Thursday, April 24, 2014

UN urges Manama to halt anti-Shia discrimination

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has censured the Bahraini government for discriminating against the country's Shia majority.
On Thursday, the UN body criticized the Persian Gulf kingdom after it expelled the representative of prominent Shia religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
"Targeting the most senior and influential Shia religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shia Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs," Heiner Bielefeldt said in a statement.
Bielefeldt added that the case of Sheikh Hussein al-Najati is a stark illustration of the broader mistreatment of Shia Muslims in Bahrain.
"I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion," Bielefeldt stated, adding, "He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts."
He also said the move appears to be a religiously-motivated discrimination and a gross violation of internationally-recognized human rights.
"Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms," Bielefeldt added.
Iran has also criticized the move after Manama decided to revoke Najati's citizenship. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called the move provocative and wrong.
Manama has launched a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-regime protesters since the uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa broke out across the kingdom in February 2011.

Video: President Obama plays soccer with a robot

Obama reassures Japan over Diaoyu Islands, but warns against provoking China

President reassures Tokyo that US would come to its aid, but warns against provoking China
US President Barack Obama yesterday treaded a diplomatic fine line as he reassured Japan that the US would come to its defence over territorial disputes with China, while also calling on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to escalate tensions. In an overt display of unity and reassurance, Obama reiterated a message that Japan has been hoping to hear - that the two countries' mutual defence treaty would cover the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that China calls the Diaoyus and Japan the Senkakus - but he also called on Beijing and Tokyo to resolve any disputes peacefully. "And let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan's security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku Islands," he said after a summit with Abe in Tokyo.
While stressing America's neutral position on sovereignty claims, Obama said Tokyo had historically administered the islands and this should not be "subject to change unilaterally", referring to China's efforts to establish an administrative and military presence in the area.
Until recent years, Washington had been reluctant to publicly clarify its position should a conflict break out between Beijing and Tokyo over the islands.
But in a written interview with Japan's Yomiuri Shimbum published on Wednesday, Obama became the first serving US president to say that the islands were covered by the alliance treaty.
Japanese media reported that the same statement was expected to be included in a joint declaration between the two leaders. The declaration was delayed as negotiators from both countries were still trying to narrow their differences over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
With tensions over the islands intensifying, the US has recently stepped up rhetorical support for Tokyo while criticising China for its "intimidation and coercion" in the disputed area.
But Obama yesterday called on his Japanese counterpart to refrain from further provocation and seek dialogue with China.
"I emphasised with Prime Minister Abe the importance of resolving this issue peacefully - not escalating the situation, keeping the rhetoric low, not taking provocative actions, and trying to determine how both Japan and China can work co-operatively together," Obama said.
Obama is using his tour of Asia to reassure allies as bitter territorial disputes continue with an increasingly assertive China.

China: Diaoyu Islands vow 'may backfire'

By Zhang Yunbi
The PLA is fully capable of safeguarding China's Diaoyu Islands, says spokesman
US President Barack Obama's promise of military cover for Japan's claim on the Diaoyu Islands faces the potential of backfiring, observers said. Obama stated in a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday that the US-Japan mutual security treaty covers China's Diaoyu Islands. "We do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally, and what is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan." The forthright remarks from Obama are widely interpreted as a display of Washington's strong commitment to its Asian allies designed to dispel suspicion of weakening US clout in the region. Obama is on a four-nation tour that was postponed seven months ago because of the US government shutdown. He faced flak at the time for postponing the trip, both in the US and overseas, amid criticism that the US was preoccupied with domestic affairs at the expense of its international commitments. Responding to Obama's comments, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that the Chinese army will continue military patrols in "relevant waters" in the East China Sea. The Chinese military is "fully capable of safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands, and it is unnecessary for other nations to go to extreme lengths to provide a so-called security guarantee," Yang said, adding that China will firmly safeguard territorial sovereignty in the face of provocation from Japan. Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Obama's remarks may lead to unforeseen problems because the military commitment — directly naming specific islands — could "sabotage US strategic initiatives in the region" and undermine its strategic flexibility. "As a result, Tokyo is keeping Washington in check in this regard, and, honestly, the ruling Japanese cabinet is very unpredictable," Ruan said. Ruan noted that Obama's remarks about the islands "also harm the credibility of the US", because instead of taking an honest broker's viewpoint the US is firmly backing one side and this has the potential to cause problems. With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe beside him, Obama told reporters that he had not drawn any new "red line" over the islands, and he emphasized the need to resolve maritime disputes peacefully. "The treaty between the US and Japan preceded my birth, so, obviously, this isn't a red line that I'm drawing," Obama said. Li Haidong, a researcher of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said Obama's visit to Japan aimed to boost Japan's status as a "pillar" of Asia-Pacific security and as a key player in containing China. But, Li said, the two allies have different agendas. "The US seeks stability in the big picture of its relationship with China, yet Japan is not afraid of fanning the flames of a conflict with China," Li said. The US-Japan defense treaty requires Washington to come to Japan's defense if it is attacked. Experts said Washington believes that backing Tokyo will have long-term benefits. Lyu Yaodong, an expert on Japanese diplomacy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Obama is "determined to see tangible progress in his rebalancing strategy" during his Asian trip, and "to achieve this goal, satisfying demands from Japan regarding the islands is necessary". Abe told reporters on Thursday that "the Japan-US alliance is more robust than ever before." "The US pivot cannot succeed without strong support from important allies such as Japan," Lyu said. Ruan noted a shift in the US-Japan military relationship, and one example is that the US is "outsourcing" more defense duties to Japan. "Washington believes that its promise on the islands is a feasible way to strengthen its influence over Japan, and accordingly Washington wants Japan's self-defense forces to play a greater role, which is very dangerous," Ruan said. Yang, the Defense Ministry spokesman, also confirmed what Chinese Navy Commander Wu Shengli said on Wednesday about a worst-case scenario. Wu told reporters on the sidelines of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that the possibility of a military conflict remains between China and Japan, and the priority is to "prevent the outbreak of a conflict". Yang also said the PLA will continue military patrols in waters near a tropical Japanese island close to Taiwan, days after Tokyo announced it would break ground on a new radar base in the area. The radar station on Yonaguni Island, just 150 km from the Diaoyu Islands, marks Japan's first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years. "We are paying close attention to Japan's military trends," he said. "China's military will continue to carry out battle readiness patrols, military drills and other

Kerry Threatens More Sanctions, Says Russia is 'Stoking Instability' in Ukraine

Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia is "stoking instability" in Ukraine, and the Obama administration will impose additional sanctions against Moscow if it does not keep promises made last week to help de-escalate the crisis.
Kerry says the world has rightly judged that authorities in Kyiv are working in good faith to de-escalate the crisis, while Moscow "has put its faith in distraction, deception and destabilization."
"In plain sight, Russia continues to fund, coordinate and fuel a heavily armed separatist movement in Donetsk. Meanwhile, Russian leaders are making increasingly outrageous claims to justify their action," said Kerry.
But Russian officials say they have nothing to do with the violence, and believe sanctions will have no impact on the situation in Ukraine.
The head of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, Alexei Pushkov, says Russia has never and will never interfere directly in Ukrainian affairs.
Pushkov told a news conference in Moscow that the European Union, the United States and former Ukrainian opposition parties should be held responsible for the current chaos.
Fighting between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russia militants in eastern Ukraine has left at least five militants dead, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it a "crime" and threatening “consequences.” Ukraine's Interior Ministry said Thursday that its forces, together with army units, had killed five pro-Russia militants and destroyed three of their checkpoints in the eastern city of Slovyansk.
In an interview with VOA, Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, says it is time for tougher sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine.
"Naturally, we expect that the reaction of the democratic world will be solid, and the action could be done, including the serious economic sanctions, including the political sanctions," said Sergeyev. Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Kerry said if Russia continues to destabilize Ukraine, "it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake."
"President Putin and Russia face a choice. If Russia chooses the path of de-escalation, the international community, all of us, will welcome it. If Russia does not, the world will make sure that the costs for Russia will only grow," said Kerry.
But Duma chief Pushkov says sanctions are a mistake. Sanctions he says will bring huge losses not only to Russia, but also to European countries that have close economic and trade cooperation with Russia. What's more, he says, sanctions cannot help resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

US should force Ukraine to stop military operation in southeast
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called upon the US to make Ukrainian government stop the military operation in the southeast of Ukraine, the Ministry’s press service reports.
“We hope that the US would take measures in order to prevent the escalation of the conflict in compliance of the Geneva communiqué of April 17. The US should force the current Ukrainian government to stop the military operation in the southeast of Ukraine and to withdraw Ukraine’s armed forces from the region. Nothing has been done to resolve this urgent issue. We hope that Washington realizes its responsibility for everything that is going on in Ukraine,” the press service says.
Ukrainian forces have been carrying out a military operation in the southeast of Ukraine since April 15. The operation was initiated in order to suppress supporters of the federalization, who had been organizing rallies since March. Russia thinks that the decision of the illegitimate Ukrainian government to initiate a military operation is a very dangerous and thoughtless one.
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Russia 'forced' to launch military drills near border in response to Ukraine op

Russia has begun extensive military exercises near the Ukrainian border following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. “The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow. “War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are also not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”
Shoigu said that the drills involve march and deployment maneuvers by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force exercises. Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev activists. “National guard units and Right Sector extremists are fighting against the peaceful population, as well as a volunteer Donbass ‘anti-terrorist’ unit. Also security and internal forces transferred to Lugansk and Donetsk from other areas of the country are suppressing dissent,” he said. Shoigu added that Ukrainian sabotage units had been deployed near the Russian border.
In contrast, he said that the pro-Russian self-defense units number about 2,000 and have about 100 guns between them, which have mostly been taken from local police stations. "It's not an evenly matched confrontation," Shoigu said. The coup-imposed Ukrainian acting president, Aleksandr Turchinov, has demanded that Russia pull back its troops back from the Ukrainian border, calling the ongoing Russian military exercises “blackmail.” In a brief address, Turchinov claimed that “terrorists have crossed the border… taking hostages and killing the patriots of Ukraine.” He also called for the Russian government “to stop interfering into the internal affairs of our country.” The heaviest fighting on Thursday took place in Slavyansk, with the Ukrainian Interior Ministry reporting the deaths of at least five "terrorists." NATO has estimated that Russia has massed at least 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has not denied that it has moved troops to the region, but said that its internal troop movements are its own prerogative.
NATO began military exercises in Poland on Wednesday, with more scheduled to take place in the Baltic states next week. So far, 150 US paratroopers have arrived in the country from their stationary base in Italy, with 450 more set to join them. Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, has also asked NATO to deploy 10,000 troops in his country. On Wednesday, the frigate USS Taylor became the latest US ship to enter the Black Sea on a rotating deployment. NATO has dispatched a separate rapid reaction force to the Baltic.

Mounting Tensions Between Pakistan Media and Military

Malik Siraj Akbar
When the U.S. government provided me political asylum in 2011, I knew I was leaving behind several courageous journalist colleagues in Pakistan who would have to report under death threats every single day. Pakistan has consistently ranked among the world's deadliest places for journalists where they routinely receive deadly warnings from non-state actors, such as the Taliban, the country's powerful military and its omnipresent intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) directorate.
The fresh assassination attempt on Pakistan's leading television talk-show host Hamid Mir last weekend in Karachi, the country's largest city, has renewed the debate about Islamabad's commitment to the freedom of the press. Mr. Mir, who regularly writes a column for Jang, Pakistan's most widely read Urdu language newspaper, and hosts a popular talk-show, the Capital Talk, was ambushed and critically injured on a busy Karachi road when he was traveling from the airport to his office.
Mr. Mir's family has blamed the I.S.I. for the attack indicating that the veteran journalist had shared his fears with the family that the country's rogue intelligence organization was contemplating an assault on him. The Pakistan army has vehemently denied the charges and offered an investigation in the attack. In an interview with Al Jazeera English soon after the tragic incident, I expressed my doubts if the I.S.I., the prime suspect in this shooting, would permit any independent inquiry into the incident.
With the accusations about the I.S.I's involvement in another plot against a journalist, the failed assassination attempt has transformed into a major national debate in Pakistan about the army's hostile relationship with the media and desperate attempts to strangulate dissenting voices.
It is highly unusual in Pakistan to raise fingers at the mighty I.S.I. or seek an explanation for its wrong policies and actions. Senior American authorities have accused the I.S.I. of having connections with the Haqqani Network, a terrorist organization Washington suspects of attacking the U.S. embassy and troops in Afghanistan. The I.S.I. had earlier been blamed in 2011 for the abduction, torture and murder of a prominent investigative reporter, Syed Saleem Shahzad, who had revealed possible links between the Pakistani armed forces and al Qaeda. Prior to his murder, Mr. Shahzad had informed the local chapter of Human Rights Watch that the I.S.I. was planning to harm him.
Mr. Mir, the popular talk-show host, has recently castigated the Pakistani army for its involvement in widespread human rights abuses in my native Baluchistan province. The Pakistani Supreme Court, human rights groups and sections of the media have blamed the I.S.I. and Pakistani security forces for forcing thousands of young Baluch political activists and students to disappear while hundreds of them were tortured and murdered in government custody in what the Amnesty International calls a policy of "kill and dump."
Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, Baluchistan is Pakistan's poorest province in terms of human development although it accounts for the country's richest gas, gold and copper reservoirs.
The Pakistani army has ruthlessly crushed the local Baluch population's demand for maximum control on and benefits from their mineral wealth. While the Pakistani military strictly restricts journalists and news organizations from covering the war in Baluchistan, Mr. Mir was one such fearless journalist who frequently transgressed the military's orders and reported about the human rights abuses attributed to the Pakistani army. In the military's lexicon, sensitive issues like Baluchistan are marked as "red-lines," covering which is very likely to invite trouble from the army.
When I covered the insurgency in Baluchistan as the Bureau Chief of a leading English language newspaper, Daily Times, I was astounded and significantly perturbed by the fact that the military excessively interfered in our professional and personal lives.
The military spends millions of rupees to bribe journalists to write congratulatory articles in support of the army and advocate for its position on critical national and international policies. The intelligence records journalists' phone calls, summons them in the guarded military cantonment for "friendly advice" which is normally the first formal warning to a journalist that the army is not very pleased with a reporter's dispatches. Before coming to the United States, I was also compelled to attend a couple of those "friendly advice" sessions with senior army officers.
Although journalist Mr. Mir worked in Islamabad, he was ambushed in Karachi. This reflects an established pattern of the Pakistani intelligence to harass journalists. The military keeps a record of wherever the journalists go and whoever they meet. The amount of time and energy Pakistan spends on influencing or harassing journalists is extraordinary.
In 2008, two intelligence officers stormed into my hotel room in Islamabad after I had met with an Indian journalist over dinner. "Why did you meet that Hindu woman?" asked one intelligence officer. "Don't you know she is an Indian and an enemy of our religion and Pakistan?" Their questions sounded absurd but provided me food for thought about the intelligence service's views and activities. Considering my personal safety, the Indian journalist suggested that we should never meet again. We did exactly what would have pleased the intelligence officers: We never did again.
The intelligence stopped me inside my hotel in January 2010 to warn me not to speak about Baluchistan at a conference in India. I refused to follow their dictations again and landed in their bad books for good. Unfortunately, the Pakistan military hires highly educated, articulate and smart young professionals to monitor, influence and intimidate journalists. Some of them are western-educated, sophisticatedly trained shrewd young people who, in spite of their foreign exposure, share a deep dislike for the United States, India and secularism.
The assault on Mr. Mir highlights the failure of the Pakistan's fledgling democracy to limit the political authority of the nation's military. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was himself ousted from power by the army in 1999, should take immediate measures to bring the military and its affiliated intelligence agencies under civilian oversight and accountability.
The government should end the prevailing culture of impunity vis-à-vis those who employ violence to muzzle the media under the pretext of 'national interest'. The future of Pakistan's democracy heavily hinges on the freedom of its media. By respecting and guarding the freedom of the Press, the Pakistani government will be minimizing the prospects of future derailment of the democratic rule in a country where the military had previously staged at least three coups in the past six decades.

Hamid Mir issues first statement after being attacked

Geo News senior anchor Hamid Mir has issued his first official statement after regaining consciousness. In his statement Hamid Mir thanked the Pakistani people and said it was due to their prayers and the grace of Allah that he has gotten a new life. Hamid Mir said he had informed Geo management, family and close friends of threats he was facing prior to the April 19 attack. Hamid Mir said he had identified elements who he was facing threats from and they were identified by his brother Amir Mir following the attack.
According to Hamid Mir he had informed close associates apart from Amir Mir regarding who would be held responsible if he was attacked. Hamid Mir said he had threats from state and non-state actors but in the recent past events had taken place which led him to inform his colleagues about the elements who could be involved in conspiracies to kill him.
Hamid Mir said that a few days ago some members of intelligence agencies came to his house and informed him that he was included along with other journalists on a hit-list. Despite being asked these members of intelligence agencies did not provide any details pertaining to who had made the hit-list. After this meeting Hamid Mir informed officials at concerned departments that in the past he had threats from state and non-state actors because usually state actors use the name of non-state actors to threaten journalists so they can be stopped from telling the truth.
According to Hamid Mir he had informed the intelligence personnel who came to his house that he felt the most threatened by the ISI and they should convey this to their officers. Hamid Mir further said that the ISI was upset with him because of a ‘Capital Talk’ programme which covered the long march of Mama Qadir Baloch. Hamid Mir added that he was also aware of the ISI being upset over his criticism of the role of intelligence agencies in politics.
Hamid Mir said that if officials had reports of threats he was facing why was he not informed in writing. He questioned why those who had planted a bomb underneath his car in November 2012 were not exposed despite the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claiming responsibility for it?
According to Hamid Mir the phone numbers of those who had issued him death threats were provided to the Islamabad Police, questioning why the police failed to take action against them. He said that despite a police report, action was not taken against those who had attacked his children in Islamabad. Hamid Mir said that he would provide further details of these incidents when the time comes. He said his life was in the hands of Allah and he was answerable before the Almighty.
Hamid Mir said his fight was the same as that of his father Professor Waris Mir. This was a fight for Pakistan’s survival, safety and to strengthen the country. His fight was for democracy, elimination of terrorism, supremacy of law, protection of freedom of expression, rights of small province and to be the voice of the poor. He added that this voice could not be silenced. Hamid Mir said that he was working alongside the media, civil society, and political parties in this fight. The senior Geo News anchor said that he would continue to wage this fight till his last breath. He added that no institution or individual in Pakistan was above the law or constitution.
Hamid Mir said after being shot multiple times he now understands the gravity of the sacrifices rendered by the jawans of the Pakistan Amry and security forces better than someone who has not been through the same ordeal. Mr Mir said this does not mean that he should remain silent on the unconstitutional role of intelligence agencies in politics in the name of being patriotic.
Hamid Mir strongly condemned the government and state enforced shutdown of Geo transmission, adding that in the past Geo News had stood firm when it was banned during the dictatorship of General Musharraf. With the support of the people and God willing Hamid Mir said the Geo team would once again overcome such measures.
Hamid Mir expressed fear over the security of his brother Amir Mir and other family members and said if they were harmed the responsibility would be on state elements and the government. Hamid Mir said that Allah had saved his life which proved that the Almighty was powerful than those who had attacked him.
Hamid Mir appealed to people to continue their prayers for his health and complete recovery.

Violence against Pakistan minorities rising alarmingly: rights group

Sectarian killings rose by more than a fifth in Pakistan last year, a leading rights group said Thursday, warning of an alarming increase in violence against religious minorities.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said 687 people were killed in more than 200 sectarian attacks last year, a rise of 22 percent on 2012.
The group warned that ongoing peace talks between the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the hardline militant Islamists of the Pakistani Taliban could make minorities even more vulnerable.
Around 97 percent of Pakistan's 180 million population is Muslim, the vast majority Sunnis.
Violence against Shiite Muslims, who make up around 20 percent, has been growing in recent years, much of it led by extremist sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The country's small Christian, Hindu and Ahmadi communities also suffer discrimination and occasional outbursts of violence.
At the launch of the HRCP's annual report on Pakistan's rights situation, secretary general I A Rehman said minorities were facing increasing violence.
"Minorities in Pakistan are increasingly feeling insecure since the present government came to power in June last year," he told reporters.
Peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban could have "immense repercussions" on religious minorities, he warned.
The Taliban, whose seven-year insurgency has claimed thousands of lives, want to impose strict sharia Islamic law across Pakistan.
"It is a choice of the government if it wants to have negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban but these negotiations should not come at the cost of religious minorities and women," said Rehman.
Nearly 200 Shiites were killed in the first seven weeks of 2013, most in two huge bombings in the southwestern city of Quetta, a flashpoint for sectarian violence.
The rights group said that since the present government came to power the trend had shifted from large-scale attacks to individual killings targeting Shiite doctors, lawyers and intellectuals.
The report also called 2013 "one of the darkest years" for Christians in Pakistan, with the deadliest ever attack on the community mounted in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September.
Nearly 100 worshippers were killed when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at All Saints Church after a Sunday service.

Video: US-Russia war of words on Ukraine

Bilawal Bhutto condemns attack on police
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the terror attack on police personnel in Karachi today which resulted into loss of several police officials including Shafiq Tanoli while injuring many others.
Bilawal Bhutto said that the sacrifices being offered by the armed forces, security forces and the general public against the terrorism would not be wasted as the entire nation was united against the menace of terrorism. He said that the attack on the police personnel was an attack on the security of the country.
PPP Patron further said that the terrorists were the open enemy of the country. He said that the terrorists should be brought to book and given exemplary punishment. He also sympathized with the grieving families and prayed Almighty to rest the departed souls in eternal peace.

Afghanistan: 3 Americans killed in attack on Kabul hospital

Three American medical staff members died when an Afghan security official opened fire Thursday at an American-run Christian hospital in Kabul in the latest violence targeting foreigners in Afghanistan. The attack, which also wounded several people, took place about 9 a.m. as doctors and nurses were arriving at CURE, which is part of an international network of hospitals run by a Pennsylvania charity. The hospital largely focuses on providing medical care to needy children.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said: “With great sadness we confirm that three Americans were killed in the attack on CURE Hospital. No other information will be released at this time.”
Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said the gunman was an Afghan police officer, although other officials described him as a hospital guard. The gunman, who unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide after the shooting, has been arrested, Seddiqi said.
The U.S. Embassy declined to identify the occupations of the three Americans who were killed. But a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry said one was a doctor who worked at the hospital and that the other two were medical staffers who were just visiting.
All three were shot as they entered the hospital gate, the spokesman said.
“We are trying to determine the cause of this attack,” said Abdul Zahir, Kabul’s police chief.
The attack comes as foreigners in Afghanistan were facing heightened concern about their safety amid a wave of brazen violence. Over the past three months, as Afghanistan is in the midst of electing a new president, 20 foreigners have been killed in separate attacks targeting civilians. The attacks have occurred at a popular restaurant, an upscale hotel and other venues where foreigners congregate.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for much of the violence, including a March 20 assault on the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed nine people, including two Canadians. The violence is accelerating the pace at which foreigners are fleeing Kabul, a city that until recently has provided relative security for aid workers, journalists and civilian contractors.
With Thursday’s shooting, the dangers facing foreigners are heightened by what appear to be increasing random attacks by Afghan security officials. For years, the U.S.-led coalition has struggled to combat so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in which Afghan soldiers have turned their weapons on NATO troops who were training or supervising them.
Now, however, civilians are also vulnerable to such attacks.
Three weeks ago, an Afghan police officer shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is great) before shooting an Associated Press photographer and reporter who were sitting in a vehicle in Khost province in eastern Afghanistan. The photographer, Anja Niedringhaus, a German citizen, was killed. The reporter, Kathy Gannon, a Canadian, was seriously wounded. That attack occurred one month after Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot and killed in a brazen midday attack in Kabul. Horner, who was based in Hong Kong and had just arrived in Kabul to cover the run-up to the April 5 Afghan elections, was shot by several men as he walked down a street near a heavily fortified diplomatic compound. Javid Kohestani, a retired Afghan army general and Kabul-based security analyst, said Taliban fighters and their sympathizers appear to be stepping up their attacks on civilians as military targets become harder to find due to the ongoing withdrawal of most remaining coalition forces. They want “to frighten foreigners and disrupt their reconstruction and development work,” Kohestani said. “Their initial targets now seem to be Americans and Europeans, but they may also target Muslim foreigners to show that security is getting worse.”
CURE hospitals were founded in 1996 by Scott Harrison and his wife, Sally Harrison, to help children with disabilities. The motto of the organization, based in central Pennsylvania, is delivering “life-changing medical care and the good news of God’s love to children and families with treatable conditions.”
It operates hospitals in Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Over the years, the organization has provided more than 150,000 life-saving surgeries, according to its Web site.
The hospital in Kabul opened in 2005 and has a staff of 27 doctors and 64 nurses. It treats 37,000 patients annually.
Though the motives of the gunman remain unknown, the incident marks the second time in less than a month that a Christian charity has come under attack in Kabul. In late March, the Taliban unsuccessfully tried to storm a heavily guarded guesthouse for employees of the Roots of Peace, a San Francisco-based organization that focuses on agricultural projects. That guesthouse was located next to a Christian charity and day-care center, which may have been the intended target of that attack.
In January, three Americans died when Taliban fighters stormed a popular Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, killing a total of 21 people who were seated for dinner.

VIDEO: Slavyansk checkpoint attack aftermath, Kiev forces leaving scene

Kiev resumes special operation in Slavyansk: 5 activists dead, one policeman injured
A special operation is under way in Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region, in the east of Ukraine. Five militiamen are said to have been killed, one police officer wounded and three checkpoints wiped out, according to the Ukraine's Interior Ministry. One task force soldier has been wounded, according to the report. The Donetsk region police department said earlier that the self-defence force had set up 8 checkpoints in Slavyansk.
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Putin: Kiev authorities are junta if they use force against civilians

Vladimir Putin considers a military operation undertaken by authorities in Kiev against anti-government protesters in eastern Ukraine a crime, according to a statement the president made at an All-Russia People's Front media forum. “If the Kiev regime started military actions against the country’s population, this is without doubt a very serious crime,” Putin said.

Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto women cricket T20 trophy

The Pakistan Cricket Board is organizing the third edition of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Women Cricket Challenge Trophy T20 from April 30 to May 4 here at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Four departmental teams – ZTBL, Saif Sports Saga, Omar Associates and HEC will play matches on single league basis. Two matches will be played daily.
Top two teams will qualify for the final which will be played on May 4.
Following is the programme of the matches:
April 30: Saif Sports Saga vs Omar Associates, ZTBL vs HEC
May 1: Saif Sports Saga vs HEC, ZTBL vs Omar Associates
May 3: ZTBL vs Saif Sports Saga, Omar Associates vs HEC
May 4: Final .

Pakistan: Illegitimate newborns murdered and discarded

In Pakistan, abortion is illegal, and so is adultery - creating a situation where hundreds of children born out of wedlock are secretly killed each year. Their bodies are, literally, thrown out with the garbage.
A child has just been born and nobody looks happy - not even his parents. His tiny body is still smeared in blood. The newborn cries incessantly, and so does the teenage mother. The baby weighs only 3,500 grams and is around the size of the palm of a large hand. And that's when the mother's trembling hands reach the child's frail neck. She closes her eyes and presses her thumb against the child's throat. She strangles him. A child who arrived in the "civilized world" some 45 minutes ago, must now leave it. The nurse puts the child's corpse in a plastic bag and takes it out of the clinic.
Razia Zulfikar, a nurse working at a maternity home in the central Pakistani city of Gujranwala, says hundreds of illegitimate newborn babies are killed in the Islamic republic every day.
"An eight-month pregnant girl came to us just a few days ago. We didn't want to admit her to our hospital. After repeated requests from her family, we finally agreed to treat her. But we told the family explicitly that we would not kill the child," Zulfikar told DW. "We gave the baby to the girl's family. Only she and her family know what they did to the newborn, and how they killed him," she added.
A rebellious act
Pakistan is a majority-Muslim nation with a population of over 180 million people. Pre-marital relations are strictly prohibited in the conservative country and are also frowned upon by society. There is probably no bigger taboo than having a child out of wedlock. According to Islamic laws, it is a punishable crime and the people committing fornication could be sentenced to death. At times, the relatives of the couple take the law in their hands and kill the adulterers. Most of the times, only the mother and the child are murdered. However, despite social taboos and harsh laws, many Pakistani men and women continue to engage in extramarital relationships and have sex before marriage. "We live in a modern world. Our girls and boys keep cellular phones and watch Western movies. They are rebellious and do whatever they like. The family only gets to know about an affair when the girl gets pregnant," Zulfikar said.
Crime and punishment
According to the Edhi Foundation, a Pakistani welfare organization, more than 1,100 newborns were murdered and dumped in garbage bins last year. The organization says it collected the figures only from the country's big cities, and the number could be much higher nationwide.
"A six-day-old child was burnt to death. We also found the corpses of babies who had been hanged, or who had been partly eaten by animals," Anwar Kazmi, a manager at the Edhi Foundation, told DW. "I can never forget one incident. A woman left a child in front of a mosque hoping that somebody would adopt him. But the cleric of the mosque ordered the people to stone the child to death. I saw the mutilated and torn body of the child myself," he recalled.
The Edhi Foundation runs a unique project called "Jhoola," which means "cradle" in Urdu. The organization encourages people to leave unwanted children in its cradles instead of murdering them. It does not ask for people's identities. One can put the baby in these cradles in the dark of the night. "I would like people who do not want their children to bring them to us and to not kill them. We have more than three hundred centers with cradles across the country. They don't need to be afraid of anything."
But people are scared and feel intimidated by both society and state authorities. Though abortions are illegal in Pakistan - for the most part - many attribute the growing number of infant deaths to abortions, which are only permitted if the mother's life is in danger - and that woman must be a married one. Under no circumstances can a fetus be aborted if a woman is unmarried. On the other hand, murdering an infant is a crime, but it seems to be the lesser evil.

Pakistan jets target Taliban hideouts, kill 12
Pakistan fighter jets on Thursday attacked Taliban hideouts in the lawless northwestern tribal belt and killed at least 12 suspected militants, officials said.
It was the first time the military is known to have used air strikes on militants since the Pakistani Taliban announced a ceasefire on March 1 to help peace talks.
The Taliban said last week it was ending the ceasefire, complaining of little progress in negotiations with the government. A series of militant attacks since then have killed seven people in the northwest.
The airstrikes were staged in mountainous areas of the Khyber tribal district, where the Taliban and the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam are active.
"At least 12 militants have been killed but the death toll may increase," a security official based in Peshawar told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Lashkar-e-Islam, led by warlord Mangal Bagh, is feared for kidnappings and extortion in Khyber, one of seven lawless tribal districts along the Afghan border.
Another security official said the strikes targeted militants involved in bomb attacks in the northwestern town of Charsadda and on a fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad which killed 24 people.
Both officials said ground troops also used heavy weapons to pound militant targets.
Independent verification of the death toll was not possible, as journalists are not allowed to enter the area.
Pakistan began talks with the Taliban in February to try to end their seven-year insurgency, which has cost thousands of lives.
Government and Taliban negotiators met in Islamabad on Tuesday to plan a fresh round of talks and to try to persuade the militants to begin another ceasefire, a Taliban negotiator said.
Since the Taliban began their campaign of violence in 2007, more than 6,800 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks around Pakistan, according to an AFP tally.

Hamid Mir to issue official statement on attack today: wife

The senior journalist and Geo News’ anchor Hamid Mir will issue an official statement today (Thursday) pertaining to an attack that left him severely injured with six bullet wounds on Saturday evening, his wife told Geo News on Thursday.
Mir's better half thanked the nation for praying for her husband’s health and life, and said that it is due to the Almighty’s blessings and peoples’ wishes that Hamid Mir got a new life. She appealed to continue praying for Hamid Mir’s health who is recovering from his injuries at a private hospital in Karachi.
The doctors have extracted three bullets from Mir’s body, however, three bullets are still lodged in his legs and thighs that require major surgeries.
On Wednesday, Karachi police registered an FIR against unidentified assailants into an armed attack on Hamid Mir
The case was registered on behalf of sub-inspector Shahadat Khan under section 15 of Anti-Terrorism Act and 324/34 and 427 of PPO at the Airport Police Station.
It may be mentioned that Hamid Mir was attacked in Karachi on Saturday evening while his car was leaving the airport.
The attack took place when a single gunman wearing shalwar kameez stopped his car right outside the airport and opened fire. The driver of the car sped away but the gunman and his accomplices in two motorcycles and a car followed Hamid Mir and continued firing. The attackers followed Hamid Mir’s car till Karsaz and disbursed. While being chased Hamid Mir spoke to his colleagues over the phone and informed them of the attack.

Pakistan: Journalist throws shoe at CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore

A journalist in Lahore rushed past security and threw a shoe at Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore on Thursday, but it missed. The journalist, Imdad Ali, working in private Sindhi television launched the projectile at the CM Punjab as he was a special guest at three-day South Asia Labour Conference. According to reports, before throwing the show, Ali raised slogans against expected restrictions on a news channel. A spokesman for Shahbaz Sharif did not immediately respond to comment. The reports, the security staff of the CM Punjab will investigate the journalist regarding the incident after the incident whether he did it himself or any other power behind the incident. It is the not the first incident of shoe-thrower in Pakistan as former military ruler Pervez Musharaf.

Pakistan: Government-army-media triangle

The Ministry of Defence has on Tuesday sought the revocation of the licence of a private TV channel over the Hamid Mir affair by moving a complaint to the National Electronic Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). It may be recalled that after the prominent journalist was shot in Karachi on Saturday, his TV channel broadcast his brother Amir Mir’s allegation that Hamid Mir had named the ISI and its chief Lieutenant-General Zaheerul Islam as being responsible if something happened to him. For the brother of the wounded journalist to have revealed this in the immediate aftermath of the incident in the heat of the moment is one thing, but for the TV channel to have gone on repeating the charge for hours afterwards without any evidence or proof was, to put it mildly, a lapse of editorial judgement. Does this mean that the defence ministry’s request should be granted? The question opens up a whole host of issues that Pakistanis and all our institutions need to reflect on at the present conjuncture.
Freedom is a heady wine, and once tasted, the desire for more grows exponentially. This is what has transformed the media scene in Pakistan over the last decade or more. However, freedom if exercised without responsibility is no longer just an inebriant, in excess it becomes poison. Something along these lines has emerged in Pakistan in recent years. First, a certain myth that has gained currency and traction in Pakistan for some time needs to be laid to rest. During the 18th century, the press came to be dubbed the fourth estate in Europe, principally in Britain and France (which was undergoing its Revolution). Estates were categories of communities in society that could be treated as a group because of shared interests. Thus in France, the monarchy, aristocracy, peasantry, etc, were dubbed estates. The rise of the press in the 18th century (its role in the French Revolution is well documented) produced the title of fourth estate for it. Unfortunately this has been translated wrongly in Pakistan as the ‘fourth pillar of the state’.
Wrong as the notion is, since the press (media) is not part of the state but arguably located somewhere between (and perhaps bridging) political and civil society as a watchdog of the people’s interests in an inherently adversarial relationship with the state, governments of the day, and authority in general, it has had the inadvertent effect, particularly since 2002, of giving the media the false notion of more power than the ground realities suggest. If this has gone to the heads of certain sections of the media, the nature of things would tend to dictate a correction is due sooner or later. We have argued in this space consistently that there is no such thing as freedom without responsibility, and any such untrammeled freedom cannot be long lasting. Unfortunately, along with the decline of the institution of professional editor, adventurism based on false notions of excessive empowerment has crept into sections of the media. Whatever the mistakes or lapses of such sections, the other tragedy is the manner in which the Hamid Mir affair has brought the split in the media on the basis of professional rivalry out into the open. Some media houses have chosen to use the opportunity of the difficulties the group Hamid Mir belongs to to attack it roundly on the basis of being anti-national, unpatriotic, and even anti-state. It is not for the media to act as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner in such matters. The lack of solidarity amongst media houses and the journalists associated with them is likely in the long run to damage all of us in the profession.
Since the defence ministry has chosen to take its complaint to NEPRA, justice demands that the process be allowed to play itself out according to the law and rules, and the channel be allowed to fight its case without others in the field nipping away at its heels. We may or may not agree with the approach and policies of one media group or the other or even individual journalists, but this should not blind us to the need to stand in solidarity with victim Hamid Mir and his media group that has collaterally been pinioned in the dock.

Pakistani: ISI and media infighting

IN the bizarre, whiplash-inducing fallout of the Hamid Mir shooting, an alarming new twist has occurred: the Ministry of Defence — really, the army/ISI leadership — has petitioned Pemra to cancel the TV licence of Geo News while also calling for action against the Jang group’s flagship newspapers under the defamation and press laws of the country. Cloaked in indignation, outrage and outright fury at the allegedly scurrilous coverage of the ISI, the army’s move — and the government’s acquiescence — is deeply troubling because it takes aim at the existence of an independent and free media. Certain basic issues need to be reiterated first. To begin with, Hamid Mir was shot in a targeted attack because of his work as a prominent journalist — and there seems to be little to no concern any longer about who may have been behind the attack and why. Next, the wildly emotional, over-the-top and accusatory coverage by Geo News after the attack on Mr Mir was clearly misguided and far from the best practices of a responsible media.
Yet, for all the missteps and violations of responsible conduct by the Jang group, the army itself seeking to shut down the country’s largest media house because of direct allegations against ISI chief Gen Zahirul Islam is a step too far — and ought to unite the media and the public against this step. For decades, anti-democratic and authoritarian elements have kept the public from choosing who it wants to lead the country and muzzled the media from holding the state to account for its deeds and misdeeds. Now, when a transition is under way and democratic continuity is on its way to becoming irreversible, there is more of a need than ever to have an independent and free media that can operate outside the still-present shadow of anti-democratic forces. The ISI and the army leadership may be rightly aggrieved, but seeking the cancellation of a media group’s TV licence is also a hostile move that can have a chilling effect on the media far beyond just the Jang group — even if Pemra in the end only slaps the group with a fine.
There is though another sad spectacle playing out in the midst of this clash between the state and media: the media at war with itself. Fuelled seemingly by ego, old and new rivalries and, surely, commercial interests, the electronic media has cannibalised itself in recent days. It has been unseemly and worse. With several media groups falling over themselves to denounce each other while simultaneously swearing fealty to the ISI and the army, the core journalistic mission of informing the public and holding the state to account has all but been forgotten. It is time for representative bodies of print and electronic media to come together to defuse tensions and lay down the rules of ethical journalism.

Former SHO Shafiq Tanoli killed in Karachi suicide blast

A suicide blast in the Old Sabzi Mandi area of Karachi left four people including former SHO Shafiq Tanoli dead and 15 other people injured, Express News reported on Thursday.
According to initials details, Tanoli’s house was the target of the blast. The former SHO has been targeted at least seven times before.
One of Tanoli’s brothers, Rasheed, told the media that his uncle and cousin were among the deceased as well.
Tanoli’s family members had born the brunt of his work in the past. Tanoli’s younger brother, Naveed, was killed the same day when Tanoli, the then SHO of Supermarket Police Station, had arrested the murderers of Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar. Tanoli was the investigating officer for the murder case.
The injured in today’s attack, who also include Tanoli’s family members, were taken to local hospitals for medical assistance.
Rescue teams and the police have reached the site of the explosion and a shop was destroyed in the blast as well. Background
The man, who was always determined to fight violence, joined the police force in 1989 when he was in his early twenties. He was also active during the army operation in the 1990s – a time when officers were scared to mention they were from the police force.
Tanoli had also worked for the CID, and was involved in the arrest of Lyari’s Arshad Pappu, inviting the wrath of his followers. He had been attacked twice in Pak Colony, twice in Mauripur, once each in Liaquatabad, Sachal and Old Sabzi Mandi.

Pakistan: Police inspector killed in Karachi explosion

Police inspector Shafiq Tanoli and two others were killed in an explosion that took place near Karachi's old wholesale vegetable market on Thursday, television reports said. Three others were also reported injured in the explosion. The explosion took place in a shop near Tanoli's residence where the inspector was seated with some of his friends. Tanoli, who had recently been suspended on charges of misconduct, appeared to have been the target of today's attack. No one has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion. Tanoli has also been targeted several times before. One of his brothers, Rasheed Tanoli, told reporters that two of their relatives — an uncle and a cousin — were also among those killed in today's blast. Shafiq Tanoli joined the police force in the late 1980s. He was also associated with the CID for some time and also had a role in the arrest of Arshad Pappu. Tanoli was also involved in the investigation of the Wali Khan Babar murder case and had previously escaped several attacks on his life.

Saudi prince's rare bird hunt stirs outrage in Pakistan after massive loan
Gulf Arab sheiks have long enjoyed close ties with Pakistan, but a Saudi prince's recent shooting spree, which culled more than 2,000 rare birds from preserves, has stirred outrage in the country, just as Saudi Arabia propped up its economy with a $1.5 billion loan.
Pakistan's English-language daily newspaper Dawn broke the story this week based on a forest service report, "Visit of Prince Fahad bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud regarding hunting of houbara bustard," which detailed a three-week safari the prince and his entourage took. In all, the Saudi hunting party bagged 2,100 endangered houbara bustards. The prince, who owns a U.K.-built 270-foot motor superyacht and has a website depicting his philanthropic ventures, racked up the high score: 1,977 rare birds.
The houbara bustard appears on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List as vulnerable to extinction, with Pakistan's population of 110,000 feared to be decreasing by 30 percent a year. The prince's hunting party pursued the bustards on bird and wildlife sanctuaries and unprotected land across Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province.
The birds are globally protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Pakistan's government has long issued special bustard hunting permits to royals from Persian Gulf states, but they are usually limited to 100 over 10 days in certain areas, excluding reserves. The royal party apparently violated the permits and took down birds over the limit in reserves and protected areas.
Though the hunt took place at the end of January, Pakistan's media did not pick up the story until this week. Not long after Baluchistan forestry officials wrote their report on the prince's shooting party, Saudi Arabia loaned Pakistan $1.5 billion to help prop up its economy, effectively bailing out the Pakistani rupee and prompting the U.S. dollar's worth to fall from 105 rupees to 97.
Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has close ties to the Saudi royal family, spending time in exile in the kingdom after a military coup ended his second term in 1999. Prince Al-waleed bin Talal, Saudi financier and member of the house of Saud, has described Sharif as "Saudi Arabia's man in Pakistan," Reuters reports.
Arab royalty has long enjoyed the privilege of hunting in Pakistan, which has set aside more than 70 wildlife sanctuaries and game parks. Often the sheiks use falcons to hunt, and the bustard is a favorite target because, like the horns of the critically endangered rhinoceros, its meat is believed to be an aphrodisiac.
"Is there any more ridiculous reason to kill an animal?" Naeem Sadiq, a Karachi-based activist, asked in the Guardian in February. "If it's illegal for Pakistanis to kill these birds why should the Arab sheiks be allowed to do it?" Those concerned about the bustards' long-term viability point out that neighboring India bans their hunting outright.
Negative public reaction in Pakistan to its history of granting poaching privileges to elites did bring about a victory for the bustards after hunting season ended in February, however. The Lahore High Court placed an interim ban on all hunting of houbara bustards in the country's Punjab province.