Friday, May 30, 2014

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U.S: Press Secretary Jay Carney steps down

Bahrain's human rights abuses worse than ever – HRW report

A damning report on Bahrain’s justice system was released by Human Rights Watch, detailing its selective application, broken promises and a further descent into savage violence by the security state in the three years since the country’s own Arab Spring.
Despite continuing efforts at peaceful reform since 2011, the ruling family’s hold on the judicial process has increasingly taken a turn for the worse, with no end in sight for the prosecution of high-profile government critics, a curtailing of the right to any meaningful form of protest or assembly and an escalating human rights abuse record, which includes rampant, unabated torture, according to HRW.
The video below depicts the nature of the February-April 2011 protests, which afforded the calm, pro-reform crowds little in return, apart from a deliberate campaign of unlawful detention and a routine application of torture that led to the killing of more than a dozen people, five of them in detention.
The report, compiled from numerous interviews and court documents, contests other analyses of the situation in the country, especially one offered by the UK’s Foreign Office, which claimed that Bahrain is well into implementing recommendations offered by The Commission of Inquiry, and other widespread judicial reforms.
A glimmer of hope appeared two years ago, when the Commission succeeded in getting King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to promise to free a number of political dissenters and reign in the security services responsible for torture-related deaths and beatings. However, as the 64-page report claims, Bahrain’s courts continue to maintain abusive political order, while offering astounding leniency to its security forces. Despite promises, no top government official has yet been held responsible for the human rights violations. The few cases where any hearings were held appeared to be largely for show, the authors of the document explained.
As HRW’s deputy Middle East director Joe Stork points out, “a police officer in Bahrain who kills a protester in cold blood or beats a detainee to death might face a sentence of six months or maybe two years, while peacefully calling for the country to become a republic will get you life in prison.” Stork further adds that “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”
In recent times, the Gulf Kingdom has increased the threat of the death penalty for anyone who dares to get physical with the police, so the protests have largely been peaceful. Nonetheless, since the start of the Bahrain uprising, the International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 lives have been lost.
Numerous events have been held since, all to no avail. Some of them have been violent, while others simply asked that the world pay closer attention to the situation before glamorizing the F1 racing event that took place there, amid wide support by popular American celebrities. Despite the report’s scathing accusations, Bahrain’s regime has many friends – among them the world’s loudest human rights advocates: the US (whose Navy’s Fifth Fleet is right there in the Persian Gulf), the UK and Belgium. The report talks of their failure to address the Middle Eastern government’s refusal “to take serious steps to hold security forces accountable for abuse, or to call openly for the release of high-profile political prisoners.”
One such recently released individual has had to suffer two years of solitary confinement in dire conditions and face routine prison mistreatment for his verbal crimes – human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. While he’d been kept naked in his cell with a dead animal for company, he hoped for some changes to occur, but instead believes the absolute opposite has occurred during his imprisonment. He revealed to RT some of the ordeals he suffered. “I was kept in isolation for the past two years… just to make sure that I do not connect with the other prisoners,” he explains. Placed in a building with common criminals, some of whom spoke different languages, he was deliberately put in a situation in which he could not hold a conversation on Bahrain and its politics. The same was true for all other attempts at communication: “I was not allowed also to speak by telephone on any issue related to Bahrain for the past two years. So I wasn’t aware of what was happening outside – that’s why I’m not speaking much [since release].” Any political comments that Rajab put in writing were taken from him prior to release, but, as he says, “I’m planning to continue my struggle… the cost has to be paid. Maybe some people – specific people – have to pay this cost to achieve democracy, justice and human rights. I’m one of the people in this country willing to [pay it.].” The human rights activist, who also appeared on the RT-sponsored Julian Assange interview show in 2012, also had to face the harrowing ordeal of losing his closest family members – including his mother – as well as his friends, in the two years he was imprisoned. HRW’s Stork believes that “something is seriously amiss” in the country and that “Stability and reform will remain out of reach in Bahrain as long as its allies, notably the UK, offer uncritical support in the face of mounting evidence of abuses.”

‘Loud minority’ opposes Saudi women’s employment, lobbyist says

By Hind Mustafa
It is not the government, but a minority of people with “loud voices” who oppose Saudi female participation in the workforce, a women’s rights lobbyist said. “We never have issues with the government,” Dr. Basmah Mosleh Omair, CEO of Al-Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center, told Al Arabiya News on Thursday. “Some in middle management positions have old ideologies against women that really delay progress,” she said, adding that top-level officials are “pro women.” The center works to reform gender-biased employment regulations.
Societal support
According to a study released this week by the center, 79% of Saudi men and 90% of women supported female employment.
“People claimed resistance was much higher than acceptance, and the results prove that we have a normal society with both sides,” said Omair. “The next phase should concentrate on awareness programs.”
For example, “women and men didn’t know that the male guardian’s approval isn’t required for her employment. It’s not part of the labor law. They didn’t know that you can travel within the country without approval.”
The center works with the Ministry of Labor to ensure that it “doesn’t just open low-level skills for women,” Omair said.
“Now there are women employed in factories and sales, but we want more opportunities in leadership, as board members, in family businesses, [public] and private companies.”
Forthcoming reports from the center will cover sexual harassment at the workplace, maternity laws, and women’s impact in family businesses.

Searching for Turkey’s Next President
In August of this year, Turkish citizens will for the first time vote in a new president. In the past, Turkey’s presidents were selected by its Parliament, with the Turkish military exercising a de facto veto over the choice. In Turkey’s parliamentary electoral system, the office of the President acted as a check and balance on the power of the elected politicians, vetoing problematic legislation and using other presidential powers to sometimes restrain government excess. Like in other parliamentary democracies, the idea was to try and select a president who could stand above the political fray and guard the interests of the state and all its people.
This came to an end in 2007, when the military tried to block the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) nominee for President. Prime Minister Erdogan responded to the threatened military coup by calling a snap election, which his party won handily. In the face of a renewed mandate from the people, Turkish generals found themselves unable to move against Mr. Erdogan. The Turkish judiciary may have felt likewise, as shortly afterwards it narrowly voted against closing the AKP for anti-secular activities. The AKP’s Abdullah Gul was thus duly appointed President of the Republic. President Gul by most accounts tried to serve as everyone’s President, rather than just the leader of those who voted for his party. He even dissented with Prime Minister Erdogan on a few issues, such as banning on Twitter.
On the whole, however, Mr. Gul failed to restrain or check the power of Mr. Erdogan and the party from which he came. Every time something frustrates Prime Minister Erdogan, he directs his party to invent new legislation to remove the irritant. When the judiciary and police find evidence of corruption in top members of Mr. Erdogan’s government and family, new laws are passed requiring that the government be informed ahead of time of any proposed investigations of its activities. When leaked recordings likewise indicate government corruption, laws are drawn up and duly passed to block Youtube and other parts of the Internet to where the material is posted. When the Turkish intelligence agency’s (MIT) activities are questioned and investigated, regulations are changed to make the institution only answerable to the Prime Minister. When mainstream media that potential AKP voters might read says anything critical of the government, Mr. Erdogan’s business friends are directed to purchase the offending newspapers or television channels and fire “problematic journalists.” In all these ways and more, the AKP government expands its autocratic power, free from the objections of an AKP President of the Republic.
This dynamic makes the upcoming presidential election very important for Turkey’s opposition parties. The end of Mr. Gul’s term as President and the direct election of a replacement offer a chance to rein in the runaway train of AKP power. Most everyone assumes Mr. Erdogan will announce his candidacy for the post of President shortly. If elected, he will then presumably move to strengthen Presidential powers, using a compliant AKP dominated parliament to pass necessary legal amendments. Given Mr. Erdogan’s penchant for polarizing society and losing his temper, however, he hardly seems like the ideal head of state for many of his people. Although committed AKP supporters may find themselves perplexed by the title of this column, others desperately wish to see Mr. Erdogan’s (often angry) visage less often on their television screens.
The challenge of opposition parties, however, is to find a consensus candidate to defeat Mr. Erdogan in the presidential election. I spent the last few days in the Turkish Parliament speaking to opposition party leaders, and they insist that they are willing to work with anyone who shares their goal of denying Mr. Erdogan the Presidency. High level opposition members of Parliament from different parties assured me that they want to find someone agreeable to everyone -- the Kemalist Republican People's Party (CHP), the Right-wing National Action Party (MHP), the Left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP – which the pro-Kurdish party joined recently) and even AKP supporters worried about Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic tendencies (these could continue to vote for the AKP in other elections, but not for President).
Such a person will be hard to find in the time remaining before the election. They would need some name recognition with Turkey’s masses and a reputation for professionalism, a high regard for the rule of law and an honest reputation. What’s more, they would need all these qualities without any well-known public position on some of Turkey’s most burning issues: a candidate supportive of Kurdish rights would alienate the MHP, while one too focused on security and a unified Turkey would alienate liberals and Kurds. Too secular of a candidate would alienate religious voters, while too Sunni a candidate would alienate Alevis and secularists. If such a person exists, I have no doubt that more than half of Turkey’s population is anxious to meet them. - See more at:

Turkey's top court rejects YouTube ban

Constitutional court says ban imposed in March on video sharing site violated individual rights and freedoms.
Turkey's top court has ruled that a blanket ban on YouTube violated individual rights and freedoms, clearing the way for the popular video-sharing site to come back.
The decision on Thursday was in response to individual complaints to the constitutional court on the grounds of a breach of rights, an official from the prime minister's office told AFP news agency.
The ruling is a setback for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had advocated the ban of the website and its videos.
"The decision by Turkey's highest court to lift the ban on YouTube would be greeted warmly by advocates of free speech and political independents here in Turkey," Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said.
YouTube has been banned in Turkey since March 27 after the site was used to spread audio recordings in which senior government, military and intelligence officials were allegedly heard weighing possible military action inside war-torn Syria.
The court's decision is "binding" and access to YouTube could be granted in the coming hours, the private NTV television channel reported.
Last month, the government said it would keep its block on YouTube in place despite two separate courts ordering the ban be lifted.
In March, Turkey also blocked Twitter after it was used to spread a spate of anonymous leaks implicating Prime Minister Erdogan and his inner circle in corrupt deals. But the government had to comply with a constitutional court ruling that found the two-week ban on the microblogging site violated free speech.
Government's wrath
The latest ruling is seen as another slight to Erdogan, who has accused the judiciary of "showing increasing appetite in the political sphere".
The constitutional court has provoked the wrath of the government, especially after overturning the Twitter ban and annulling parts of a ruling party-sponsored law tightening the grip of the executive over the judiciary.
Erdogan has claimed Turkey's judiciary and police are under the sway of his ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen, an influential Muslim cleric based in the United States.
The ban on Twitter and YouTube was seen by Erdogan's critics as an attempt to prevent further details from the corruption scandal being leaked online as part of a campaign waged by Gulen and his loyalists to unseat his government.
Gulen is believed to have an extensive network of supporters in the police and the judiciary but denied claims that he has masterminded the corruption scandal against the prime minister and his allies.

Beijing accuses Shinzo Abe of using tensions as pretext for changing military policy
A senior Chinese official yesterday accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of exploiting the territorial dispute in the East China Sea to amend the country's security policy. In an apparent attempt to pre-empt Abe's own speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, former deputy foreign minister Fu Ying told a special panel on the sidelines of the annual forum in Singapore that Abe's denial of Japan's history would intensify concerns at the direction in which he was taking the country. "My observation is that after he came to office he didn't show interest addressing the Diaoyu Islands dispute. Instead he has made it into a bigger issue - that is, China as a country is posing a threat to Japan as a country," said Fu, now chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress. "He has made such a myth. And with that as an excuse, he is amending the security policy of Japan. That's worrying for the region and for China." The Diaoyu Islands are claimed by mainland China, Taiwan and Japan, which calls them the Senkaku Islands. Fu's comments were widely seen as a response to Abe's call during the forum, which brings together senior defence officials across the region, for a greater regional security role for Japan. Fu was speaking ahead of Abe's keynote speech at a special debate on the forum's sidelines. Her fellow panellists included US Senator Ben Cardin, Singapore ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh and Indian politician Tarun Vijay. She also suggested that America's involvement in recent tensions between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea was unnecessary. After Cardin raised the issue of China's unilateral move to position a giant oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam's coast, Fu said Beijing and Hanoi would resolve the dispute bilaterally. "I don't think Ben can go there and solve the problem for us," she said. With tensions over maritime disputes between China and its neighbours continuing, discussions at the three-day forum are expected to be focused on Beijing's increasingly assertive approach in the region. Beijing said it would promote its own security theory in Asia at the forum. The Chinese delegation was headed by Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong , deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Kerry urges Russia to engage with Ukraine's incoming president

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Russia to reach out to President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and work toward easing the tension in the eastern part of the country, the State Department said on Thursday.
In his phone talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, the top American envoy called on Russia to begin working with Poroshenko to "de-escalate the conflict," department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters at a daily press briefing.
She said Kerry also raised concerns about reports of foreign fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine, particularly those from Russia's republic of Chechnya.
"He pressed Foreign Minister Lavrov to end all support for separatists, denounce their actions, and call on them to lay down their arms," Psaki said. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia would respect the results of Ukraine's presidential election on May 25 and work with its new authorities.
During his phone conversation with Lavrov, Kerry also voiced concern about the delay in removing the remaining 8 percent of declared chemical weapons materials from Syria and the recent detainment of chemical weapons inspectors in the Arab nation, Psaki said.

Russia Concerned by US Plans to Boost Military Aid to Syrian Opposition Militants

Russia is concerned by the media reports on the US plans to ramp up support for the Syrian opposition because the military aid may end up in the hands of the terrorists, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday.
“Media reports on the fact that the US Administration is planning to increase its military aid to the ‘right’ militants of the Syrian opposition evoke serious concerns,” according to the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“We are convinced that the carrying out of such plans leads to a further escalation of the bloodletting conflict in Syria. In addition, chances are high that the weapons delivered to the ‘right militants’ may fall into the hands of terrorists who may use them anywhere in the world, including against their foreign protectors,” the ministry said.
The ministry expressed hope that the parties would agree on a truce in “the last stronghold of government forces in Homs, the al-Waar neighborhood.” US media earlier cited White House sources claiming that President Barack Obama was about to approve a new aid program to strengthen moderate Syrian rebels.
The civil war in Syria broke out in 2011, following the unrest that swept the Arab world three years ago, known as the Arab Spring.

India: Modi opposes move to include his life story in school syllabus
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday opposed the move by BJP-ruled states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to include his life story in education curriculum, saying living individuals should not be part of the school syllabus.
“I firmly believe that the life story of living individuals should not be included as a part of the school curriculum,” he tweeted.
“I am reading in the news that some states want to include Narendra Modi’s life struggles as a part of their school curriculum,” he said.
Noting that India has a rich history of several stalwarts who made India what it is today, Mr. Modi said, “Young minds should read about these greats & emulate them”.
He was commenting on the moves by the Anandiben Patel government in Gujarat and the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in MP to include his life story in school syllabus.
Gujarat government had on Thursday said it has decided to include all important chapters of Mr. Modi’s life into the syllabus of primary schools.
“The chapters may include events starting from his birth, his humble family background, school days, how he faced struggle at different stages of his life and what are the circumstances behind his decision to become a monk,” Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama had said on Thursday.
Mr. Chudasma said selected important and inspiring events which took place until Mr. Modi became prime minister would in included and a process has been initiated to form a committee to prepare the final list of events to be included.
“These events will be included in the syllabus of primary schools, such as fifth, sixth and seventh standard. Since this initiative is at a primary stage, the new syllabus will come into effect only in 2015-16,” the minister had said.
Earlier, Madhya Pradesh government had said that lessons on the life of Mr. Modi may be included in the school curriculum to “inspire” students.
“We have received suggestions from various quarters that a life-sketch of Modiji be taught in the schools, to inspire students from early age,” School Education Minister Paras Jain had said.

India's Shame! Gang-Rape of Dalit Sisters Sparks Global Outrage

by Sonal Bhadoria
Sadly, it requires a level of shocking antics for a horrific crime as rape to register into the national consciousness, numbed by everyday stories for anybody to notice or care. After months of election coverage, this brutal gang-rape in lawless UP has not only enraged the nation, but also forced the international community to take notice of India’s shocking culture of rape, that hasn’t gone anywhere.
On Wednesday morning, the small village of Katra, in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district woke up to a chilling sight. Two teenage girls were found hanging from a mango tree in an orchid. The two girls, who were cousins and aged 14 and 15 years, had gone missing from their house on Tuesday night.
The post-mortem report confirmed rape of the two girls ,the autopsy also confirmed that they were strangled. Their families allege that they were first brutally gang-raped by four men of the village and then hanged. They also alleged that for many hours after the girls went missing the local police refused to register a first information report.
It was only when angry villagers sat under the tree and prevented authorities from taking them down until the suspects were arrested, that the police was forced to swing into action mode. Till that time, TV crews had already captured the grisly visuals of the girls’ dead bodies swaying in the wind and the media took up the story thereafter.
The case has managed to send shock waves across for various reasons:
Firstly, even though police apathy has entered our common lexicon, here two policemen are actually accused of taking part in the assault of the girls. The father of one of the girls has alleged that head of the local police station ignored his pleas and refused to register a FIR many hours after the girls went missing. "Had the cops responded immediately and left in search of the girls when the family approached them, the girls could have been recovered safe and sound," Mansingh Chauhan, Superintendent of Police, City, Badaun told NDTV.
Secondly, the case has again revealed the ugly underbelly of India’s age old caste system, which is sadly existing and thriving in full flow, particularly in rural areas. The family belongs to the Dalit community and the perpetrators of the heinous crime belonged to the higher Yadav caste. For centuries, dalits have been at the receiving end of discrimination in India, wherein a upper caste born would feel free to harass, rape and even murder lower castes with impunity and such cases show that things haven’t changed much, particularly for the dalit women, who are harassed, taunted and raped at will-many times just for their crime of belonging to the low caste.Uttar Pradesh is still strongly divided by caste and religion, a fact expertly exploited by politicians for their political gains.
Here, all the main accused are from the influential Yadav upper caste. Brothers Pappu and Awadhesh Yadav –the alleged rapists and Awadhesh Yadav have been arrested, whereas constables Chhatrapal Yadav and Sarvesh Yadav have been terminated. Four others Urvesh Yadav (brother of Pappu and Awadhesh), policeman Chhatrapal Yadav and two unidentified persons are still at large. The father has alleged that when he went to the local police station and asked that Yadav's house be searched, the constables "took the side of the culprits."They abused and misbehaved with us." the father said. Had they acted on time, the girls could have been saved.
Thirdly, this case has managed to highlight an often neglected issue of sanitation in India’s villages.
Around half of India’s billion plus population does not have access to a toilet and this problem becomes more pronounced for rural women, who have to use the fields around the villages before sunrise and after sunsets to relieve themselves, thus making them more vulnerable to assaults. The fathers of the girls said they began looking for them soon after they had stepped out of their home to go to the bathroom, as there were no toilets in their home.
Fourthly, it has brought the R word back into the national consciousness. The December 2012 gang-rape case may have shook us, battered our conscience to wake up, gave India’s rape culture a global audience and perhaps shamed some into becoming more civilised when it came to talking about women’s rights and safety issues. But even after the landmark judgment and change in our country’s laws, daily stories of abuse and rape continue to trickle in on a daily basis, only less highlighted in the media due to the lack of any shock factor. Records show a rape is committed every 22 minutes in India. But statistics and official records are never able to reveal the full picture, because many more cases go unreported, mainly due to the widespread culture of tolerance for sexual violence in India. Rape, harassment, sexual assault, eve-teasing, mistreatment & disrespect of women are denounced, still accepted, because it has become part of our day-to-day lives. Stares, inappropriate touching and cheap comments are often ignored, for the fear of one’s safety and the general apathy of people around us. The social stigma that greets a victim is saddening enough for them to wish they hadn’t reported it in the first place. Women are pressurized by family and even police to keep quiet about sexual assaults, and those who do report, are often ostracized and ridiculed publicly. And lastly, it has again highlighted the state of utter lawlessness and chaos that Uttar Pradesh has descended into. From power shortages, to communal riots and caste violence, the 2 year old Akhilesh Yadav government has haughtily brushed aside accusations without offering any solutions or results. Even the recent thrashing they received by BJP in the Lok Sabha polls seems to have fallen short in waking them up to the reality of their sheer incompetence in running their administration.
Akhilesh Yadav has termed the gang rape as "unfortunate and ordered the police to arrest all the accused immediately adding that a fast-track court should be constituted to ensure that they were duly punished. The CM also sanctioned financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the victims. But all this, after 3 days of the crime, in which the state’s police is also the guilty party. But what about their attitude. On being asked about the lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav told journalists,' you are safe, so why do you worry'. And we are to be blamed to expect more from the son of a man who opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed by saying 'Boys will be boys. They make mistakes.'
Is any rapist suppose to fear the law or the administration, when such statements are let loose by their elected netas?The MP from Badaun is Dharmendra Yadav, Mulayam Singh's nephew. They all will order inquiries, fire constables, transfer babus , do everything but take responsibility. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Dharmendra Yadav and their clan will now wait for this issue to die down and then go back to their default mode of incompetence. They still have 3 more years of power in Uttar Pradesh.
This ‘mistake’ has again put India into the global spotlight, for the wrong reasons. This news has been covered by every major news agency and paper of repute. A report in CNN highlighted the social media’s reaction to the incident, highlighting one main question "When is India going to change?"The Guardian mentioned the December 2012 gang-rape and its after-effects in India. The New York Times lamented about India’s deeply entrenched caste system.
We see, we absorb, we debate and then we wait. For the change that hopefully will come.

Three arrested after girls are gang-raped and left hanging from tree in India

A police officer and two other people have been arrested after two teenage girls were gang-raped and left hanging from the branches of a mango tree in a northern Indian village, authorities said Friday.
The shocking attack on the girls -- two cousins aged 14 and 16 -- sparked outrage in the village of Katra Sadatganj and beyond. Angry villagers protested around the bodies, preventing police from taking them down from the tree for about 15 hours Wednesday, the day after the attack, said Mukesh Saxena, a local police official.
A photo from the village, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, showed the body of one girl, dressed in a green tunic and pants, hanging from the tree. A large group of people, many of them young children, were gathered around the grisly scene. Police said an autopsy confirmed the girls had been raped and strangled. The cremation of their remains took place late Wednesday night in line with Hindu customs, Saxena said.
Armed police officers have been deployed in the village to prevent any further unrest, he added.
Police under scrutiny
The girls' families accused three brothers of carrying out the rape and killing. Two of the brothers are now in custody, said R.K.S. Rathore, a deputy-inspector general of police. One was arrested Thursday night, he said. Police are still searching for the third brother.
The families of the victims have accused local police of initially failing to respond and siding with the suspects when the parents went to report the case. The allegations have fueled anger among the villagers. Saxena said three police officers have been temporarily suspended for negligence of duty, and one has been arrested. He said the girls had gone out into the orchard to relieve themselves Tuesday night when they were grabbed by the attackers. Some people saw the abduction but were unable to stop it, he said, citing eyewitnesses.
'Endemic' violence
The horrific gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi in late 2012 shook India, focusing sharp attention on violent crimes against women in the country, the world's second most populous after China. The case prompted protests in many cities, soul-searching in the media and changes to the law. But shocking instances of sexual violence continue to come to light with grim regularity.
"Laws can only do so much when you have to end something which is as endemic and as entrenched as violence against women," said Divya Iyer, a senior researcher for Amnesty International in Bangalore, India. The country's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has said he wants to take steps to make sure woman are safe, particularly in rural India. But women's rights groups have criticized what they say is a lack of specific proposals to tackle the problem, suggesting gender inequality doesn't appear to be high on his list of priorities.
"There is a lot more to do," Iyer told CNN. "That political leadership is unfortunately missing." Four men convicted over gang rape of photojournalist in Mumbai
'Medieval lawlessness'
An opinion article in The Times of India, a prominent daily newspaper, linked the attack this week to rising crime and a crisis of authority in Uttar Pradesh, which it said was sliding into "medieval lawlessness." It wasn't immediately clear whether India's entrenched caste system, which continues to cause prejudice and persecution in some rural areas, played a role in the attack. Rathore, the police official, said that the victims and the suspects belonged to different low caste groups.
Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International, pointed out that "violence against women is a global issue," not limited to developing countries.
But Salbi told CNN that in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, "the concept of women as property is still a common thing," meaning they don't get treated as equal human beings.

Keyshia Cole - Trust And Believe

Obama praises Clinton: ‘We’re buddies’

President Barack Obama says he and Hillary Clinton are “buddies” and that she would be “very effective” should she run for the White House again.
The president’s remarks, aired Friday on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Michael,” come amid an intensifying rollout for Clinton’s upcoming book, which recounts her tenure as secretary of state during Obama’s first term. In an author’s note for the memoir “Hard Choices,” Clinton praises Obama’s handling of the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
“You know, Hillary and I — we’re buddies,” Obama says in the ABC interview. “I think because we ran in the longest primary in history, you know, and our staffs were doing battle politically, the perception was that this was always kind of a marriage of convenience when she came in as secretary of state. I always admired her. As soon as she got here, she couldn’t have been more effective, more loyal and since that time, we’ve become really, really good friends.”
Clinton has said she is considering a 2016 bid for the White House, but has not made a decision yet. Her book, due out June 10, was reviewed by the White House within the past few weeks, and her team was careful to avoid appearances of separation from the president, people familiar with the process said. The pair had lunch at the White House on Thursday. “I don’t know what she’s going to decide to do, but I know that if she were to run for president, I think she would be very effective at that,” Obama said. “I’ve been blessed to have some people around me like her, and Vice President Biden, and my chief of staff who are just great, hardworking, effective people, and I love them to death.”
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Hillary Clinton: I won’t play politics with Benghazi

By Anne Gearan and Philip Rucker
Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton angrily insists in her forthcoming book that she will not engage in partisan exchanges about the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on her watch.
In a chapter from the book, “Hard Choices,” Clinton rails against congressional Republicans for politicizing the attack on the American facilities in Benghazi, writing that “I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It’s just plain wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country.”
According to an excerpt obtained by Politico and published Friday, Clinton gives a detailed account of the incidents around the 2012 deaths in a chapter titled “Benghazi: Under Attack.”
“Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,” Clinton writes.
Clinton’s account of her role in what she calls “the horror” of Benghazi is among the most anticipated elements of her memoir, set for release on June 10.
Sources close to Clinton confirmed the contents of the chapter reported by Politico are accurate. Politico did not publish the entire chapter but quoted heavily from it. The excerpts are the first look at how Clinton addresses substantive policy issues in the book, which she has described as both a memoir of her four years as secretary and an examination of how people and nations approach difficult decisions.
Democratic political operatives, Clinton supporters and foreign policy experts met Friday to coordinate strategy for discussing the Benghazi attacks as Clinton begins the rollout of her book. Longtime Clinton message manager Philippe Reines spoke to the group, which gathered for a “much broader focus on national security, because it has bubbled up as an issue,” according to a participant in the meeting. The participant spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session.
The Benghazi attacks marred Clinton’s record as secretary and almost immediately became a deeply divisive political issue. Republicans accused the Obama administration, and Clinton in particular, of failing to protect diplomats overseas and hiding facts about the attacks and the role of the White House in managing and explaining the crisis.
A year and a half after the deaths, Libya has spiraled into chaos that borders on civil war, and Benghazi has become the rallying cry of many Republican leaders and partisan Clinton opponents.
House Republicans recently established a special investigative committee to reexamine the attacks and the administration’s actions. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has agreed to testify, but administration spokesmen have said there is nothing new to say.
Messages posted on a Facebook page established to promote the Clinton book called her a “murderer” and demanded answers about what posters insisted was negligence and a coverup.
“Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me,” Clinton writes, in a tone reminiscent of her angry outburst under Republican questioning before Congress several months after the assault.
Clinton has retained Tommy Vietor, who worked with Clinton in the Obama administration as a National Security Council spokesman, to assist with publicity and messaging surrounding the book release.
“I had the privilege of working with Secretary Clinton and her team as she traveled around the world working to restore and strengthen our alliances and advance critical administration priorities,” Vietor said. “I’m excited to help tell the story of that work when she releases her book.”
Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, declined to comment on the Benghazi chapter.
“Until the book is released, there’s nothing to say,” Merrill said. “And once it’s released, it will speak for itself.”
Republicans quickly attacked Clinton over the published account Friday. In a statement, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said she made “wrong choices” on foreign policy.
“Team Hillary leaked the Benghazi chapter from her book continuing the company line — blaming Republicans,” Kukowski said. “The White House and Democrats including Hillary Clinton have been less than forthcoming with information from the very beginning — emails prove Democrats coordinated to put the White House and politics before the facts — and Republicans are going to continue getting answers for the families of those lost but also the rest of America so it doesn’t happen again.”
A conservative group unveiled a new TV ad campaign Thursday hitting Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones for praising Clinton in the months after the deadly attacks.
The commercial from Veterans for a Strong America includes a clip of Clinton’s now-famous line from her congressional testimony on Benghazi in early 2013: “What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton said during a back-and-forth with a Republican senator over what role an anti-American video and supposed protest may or may not have played in the attack.
The narrator of the ad follows with, “It made no difference to Christine Jones” and then mentions two instances in which Jones praised Clinton on her blog.
In her book, Clinton writes that the video did play a role in the attacks.
“There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives,” she writes. “It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.”
Clinton also addresses questions about rescue attempts at the American compound in Benghazi, according to the Politico excerpt, writing that Obama “gave the order to do whatever was necessary to support our people in Libya. It was imperative that all possible resources be mobilized immediately. . . . When Americans are under fire, that is not an order the Commander in Chief has to give twice. Our military does everything humanly possible to save American lives — and would do more if they could. That anyone has ever suggested otherwise is something I will never understand.”
On Thursday, Clinton was in Washington, where she had a private lunch with President Obama at the White House. In a television interview broadcast on Friday morning, Obama praised Clinton, his 2008 campaign rival, and said she would be “very effective” if she decides to run for president in 2016.
“I don’t know what she’s going to decide to do, but I know that if she were to run for president, I think she’d be very effective at that,” Obama said on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

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Obama and his critics on Afghanistan

Robert Robb,
Afghanistan is what it is. And given circumstances there, President Barack Obama's decision about an ongoing troop presence is as good as any, and better than most.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama inherited the failure of the neoconservative vision. Under a U.S. protectorate, both countries were to be transformed into functioning democracies, U.S. allies and an example to others in the region.
After $1.4 trillion spent, 6,700 U.S. troops killed, and another 50,000 wounded, that's not the way things turned out.
In Iraq, neoconservatives blame Obama. The surge had stabilized the country and Obama blew it by not negotiating an ongoing and sizeable U.S. troop presence. And now, they claim, he is making the same mistake in Afghanistan, by leaving too few troops in place and announcing a schedule for their total withdrawal.
That's a flawed rendering of what happened in Iraq. The internal politics of the country precluded reaching an agreement granting U.S. troops continued immunity from prosecution by Iraqi authorities irrespective of who was doing the negotiating on the U.S. side. And the country is now falling apart not because of a lack of U.S. military presence, but because the Shiite political leadership has failed to forge a pluralistic governing structure and ethos.
In Afghanistan, U.S. efforts at nation-building were particularly misguided. We built up a national security force the country cannot afford. And we built infrastructure the country can't run or maintain.
Unlike in Iraq, however, the internal politics in Afghanistan favors an ongoing U.S. military presence, including a willingness to grant the necessary immunity. A loya jirga, a meeting of tribal representatives, endorsed it. While current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign an agreement, both candidates to replace him have vowed to do so.
Obama announced a willingness to keep 9,800 troops in the country, down from the current 32,000. The residual contingent would continue training Afghan security forces and conduct limited counterterrorism operations. That number would be cut in half in 2015, and be withdrawn entirely in 2016.
Too few troops to do anything worthwhile, the critics maintain. Just an announcement to our enemies of when we'll be gone, they complain.
Missing from the criticism is an articulation of a U.S. national security interest that would warrant a larger military presence with an expanded writ.
When 9/11 occurred, Afghanistan was already in the midst of a low-grade civil war. The United States, without much in the way of ground troops other than special ops, tilted the balance of power in the civil war to those opposed to the Taliban, who had given al-Qaida safe haven. The Taliban were ousted in just two months. Only 12 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the initial effort. It only cost $21 billion.
The low-grade civil war continues, with the Taliban trying to regain power. But U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are very few foreign jihadists among them.
If an imminent security threat reappears in Afghanistan, the United States has the capacity to respond as devastatingly as necessary. Keeping 30,000 or so troops in the country to, in essence, fight in the Afghan civil war when the security threat to the U.S. is uncertain and unclear isn't in our national interest.
The criticism of a schedule for withdrawal is particularly curious. The United States is a democracy. And in a democracy, the government needs the support of the body politic for its foreign policy.
When U.S. troops are deployed, there is undoubtedly some conclusions reached as to how long it is likely to take to do the task assigned. Why shouldn't that expectation be shared with the American people? Keeping nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for 10 years would be a far different proposition than keeping them there for two, and far less likely to be accepted by the electorate.
If circumstances change, the plan can change. But if the Taliban decide to go easier for a couple of years, anticipating the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, what's the downside of that? That just gives Afghan security forces more time to develop their own capabilities.
Whatever mistakes Obama may be making in Afghanistan and Iraq, they aren't nearly as big as the ones he inherited.

5 harsh truths about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

With this week's news that U.S. military will scale down its operations in Afghanistan and eventually withdraw in 2016, a lot of people are wondering what this will actually mean. Here, The Post's Kabul bureau chief Kevin Sieff spells out five things you need to know. 1.
This might be the Afghan military's war now – but only because 140,000 Western troops failed to defeat the Taliban.
Some 9,800 American troops will remain in Afghanistan at the beginning of next year. To put that number in perspective, there were over 100,000 U.S. troops here in 2011 (along with 40,000 troops from other nations) during the peak of the American-led surge. They occupied more than 700 bases across Afghanistan, some of them the size of small cities. Through 2011, those troops were committed primarily to a unilateral fight against the Taliban. Many U.S. officials hoped that with so much combat power, Western forces could deal a knockout blow to the Taliban. By 2012, it was clear that such a blow had not been dealt. Insurgents were able to use sanctuaries in Pakistan to regroup and regenerate. Reconciliation efforts failed and the war appeared to have no short-term diplomatic or military solution. The White House needed a new "New Strategy."
2.The Afghan military and police have become much better fighting forces, but you can't fight without guns or fuel.
By 2012, it became very clear that the only sustainable way to continue applying pressure on the Taliban was to build an effective Afghan army and police. But after a decade of war, the Afghan security forces remained notoriously incompetent – often mocked by both their American counterparts as well as Afghan civilians.
As the U.S. mission pivoted to “advising and assisting” the Afghan military and police grew in both size and ability. By 2013, they were conducting independent missions against the insurgency. But soldiers and police still struggle to handle even rudimentary logistical issues – how to get water or fuel or guns; how to repair vehicles; how to keep their generators running. With more sophisticated institutions, like the Afghan Air Force, those struggles are even greater. Fast forward to 2016, when the last American troops leave: Will the Afghan military be able to sustain itself with essentially no foreign assistance? That’s a question a lot of Afghan and U.S. officials are asking today.
3. The Afghan economy was kept afloat by foreign assistance. It is not clear what happens if those funds dry up.
Observers often focus exclusively on the fighting ability of the Afghan army and police. But an even more pressing question is how those institutions will be funded. Right now, the country’s security forces cost $6.5 billion annually. Most of that funding comes from the United States. The U.S. withdrawal means an increasing reliance on Afghan forces, with their significant price tag. But how long will Washington be willing to shoulder that cost, particularly as oversight diminishes? This year, Congress cut America’s contribution to Afghanistan’s non-security budget in half. While the West endeavored to create a healthy Afghan economy, capable of bankrolling its own institutions, the country’s budget shortfall continues to grow just as foreign assistance begins to dry up. Some Afghan officials worry they are only months away from being unable to pay government salaries.
4. The Taliban is the least of the Afghan government's problems.
Another false assumption made by many is that the Taliban is the only threat to a stable Afghanistan. While the Taliban remain capable of assuming power in remote districts and executing high-profile attacks in urban areas, it remains unlikely that the group could retake Kabul oroverthrow the Afghan government. For now, a greater threat to the country comes from the government itself. With so many internal divisions – between ethnic, political and tribal groups – if the Afghan government is not seen as being inclusive, its legitimacy could be challenged, perhaps leading to widespread violence. The power brokers in Afghanistan’s civil war remain prominent figures in Afghan society and politics today, and many say they could amass independent fighting forces if necessary. Outside of possible violence, a faltering government could have devastating consequences for what is already a fragile economy. President Hamid Karzai, often lambasted as being hostile and self-interested, was uniquely capable of uniting rivals under the same tent. It’s unclear whether his successor, either Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani, has that same ability.
5. There were some big gains over the last decade, and the U.S. deserves credit for them. But now the big problem is whether they can be sustained.
Because so much about Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain, it’s sometimes easy to forget the gains of the last 12 years. More than 2.5 million girls are in school (there were nearly none under the Taliban’s reign). There is a free press that openly criticizes the political establishment. More than 6 million people voted in the first round of the country’s presidential elections last month. Millions of people have cellphones in their pockets. In Kabul, a generation is now growing up with Internet access. Those are all products of the US effort here. But they’re also gains that could be lost if the country again descends into chaos after 2016. President Obama said Tuesday that “Afghanistan will not be a perfect place.” That’s already abundantly clear. But Afghans wonder what kind of imperfection the United States is willing to accept as it concludes its longest war. Which gains are U.S. officials willing to see reversed? What level of instability is acceptable? And what do those imperfections mean, in practice, to the people who live here?

Pakistan: A country of dead women

By Rafia Zakaria
Before Farzana Parveen was bludgeoned to death with bricks there was Shahida Parveen who was sentenced to be stoned. In early 1988, when democracy was new and a woman was about to take over the helm of the country, another woman was condemned to being stoned to death.
The case of Shahida Parveen and Mohammad Sarwar (NLR 1988(SD) FSC 188) came before a trial court because Shahida’s previous husband alleged that he had never really divorced her. When Shahida declared that he had orally declared the divorce three times and sent her home to her family, the trial court did not believe her.
When she produced a written divorce decree they still did not believe her.
There was a requirement that the divorce be registered they insisted. Based on this premise, the trial court found the marriage of Shahida Parveen and her new husband Mohammad Sarwar to be illegal and their cohabitation was considered a confession of “zina”.
Shahida Parveen and Mohammad Sarwar were thus found guilty of zina and awarded the maximum hadd punishment, stoning to death. Like Farzana Parveen who was pregnant when she was bludgeoned to death with bricks, Shahida Parveen was also pregnant when sentenced to being stoned to death.
But Shahida Parveen was lucky, she was not killed instantly and upon retrial she and Mohammad Sarwar were finally acquitted. That, however, was not the end of the punishment.
More recently, in a case from 2002 (PLD 2002 FSC 1) a sessions court in Kohat found a woman, Zafran Bibi guilty of adultery and sentenced her to be stoned to death. The prosecution in that case had alleged that Zafran Bibi’s pregnancy was proof of adultery. Zafran Bibi’s own remonstrations, that she had been raped by her husband’s brother while her husband was in prison were discarded because she could not prove that she had physically resisted the rape.
While this verdict was also eventually overturned for other reasons, the rendering of the verdict by the trial court, illustrates the truth of Pakistan’s current law; that women can be sentenced to being stoned to death.
If the state can stone to death, the people cannot be far behind. In this lies the pathos of Farzana Parveen’s final moments. Before she was attacked, before she was bludgeoned to death, she believed that the State would listen, that courts cared and that there was a real possibility of justice.
In her hope, thus she was unaware as many of Pakistan’s women are about the institutional degradations that the law of their own country imposes on them. Not only does the Qanun-e-Shahadat Ordinance reduce women to half witnesses in certain cases, the still standing Zina and Hudood Ordinances continue to require four witnesses for women to prove rape.
The Amendments that were introduced in 2006 by the Women’s Protection Act were declared unconstitutional by the Federal Shariat Court in December 2010. The National Assembly had until June 22, 2011 to amend the legislation such that the provisions that prevent rape complaints to be used as confessions of adultery or fornication could remain. They failed to do so, and the law as it stands, can still sentence rape complainants to be stoned to death.
Farzana Parveen was dead long before she was actually killed. She died when she imagined herself, a Pakistani woman, as a full person capable of making her own decisions, choosing the man she would marry.
The law of the land in which she was born, in which she lived, and in whose justice system she sought a safe haven, does not believe her to be so.
In the aftermath of the grotesque stoning, that grim indictment of a country that no longer knows moral outrage, whose institutions exist only to pad the pockets of its most perfidious, the question is not about family honour or apathetic police. The question is instead, whether as a country, Pakistan can consider to put in place a moratorium on stoning.
In the aftermath of the attack on Farzana Parveen, this latest victim to be sacrificed to the mob driven purges Pakistan now indulges in with a greedy frequency, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has, in the tradition of previous leaders, asked for “immediate action” and a report.
To prevent another tragedy atop our already existing ones; the Prime Minister’s call to action must initiate not simply a witless (and largely meaningless) call to “end honour killings”, instead, the state should do what it can do, eliminate stoning as a punishment on its own law books, initiate a resolution in the National Assembly that reinstates the lapsed provisions of the Women’s Protection Act of 2006.
If the elected representatives attach even some consequence to the acts of the mobs that roam the country’s streets, waiting to discipline women, to rape them and kill them, then the lives of Pakistani women like Farzana Parveen, may actually begin to matter more than for the tiny moment in which they are murdered.

Pakistan Bans Shiite News Website
The largest Shiite News website which also acts as watchdog for murder of Shias, motivated by sectarian differences, has been blocked today morning on Friday. Visitors were greeted with a “This website is not accessible” sign as they tried to access the site. It also show message “The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan”
Many people from Pakistan on the social media site twitter protested against the forced inability to access the web page. Some blamed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for instituting a politically motivated ban. Shiites News has accused ruling government Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) for banning the website on directions of Saudi Arabia. Shiite News have also given another domain for their viwers. Last year, an other Shia website of, which still remains banned in Pakistan.

Genocide Of Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims: CNN on Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar

Genocide Of Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims:His only crime was being an Ahmadi

Kashif Chaudhry
Ashir is just two-years-old. Yesterday, he was witness to the most horrific tragedy anyone can imagine. His father – a 50-year-old doctor – was brutally murdered in Pakistan. His crime: He belonged to the Ahmadiyya community.
Dr Mehdi Ali was a US-trained cardiologist on a medical mission to Pakistan. He was visiting Tahir Heart Institute; a state-of-the-art Cardiology hospital in Rabwah, Pakistan. Many Pakistanis cannot even afford routine medical visits. Dr Ali was bringing specialised advanced medical care to these poor people, free of cost. It was the second day of his three-week humanitarian trip when tragedy struck. The doctor said his morning prayers and head off to a local cemetery with his wife and youngest son. He was here to pay his respects to deceased members of his family and hundreds of other members of his community. As he exited the cemetery, two militants riding a motorcycle fired at him repeatedly and fled the scene. As Ashir and his mother watched in absolute horror, Dr Ali breathed his last on the very spot.
Dr Mehdi Ali completed his medical degree from the Punjab Medical College in Faisalabad before immigrating to the United States. Here, he completed his medical residency training at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. He also served as a youth leader of an Ahmadiyya Youth Association (MKA) while in Brooklyn. He then pursued a fellowship in Cardiology and was serving as an interventional Cardiologist at Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster, Ohio. The esteemed doctor was also serving as Assistant Professor of Cardiology at Ohio University – a position of honour for a Pakistani.
Dr Ali was scheduled to see hundreds of patients – irrespective of faith and creed – on his current visit. Most of these patients were from in and around the Rabwah region, but some were coming in from far ends of the country to benefit from his expertise. His death is a great loss for humanity and it comes just two days before the fourth anniversary of the May 28th carnage of Lahore. In 2010, Taliban militants barged into two Ahmadi Mosques in Lahore, killing 86 Ahmadi Muslims during the Friday prayers.
I see myself in Dr Mehdi Ali. I am also a Pakistani who immigrated to the United States to escape religious persecution. I also work in the field of Cardiology and have served in Tahir Heart Institute for six months as a trainee. I browsed through Dr Ali’s Facebook page and felt a deep connection with him. Like him, I also love Pakistani cricket and the city of Lahore. He was a great painter and a keen poet himself.
The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is no new phenomenon. Killings of Ahmadis go unchecked and no State official as much as condemns this ongoing barbarity. In fact, the Pakistani state is directly responsible for these crimes against humanity. The second amendment to Pakistan’s constitution strips Ahmadis of their basic right to self-identity. Ordinance XX goes a step further and criminalises all profession of faith, taking away all freedom of religion of the Ahmadis altogether. Just a few months ago, a British Ahmadi doctor was jailed for reciting the Quran in his clinic.
Dr Ali’s life was a living blasphemy under Pakistani law. But he was out of jail. So someone decided to address the issue himself and serve the law on his own. The assailants of this horrible crime managed to escape the scene. But in Pakistan, there is no difference between getting caught for murdering Ahmadis or escaping. When Ahmadis captured two militants in the Lahore Carnage of 2010, the courts let them go free. Until the government takes the ongoing apartheid of Ahmadis seriously, these crimes will continue to pile.
Like Dr Ali, I am also eager to fight disease back home. But a much bigger disease sits in my way. Before I fight human illness, I wonder if I must fight this plague and cancer – religious bigotry and extremism –that has gripped my nation as a whole and has become the most powerful institution in the country.
For those wondering, Dr Ali is not just a statistic. He lives in my heart and I – and scores of other Ahmadi doctors – will carry on his humanitarian mission, with even greater zeal, for as long as we live.

Deprived province: 59% of Balochistan without natural gas

By Iftikhar Firdous
Marred by neglect and a deadly insurgency that has left Balochistan in a state of terminal chaos, the province remains the most deprived region in the country when it comes to the supply of natural gas – a resource it has in abundance.
In a startling disclosure in the upper house of parliament, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has revealed that out of the 32 District Headquarters (DHQs), only 13 towns have the natural gas facility, with 59% of the urban population in the province still without the basic energy commodity.
These details were revealed in the Senate in response to a question asked by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Karim Ahmad Khwaja. The house was informed that the country, gripped by a chronic energy crisis, faced a gas shortfall that has reached 2,000 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd).
Documents available with The Express Tribune from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources on the supply and consumption of natural gas show that Sindh contributes the highest amount of gas to the national supply chain amounting to 69% of total supply, while it consumes 45% of gas.
Conversely, Punjab supplies just 4% of gas while it consumes 43%. Similarly, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan both consume 7% each. While Balochistan adds 17% and K-P contributes 10% to the national gas supply. Despite being the main producer of natural gas in the country, most Tehsil Headquaters (THQ) in Balochistan suffer from deprivation, with just 25 towns out of 81 being supplied with gas.
In Sindh, however, out of 121 THQs 100 have gas supply while 21 have no access. Interestingly, Punjab fares the best with 114 THQs out of 135 being supplied with gas, resulting in almost 97% of Punjab’s urban population having access to gas. Like Balochistan, consumers in K-P remain largely without gas supply as well, making it the second most deprived province with 24 out of its 64 THQs without gas supply.
The data, which is only available for urban areas, indicates that gas supply to rural areas in less developed provinces, like Balochistan, is far worse.
Balochistan is the largest province of the country in terms of its size, the lack of resources that the province itself is abundant with has drawn severe criticism. As a result, last April, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had directed the ministry to provide natural gas to domestic consumers across the province within the next three years.

Pakistan: The “Last Chance” for Girls’ Education

By Malik Siraj Akbar
A religious extremist group that is determined to prevent girls from going to schoolin Pakistan’s Balochistan province left a bizarre warning on Tuesday outside a private school: “This is your last chance,” read a hand-written threatening letter that had been affixed outside the main entrance of the best known local school, the Oasis School. They had also left a padlock and a chain to formally shut down the school. The letter urged the school management to keep the school closed the way it was. Any attempts to unlock the institution, they warned, would lead to deadly consequences.
Mohamamd Hussain, the owner of the private school, has genuine reasons to take the threat seriously. Last week, activists belonging to the same underground religious group had almost killed him had several female students from his school not interfered and thwarted the assault. While the attackers failed to assassinate Mr. Hussain, a former major in the Oman Army and now a champion of girls’ education in his native Pakistan-Iran border town of Panjgur, they burned down his vehicle which he used for transporting girls to their school.
Political parties and civil society organizations are increasingly protesting across Balochistan against the government’s tolerance for and inaction toward the group that is forcefully preventing girls from going to school. Local residents in Panjgur district say thousand of people marched against the disruption of girls education. These protests are some of the biggest ever witnessed in the entire history of the small border town in which women and children have actively participated and denounced the closure of girls schools. In Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, according to Pakistan’sDawn newspaper, hundreds of political and social activists protested outside the local press club to demand immediate protection from the government for the endangered schools.
Why is our response to the closure of dozens of girls’ schools in Pakistan, the world’sthird largest recipient of American foreign assistance, not as loud and clear as it was after the attack on Malala Yousafzai? Apparently because the story from Balochistan does not have a strong counter-terrorism angle that could connect the issue with the war on terror. It seems that the Pakistani media and the international governments instantly reacted to the shooting of Malala Yousafzai because it provided them a wonderful opportunity to raise fingers at the Taliban and tell the world, “These are the bad guys we are fighting in Afghanistan.”.
On the contrary, lack of coverage in the media and the absolute silence of organizations working for girls’ education, including, ironically, the Malala Fund, toward the disturbing developments in Balochistan sums up the whole story: Girls’ education has also become an in-demand topic only to manipulate certain situations. Wherever there appear no signs of gaining political milage or media publicity, international organizations, including the United Nations, do not intervene. Ignoring an issue at a nascent stage when it shows symptoms of a larger crisis can cost us too much. Balochistan is one such region where the future of thousands of girls is at risk and the Pakistani government is neither willing to avert the catastrophe nor is it coming under sufficient international pressure to do something about it.
Closing the doors of education to the people of Balochistan seems to be consistent with Pakistan’s policy of suppression of the ethnic Baloch population that wants absolute control over the affairs of their province. There has been a systematic campaign to dissuade Balochistan’s children and young boys and girls from going to school or engage in any educational activities.
Besides the fresh threats to girls’ schools, Pakistan’s unabated military strikes and search operations have killed hundreds of young Baloch college students. Thousands of others have gone missing since General Musharraf unleashed force to tighten the military’s control over mineral-wealth province. University campuses in Balochistan frequently come under raids by the security forces. This has alerted politically conscious students. Many of these students do not concur with the government’s political views. Hence, they are compelled to live in hiding in order to skip extrajudicial arrest, torture and, in worse possible situations, murder in government custody. In March, the security forces abducted Zahid Baloch, the chairman of the Baloch Students Organization. No body knows his whereabouts. Few are optimistic that he would ever return home safe and sound. Baloch students who were arrested and subsequently allowed to return home are few and far between.
Going to school has also become almost impossible for the children from the minority Shia, Hazara community in Balochistan. A bloody war against the Hazaras, waged by a Sunni extremist group, the Lahskar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), has killed hundreds of innocent Shia Muslims belonging to the Hazara ethnic group. These attacks have instilled widespread fear among Hazara children. While the Hazara kids are too scared to go to school, teenagers among them are doing whatever it takes to run awayfrom Quetta or Pakistan to find safe place to get out of the radar of the murderous Sunni extremists. The Pakistani government has shown too much tolerance for the LeJ that such a behavior has given credence to speculations about the State’s complicity in the ongoing war against the Shia, Hazara population.
Likewise, the country’s security forces have forced several private schools, computer and language centers in parts of Balochistan on unsubstantiated charges that they were promoting dissenting political views among the local youth. In one such desperate attempt to create panic among the students, the Frontier Corps (F.C.), a federal paramilitary force, raided a book fair in Turbat district in January this year and confiscated thousands of books, including the biographies of prominent Indian leaders Gandhi and Nehru.
The Pakistani government, repeatedly accused of supporting the anti-education extremist groups, should understand that an educated young population asks hard but intelligent questions whereas an uneducated population will create unimaginable chaos and unrest. Pakistan already has too much internal turmoil to deal with. Opening new fronts of chaos and confusion will prove suicidal for Islamabad. Keeping Balochistan’s children in school, instead of tolerating and renting the services of freelance Islamic extremist groups to shut down these institutions, will serve Pakistan’s long-term interests.

The War Against Girls’ Education in Pakistan

By Malik Siraj Akbar
Throughout the years of turmoil and instability in Pakistan, the education sector has remained a central target of all parties engaged in armed conflicts. Enraged over the threats from an underground Islamic extremist organization that led to the forceful closure of girls’ schools in Pakistan’s largest province of Balochistan earlier this month, the public has come out on roads to expostulate over the ban.
The government’s response to the extremist group’s warnings has been totally unsatisfactory which has, in a way, sent a message of encouragement to those who want to keep girls away from education. Dozens of girls’ schools remain shut in the Pakistan-Iran border town of Panjgur simply because the government is either unwilling or unable to provide them security from armed religious fanatics. Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments’ response is inadequate to push back theopponents of girls’ education and inculcate a sense of security among the threatened young female students.
Increasing public protests in Balochistan demanding the continuity of girls’ education and elimination of extremist groups challenges Pakistan’s state-sponsored narrative about the resource-rich province. For years, Pakistan’s civil and military rulers have cleverly skirted their responsibilities with regards to educating Balochistan. Islamabad has absurdly created this impression that the people of Balochistan are not interested in sending their children to schools. Now that thousands of parents and students are marching on the roads asking for uninterrupted education for the daughters of Balochistan, the government is missing.
The Pakistani media, with the help of the central government, has promoted this perception across the board about Balochistan that the tribal chiefs of the province oppose construction of schools and the promotion of education among the people because the tribal chiefs fear losing control over the local population once everyone starts going to school. In theory, it makes a logical argument but in reality the landscape in Balochistan isn’t black and white.
The tribal chiefs, who oppose the promotion of education in Balochistan, are actually permanent members of the Pakistani ruling establishment. In spite of not enjoying ample support among the masses, these pro-Islamabad tribal chiefs have been aided by the Pakistani intelligence services from generation to generation to get elected to public office and then guard Islamabad’s interests in Balochistan. As long as Islamabad continues to patronize these tribal chiefs, Balochistan’s legislature will comprise of politicians who will refrain from imparting education among the local population. An informed population will most likely rise against the central government’s excessive exploitation of Balochistan’s mineral resources. Hence, there is a need to halt and annihilate the factory that churns out and imposes pro-establishment politicians on Balochistan.
Islamabad has numerous interests in Balochistan. One such interest is to promote Islamic fundamentalism to confront separatist tendencies among the Baloch youth who are demanding a free Baloch homeland. The popularization of one Muslim identity is seemingly the only antidote available to the Pakistani policymakers to exterminate ethnic nationalism in the gas-rich province. This is a very costly as well as a deadly strategy. Pakistan has had a consistent history of using Islamic extremist proxies but it also has a consistent history of failures and catastrophic consequences that, in resultantly, cost the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistan’s own population.
The actions of the extremist group that has successfully disrupted girls’ education are incongruous with Pakistan’s Islamist agenda. In the backdrop of this situation, the provincial government will distance itself from the assault on education because it does not have the authority to contest federal policies with regards to Islamabad’s marriage with armed religious groups. These networks have, unfortunately, become somewhat indispensable for the Pakistani state to protect its domestic and foreign interests. Just like its growing nuclear arsenal, Pakistan’s network of Islamist allies inside and outside the country is alarmingly expanding.
While extreme positions adopted by the Pakistani government and the Baloch nationalists have escalated and perpetuated the conflict in Balochistan, what is deeply worrying is how both sides have chosen to drag their battles inside educational institutions instead of fighting them in political battlegrounds.
The Baloch nationalists, mostly represented by underground armed groups, have also found the educational institutions a soft target.
In a 2010 report, Their Future is at Stake, the Human Rights Watch said at least 22 school teachers and educational personnel had been killed in Balochistan between January 2008 and October 2010.
The H.R.W. mainly blamed the Baloch nationalists for these killings. “While individuals from all professions have been the victims of such “targeted killings”,” the H.R. W. reported, “teachers and students constitute a significant proportion of victims because militant groups view schools and educational personnel, particularly ethnic Punjabis, as representatives of the Pakistani state and symbols of perceived Punjabi military oppression of the province.”
Armed Baloch nationalists have strictly dealt with school teachers who insisted upon raising Pakistan’s national flag or making students sing the country’s anthem. After some teachers were shot dead, most schools began to play the Free Balochistan anthem and display the nationalists’ flag on school buildings. The nationalists counted this as their victory.
The Baloch nationalists are reluctant to admit that the killing of the non-Baloch, mainly Punjabi, teachers and forcing them to leave the province has negatively affected Balochistan’s education. Since the forceful explosion of non-Baloch teachers, the province faces an extraordinary dearth of math and science teachers. Whenever I inquire from Baloch nationalists about the cost of attacks on teachers, they have a quick response: “So what?” And, I reply, “”so what?” isn’t an answer to my question.” “So what” does not clearly reflect the demands of a political movement nor can it be a durable policy.
Tragically, there isn’t an organized battle for protecting the educational institutions of Balochistan. The government and the Baloch nationalists tend to only highlight one side of the picture to make each other look inferior. On the contrary, bad politics on both sides is risking the future of thousands of children in Balochistan.
The Baloch separatists should respect teachers based on their services rather than their ethnicity. They should reopen Balochistan’s doors for all those teachers who were forced to leave the province whereas the government, on its part, should immediately dismantle the religious groups that are threatening girls’ education. Those who keep girls away from education anywhere in the world, including in the conflict-stricken Balochistan, are not our allies for a better future.

Deobandi extremist and self confessed killer Malik Ishaq is let loose to kill more Shia Muslims

Malik Ishaq’s release in Rawalpindi –the seat of deep events- is a deep event and an event predictably suppressed in the media. However, that Malik Ishaq has been freed does not come as a surprise. The soft corner that some of the stalwarts of the PMLN government have for the terrorists and sectarian killers is well known to all. The fusion of the PMLN with Saudi governing interests is as much political as economic. When the interior minister of the country and the law minister of the largest province openly sympathise with the terrorists then let’s not harbour any hopes for firm prosecution, let alone justice. Unfortunately, this only encourages further violence and is reminiscent of so many past trials where justice was never served to the perpetrators responsible for sectarian violence. So, we are describing a phenomenon that occurred not just once, but consistently, almost predictably. There is a long list of SSP/AWSJ/LeJ killers who were apprehended by the police but set free by the state and then continued their activities, including spewing hatred against the minorities and killing Shias, Barelvis, and Ahmedis.
The Pakistani government’s negligence has created a climate of impunity that encourages further assaults. The government knows well that accountability could serve as a deterrent, and would demonstrate that the government is interested in addressing the issue through application of the rule of law and not just reconciliation sessions with the perpetrators of violence. But this whole episode illustrates what has become all too common in recent Pakistani history, the way in which secret Jihadist policies can take priority over the public interest, even to the point of leading to indiscriminate mass murders or targeted killing of minorities.
Past three decades of our history have witnessed an on-going cover-up of a jihadist and terrorist infrastructure.
These decades of protection for terrorists and jihadists demonstrate the power and importance of this extra dimension to the Pakistan deep state: the dark forces in our country responsible for breeding jihadists and protecting terrorists, with the collusion of the successive democratic governments institutionalized since 1988 and then –after a hiatus- after 2008. This deeper dimension of the deep state, behind its institutional manifestation in our elected governments is a far greater threat than the terrorism that pours forth from Waziristan. Although it is unsafe to define these dark forces, every Pakistani knows that they are related to the black hole at the heart of the complex Military-Jihadist connection, a complex that involves the likes of Taliban, SSP, and JuD and Pakistan’s constant sponsoring of militants in Afghanistan. It is time to consider the extent to which Pakistan’s state has developed a symbiotic relationship with the forces it is supposed to be fighting.
Whether or not that happens, for now Malik Ishaq is free to kill more Shias. If the State of Pakistan had known to detain this man hundreds of lives might have been saved.
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Pakistan: You want Geo on its knees, once, twice, three times: Asma

Human rights activist and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir has said she supports freedom of expression and the independence of the media, and punishing any TV channel is not an act of any pillar of the state but of dictators.
Addressing a lawyers gathering at the Aiwan-e-Iqbal here on Thursday, Asma said whatever Geo did was not fair. No journalistic ethics permit putting the picture (of any official) on the TV screen for hours over mere allegations, she said, adding that there was nothing new in this, however, as “Geo as well as all other TV channels have done it to us all in the past”.
“You may fine it (Geo) for the mistake, you may force them to apologise”, but what is this attitude, she asked. “You say no pardon, you say you will bring this organisation to its knees, once, twice, thrice, and there seems to be no end to it,” she added. She said if the army rulers believe they can strangle the freedom of expression in this country, they are mistaken.
Asma said when the judiciary indulges in politics instead of providing justice, we criticise it. “We did it earlier, and we do it even today,” she added. Asma regretted that the media have started dictating even to lawyers. “They say a lawyer must ask them (the media) before taking up any case. If they will permit, you take up a case, and if they don’t want you to, you don’t go for it,” the lawyer leader said.
Asma said the government claims that their heart bleeds at the misuse of public money. “If it is public money then why have you provided six employees at government expense to the former CJ, whose son is still staying in the guest house,” the rights activist asked. She also questioned the appointment of Faqeer Hussain as the director general of the Federal Judicial Academy after his retirement as the Supreme Court registrar, and termed it in violation of merit.