Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The set of repressive laws passed in Bahrain has turned the Gulf Kingdom into a "dictatorship kingdom", newly-released human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has told IBTimes UK. Rajab, who is president of the Bahrain centre for human rights (BCHR), was recently freed after spending two years in prison for taking part in illegal gatherings and disturbing public order. The activist, one of the several leading pro-democracy campaigners arrested in the regime's crackdown on the uprising in 2011, was considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He told IBTimes UK that the human rights situation in the country has worsened since he was imprisoned in July 2012, after being detained several times in connection with pro-democracy protests in the Gulf kingdom. "The number of prisoners has doubled, violence has affected hundreds of people and repressive laws passed by the government or the King has changed Bahrain into a dictatorship," he said. Rajab also expressed his disappointment and anger at the UK's cosy relationship with the Bahraini regime. "Historically UK took a stand against our struggle for democracy even in the 90s," he said. "Now relations have strengthened with the royal family and this is very disappointing for Bahraini people and human rights defenders like me". Yet, Britain-Bahrain's relations are coming under scrutiny after news that the King of Bahrain's son, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, faces a High Court judicial review over whether he has immunity in the UK from prosecution for alleged torture. The Queen, who welcomed King Hamad at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, also faced embarrassment after his son Prince Andrew withdrew from a Bahraini-funded PR event in London. Dictatorship Kingdom After the crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising in 2011, led by Saudi forces and quietly supported by Britain and the US, Bahrain is plunging deeper into sectarian conflict between the ruling Sunni-al-Khalifa minority and the neglected Shia majority. King Hamad pledged to implement recommendations by an independent commission of inquiry but reforms are slow and reconciliation talks have been stalling for months. Violence between riot police and protesters take place every week. A 14-year-old was recently allegedly shot and killed by police during a funeral procession
Al-Wefaq, the country's main opposition party, reported that 170 protesters, including 29 children, were arrested by government security forces in April. At least 58 protesters were injured, mostly by pellets. Several decrees approved by Bahrain's King Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa include up to 7 years in jail for criticising the king. All protests, sit-ins and gatherings in Manama are banned indefinitely. "The King has all the power and policy but you cannot criticise him or you can be jailed," Rajab said. "Same thing for the police or the army. You cannot write on Twitter things the government don't like or you can end up in jail." The activist was punched in the face by riot police as he led a demonstration in February 2012. He was also arrested and charged with "insulting a national institution" in his tweets. His conviction was overturned after he served a three month sentence.
While in prison, Rajab was held in dire conditions and maltreated. It is a common feature in Bahraini prisons. The Bahrain independent commission of inquiry found that detainees are tortured using more than a dozen different techniques, including electric shock, sleep deprivation and threats of rape. Human Rights Watch has maintained that "Bahrain has a well-deserved reputation for torture", and that this reputation is "all of its own making". Amnesty International has previously investigated the torture and sexual abuse of children in detention.
Rajab was placed in solitary confinement in a cell with a dead animal. He was also held almost naked, with only a small piece of cloth covering his genitals. But the worst abuse was of psychological nature, Rajab said. "They succeeded in disconnecting me from the outside world," he said. "I was kept away from other political prisoners and not allowed to talk about the human rights situation with anyone, not even my family. My knowledge of the outside world was very limited when I came outside as I was handed only government newspaper." But he claimed that his struggle for democracy continues "I believe very strongly in freedom. I want a better future if not for myself, for my children," he said. "The whole world has changed towards freedom and justice except this part of the world, the Gulf countries, and nobody will come to help you from outside, from the UK, the US or Europe because they're looking for their interests here. We have to rely completely on ourself."
A Filipino man is in a critical condition in a Saudi Arabian hospital, after he was reportedly raped and beaten by a gang of men believed to be police officers in the desert almost two weeks ago.
He was found nude on 16 May, following the violent attack. The man referred to as “Mario”, is being treated in an intensive care unit in the capital city of Riyadh, Filipino broadcaster ABS CBN reported. During the attack, Mario sustained serious head injuries and multiple fractures. Doctors are currently monitoring him to identify possible internal bleeding. Before the incident, Mario had worked inside a mall, and had returned to the Middle Eastern country from the Philippines to renew his contract. Mario's friend told reporters: "I was the first to identify him: I recognised him in someone's Facebook post. "I was the one who said he was from my town [in the Philippines]" Another friend said he last saw Mario in the Batha region of the capital on 12 May. Despite struggling to speak and move, Mario was able to write out messages that may help identify his attackers. Mario’s friend told reporters that a suspect had been arrested in Batha. "I told him to write out each letter one by one so we could understand him. This is what he first wrote: "Saudi", after this, we got "officer", "police". "That's who was responsible for what happened to him," Jamila claimed. "And then they took him to Malaz. We asked him how many were involved, and he said four. "So he got arrested in Batha, then taken to Malaz where he got raped." The Philippine embassy already visited Mario and has been in contact with his employer.
Two Shia activists have been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of attacking security forces in Eastern Province. Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, 20, was found guilty on Tuesday of causing sedition, rioting, protesting and robbery in the district of Qatif.
Of the estimated three million Syrians living abroad, including both refugees and peacetime residents, only around 200,000 were entitled to vote on Wednesday, in 39 embassies abroad, a foreign ministry source said in Damascus. "It's a relatively acceptable figure, if we bear in mind the fact that France, Germany and Belgium have banned Syrian citizens" from voting, along with the United Arab Emirates, said Al-Watan, a pro-regime Damascus daily.
With a remarkably high turnout, Syrian citizens abroad are casting ballots on Wednesday at the Syrian embassies in several capitals worldwide to choose one out of three candiates as a president for their country.
Syria's Ambassador in Beirut Ali Abdulkarim told journalists that the turnout is high, as the number of voters is expected to hit tens of thousands, adding that those who could not vote today have another opportunity on 3rd of June to vote in the border cross points centers.
Abdulkarim said that the participation in the elections is a direct response to those who bet on disrupting the elections process, as it also indicates that the Syrian people believe in their country, its dignity and sovereignty. Later, Abdulkarim said that the Embassy will remain open for voting on Thursday as to allow as many citizens as possible to vote. Later, Ali Abdul-Kareem Ali said the Syrians' turnout cast votes for to the presidential elections at the Embassy in Beirut is considered as a victory over the conspiracy and a failure to the US-Israeli project aiming at destroying Syria. "This huge gathering is an expression that the Syrians are proud of their Army and its achievements as well as it is a reflection on the Syrian people's support to their wise leadership," Abdul-Kareem told Al-Manar TV in an interview.
Former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was on course for a sweeping victory in the country's presidential election on Wednesday, according to early provisional results. Sisi's campaign said their man had captured 93.4 percent with 2,000 polling stations counted, while judicial sources said he had 89 percent with 3,000 polling stations counted. His only rival, veteran leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, was on 2.9 percent according to the Sisi campaign, while the judicial sources put Sabahi on 5 percent, with the rest of the ballots deemed void. The partial results came 90 minutes after polls closed after three days of voting. Turnout was 44.4 percent of Egypt's 54 million voters, according to the judicial sources. That would be less than the 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate, that Sisi had called for last week. The lower than expected turnout figure raises questions about Sisi's credibility as leader of the Arab world's most populous nation. It would also suggest that he had failed to rally the overwhelming support he hoped for after toppling Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi, following street protests last year. A tour of Cairo polling stations on Wednesday saw only a trickle of voters. The same pattern emerged in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, Reuters reporters said. In a country polarized since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Many Egyptians said voters had stayed at home due to political apathy, opposition to another military man becoming president, discontent at suppression of freedoms among liberal youth, and calls for a boycott by Islamists. VOTE EXTENDED The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) Wednesday to allow the "greatest number possible" to vote, state media reported. Fireworks erupted in Cairo when Sisi's results began to emerge. His supporters waved Egyptian flags and sounded car horns on the crowded streets of the capital. Earlier, a 45-year-old Cairo shopkeeper, who gave her name as Samaa, said at a polling station in downtown Cairo she was supporting Sisi. "Our country can now only be handled by a military man, we need order." Despite an official campaign to bring out more voters, Egyptians, many opposed to Sisi, gave various reasons for their lack of enthusiasm. The Muslim Brotherhood, believed to have one million members, has rejected the poll, describing it as an extension of the army takeover. The group, loyal to Mursi, was outlawed by the military as a terrorist group and saw around 1,000 members killed in a security crackdown. Young secular activists, including those who backed Mursi's ouster, had become disillusioned with Sisi after many were rounded up in the security crackdown that also restricted protests. Since he gave a series of television interviews, many Egyptians feel Sisi has not spelled out a clear vision of how he would tackle Egypt's challenges, from widespread poverty to an energy crisis and an Islamist insurgency. Some Brotherhood supporters felt emboldened to speak out, feeling vindicated by the lower turnout. "Now I can say I am a Mursi supporter," said Ahmed Ali, a 28-year-old Cairo shopkeeper.
The notion of "hegemony" at the international level refers to how the construction of an order, driven by social forces occupying a leading position within a nation-state, is projected outward on a world scale, shaping the international order. The US, after WWII, has been seen as the global hegemon who paved and paid for the foundation of the postwar world order.
Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday to study the possibilities of future energy cooperation with Ukraine if the country repays its gas debts.
President Obama on Wednesday tried to regain his statesman’s mantle, telling graduating cadets here that the nation they were being commissioned to serve would still lead the world and would not stumble into military misadventures overseas. Speaking under leaden, chilly skies, Mr. Obama delivered the commencement address at the United States Military Academy. “America must always lead on the world stage,” he said. “But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” Under pressure from critics who say the United States has been rudderless amid a cascade of crises, the president said that those who “suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away – are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.” A day after announcing that the last American soldier would leave Afghanistan at the end of 2016, the president told this latest class of Army officers that the United States faced a new, more diffuse threat in an arc of militancy stretching from the Middle East to the African Sahel.
Mr. Obama singled out Syria, which he said had become a dangerous haven for terrorists, some linked to Al Qaeda. While pledging to strengthen American support for the opposition, he did not discuss expanding the C.I.A.'s covert training program for the rebels by bringing in the military, which is being debated inside the administration.
The president did announce a counterterrorism partnership, funded with up to $5 billion, to help train countries in the Middle East and Africa to carry out operations against extremists. “Today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized Al Qaeda leadership,” Mr. Obama said. “Instead, it comes from decentralized Al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in the countries where they operate.”
Mr. Obama’s speech, which was weeks in the drafting, was a wide-ranging rebuttal to critics who say he has yielded American leadership in a world tossed by storms, from Syria’s civil war to Russia’s incursions in Ukraine. But it was also meant to reject arguments that the United States should retreat from its post-World War II centrality in global affairs. Mr. Obama instead called for a middle course between isolationism and overreach, citing the international coalition he had mobilized to counter Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as an example of how to use American muscle without putting its soldiers at risk. West Point, with its 1,064 cadets in dress uniforms, offered a grand backdrop for Mr. Obama to present his foreign policy blueprint. But his theme was very different than in 2009, when he came here to announce that the United States would send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama sought to present Afghanistan as a mission all but completed and described a world filled with threats that require a more targeted American response.
Mr. Obama has been deeply frustrated by the criticism of his foreign policy, which during his first term was generally perceived as his strong suit. He has lashed out at critics, whom he accuses of reflexively calling for military action as the remedy for every crisis.
On a trip to Asia last month, Mr. Obama described his foreign policy credo with a baseball analogy: “You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.” But, he added, the overriding objective is to avoid an error on the order of the Iraq war. President Obama will be remembered for his foreign affairs philosophy."Speak eloquently and carry a small stick". Those who criticize Obama's foreign policy have not laid out what they would have done to demonstrate to other countries that the US would... Not militaristic sounds very good to me and to the USA but not so good to Halliburton, Cheney, McCain, Romney, Bush (every last one of em)... In private conversations, the president has used a saltier variation of the phrase, “don’t do stupid stuff” – brushing aside as reckless those who say the United States should consider enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria or supplying arms to Ukrainian troops. In the speech, Mr. Obama described an array of priorities, ranging from the Iran nuclear negotiations to a new global climate change accord, which he said would occupy his final two-and-a-half years in office. He also spoke of the need for the United States to look eastward to Asia, promoting his long efforts to negotiate a trans-Pacific trade agreement and pledging to defend American allies in the region in their territorial disputes with China in the South and East China Seas. He said the United States had successfully isolated President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe,” the president said. “But this isn’t the Cold War. Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.”
Armed men kidnapped five children belonging to minority Hindu community from Balochistan's volatile Jaffarabad district on Wednesday, senior officials said. Syed Zafar Ali Shah, the Deputy Commissioner Jaffarabad told Dawn.com that the children were going to school when abducted by the armed men near Dera Allah Yar. He, however, added that four accused belonging to a local tribe were arrested in connection with the kidnapping. “The ages of children are between five to 10,” Syed Ashfaq Ahmed, the District Police Officer Jaffarabad said. He said one of the local journalists was also arrested during police raid with regard to the incident.
"The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in UK is united in expressing its utter abhorrence at the brutal targeted murder of a surgeon who was on a humanitarian mission in Pakistan."Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar, a cardiologist from Ohio USA, was in Pakistan to provide free specialist cardiac treatment
The British Ahmadiyya Muslim community is grieving the callous murder of their fellow Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar that occurred in Pakistan on 26th May 2014. Born in Pakistan, the Canadian-American doctor, who had arrived in Rabwah only two-days earlier to serve voluntarily at the renowned Tahir Heart Institute, was shot and killed at daybreak as he was strolling with his wife and a toddler son outside the historic graveyard where members of his family and elders of the community lay buried. Dr Qamar was shot with 11 bullets by two assailants on a motorbike leaving him dead on the ground in front of his family. The murder of Dr Qamar, 50 year old - who is survived by a wife and three young sons - is the latest in a line of target killings of Ahmadi Muslims that accelerated since April 1984 when the then dictator General Zia, amended the country's penal code and declared it a crime for an Ahmadi to call himself a Muslim, a crime punishable by death under the country's blasphemy laws. In Pakistan extremist religious clerics openly preach hatred against Ahmadis with regularity in mosques and on TV and print media, and Ahmadis have been denied the right to vote. The National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in UK, Rafiq Hayat said: "The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in UK is united in expressing its utter abhorrence at the brutal targeted murder of a surgeon who was on a humanitarian mission in Pakistan. "We offer our condolences to the family of Dr Qamar, his friends and acquaintances the world over. "We call upon the authorities in Pakistan to abolish the anti-Ahmadiyya laws in Pakistan, to safeguard the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, and to apprehend the murderers of Dr Qamar and bring them to justice." An online petition to Rt Hon David Cameron MP, The Prime Minister, to urge him to raise the issue of the anti-Ahmadi laws with the Government of Pakistan and urge it to repeal them, set up three-weeks ago has attracted more than 11,000 signatures. Please read and sign the petition at: http://www.StopThePersecution.org
Learn more about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK at: http://www.loveforallhatredfornone.org
Pakistan People’s Party stalwart and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah said on Tuesday that Pakistan and India achieved nothing through three wars which they fought in the past. Talking to media, he said both the countries should resolve their problems as millions of people were dying of hunger. He said good talks are held in good atmosphere.
Out of 3,226 girls and boys primary schools, more than 850 are closed in nine talukas of Thatta and Sujawal districts and those operational are also not up to the mark, Dawn learnt here on Tuesday. These primary educational institutions identified as ‘closed schools’ are located in 55 union councils of talukas Thatta, Mirpursakhro, Mirpur Bathoro, Ghorabari, Kharochann, Shah Bunder, Keti Bunder, Jati and Sujawal. According to facts compiled from the education department documents, it is due to negligence of the quarters concerned that academic career of some 180,948 children is at a stake and due to closure of these schools more than 50,000 students have been deprived of primary education. An official of the district education department on condition of anonymity said education standard in the remaining operating schools was not up to the mark. He said, despite hectic steps taken during a campaign jointly launched by the district judiciary and education department in recent months, nothing could be achieved positively. Civil society, parents, socio political activists and the district and education department authorities seem to be blind folded on the subject. In this connection, a number of donors from Islamabad and Karachi had tried to help the poverty-ridden population of these coastal district to get streamlined the primary education.
President Obama announced yesterday that the U.S. will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until 2016. Combat operations will technically end at the end of this year. The plan depends on the Afghan government being willing to sign a joint security agreement with the United States. Current President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the deal but both the contenders in the upcoming Afghan presidential elections say they will.
The news highlights a number of rather remarkable facts: that Karzai, a dominant force in Afghan and international politics for more than a decade is about to leave office, that we’re not entirely sure who’s going to replace him, and that while both of the potential replacements have cordial relations with him, neither appears to be a total puppet and in fact have very different views on one of the most pressing issues facing the country.
It may sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but a transition like this has never happened before in Afghanistan. Afghans voted in the first round of the election on April 5 and will vote again in a run-off on June 14. The run-off pits former foreign minister turned opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah led the first round of voting by 14 points but Ghani is expected to pick up some Pashtun votes. Abdullah, though half-Pashtun, is generally thought of as Tajik. It would be an exaggeration to say the election has gone smoothly. The election commission has fired 3,000 people over allegations of fraud, there were dozens of reports of bombings and Taliban attacks on election day, ugly ethnic rhetoric and threats of violence have been heard, and amid security concerns following attacks in Kabul, the number of foreign observers was way down this year. It’s also clear that president or not, Karzai is not planning to go quietly into the night and will retain some influence through ministers loyal to him, though Zalmay Rassoul, the candidate who was widely seen as enjoying Karzai’s backing, did not make it to the second round. But the election is still a marked improvement over the last election 2009, when fraud was so widespread and blatant, with turnout over 100 percent in some regions, that it drastically undermined the credibility of Karzai’s government and handed a major propaganda victory to the Taliban. Sarah Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment says the notion that this election will be a transformative event is “delusional,” and she’s likely right. Whoever’s in power, Afghanistan faces steep challenges to maintain any semblance of stability after U.S. troops leave. No thanks to the U.S., corruption remains rampant. And the country's experience with electoral democracy could still turn out to be a very short one. But all the same, if Afghanistan's first ever peaceful transfer of power continues to go smoothly, it will be a pretty remarkable development. And the fact that we all seem to be taking it for granted is also worthy of note.
For years, the American people have been asking when the war in Afghanistan will end. On Tuesday, President Obama said not for at least two and a half more years. Mr. Obama reaffirmed that he would meet his commitment to remove the last 32,000 combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year, a pace that was too slow from the start. But don’t think this is the end of the American military involvement in the Afghan quagmire. After months of hemming and hawing, Mr. Obama also announced that he intends to retain a residual force beyond 2014. According to this plan, 9,800 troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2014, and the number would be cut by half by the end of 2015. By the end of 2016, the force will be cut further, enough to protect the embassy in Kabul and help the Afghans with outfitting their military and other security matters. It is reasonable to ask how two more years of a sizable American troop presence — which one official said could cost $20 billion in 2015 — will advance a stable Afghanistan in a way that 13 years of war and the 100,000 troops deployed there at the peak were unable to guarantee. Mr. Obama insists the objectives will be limited to using Special Operations forces to disrupt threats posed by Al Qaeda and to train and advise Afghan security personnel, pursuits American troops have been deeply engaged in throughout the war. He does not claim that the residual force will ensure Afghanistan’s success. But administration officials say — and this is the only argument that makes some sense — that a continued, albeit much smaller, American military role would provide a stabilizing bridge at a sensitive time when Afghanistan is choosing a new leader to succeed President Hamid Karzai. There also are doubts about how much Congress and the international community will be willing to invest in Afghanistan if American troops, along with a much smaller contingent of NATO forces, are not in the country. The election is a cause for some optimism about Afghanistan, which has been burdened by inept and corrupt governance. The top two candidates to succeed Mr. Karzai — Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, and Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official — are viewed as competent, pro-Western and stable, unlike Mr. Karzai. Both Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani have also said they would sign a bilateral security agreement that Mr. Karzai refused to sign and that Mr. Obama insists is a prerequisite for a continued troop presence. The administration says it has also been encouraged by improvements in the Afghan security forces, which the United States and NATO built and trained over the past decade. Initial news reports suggested the forces contributed to the reasonably peaceful outcome of the first round of presidential voting in April. More than 350,000 military and police units were deployed for the vote. But it was later reported that Afghan news media played down the incidence of violence and many experts still have serious questions about the competency of most Afghan units. The country’s gross domestic product has grown an average of 9.4 percent annually from 2003 to 2012, and life expectancy has increased by more than 20 years to 62 years. Yet the United States remains trapped there, putting its young men and women in harm’s way. Mr. Obama has dragged out the biggest part of the withdrawal from Afghanistan for two years and now wants to leave more troops there until the end of 2016. His promise to end the war, made years ago, won’t be honored until he’s practically out of office.
A senior official in the Obama administration explained, "combat mission will be over by the end of 2014 ... we are open to continued efforts in Afghanistan on two narrow missions after 2014: training Afghan forces and supporting [counterterrorism] operations against the remnants of al-Qaida. We will only sustain a military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the bilateral security agreement (BSA)." Assuming the BSA will be signed, a significant number of the 33,000 U.S. troops currently in the country will be sent home. (In 2011, there were 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.) The 9,800 force will be scaled down by half by the end of 2015 and eventually, by the end of the following year, only those serving as a security assistance force for the U.S. embassy in Kabul will remain.The new image of Obama's foreign policy: President Obama inherited two wars and has been cleaning up the mess he was dealt ever since he arrived in office. With two years left in office, the president is obviously thinking about his legacy.
Most recently, he has been taking heat for modest military interventions in the escalating situations in Syria and Ukraine. In April, Obama spoke about looking back and learning a lesson from history. "Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we've just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?" he said. "And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?" The president and his administration were unable to prevent Russia from annexing Crimea and pulled back a military strike in Syria, but Obama's foreign policy is not finished just yet.
Publicly, the U.S. provides nonlethal aid, like food rations, clothing and first aid supplies to Syria. A Frontline documentary airing Tuesday night may prove more intensive U.S. intervention in the country, overt or not:"The interviews [in the documentary] are the latest evidence that after more than three years of warfare, the United States has stepped up the provision of lethal aid to the rebels. In recent months, at least five rebel units have posted videos showing their members firing U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles at Syrian positions. The weapons are believed to have come from Saudi Arabia, but experts on international arms transfers have told McClatchy that they could not have been given to the rebels without the approval of the Obama administration."
Syrian rebels say that the U.S. is arranging their military training and teaching fighting techniques to help the rebels take on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which are gaining steam in the country's three-year civil war. Clearly Obama is eager to put the Iraq and Afghanistan wars behind him. However, discreet military tactics may not be the best foreign policy either. With Karzai's signature on the BSA, the Obama administration is at least headed in the right direction for the time being.Why is the BSA only being signed now?
he BSA has long eluded the U.S., mainly due to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's reticence to sign the deal. In February, President Obama requested that the Pentagon draft plans to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Prior to that, Vice President Joe Biden was a proponent of a smaller residual military presence of 2,000 to 3,000 troops. In any case, the White House has been publicly pushing for Karzai's signature on a BSA since 2013, threatening to repeat the "zero option" that transpired in Iraq. After failing to sign a BSA with Iraq in 2011 (a major stipulation of which was "that [it] included immunity from prosecution for the U.S. military"), this "led to the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country," which makes the Afghanistan deal a huge win for the Obama administration.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday discussed the issue of cross-border shelling by Pakistan and US troops pullout plan from Afghanistan with the top US officials in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's military has fired nearly 700 artillery shells on two Afghan districts in the bordering Kunar province since Saturday, a rapid increase ahead of the June 14 runoff poll.
Asian Human Rights : PAKISTAN: An Ahmadi humanitarian activist is shot dead – the police show no interest in investigating the case
CASE NARRATIVE: Dr Mehdi Ali, a devout Ahmadiyya Muslim had a well-established practice in the USA as a cardiologist. He returned to Pakistan at this own expense to voluntarily offer his specialist services to the people of his country and to work at the Charity Heart Institute in Rabwah, Chnab Nagar, Punjab. He was accompanied by this wife and two children. On 26 May, 2014, he was shot dead by unknown persons riding a motorcycle while he was offering Fateha (prayer) at a graveyard. Dr. Mahdi had traveled to Pakistan as a volunteer to serve in rural area of Punjab and provide free healthcare to poverty-stricken people of all faiths. Dr. Medhi was shot at point blank range and died instantly. He and his family had been visiting a cemetery in the town of Chenab Nagar when the attack occurred. He had just finished paying his respects at friends and family graves at the Ahmadiyya elder’s cemetery when he was killed while coming out of the gate. He was murdered for no other reason than his adherence to the Ahmadi faith. His humanitarian efforts to bring relief to the people of his country offered no security from his attackers who fled the scene. The police have shown little interest in investigating the incident or arresting the perpetrators. In one report they simply stated that, "We are looking into the incident. It seems to be a targeted attack". There is no doubt that it was, indeed, a targeted attack. The national spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States expressed regret and sorrow over the senseless killing. He went on to say that, "Dr Mehdi Ali's crime was healing the ill and lessening the pain of the suffering. For this ‘horrible’ crime he paid with his life". The victim leaves behind his wife, a toddler son, and 5-year-old son and another aged 17 years. Dr. Medhi was an Assistant Professor of Cardiology at Ohio University. He was the younger brother of Imam Hadi Ali Chaudhary, a missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community serving at the Ahmadiyya Institute of Islamic Theology and Languages in Canada. Dr. Medhi’s death comes less than two weeks after another Ahmadi was taken into custody on charges of having committed blasphemy and shot while in a police lockup in full view of the police officers. In the Urgent Appeal the AHRC has appealed to the governments of Pakistan and Punjab to provide security to the Ahmadis after the killing of an Ahmadi in a police lockup by a teenager in the presence of the police. It is also apprehended that more Ahmadis would be targeted if security is not provided to them. During this month of May, 68 lawyers were booked on the charges of Blasphemy because they were protesting against the police officer for manhandling an arrested lawyer. Please see: PAKISTAN: In a mockery of the blasphemy law 68 lawyers were charged for challenging the authority of the police. In the same month a human rights defender and prominent lawyer, Mr. Rashid Reman was gunned downed in his chamber for pleading the case of a university professor who was arrested on charges of blasphemy. Please see the Urgent Appeal: PAKISTAN: AHRC condemns the assassination of a prominent human rights defender and places the responsibility on the government of Punjab . Last year 7 Ahmadis were killed in target killings by known Muslim religious organisations. Punjab province is worst hit by the attacks on Ahmadis and the local authorities including the government of Mian Shahbaz Sharif turns a blind eye to the killings in an effort to appease the sectarian organisations, their leaders and banned militant organisations to get political support from them. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The French news agency, AFP, reports that an expert panel urged the United States to add Pakistan to a blacklist of violators of religious freedom, saying that the Ahmadi minority suffers "apartheid-like" conditions. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises the government on policy but does not take action on its own, urged the State Department to add Pakistan to its list of "countries of particular concern" subject to potential sanctions. In an annual report, the commission said that Pakistan "represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom" among countries that are not already on the US blacklist and that conditions in the past year "hit an all-time low." Robert George, chairman of the commission, voiced alarm over treatment of the Ahmadis, who were declared by Pakistan to be non-Muslims in 1974. "The Ahmadi minority in Pakistan live under something really resembling an apartheid-like system subject to severe legal restrictions," said George, comparing the situation to South Africa's 1948-1994 system of forced racial separation. Ahmadis have faced a series of deadly attacks and desecration of their graves. Ahmadis boycotted last year's election because they would have had to identify themselves as non-Muslims. The report also voiced alarm about Pakistan's treatment of Hindus, Christians and Shia Muslims. It said Pakistan has sentenced to death or jailed for life 36 people for blasphemy, far more than any other country. The United States has urged Pakistan to improve its treatment of religious minorities but has stopped short of putting the country, an uneasy ally in the Afghanistan war, on the blacklist. SUGGESTED ACTION: Please write the letters to the authorities calling them to provide security to Ahmadiyya community without any lapse. The high police officers must be charged for the negligence for not providing security to a community which constantly remains under attack from fundamentalist Muslims. Ahmadis have all the constitutional rights of any citizen of Pakistan including the right to life. The Punjab government must initiate an enquiry into the target killings of Ahmadis. The AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion or Belief and on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions calling for their intervention into this matter.
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The Human Liberation Commission Pakistan (HLCP) held protest against forceful conversion of christians and burning of christian homes in Sheikupura
The Human Liberation Commission Pakistan (HLCP) on Monday held a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club to protest against forced conversion of Christians and burning of Christian homes in Sheikupura, and wanted suspension of those police officers reluctant to register their FIRs.
Dear APPNA family,
It is with a heavy heart that I must again address a most heinous act of violence that has perpetrated one of our own. I am referring to the murder of Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar, a cardiologist from Columbus Ohio and member of the APPNA family, who was brutally murdered in Pakistan on Monday in front of his wife and child. Dr. Qamar was the casualty of targeted attacks on Ahmadi Muslims. He was killed while visiting his father’s gravesite. Dr. Qamar was in Pakistan to volunteer at a local heart clinic and see relatives when his life was tragically cut short.
Belle Knox says she is standing up for free expression after her Twitter account is blocked in the "Land of the Pure" for carrying blasphemous or unethical content
Pakistan’s efforts to stem online blasphemy and pornography have run up against a formidable opponent in the form of an American porn star, furious that her Twitter account has been blocked in the country. Miriam Weeks, a student at Duke University, who goes by the name Belle Knox, was among users whose accounts were banned in the country for “blasphemous” or “unethical” content. The issue has provoked anger among free speech campaigners, who accuse censors of overstepping the law in arbitrarily removing content from the internet. Miss Weeks singled out Abdul Batin, the bureaucrat at the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), who wrote to Twitter demanding the content be removed.
“If he thinks I am a soft target, he’s going to be surprised. I stand up for sex workers, and will continue to do so because I feel that often, we’re disregarded as casualties.” However, Miss Weeks added that her own problems were insignificant in comparison with political groups being silenced. Pakistan is one of a number of countries struggling to come to terms with online freedoms. It has blocked Twitter and Facebook in the past for spreading supposedly blasphemous content, while YouTube has been banned for the past 18 months. The proliferation of pornographic websites has proved a particular headache. At one time authorities were forced to call in a 15-year-old boy for help after he complained that he had been able to access 780,000 adult pages from Pakistan – a country whose name means "the land of the pure". Now censors are grappling with how to extend the country’s draconian blasphemy laws to websites. The PTA submitted at least five requests between May 5 and 14 asking Twitter to block specific tweets and accounts for users in Pakistan, according to Chilling Effects, an online watchdog. The material included an annual contest to draw the Prophet Mohammed – an issue which led to complete Twitter and Facebook bans in 2012. This time Belle Knox and two other porn stars were also included. Users are met with the message: “This account has been withheld in Pakistan.” Twitter says its “country withheld content” policy is based on transparency. “With hundreds of millions of Tweets posted every day around the world, our goal is to respect our users’ expression, while also taking into consideration applicable local laws,” it says. However, internet freedom campaigners fear Pakistan can use such tools to stem political freedoms. “A lot of political dissent has been blocked under the garb of blocking antireligious or antinational content, disregarding citizens’ right to information and the need for transparency and accountability,” said Bolo Bhi, which campaigns against online restrictions and has counted more than 15,000 blocked sites.
A 25-year old woman waits outside the Lahore High Court (LHC). She has committed an unforgivable crime; that of marrying the man she loves against the wishes of her family. Her family has registered a case claiming that she has been kidnapped by her new husband. She wants to tell the court that it is not so. As she waits outside for the doors to open, her father, two brothers and former fiancé attack her with bricks leading to her death. The familiar brand of barbaric ‘justice’ yet again triumphs over the written law of the land. Another case is settled outside the courts. Another woman, in search of justice, stoned to death, in the name of honour. Farzana Iqbal’s story is both common and unique. It is common because thousands of women like her suffer the same fate every year in Pakistan, and unique simply because we were able to hear it. The basic problem is that of social behaviours and mindsets. Women are not considered human beings entitled to rights or equal treatment. It’s a patriarchal society, and its reflection is visible even on the walls of our justice system. Whereas changing mindsets requires education and time, holding aggressors accountable before law is a matter of will and policy. While others remain at large, Farzana’s father is in custody and has confessed to the crime. The courts must ensure that he pays for it, and so does everyone else who participated in the murder. Precedents matter, and setting the right ones can save lives. Furthermore, the incident causes one to wonder how these men were able to stone a woman to death in front of a High Court in an urban centre. Did anybody rush to her help? Were there no security personnel outside the LHC? And finally, will the macabre symbolism, the misunderstood religiosity of such horrific punishments, create sympathisers for the accused?
Outraged over repeated incidents of desecration of their holy book and temples coupled with inaction on the government's part, Sikh protesters forced their way into Islamabad's high security zone on Friday, to register their grievance. They managed to reach the Parliament House despite police baton charge and tear gas. If they wanted the police could have used more force to stop the demonstrators but preferred to adopt leniency for the obvious reason that those involved were distressed members of a minority community. Many acted horrified over the breach of security, however. If there is anything to be horrified about the incident it is the increasing frequency with which minority communities are coming under attack. As one of the protesters from the Pakistan Sikh Sangat told journalists their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, was desecrated seven times in 18 months, but no action has been taken against the culprits. The most recent incident took place in the Mirpur Mathelo area of Ghotki in Sindh. Sikhs, of course, are not the only minority community under attack; several Hindu temples have also been torched. During last March alone there have been six reported cases of desecration of Hindu temples in differing parts of Sindh -Shikarpur, Larkana, Khairpur, Mithi, Hyderabad and Tharparker - and one such incident took place in Karachi's Lea Market earlier this month, ie, May 7. Repeated attacks on Christian homes and churches are already a matter of public record and legal proceedings. A majority of them are motivated by worldly issues concerning property grabs or personal enmities but given a religious colour. Islam lays a lot of emphasis on protecting the minorities and their places of worship, which is why the laws of this country provide for the same. Notably, during the hearing of a case a few days ago, while expressing displeasure over non-registration of cases against those involved in torching of temples, Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani reminded all concerned that according to Article 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, "offence" against any religion falls under the purview of the blasphemy laws. Unfortunately most people, even those associated with law and the justice system, profess ignorance about their responsibilities under these laws towards people of other faiths. This comes out clearly from the proceedings in the apex court where a Hindu representative complained about the burning of his community's temples in Sindh. No less a person than the province's Additional Advocate General rejected the allegations of inaction saying cases had been registered in all instances. But when the court asked him whether the cases had been registered under the PPC section that pertains to desecration of places of worship, he said no section holds such actions as sacrilege. He was told to read the PPC's relevant provision, which clearly states that desecration of all places of worship is a crime. Sadly, the minority representatives have been running from pillar to post to demand what is their right under Islam and the Constitution. The government must pull its act together and do all that is necessary to create a sense of security among all citizens.
An accountability court here on Wednesday acquitted former president Asif Ali Zardari in polo ground reference case, DawnNews reported. Accountability Court announced the verdict during the hearing of NAB reference case .
The Islamabad-Rawalpindi metro bus project could be a big disaster for the environment, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Manzoor Wattoo said on Tuesday. In a statement, Wattoo said the project demonstrated flaws in the government’s priorities and development strategy. He criticised the chief minister’s “obsession with tearing down these cities’ historical façade” and said development for the sake of improving lives was one thing, but sacrificing historic and cultural sites at the altar of development was different. He claimed that the metro bus project was expected to cost around Rs24 billion, which he said was “six times the amount projected by an Asian Development Bank study”. The government had not issued any clarification on the matter and its silence was disturbing, he said. “The dug-up roads made the once-beautiful Islamabad look like a battlefield, he said.Wattoo expressed his frustration over the uprooting of “thousands of trees for the project”. “This reckless deforestation would deface the beautiful federal capital.” Wattoo said the idea of building new roads for the proposed project was also flawed because there was already enough space to dedicate a lane for buses. That would have dealt with the problems faced by the commuters at a fraction of the cost, he said.
Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution. -W. B. Yeats
Rabwah is an Arabic word meaning "an elevated place". This is what Wikipedia says about Rabwah (also known as Chenab Nagar) but personal impressions are all the more relevant; and I know it be a different place. During our trips to River Chenab, the only picnic spot in the vicinity of our college, we would hear the whispers about this sleeping town. On growing up, I would often visit the deserted streets of the town but hardly came across the hustle and bustle that was quite the signature of a Punjabi lifestyle. The myth about this ghost city was finally broken when I had the chance to visit it on a Friday afternoon. Members of the Ahmadi community were out in the streets, filling them with life. Despite living under the constant threat, the Ahmadis were still holding on to Jinnah’s Sri Nagar speech in May 1944. The debate here is not about the fate of Ahmadis in Pakistan, for the matters of faith are, thankfully, not to be decided by humans alone. Whosoever ends up on the right side of faith, is an occurrence that is subject to an unpredictable future, but what remains Abrahamic about this group is the persecution that ensues. Not a single day goes by, when an Ahmadi is not discriminated on the basis of his religious belief, so how could this 26th day of May be an exception? Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar is today’s count for the self-righteous in Pakistan. A graduate of Punjab Medical College, Mehdi did his residency from the 10th Avenue’s famous Maimonides Hospital of New York and was currently teaching at the Ohio University. His half-a-century age had ignited in him, the flair of public service, for which he chose Pakistan, a land that he still considered his home. After lining up things for the three week medical mission at the Tahir Medical Centre of Chenab Nagar (Rabwah), he flew alongwith the family and started the camp. On the second day of his mission, Dr Mehdi was exiting the Ahmadi graveyard after paying respects to his deceased relatives and community members, when unidentified men shot him dead. All this, while his wife and two-year-old son watched in horror and his other two sons slept peacefully. A little later, the sun appeared on Rabwah and the day started in the Islamic Republic, quite routine. Though no one has claimed responsibility, sooner or later, some Lashkar or Jaish will make a call and own the killing; after all, nothing unites us better than hatred. Apparently, Mehdi’s crime is the one of his faith, a matter in which most of us, from this part of the world, have little to opt. It all started in March of 1953, when violence engulfed Punjab and claimed over a dozen lives. The disturbances were stirred when the Pakistani state, headed by Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din, refused to succumb to the clergy’s demand for a systematic purge of Ahmadis. Loot and arson was contained after the military was called in but this left a question mark on the survival of minorities in the infant state. As things normalised, an inquiry commission was set up to find out the reasons behind the violence. The committee, headed by Justice M R Kayani and Justice Munir, held over a hundred sessions and after an exhaustive five weeks, issued a detailed report. The content of the report is every bit, an incisive analysis, but its essence can rightly be summed up in the following paragraph: “Keeping in view the several definitions given by the ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim but kafirs according to the definition of everyone else.” But we, as a nation, decided to look the other way and in 1974, the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims. However, this, as a matter of interest and reference, must be kept in mind that immediately after the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims, all the forces that rallied for getting them off Islam, instantly joined hands against the Shias. Dr Qamar Ali Mehdi was no ordinary doctor. While he held the Young Investigator Award by the American College of Cardiology and was identified among America's Top Physicians for the year 2003-2004 and America's Top Cardiologists for years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. He also held the Physician Recognition Award by the American Medical Association. His bespectacled bright face smiled next to his profile that read: “I believe in delivering the best possible patient care, maintaining the highest professional standards, contributing to the progress of the institutions I am affiliated with. My first priority is to deliver my professional responsibilities with competency, honesty and integrity.” And with competence, honesty and integrity, he did. I am sorry, Dr Qamar Ali Mehdi, I failed to protect you but I raise my voice against this persecution. I forgo my safety just so that tomorrow I don’t die unheard. All the notions of a right wing government next door may not be as dangerous as the silence at this rise of ultra-right indoors. The hours of choice are narrowing every second and there remains no option but a totalitarian Pakistan, rising up against extremism. If, today we decide to stay silent about an Ahmadi killing, tomorrow we will be forced to stay quiet on another persecution, setting up a vicious cycle in motion that will leave all our cities as silent as Chenab Nagar (Rabwah), the elevated place.