Friday, February 28, 2014
http://www.sacbee.com/Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightened his grip Wednesday on the judiciary and the Internet in an effort to tamp down a corruption scandal that’s rattled his government and now appears to implicate his immediate family and him. Evidence mounted that a series of audio recordings in which Erdogan can be heard instructing his son, Bilal, to get rid of enormous sums of money are authentic, with the government firing two senior officials at the state scientific agency responsible for the security of encrypted telephones and a U.S.-based expert on encrypted communications, after examining the recordings, telling McClatchy that the recordings appear to be genuine. Erdogan on Tuesday called the five purported conversations an “immoral montage” that had been “dubbed.” But he acknowledged that even his secure telephone had been tapped. The only apparent “montage” was combining the five different conversations into one audio file, said Joshua Marpet, a U.S.-based cyber analyst who has testified in court on the validity of computer evidence in other Turkish criminal cases. He said there was no sign that the individual conversations had been edited. “If it’s fake, it’s of a sophistication that I haven’t seen,” he said. The purported telephone conversations took place over a 26-hour period, beginning on the morning of Dec. 17, when Turkish police launched raids on the houses and offices of members of the Erdogan government, businessmen and their families. “Whatever you have in the house, get rid of it, OK?” the prime minister can be heard telling Bilal in the opening conversation. Erdogan tells Bilal that his sister Sumeyye is on her way to help him and admonishes Bilal to tell others in the family also to get rid of cash, including Sumeyye’s husband, Bilal’s brother Burak, his uncle Mustafa Erdogan, and Erdogan’s brother-in-law, Berat Albayrak. “It will be good if you completely ‘zero’ it,” the prime minster is heard saying in the second conversation, which took place later that morning. In the fourth conversation at 11:15 that night, Bilal says he had almost “zeroed” out the money, but that there were some 30 million euros (about $39 million) left. When his father asks why he didn’t transfer all the money to Mehmet Gur, a contractor who was building the Erdogan family villa, Bilal responds: because “it takes a lot of space.” At different points, Erdogan can be heard warning Bilal not to use a regular telephone. In the final conversation on the morning of Dec. 18, after Bilal admits that the money had not been “zeroed out,” the prime minister again says Bilal should get rid of all the funds. “OK, Dad, but we are probably being monitored at the moment,” Bilal said. His father replied: “Son, you’re being wiretapped,” to Bilal responds: “But they are monitoring us with cameras as well.” Two more conversations were published on the Internet Wednesday night, one purporting to capture Erdogan and Bilal discussing how much money they should expect from a Turkish businessman, and the other recording two other businessmen discussing a payoff. More are expected, at least until the country votes in municipal elections March 31. If the recordings don’t unsettle politics in this vital U.S. ally of 78 million people, Erdogan’s new laws very well could. The legislation now being rushed through Parliament is widely viewed as Erdogan’s effort to control the corruption probe. Late Tuesday night, Parliament, where Erdogan’s Justice and Development party holds an absolute majority, gave final approval to a much-criticized bill that gives the government the right to block Internet content, subject to a court’s approval within three days, and gives it access to personal traffic data. Then on Wednesday President Abdullah Gul approved a controversial bill that gives Erdogan’s justice minister control over an agency that appoints judges and prosecutors and conducts investigations. Together with a bill now already approved by a parliamentary committee giving the state MIT intelligence service access to data held by the government, private institutions and courts upon the approval of one judge, the three bills appeared to be different ways to quash future corruption investigations. “These three laws together look like the government trying to arm itself against its critics and its opponents, in a way that restricts human rights,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This is reactive legislation, being rushed through…It is occurring at the time of a massive political fight, and a corruption scandal the government is trying to bury.” Even Gul, who’s a party ally of Erdogan, had deep misgivings on the law giving the government virtual control over the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. He said in a statement he had found 15 provisions of the original bill that were unconstitutional, but that several of them were fixed before it came to his desk. Those remaining should be addressed by Turkey’s constitutional court, he said. Among the most surprising revelations this week was that Erdogan’s conversations with his son – about where to stash the tens of millions of dollars in the homes of family members – were conducted on secure, government-issued telephones and were tapped by another agency of the government. The eavesdropping now appears to have been facilitated by staff at the government’s Scientific and Technological Research Council, known as Tubitek. Fikri Isik, the minister of science, industry and technology, announced Wednesday that two department heads had been dismissed and that five employees responsible for the encrypted telephones had been suspended. He noted that Erdogan had not requested an analysis of the alleged conversations with his son but said the institute was ready to do so if asked. At McClatchy’s request, Marpet, the managing principal of Guarded Risk, a Wilmington, Del., cyber analytics firm, examined the conversations purported to be between Erdogan and his son. Marpet, who has a background in law enforcement and has done work for the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia as well as testifying in Turkish criminal cases, said there were small sound “spikes” in the recording when one of the speakers mentioned a place name or an individual, but they could be annotations by whoever was monitoring the recording. Marpet said the audio levels were consistent in each call. The speaker said to be Erdogan had a more “pixilated” or mechanical sounding voice, while the speaker said to be Bilal sounded clearer throughout. This could be because of differences in the phones – pro-government newspapers identified them as CryptoPhones – or in the way they were monitored. Marpet said it was possible that Erdogan’s phone was being intercepted electronically, while Bilal’s phone might have had a listening device planted in the receiver. Based on the judgment of a Turkish-speaking McClatchy special correspondent that the two men’s voices sounded natural and that the question and answers flowed naturally, and the tone was appropriate for the conversation, “then I’m actually thinking it’s probably real,” Marpet said. Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/02/26/6192244/erdogan-recordings-appear-real.html#storylink=cpy
Bahraini police fire teargas and stun grenades during clashes with hundreds of protesters after the funeral of a young man who died in custody.
Tear gas and stun grenades used against stone-throwing protesters after funeral of young man who died in police custody.Police in Bahrain have fired tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of protesters throwing stones and petrol bombs in a Shia Muslim village after the funeral of a young man who died in custody, witnesses have said. The Gulf Arab nation, home to the US Fifth Fleet, has suffered low-level civil unrest since mass protests in 2011 led by majority Shias demanding reforms and a bigger share of power in the Sunni-led island kingdom.
indiatimes.comIn a shocking revelation, three men have confessed to a Saudi Arabia court of torturing and burying alive five Asian workers in 2010. According to a report in Arab News, the three men confessed in the Qatif general court on Wednesday of torturing five Asian workers — believed to be Indians — for hours and then burying them alive. The decomposed bodies of the five men were recovered from a farm in Safwa, a city in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, situated on the Gulf coast. The report claimed that the local police have arrested 25 men in connection with the brutal killings. The website quoted one of the accused, as saying: "I was driving around with a friend using drugs and alcohol when I received a call from another friend at around 10pm. My friend asked me to meet him immediately at a farm." "We reached the farm and saw five workers with their hands tied in the seating area. When the friend with me asked why they were tied, our host said that one of them had sexually harassed his sponsor's daughter and other women," the man told the court. "I saw that the five Indian workers were tied and unconscious, just before we went to another room to drink alcohol and smoke hashish. While we were drinking, I heard one of them screaming so I went out and slapped him in the face," Arab News quoted the man as saying. "We tied them again with ropes and adhesive tape so that they could not move," he added while describing in detail the horrific incident four years ago. The man said their host brought his pickup truck and the three loaded the workers onto it. They then dumped them into a 2.5-meter-deep hole," the man told the court. According to the report, some of the victims were identified by the investigators, who found engraved gold ring and residence cards, from the decaying remains. The decomposed bodies were found with ropes around their arms and legs and their mouths filled with cotton and covered with duct tape, it said.
RAMPANT GUN VIOLENCE The rampant U.S. gun culture breeds violence that results in the death of 11,000 Americans every year. The report cites figures from the FBI that state firearms were used in 69.3 percent of the nation's murders, 41 percent of robberies, and 21.8 percent of aggravated assaults. In 2013, 137 people were killed in 30 mass murder events (four or more deaths each). A rampage in the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C. left 12 people dead, according to the report. UNEMPLOYMENT AND HOMELESSNESS "The U.S. still faces a grave employment situation with its unemployment rate still high," the report says. Unemployment for low-income families has topped 21 percent. The homeless population in the U.S. has climbed 16 percent from 2011 to 2013. There are also many child laborers in the agricultural sector in the U.S. and their physical and mental health is seriously compromised, the report says. Friday's report was the 15th such annual report published by China in response to U.S. attacks.
The agreement between Moscow and Kiev on the presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine were signed by the presidents of the two countries in Kharkov on April 21, 2010All of Russia’s actions in the Crimea are within the framework of the agreement with Ukraine on the Black Sea Fleet base, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said on Friday, when asked by the media about the presence of Russian troops in the peninsula. “We have an agreement with Ukraine on the presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, and we have been acting within the framework of those agreements,” Churkin said after a discussion of the Ukrainian issue in the UN Security Council on Friday. Earlier, the United States’ UN envoy Samantha Power and British envoy Mark Lyall Grant expressed concern over what they described as a build-up of Russian troops in the Crimea and urged Moscow to pull out its forces. The agreement between Moscow and Kiev on the presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine were signed by the presidents of the two countries in Kharkov on April 21, 2010.
http://www.voanews.com/ President Barack Obama has warned Moscow there will be costs if Russian troops intervene in Ukraine following reports that armed men, possibly Russians, have taken up positions in the Crimean region. Obama said at the White House the United States is deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements inside Ukraine. “It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws,” he said.
PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari presided over a meeting to review the Larkana Development Package here at Naudero House. CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MNA Faryal Talpur, Provincial Ministers Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani and Nisar Khuhro, MPs Mir Nadir Magsi, Mir Amir Magsi and government officials attended the meeting.
The world's eyes may have been focused on the breathtakingly fast political changes unfolding in Ukraine's capital Kiev this week, but it is the Crimean peninsula, where dozens of gunmen raised the Russian flag over parliament Thursday, that should now be the primary source of concern for Ukraine's fledgling government and world leaders. Crimea is an autonomous republic whose history has long been marred by political tension. Gifted to Ukraine by Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, its population is ethnic Russian by just over half and Ukrainian by a quarter, while more than ten percent are Crimean Tatars who are fiercely anti-Russian as a result of Joseph Stalin's repression of the group a half century ago.Russia's strategically important Black Sea naval fleet is hosted at Sevastopol, the region's largest city, an arrangement that controversially extended until 2042 by the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was last seen fleeing Kiev. His whereabouts are unknown.
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich pledges to fight for Ukraine. He addressed a press conference in southern Russia, appearing in public for the first time since he fled Kiev amid bloody riots. “No one has ousted me,” Yanukovich told reporters. “I had to leave Ukraine because of a direct threat to my life and the lives of my family.”
When asked if he feels ashamed of his actions, Yanukovich replied that he feels ashamed and sorry for “not having been able to stabilize the situations and stop the mayhem” in Ukraine. “I want to apologize to the Ukrainian people for what has happened in Ukraine and that I lacked strength to maintain stability.” Yanukovich also apologized to the Ukrainian riot police, Berkut, for having to “suffer” while doing their duty of maintaining peace and order. Police officers had to stand their ground while rioters set them on fire with petrol bombs, he reminded. Yanukovich stressed he had not given any order for police to shoot live fire until the rioters started using firearms, putting the officers’ lives under threat. According to Yanukovich, the early Ukrainian elections announced for May 25 are “illegitimate” and he will not take part in them. However, he said that he will “remain in politics.”
Crimea must remain a part of Ukraine while maintaining a broad autonomy, Yanukovich stressed. He ruled out any possibility that he will ask Russia for military help to resolve the situation there. Yanukovich said he understands the concerns of Crimeans, who want to “protect their homes and families” from “extremists.” When asked why he chose to leave Ukraine for Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovich said that he has “an old friend there,” who can provide him with a “temporary safe haven.” Yanukovich made it to Russia thanks to “patriotically-minded officers,” who helped to “save his life.” He has not met Russian President Vladimir Putin, but they have already talked over the phone. Yanukovich received a lot of questions on Russia’s role and possible actions in the Ukrainian crisis. While saying “it is not correct” to tell Moscow what to do, Yanukovich said he believes “Russia cannot abandon Ukraine to its fate and should use all possible means to prevent chaos and terror in its neighboring country.” Yanukovich also said he was “categorically against any intervention into Ukraine and breach of its territorial integrity.”
BLOOMbERG.COMSupervisor Atta Mohammad watches the cranes swivel and workers at the Naibabad freight terminal rush to unload wheat and construction material from Uzbekistan that’s just arrived on Afghanistan’s only railroad. The cargo has to be transferred to trucks to reach the rest of the country through the icy passes in the Hindu Kush mountains that loom over the featureless desert because the 75-kilometer (47-mile) railway ends a short distance from the terminal near the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif. The short stretch of track is intended to be the start of 3,600 kilometers of rail that will be the key to unlock Afghanistan’s mineral riches, including iron, copper and gold. In 2010, the Pentagon estimated that Afghan minerals charted by the U.S. Geological Survey were worth some $1 trillion. In 2011, the Afghan government put the estimate at $3 trillion. “Actually it’s $30 trillion -- the U.S. knocked a zero off to keep our assets a secret,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Indian investors in December. He offered no support for his estimate, and investment in Afghan mining so far has been led by groups from China and India, not the U.S. All the projections of Afghan riches suffer from the same weakness. They all assume that the minerals can be mined, transported and exported from a country ravaged by decades of warfare and facing growing uncertainty as the U.S. and its allies prepare to withdraw their combat forces by the end of this year.
Afghanistan’s 25-year plan envisions rail connecting the country with existing lines beyond its borders, Ahmad Shah Wahid, Afghanistan’s deputy minister for public works, said in an interview in his Kabul office. The routes would connect to the north with lines running across Central Asia from China to Europe, to the east and south to Pakistan, and to the west to Iran.The biggest impediment is finding the billions of dollars needed to build such a national rail network. “Railways are absolutely vital” to carry landlocked Afghanistan’s mineral riches “to the neighboring countries that have access to ports” to reach world markets, said Joji Tokeshi, country director in Kabul for the Asian Development Bank, which provided a $165 million grant that covered 97 percent of the cost of building the short railway from Uzbekistan to Mazar-e-Sharif. “But it’ll take a huge investment that cannot be done by the government alone or donors alone,” he said. Even if the money can be raised, trains, tracks and trestles would be vulnerable to sabotage by the Taliban and other militants armed with improvised explosive devices, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons as Afghan forces take over from the U.S. and allies. Trackside Police “There are a lot of challenges they need to overcome, both in terms of security in building it and in maintaining the rail line,” said U.S. Army Major Timothy Christensen, director of a rail advisory team that’s assisting the Afghans. The Afghan government, Christensen said, has stationed 470 police officers to protect the track that passes the Naibabad freight terminal, which is about 0.02 percent the length of the proposed national rail network. The American team has recommended that villages along rail routes be given a stake in their safety by developing projects that benefit the communities, Christensen said in a phone interview from Kabul. Security “is a challenge, but it’s not insurmountable, and you try to mitigate it the best you can.” Indian Investors So far, the Afghan government’s strategy has been to require companies that win mine-extraction bids to build railroads connecting their mines with networks in neighboring Iran and Pakistan. An $11 billion iron ore project in Hajigak, in Bamiyan province 100 kilometers west of Kabul, has been delayed by a group led by Steel Authority of India Ltd., a company controlled by India’s government, in part because of differences over who should pay for a railroad. The original plan envisaged an 800-megawatt power plant, power transmission lines and a 900-kilometer rail line from Hajigak to Zahedan, Iran, to carry the ore to the Iranian port of Chabahar on the Persian Gulf, about 690 kilometers south. Although the Indian group remains committed to the mining project, “we expect the Afghan government to provide us some basic facilities, such the rail network connecting the mine to the port,” C.S. Verma, chairman of the New Delhi-based Steel Authority, said in an e-mail. “We plan to go in a phased manner and make the investments over a period of 10-12 years.” Domestic Needs The Indian group also has considered cutting back its investment amid the security risks, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified. Saying the Indian investors aren’t retreating from their longterm commitment, Abdul Jamil Hares, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of mines, said in an interview that investors want to start by supplying Afghanistan’s domestic needs of about 1.5 million metric tons of steel a year. When Chinese investors won a bid to mine copper at Aynak, 50 kilometers south of Kabul, they pledged to lay a stretch of rail, according to Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal. “When Aynak comes into operation, we definitely expect there’ll be a portion of railway from Aynak to Torkham or Peshawar” on the border with Pakistan, Zakhilwal said in an interview in Kabul. Buddhist Artifacts Seven years after the investors, led by the state-owned China Metallurgical Group, won with a $3 billion bid, the project is mired in delays. In addition to security threats, the company has had to wait to allow excavation of Buddhist artifacts found at the site. Then surveys last year found that Afghanistan lacks the reserves of phosphates necessary to smelt copper, said Hares, the deputy minister of mines. “It doesn’t mean they’re not willing to process inside the country,” Hares said of the Chinese. “We’re in negotiations to find a way,” he said, without elaborating. Other projects have been delayed because the Afghan parliament has yet to approve changes in the country’s mining law that would let investors secure exploration and extraction rights for minerals in a single bid, eliminating uncertainty for investors, Hares said. Even if the law is passed, “without having proper infrastructure we cannot extract any minerals from Afghanistan,” said Hares, who said foreign governments and aid agencies also are being asked to help build railroads. Design Work Aid agencies including the Asian Development Bank, as well the U.S. advisory team and its Afghan counterparts, have started design work on a 336-kilometer rail line that will begin at Aquina in Turkmenistan and pass through Sheberghan and Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan to connect with Tajikistan in the northeast, Christensen said. “As I look at the length of the track, the terrain that must be overcome and the bridges that will need to be built, I would expect the cost to be around $1 billion,” Christensen said. “But we will have to wait for the detailed engineering” that has begun “before we have a better estimate.” The Turkmenistan-Afganistan-Tajikistan line would connect oil and gas fields in northern Afghanistan to a transport network, Christensen said. Work has yet to begin on a southern line linking Afghanistan’s minerals to ports in Iran and Pakistan, he said. Hindu Kush Rough calculations show that the cost of a nationwide railway would run from $2 million a kilometer on flatlands to as much as $17 million a kilometer along the Salang Pass that cuts through the Hindu Kush, said Wahid, the deputy minister. That doesn’t include the cost of locomotives and freight cars. Even when donors invest to build railway or roads, Afghanistan doesn’t have the resources to maintain them, Wahid said. Then there’s the need for Afghans to learn how to operate a railway. Unlike its neighbors Pakistan and India, whose railways were built by the U.K. during colonial rule, railroad construction in Afghanistan never got started. While Afghans study how to operate and maintain a railway, operations on the 75-kilometer line to the Naibabad terminal are managed by Sogdiana Trans, an offshoot of Uzbekistan’s state-owned railway company, which built the line in 2011. On the wind-blown desert where the Naibabad terminal is located, trucks line up on a gravel road abutting the concrete-topped unloading area where bundles of iron rods for construction are piled up. Like the rail line, the terminal is a work in progress, said Mohammad, the terminal supervisor. “Because of the limits of the space here, so once 50 workers come, they are able to unload 30 to 35 wagons and load them into trucks and deliver it to other parts of the country,” he said. That translates into 80 truckloads of cargo a day bound for the rest of the country.
Al Qaeda's Afghanistan leader is laying the groundwork to relaunch his war-shattered organisation once the United States and international forces withdraw from the country, as they have warned they will do without a security agreement from the Afghan government, US officials say. Farouq Al Qahtani Al Qatari has been cementing local ties and bringing in small numbers of experienced militants to train a new generation of fighters, and US military and intelligence officials say they have increased drone and jet missile strikes against him and his followers in the mountainous eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. The objective is to keep him from restarting the large training camps that once drew hundreds of followers before the US-led war began. The officials say the counter terrorism campaign a key reason the Obama administration agreed to keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014 could be jeopardised by the possibility of a total pullout. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said the number of Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan has risen but is not much higher than the several hundred or so the US has identified in the past. ''I think most are waiting for the US to fully pull out by 2014,'' he said. The administration would like to leave up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after combat operations end on Dec 31, to continue training Afghan forces and conduct counter terrorism missions. But without the agreement that would authorize international forces to stay in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has threatened to pull all troops out, and Nato forces would follow suit. After talking to Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week, Obama ordered the Pentagon to begin planning for the so-called zero option. US military and intelligence officials say unless they can continue to fly drones and jets from at least one air base in Afghanistan either Bagram in the north or Jalalabad in the east Al Qahtani and his followers could eventually plan new attacks against US targets, although experts do not consider him one of the most dangerous Al Qaeda leaders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss publicly the secret counter terrorism campaign or intelligence. Administration officials have hoped that the US could eventually wind down counter terrorism operations like drone strikes in the region after reducing the Al Qaeda network, leaving local forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan to control the remnants. But Al Qaeda is not weakened enough yet, and US officials have testified that the inexperienced Afghan forces aren't ready to take over the task unaided. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said this week that ''as the possibility of a full withdrawal has grown in Afghanistan,'' the administration was ''undertaking a methodical review of any US capabilities that may be affected and developing strategies to mitigate impacts.'' ''The United States will take the steps necessary to combat terrorism and protect our interests,'' she added. Some administration officials have said Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is less of a threat than when the war began, estimated to be as many as several hundred forced to shelter in the remotest part of the country. They say Al Qahtani is so remote, he is nearly irrelevant to the larger Al Qaeda movement. Two US intelligence officials say his group has been so cut off that it has been forced to rely on the Taliban for funding and weapons at times, where it used to be the other way around. Those officials are far more concerned about Al Qaeda's new offshoots fighting in the Syrian civil war. ''It's really hard to get to New York City from northern Kunar or southern Nuristan'' where Al Qahtani is based, said Douglas Ollivant, a former senior US military adviser in eastern Afghanistan, now with the New American Foundation. ''We do want to keep them bottled up there,'' but he said that's something Afghan forces can do on their own. ''The Afghan forces are not capable of going up there and hunting them, but they are capable of containing them,'' the former US military officer said. Other experts see Al Qahtani and his kind as the main reason to push for at least a minimal security force in Afghanistan. ''There's an influx of Jihadist groups not massive now active in Afghanistan,'' said Seth Jones of the Washington-based Rand Corp who once worked for US Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. He listed the most dangerous as Al Qaeda; the Pakistan Taliban; Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks; and Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami, which has strong links to Al Qaeda. ''Not having US forces in Afghanistan would embolden these groups and be counterproductive for US national security,'' he said. Those tracking Al Qahtani say he has survived by following some of the same rules that helped Osama bin Laden avoid capture for so many years: He stays off cellphones and radios to hide from spy satellites and airborne radars, instead using couriers or face-to-face meetings, and he stays on the move. When he travels to populated areas, he stays among women and children, which he knows the US will avoid striking. The local tribesmen do not aid the US effort, nor does the barren, mountainous terrain where incoming raiders are visible for miles. "When helicopters went in, you can hear the whistles go up," from the villages, echoing across the valleys and sending militants fleeing for cover, one of the US military officials said. The officials say US special operators have all but given up capturing Al Qahtani and have traded fruitless and dangerous helicopter-borne raids for air strikes by drone and jet, averaging three to five a week. To their knowledge, they have never come close to striking him. The reports give added ammunition to a comprehensive intelligence analysis on Afghanistan completed in December. The report predicted the country will largely disintegrate along ethnic lines after the US departs, with the central government controlling Kabul and a few other key cities.
Three militants including the one key-commander were killed and three sustained injuries in a shootout with the security forces in Tehsil Bara of Khyber Agency, Geo News reported. Security sources said that two security personnel were also injured in the excahnce of firing with the terrorists. The motorbike riders were signaled to stop at Shalobar in Tehsil Bara, but they opened fire, which the security forces retaliated that killed three militants and three others sustained injuries, while two security personnel were also injured, sources close to security forces said. Among the dead, a key commander of Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), Memon Afridi is also included, sources further said.
The Baloch Hal
By Adnan AamirIn Pakistan, history is often distorted in textbooks and many intellectuals do the same to prove their arguments. Hassan Nisar is no exception. In Pakistani media, he is the most vocal person who laments this practice and often gives lengthy lectures on talk shows that there is no such thing as Muslim Ummah and Islam has been hijacked by mullahs and so on. Unfortunately, when it comes to Balochistan, he did the same for which he vehemently criticizes others – i.e. distortion of facts. He wrote a column in a leading Urdu daily of Pakistan that was more like a propaganda handout than a column by an independent and respected mainstream columnist of Pakistan. Hassan Nisar is of the point of view that much is being said and written on Balochistan without realization of facts. So he made a modest effort to highlight the basic facts of Balochistan that have remained hidden otherwise. Balochistan is not a subject that finds a mention in either columns or TV program of Hassan Nisar. Whatever transpires in the restive province, including the gross human rights violations such as the discovery of mass graves, is no news for Mr. Nisar. Yet, he considers it his duty to enlighten the people of Pakistan about the “reality” of Balochistan conflict. Hassan Nisar writes in his column that he visited Quetta several times in order to appear in court hearings. During his visits, he met a lot of local people in airport lounges and Serena hotel. That’s how he got “first-hand” information about Balochistan, which he presents as more authentic than information shared by those who regularly cover Balochistan or the common people who live there. This is an intellectual dishonesty of mythical proportion and coming from the pen of Hassan Nisar, who criticizes others for distorting the facts, makes it even a bigger moral crime. Balochistan is the most ignored issue in Pakistani media. And whenever highlighted, it’s mostly for disinformation purpose like the column of Hassan Nisar. The incorrect demographic figures about Balochistan are often used to present a false case that Baloch are not in majority in the province. Hassan Nisar has followed the same practice to present a compelling case vis-à-vis Baloch population of Balochistan. His readers will happily buy all the incorrect facts written by Hassan Nisar because the source of their knowledge about Balochistan is disinforming articles written by right wing leaning, so-called intellectuals of Pakistan. Hassan Nisar has however failed to mention that Brahvi and Baloch are the same and inseparable in this argument. Hassan Nisar has quoted the number of members of different Baloch militant groups being just a few hundreds. Even the IG of FC has quoted the number of Baloch militants being between 5,000 to 10,000. What’s the source of Hassan Nasir’s information about these figures? First-hand information from common people sitting in airport lounges, gatherings of like-mined intellectuals in drawing rooms in Lahore or just figment of imagination. Surely, the source of his information can be anything but a reliable source. He has also used the cliché that foreign elements are involved in Balochistan insurgency and also named some countries. Again, without any reliable source of information to support his claims. Mr. Nisar often highlights the trivial matters relating to Lahore in his TV program but even the biggest issues in Balochistan escape his attention. He is not bothered by the sense of deprivation in Balochistan, the historical Voice of Baloch Missing Persons long march and discovery of Mass graves. But he vividly sees the foreign hands and hints to write about it in future. This sort of attitude can be anything but reasonable for an otherwise well-respected columnist. This column has exposed the progressive credentials of Hassan Nisar and unveiled the real character that is hidden behind the façade of his intellectual character. Those who have any regard for rationality will ignore the pearls of wisdom coming from Hassan Nisar about Balochistan as sheer propaganda. As far as the fans of Hassan Nisar are concerned who staunchly believe in the text of Pakistan Studies books, they will make him their new hero and share his columns to prove that foreign elements are creating disturbance in Balochistan. His factually incorrect column has proved a point that even the most liberal columnists, intellectuals and writers become hate-mongering propaganda masters when it comes to Balochistan. That’s an inconvenient truth which has gained strength after the publication of his column.
Relatives of rebels, activists and ordinary people who have gone missing in a Pakistani province have appealed to the UN for help after walking across Pakistan for months to draw attention to their plight. Dozens of those who say their family members were abducted or killed reached Islamabad on Thursday after a 2,300km walk from Balochistan which started last October - a rare act of dissent by the often frightened relatives of the abductees. The group of about 50 people said they would submit a petition to the UN asking for help and to draw attention to their problem. Bodies of hundreds of pro-independence rebels have been found across the Balochistan province and many more have gone missing in the past several years, in a little-reported conflict in a remote corner on Pakistan's Iranian border. Baluch activists say the bodies are evidence that the army is pursuing a systematic "kill and dump" campaign to crush pro-independence dissent - a charge the army has repeatedly denied. "Finally we have decided to go to the UN and make our voice heard about the atrocities against the Baluch people who are being picked up and whose bodies are being dumped on a daily basis," Mama Qadeer Baluch, the group's 72-year-old leader, said. The group has made appeals to the UN and other international organisations in the past, but with little success. Delegations have in recent years visited Balochistan on fact-finding missions to investigate the claims.Threats and abuses' Speaking under a stormy Islamabad sky, Baluch told Reuters news agency his group faced pressure and often abuse from some people they encountered in towns and villages across Pakistan, a testament to broader tensions between the Baluch and other ethnic groups. "In Punjab, threats and abuses were hurled into our faces," said Baluch, wearing a traditional turban and white robes. Neither the government nor the army were immediately available for comment on Thursday. But they have always denied allegations of widespread human-rights violations in Balochistan, branding separatists as terrorists and alleging they are backed by India. Baluch, founder of the advocacy group Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, said they set off from Quetta on October 27, 2013, and have been on foot ever since. Groups of young men wearing air pollution masks to conceal their identities have joined the group from nearby cities to protect it from possible abuse or violence, as the procession reached the outskirts of Islamabad on Thursday. Recalling an incident in an area called Sarai Alamgir in the district of Gujrat, Baluch said his group was intercepted by a car carrying four men who shouted abuse at them. "We don't have any hope for the government of Pakistan and its Supreme Court. We have been protesting for the last five years, we have set up protest camps in Karachi, Quetta and visited Islamabad several times," Baluch said. "But ... the government ... is not listening to us," he said. "When we are not being heard by the government, it is natural that we should knock on the other door."
Balochs make history in search for loved ones, reach Rawalpindi after walking more than 2,000 kilometres from Quetta
Writing history as they set on foot to Islamabad from Quetta three months ago, the families and supporters of the people reportedly whisked away by intelligence agencies from various parts of the restive Balochistan province, reached Rawalpindi on Thursday, travelling more than 2,000 kilometres in adverse weather conditions and intimidation by government agencies.
www.dailytimes.comPakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo and Secretary Tanvir Ashraf Kaira have strongly criticised the privatisation policy and said that the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) government is obliging capitalists by privatising national assets. According to a press note issued here on Thursday, the PPP Punjab head held a meeting of the party office bearers from district Mundi Bahaudin and expressed solidarity with labour unions and human rights organizations those are planning to protest against loot sale in the garb of privatisation by the government. He said that it was a tyrannical move to oblige the crony capitalists at the expense of the millions of families whose subsistence will be at stake due to the resultant massive redundancies besides negative blowback on the society. Wattoo said that the economic murder of the poor labourers would not be allowed come what may adding that instead of addressing the management issues of the state enterprises the government had embarked upon lining the pockets of the elite. PPP leader that the PPP and its leadership would take up this issue at all forums to scuttle the move which was grossly at variance with the social justice and human rights. He assured the representatives of the trade unions that the PPP would not lag behind in the struggle to save the national assets going into the control of known favourites of the incumbent government.
Imparting sex education to girls, that too in Johi, a conservative part of Sindh, is indeed a commendable act on the part of the Village Shadabad Organisation that has taken the initiative. The girls’ parents too need to be appreciated for brushing aside any taboo attached to the idea as do the teachers tearing down the walls of inhibition to teach their wards about sex. Discussing sex has been considered by conservative opinion a moral perversion. More often than not in such circles, sex is reduced either to prurient whispers or portrayed as a procreative but ugly necessity. Another abnormal school of thought considers even social interaction between girls and boys as the equivalent of sexual encounters. This thought process has produced a suffocating atmosphere wherein free mingling of girls and boys is strongly opposed and any such get together is dealt with harshly. If the community to which the ‘errant’ youngsters belong is tribal, the outcome is usually for the couple to face death as a punishment. On the other hand lack of sex education makes girls vulnerable to harassment and even exploitation, which they may in their innocence initially fail to understand and later, out of shame and fear, keep silent about. Even if a girl comprehends what is happening to her, lack of confidence or awareness about her rights may prevent her from being able to thwart any unwanted advances. Sex education of girls therefore, if carried out in a proper and serious manner, arms them with knowledge that can help them cope in a male-dominated society. A total of eight schools with 700 girls enrolled are being imparted sex education as part of their regular curriculum in Johi. Using modern teaching techniques such as flashcards, the students are shown visuals of how they could be harassed and ways they should respond to it. The most important part of this activity is the realisation given to the girls that they could be subjected to marital rape, a subject we choose to sweep under the carpet. This awareness would give a sense of ownership to women over their lives. Many women in our society spend an insipid life for no other reason than the belief that marriage means surrendering sovereignty over oneself. Unfortunately the government has been loath to allow sex education in Pakistan. Recently the Lahore Grammar School’s initiative to this end has been cut short. The All Pakistan Private School Federation’s president has called it unnecessary knowledge. Even the Sindh government expressed surprise on hearing of the Johi project. In view of the situation of women in Pakistan, it is imperative that the government seriously consider imparting sex education to girls and institutionalise it through legislation so that no adverse results emerge, as is feared by traditional circles.
There is a sudden resurgence in Saudi friendliness for Pakistan. Never in the past had so many Saudi dignitaries descended on Pakistan within such a short period. There are reasons behind the activity. It is widely understood that the Saudis prefer the PMLN government to the previous PPP administration. From the narrow sectarian perspective that characterises the Kingdom, the one is Sunni-led and therefore friendly, while the other was a Shia-led and hence hostile. Despite the sectarian differences which are used to define relations with countries and parties, Ryadh had not gone beyond maintaining normal relations during the initial months of Nawaz Sharif’s take over. The change has more recent causes. It all started with Iran, seen by Saudi as the source of all evil in the region, when it struck a historic nuclear deal with the US and five European powers in November 2013. The agreement was a sequel to the first ever telephonic contact between the presidents of US and Iran. The deal opened the way for rolling back the crippling sanctions on Iran and improvement of its ties with the west. The Saudi government considered this a stab in the back by the US, the kingdom’s patron for five decades. The royalty, which had so far relied on the US support wile confronting Iran and acting as a regional hegemon, thought it was time to reshape its security doctrine. The Saudi government was already unhappy with the outcome of the Iraq war. It was simply shocking for it to see the so far persecuted Shia community holding sway over Iraqi politics and electing a government having friendly ties with Iran. The idea that this could encourage the suppressed Shia community in the kingdom itself to put up demands for lifting curbs on their religious practices was enough to send shivers down the administration’s spine. What added to the worries was the sudden realisation that the Shia in Saudi Arabia constitute majority in the kingdom’s oil rich region as they do in neighbouring Bahrain . Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi financier and a member of the House of Saud, told the Wall Street Journal: “Nawaz Sharif, specifically, is very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan.” As the Saudis were recovering from the shock came the so called Arab spring leading to the overthrow of some of the totalitarian regimes. In Egypt Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial rule had suited the Saudis. Like them Mubarak too was opposed to democracy and reforms. His overthrow came as an unexpected shock. The Saudi royalty cursed the US which despite close relations with Mobarak had finally accepted the regime change instead of working with Riyadh to overthrow it. As Gen el Sissi overthrew the Morsi government, Saudi Arabia and wealthy Gulf states lined up behind the bloody coup. They promised to provide a combined 12 billion dollars in financial assistance and offered to bail out the military regime in case the west refused to finance it. The demurring on the part of Washington was seen as another unfriendly act. Exceptionally tough language was directed against Washington’s condemnation of the coup by King Abdullah, who declared that “the kingdom stands …against all those who try to interfere with its domestic affairs” and charged that criticism of the army crackdown amounted to helping the “terrorists”. America’s change of policy on Syria was another disappointment to Riyadh. Washington, which had first encouraged the religious militants sent in to fight the pro Iran government of Bashar al Assad, started having second thoughts after the Al Qaeda related groups assumed the dominant position in the resistance. Finally belying expectation of its Saudi allies the US suddenly decided to look for a peaceful resolution of the issue of chemical weapons. This was seen as another unkind cut. It is worrisome however that the PML-N government fails to realise the possible consequences of the bear hug for Pakistan. The sudden shift in Pakistan’s policy of non-intervention in Syrian affairs announced to please Saudia Arabia indicates that the Sharif administration is willing to play in the hands of the Saudi government. One expects the opposition in parliament to seek details from the government about commitments made to the Saudi delegation during the talks. The new Saudi regional defence doctrine is focused on resisting Iranian influence in the Middle East and maintaining Saudi influence in the region through interventions. Riyadh wants to use its petrodollars to fulfill the ambition of becoming the Middle East hegemon. The first Saudi choice for a possible collaborator is Pakistan which is a nuclear power and has the seventh largest army in the world in terms of active troops. The Saudi dream is to discover and promote another Saddam Hussain to fight Iran on its behalf and someone that may help the Saudis continue as before on misadventures in the region through violent terrorist groups. The list of Saudi misadventures is long and painful. Along with Kuwait, Riyadh financed Saddam Hussein’s eight-year war against Iran. When an overconfident Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, they pleaded for a US invasion to drive him back. After US forces invaded once more in 2003 to overthrow Hussein, the Saudis backed Sunni groups in Iraq. In Syria Riyadh has bankrolled militants including al Qaeda to overthrow Bashar al Asad considered as Iran’s ally. The Saudis back Sunni forces in Lebanon against the pro-Iran Hezbollah. They support Sunni extremists in Iraq who keep the pot of civil war boiling to bring down the Shiite majority rule. Orgnisations like Pakistan’s Lashkr-e Jhangvi get sustenance from Saudi Arabia and attack the Shia community in pursuit of the anti-Iran agenda. The Saudi crown prince jubilantly announced in Islamabad that both countries had agreed to deepen their defence cooperation and support each other’s position on regional issues, including Syria and Afghanistan. Speaking at a media conference after completing his engagements, the visiting minister said: “Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy commonality of views and understanding on regional peace.” The Saudi administration would like Pakistan to support and protect its proxies like Jundullah and Jaishul Adl which continue to launch attacks inside Iran. In the latest incident the latter abducted four Iranian guards and allegedly took them inside Pakistan. The idea was that in case Iran retaliated it would lead to a confrontation between the two countries which suits Riyadh. Islamabad must avoid repeating past mistakes. No Pakistani military mission abroad should be used directly or indirectly against local dissidents or another friendly country. In 1970 Brigadier Ziaul Haq played a key role in planning the offensive against the Palestinians in Jordan that led to what is known as Black September. Zia was at the time leading a training mission in Jordan. More recently retired Pakistani security personnel were employed by Bahrain to quell the popular and widespread agitation for reforms by local Shia population. Both incidents caused resentment in the Arab world against Pakistan. The Saudi dream is to discover and promote another Saddam Hussain to fight Iran on its behalf and someone that may help the Saudis continue as before on misadventures in the region through violent terrorist groups. Pakistan, which is already facing India on one border and Afghanistan and Taliban on the other, can ill afford to turn Iran into an enemy and thus make a border which has been peaceful since 1947 into another security nightmare. The country is already finding it hard to cope with the results produced by Saudi funded seminaries and clerics in the form of terrorist networks. With increasing Saudi influence on government policies more seminaries of the sort propagating against democracy and encouraging militancy are likely to be created. Similarly the country cannot afford the repetition of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s transfer of sensitive technology to other countries. One expects the opposition in parliament to seek details from the government about commitments made to the Saudi delegation during the talks. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi financier and a member of the House of Saud, told the Wall Street Journal: “Nawaz Sharif, specifically, is very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan.” Only after the details of the agreements become public will it be possible to determine the truth or otherwise of the claim by the insider.Islamabad must avoid repeating mistakes of the past