Sunday, May 18, 2014

China: Xinjiang terrorists have multinational roots

China, as a rising power, today faces an unprecedented threat from terrorism. The terrorist threat in Asia, originating in the anti-Soviet multinational, mainly Afghan, mujahideen campaign (1979-89), has its genesis in the Middle East. The center of gravity of international terrorism shifted from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to Pakistan and Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
Since then, the single largest concentration of threats has oscillates between the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and Afghanistan and Pakistan countries bordering China. Although the threat is global, the most sustained threat is to Asia.
In addition to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan that suffer a large number of fatalities and injuries from insurgency and terrorism, China faces an increasing threat from the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an Al Qaeda-associated group.
Operating from North Waziristan from tribal Pakistan, TIP directs and instigates attacks in Xinjiang and beyond. A car crash in Tiananmen Square on October 28, 2013, killed the three occupants of the vehicle and two bystanders, and injured 38 others.
Similarly, knife-wielding assailants killed 33 civilians and injured at least 140 at the Kunming railway station in Southwest China's Yunnan Province on March 1, 2014.
And on the last day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Xinjiang, two suicide bombers and knife wielding assassins attacked a train station in China's western city of Urumqi, killing three and injuring 79 on April 30.
TIP claimed responsibility for a series of attacks. Calling the Urumqi attack an expensive offer to the Chinese government, an online Uyghur-language video by TIP's Islam Awazi Media Center requested China reconsider its "cruel" policies.
Xi remarked late April that "The Kashi region is the front line in anti-terrorism and maintaining social stability" when he visited Xinjiang. Although belatedly, China has recognized the threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan, but after Uyghur militants had established a presence in tribal Pakistan and spread its influence. With the deepening influence of Al Qaeda on TIP, the Uyghur militancy transformed from an ethnopolitical to a politico-religious movement where they recruit irrespective of ethnicity. TIP's Sheikh Abu Dhar 'Azzam praised in a released video the acts of foreign fighters and calls upon Muslims to support them.
Reflecting collaboration with other Turkic groups, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement changed its name by dropping the "East." Working with other groups, TIP has mounted operations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater and also adopted Al Qaeda-style suicide attacks.
The idea of attacking iconic targets as well as the strategy of attacking the center was reflected when TIP hit Beijing and other targets outside Xinjiang. In addition to establishing Awazi Media Center, a copycat of Al Qaeda's multi-media unit, TIP demonstrated the growing influence of Al Qaeda on the group when TIP leaders appeared on video just as Al Qaeda leaders have done.
The looming threat to China with the drawdown of US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan is apparent. The threat of insurgency and terrorism is likely to peak in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a theater that borders China. With a failed global strategy to stabilize Afghanistan, with the NATO drawdown from Afghanistan starting 2014, terrorism is likely to take a new dimension.
To stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, China should strengthen cooperation with the US, as well as its allies and friends. Superpower and regional geopolitics imperatives affect genuine cooperation, whether through the military or law enforcement, to fight the threat of terrorism and insurgency.

China: Terrorist behind Xinjiang railway station attack

Terrorist group the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was behind the attack that killed three people and injured 79 others at a train station in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, last month, authorities said on Sunday.
According to the region's publicity department, the attack was planned by ETIM member Ismail Yusup outside China. On April 22, he ordered 10 partners in Xinjiang to prepare to strike.
The 10 set off explosives and slashed people with knives at the exit of the South Railway Station of Urumqi at around 7:10 pm on April 30. Two members of the mob, Saderdin Sawut and Memetabudula Ete, were killed by the explosion, and the eight others were caught by police.
Investigation shows that the main members of the gang started to preach Islamic extremism in 2005. Ismail Yusup fled abroad after becoming wanted by police for making explosives, and joined the ETIM in 2013.
Police are hunting Ismail Yusup in cooperation with the International Criminal Police Organization.

Turkey: Failed democracy and the Soma tragedy

The politically correct term of “developing countries” has long turned out to be a euphemism, as the post-Cold War eulogy about the global rise of liberal democracies has ended up a sham. The bitter truth is that the so-called “developing countries” enforced economic growth policies not only at expense of more social-economic inequality and worsening working conditions, but also at the expense of a deficit in democracy. Some of the most shining examples of post-Cold War “economic miracles” are also examples of “social misery” and “political malady,” from major China to minor Singapore. The most recent election victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India is another bad omen for the global retreat from democracy, another promise for an economic miracle at the expense of social misery.
The story of Turkey is neither “peculiar” nor “surprising,” as many claim. Turkey is another “banal” case of rising “illiberal democracies.” In the case of Turkey, it is the combination of conservative political authoritarianism, economic liberalism and a “temporary” alliance with Western political interests. Besides, Turkey has proven to be one of the most compelling cases to review the delusion about a “Muslim democracy” - a peculiar democracy model for Muslim countries. In fact, it was the idea of “non-Western modernities” that paved the way for “rethinking democracy” in terms of different cultures. The rising economies of Southeast Asia were presented as a success story of the combination of liberal economics with “Asian values” in the 1990s, before the talk of combining Muslim culture and liberal economics started to be presented as the best solution for Islamic countries. The politics of multiculturalism empowers the experience of democracy only as long as it enforces more cultural freedoms; otherwise it turns to be an intellectual excuse for curbing individual rights and hindering political criticism. This is the case for countries like ours.
It is only after the cruel suppression of the Gezi protests, the suppression of judicial inquires into graft investigations, and now the tragedy in the Soma mines, that the standards of democracy, political freedoms, judicial independence and working conditions in Turkey are starting to be questioned by the Western world. The most disturbing aspect of this awakening is the pretense of “surprise.” Not only Western observers of Turkish politics, but also some in Turkey seem to be wondering, “Why has it turned out to be so disastrous?” “Why has the process of democratization regressed?” and “What happened to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan?” One must look back to find answers; it is easy to observe the footprints of rising authoritarian politics, especially after the 2011 election.
I am not one of those who was ever not skeptical about the democratic credentials of the conservatives and Erdoğan, or the prospects of democracy in Turkey. Besides, I have no intention of putting all of the blame of the democratic retreat in Turkey on the conservative government or on Erdoğan’s personality. In fact, the basic reason for the deficit of democracy in Turkey is deeper; and it should be debated at length elsewhere. In short, in the end Turkey has not been able to adjust itself to the post-Cold War times and, as a result, has slid first toward political instability and then toward a new authoritarian politics, like in many other countries since the 1990s. It seemed that there was a chance for Turkey to transform, but it failed, and the fatal blow came with the delusion of democratization at the hands of conservatives, who were already drifting away from democratic politics. The final excuse for many is to turn a blind eye to this naked truth has been the Kurdish peace process led by Erdoğan. Indeed, this could have been justified, if only it was possible to consider “peace” and “democracy” to be totally separate issues.
After all, not only the Kurdish peace process, but such issues as the working conditions in mines or elsewhere cannot be separated from the major issue of the retreat of democracy in Turkey. The bitter truth should not have to be reminded by tragedies such as the losing of more than 300 lives in Soma. At this point, we should also think about the dangers of falling into the trap of the government’s politics of separating the Kurdish peace process from democracy, as this may cost many more lives.

Searching for answers as the bury the dead in Turkey

Residents of Soma demand answers as a funeral ceremony is held for one of the 301 people killed in Turkey's worst industrial disaster

President Obama to visit Baseball Hall of Fame to stress how tourism leads to jobs
Obama announced in his weekly radio address that he will be at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. on Thursday.
President Obama says he’s heading to the Baseball Hall of Fame to stress how tourism can lead to good-paying jobs.
In his weekly radio address, Obama says he will be in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Thursday.
“Because believe it or not, tourism is an export. And if we make it easier for more foreign visitors to visit and spend money at America’s attractions and unparalleled national parks, that helps local businesses and grows the economy for everyone,” Obama said.
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Historic Rout in India Comes With Opposition's Victory

India’s opposition party has won a resounding mandate in the country’s general election, capturing a majority, on its own, of more than 280 of the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament. The outcome after a six-week election marks a historic loss for India’s original political party. The world’s largest democracy will have a new prime minister for the first time in a decade, able to form a government without relying on regional coalition partners. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Russia ask for anti-narcotic HQ to combat in Afghanistan

By: Mirwais Jalalzai
Afghan anti- heroin combat needs a new phase of regional and international cooperation.
Various programs aimed at resolving the problem of massive production of heroin in Afghanistan should be merged into an internationally-supervised office, suggests Russia’s chief drug officer.
“We suggest the creation of an international headquarter or an office for combating the planetary center of drug production in Afghanistan. The goal of the HQ would be to consolidate the currently separate anti-narcotic programs in Afghanistan and to create an effective, internationally-supervised mechanism to eradicated drug production,” Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russian Federal Drug Control Service, told on Sunday.
He added that such a global effort should include not only direct attack on opium poppy field and drug trafficking, but also a large investment program for Afghanistan.
A latest study by a US investigation body says,America’s war on drugs is failing in Afghanistan, with opium production at record levels, despite spending $7.5 billion to tackle the problem. Over 200 thousand hectares is used to grow opium, an increase of 36 percent, according to a US report.
The report also said, opium poppy cultivation increasing by over a third, while the country now has about 1.3 million heroin users. This is a ten-fold increase compared to 2005, when around 130,000 people were using the drug.
Russia is badly affected by Afghan heroine which make its way through central Asian countries.
“Russia believes that the international community should organize a comprehensive development program for Afghanistan to be implemented between 2015 and 2025. It would be based on alternative development of the new generation and include forceful industrialization effort and basic infrastructure development,” Ivanof said.
“We see Afghanistan a strong a prosperous nation in the near future. We have to bet on development for it,” Ivanov said. Heroine production was on the decline in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, but skyrocketed since the US-led coalition invaded the country. Over 200,000 hectares in Afghanistan are currently used to grow opium poppies, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
“In 14 years since the start of the Enduring Freedom operation, over a million people in Eurasia have died from Afghan heroin, with at least half of them being Russian citizens,” Ivanov said. “The intensive transit of drug products from Afghanistan, which is estimated at over 100 billion dollars annually, provides the basis for the spreading of paramilitary drug gangs, the rise of violence and involvement of millions of people in the region in the transit of the high-priced drug products, which has deformed the political landscape of the states in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.”
But the impact of the Afghan heroin goes much further, affecting Europe, the US, African countries. The situation is aggravated by political turmoil, like the one underway in Ukraine, where the decline of law enforcement had resulted in increased heroin traffic lately.
Russia on its part is working with the Afghan authorities to help them tackle the problem, Ivanov said. A joint raid on Wednesday resulted in five drug laboratories destroyed in Afghan province of Badakhshan, which produced more than 250 kg of heroin daily. Since September 2010 the Russian-Afghan operations against drug gangs saw 24 laboratories dismantled, he added. Moscow has repeatedly pushed for the eradication of poppy fields in Afghanistan as the simplest solution. NATO, however, seems to have no intention of doing so.
Afghanistan is responsible for about three-quarters of the world’s heroin production, with much of it being cultivated in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south of the country. However, the US has concentrated most of its efforts in the east of Afghanistan, which has relatively little poppy production, as it is safer than working in the south. In 2013, the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics reported that just 7,300 hectares of poppy fields had been destroyed, which was only three percent of the total opium fields in the country. The US has spent $7.5 billion since 2002 trying to combat the problem of opium production. However, despite these vast sums very little impact has been made on the amount of heroin appearing on the world market.

Pakistan: Blasphemy Accused Muslims are Forgiven while Christians Face Death Sentence

Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) expressed apprehensions, on May 16, 2014, on double standards of implementation of Blasphemy law on citizens of Pakistan and demanded immediate release of blasphemy accused Christians.
Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) expressed apprehensions, on May 16, 2014, on double standards of implementation of Blasphemy law on citizens of Pakistan because when any Muslim commits blasphemy on electronic media watched by millions then he is pardoned on an simple apology note but when a Christian or Ahmadiyyia community member is allegedly accused of blasphemy by one Muslim spectator then he faces death sentence no matter how repeatedly he sworn that he has not defiled name of Holy Prophet of Muslims.
He further said, “All Christian victims of blasphemy laws after arrests have publically denied committing blasphemy but not any court or complainant have pardoned them but when a Muslim cleric or any Muslim very openly defiles name of Prophet Mohammad then uproar of Islamic decrees appear to Pardon these Muslims.”
Nazir Bhatti showed grief while commenting on a morning show of GEO TV in which a lady host committed blasphemy along with many other Muslim participants which was seen by millions of viewers but no FIR was lodged. Furthermore, Muslim clerics issued decree that registration of case under blasphemy law is not necessary after apology of show host.
On the contrary, when a Christian woman Asia Bibi, mother of five children, was blamed for blasphemy by her Muslim co-workers, she was tortured and arrested despite her repeating statement that “She has not uttered any word to defile Prophet Mohammad but no one comes forward to Pardon her.
It is on record that all Christian victim of blasphemy were arrested on alleged complains of only one Muslim on any personal disagreement or quarrels.
Nazir Bhatti said, “Christian colonies were set on fire, Christians were burnt alive, Christian were brutally murdered in court compounds, Christians were gunned downed and Christian worship places were attacked by Muslim mob on pretext to blasphemy while none of Muslim blasphemer was ever arrested in Pakistan”
PCC Chief demanded immediate release of Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih, Shagufta Kasur and Shafqat Emmanuel who had been sentenced to death under allegations of blasphemy and dozens of other Christians and Ahmadiyyia victims of blasphemy who are in jails waiting for trials and forgiveness.
In addition, Nazir Bhatti urged Muslim clerics to issue decree that if blasphemy accused Christians might also be pardoned and released on a written apology note.
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Pakistan: Woman killed, 6 Levies officials injured in Bajaur blast

The Express Tribune
A woman was killed while six Levies officials were injured in a bomb explosion in Khaar, Bajaur Agency, Express News reported on Sunday. According to initial details, a Levies vehicle was the target of the attack. The remote controlled bomb went off when the vehicle passed by, injuring the officials and killing a woman who was going to work in the fields nearby. There is no information as to how intense the explosion was.

Sindh cabinet decides establishment of Counter Terrorism Dept
The Sindh cabinet has decided that a separate Counter Terrorism Department will be established and legislation will be made to purge police of black sheep besides providing advanced training to the personnel of Rapid Response Force.
The Sindh cabinet in a meeting presided over by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah at the CM House here on Saturday also acceded the decisions of the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister in Karachi on May 14 to expedite the ongoing targeted operation and maintain law and order situation in the city.
The cabinet recommended the federal government for providing a financial package of up to Rs. 27 billion for the up gradation of police stations, strengthening and equipping the Sindh police, enabling it to take the targeted operation to its success.
The cabinet meeting was attended by all the provincial ministers advisers and special assistants chief secretary Sindh, home secretary, all secretaries of other departments and Senior Member of Revenue.
The cabinet discussed the matters relating to law and order issues of illegal immigrants, drafts on first power policy of the provincial government and eradication of polio, measles and rubella virus in detail and made decisions with consensus.
The cabinet expressed satisfaction over the performance of law enforcement agencies in implementing targeted operation in Karachi against terrorists, extortionists and kidnappers without any discrimination.
Declaring 26 police stations of Karachi and three prisons (Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana Central prisons) sensitive, the cabinet approved the decision of the provincial government for increasing salaries of police force deployed at the sensitive police stations and strengthening security with structures and more force at the sensitive central jails. The cabinet directed the IGP Sindh for providing foolproof security to all mosques, Imam barghas and temples minorities specially in the interior Sindh.

Pakistan: Blasphemy, blasphemy everywhere

The media circus in Pakistan has truly turned grotesque. Sensationalism and grabs for the highest ratings have reached new heights with sensibilities being offended and all decorum being chucked out the window. A certain media house has recently been in the crosshairs for everything from being accused of collaborating with the US and Israel to the biggest crime in the land: blasphemy.
The blasphemy charge really does seem to take the cake, proving that, when it comes to ‘insulting’ the religion, even things that are done in bad taste can be bracketed under the umbrella of blasphemy. An uproar is being caused by overly sensitive citizens, other media houses, ulema (clerics) and even cable operators calling for a shutdown of the private television channel run by the organisation. That is because a morning show aired by that channel is being accused of insulting the religious sentiments of the masses by showing the wedding ceremony of a local film starlet to the tune of a religious qawaali (song). One must cite here that the show and the theme were tacky, in bad taste and, yes, insensitive, but one would hesitate to call the shenanigans blasphemy.
What is happening to Pakistan? We seem to be spiralling out of control, where anyone whose name resembles that of a religious persona can allege that blasphemy has occurred if he is insulted, e.g. the police officer in Jhang, Umar, who claims lawyers protesting against him and his abuse of power were insulting his namesake! One thinks twice before saying anything now as murderers roam free, killing off blasphemy accused with impunity. To illustrate this horrifying reality, on Friday a teenager just walked into a police station in Sheikhupura and shot dead an Ahmedi man accused of blasphemy. How could this happen? Where was the police? Where was security for the accused? One finds it hard to swallow that the police were not in collusion with the killer. A full judicial investigation must be conducted as the police department cannot be trusted here.
It is against this volatile backdrop that our independent media takes on the role of judge, jury and executioner. In a race for ratings, other media channels have chastised the media house and its morning show, going all out and accusing it of blasphemy. Do these anchors not know how dangerous it is for all the employees of that channel, for the hundreds who are part of the media group under attack? In this media race, are these anchormen and women really ready to live with the consequences of playing the blasphemy card and, in effect, signing the death warrants of many? Media freedom is all well and good but where on earth is media responsibility? It is time for the blithering media to take stock and understand that we are living in dangerous times; adding fuel to the fire will only end up in all getting burned.

Should Pakistan Welcome Modi’s Election in India?

By Zachary Keck
Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory may ultimately work out in Pakistan’s favor.
As others have reported today, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a landslide victory in India’s parliamentary elections this month. It’s the first time that a single party has won a clear majority in an Indian election in three decades.
The BJP’s victory will bring Narendra Modi to power as India’s next prime minister. As Ankit and I talk about on the podcast today, Modi and the BJP’s victory are in many ways a nightmare for Pakistan. The BJP is a Hindu nationalist party, and both Modi and the BJP have been perceived as being especially hardline when it comes to Pakistan.
Ankit, for instance, pointed out that Modi has suggested that India might conduct covert cross-border raids targeting specific Pakistan-based anti-India terrorists. Another harrowing possibility is that Pakistan-based terrorists, at least assumed to be working in cohort with Pakistani terrorists, will carry out another major terrorist attack in India in the mold of the 2001 bombing of the Indian Parliament building or the siege of Mumbai in 2008. A BJP government under Modi is unlikely to act with the same restraint that the outgoing UPA government has shown in these incidents.
Even if incidents as dramatic as these don’t materialize, Modi and the BJP’s victory could put the brakes on the nascent Indo-Pakistani détente. As The Diplomat has reported, since Nawaz Sharif’s assumption of power in Pakistan in 2013, India and Pakistan have made small but notable progress in expanding trade and people-to-people ties. It’s possible that Modi will reverse course on this front, which is probably one reason Sharif has been so quick to reach out to Modi and congratulate him on his victory.
Although none of these possibilities should be dismissed, it’s possible that Modi will actually become an asset for Pakistan on a couple of fronts.
First, the BJP in general and Modi in particular have been widely criticized as being anti-Muslim. Most notably, many believe Modi either acquiesced in or actively encouraged the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat back in 2002. At the very least, Muslims in India are extremely wary of Modi and the BJP at present. If actions and rhetoric in the ensuing months and years confirm their current suspicions, Indian Muslims and other non-Hindu Indians are likely to become extremely dissatisfied.
Moreover, if the Indian government enacts egregious anti-Muslim policies, or condones anti-Muslim actions (especially something like the Gujarat riots in 2002), this will hurt India’s image in the international community, particularly among Western nations like the U.S. and Muslim nations in the Middle East. Pakistan will have opportunities to exploit this dissatisfaction among Indian Muslims, although it will have to tread carefully so as not to provoke Delhi into a kinetic conflict. At the same time, it will benefit from India’s image suffering in the court of international opinion.
Second, Modi’s premiership might push China even closer to Pakistan. As Ankit discussed on the podcast today, it’s not clear that Modi will take a hard line against China, especially given the importance he places on economic growth. Still, if history is any guide a BJP prime minister is likely to see China with greater alarm than a Congress Party leader. And if India adopts more hardline policies towards China, Pakistan becomes a bigger asset in the eyes of Beijing. This would be extremely beneficial to Islamabad, given its desperate need for Chinese assistance and aid in numerous areas, especially as the U.S. is likely to reduce its own aid to Pakistan as it withdraws from Afghanistan.
Thus, while on the surface Modi’s electoral victory is unsettling to Pakistan, it may ultimately work out in its favor.