Thursday, March 20, 2014
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, consisting of 10 names, including: House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator J. McCain; and advisers to President Obama D. Pfeiffer and C. Atkinson.These officials, along with another five named by the Foreign Ministry, are banned from entering the country. The move comes in response to US sanctions imposed against Russian officials after the March-16 referendum in Crimea, which Washington considered “illegitimate.” “In response to sanctions imposed by the US Administration on 17 March against a number of Russian officials and deputies of the Federal Assembly as a “punishment” for support of the referendum in Crimea, the Russian foreign Ministry announces the introduction of reciprocal sanctions against a similar number of US officials and lawmakers,” reads the statement published on the Foreign Ministry’s website. The Ministry reiterates that Russia has “repeatedly” stressed using sanctions is a “double-edged thing” and it will have a “boomerang” effect against the US itself. “Treating our country in such way, as Washington could have already ascertained, is inappropriate and counterproductive,” the statement said.
President Barack Obama imposes further sanctions against prominent Russians and clears the way for possible sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy in response to Moscow's seizure of the Crimea region from Ukraine.
Thousands of angry Pakistani protesters have strongly criticized an ongoing visit by Bahraini King Hamad Al Khalifa to their country. The protest was organized by the Majlis Wahdat ul-Muslimeen, which is the country’s largest Islamic organization. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the Al Khalifa regime, and urged Islamabad to remember the Bahraini King’s role in the killing of many Shia Muslims during the uprising there. The protesters also called on the government not to expand its ties with the Persian Gulf monarchy. Manama has been recruiting former soldiers and policemen from Pakistan at a steady rate to strengthen the government's forces. Pakistani and Saudi forces have played a major rule in suppressing anti-government protests in Bahrain since the beginning of unrest in the Persian Gulf country. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has repeatedly said that the Pakistani recruits have behaved with a heavy hand toward demonstrators. 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.
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama arrives in Beijing on her week-long maiden visit to China, along with her mother and two daughters
The PPP government signed a binding contract with Iran and the PML-N vowed that they would hold to the contractual obligations and see the pipeline finished by the stipulated deadline of the 1st of January, 2015. A failure to complete it within this time- frame would have resulted in a daily penalty of $1 million, but Iran realised that the expectation would only be met with failure and waived the amount. Nine months remain, and the government is doing nothing but shifting its feet and making convoluted statements that can be likened to those of an elementary school student who has not done her homework. Iran has not given up hope though. Time and again, the country has relaxed its policies against us, even when it is not bound to do so. They have proposed to extend the timeframe by three more years, provided that Pakistan displays its commitment to the project by actually starting construction work. To make this more appealing, they have even started handing out business visas to potential exporters. Our government has responded by saying that this will be discussed when Nawaz visits Iran. When exactly that meeting will take place is still not determined. An expansion of regional trade was one of the many promises that the PML-N made before coming into power. However, the country is not ‘regional’ enough for Nawaz Sharif, it seems. For him, geographical proximity is not a concern, and his friends in the Middle East have somehow taken precedence over our neighbours and the promises made. Yes, $1.5 billion was ‘gifted’ to us, but is such an enormous policy shift justifiable? The IP pipeline is one of the cheapest methods to import gas, and yet, gravely enough, the project has taken a backseat.
Women’s rights in Afghanistan are under threat, especially as foreign troops prepare to leave. Expert Humaira Rasuli demands the improvement of the situation be a precondition for future aid to Kabul.NATO troops are set to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year. One of the main reasons given for the US-led invasion in 2001 was the protection of Afghan women's rights. How have these rights developed so far? Since the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghan women's rights have expanded significantly. Under the constitution, gender equality is protected and women are free to seek education and work. Today we have women serving in different positions in the government, ranging from ministers to police officers. There are also many women running their own businesses and millions of girls are back in school. Moreover, rape has been criminalized for the first time under the Elimination of Violence against Women Decree (EVAW). There are a lot of achievements that we are proud of, but unfortunately these gains are not sustainable and they are still contested every day. What are the main issues faced by Afghan women today? There is no clear idea of what will happen to women's rights after 2014, as it is still unclear who will form the next government and whether the national security forces will be able to protect the country. Everyday women become more and more scared and concerned because not only are the troops withdrawing, but also the funds are diminishing, leading to a lack of jobs. The situation is very complicated and we are not only concerned over a possible return of the Taliban and the growth of conservatism in society. We are also worried about the lack of rule of law, good governance and economic opportunities in the country. We are not that hopeful of continuing our achievements. How do you feel about these developments? Nobody can predict what will happen. It depends on the new government and on the responsibility of the international community. Germany is expected to reduce its troops, but it will also expand its civil development support, which is something we welcome. Our achievements have only been possible with the support from international community. We now want it to intervene and pressurize the Afghan government to ensure Kabul's commitment to international law and conventions. If the international community sets conditions and continues to explicitly defend the equal rights of women, it will be like a dream coming true for Afghan civil society. Germany's new development strategy for Afghanistan contains conditions for financial help. However, no separate condition was set for women's rights. The issue is only mentioned as a factor of good governance, but is this enough? We were expecting gender equality and women's rights to be cross-cutting issues in the strategy and a separate thematic area. It is a part of good governance and therefore highlights democratization and the improvement of women's rights. However, we expected more. Another concern is that most of the international donors are planning to spend 80 percent of their funds through the Afghan government. This is worrisome, because the Afghan national priority program is not covering all of the issues the civil society is working on, especially women's rights. 2014 is set to be a crucial year for the Afghan people, as the presidential elections are set to be held on April 5. What do you expect from the new government? It will not be an easy year, but we are optimistic. Many think that the presidential elections will be a fundamental step towards the future, but we have so far not seen any specific strategies by the candidates. There is not much trust, that a new president will bring change. We as a civil society organization do not focus on who will run the government, but our priority is human rights, which have to be respected in the legal framework and also in the society. Regarding the withdrawal of the troops, we hope that the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States will be signed soon, because it gives us reassurance that the international community will extend their support.
https://www.shiitenews.comA Shia notable embraced martyrdom due to firing of Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba in Khairpur. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that notorious Yazidi takfiri terrorists of ASWJ, renamed version of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, opened fire upon Mir Manzoor Talpur at Asgharia Chowk Panj Hatti area of Khairpur. He embraced martyrdom on the spot. It is relevant to add here that scores of Shia supporters and members of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen were injured in Yazidi terrorist attack on same spot when they were writing slogans for Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah (PBUH) Conference. Khairpur was a princely state of Shia Muslims and Shia dynasty of “Mirs” ruled this state. Now, it is part of Pakistan under an agreement by Mirs and Khairpur’s official name is Khairpur Mirs. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of Mir Maznoor Talpur and demanded stern action to eliminate the terrorists.
http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has assured the minorities of Pakistan that nobody will be allowed to spoil them and the PPP will guard every citizen of the country. The PPP head, in a statement issued from Bilawal House said that his party had been struggling for an equal Pakistan where any kind of mistreatment and prejudice would have no space.”
Centre for Human Rights Education (CHRE), a human rights NGO working for religious tolerance and social harmony in Pakistan has condemned the attack on the temple and properties of the Hindu Community on in Larkana, Sindh.In a statement issued by Mr. Samson Salamat, CHRE’s Director expressed deep apprehension s over the attacks and shared unity with the Hindu Community. He also participated in the ceremony of Holi in Lahore to unit with the Hindu Community Pakistan. On the occasion he said that there have been attacks on the religious minorities’ very oftenlly across the Pakistan, but the government has not make any efforts for safeguard of the religious minorities of the country. If the government has taken some strict action against the extreme incidents and extremists responsible of these attacks on the minorities in the past, the Larkana incident would have never happened. Mr. Samson Salamat demanded that the latest happening against the Hindu Community should be treated as a wake-up call by the Federal and the provincial governments. He emphasized that an unbiased investigation should be conducted to reveal that why this situation was created brought to justice - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/chre-expressed-concerns-over-the-attacks-and-panic-against-hindu-community-in-sindh/#sthash.gPoEESa6.dpuf
Pakistan’s record of abuse of its dubious blasphemy law has been criticised by a report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. The country currently has 14 individuals known to be on death row while 19 others are serving life sentences on charges of committing blasphemy. Take for example the case of Aasia Bibi, accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad. The 45-year old Christian and mother of five says she was “falsely accused to settle an old score”. In jail since June 19, 2009, she has yet to have her appeal heard. Sameena Imtiaz, founder of Islamabad-based Peace Education Development Foundation (PEAD) says the commission’s findings are another “reminder of the religious intolerance that has permeated the society at large”. The hearing on March 17, before the Lahore High Court was “cancelled by order” yet again, informed her lawyer Mohammad Yasin Badar, who does not know the reason. “I got a text message from the court,” he said but surmises: “This is a very sensitive case.” But while Bibi may be only Pakistani woman to have been sentenced to death for blasphemy, she is not alone. In November 2013, a 72-year old homeopath doctor Masood Ahmed, a British national of the minority Ahmadi sect, which has been declared non-Muslim by the constitution, was jailed for discussing Islam — a criminal offence punishable with death under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). His conversation was filmed using a mobile phone in which he is seen reciting verses from the Quran. He has been released on bail. Then there is a mentally ill, 69-year-old British citizen, Mohammad Asghar, convicted in January this year, for sending letters proclaiming he was Prophet Mohammad. He remains in prison today. The original blasphemy law, drawn up by the British and amended in 1986 by then-dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, puts in place a mandatory death sentence under section 295-C. Imtiaz says since the amendment more than a 1,000 cases have been registered against Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and even Muslims. The National Commission for Justice and Peace has also been keeping a close watch on the numbers. According to them, from 1987 to 2013, as many as 1,281 people have been charged, of which 616 are Muslims, 474 Ahmadis, 171 Christians and 20 Hindus. Pakistan has never executed anyone under the offence but the between 1990 to 2012, several of the accused have been killed in associated vigilante violence outside the courts or in prisons. According to a report by the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies, since 1990, extra judicial murders of 52 accused have taken place. In its State of Human Rights in 2012 report, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan states: “Abuse of the blasphemy law continues to take a heavy toll in terms of human lives and harassment of citizens.” “The sheer number of cases registered in the past 25 years suggests the law has been widely abused,” concedes Imtiaz, adding that investigations have revealed that often the reasons for the abuse stem from personal enmity, property disputes, religious hatred. “Decades have passed but none of the governments that followed, found the courage to repeal the discriminatory laws that have contributed significantly to intolerance, violence, bigotry, hate and injustice in the country,” says Bushra Gohar, a senior member of the Awami National Party. A legislator in the last assembly, she had submitted a bill in the assembly for the repeal of the blasphemy clauses inserted by Zia ul Haq, but it was never tabled in the assembly.
Opposition leader Khurshid Shah said today that they would demand the government during upcoming meeting of National Assembly to take opposition into confidence on government-Taliban peace talks and foreign policy. While talking to journalists outside the parliament house, Khurshid Shah said that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has finalized its strategy for the next meeting of National Assembly and would ask the government to clarify their stance on foreign policy especially Syria, adding they will not object if the government calls for in camera briefings while clarifying their stance. Opposition leader said that questions have risen with the co-existence of bomb blasts amid ongoing peace talks between the government and Taliban. “Pakistan People’s Party has clear stance that peace must be prevailed in the country whether it be through dialogue or any other means.” Khurshid Shah said, “We welcome dollars but the masses must also be benefited with the aid as well.” He added that Chaudhry Nisar should clarify his statement regarding F-8 district court incident.
A group of suicide bombers attacked a police headquarter in the first district of Jalalabad city in eastern Nangarhar province. The incident took place early Thursday morning and several explosions have been reported so far, while the insurgents are still exchanging fire with the Afghan security forces. Nangarhar police chief has said that at least five militants have been killed during the clashes with the Afghan security forces. Unconfirmed reports suggest at least one person has been killed and 17 others have been injured following the clashes. In the meantime officials in provincial hospital have said at least 4 police officers have been killed and nearly 20 others have been injured during the clashes. Taliban militants group in Afghanistan claimed responsibility behind the incident.