Friday, February 7, 2014

Pakistan's ‘Taliban Khan’ : What’s in a name?

PLENTY, if it happens to be ‘Taliban Khan’. The wit who bestowed the nickname on Imran Khan probably had no idea how lethally accurate this label would prove to be. He may have intended to be ironic, but turned out to be prescient.
The TTP, in nominating the PTI chief to their negotiating team, recognised his services to their cause, and were clearly hurt when the politician declined the honour. A Taliban spokesman voiced his regret, saying that Imran Khan had been nominated for his good deeds. Now what would be those be? His consistent refusal to condemn the terrorist groups for their long campaign of slaughter and mayhem? His condemnation of the American drones that have been the only weapons the Taliban fear? Or his blockade of Nato containers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province his party governs? The confusion at the heart of Imran Khan’s worldview was exposed when the KP government refused permission to the well-intentioned folk who wanted to launch Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography at Peshawar University recently. Although his party runs the province, all the PTI chief could say was that he could not understand why the launch had been stopped. He could have overruled his ministers, but preferred to bleat a tweet. Considering that the PTI purports to be a party for all Pakistanis, including women and the minorities, its ambiguous stance towards the Taliban contradicts its own manifesto. Given that the jihadis want to lock women up; kill Shias and treat the minorities as second-class citizens, why should any of these unfortunate people wish to support Imran Khan? For years, the PTI chief has been demanding talks with the Taliban. In this, he is not alone. Politicians across the right wing have echoed this mantra. Thus far, the TTP has refused talks, or it has used negotiated local truces as tactical pauses in which they have regrouped. Time and again, they have broken their pledges and launched fresh attacks when it suited them. This time, too, members of the TTP have set off bombs in Peshawar in which many were killed and wounded. This has happened as negotiating teams from both sides gathered in the city for ‘peace talks’. Two members of the TTP team, Maulana Samiul Haq (‘father of the Taliban’) and Maulana Abdul Aziz (of the Red Mosque burqa fame), have declared that the Taliban will accept nothing short of the imposition of the Sharia. Obviously, this cannot be conceded without scrapping the Constitution. So what will the talks be about? Even though Nawaz Sharif has declared that the government negotiating team will have ‘full authority’, I doubt if this extends to handing over the state to the Taliban. The ruling party is far short of the two-thirds parliamentary majority it would need to make any significant constitutional amendments. Other TTP demands include the release of its prisoners and the withdrawal of the army from the tribal areas. Conceding either or both would not sit well with our security forces who have shed a great deal of blood in this war. While they have been restrained in their response by the government, the sight of hundreds of hardened killers walking free will be salt on the many wounds they have suffered. And a military pullout from Fata will be akin to surrendering the state’s shredded sovereignty to a bunch of mediaeval holy warriors. Although public memory is short, it wasn’t that long ago when the Afghan Taliban were flogging women for showing an inch of skin, and stopping their treatment by male doctors. Music and sports were banned, and education was limited to the scriptures. Girls could not go to school. Is this the kind of Pakistan we want? Over the years, the TTP has systematically destroyed schools and colleges, specially those institutions girls attended. They have attacked video shops and barbers who dared to shave men. Thus, they have made no secret of what they would do when they come to power. In fact, we have a Taliban blueprint for governance before us in the form of Swat Valley when it was briefly under their rule. Blood flowed in public squares, and people escaped if they could, or lived under a reign of terror. Maulana Fazlullah, better known as Mullah Radio in those days, was local commander of the Taliban then; since then, he has been elevated to the position of emir of the TTP. These, then, are the people Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and far too many others would have us negotiate with. Thus far, none of this talk-talk brigade has clearly said what these talks would be about. Until our leaders see the magnitude and true nature of the threat, I fear Pakistan is doomed to continue its slide into darkness.

Bahraini protesters rap regime crackdown on demos

People have taken to streets in Bahrain to protest against the Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. On Friday, Saudi-backed security forces used tear gas against the protesters, who were holding a demonstration in the predominantly Shia village of Bani Jamrah in the northwest. Carrying pictures of two protesters slain by the regime, the demonstrators formed a human pyramid at the end of the rally and waved the Bahraini flags. The village has been the scene of a brutal crackdown, with regime forces opening fire on unarmed protesters on many occasions. Similar protests were also held in the village of A'ali, south of the capital Manama, and in the northeastern island of Sitra. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at anti-regime protesters in Sitra. In A'ali, the demonstrators called for the release of prisoners jailed by the regime as they carried placards reading, “We will never surrender.” Protesters across the tiny Persian Gulf country are expected to hold several demonstrations this week to mark the third anniversary of the uprising against the regime. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Sar Par Topi Lal - Asha Bhosle, Md. Rafi, Shammi Kapoor, Tumsa Nahin Dekha Song

Ahmad Wali - Pashto song

Iranian Music Video

Afghanistan: US to focus on drugs, rule of law beyond 2014
The United States will remain committed to Afghanistan on issues related to illicit drugs and rule of law post 2104, an Obama administration official said on Thursday.
“We will remain focused on three issues related to drugs and rule of law in Afghanistan beyond 2014. The first is counternarcotics. The second is the justice sector and support for reform and professionalisation of the justice sector.” Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William R Brownfield told reporters the third issue involved corrections to the detention system. "That is to say a prison and detention center system that can be brought more into the 21st century in terms of how it detains and handles those people within the system itself.” Brownfield, who was recently in Afghanistan, said his conclusion was tht a drug program, to be effective, must address all elements of the problem, starting at one end with cultivation; processing through production, transit and transportation; the system of selling the product; and eventually the process by which proceeds are laundered through a financial system. He stressed the strategy must address alternative development, eradication, investigation, interdiction, prosecution, incarceration and then the so-called soft-side programmes of awareness, treatment and rehabilitation. Brownfield said the US would attempt develop projects that were managed as much as possible by the government of Afghanistan itself and its own personnel. “The programmes will be flexible in terms of how many dollars are made available to support them so that if more resources are available, they can ramp up. If fewer resources are available, they can be ratcheted back...
“Our programmes will be portable to the extent that they can be moved in response to changes on the part of the narcotics trafficking industry. In other words, if focus shifts from Province A to Province B, we have a strategy; we hope that will allow us to shift our efforts to where the narcotics traffickers are actually operating,” the US official concluded.

Karzai flies to Russia to attend winter Olympics opening ceremony

President Hamid Karzai at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, left for Sochi city of Russia to attend opening ceremony of winter Olympics. A statement issued by the president’s media office here on Friday said that despite attending the ceremony, President Karzai will also meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and UN Secretary General Bam Ki-moon. Foreign Affairs Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani and National Security Advisor Rangeen Dadfar Spanta were accompanying President Karzai on the trip. It is worth mentioning that recently Russian Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov during his visit to Kabul convoyed Putin’s invitation to President Karzai to attending opening ceremony of winter Olympics.

President Obama Speaks on the Farm Bill and the Economy

Video: Sochi Highlights: Let the games begin

President Putin declares Sochi Winter Olympic Games officially open

Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Friday after a lavish opening ceremony showcasing Russia as a resurgent nation. “I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games officially open,” Putin said, raising the curtain on an Olympic Games that started as his pet project and has become the crowning moment of his third term as president.
The XXII Olympic Winter Games are oficially opened in Sochi on Friday, February 7. The opening ceremony started exactly at 20:14 at Sochi's Fisht Stadium (16:14 GMT). The Olympic flag with five rings symbolising the unity of athletes around the world is solemnly hoisted and the Olympic flame is lit.
Legendary sports celebrities of the 20th century, figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretyak have lit the Olympic Flame that XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The lighting, which was staged in the form of a fiery pathway dashing from the a special torch installed on the ground up to the Olympic Cauldron, was preceded by a mini-relay race on the Fisht stadium, which brought together the mega-stars of Russian and international sports, Maria Sharapova, Yelena Isinbayeva, Alexander Karelin, and Alina Kabayeva.
The Olympic flag, which is turning a hundred years this year, has been raised over the Fischt stadium to the sounds of the Olympic Hymn sung by renowned Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko and played by the State Symphony Orchestra Novaya Rossiya (New Russia). Representatives of athletes, judges and coaches took an Olympic oath on behalf of all athletes, judges and coaches.
The official opening ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games started at the Fischt sport stadium with a bright theatrical extravaganza telling the history of Russia through the dreams of a little girl called Lyubov.
The show began with excursions into the depths of Russian history followed by trips to the country’s future. “We want to tell the people on Earth about Russia and how we love it. We hope that spectators in various parts of Russia will be able to feel and share our love. You are Welcome! This is Russia!” the Games’ organizers said.
The show titled “We are in Russia!” is divided in 13 parts. It started with a chapter called “Azbuka” (an A-B-C book), a style of writing which is different from other alphabets. The viewers heard voices from all parts of Russia: from twinkling Polar Lights over the Arctic Ocean to sub-tropical Sochi; from the hot gazers of the Kamchatka peninsula to the Urals.
A separate part of the show is devoted to the Russian tricolor. The spectators will get acquainted with the Russian Odyssey - a gallery of historical characters who took part in the construction of the Russian state and glorified the great Russia.
The two final parts are called “The Dove of Peace” and “The Olympic Gods”. The organizers explain that that a dove occupies an honorary place in the world of symbols, including the Olympic ones. That is why the breath-taking choreography of world famous ballet dancer Diana Vishneva combined with modern technologies will create an inimitable image of a magic dove, which will be replaced by a dynamic installation: a bright combination of two elements - space and sport.
The final scene called “The Olympic Gods” is devoted to the cosmic achievements of Russian athletes where the images of great athletes are associated with the images of great Olympic Gods.

Video: President Obama's Message to Team USA-2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

2014 Sochi Olympics Open

The XXII Winter Olympic Games are on after opening officially in a sparkling, star-studded show in Sochi. For the next 16 days the world's top athletes will be going for it, competing hard with every sinew and fiber.
For more visit RT’s Sochi 2014 page
This is the first time Russia has hosted the Winter Olympics and the breathtaking opening ceremony did full justice to the importance of the event. The show opened with a video, introducing foreign guests to the Russian alphabet and scenes of culture and history matched with letters, one of each stood for a particular person, notion or invention, portraying famous moments throughout the country’s history. Over 40,000 spectators from all over the world watched the opening extravaganza, and the introduction of the athletes in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, signaling the start of the full sporting program of the Winter Olympics. The parade of nations, featuring more than 3,000 athletes from a record number of 88 countries, delighted the crowd, and this time it was more dynamic than ever. The highlight of the parade was a special floor where an image of the earth was magically projected. The stunt included a really smooth touch: An image of the globe from outer space rotated every time a new country was announced, pinpointing the location of that country. To give over 40,000 spectators a better view of their country’s greeting, the athletes appeared from the heart of their sovereign territory and then walked into the stadium, just like the ancient heroes of Greece. All countries were introduced in alphabetical order according to their Russian spelling. Traditionally, Greece - the birthplace of Olympic competition - was the first to enter the stadium. As host country, Russia took the stage last, marching to the upbeat dance song "Not going to get us" by Russian pop band t.A.T.u, a girl band that was extremely popular in the mid-2000s and the country’s most successful pop export to the West.
The two-and-a-half hour show took us on a riveting 18-part rollercoaster ride through Russian history, from the times of Peter the Great to the modern era, focusing on major cultural events. It portrayed the path Russia took to become the country it is now. The actors on stage reenacted episodes from Russia’s most beloved folk tales as the colorful dream of little girl named Lyuba continues.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach took the stage to call on the athletes to compete in a spirit of fair rivalry. He then handed the microphone to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who declared the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games open. Piano virtuoso, Denis Matsuev, and opera soprano, Anna Netrebko, gave a rousing performance of the Olympic anthem. Of course, lighting the Olympic cauldron for the Games is one of the most crucial moments of the ceremony. Ice skating legend, Irina Rodnina and Soviet legend Vladislav Tretiak, now Russian Hockey Federation president, have carried the Olympic torch to light the cauldron, after the flame's unprecedented journey all across Russia and beyond, to the North Pole, the cosmos, and Europe's highest mountain peak.
The cauldron and festivities will continue throughout the Games and the Olympic flag will remain raised at the top of the hill. The ceremony’s fiery finish featured over 3,500 fireworks. Surely an Olympian feat in itself! The average weight of the firecrackers was around 22.5 tons, while the heaviest weighed in at 4.8 tons! Athletes will compete in over 15 disciplines in seven sports. 12 new events have been shoe-horned into the crowded Olympic schedule, including the figure skating team event, slopestyle and half-pipe skiing (both men’s and women’s). Over the next 16 days a record number of Olympic medals will be presented – a total of 98 sets, that is 12 more than in Vancouver 2010. Each gold medal weights 531g, while silvers are 525g and the bronzes are 460g. Ten Sochi Olympics winners will get an out-of-this-world touch when they receive their gold medals on February 15. Each medal will be embedded with tiny fragments of last year’s Chelyabinsk meteorite.

Balochistan: Long March team reaches Okarra, the marcher visited tomb of Chakar-e-Azam
The long march of voice of Baloch missing persons for the recovery of abducted Baloch activists has reached to Okarra city of Punjab on Friday. Some activists of NFS and other social activists joined the long march but the public support for Baloch march in Punjab remained low as usual. The intrepid Baloch marchers also visited the grave of Baloch folk hero Chakar Khan Rind – also known as Chakar-e-Azam or Chakar the great. They lit candles in the hope of a better future for Baloch nation and Balochistan and observed two minutes silence in respect of Baloch leader. The Baloch sisters also sang the national song of Baloch of Balochistan at Chakar Khan’s tomb to renew their resolve for the struggle of Baloch national freedom. Meanwhile talking to media person Qadeer Baloch, the Vice Chairman of VBMP, said that Pakistani intelligence agencies continue to harass the marcher and those who come to welcome them. He said they stop the supporter and question them for several hours in an effort to compel them to distance themselves from the #VBMPLongMarch. Earlier on Thursday, despite of heavy rain and wind the long marchers continued their journey and crossed the city of Sahiwal. The #VBMPLongMarch team’s walk for justice, peace and freedom completed their 84th day of march from Quetta and 57 from Karachi to Islamabad. The courageous marchers set record in south Asia for the longest, peaceful and steadfast march for human rights and against state atrocities. Qadeer Baloch, Farzana Majeed Baloch, Sammi Baloch and 10 year old Ali Haider Baloch who are leading the march along with several other Baloch activists and family members of abducted Baloch are considered as heroes of contemporary Baloch struggle. Qadeer Baloch’s son Jaleel Raki was abducted and killed in 2011, Farzana Majeed’s brother Zakir Majeed Baloch was abducted in 2009 and he’s still in the custody of Pakistani forces whereas 15-year old Sammi and Ali Haider are walking in search of their fathers – Dr Deen Mohammad Baloch and Mohammad Ramzan Baloch, both abducted by Pakistani security forces in presence of several eye-witnesses. The first phase of VBMP long march was launched on 27 October last year and reached to Karachi after 27 days. After a short break in Karachi the VBMP launched the second phase of its march toward Islamabad on 13 December 2013. The marchers plan to organise a sit-in protest in front of United Nations headquarters in Islamabad to record their peaceful protest against state atrocities in Balochistan. It is pertinent to mention that as the long march was proceeding toward Islamabad, three mass graves were found in Tootak area of Khuzdar in Balochistan containing more than one hundred decomposed dead bodies of previously abducted Baloch activists. Three of the bodies were later identified but the identity of the rest could not be ascertained as they are mutilated and decomposed beyond recognition. The Baloch political parties and human rights organisations have been demanding for an independent international investigation into the issue of discover of mass graves. In a recent statement, after with members of US Congress & Senate, Baloch leader Hybyair Marri said that Pakistan army is busying removing the evidence from the site of mass graves that’s why the international community must react quickly and send a team of independent experts to conduct DNA tests of the bodies recovered from mass graves to ascertain their identity.

Balochistan Mass Graves :Amnesty International Describes Balochistan Mass Graves as “Violations Implicating the State”

The Baloch Hal
Amnesty International calls on the Pakistani authorities to ensure an independent and impartial investigation into the unmarked graves found in Totak, near Khuzdar in Balochistan province on 25 January and the alleged abduction and extra judicial execution of a child by state security forces two weeks earlier. Urgent action must also be taken to protect “Long March” activists who have received death threats for highlighting the human rights situation in Balochistan and investigate the source of these threats.
The Deputy Commissioner of Khuzdar district says 13 bodies were found in unmarked graves in Totak. Amnesty International is concerned that there may be more graves in the area that the authorities are not disclosing. Balochistan is one of the most violent parts of Pakistan with scores of activists, journalists and suspected armed group members falling victim to abductions, enforced disappearances and extra judicial executions across the province, including in Khuzdar. Some victims have later been found dumped at the roadside on the outskirts of the city of Karachi.
The Balochistan government has established a Tribunal Inquiry with the powers of a civil court headed by a judge of the Balochistan High Court and a special Medical Board to investigate the graves. Investigations to identify the bodies should be carried out by forensic experts in line with the UN Model Protocol on the disinterment and analysis of skeletal remains. In addition to the medical investigation, a credible criminal investigation must be carried out and any persons suspected of committing human rights abuses must be brought to justice in a fair trial and without recourse to the death penalty, regardless of their links to state or non-state groups.
The Tribunal, Medical Board and any other investigators must be allowed to independently and impartially investigate all graves, including the reported 13, without interference from state security forces. The authorities must ensure that persons who suspect that the bodies may include their relatives are allowed to inspect the bodies to enable identification.
Following initial investigations by a local law enforcement force known as Levies, two bodies were found in Totak on the first day, followed by 11 bodies after that. Two of the dead have now been identified by relatives as Qadir Bakhsh and Naseer – both from Pirandar in Awaran district. Relatives claim both men were forcibly disappeared by the Frontier Corps, a state security force, on 30 August and 4th October 2013 respectively.
The Frontier Corps and other state security forces have been widely implicated in enforced disappearances, extra-judicial executions and other human rights violations in the province for several years. In December 2013 Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch acknowledged that state “agencies” were responsible for “illegal confinement” of Baloch activists, including, he believed, the Secretary-General of his own Balochistan National Party, which is currently part of Balochistan’s coalition government. Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the highest judiciary in the country, including recently retired Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, have also accused the Frontier Corps of being responsible for many enforced disappearances in the province.
The Frontier Corps reportedly cordoned off the area surrounding the graves soon after their discovery, preventing civil society and the local community from monitoring activity at the grave sites. The Frontier Corps has also reportedly prevented some relatives of enforced disappearance victims from visiting a local hospital to inspect the recovered bodies to see if they could identify their missing relatives.
As far as Amnesty International is aware, no Frontier Corps or other security and intelligence service personnel have been brought to justice for their involvement in enforced disappearances or other human rights violations in Balochistan. The authorities also have a very poor record in bringing nonstate suspects to justice, with criminal gangs and armed groups, some hostile to the state or engaged in hostilities in neighbouring Afghanistan, others targeting those considered anti-state or the minority Shi’a Muslim population, operating with virtual impunity.
The Tribunal Inquiry established by the Balochistan government must thoroughly investigate all individuals and groups against whom there is credible evidence of responsibility for the Khuzdar graves. The authorities must ensure that any individuals suspected of committing human rights abuses are brought to justice in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty regardless of their affiliations, rank or status. They must also immediately secure the grave sites to prevent loss or interference with the evidence.
Alleged extra-judicial execution of 10 year old Chakar Baloch Amnesty International is alarmed by credible allegations of the extra-judicial execution of 10 year old Chakar Baloch in Turbat, Balochistan. Around 5pm on 7 January, Chakar Baloch was walking to Awaran market when, according to eyewitnesses, four plain-clothed men accompanied by four uniformed personnel from the Frontier Corps picked him up. Chakar Baloch’s family registered a complaint about the abduction with local police in Turbat. However apart from registering the complaint, the police did not appear to take any further steps and, in practice, they have virtually no power to investigate allegations against the Frontier Corps. Three days later, on 10 January, Chakar Baloch’s body was recovered from Kech Kaor River, a kilometre from where he was last seen alive. According to a medical examination carried out at District Headquarters Hospital in Turbat, Chakar Baloch’s body bore what appeared to be torture marks and four bullet wounds to the head, chest and left arm due to gunshots at close range.
Since the recovery of Chakar Baloch’s body, his family has continued to receive death threats over the phone and has had to leave Turbat for an undisclosed location. A number of Chakar’s relatives are active members of the Balochistan National Movement, a political group that advocates separation of the province from Pakistan. Chakar Baloch’s family fled their home in Parom Panjgoor to Turbat in December 2013 after receiving threats from unknown men who relatives claim are members of state intelligence services. According to information received by Amnesty International, other relatives of Chakar Baloch have also previously been subjected to violations. Chakar Baloch’s great-grand uncle Rahim Baksh, around 80-years-old, and cousin Jaffar Majeed, 16-years-old, were picked up by the Frontier Corps during a raid on their Parom Panjgoor home on 10 October 2013. Both were released around 15 October. Another of Chakar’s cousins, Sannaullah Majeed, 14 years old, was picked up by the Frontier Corps during another raid on the house on 16 October and remains missing to this day. Relatives claim that men in plain clothes belonging to state intelligence services accompanied the Frontier Corps on both occasions.
Amnesty International calls on the Pakistani authorities to ensure an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the apparent extra-judicial execution of Chakar Baloch, and the abduction and arbitrary detention of Rahim Baksh, Jaffar Majeed and Sanaullah Majeed. Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspects should be brought to justice in fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty. The authorities must ensure their investigations include the Frontier Corps and intelligence services operating in the area.
Threats to relatives taking part in Long March to Islamabad Relatives of people subjected to enforced disappearance are currently undertaking a “Long March” from Quetta to Islamabad via Karachi, protesting these violations and calling on the authorities to reveal the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones. Amnesty International calls on the Pakistani authorities to take measures to ensure the protection of the protestors, particularly following credible claims by participants of threats received from unknown persons over the phone. The authorities must also carry out credible investigations to determine who is behind the threats, ensuring that suspects are brought to justice in fair trials. Furthermore, Amnesty International urges that anyone who has been subjected to enforced disappearance or otherwise held in secret or arbitrary detention must be released unless they are charged with a recognisable criminal offence and brought promptly to a fair trial in accordance with international standards.

Pakistan: The shameless surrender

D Asghar
The people who have no respect, no desire and no regard for this constitution are being brought to the bargaining table. What a pathetic disgrace to the people’s right to elect their representatives
Last week, there were plenty of rumours that the much-awaited operation against the terrorists was going into effect. The Prime Minister (PM) was expected to unveil the plan in front of the National Assembly. Unveiled however was yet another so-called peace initiative, which most senior analysts and sane voices called a plan dead on arrival. Yes, the word ‘peace’ has been given a new lease of life. Call it whatever, give it any fancy name you like, I will call it an absolute and shameless surrender. A country that flaunts its nuclear prowess and boasts about its military might has surrendered to a bunch of terrorists — all in the name of an imaginary peace process.
Without going into the much talked about developments and the nomination of the members holding these ‘make believe’ peace talks, here is what boggles my rather curious mind: why is there so much confusion and the narrative and discourse so fluid on this subject? It sure looks like the government is being run by amateur representatives of the people who are unable to determine what a state ought to do to enforce its writ. What the is state obligated to provide to its citizen, which any and every citizen deserves, is the basic right of security and protection. All this military might and nuclear prowess is of no use if the state has to negotiate with the militias of banned outfits. The insane idea that any such talks will be fruitful is beyond insanity.
Some elements in the shameless media are peddling the narrative of the terrorists as a plea to enact and enforce sharia law. One can see how brilliantly the soft image of these terrorists is being rehashed in the name of religion. The apologists are going the extra mile on both traditional and social media, painting a fantasy, which any sane person knows is a non-starter. At least the track record and history clearly demonstrate that it is such a waste of time. The poor public that is facing the brunt of this brand of sharia, one shrapnel at a time, is equally confused. One of the most repeated sentences has found yet another space to be repeated ad nauseam: ‘this country was established in the name of Islam’. All of us can witness what great contributions we have made in the final revealed religion of the divine. Make no mistake, this episode or any other narrative that is being peddled to sell a believable image, is nothing but a farce. It is total, dishonest distortion, which should be rubbished. This is all about power. The terrorists have established their power through fear. This is their weapon and they excel in it.
The silly and inane defence that apologists offer in favour of this futile exercise is not even worth the time of toddlers, let alone grown up adults. Take, for example, the mantra that let us talk to the militants (read terrorists) who are willing to engage and isolate the ones who are not. Those idiots who peddle such fantasies and live in some fairyland tend to forget that, ideologically, all such terrorists are the same. All of these outfits have a unilateral agenda — to grab power through fear. When the outfits claim responsibility for any atrocity, has the government ever been successful in apprehension and conviction to set any kind of standards? Let us forget about all of this: has there been any successful prevention of any massive explosions? It sure looks ridiculous that Mr Musharraf is being dogged and dragged through the court for violating article six of the constitution (rightly so), yet when it comes to militias and terrorists, the same constitution’s article 256 is being completely ignored. The people who have no respect, no desire and no regard for this constitution are being brought to the bargaining table. What a pathetic disgrace to the people’s right to elect their representatives.
What most people think is that once these talks will succeed, their lives will take a turn for the better as terrorism will recede. Once the US will vacate Afghanistan, there will be no drones and it will be peace and tranquillity. What if the US decides not to vacate Afghanistan completely and the drone strikes still continue, then what? Again for the reading or comprehension challenged, this whole show has nothing to do with what is being sold to you. This is about terrorists being elevated to the position of stakeholders. Just ponder on this thought for a few moments: what escalated their status to the level of ‘stakeholders’? What is their contribution to gain this position in the final say of this sorry nation?
My followers on social media and some readers who e-mail me ask the reasons for my pessimistic tone. I am afraid because I see our looming demise, as a country, as a state and as a nation. It is just a matter of time. People who remind us about our roots and reasons for existence, every now and then, need to be reminded perhaps once that our end will also be in the name of the same religion. I sure hope that I am dead wrong but I am afraid the facts are quite self-evident and, yes, quite damning.

In Pakistan, pressure mounts to find way to end Musharraf treason prosecution

Treason charges against Pakistan’s former military dictator, retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf, have become the nuisance that the country’s power brokers wish would somehow go away.
Musharraf’s prosecution has compromised relations between the country’s elected government and the powerful military at an inconvenient moment – just as a final decision needs to be reached on what steps to take to end the six-year Pakistani Taliban insurgency. But finding a face-saving solution that would satisfy the military’s desire that the prosecution end and also stand up in court is no simple task. So far, nobody has come up with that magic formula. The longer the case against Musharraf drags on, the deeper its potential impact on relations among the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the military and the judiciary, analysts and politicians say. For the seventh time since Dec. 24, Musharraf was due Friday to appear before the special court formed to try him for treason. For the seventh time, he didn’t show.
The government had deployed more than 1,100 police and other security personnel along the three major thoroughfares linking the court premises in Islamabad with the Rawalpindi military hospital where Musharraf has been ensconced since complaining of heart pains on Jan. 2 – just in case he decided to make the journey. The court could revoke his bail and order his instant arrest, but again, the court backed down, accepting his lawyer’s promise that Musharraf would appear on Feb. 18, after the Supreme Court rules on his petitions challenging the special court’s jurisdiction and seeking the reassignment of the case to a military court.
That passed the buck back to the prosecuting government, which has been surprised by the “extent of unease” within the military over the charges of treason brought against Musharraf in November, aides to the prime minister said. The aides spoke anonymously because the government does not want to acknowledge the impact the case against the former strongman has had.
The timing of the proceedings against Musharraf also have worked in his favor, the aides said. They have coincided with a wave of terrorist attacks since December, which the aides said had built into “mounting pressure” from the military on Sharif to drop his insistence on exploring the possibility of a negotiated peace with Taliban insurgents. Although government intermediaries started exploratory talks on Thursday with a team of cleric politicians nominated by the Pakistani Taliban, Sharif does not expect them to succeed and is understood to already have agreed to the military’s proposal to re-launch counterterrorism operations, probably by March. Heading into that operation against insurgents based in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas, which border eastern Afghanistan, “it’s essential that our democratically mandated government and the country’s institutions are in consensus and act in unison,” said one government minister, again speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Many solutions have been proposed, including one by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid party, that the constitution be amended so that Musharraf can be tried for simply violating it when he dismissed judges in 2007, rather than for treason. That’s considered unlikely to happen. The most popular scenario, touted almost nightly by analysts appearing on Pakistan’s 20-plus cable news channels, is that Musharraf would make a single court appearance to be indicted and then be allowed to travel abroad on humanitarian grounds, probably to attend to his ailing mother, who lives in the United Arab Emirates. His getaway vehicle would be a jet provided by a key Pakistan ally, such Saudi Arabia or the United States – something both of those country’s governments have denied. While that scenario is popular on television, it has a major problem for the government and the judiciary – it would undercut the country’s push to establish the country’s democratic constitution as the nation’s ruling force, a goal too often thwarted by the whims of the military since Pakistan’s creation six decades ago. Sharif chose not to prosecute Musharraf for the October 1999 coup he staged against Sharif’s government because he didn’t want the case to be seen as a vendetta, either against Musharraf or the army. The judiciary has similar conflict-of-interest issues, because the case now against Musharraf was ordered by the Supreme Court in July, when it was led by an activist chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. He led the judges’ rebellion that prompted Musharraf to impose the November 2007 state of emergency and suspend the constitution, for which he is now being prosecuted. But the judiciary has been equally uneager to take responsibility for the case since the appointment in December of a new chief justice, Tassadaq Jilani, who was among the rebellious judges in 2007. He has been careful to reduce confrontations in court with the military. That’s been reflected in the special court’s hesitance to impose sanctions on Musharraf for his refusal to appear. Many analysts believe Musharraf intentionally is causing problems, hoping to force the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, who took up his post in November, to play hardball with the government and the court. “He wants the government to drop the charges. Obviously, the government won’t do that, because it would enable Musharraf to return to Pakistan as a political rival of Sharif at some later date,” said Nasir Malik, news director at Capital TV, a liberal cable news channel based in Islamabad. Hugely unpopular, Musharraf has little, if any, prospect of a successful political career. But some believe the political theater has created an unforeseen legacy: making certain that the next military intervention into government won’t be bloodless. Instead, predicted Asma Jehangir, the country’s top human rights activist, “the next military dictator . . . will kill 20 to 30 (top political) people and will occupy power for 20 years, not for 10.
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Pakistan: Leader of Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi global terrorist

The US State Department added Malik Ishaq, the leader of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists today. Ishaq's group, which is also a designated terrorist organization, has been linked to numerous attacks on Pakistani and US citizens over the years, and is closely tied to al Qaeda.
The State Department designation provided few details on Ishaq in today's designation, but noted that he is "a founding member and is the current leader" of the terror group. Previous designations of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leaders have directly linked the group to al Qaeda. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has integrated with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and its members often serve as al Qaeda's muscle for terror attacks.
The group has conducted numerous suicide and other terror attacks inside Pakistan. In particular, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is well known for carrying out sectarian terror attacks against minority Shia, Ahmadis, Sufis, and Christians in Pakistan. The group has released videos of executions of captured Shia prisoners.
Ishaq has been in and out of Pakistani custody over the past three decades. He was detained in 1997 after admitting to murdering more than 100 Pakistanis, but was subsequently released by Pakistan's Supreme Court in July 2011. Ishaq has dodged numerous convictions by murdering and intimidating witnesses, and even once told a judge that "dead men can't talk." [See Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the "lack of evidence," from Dawn, for more information on Pakistan's inability to convict Ishaq and his intimidation of witnesses.] Ishaq doesn't hide his disdain for the political system in Pakistan, and he made it clear at the time of his release in 2011 that he intended to continue to wage jihad. "We are ready to lay down lives for the honor of the companions of the Holy Prophet" Ishaq said after he was released from custody in 2011. He was met by "Kalashnikov-wielding supporters on a Land Cruiser motorcade," Dawn reported. Ishaq has also been accused of plotting numerous terrorist attacks while in custody, including the March 3, 2009 assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Ishaq would have plotted the attack and others from prison. The Pakistani government re-arrested Ishaq in February 2013, just one month after his group had gone on a rampage in Quetta and claimed credit for a series of bombings that killed scores of Pakistanis, mostly Shia. He is thought to be still in custody. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's links to al Qaeda, Taliban
The US designated the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2003. Two of the terror group's top leaders, Amanullah Afridi and operations chief Matiur Rehman, were added to the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2010.
In that designation, the Treasury Department described Afridi as "a key figure in directing terrorist-related activities of LeJ for several years" who had previously "prepared and provided suicide jackets for al Qaeda operations, trained suicide bombers and trained the assassin of Pakistani cleric Allama Hassan Turabi." Turabi, a prominent Shia cleric, was killed in June 2006 in Karachi by a 16-year-old Bangladeshi suicide bomber. Rehman is a top operational leader said to manage al Qaeda's 'Rolodex' of fighters who have passed through training camps and safe houses. Treasury has described Rehman as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's "chief operational commander" and a "planning director" who has "worked on behalf of al Qaeda."
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi operatives have also been implicated in attacks against US and Westerners inside Pakistan. In 2002, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi members conspired with Omar Saeed Sheikh, a senior al Qaeda leader, in the kidnapping and execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl [see LWJ report, New investigation into murder of Daniel Pearl released]. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was also involved in a bombing in Karachi in May 2002 that killed 16 people, including 12 French nationals, and the bombing near the US Consulate in Karachi on June 14, 2002 that killed 12 people.
In addition, Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi commanders have been killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. In February 2010, the US killed Qari Mohammad Zafar, a senior Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader as well as a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam, in a drone strike in North Waziristan. Zafar was behind multiple terror attacks in Pakistan and was wanted by the US for murdering a consular official in Karachi. Pakistan added the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to its list of terror organizations in August 2001, yet has done little to crack down on the group.
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Pakistani sectarian leader added to U.S. global terrorist list

The United States has added the founder of a banned Pakistani militant group to its list of global terrorists, blaming him for the deaths of hundreds of Pakistanis. Malik Ishaq is the founding member and leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), a banned Sunni Muslim organization dedicated to killing or driving out Pakistan's minority Shi'ite Muslims. "In 1997, Malik Ishaq admitted his involvement in terrorist activity that resulted in the deaths of over 100 Pakistanis," the U.S. State Department said on its Web site in a statement posted on Thursday. It noted he had also been arrested in connection with twin bombings in the western Pakistani city of Quetta that killed about 200 people last year. "LJ specializes in armed attacks and bombings and has admitted responsibility for numerous killings of Shi'ite religious and civil society leaders in Pakistan," the State Department said. The designations means anyone who supports Ishaq or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi could have their assets frozen by the U.S. government. Ishaq's deputy and spokesman said the decision to list Ishaq was the result of a conspiracy between the United States and Iran, a majority Shi'ite country. About 20 percent of Pakistan's 180 million people are Shi'ite. "The U.S. administration took the step on Iran's instigation," said the spokesman, Hafiz Ghulam Rasool Shah. "Malik Ishaq was acquitted by Pakistan's courts and he is leading the life of an honorable and peaceful citizen of Pakistan." Ishaq has spent 14 years in jail on dozens of murder or terrorism charges and was in prison when some of the attacks happened. He was eventually acquitted. "The U.S. made the decision in the wake of attack on Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore. When the incident occurred, Ishaq was in Multan district jail," he said, referring to a deadly 2009 attack on the sports team. "Right now, Ishaq is in jail on the charges of making hatred speeches only." In 2012, Ishaq told Reuters that Shi'ites were the "greatest infidels on earth" and that Pakistan should declare them non-Muslims. "Whoever insults the companions of the Holy Prophet should be given a death sentence," Ishaq declared.

Bilawal Bhutto asks Altaf to call off day of mourning

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has appealed to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain to call off day of mourning In a message issued on microblogging site, Bilawal asked Altaf Hussain to tell his party workers that threatening of people of Karachi traders and transporters live on television is not philosophy of the MQM’s chief. He expressed sympathy for the MQM’s legitimate concerns. “Lots of sympathy for MQM’s legitimate concerns. But they will loss all good will if they take Karachi hostage again with strike politics.” Bilawal said that he had warned about anti-Altaf forces within MQM, adding that he feared the strike would be part of a larger conspiracy against the party chief.

Former President Zardari reiterates Party position on talks with militants
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the PPP government also first gave priority to holding talks with the militants in Swat and it was only after the strategy of negotiations failed due to the hard line taken by militants that force was used to drive them out and establish the writ of the state.
Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar quoted the former President as saying this today while commenting on the ongoing public debate over the negotiations undertaken between the representatives of the militants and the government. The former President said that the PPP was part of the All Parties Conference that endorsed the decision to hold talks with the militants to find a way out for peace and stability in the country and the region. The Pakistan People’s Party is therefore not against the proposed talks with militants and whished the process success, he said.
He said that there may be differences of opinion on how to conduct negotiations and hold talks but it was important that the stake holders backed the policy of first seeking a negotiated settlement. He said it was particularly important for the political forces to be on the same page for the sake of democracy and also for keeping the initiative in the hands of political forces of the country.
If past experience of the PPP is any guide it is clear that the use of force only after the talks fail is a viable and practical strategy for ending militancy and establishing the writ of the state, the former president said.

CM KP Pervez Khattak: Incompetence, corruption and appeasement personified

by Khan Mohammad
Riding on hollow sloganeering of change and with support from Taliban and the intelligence agencies, PTI got a chance to materialize the promises they had made to the people of Pakistan by governing Khyber Pakkhtunkhwa (KP) as an example. However, the start to their abysmal journey was characterized by two horrible decisions: an alliance with the obscurantist Jamaat Islami; and selection of Pervez Khattak, an incompetent and highly corrupt politician, as the Chief Minister.
The performance of KP government led by Pervez Khattak has been abominable to say the least. The government has been plagued with poor governance, lack of direction and a spate of terrorist incidents that have killed scores of innocent civilians. Most of the casualties have been Shias, Barelvi Sunnis and religious minorities, although the list also includes law enforcement personnel.
According to a report published by Pakistan Equality and Human Rights Commission (PEHRC), between 1 June 2013 and 4 February 2014, “in more than 93 terrorist attacks, at least 441 innocent people have been killed while 635 have been injured by radical Deobandi terrorists in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The province is currently ruled by Imran Khan’s PTI in coalition with Munawar Hasan’s Jamaat-e-Islami.”
While on the one hand Pervez Khattak is seen as a highly corrupt and incompetent politician who thrives on nepotism, on the other, he is considered complicit not only in the infamous Dera Ismail Khan Jailbreak but also the general appeasement of Sipah-e-Sahaba/Taliban who have been allowed to operate freely from KPK and target the innocent Shias, Sunni Barelvis and law enforcement personal in the province.
The latter policy of appeasement of Taliban and religious terrorists seems to be PTI’s party policy that enabled them to win the elections in the province. The party now hopes that it can neutralize the liberal parties in the province like ANP and PPP and continue to rule with support from the Taliban.
Pervez Khattak has also been trying to wield maximum power ever since he has taken over. While he seems to be supine in front of the central party leaders from Islamabad, Khattak has been trying to appoint his favorites – and accomplices in crimes – on positions he deems necessary. The news of his tussle with Chief Secretary KPK Shehzad Arbab, who is considered an honest and competent civil servant, on rules of business and merit has been making headlines for months. Khattak has been trying to replace Arbab and instead appoint someone who he can easily puppeteer.
Left with only Jamaat Islami as a major ally after Aftab Sherpao’s QWP broke the alliance with them, the future for Imran Khan and PTI – with their fate resting in Pervez Khattak’s hands, does not portend pleasant news. PTI’s government in KPK seems destined for the doom.
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Saudi women’s university barred male paramedics from saving female student
Amna Bawazeer, a student at the women’s-only King Saud University, suffered a heart attack and died on Wednesday. The Okaz newspaper pinned the blame on university officials who reportedly hesitated for an hour before letting male paramedics into the campus.
Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online over a report Thursday that staff at a Riyadh university had barred male paramedics from entering a women's-only campus to assist a student who had suffered a heart attack and later died. The Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student's life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.
One staff member who witnessed the situation said paramedics were not called immediately. She said they were also not given immediate permission to enter the campus and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from university management.
Her death sparked a debate on Twitter by Saudis who created a hashtag to talk about the incident. In the debate, many Saudis said the kingdom's strictly enforced rules governing the segregation of the sexes were to blame for the delay in helping Bawazeer. Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam. Sexes are segregated in schools and almost all Saudi universities. Women also have separate seating areas and often separate entrances in "family" sections of restaurants and cafes where single males are not allowed. The kingdom's top cleric has warned against the mixing of the genders, saying it poses a threat to female chastity and society.
In a shocking tragedy in 2002, a fire broke out at a girl's school in Mecca, killing 15 students. Rights groups reported that religious police would not allow the girls to escape because they were not wearing headscarves or abayas, a traditional loose black cloak that covers the female body from the neck down.