commercial hub and port of 25 million. And the world's third largest city.
Today's Pakistani Taliban are no longer confined to the tribal areas straddling the Pak-Afghan border.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who served in the same post twice before (1990-93; 1997-99), was deposed by President Pervez Musharraf in 1999 and spent almost a decade in Saudi Arabian exile where he developed close relationships with key royals. Musharraf is now on trial for treason — ordered by Sharif — in Islamabad. And army commanders are unhappy in a military coup-prone nuclear weapons power.
Altogether, this is an explosive mix in a nuclear power that has spent half of its 67 years as a nation under military rule. And this will happen again unless Sharif alters course from a geopolitical compass heading that reads — TALIBAN!
One astute observer of the Pakistani drama said privately, "Taliban are gaining ground and political canvas under what some consider a smart play by Nawaz Sharif. He is facilitating the political emergence of Talibanized Shariah law under the watchful eye of Taliban's thought-control police."
These strictly orthodox Sunni Muslims advocate the forced, compulsory return to the earliest days of Islam. With what Sharif believes is a smart politico-religious play, Talibanized Shariah will become the law of the land, policed by Taliban under a Saudi Wahabi umbrella. Provided the army stands idly by, Sharif sees himself as the Amirul Momineen (Commander of the Faithful) of the nuclear caliphate, a region that, in his mind, would stretch from Pakistan to Mauritania on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Delusions of grandeur? No doubt. But Saudi Arabia, in the light of Iran's momentarily postponed nuclear weapons plans, feels naked without the means of a nuclear riposte in case of attack. Until now, secret Saudi funding (including marked down Saudi oil) for the improvement of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal didn't include the transfer of nuclear weapons and their missile delivery system to the kingdom. The next phase of the secret compact may well include the transfer of nukes to the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia's national security adviser, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, is a key voice in the ongoing debate of what's best for the kingdom.
U.S. and European policy planners must soon face an inevitable Pak dilemma: 1) Talibanized Shariah rule or 2) moderate army rule to curb and cut the influence of an evil, medieval nexus. The Saudi leadership concluded in recent months that the United States under the Barack Obama presidency is no longer the security guarantee it once was. Having their own nuclear weapons capability would give the kingdom the added measure of security it now judges to be indispensable. Last month Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief, said, "The Saudis are no longer willing to wait. They've paid for it and they want it now." Yadlin was defense attache in Washington 2004-06 and then appointed head of Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate. He was one of eight pilots selected to carry out Operation Opera against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981 during the Saddam Hussein regime. His 5,000 flight hours include 250 combat missions. The Saudi leadership concluded late last year that a rapprochement was underway between Iran and the Obama administration. They see the United States softening its stance toward Iran's nuclear weapons program. Iran is suspending its work on producing a nuclear weapon but not abandoning it. In Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry believes the United States will be rid of President Hamid Karzai when Karzai's second term expires this spring. He avoids contact with senior U.S. officials. When U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided not to go to Kabul and stopped in Islamabad instead, Karzai left for Iran the same day.
Other recent Karzai moves:
Working with Nawaz Sharif/Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as Pakistan Taliban whose enemies are India and the United States. Working with India and the "Northern Alliance" versus Pakistan and TTP. Working with Iran versus the United States and Pakistan Taliban. It is confusing and intended to be. Karzai is also trying every avenue to establish a link at the top of the Pakistani army versus the United States and India. But this gambit failed.
The Pak army wants Karzai completely out of power. They describe him as an unguided missile. Karzai has also danced around the imperative need to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States. He is buying time to insert himself in any power-sharing arrangement available. Continuation in any topside capacity following the U.S. withdrawal at the end of this year seems to be Karzai's objective. Taliban appear to be satisfied with Karzai's survival antics. This enables Taliban to gain more time to consolidate an anti-Karzai front. Sharif appears to be encouraging Karzai. But Pakistan's new army chief Raheel Sharif is convinced terrorists inside Pakistan — i.e., Taliban — are a greater threat than India. Sharif favors negotiation with his domestic Taliban whereas the army is determined to take a hard line against all terrorists and insurgents, reports South Asian commentator Ammar Turabi. The Pak deck is stacked. Unless Sharif backs down and abandons his politico-religious extremists, the Pakistani powder keg is ready to blow again, Turabi says.
NATO supply lines — used mostly to evacuate U.S. equipment from Afghanistan — remain blocked by Sharif's political ally Imran Khan, the former cricket star and now political chief in the province that leads to the Khyber Pass. Khyber will remain blocked as long as the United States continues drone strikes against Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas. The good news: Pakistan's new army chief is siding with the United States. The outlook: Increased mayhem in a nuclear power.
Read Latest Breaking News from Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!

Sectarian killings soar in Pakistan, raising fears of regional spillover

By Tim Craig
A surge in sectarian killings is raising new fears about Pakistan’s stability, as violence against Shiites and other minorities spreads to major cities and increasingly targets the country’s professional class. Although Pakistan has struggled for decades with bouts of sectarian violence, the death toll rose dramatically last year and the country is experiencing a gruesome start to 2014.
Masked gunmen have been stalking Shiite doctors, lawyers and college professors. On Jan. 6, a suicide bomber tried to enter a school filled with several hundred students in a Shiite-dominated area in the northwest but was stopped by a ninth-grader, who is being hailed as a national hero after he died when the bomb went off in the ensuing scuffle. Other religious minorities, including Sufi Muslims, are facing lethal assaults.
The turmoil occurs at a critical moment. U.S. leaders are hoping that Pakistan can help maintain regional stability this year as most NATO troops withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan. But observers say any sectarian tension in Pakistan could easily spill over into Afghanistan, where security remains perilous and where religious and ethnic rivalries simmer, too.
“Nothing is going to get better, and it’s probably going to get worse,” said Sheikh Waqas Akram, a former member of Parliament from the eastern province of Punjab, where sectarian tensions have been on the rise.
There were 687 sectarian killings in the country last year, a 22 percent increase over 2012, according to the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. Although the deaths represented just a small portion of the toll of violence and terrorism in Pakistan — which claimed 4,725 lives last year — sectarian unrest is spreading throughout the country and becoming routine in heavily populated areas, the group concluded.
About three-fourths of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, while Shiites make up 15 to 20 percent of the population. Despite attacks over the years by Sunni militants, Pakistan has largely avoided the sectarian strife that has plunged Iraq and Syria into turmoil. But analysts and some Pakistani political leaders are increasingly questioning whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can keep order in the nuclear-armed country of 180 million people.
“We are on a very dangerous trend where sectarian violence is increasing, and it is starting to take the shape of structural violence,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. “We are now seeing sectarian tensions triggered not only by terrorism incidents, but average clashes within the sectarian communities.”
Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, was rattled this month when six men were found executed near a Sufi shrine. All of the victims’ throats had been slashed, and at least two of the men had been beheaded. A note was found next to their bodies warning others not to visit the shrine. The Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attack. A few days later, in the northwestern city of Mardan, two men were fatally shot as they slept in a Sufi shrine. Sufi Muslims practice a mystical form of Islam and have been targeted for years by Islamist extremists.
Meanwhile, Shiite professionals have increasingly been targets of assassination attempts. Among the victims last year were a prominent poet in Karachi, a well- respected doctor in the eastern city of Lahore and a university leader in the eastern city of Gujrat. Extremists are apparently trying to intimidate educated Shiites into leaving the country — a “brain drain by force,” said Salman Zaidi, deputy director of the Jinnah Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank.
The attacks on Shiites have continued in the new year. On Jan. 5, a 59-year-old Shiite doctor was fatally shot as he traveled home from his hospital in Multan in Punjab province. Two days later, a Shiite bank branch manager was fatally shot in the northwestern city of Peshawar, according to Pakistani news media reports.
“The attacks are getting more and more brazen,” Zaidi said. “There is a very real sense that the state will not be able to protect the Shia community, and it’s not just the Shias.”
Pervaiz Rashid, Pakistan’s information minister, disputed such conclusions, saying the government is cracking down on “sectarian outfits” and recently launched raids against militants in Karachi. “No one will be allowed to destabilize Pakistan,” Rashid said in an interview. For much of Pakistan’s 66-year-old history, tension between Shiite and Sunni communities was rare; the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, stressed tolerance. But the government permitted the formation of Sunni militant groups in the 1980s as backstops against Shiite- dominated Iran and majority-Hindu India. Pakistani officials said sectarian violence intensified in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, when the Taliban regime was ousted in Afghanistan and its fighters crossed into Pakistan. As the border became less stable, hundreds of thousands of people sought refuge in Karachi, Lahore and other Pakistani cities. The influx has meant that hard-line Shiites and Sunnis compete for space in heavily populated areas.
“There was no issue with Sunnis and Shiites in our district before 2007,” said Gulab Hussain Tori, a Shiite leader in Peshawar. “We were like brothers, but, unfortunately, the situation changed since 9/11 and the arrival of militants.”
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which monitors violence in the region, Pakistan’s death toll from sectarian violence last year was the highest since the organization began tracking the statistic in 1989, when 18 people were killed. That number has grown to more than 500 for each of the past two years. Pakistani leaders and observers say an especially troubling development occurred in mid-November, when Sunnis and Shiites clashed in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjacent to Islamabad. The fighting broke out as Shiites participating in a religious holiday procession marched past a mosque where a hard-line Sunni cleric was delivering a Friday sermon. A cloth market and nearly 100 shops were set on fire. Police said 10 people were killed, although residents said at least twice that number died. Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said Western officials and humanitarian groups are still awaiting clear signals that Sharif will be able “to push back against the rising tide of religious extremism.”
In a video released Tuesday, a Pakistani Taliban commander blamed Shiites for the unrest in Rawalpindi and called on Sunnis to “rise and kill the Shias, kill their officers and target their businesses.”
“I think it could definitely spiral out of control,” Thames said. “What is needed is just basic law enforcement, arresting people who kill others and incite violence, and that is not happening in any consistent way.” Although much of the bloodshed can be traced to Sunni militant groups, Thames and other analysts said there is growing concern that the Shiite minority is also starting to organize militant groups.
On Jan. 2, two high-ranking officials of Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal ­Jamaat, a Sunni-dominated political group, were fatally shot in Islamabad by masked men on motorcycles. There was no assertion of responsibility, but at least a dozen other members of the group have been assassinated over the past year, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Shia youth embraced martyrdom due to Yazidi terrorists firing in Lahore

Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sipahaba/LeJ shot martyred another Shia Muslim in Lahore in continuation their of Shia genocide campaign. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that Ali Hussain Qazilbash, a Shiite youth, was ambushed near Firdous Market in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province. Qazilbash embraced martyrdom on the spot. It is relevant to add here that renowned Shia poet Mohsin Naqvi was also assassinated on January 15 but some 18 years ago in the same city of Lahore. Today Shiites in all over Pakistan are observing his martyrdom anniversary. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the anti-Shiites terrorism. They reiterated their demand for targeted military operation to eliminate the terrorists.

Pakistan tops list of countries with most religious hostilities: Report

A report placed Pakistan at the top of a list of 198 countries most suffering from social hostilities involving religion, by the end of 2012.
The Pew Research Center’s report issued two indices, based on statistics from the years 2007-2012:
1) The Government Restrictions Index (GRI), which measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices.
2) The Social Hostilities Index (SHI), which measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organisations or groups in society.
The results show that “Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion.”
Neighbours Afghanistan and India were also up there with Pakistan in the SHI index.
Worldwide, except for the Americas, “the share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012,” while ”the share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same in the latest year studied.” Pakistan topped the list for most religious hostilities while showing a ‘very high’ range of scores in the other index too.
Global Trends
SHI - One third of 198 countries reviewed saw high or very high levels of internal religious strife, such as sectarian violence, terrorism or bullying in 2012, compared to 29 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2010. The biggest rise came in the Middle East and North Africa, two regions that are still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring of 2010-2011, said the Pew Research Center. As an example, the report cites an increase in attacks on Coptic churches and Christian-owned businesses in Egypt. It said China has also witnessed a big rise in religious conflict.
PEW said that radical elements often target mainstream Muslims and Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, while India has recurring tensions between its majority Hindus and minority Muslims and Christians.
Results for strong social hostility such as anti-Semitic attacks, assaults by Muslims on churches and Buddhist agitation against Muslims were the highest seen since the series began, reaching 33 per cent of surveyed countries in 2012 after 29 per cent in 2011 and 20 per cent in mid-2007.
Christians and Muslims, who make up more than half of the world’s population, have been stigmatised in the largest number of countries. Muslims and Jews have suffered the greatest level of hostility in six years, the report said. Religious violence declined in the Ivory Coast, Serbia, Ethiopia, Cyprus and Romania.
GRI - The number of countries whose governments have imposed restrictions, such as bans on practicing a religion or converting from one to another, has remained more or less the same, however. Three out of ten countries have high or very high levels of restrictions, the study said.
Official bans, harassment or other government interference in religion rose to 29 per cent of countries surveyed in 2012 after 28 per cent in 2011 and 20 per cent in mid-2007. Harassment against women and religious connotations of the way they dress has also risen in nearly a third of countries to 32 per cent, compared to 25 per cent in 2011 and seven per cent in 2007. The five countries with the most government restrictions on religion are Egypt, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Among the 25 most heavily populated countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Myanmar suffered the most religious restrictions.
The 198 countries studied account for more than 99.5 per cent of the world’s population, said the Pew center. It did not include North Korea, whose government “is among the most repressive in the world, including toward religion.” The Washington-based center, which is non-partisan and takes no policy position in its reports, gave no reason for the rises noted in hostility against Christians, Muslims, Jews and an “other” category including Sikhs, Bah’ais and atheists. Hindus, Buddhists and folk religions saw lower levels of hostility and little change in the past six years, according to the report’s extensive data.
Increase in hostility largest in Europe
Europe showed the largest median increase in hostility due to a rise in harrassment of women because of religious dress and violent attacks on minorities such as the murder of a rabbi and three Jewish children by a radical in France. Tensions in Israel arise from the Palestinian issue, disagreements between secular and religious Jews and the growth of ultra-Orthodox sects that live apart from the majority.
Jews face hostility
The world’s two largest faiths, Christianity and Islam, make up almost half the world’s population and were the most widely targetted in 2012, facing official and social hostility in 110 and 109 countries respectively. Jews suffer hostility in 71 countries, even though they make up only 0.2 per cent of the world’s population and about 80 per cent of them live in Israel and the United States.
The report said there were probably more restrictions on religion around the world than its statistics could document but its results could be considered “a good estimate”.
It classified war and terrorism as social hostility, arguing: “It is not always possible to determine the degree to which they are religiously motivated or state sponsored.”

Sri Lanka Becomes Host Of Greatest Number Of Pakistani Christians Seeking Asylum

Sri Lanka has now become the first priority for the Pakistani Christians seeking asylum.
As a matter of fact, Sri Lanka has now become one of the foremost sources of asylum seekers in particular the Pakistani Christians who leave Pakistan on account of religious harassment or persecution. Notwithstanding largely Buddhist Sri Lanka has been witnessing several problems because of the asylum seekers pouring in – with an ever increasing number of Pakistani Christian. The Pakistani Christians along with others arrive with the intentions to claim refugee status as reported by the World News Australia Radio.
In this regard, leaders of the Catholic Church said: Sri Lanka is now hosting more than 600 asylum seekers claiming to be victims of persecution of the minority Christian community in Muslim-majority Pakistan. In point of fact, the Pakistanis are not eligible to work as per Sri Lankan law and as a consequence they are relying heavily on the support that’s being provided by the Sri Lankan Christians.
Father Xystus Kurukulasuriya –Spokesman of the Catholic Church in Colombo said: the Church is seeking assistance to help the Pakistan asylum seekers. He reportedly told the World News Australia Radio that the Sri Lankan Government will not get involved and help the Pakistani Christians as that would complicate Sri Lanka’s relationship with Pakistan.
This may be kept in mind that there has been a rising trend among the Pakistani Christians to move to other countries seeing the increasing religious intolerance, persecution and discrimination in Pakistan. According to a report about 90% of Christians in Pakistan favoured the UN Refugee Status owing to the trend of religious discrimination in Pakistan.
- See more at:

Peshawar Church Attack: Victims Still Waiting For The Compensation Announced By Government

Protest staged against delay in promised compensation to the victims of the All Saint’s Church suicide blasts.
Members of Pakistan Christian National Party staged a protest urging the Federal and KP governments to make possible early dispensation of the promised aid for the treatment and rehabilitation of the affected families along with the restoration of the All Saints Church which was damaged as a result of twin suicide blasts.
The two attackers struck at the end of a Sunday service at All Saints Church last September. Although the country has been bearing the brunt of a bloody militant insurgency in recent years yet this is what Pakistan’s history records as the deadliest attack on Christian community in the country. The blasts left more than 100 dead and dozens injured. Immediately after the incident the Federal and provincial governments announced compensation for the affected families however, those victimized claim that they have not received the promised aid thus far.
The protest was staged outside the Peshawar Press Club, while Joseph Francis led the protestors. Other participants of the protest were Samuel Pyara, Javed Pyara and Tanveer Sherazi. The angry protestors said: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced relief package for those affected of the September 22 suicide attack and reconstruction of the church. The protestors added: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah also announced relief package for them but neither the Prime Minister nor the Chief Minister dispensed the promised compensation and relief amount. They called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Qaim Ali Shah to fulfil their promises.
- See more at:

Pakistan: Musharraf should be immediately sent abroad: Doctor

US-based doctor of former president Pervez Musharraf – after reviewing his medical reports – recommended that the former military ruler should be immediately sent abroad for treatment, Express News reported on Thursday. Dr Arjumand Hashmi had treated Musharraf in the past. He expressed concern over Musharraf’s heart condition and said the former ruler should be sent to his hospital in Texas, US for treatment.
Hashmi made this recommendation in a letter to Musharraf’s lawyers. His assessment was based on the medical reports of the former president. Anwar Maqsood – who is representing Musharraf in the treason case – presented this letter before the special court. The letter was written on January 9.
Musharraf was ordered to appear before the special court for the treason case today. The former president faces treason charges under Article 6 for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of the superior courts. The 70-year-old was taken ill and rushed to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi on January 2 as he was being transported under heavy guard to the special court.
The special court reserved its decision and will announce it at 3pm today. The hearing of the case was adjourned to January 17. Ahmed Raza Kasuri
Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri, while talking to the media in Islamabad, stated that the special court bench formed to hear the treason case is unconstitutional.
“It was formed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and not the federal government,” Kasuri added, further stating that Nawaz is taking revenge from the former military ruler.
When questioned by a reporter about Musharraf’s current medical status, Kasuri got emotional and stated that the journalist “must be a paid Indian reporter.”
Judges detention case
Musharraf did not appear before an anti-terrorism court hearing the judges detention case. Earlier today, the former president was ordered to appear before the court at 12pm even if he had to come in an ambulance. Judge Attiqur Rehman said that Musharraf should appear before the court under any circumstances. The hearing was adjourned to January 27.
On July 14, a special team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), probing into the charges of detaining senior judges on November 3, 2007 against the former military ruler, had decided to record the statements of superior court judges in an effort to make a strong case against the former president.
Musharraf was indicted by an anti-terrorism court judge in the case on June 15, 2013. The case is based on a First Information Report (FIR) registered against Musharraf on August 11, 2009 by the Secretariat police for detaining over 60 judges including the now former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. On June 11 last year, the Islamabad High Court had granted the former president pre-arrest bail against surety bonds worth Rs 500,000.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had rejected Musharraf’s bail application on April 18, 2013 and the former president was arrested. Later Musharraf was shifted to his farmhouse, which was declared a sub-jail at that time.

Pakistan: The coup-lovers’ brigade

WHICHEVER way the case against the two-coup commando may go, the politicos in his line of defence have already given the people a lesson they cannot afford to ignore.
Never before in Pakistan’s history have we heard so impassioned a justification of subversion of the Constitution as is being offered by Musharraf’s auxiliary force of coup-lovers.
It is said that Musharraf could not have violated the Constitution because there was no properly made constitution in 2007, as the Constitution of 1973 was not drafted by a competent body. The authors of this theory are obviously not concerned with the chaos they are inviting. If their argument is accepted, all laws enforced, actions taken and appointments made since 1973 will be rendered invalid — a much bigger crisis than the one caused by the judgement in the Tamizuddin case whereby all laws that had not received the governor-general’s assent were invalidated.
Another Musharraf defender says that if Gen Musharraf was a traitor why did anyone take an oath before him? Taken to its logical end, the argument will make the entire population guilty of abetment. This is an echo of Justice Munir’s favourite dictum that a successful coup legitimises itself. It is necessary to save politics from being sullied by such theories of compromise.
No treasonable act can be justified by the support it may receive from opportunists or by the inability of the populace to resist it. In this regard, the judiciary’s role is also limited; it may choose not to censure a violator of the Constitution but it cannot legitimise any violation of the Constitution from which it derives its own authority.
The funniest argument from the ‘Musharraf Bachao’ caucus is that an army chief cannot commit treason. Since all coups in Pakistan have been carried out by army chiefs, and no civilian will have the means to do so, coups d’état could be deleted from the list of crimes and Article 6 dropped from the Constitution, on the ground of redundancy. More significant is the decision by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to move an amendment aimed at downgrading the crime of high treason to the level of an offence against the state. Chaudhry Shujaat’s line of argument is not easy to follow. Quite a few offences are already listed in the Penal Code as crimes against the state, and the state is the complainant in most criminal trials. Where does he want to put this new crime against the state?
Chaudhry Shujaat is not the first person to want treason redefined. There was a time when the murder of a husband or employer was described as petty treason, and betrayal of trust was considered equivalent to treason. In England, an offence was described as treason felony till 1848 when it was removed from the category of treason and thenceforth described as felony only. There is no bar to anyone’s wish to define a coup d’état in Pakistan merely as a transient nuisance.
However, the doughty survivor from Gujrat has not been properly advised on the choice of grounds. His argument that a person charged with high treason should be called a traitor only if he has acted in alliance with a foreign enemy is patently facetious. The word ‘traitor’ can be used in a wide range of offences from betrayal of common cause (of an association) to anyone waging war against his own state.
The Oxford Dictionary defines treason as “violation by a subject of allegiance to the sovereign or to the state, especially by attempting or plotting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or overthrow the government”. There is no reference to association with an enemy in this definition.
No amount of hair-splitting can alter the fact that Gen Musharraf committed premeditated treason first in 1999, by overthrowing a government established by law, and again in 2007, by invoking powers to interfere with the Constitution that he, as chief of army staff, did not possess. These arguments are unlikely to have any effect on men who are ready to barter away reason for fidelity to their patron. But three things have become clear. First, the nation is not united on punishing Pervez Musharraf, however small in number his defenders may be. Dictators may hang politicians on the basis of a divided court’s verdict; democrats cannot ignore a split in public ranks. There is no point in proceeding against Musharraf any further. The punishment he has undergone should be considered enough. The majesty of the law has been demonstrated.
Secondly, it is fashionable to criticise only military adventurers and courts for military takeovers. The list should also include the politicians who have been keen to serve any man on horseback. Could Ziaul Haq have gotten away with murder and much worse, including the creation of Pakistan’s present-day tormentors, without the aid of politicians who had rushed to join him? The people must realise that the bosom of many a politician is home to a potential dictator.
Finally, it is now established that democratic rule cannot be protected by drafting Article 6 and revising its text now and then. It can only be protected by political parties that derive their strength from cadres who value democracy more than anything else, parties that do not treat the people as hordes of supplicants who can be bought off at a discount. The creation of such political parties should be the main concern of the people and not the fate of Chak Shahzad’s most privileged prisoner.

Pakistan Terrorism: Confusion worse confounded

It is simply amazing how Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar continues to insist on his ‘wisdom’ vis-à-vis the struggle against terrorism in the face of the ground realities and recent developments. In a press interaction on Sunday, Mr Nisar again wound up his by now tired arguments about the need to engage in talks with the Taliban. The only ‘advance’ in Chaudhry Nisar’s perception appears to be the grudging acceptance of the possibility that not all the small and scattered Taliban groups may jump enthusiastically to the talks table the minister has laid out with invitations, but which is a ‘party’ to which no one appears to have come so far. In Chaudhry Nisar’s mind, the old and by now discredited notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban is still alive and kicking when the entire country has moved on from this myth on the basis of irrefutable evidence that no such distinction exists or can be drawn to distinguish various Taliban groups. Chaudhry Nisar trots out the old and by now limp argument that those who respond positively to the government’s talks offer will be welcomed, while those who resort to arms will be dealt with with force. The government’s commitment to talks, the minister asserts, should not be taken as weakness. With due respect, that is exactly how it is being taken by a whole swathe of public opinion, and certainly by the Taliban themselves, who seem to be having a good chuckle up their sleeve at the government’s naïveté. The minister even says the dialogue process cannot proceed if the Taliban continue to attack civilians and government officials. He should have added politicians after the deadly attacks on Amir Muqam of the PML-N and the prime minister’s adviser, in which he fortunately escaped unscathed but members of his security detail were killed, and Mian Mushtaq Ahmed of the ANP, who proved less lucky and was killed along with his companions. The country is still reeling from and commemorating the assassination of Karachi SP CID Chaudhry Aslam by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the sacrifice of schoolboy Aitzaz Hussain while stopping a suicide bomber. What it does not need is the usual pusillanimous statements from government ministers charged with stopping the mayhem and murder that has the country in its grip. What people want to hear is a clear exposition of a strategy to take out the Taliban, but unfortunately, that desire still goes abegging. The TTP meantime is revelling in its chief, Maulana Fazlullah, and its spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, being named in the murder of Chaudhry Aslam.
A clearer stance has emerged from Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, who says the All Parties Conference mandate (which the federal ministers never tire of reminding us of) envisaged no talks until and unless the Taliban lay down their arms. Far from this eminently sensible demand being fulfilled, the Taliban have responded to every peace overture, and especially since hardliner Maulana Fazlullah took over as TTP chief, with bullet and bomb. Chaudhry Nisar may just therefore be missing a partner for peace talks. It is advisable that the interior minister stop embarrassing himself and his government by spurious claims about progress in talks with ‘some’ groups (unnamed and unknown so far), and wake up to reality. Even if, by some stretch of the imagination, some peripheral groups agree to accept the government’s terms for talks (which include, according to Chaudhry Nisar, the non-acceptance of any demands that go against the constitution), as long as the main umbrella group, the TTP, seems to be wedded to its programme of taking over the state by force of arms and turning it into some local version of the hell the Afghan Taliban visited on their country while in power, where is the space or credibility of the talks process? Unless the government, the armed forces and the intelligence community come together to formulate a stringent policy against the Taliban that helps deliver a few telling blows, even the possibility of some elements being persuaded to come to the table (and lay down their arms) is as remote as the furthest stars in the sky.

Pakistan: Tepid outrage over terrorism

Dr Mohammad Taqi
There is bickering among various TTP factions and with their transnational jihadist cohorts. A spike in extortions — including in Islamabad — and new recruitment videos indicate an element of desperation in the TTP
Karachi’s tough cop Chaudhry Aslam Khan, a leader of the terrorist-battered Awami National Party (ANP) Mian Mushtaq, several security personnel guarding the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Amir Muqam and, of course, the hero of Hangu, young Aitzaz Hassan were all martyred at the hands of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the past several days. Elsewhere in the world such attacks would have triggered a swift and befitting response by the state, but not in Pakistan. Why would it be any different now?
Had this country not opted for inaction when Benazir Bhutto was martyred? Did it move at all when the lionhearted Bashir Bilour was slain? Before that, did the state not fail to budge after the deaths of the Inspector General Police (IGP) Malik Saad, Superintendent Police (SP) Khan Raziq and scores of ANP workers in one bombing? Pakistan, it seems, has a remarkably high pain tolerance. Every time agony is inflicted on its people by the terrorists, the Pakistani leadership squanders the opportunity to build consensus for decisive action. Choosing dithering and confusion over resolve and clarity has become the hallmark of the Pakistani state.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s timely but tepid recognition of the sacrifice rendered by the 15-year-old Aitzaz and Mr Imran Khan reprimanding his own government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for failing to reach out to the young hero’s family is somewhat of a departure from the past but why could Mr Sharif not be his usual magnanimous self in honouring Aitzaz? The boy rendered the ultimate sacrifice — his conscious decision by all accounts — laying down his life to save his schoolmates from a terrorist maniac. What more could he do to earn the Nishan-e-Shujaat, the top civilian award for gallantry? Why did the prime minister settle for the third highest award, the Sitara-e-Shujaat, is better known to him and is his prerogative. However, he may wish to consider that if only the Pakistani state had the guts to grapple with terrorists like Aitzaz did, things may have been different today. Mr Imran Khan’s statement is welcome but, yet again, he condemned only the murder and not the murderers whom he calls his brothers and ‘our people’. His coalition partner, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI’s) Liaquat Baloch called Aitzaz a shaheed (martyr). Just months prior, the JI’s chief had called the TTP ringleader, Hakeemullah Mehsud, a martyr. Mr Khan and his JI partners cannot have their jihadist cake and eat it too. They will have to choose sides. Aitzaz is a martyr and Hakeemullah was a merciless killer and thug. The TTP may be Mr Khan’s ‘own people’ but they are enemy number one of the Pakistani people. Mr Khan and the JI types cannot have it both ways — they must come clean on terrorism. The opium of negotiations that they have been peddling has paralysed the Pakistani state. Mr Khan, with massive help from the media, has reduced the complex issue of jihadist terrorism to merely a reaction to the drone attacks. His solution is fantastically simple too: talk to what is the lunatic fringe even among the terrorists. The Pashtuns are facing an existential threat: families are moving out of Peshawar in droves, the jihadist extortion is rampant and the TTP is encroaching upon the outskirts of the city. It is no different in Charsadda, Mardan and Nowshera. The people do not have the luxury to wait for Mr Khan’s experiments in governance.
However, the ultimate responsibility to pull the country out of this morass still rests with Mr Nawaz Sharif. His interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has been shooting — or more accurately talking — in the dark. It seems that he has ghost emissaries reaching out to ghost Taliban and conducting ghost negotiations. The process that Chaudhry Nisar has been promising for six months never did take off. There were no talks before the TTP honchos Wali-ur-Rehman and Hakeemullah Mehsud were killed and none whatsoever afterwards. The interior minister owes the people a candid explanation. Someone recently wrote that the interior minister is leaning towards a Plan B, i.e. military action against the TTP. The fact is that the PML-N government is merely plodding along and has no comprehensive plan whatsoever to tackle the militancy nationwide. Whatever the PML-N’s understanding with the Punjab-based jihadists is, it seems to be working. Nawaz Sharif’s government appears in no hurry to take the terrorism bull by the horns so long as the beast remains in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PML-N’s cavalier attitude to even its preferred solution of talks is reflected by reportedly asking Maulana Samiul Haq to act as an intermediary with the Taliban. It cannot be lost on the government that, as recently as a few weeks ago, the Haqqani network men were conducting prayer services for their assassinated leader Nasiruddin Haqqani in the vicinity of Maulana Samiul Haq’s Haqqaniyah Madrassa in Akora. The PML-N has to get its act together, and soon. Relying on Samiul Haq types is a recipe for bigger disasters.
The Taliban are trying to project power but, by all accounts, still remain on the ropes. There is bickering among various TTP factions and with their transnational jihadist cohorts. A spike in extortions — including in Islamabad — and new recruitment videos indicate an element of desperation in the TTP. The Mehsud faction apparently is refusing to share the kitty left behind by Hakeemullah. This is when the state has its chance to assert its power instead of the interior minister’s wishy-washy statements about how difficult it is to fight terrorism. Mr Nawaz Sharif must put his house in order if he wishes to do something meaningful about the TTP hordes. Given the abysmal performance of some of his lieutenants, he may even have to consider a cabinet reshuffle. He simply cannot afford to have his ministers waffling at such critical junctures.
The military seems inclined to take on the TTP and General Raheel Sharif’s tribute to the hero of Hangu was perhaps the most unequivocal one in Pakistan. Whether the military will abandon its Afghan proxies is highly suspect but, unless it cuts them loose, it may just be chasing its tail. However, for all of that to happen, the narrative has to be wrestled back from the jihadists’ advocates in the political parties and the media. This is where Mr Sharif will have to take charge, pronounce his vision clearly, set the goals and cut through the confusion spread by TTP apologists. Things as they stand are untenable but is Mr Sharif up to the task? Unfortunately, his tepid outrage over terrorism suggests otherwise.

Pakistan: Nisar not capable of holding talks with Taliban

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah denied having any understanding with the federal government on the issue of Pervez Musharraf’s trial.
Interacting with media persons after a ceremony here on Wednesday, Shah hoped that the former commando would definitely appear before court after his recovery.
The opposition leader was of the view that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali was not capable of holding peace talks with Taliban. He lamented that Chaudhry Nisar was making childish statements.
“I call on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take back Nisar’s sword. Otherwise, he will keep using it on government,” he said. Shah said that it was Sindh government’s responsibility to maintain law and order in the province. It was necessary to conduct census before holding local body polls. We have written to Prime Minister in this regard,” he added.