Saturday, January 18, 2014

No possible justification' for Kabul restaurant attack: US

The White House on Saturday strongly condemned a Taliban suicide attack on a Kabul restaurant that killed 21 people. "There is no possible justification for this attack, which has killed innocent civilians, including Americans, working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. Two Americans were among 13 foreigners who were killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest in the Taverna du Liban, clearing the way for two other militants who stormed into the restaurant and fired on survivors. Also killed were eight Afghans, Kabul's police chief said. The dead included employees of the United Nations, the American University, the International Monetary Fund and other organizations. It was the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. A Taliban spokesman said the attack was to avenge a US airstrike in Parwan province on Tuesday night that President Hamid Karzai said killed seven children and one woman. "The United States commends the quick and skillful response of the Afghan security services in the aftermath of the attack. "We call again on the Taliban to put down their arms and begin peace talks, which is the surest way to end the conflict in a peaceful manner," the White House statement said.

Pakistani: Rights group demands PM's intervention for British/Pakistani Muslim Ahmadi national arrested on blasphemy charges

The Prime Minister must intervene for the release of a British/Pakistan national who was arrested on charges of Blasphemy The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a British doctor is languishing in a Pakistani prison accused of "posing as a Muslim" after being videoed reading aloud from the Quran. The 72-year-old medical practitioner was arrested on charges of blasphemy (believed to be fake), for reciting Quran Sharif, the holy book of Islam. Dr. Masood Ahmad belongs to the Ahmadi community which has been declared non Islamic. The police, without holding a proper investigation, quickly arrested him and sent him to prison. The British media have a great deal of space to his arrest and demanded that the British government contact the Pakistan government for his release. The government of Pakistan is hesitant to release his due to fear of reprisals from religious fundamentalist groups.

Balochistan: Parents appeal for their children’s safe and early release, one abducted from Chitkaan
The parents of two Baloch students, abducted from Buleda area of Kech Balochistan on 15 January, have appealed for their children’s safe release on Friday. According to details Pakistan FC has abducted students Baloch Khan, 18, son of Naseer Khan and Faisal, 20, son of Rafiq Baloch from Solo area in Buleda on Wednesday. The family has confirmed the abduction of boys and said that they had gone to Turbat for some domestic work but the Pakistan FC has abducted them. The families of children have appealed to Human Rights organisations to take notice of abduction of their loved ones. They said: “Our children’s life is in danger because when Pakistani FC abducts children, then their mutilated bodies are found.” The parents said that their children have not committed any wrong doing. Their only crime is that they are Baloch. They appeal the United Nations and other international humanitarian organisations to play their role for the safe release of their children. Meanwhile, another man named Abdul Qadeer son of Hammal resident of Gichk has been abducted from Chitkaan Bazar. His whereabouts were unknown until the filing of this report.

Pakistan: Obscurantism of the Elites

By Mahdim H Bor
The Punjabi elite in Islamabad have continued to exhibit chronic ineptitude in addressing the question of thousands of Baloch enforced disappearances. Their inability to formulate or enact any credible procedures for dealing with appalling human rights violations whilst having little difficulty in arranging for Chinese investment opportunities in Gwadar have brought their motives into disrepute.
In similar vein the Pakistani media’s long time deafening silence over numerous cases of atrocities and a complete lack of coverage of the peaceful Voice for Baloch Missing Persons March currently being undertaken by the victims’ families reveals yet another morally reprehensible stance. These actions betray a deep rooted and all pervasive policy of intentional marginalization and oppression which lays at the very heart of the Pakistani establishment.
In 1935 Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to Persia as Iran in recognition of the supposed common Aryan inheritance that dated back millennia. In reality this misnomer merely hid the enforced Persian hegemony over Baloch, Kurdish, Azeri, Arab and Turkmen lands and which has left these regions as conclaves of illiteracy and underdevelopment as well as fertile terrain for Talibanisation.
The Persian domination of Iran which has been centered upon the twin pillars of Persian and Shiite supremacy has been brutal in its dealings with minorities. The disproportionally high number of Baloch executions in Iran as reported by Amnesty indicates that the death penalty is the foremost means of quelling unrest in minority areas, with the regime even resorting to moving Baloch prisoners for execution to other provinces so as to manipulate any statistical evidence reported by International Human Rights Organizations. These rights abuses have seldom been raised by the International community in its dealings with Tehran over its nuclear enrichment program.
The prohibition of Balochi language and history instruction and the Persian colonization of large swathes of Baloch land leaving the Baloch a minority in often ghetto like conditions with little access to proper sanitation and clean drinking water have left the majority of Baloch impoverished and subject to mass migration to the Gulf states. In addition a bar on top civil service posts and even the changing of Balochi place names to Persian ones all bear the hallmark traits of deliberate ethnocentric policies aimed at the long term eradication of the Baloch identity.
The Punjabi elite in Islamabad resorted to a similar form of connivance in their supposed call for Islamic unity in order to hide the usurpation of Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhi land with the creation of Pakistan or ‘The land of the Pure’. The stark reality is in fact a disjointed entity crippled by a relentless spate of high profile political assassinations, endemic corruption and deep seated nepotism since its very inception. This together with an incessant wave of suicide bombings in recent years has made life a living nightmare for millions.
The Punjabi and Persian elites have become adept at maintaining an obscurantist stance as concerns the Baloch question. It is becoming increasingly evident with the passage of time that the future survival of the Baloch as a nation urgently necessitates the establishment of an Independent Republic as the surest guarantor of self-preservation.

ATC summons 10 witness of Benazir’s murder

A special anti-terrorist court on Saturday issued summons to 10 witnesses in the murder case of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, a private news channel reported.
Headed by special ATC judge Pervaiz Rasool Joya, the court also issued a notice to the prosecution over the bail application filed by the under-arrest accused conspirators and accomplices in Benazir’s murder, Mohammad Rafaqat, Hasnain Gul and Aitzaz Shah. The hearing was held in the premises of Adiyala jail.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh after addressing an election campaign rally. Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf was the president at the time. In August last year, Musharraf was indicted on three counts over Benazir’s murder.
Former City Police Officer (CPO) of Rawalpindi Saud Aziz, former SP Khurram Shahzad, Sher Zaman and Abdul Rasheed have also been accused in the case.

Matter of concern: WHO sees Peshawar as polio reservoir

After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Peshawar as the world’s largest reservoir of the polio virus, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan directed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s chief minister to undertake on an emergency basis a programme to stamp out all the nine diseases that fall under the umbrella of the provincial Expanded Programme On Immunisation. With more than 90% of the current polio cases in the country genetically linked to Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is now the largest reservoir of the polio virus in the world, the WHO reported on Friday. “Pakistan is the only polio-endemic country in the world where polio cases rose from 2012 to 2013,” the statement issued by WHO from Islamabad reads.
The explosive poliovirus outbreak in FATA, which has left 65 children paralysed during the last year, is also sustained by Peshawar. As much of the population of the area moves through Peshawar, the city acts as an amplifier of the poliovirus, the statement reads. “The prevailing security situation in Peshawar has seriously affected the quality of the polio campaign in the city and is resulting in inadequate coverage of children against the virus,” the report states. K-P Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak informed PTI chief that the government of K-P in close collaboration with the PTI Policy Reform Unit is already working on a special programme.

Pakistan: Damning verdict against PML-N govt

Nawaz government has the right to appeal against Islamabad High Court's (IHC) verdict which declared that the former NADRA chief, Tariq Malik, was dismissed with malicious intent. The government may also find some argument to back up dismissal of the said officer but it cannot retract its false claim that Tariq Malik never ssssinformed the authorities of the threats he and his family were receiving.
It is a damning verdict of the IHC against the PML-N government and gives credence to the accusations by Tariq Malik that he was harassed to stop him from reporting the findings of NADRA regarding thumbprints of the voters. Malik also said he was warned of losing his job if he ignored the illegal instructions he had received. He had given details of the threats to the Senate Committee on interior. The committee had recommended enhancing security for Tariq Malik. The former NADRA Chairman had also given the government the names of the owners of the numbers of the phones through which the threats were communicated. The Ministry for Interior had also written letters to Director General ISI and Director General IB. Yet in presence of such documents as the minutes of the Senate Committee and the Interior Ministry's own letters, there is a shameless denial of any knowledge of the threats to the officer who headed an organisation whose independence from the executive branch was essential for justice, democracy and national security.
It makes no difference that the said officer has since resigned; the PML-N government has been caught in a lie indicating that the party has not learned much from the past and is victimising officers who stand up and refuse to obey illegal orders. Since the start of its present tenure, the PML-N government has dismissed many heads of government organisations and the courts have in quite a few instances granted stays against the orders or have declared the dismissals as unjustified. The claim of Nawaz Sharif to set up an honest bureaucracy seems to be a farce. The dishonesty of the government has been revealed and it is clear that the goal is not to terminate dishonest and inefficient officers but, rather, to replace them with 'yes, sir' men.
The fact is that all previous governments can be accused of unfair terminations and unmerited appointments and the way is open too for future governments to harass law abiding officers. The only method to avoid such injustice as happened in the case of Tariq Malik is to set up a council of individuals reputed for their honesty and sagacity which should examine and approve orders for the dismissals and appointments of heads of organisations such as Nadra before these can be implemented.

Pakistani Media under attack: Journalists to stage protests across country

The Express Tribune
The journalists’ community denounced the killing of Express News staffers and called for countrywide protests against the deadly attack. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said in a statement that journalists stood united throughout the country and would not be ‘bogged down by such cowardly acts’. PFUJ President Rana Azeem announced that protest demonstrations would be staged across the country on Saturday (today). The Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) would stage a demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club at 4pm on the instructions of PFUJ. KUJ President GM Jamali said the union would also fully participate in a sit-in outside the Parliament House in Islamabad on January 18 and January 20. The sit-in has been announced by the PFUJ against the failure of the government to arrest the culprits involved in the killing of journalists and cameramen. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Executive Council of the KUJ on Friday, after the third attack on Express Media Group. Journalist bodies and political and religious parties also condemned the attack and said that the provincial government has failed to provide security in the province.

Has Turkey Become Pakistan on the Med?

BY Michael Rubin
Is Turkey a state sponsor of terrorism? Admittedly, that is a provocative question. Long ago, the White House and State Department corrupted the list of state sponsors of terrorism by allowing subjective diplomatic considerations rather than objective facts to determine who was on the list. The George W. Bush administration, for example, knocked North Korea off the list not because it had ceased supporting terrorism—according to the Congressional Research Service, it was in neck-deep with both the Tamil Tigers and Hezbollah—but rather because Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wanted to entice North Korea to a deal which might benefit Bush’s legacy. Likewise, both Bush and Obama have kept Pakistan off the state sponsor of terrorism list despite that country’s support for the Taliban and protection of senior terrorists up to and including Osama bin Laden.
Recent events in Turkey certainly put Turkey in the same category as Pakistan. Indeed, increasingly, it seems that Turkey has become Pakistan on the Med. Early on Tuesday morning, anti-terrorism police raided six different locations around Turkey in order to disrupt al-Qaeda operations, including depots of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) at Kilis, near the Syrian border. The raids led to the detention of approximately 25 people, some of whom have faced trial for al-Qaeda support, and others who have been active recruiting volunteers to fight with al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front inside Syria.
A normal government would celebrate the eradication of al-Qaeda support cells on its territory. Not so, Turkey: By the afternoon, the Turkish government had relieved the officers who had carried out the raids, putting them on mandatory leave. Likewise, when police stopped two buses in Gaziantep apparently headed toward Syria and found ammunition and anti-aircraft weaponry, the result was not prosecution of those on the buses but retaliation against the police officers who had carried out the raid.
There have been reports in the Western press about how police stopped a truck apparently carrying weapons destined for the Nusra Front and other radical factions in Syria. The back story is interesting: after a local prosecutor ordered a search, the governor of Adana ordered police to stop their search and explained that the prime minister wanted the police search warrant canceled and the shipment to go through to Syria. When the Turkish government is knowingly allowing its territory to be used to support al-Qaeda-linked factions in Syria and when, indeed, it seems to be directly supplying such factions with arms, money, and material, then it has become a sponsor of terrorism as directly as Iran is with regard to Hezbollah, and Pakistan should be considered with regard to the Taliban.
As a side note, several years ago I testified in the first full House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing dedicated to Turkey’s changing foreign policy. During the course of the hearing, Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia democratic and co-chair of the Congressional Turkey Caucus, took umbrage toward all the witnesses, and made it clear that he did not see criticism of Turkey’s foreign-policy direction to be legitimate. He was wrong, but he was not alone. How unfortunate it is that rather than use its influence to keep Turkey from going so far off the rails, the men and women of the Congressional Turkey Caucus used their position to obfuscate and defend Turkey, even at the expense of American national security. It is tragic that they could have prevented real damage but, for the sake of some cocktails at the Turkish ambassador’s residence and some junkets to Istanbul, they chose not to do so. It should never be too late, however, for those who truly care about Turkey to demand real accountability for its actions, before it moves further down the path of Pakistan and terror sponsorship.

In Afghan Attack, Death Toll Hits 21, Mostly Foreigners

At least 21 people — most of them foreigners — died when the Taliban struck a restaurant popular with Westerners in downtown Kabul, the police said Saturday, as officials described what appeared to be a well-coordinated assault, with a suicide bomber clearing a path for two gunmen who rushed in and fired on diners. The attack appeared to be one of the deadliest against Western civilians in Kabul since 2001, with Afghan and Western officials saying as many as 13 of the dead were expatriates. Afghan authorities said those killed included citizens of Canada, Russia and Lebanon. Though Afghan and Western authorities were still trying to determine the identities of all those killed, the office of Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said in a statement issued late Friday that “four United Nations personnel, along with a number of those from other international organizations, are now confirmed dead.” The International Monetary Fund said its representative in Afghanistan, Wabel Abdallah, was also among those killed. Mr. Abdallah, 60, had served in Afghanistan since 2008, and had managed to maintain a good working relationship with Afghan officials through a series of scandals that left many western officials at odds with their Afghan counterparts.
The choice of a lightly guarded restaurant was a departure for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The insurgents have more often sought to strike fortified government buildings and high-profile symbols of the Western presence in Afghanistan, like the American Embassy and a building believed to house the C.I.A. station in Kabul. Those attacks have succeeded in generating headlines but have inflicted relatively few casualties in the past few years. A Taliban bombing this month at the entrance to Camp Eggers, a large base for the American-led military coalition in the center of Kabul, did not inflict any casualties, for instance. The base is less than a mile from the restaurant, Taverna du Liban.
The restaurant, which serves Lebanese food and has a clientele made up largely of expatriates, had almost none of the security enjoyed by official installations, like concrete blast walls or checkpoints blocking off the street it is on. The initial blast appeared to have been powerful. It was heard miles away and shook windows in the immediate neighborhood, which is home to numerous embassies and shops that serve Western aid workers, journalists and other foreign civilians who live in the city.
The Taliban claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties and said they had killed a high-ranking German official.
The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, reached by phone, would say only that it was “dealing with the incident and is working hard to clarify the facts.”
Hashmatullah Stanikzai, a spokesman for the Kabul police, said on Saturday morning that the death toll in the attack stood at 21, including the 13 foreigners. The Afghans killed were believed to included the restaurant’s owner and the men who guarded its front door.
Most, if not all, of the foreigners killed or wounded were likely to have been civilians; coalition service members are rarely allowed to go to restaurants or socialize outside their bases. The American Embassy said all United States diplomats, development workers and other officials based in Kabul were accounted for. It had no information on whether other American citizens might be among the dead. Police officers swarmed through the neighborhood, Wazir Akbar Khan, after the blast, blocking off streets. They were soon joined by smaller groups of coalition soldiers, along with Afghan Army troops and operatives from the National Directorate of Security, the country’s main intelligence agency. A tight cordon kept most people from going near the restaurant. Late into the night, relatives of the Afghans who worked there waited nervously behind the police lines in near-freezing temperatures for word of those they had been unable to reach. A tearful teenage boy, who gave his name only as Muhammad, said his older brother was a guard at the restaurant. A few police officers tried to comfort him, but he could not stop crying and repeating, “My brother, my brother.”
The Twitter account of a woman named Mona Hamade said her father owned the restaurant and was inside at the time of the attack. She could not reach him and was asking for help in finding him.
According to Afghan and Western officials, the attackers appear to have approached the restaurant on foot. The suicide bomb killed three Afghans guarding the entrance to the restaurant and blew through a thin steel door that is usually bolted from the inside and opened only after patrons are patted down.
The gunmen then rushed in and began shooting diners until police officers arrived a few minutes later and killed the assailants, said a Kabul police official, who asked not to be identified because the authorities were still trying to determine precisely what had happened.
“A majority of those killed were foreigners,” the official said. “They were all shot dead after the suicide bombing.”
Though the Taliban have mounted numerous attacks in Kabul, they have rarely sought to directly target the thousands of Western civilians who live in the city unattached to any embassy.
In January 2011, a suicide attack on a supermarket popular with foreigners killed 14 people, including five foreigners and an Afghan family. The supermarket was only blocks from the scene of Friday’s attack. In September 2012, a suicide bomber struck a minibus that was carrying flight crew members under contract with the United States government, killing 14 people, including 10 foreigners. Hezb-i-Islami, a separate insurgent group, took responsibility for the attack.
But for the most part, the thousands of Western civilians who live in Kabul have felt very little of the threat posed by the insurgents. Outside of embassies and other official missions, few expatriates have altered what is a fairly vulnerable existence, even as security in other parts of Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. Many expatriates still live in houses guarded only by the high walls that usually surround Afghan homes. They frequent a handful of well-established restaurants, many of which serve alcohol, and loud parties at private homes are still weekly occurrences.