Monday, February 10, 2014
http://voiceofrussia.com/Russian president Vladimir Putin thinks that the booming interest in Sochi due to the Olympics should become a permanent trend.
Turkey's crackdown on the internet raises "serious concerns" and "needs to be revised in line with European standards," the European Commission has said.
The commission's spokesman on enlargement, Peter Stano, on Thursday (6 February) noted that the new regime “would lead to a further reduction in internet freedom.” "Turkish people deserve more freedom of information and transparency, not more restrictions," he added. The bill also attracted criticism from European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who described the bill on Twitter as a “step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom.”The law, which was passed by the Turkish parliament late on Wednesday, allows a government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB), to block access to websites without a court order if they are deemed to violate privacy or seen as having "insulting” content. Personal browser histories will also be kept for two years, with no judicial review of the measures. The new law amends 2007 legislation which was used to stop Turkish people from using YouTube for two years and which caused the shutdown of thousanfs of websites. The European Court of Justice in Strasbourg in 2012 already ruled the old law to be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. For its part, the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has warned that the latest amendments put "a disproportionate burden on internet service and hosting providers,” and would harm investigative journalism by potentially exposing reporters’ sources. At the start of Turkey’s parliamentary debate on Wednesday, opposition lawmaker Hasan Oren compared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Adolf Hitler. “When you came to power you talked of enhancing democracy in Turkey, Now you are trying to implement fascism … Remember that Adolf Hitler used the same methods when he rose to power,” Oren said. The crackdown is the latest in a series of measures designed to quash a corruption affair involving Erdogan’s inner circle. He already faced EU rebukes in January for sacking hundreds of police officers and prosecutors investigating the allegations and for putting judicial appointments under political control. More broadly, Turkey last year topped world rankings for jailing journalists. The EU candidate country recently restarted accession talks after a long pause. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier this week urged the EU to also open talks on chapters relating to justice and human rights issues in light of Erdogan’s actions, but Cyprus is vetoing the move amid its 40-year-old frozen conflict with Turkey.
By David Loyn An Afghan girl has been diagnosed with polio in Kabul - the capital's first case since the Taliban's fall in 2001. The health ministry ordered a vaccination campaign across the capital after the three-year-old was diagnosed. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Nigeria, but has been almost wiped out around the world. In all three countries Islamic extremists have obstructed health workers, preventing polio eradication campaigns from taking place. Since the Afghan Taliban changed their policy, allowing vaccination in recent years, there has been a decline in cases in Afghanistan. There were 80 cases in 2011, 37 in 2012, and 14 in 2013. The emergence of a new case in Kabul is worrying health officials. It was discovered in a very poor community of Kuchis, formerly nomadic herdsmen, now settled on a hillside in the east of the capital. In response, health workers have tried to visit every home in the community. There is no running water or electricity, and some of the ex-nomads still live in tents, despite the cold of winter in Kabul. Once the workers have put drops into the mouths of infants they find, they mark their hands with a blue line, and write the date on the wall. It seems rudimentary, but tens of thousands of volunteers in campaigns like this across the country have succeeded in almost beating the disease. Cross-border transmission The girl who contracted the disease, Sakina, was diagnosed after she became paralysed. Her father is a taxi driver who often goes to the frontier region with Pakistan, and has now taken her there for treatment. Her uncle, Mohammed Azim, said that she complains: "I can't stand up. The other children are playing and I cannot." The polio strain in the two countries is identical, and with 1.5 million children crossing the frontier every year, cross-border transmission is inevitable. Nearly all of the cases in Afghanistan last year were in regions close to the Pakistan border. Afghanistan has health workers at the border crossings, attempting to monitor all children who cross, and vaccinating those at risk. But many people do not cross at formal customs posts, instead using tracks across the mountains and deserts that line the porous frontier. 'Undermining efforts' The Taliban in Afghanistan remain a nationalist movement, who have been persuaded of the values of modern medicine. But the Pakistani Taliban are a far more ideological group, similar to Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, who are focused on global jihad, and unwilling to believe anything the west tells them. As well as killing health workers, the Pakistani Taliban have campaigned against vaccination, spreading the malicious rumour that it is a covert policy of sterilisation. Their opposition, along with continuing insecurity in some parts of Afghanistan, could prevent continuing progress towards global eradication of the disease. Afghan Health Minister Soraya Dalil said the continuing opposition of the Pakistani Taliban was a threat, "undermining efforts" to eradicate polio in Afghanistan. After the initial local vaccination campaign, routine campaigns would continue, she said, to keep up the pressure, and ensure that this is an isolated case and not a new outbreak. "This new case in Kabul tells us that the effort on polio eradication is not over yet, and we have to accelerate the effort to make sure that every child, no matter where they are, receive polio drops."
U.S. President Obama and French President Hollande visited Monticello, the home of America's third president Thomas Jefferson.
The Obama administration announced Monday that it would again delay enforcement of a federal requirement for certain employers to provide health insurance to employees, giving medium-size companies extra time to comply. The “employer mandate,” which had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, will now be phased-in beyond that date for some businesses with more than 50 employees. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees were already exempt. Under the Affordable Care Act, larger employers are generally subject to tax penalties if they fail to offer “minimum essential coverage” to full-time employees and their dependents. The administration laid out a three-tier approach. For larger employers with 100 or more employees (about 2 percent of employers): Seventy percent of employees must be offered coverage in 2015, and in later years at least 95 percent of employees must be offered coverage. Employers that do not meet these standards will be subject to tax penalties. For employers with 50 to 99 employees (about 2 percent of employers): Companies with 50 to 99 employees will have an extra year, until 2016, to provide coverage or pay tax penalties. For small businesses with fewer than 50 employees (about 96 percent of all employers): These companies will not be required to provide coverage or fill out any forms in any year. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, announced in blog post on July 2 that “we are giving businesses more time to comply.” No penalties would be assessed for 2014, she said. Members of Congress asked how the president could unilaterally waive provisions of the law. J. Mark Iwry, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for health policy, said the administration had broad “authority to grant transition relief” under a law that directs the Treasury secretary to “prescribe all needful rules and regulations for the enforcement” of tax obligations. This authority has often been used to “postpone the application of new legislation when immediate application would have subjected taxpayers to unreasonable administrative burdens or costs,” Mr. Iwry said. The announcement Monday followed numerous other steps by the administration to postpone and cushion the impact of the health care law. In mid-November, Mr. Obama asked insurers to reinstate policies being canceled because they did not comply with minimum coverage requirements of the law. A week later, the administration extended the initial deadline for people to sign up for coverage that starts in January. A few days after that, health officials announced a one-year delay in online enrollment for small businesses using the federal insurance exchange. The administration then moved the sign-up deadline for individuals to Dec. 23 and extended by one month, to the end of January, a special insurance program for people with serious illnesses. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, announced on Dec. 19 that people facing the cancellation of individual policies could buy cheaper catastrophic coverage on the exchange and would be exempt from penalties if they went without insurance next year.
http://guardianlv.com/By Melissa Roddy Taliban fighters previously held in Afghan and Pakistani prisons have returned to wage jihad, killing more of Afghanistan’s civilians in 2013 than in any year since 2009. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued a report on February 8, 2014 showing a 34 percent increase last year in the number of children killed or wounded over 2012. The UNAMA report attributed only three percent of casualties to international forces. The lion’s share (74 percent) was caused by anti-government elements (AGE), with 11 percent attributed to Afghan National Security Forces. Of the 2,959 civilian deaths reported, over half were caused by civilians stepping on or driving over improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Other civilians suffered in the 962 battles between security forces and groups identifying as Taliban, including members of the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Hekmatyar and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Three large prison breaks from 2011 to 2013 have resulted in the return to Afghanistan of over 1,000 Taliban jihadists responsible for the killing of far greater numbers of Afghan children in 2013 than in 2012. Two of the breaks were from Pakistani prisons and one from an Afghan prison. Last July 248 prisoners broke out of jail in the western Pakistani town of Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan). In April 2012, in the town of Bannu, located in northern Pakistan, 384 prisoners escaped from jail, and a year earlier, the Taliban liberated 541 of their fellow militants by digging a tunnel 360 meters (1,181 feet) under the prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Guards and other employees at the Bannu jail, located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, reported that 150-200 men stormed the prison, engaging in a two-hour pitched battle with prison guards. The fighters and escapees then departed in over 50 trucks, which had been parked on the main highway near the jail. Shahab Khan, the prison telephone operator, claimed throughout the battle, he sent requests to the Pakistani military for backup. Every time he was told that help would be there soon, but reinforcements never arrived. Dozens of trucks loaded with escaped prisoners and fighters then drove through Bannu and into nearby North Waziristan, passing unimpeded through numerous military checkpoints in the city and along the highway. Last summer a very similar event occurred in DI Khan, also located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, just southeast of North Waziristan. This time, the military and provincial governments received advance warning that a jailbreak would occur, complete with numerous details about the attack, including how many vehicles to expect, where they would be parked and which prison barrack was the intended target. In the midst of the bust-out, the attackers stopped to enjoy a leisurely pizza with some of the guards. While inside, they also took time out to find and behead four ethnic Shia inmates. Pakistan’s media reported the attackers and escapees melted into the surrounding city and countryside. Local witnesses, however, described a very different sight. Over a dozen trucks loaded with fighters and prisoners were said to have roared through the streets and up the highway, whooping, hollering and shooting into the air “like a wedding parade,” again blowing unimpeded past numerous military checkpoints, on their way to Taliban-controlled North Waziristan. With so many Taliban fighters returned from prison to the field, it is not surprising that Afghanistan suffered the killing of hundreds more women and children in 2013.
Anger against the Taliban among Afghans has reached its boiling point. From Ghazni’s Andar district to Kunar, from there to Kandahar’s Panjwai and Logar, there is searing fury against the barbarism of the Taliban. Residents of the Baraki Barak district of Logar province are in high dudgeon and started resistance against the Taliban. Their life has become agonic at the hands of the Taliban. They are furious and say if anyone prevents their children from going to school or blocks people’s participation in the coming elections will face the dire consequences. Toward the end of the year 2013, residents in Paktia also said none should support Haqqani network and if anyone was found abetting terrorists, his house will be burnt and his family ostracized. The shameless Taliban still claim to be the representatives of the people of Afghanistan, fighting against own government to liberate their people. This seems to be not only shameless but nonsense as well. Being highly perturbed by Taliban’s insurgency, as many as 1,000 residents of Baraki Barak took up arms to drive the insurgents out from their villages. Because of insurgents’ infestation, the area had become highly insecure where people’s lives had come to a still. The move is not only worth appreciation but needs to be supported by the government, the National Directorate of Security as the spy chief said the other day that insurgent groups were busy to sabotage elections. Anger against militants is at its apex across the country, but citizens are hapless in front of them. They shouldn’t be left prone to their atrocities rather the government and its security organs should enlist peoples’ support in fight against militancy. The province that started this noble job to start uprising against the Taliban uprising is Ghazni. Andar district of the province will be remembered in Afghan history. Paktia and Khost were two other provinces that followed the suit. But this time it is Baraki Barak in Logar province that is standing against the Taliban. If the government supports those who have taken up guns against the Taliban, they day is not so far that they will be completely weeded out. Now that Residents say they have taken up guns against the anti-government fighters after long suffering at their hands, it should make a difference. Though, the government’s efforts for peace should continue, but unfortunately despite the desperate attempts, the nation is still in limbo. When the government finds an opportunity like the one in Baraki Barak it should exploit it to consolidate its writ and power against militants. The peace road goes nowhere but it has become a cul-de-sac and all the stakeholders are faced with a dead end. Nevertheless, this is good that Afghan masses are taking up arms against the Taliban. The Taliban are there, their financiers are there and their supporters as well, but they should know that eventually when the world will pull out, followed by America and the Taliban don’t come to the table of negotiations and their atrocities increase with each passing day the people of Afghanistan will get tired of terrorism, then they will rise up and it will be the worst defeat of the Taliban and worst instance of Muslims on Muslims violence. So, before it happens the Taliban should think over what did they get of the 13-year war, which is still going on with no end in sight and for how long they will hold out for?
IS enforcement of a certain conception of Sharia the TTP’s precondition for peace or that of its apologists who view the terror threat as an opportunity to enforce their skewed ideology and worldview on Pakistan? The demand for Nizam-i-Adl in Swat was understandable. Swat had experienced a swift justice system under the Wali-i-Swat. After being absorbed by Pakistan their justice system became as dysfunctional as that of the rest of Pakistan and they wanted amends. But why is Sharia an issue in Fata? Fata doesn’t have the common law justice system that is criticised for being un-Islamic. It still functions under the FCR and the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts is specifically ousted. Disputes within and amongst tribes are settled through jirgas on the basis of tribal riwaj and not common law. How is the state of Pakistan preventing Fata residents from leading their lives in accordance with Islam? The key demand of the pro-enforcement brigade is not that they are unable to lead their lives in accordance with their faith. These zealots are demanding that others should lead lives in accordance with their interpretation of Sharia. This isn’t about the freedom of those seeking Sharia enforcement to practise their religion, but about curbing the freedom of thought, action, choice and faith of everyone else, coupled with the suggestion that those who disagree are no Muslims at all. The enforcement brigade tells us that in not ‘enforcing’ Sharia on their fellow Muslim citizens the state is acting in breach of Article 2A (the Objectives Resolution) and the Principles of Policy laid down in Part II of the Constitution. Article 2A does state that “principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed” and that “Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam”. But it also states for example that, “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures”. The point is that the Constitution embodies various principles. How they are to be read in conjunction and given effect is a matter of interpretation. But in the realm of religion what our Constitution emphasises is enablement and not enforcement. Whether it is Article 2A, Article 20 (the right of every citizen to profess, practise and propagate religion) or Article 28 (the right of citizens to preserve and protect their language or culture), our Constitution embraces diversity and the individual right not to be dictated to by others on how to practise one’s faith. Our Constitution is minimalist and not maximalist when it comes to religion. It mandates that none of our laws must breach Islamic injunctions, but doesn't require the state to ‘enforce’ Sharia. Islamic provisions in Part IX only require that Pakistani citizens be ‘enabled’ and ‘encouraged’ to live their lives in accordance with Islamic principles. And inherent in the composition of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) under Article 228 is the assumption that there exist legitimate differences of opinion between various schools of Islamic thought on what living in accord with Islamic principles might mean. To state the obvious, the Constitution also leaves no room open for vigilantism when it comes to matters of faith. It provides two formal mechanisms to prevent breach of injunctions of Islam: one, the CII which can advise parliament on how to encourage Muslims to practise Islamic principles or opine on what laws are repugnant to Islam; and two, the Federal Shariat Court, which can issue mandatory judicial pronouncements. The claim by any other entity, group or citizen that Islam is under threat in a 97pc Muslim country can only be personal opinion. Article 31 with the Principles of Policy in Chapter II also speaks only about enablement and not enforcement of Islam. Those who cry themselves hoarse over the breach of Principles of Policy must also read Articles 29 and 30 that unambiguously establish that these non-judicially enforceable principles are like a statement of purpose meant to guide citizens and state organs alike and not to be shoved down their throats. That some consume alcohol in Pakistan despite it being a punishable crime, that some women dress in ways that bigoted men find disagreeable, or that the Sharia court is still considering whether or not all forms of interest are exploitative and amount to riba are not the burning issues posing an existential challenge to Pakistan. It is the education and population emergencies, our energy crisis, governance and justice system meltdown, violent insurgencies and terror all across Pakistan that paint a bleak future for our country and our kids. Our salvation lies not in the moral outrage of cavemen backed by threats of violence but in real life solutions proposed by serious people focused on and trained to address complex problems of a 21st-century polity. The pro-enforcement brigade threatening to reconvert by force the Muslim majority of Pakistan into better Muslims is no outcome of 9/11. This tendency of some to declare other Muslims apostates and liable to be killed in the name of religion is much older than Pakistan. Can there be a bigger irony that in a country created to enable Muslims to practise Islam freely, the overwhelming Muslim majority now lives in mortal fear of being killed in the name of the same religion that they claim to profess, practise and love?
Blasphemy law in Pakistan is becoming more and more strong weapon for Muslim extremists. Even though there has never been a death sentence under the act, vigilantes repeatedly deceive and from time to time kill believers of minority faiths blamed of blasphemy.According to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch criticize Pakistan’s documentation of defending its religious minorities, says that 2014 world report shows that “mistreatment has extensively risen under Pakistan’s offensive blasphemy law, which is used against minority faiths, often to settle personal quarrel. They enclose an environment of terror, power terrified judges into pending court conferences within prisons and preventing eyewitnesses to give statement to the protection of those on trial.The national religious affairs ministry has denied the statement. Government officials did not responded on the comment. Secretary-general of Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi abandoned the accusation that the law is generally altered to settle personal issues, although he said he supports a thorough police inquiry before accuses are filed. He said those who were actually harassed had conveyed the aggression upon themselves by enraging Muslims’ emotions. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, last year 34 people were charged with blasphemy. As per of government statistic 27 were charged in 2012. At least 16 people are presently on death sentence for blasphemy, while another 20 are serving life imprisonment, according to Human Rights Watch. Rescue Christians, a U.S.-based charity working for four years in Pakistan, its head Keith Davies stated that “In the last three years we have seen a large increase in the number of cases of blasphemy” Pakistan is not the only state with such commandment on the books. Blasphemy felony are punished in more than 30 nations, including some with majority of Christian populations, such as Poland and Greece, as well as Muslim countries like Indonesia and Pakistan, according to a 2012 report by the Interfaith Center of New York. The majority of Pakistan’s 180 million people are Sunni Muslims, who don’t support the militants’ interference or their loathing for religious minorities. On the other hand, the minorities, as well as Muslims who belong to the Shiite section of Islam, say even the smallest argue can let them in jail on fabricated blasphemy charges. The hostility connected with Pakistan’s blasphemy law has been vicious. Three years ago, moderate Govt. Salman Taseer was gun downed by his own security guard for defending a Christian woman accused with blasphemy. In a separate attack, militants assassinated Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he operation for modification in the law. Last year in July, two brothers charged with insulting Islam’s prophet were murdered as they stepped out of a court. A Christian, Tariq is presently in hidden after authorities accused him with blasphemy charges. He said the charges came over a fight he had with two customers who bought defective firecrackers from him. When he refused to apologize, he said the customers went to the police in Lahore and lied that he had stuffed the firecrackers with pages from the Quran. Fearing capture by Pakistani forces he seeks asylum outside of the country. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/pakistani-blasphemy-laws-escort-to-discrimination-of-minority-groups/#sthash.5mdXjb5L.dpuf
indiatimes.comThe shrine of Pakistani Sufi poet Mast Twakali, revered across the subcontinent, has been set afire by unknown persons in the restive Balochistan province. The shrine, visit by hundreds of devotees each day, has been partially damaged in the fire, authorities in Kohlu district said. Kohlu deputy commissioner Ejaz Haider said some unknown persons had entered the shrine on Saturday and set it afire. "But because people of the area gathered quickly and put out the fire the shrine was saved but a big portion has been damaged," Haider said. Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the case, he added. Towaq Ali Mast - popularly known as Mast Twakali - was born in 1828. He spread the message of love for the humanity through his poetry. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups, which consider going to shrines as un-islamic, have in the past targeted them.
A suicide bomber killed four women in northwest Pakistan on Monday in an attempted attack on mourners at a funeral, police said. The blast hit a house in Peshawar, a frontline city in Pakistan's battle against Islamist insurgents, close to where a group of people were holding funeral prayers, senior police official Najeeb Ur Rehman told AFP. According to Rehman, the mourners spotted three would-be suicide bombers coming towards them but managed to scare them off. Two fled the scene while the third entered a nearby home, unconnected to the mourners, and blew himself up at the entrance, said Rehman. "Four women died and six people were wounded in the suicide blast," he said. Shafqat Malik, chief of Peshawar's Bomb Disposal Unit, confirmed the suicide attack and told AFP that the bomber used around six kilograms (13 pounds) of explosives along with ball bearings in his suicide vest. Jamil Shah, a spokesman for Peshawar's main Lady Reading hospital where all the dead bodies and injured were taken, told AFP that five of the injured were women. The attack highlights Pakistan's fragile security situation as the government is engaged in peace talks with the Taliban. At least eight people were killed in a suicide attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar last week. The insurgents have set tough terms for peace talks, demanding the release of all imprisoned fighters and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas.
Busniess RecorderFormer Prime Minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani has said Shariah already existed in the country in the form of 1973 Constitution as no legislation could be made repugnant to the Islamic teachings. Talking to media persons at his Lahore residence after his meeting with Chief Minister Gilgit-Balistan Syed Mehdi Shah on Sunday, Yusaf Raza Gilani said that the Taliban had come up with three major demands including enforcement of Shariah in the country, release of Taliban prisoners and withdrawal of troops from militancy hit areas and it is up to the government either to accept or not these demands. He said that PPP and other political parties gave mandate of peace talks to the government and now we have to wait for the results of dialogues with banned outfit. Gilani said that he had talked to Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif six months ago asking him to play his role for release of his abducted son Ali Haider Gilani. He hoped that now when the issue of release of Taliban prisoners was raised, the PM would remember his son also, he added. The former premier said PPP government during its era gave provincial status to GB besides facilitating people with equal rights enjoyed by people of other provinces of country. Speaking on the occasion CM GB Mehdi Shah said that PPP led government spared no efforts to resolve problems faced by the people and it was hoped that his party will clean sweep in general elections scheduled in December 2014.