Tuesday, June 17, 2014
A Saudi woman caught driving a car by a policeman defiantly told him that she is not a criminal to be arrested. The cop said women in the conservative Gulf Kingdom are not allowed to drive. A YouTube film published in Sada newspaper showed the woman was still in her car as she argued with the policeman who stopped her on the road.“We are not criminals or thieves. All we are doing is driving,” she told the policeman. “I am sure that if I were a 15-year-old boy, you will not stop me although boys at this age are totally banned from driving cars in the country.” Sada said the police man replied :”A boy may not be allowed to drive at a certain age but the problem is that all women are banned from driving regardless of their age.”
A new report shows that financial corruption and money laundering have been on the rise in Saudi Arabia over the past years. According to a recent report by the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, nearly 500 cases of money laundering and corruption have been reported in Saudi Arabia in the past two years. The report said the Saudi Interior Ministry had investigated more than 180 of such cases this year and over 300 others in 2013. In May, a poll carried out by the Saudi National Anti-Corruption Commission disclosed that 67.8 percent of the respondents said the level of financial and state corruption is on the rise in Saudi Arabia. The results also showed that some 92 percent of Saudi nationals hold nepotism responsible for the spread of corruption in their country. In a letter to the head of the anti-corruption organization earlier this year, Prince al-Waleed bin Talal Al Saud said his country is suffering from rampant corruption in state organizations, the scope of which is gradually being revealed to the public. Last August, exiled Saudi Prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al Saud criticized the United States for ignoring corruption in Saudi Arabia due to long-term interests. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, with the black gold accounting for 90 percent of the country’s exports. Corruption is so ingrained in Saudi Arabia’s royal family that despite the country’s enormous oil money, it struggles with problems such as poverty and unemployment. Job growth and welfare programs in Saudi Arabia have failed to keep pace with a booming population that hiked from 6 million in 1970 to 28 million in 2012.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces clash with militants from the the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near Kirkuk.
Democrats applaud capture of suspect in 2012 Benghazi attacks as Republicans raise concerns about prosecuting him in court rather than military tribunal at Guantanamo
UN Security Council adopted a statement on Tuesday, which called for an investigation of the journalists' death in Ukraine. Current chairman of UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, Russia's permanent representative, read out the text of the statement. "The Security Council calls for a thorough investigation of all violent incidents, including against journalists," said Churkin. VGTRK journalist Igor Kornelyuk died from wounds received in a mortar shelling at Lugansk in eastern Ukraine. Later, the body of video engineer Anton Voloshin was found. Cameraman Viktor Denisov who by a lucky chance didn't hurt under the fire identified him.
The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into the death of VGTRK journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin in Ukraine, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said. The investigation has determined that a VGTRK filming crew came under mortar fire on Tuesday. Journalist Igor Kornelyuk sustained a serious injury and was delivered to the Lugansk regional hospital, where he died soon afterwards. The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into the death of VGTRK journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin in Ukraine, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said to Interfax on Tuesday. "The Russian Investigative Committee's main investigative department has opened a criminal case into the killing of VGTRK TV company journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin in the Lugansk People's Republic based on signs of a crime covered by Russian Criminal Code Article 356 Part 1 (the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare) and Article 105 Part 2 (the killing of two or more people in a publicly dangerous way in connection with their professional activities)," Markin said. It was determined by investigation that a VGTRK filming crew came under mortar fire. Igor Kornelyuk sustained a severe injury and was delivered to the Lugansk regional hospital, but he died soon afterwards. Sound engineer Anton Voloshin was first considered missing, his body was found later on Tuesday evening. "The body, or, to be more precise, the remains have been found. They have been found right at the scene of a mortar attack in the community of Metallist," a spokesman for the Lugansk People's Republic told Interfax. Markin said cameraman Viktor Denisov "had a miraculous escape." In commenting on the journalists' deaths, Markin said, "The so-called members of the National Guard and Ukrainian authorities first abducted journalists and tortured them" and now "switched to killings." This is being done "with the only goal of concealing the crimes committed earlier," as journalists make it difficult for "those invested with power to conceal crimes they commit hourly on Ukrainian territory, and not only in the southeast of it." "It is the fear of exposure that has absolutely untied the Ukrainian junta's hands. The whole world will learn about each of their crimes, and everyone responsible will be punished," he said.The press service of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic has confirmed the death of Anton Voloshin, the second member of a filming crew of the Russian state TV and radio company VGTRK. "Yes, the body, or, to be more precise, the remains have been found. They have been found right at the scene of a mortar attack in the community of Metallist," a press service member told said Interfax.Moscow demands that Kiev carefully investigate the death of Russian journalist Igor Kornelyuk and severely punish those responsible. "We demand that the Ukrainian authorities conduct an impartial investigation into this tragedy and severely punish those guilty," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. Moscow expects that world media outlets would strongly and unambiguously denounce "this new crime by the Ukrainian security forces." "We are proud of all journalists who courageously bring the truth about the real events in Ukraine under machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire and airstrikes," Interfax reports. The Kiev authorities and various combat groups committing real terror against journalists from Russia fear this very truth," the Foreign Ministry said. "The Russian journalist's death has once again convincingly shown the criminal essence of the forces that have unleashed the punitive operation in the east of Ukraine, in which civilians continue being killed," it said. "VGTRK correspondent Igor Kornelyuk was killed, and his colleague, sound engineer Anton Voloshin, went missing as a result of mortar fire upon a place where no military sites were located" outside Lugansk on June 17, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has extended his condolences over the death of the VGTRK correspondent Igor Kornelyuk in an attack near Lugansk and expressed his resentment of the policies pursued by Kiev with respect to journalists. "I express my deepest sympathies to the colleagues and family over the death of the VGTRK journalist Igor Kornelyuk, and to all those seeking to tell the truth about what is happening in Ukraine, and again I want to express our resentment of the actions committed by the Ukrainian authorities with respect to journalists by constantly subjecting them to completely uncivilized treatment, by arresting them, creating obstacles and thinking up espionage accusations completely out of thin air," Lavrov told reporters. "Overall, it is clear that in hotspots journalists are at risk and threatened - this has always been the case everywhere; but the threats that currently exist in Ukraine, which have eventually led to the tragic death of the VGTRK correspondent, are absolutely artificial. They are the result of the continued military operation against the Ukrainian people, against those in the southeast who want to defend their rights, who want to be heard, and all this is being done despite numerous promises to cease fire and sit down at the negotiating table," the Russian minister stressed.The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic is calling for an investigation to be launched on a Russian journalist's death near Lugansk, said a press release, reports RIA Novosti. On Tuesday, the correspondent for Vesti Igor Kornelyuk died of sustained injuries during a mortar shelling of the village of Mirny near Lugansk in eastern Ukraine. Dunja Mijatovic said that she was "deeply saddened by the death of Russian journalist Igor Kornelyuk in eastern Ukraine". In recent months there were several high-profile attacks on Russian camera crews and also on a few foreign journalists. "This death is yet another horrid reminder that not enough is being done to protect journalists who risk their lives reporting from conflict zones in Ukraine," the OSCE representative said in a statement. Dunja Mijatovic "to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this deadly attack (hat led to the death of Igor Kornelyuk) and to hold those responsible accountable."tand bring all the perpetrators to justice. She also expressed condolences to the family and colleagues of the murdered journalist.The National Guard of Ukraine executed aimed mortar fire at Vesti journalists, Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic, Vasily Nikitin, said in an interview to the Latvian Baltkom radio station. "They came under aimed mortar fire executed by the National Guard. There were no militiamen there. Most likely, they were shooting at civilians who turned out to be journalists," said Nikitin, RIA Novosti reports. /A correspondent of Russia's radio and television broadcasting company VGTRK Igor Kornelyuk, who was injured during a shelling of the village of Mirny, near Lugansk, has died at the hospital. His colleague meanwhile goes missing. The Russian state broadcaster VGTRK has confirmed the death of its special correspondent, Igor Kornelyuk, as a result of an injury sustained near Lugansk. The information about other crew members still being checked. The press service for the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic said Anton Voloshin, a sound operator from a group of VGTRK journalists, went missing following a mortar attack in the village of Metallist near Lugansk."He [Voloshin] will be considered missing until his body is found or until he is found alive," the press service told Interfax. "It's impossible to get there [into Metallist], there is a heavy mortar attack going on there," the source said. "The VGTRK operator managed to leave there because he was filming everything from some distance," the source said. "The information about Igor's death in hospital in the Luhansk region has just been confirmed," a VGTRK spokesperson told Interfax on Tuesday. The fate of the television crew's sound operator, Anton Voloshin, is still unknown; currently he is considered to be missing, the spokesperson said. Earlier the death of Kornelyuk was reported to Interfax by the deputy chief doctor at the Luhansk regional hospital, Sergey Babenko. Vladimir Inogorodskikh, the head of the press service for the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, said earlier on Tuesday that a VGTRK correspondent had been wounded in a mortar attack in the village of Mirny."
The Iraqi government says that it holds Saudi Arabia “responsible” for the current crisis and has blamed Riyadh for encouraging “genocide” in the country through the backing of Sunni militants.
“We hold them [Saudi Arabia] responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that - which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites,” the Shiite-led cabinet said in a statement issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office. Comments from Riyadh this week "indicate siding with terrorism." Maliki pointed the finger at both Saudi Arabia and Qatar for perceived support of terrorism in Iraq in March. Making the statement could have serious implications for the conflict, only serving to deepen religious divisions in Iraq society.
“Sectarian tensions in Iraq are part of a larger ‘Cold War’ going on between Iran and the Gulf States-namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. So the US- if it can send a protection force in to protect its embassies and it can try to deal with sectarianism in Iraq, but unless it gets on top of this wider regional conflict, and namely, until it starts to deal with its allies in the gulf and stop them spreading sectarian hate, events in Iraq are going to spill over,” Warwick University’s Dr. Oz Hassan told RT. Crisis in Iraq spiked after a massive and sudden siege by Sunni ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) militants who captured cities in the north of the country – including the main city of Mosul – and started marching towards Baghdad shortly afterwards. The jihadists have already declared the capture of the capital Baghdad to be their top priority objective. Since the group began its mission at the beginning of June, militants have carried out violent beheadings. UN staff and foreign embassy staff have been partially withdrawn from the country out of personal safety fears.
“If sectarianism spills out onto the streets of Baghdad it’s going to be incredibly hard to contain because you’re going to have Sunnis and Shi’ites fighting each other street to street,” Hassan said. It was reported Monday that the USS Mesa Verde, with 550 Marines onboard, has entered the Persian Gulf for a possible operation in Iraq. Iraq has requested the hastened delivery of major weapons orders, including dozens of F-16 fighter jets contracted with Lockheed Martin and dozens of Boeing’s Apache helicopters, to counter the insurgent fighters. An offshoot of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the hyper-fundamentalist group active in Iraq and Syria, fell out with the global terrorist network. It gained notoriety for its ruthless tactics, which include publicly crucifying and beheading those who violate their strict religious interpretations. Its rise and consolidation owe a great deal to the simultaneous power vacuum that arose after the Syrian civil war broke out and the ongoing tumult in Iraq after the US invasion and occupation. Fighting against the Shia governments of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad and Bashar Assad in Damascus has also allowed the Sunni organization to recruit thousands of people under its aim of eventually turning the entire region into an ultraconservative Muslim caliphate.
U.S. President Obama said that Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, is being transported to the U.S.
Two journalists for Russian TV channel Rossiya have died from wounds sustained during a Ukrainian military shelling attack near Lugansk, eastern Ukraine. Reporter Igor Kornelyuk passed away on the operating table, a doctor at the hospital confirmed to RT.
The doctor told RT that "sadly, he has passed away." Just minutes ago Kornelyuk, a reporter for the Russian channel Rossiya, was in critical condition and had been receiving phone calls from Moscow. The attending doctor, however, had been answering his calls. Rossiya TV has confirmed its sound engineer Anton Voloshin, who was working with Igor Kornelyuk, was also killed in the attack. According to RT's information, Voloshin died immediately at the scene. However, this information could not be verified until recently as the fighting was ongoing and it was not possible to approach the body. The Rossiya channel crew consisted of three people with only one of them, Viktor Denisov, the cameraman, surviving the Ukrainian military shelling. Denisov identified both Voloshin and Kornelyuk. He told LifeNews how he managed to get out of harm’s way during the attack that claimed his colleague’s life. The cameraman said he was standing 100 meters from the spot where the mortar exploded. “I must say I was really lucky, I’d walked toward our cars, about 100 meters away, and that’s when the shelling started. My colleagues were supposed to have been out of the range of fire, but for some reason one of the shells flew straight into them,” Denisov said. When the attack began, Denisov ran toward the fleeing residents, who stood nearby. They managed to escape together. Speaking to Vesti, Denisov recounted the events that transpired in the initial minutes of the shelling. He recalled getting closer to shoot some footage, but was told not to go further. As soon as soldier motioned with his hand for everyone to get down, Denisov heard the pop next to the defense forces. “This is when I ran over to our guys and to the soldiers that had been wounded in the explosion, all the while trying to get some footage and help to get the fleeing people to safety. We walked for a kilometer,” he said. “Walking in the open was dangerous. The sound of exploding mines could be heard the entire time. We had shrapnel fly in our direction.”
Iraq's Shi'ite rulers defied Western calls on Tuesday to reach out to Sunnis to defuse the uprising in the north of the country, declaring a boycott of Iraq's main Sunni political bloc and accusing Sunni power Saudi Arabia of promoting "genocide". Washington has made clear it wants Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to embrace Sunni politicians as a condition of U.S. support to fight a lightning advance by forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But the Shi'ite prime minister has moved in the opposite direction, announcing a crackdown on politicians and officers he considers "traitors" and lashing out at neighbouring Sunni countries for stoking militancy. The latest target of his government's fury was Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni power in the Gulf, which funds Sunni militants in neighbouring Syria but denies it is behind ISIL. "We hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that - which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites," the Iraqi government said of Riyadh in a statement. Maliki has blamed Saudi Arabia for supporting militants in the past, but the severe language was unprecedented. On Monday Riyadh blamed sectarianism in Baghdad for fuelling the violence. In the latest bloodshed, scores of Iraqis were killed on Tuesday during a battle for a provincial capital, and fighting shut the country's biggest oil refinery, starving parts of the country of fuel and power. Government forces said they repelled an attempt by insurgents to seize Baquba, capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad, in fighting overnight. Some residents and officials said the dead included scores of prisoners from the local jail. There were conflicting accounts of how they had died. ISIL fighters who aim to build a Caliphate based on mediaeval Sunni precepts across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier launched their revolt by seizing the north's main city, Mosul, last week and swept through the Tigris valley towards Baghdad. The fighters, who consider all Shi'ites to be heretics deserving death, pride themselves on their brutality and have boasted of massacring hundreds of troops who surrendered. Most Iraqi Sunnis abhor such violence, but nevertheless the ISIL-led uprising has been joined by other Sunni factions, including former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and tribal figures, who share widespread anger at perceived oppression by Maliki's government. Western countries, including the United States, have urged Maliki to reach out to Sunnis to rebuild national unity as the only way of preventing the disintegration of Iraq. "There is a real risk of further sectarian violence on a massive scale, within Iraq and beyond its borders," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday. "I have been urging Iraqi government leaders including Prime Minister al-Maliki to reach out for an inclusive dialogue and solution of this issue." But the long-serving prime minister, who won an election two months ago, seems instead to be relying more heavily than ever on his own sect, who form the majority in Iraq. Hassan Suneid, a close Maliki ally, said on Tuesday the governing Shi'ite National Alliance should boycott all work with the largest Sunni political bloc, Mutahidoon. "It is not possible for any bloc inside the National Alliance to work with Mutahidoon bloc due to its latest sectarian attitude," he told a TV channel of Maliki's party. SCRAMBLING ALLIANCES The sudden advance by Sunni insurgents has the potential to scramble alliances in the Middle East, with the United States and Iran both saying they could cooperate against a common enemy, all but unprecedented since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iran, the leading Shi'ite power, has close ties to Maliki and the Shi'ite parties that have held power in Baghdad since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. But although both Washington and Tehran are close allies of Baghdad, they have not cooperated in the past. In a diplomatic rapprochement, U.S. ally Britain said it planned to reopen its embassy in Tehran, two and a half years after a mob ransacked the mission. U.S. officials say they could discuss Iraq with Iranians on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna this week. President Barack Obama, under fire at home by critics who say he did too little to shore up Iraq since withdrawing U.S. troops in 2011, is considering options for military action such as air strikes. He has sent a small number of extra marines to guard the U.S. embassy but has ruled out redeploying troops. "The president will continue to consult with his national security team in the days to come," the White House said, without elaborating. A senior U.S. official said Obama had not yet decided on a course of action. REFINERY SHUT Iraqi officials confirmed that the Baiji refinery north of Baghdad had shut down, although they said government troops still held the vast compound. Foreign workers were evacuated by Iraqi government helicopters. With the refinery shut, Iraq will have difficulty generating electricity and pumping water to sustain its cities in summer. There were already reports of queues for fuel in the north. During the U.S. occupation, the refinery stayed open, and the threat to it shows how much more vulnerable Iraq is now to insurgents than it was before Washington pulled out troops. Tens of thousands of Shi'ites have rallied at volunteer centres in recent days, answering a call by the top Shi'ite cleric to defend the nation. Many recruits have gone off to train at Iraqi military bases. But with the million-strong regular army abandoning ground despite being armed and trained by the United States at a cost of $25 billion, the government is increasingly relying on extra-legal Shi'ite militia to fight on its behalf, re-establishing groups that fought during the 2006-2007 bloodletting. According to one Shi'ite Islamist working in the government, well-trained fighters from the Shi'ite organisations Asaib Ahl Haq, Khetaeb Hezbollah and the Badr Organisation are now being deployed as the main combat force, while new civilian volunteers will be used to hold ground after it is taken. The Sunni militants have moved at lightning speed since seizing Mosul last Tuesday, slicing through northern and central Iraq, capturing the towns of Hawija and Tikrit in the north before facing resistance in southern Salahuddin province, where there is a large Shi’ite population. The battle lines are now formalising, with the insurgents held at bay about an hour's drive north of Baghdad and just on the capital's outskirts to the west. State television said Iraqi security forces repelled attacks on three neighbourhoods overnight in Baquba, capital of Diyala, an ethnically and religiously mixed province that saw some of the worst violence of the 2003-2011 U.S. occupation. Militants also attacked a northern Iraqi village, called Basher, 15 km (9 miles) south of Kirkuk, inhabited by Shi'ite ethnic Turkmen. They were repelled, police said. Kirkuk itself has been taken by forces from the autonomous Kurdish region. In a further sign of ethnic and sectarian polarisation, Maliki allies have accused the Kurds of colluding with Sunnis to dislodge government forces in the north. The mainly Turkmen city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, fell to Sunni militants late on Sunday, and the Iraqi military said it was sending reinforcement there. The Iraqi army said on state television it had killed a top militant, named Abu Abdul Rahman al-Muhajir, in Mosul in clashes. But security officials seemed pessimistic about the situation in Mosul. One Iraqi security officer warned: "There is no clear strategy for the Iraqi government to retake Mosul. And without the US and international community support, the Iraqi government will never retake Mosul."
The arrests of US based online journalist Khalid Hadi Haidari raises new and serious concerns about the freedom of speech and expiration in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s security forces arrested a prominent Afghan journalist and online news editor and publisher today in southern Kandahar province, raising questions about media and political freedom in the country ahead of the international force draw down by the end of this year. According to reports, Khalid Hadi Haidari the head of Benawa.com, an afghan online media, was arrested on suspicion of publishing some stories about illegal activities of the local government in Kandahar province in the south of Afghanistan. He was taken in custody shortly after he entered to the Kandahar airport. He was supposed to make his way from Kandahar to capital Kabul to visit his friends. Benawa is an online Pashto newspaper which has publication in Pashto language mainly covering human rights, freedom of speech, civil rights and cultural related issues. Khalid Hadi Haidari is a well known journalist among national and international media and he has worked for CNN during the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The arrest of Khalid Hadi comes at a time when the Karzai administration is preparing to hand over power to the new elected government by the end of next month. Afghan journalists union based in Kabul, says that the afghan force loyal to the local governor of Kandahar arrested Mr.khalid because of some stories which was published in Benawa online Pashto world about governor Weesa and his family members wrong doings in southern Kandahar province. “Before, the press freedom was one of our achievements, and Karzai has been mentioning it in every speech,” says Ahmadshad, the owner of an FM radio station in Kabul. “Now, he’s sacrificing it for political aims.” The crackdown on free expression is intensifying as Mr. Weesa’s administration faces mounting criticism from Afghans and Western governments for its failure to curb rampant corruption in Kandahar province. “Every day, little by little, civil rights are being taken away by the government or other political parties, government militias, Taliban and warlords, until we are left without any rights at all,” Mr. Khalid said in his latest interview with US media before his detention in Kandahar . The Afghan Journalist union joins the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) in condemning the detention of a journalist without charge. Khalid Hadi , a member of the Afghan media family and a US based reporter stationed at New York for the Benawa.com, a popular Pashtu-language news website, was arrested on June 17 in Kandahar airport without a warrant. The Afghan journalists associations have demanded that the Afghan forces clarify the charges against Khalid’s and outline the reason for his arrest. They said in a statement, “We ask the Kandahar governor to disclose his location and health condition. Further, we call on authorities to allow permission for his family and other journalists to visit him.” Khalid Hadi’s family members and other Afghan journalists based in Kabul and Kandahar do not know about his condition or location. This is unacceptable. We urge the Afghan Government to ensure that the basic human rights of the arrested journalist are being seen to.”
As Afghans wait for the results from this weekend’s presidential election, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Taliban — which failed to undermine the vote — no longer represents an existential threat to the country’s government. But that is of little solace to the millions of Afghans who may face a graver enemy in the government itself — a bundle of inept and corruption-plagued institutions whose actions could threaten the gains of the past decade. About 7 million voters turned out Saturday, a showing some Afghans read as a repudiation of the Taliban and others saw as a sign of the electorate’s desperation to reform a host of public institutions. The next president, who will be either former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah or former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, will inherit those institutions. On Sunday, both campaigns frantically tried to assess the election outcome, reporting dozens of cases of voting fraud to the country’s election commission. The official results won’t be released until early July. Neither candidate campaigned primarily on his ability to suppress the insurgency. Both found that the electorate had more pressing worries.
“I’m not concerned about the insurgency. The security forces are capable of dealing with it,” said Yama Torabi, head of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, an Afghan watchdog organization. “But I am concerned about corruption and its impact on the economy.” Much of the international community still sees Afghanistan through the lens of the ongoing counterterrorism mission, targeting Taliban insurgents who move freely in parts of eastern and southern Afghanistan. The threat from the Taliban is hardly over; hundreds of Afghans continue to be killed each month.
Many considered the elections to be a litmus test of the Taliban’s relevance. If its fighters had succeeded in their plan to disrupt the Afghan electoral process, it would have said something about the insurgents’ clout — if not their capacity to conduct attacks, then their ability to instill fear. Saturday’s vote was marred by hundreds of small-scale Taliban attacks, and more than 40 people were killed. But it would have taken much more than that to derail the elections. And, thanks to the growing strength of the Afghan security forces, the Taliban does not appear to have the capability to retake major urban centers. The other threats to Afghanistan — the fragility of its economy and institutions — stand a better chance at destabilizing the country and throwing the U.S. investment here into a tailspin. For example, it appears increasingly likely that the government will be financially blacklisted by next week for failing to pass an anti-money laundering law, a designation that would hinder Afghanistan’s ability to do business with much of the world. The Financial Action Task Force, an international regulatory body, had pledged to blacklist Afghanistan if it hadn’t made progress on a list of IMF requirements issued in 2001 to minimize the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing. Afghanistan’s central bank crafted the legislation this year, but it was watered down and then got caught up in political gridlock. “This law should have been approved and implemented 10 years ago, but Afghan officials were busy laundering money,” said Abbas Ibrahimzada, a parliamentarian from central Balkh province.
Former prime minister and Vice Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani here on Tuesday said that the PPP will fully support the Federal Government's decision to launch operation against Taliban in North Waziristan as it is in the interest of the country.
As a full Pakistani military offensive in the tribal district of North Waziristan took shape on Monday, commanders promised a crushing blow to the jihadi groups that have flourished there in the past decade, spreading chaos in the region and posing a security threat to the West. Tanks rolled through the streets of Miram Shah, the district’s main town, as jet fighters pounded targets in a nearby valley and tens of thousands of residents fled to safer areas out of fear of an impending ground assault. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, vowed to disrupt militant sanctuaries “without any discrimination” — a reference to the wide variety of militant groups, from the Taliban to Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network, that are based in North Waziristan and have drawn strength from their ability to share money, manpower and ideology.
But the looming battle will also be decided, experts and analysts said, in Pakistan’s major towns and cities, where the Taliban have threatened to exact violent retribution through mass mayhem. “By God, we will soon shake your palaces in Islamabad and Lahore and burn those to ashes,” the Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said in a statement on Monday.
The scale and virulence of any Taliban reprisals will offer a measure of how deeply the Islamist insurgents have penetrated mainstream society, experts say. Militant threats to bomb foreign airlines and business interests could further damage an economy that has already been crippled by years of violent upheaval. And a rash of attacks would test the ability of the country’s feeble security forces to confront and defeat them — especially as ambiguities persist inside the military toward certain multinational networks. “Establishing control in North Waziristan won’t be the biggest issue,” said Ayaz Amir, a former member of Parliament and a commentator. “The problem will lie in the militants’ pockets of support across the country.” The jittery atmosphere was evident on Monday as soldiers patrolled the streets of Islamabad, and counterterrorism officials across the country arrested militant suspects as part of an effort to discover militant sleeper cells and pre-empt suicide bombings. But the main focus was North Waziristan, where the military operation entered its second day. American-made F-16 jets struck targets in the Shawal Valley, a thickly forested highland area and notorious militant hide-out, the military said. An intelligence official in Peshawar said one of those strikes had hit an abandoned school and killed 13 people, six of whom were members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a jihadist group with Taliban ties that played a central role in an audacious assault on the Karachi airport a week ago. Hours later, a Taliban roadside bomb ripped through a military convoy north of Miram Shah, killing at least six soldiers. Although the initial military drive is being led from the air, a ground operation looks likely. A military official in Peshawar said that about 2,300 soldiers had been moved into North Waziristan on Sunday, bringing the total strength there to about 20,000 soldiers, including paramilitary forces. Still, the exact situation was unclear. The military has tightly controlled the flow of information from the battle zone, which has been sealed off since Sunday and is out of bounds to most journalists.
More difficult to control, though, is the situation in the major cities, where the Taliban and allied militants have a history of killing and kidnapping civilians, sabotaging the economy and outgunning the regular security forces. One major concern is an explosion of jihadi unrest in Punjab Province, where militant madrassas have quietly proliferated in recent years.Unidentified gunmen on Monday abducted a nephew of the country’s chief justice in Multan, a city in southern Punjab, police officials and family members said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but immediate suspicions fell on militants operating in the area. One of the victim’s relatives, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the missing man worked as a junior official at Inter-Services Intelligence, the military’s powerful spy agency.The other major worry is Karachi, a city of 20 million people that has seen a gradual infiltration of Taliban fighters and sympathizers, many of whom have slipped into the city in the guise of refugees over the past five years.A senior counterterrorism officer in Karachi, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified a militant cell from the Mohmand tribal agency, near Peshawar, as the most dangerous Taliban group. “They could target governmental installation, foreign companies or prominent personalities,” he said. In an effort to pre-empt possible Taliban reprisals, the Karachi police have raided suspected Taliban hide-outs in the city and detained a number of suspects since Sunday, the official said. Sharifuddin Memon, an adviser to the provincial home ministry, said that all new refugees would be registered as they entered Karachi and that no new refugee camps would be permitted on the edge of the city. Capability issues aside, one major problem for the security forces in frontally tackling Islamist violence is the military’s continuing ambiguity toward some jihadi groups that are popularly known as the “good Taliban” in Pakistan. For example, the North Waziristan offensive takes place in a district that is dominated by the Haqqani network, a fighting group that stages attacks in Afghanistan and has traditionally had close ties to Pakistani intelligence — one American general went as far as to call it a “virtual arm” of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. Until recently, Haqqani network operatives have mingled freely in North Waziristan alongside Pakistani Taliban fighters and the plethora of other militant outfits that shelter there. Pakistan’s rejection of American demands for an operation in North Waziristan contributed to the escalation of the C.I.A. drone campaign, which has killed at least 2,300 people since 2008, according to groups that monitor the strikes. But the current offensive in North Waziristan seems not as much a response to American browbeating as to the growing certainty that the Taliban are a major threat to stability in Pakistan. The operation has broad public support for now. “Operation at last!” read Monday’s front-page headline in The Nation, a conservative English-language daily. Major political figures have also voiced support for the military’s move — including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who until recently wanted to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban, and his opposition rival, Imran Khan, a longtime critic of attacking the Taliban who nonetheless said on Monday that he was reluctantly supporting the operation. Away from the battle in Waziristan, analysts said, a crucial question now is the strength of the Taliban riposte, and whether it will sway public opinion. “Most people think it’s good that this operation has started,” said Mr. Amir, the commentator. “But can we complement it with a broader antiterrorism policy across the country? That is the challenge for Pakistan.”
Less than 48 hours after a runoff election to choose the next president of Afghanistan, the first signs of a looming political crisis emerged on Monday, with the campaign of Abdullah Abdullah claiming there had been widespread ballot stuffing and suggesting he was being set up for a defeat he would not accept. A senior campaign official for Mr. Abdullah, who won the most votes in the election’s first round, said the candidate believes President Hamid Karzai and a coterie of advisers around him orchestrated the fraud. The aim, in the estimation of the Abdullah campaign, was either to install Ashraf Ghani, the other candidate for president, or to see Mr. Karzai use a postelection crisis as an excuse to extend his own term in office. “Karzai is quite happy everything is tied up,” said the official, who spoke anonymously because the campaign was still collecting evidence of fraud. “They have engineered it in a way that goes far beyond the normal. It’s industrial-scale fraud.”
The official, who is familiar with Mr. Abdullah’s thinking, questioned the neutrality of electoral officials and the courts, saying the candidate had no expectation that complaints would be addressed. Campaign officials also accused Mr. Ghani of being complicit in fraud. In his public statements, Mr. Abdullah has also suggested there was widespread fraud, though he has not leveled direct accusations at Mr. Karzai or other officials. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Mr. Abdullah questioned initial reports that more than seven million Afghans had voted. (His campaign figures five million would have been more realistic.) He also said that his campaign staff had witnessed ballot stuffing in Kabul and elsewhere in favor of Mr. Ghani, and that some of the fraud was conducted by a senior elections officials. Mr. Karzai’s office scoffed at the accusations coming out of the Abdullah campaign. “The accusation is absolutely baseless and wrong,” said Adela Raz, a spokeswoman for the president. The campaign of Mr. Ghani, a former finance minister, said it would accept the official final result. But his campaign officials complained of fraud and violence on the part of Mr. Abdullah’s supporters, and accused Mr. Abdullah himself of violating campaign laws and stoking a crisis. “If Dr. Abdullah is not announced as unconditional winner, then the country might be led toward a crisis — that is what they have been saying,” said Faizullah Zaki, a spokesman for Mr. Ghani, at a news conference on Monday. “We believe such statements are a serious violation of the Constitution, electoral laws and the fundamental rule of election.” The hard line from the Abdullah campaign, before all the ballots were even counted or any evidence of fraud publicly disclosed, propelled concerns that Afghanistan was headed for a political showdown at a crucial and delicate moment in a country with a history of civil strife. The number of American-led troops here is shrinking fast, and foreign forces have already stepped back from a front-line role, leaving Afghanistan’s improving but still unsteady security forces to take on the Taliban. At the same time, American and European officials have made an acceptably clean election here a prerequisite for the delivery of billions of dollars of annual aid to Afghanistan.
After years of watching corruption flourish and listening to Mr. Karzai berate the West for not bringing peace to Afghanistan, the country’s leaders “haven’t got that many shots left in the magazine, I’m afraid,” said a Western diplomat ahead of the vote, which took place on Saturday.
“In terms of a stock of good will, the stock has been significantly diminished,” the diplomat added.
For many in Afghanistan, the accusations of fraud directed at President Karzai’s circle echoes the fraught 2009 election and political crisis, when Mr. Karzai defeated Mr. Abdullah. In that vote, about 1.2 million ballots were thrown out as fraudulent, most of them biased toward Mr. Karzai.
The election was headed for a second round before Mr. Abdullah stepped aside under pressure from some of his own Afghan political allies and American officials eager to see the crisis defused.
This time, the Abdullah campaign official said, Mr. Abdullah believed that nothing good would come of his stepping aside to avoid a crisis. Allowing fraud to prevail would harm the country, the official said. Though supporters of Mr. Abdullah’s campaign have been careful not to claim outright victory, they have strongly suggested that the only legitimate outcome was their candidate’s being elected president. Asked if Mr. Abdullah’s supporters, including powerful former warlords and militia commanders, would mobilize to support their candidate, the official said the campaign would “always ask them to show restraint.” Though it is difficult to judge the fraud claims this early in the process, many observers and officials were shocked with the numbers released by the election commission Saturday night, given the mass of anecdotal evidence suggesting far smaller crowds at the polls in much of the country. If the fraud is as widespread as the Abdullah camp has alleged, it will be a deep blow to Afghanistan, where the election, until now, had been seen as relatively successful, and perhaps a sign of better things to come. Abdullah campaign officials offered a variety of unverified numbers to support their case, pointing to insecure provinces in the east where, they said, voter turnout far exceeded the number of registered voters. Another drama that has consumed Kabul in the aftermath of the vote is an allegation that a top election official was caught with a truckload of blank ballots, driving them to an insecure area on the outskirts of Kabul without the mandatory police escort. Mr. Abdullah has publicly called for the removal of the official, Zia ul-Haq Amerkhel. The election commission has denied the allegations.
The news about the military operation in North Waziristan targeting the terrorist sanctuaries was received on Sunday with a lot of enthusiasm and support for the armed forces from many sections of society. Named cleverly as Zarb-e-Azb (the sharp strike literally) after the name of the sword carried by Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) during the battles of Badar and Uhud, the operation busts down the jihadist takfeeri narrative of the militants at the outset. While one has heard many supportive sentiments from almost all walks of life on electronic as well as social media, one has also come across some skepticism from a cross-section of civil society voices outside Punjab and Islamabad. The Pashtuns especially, were heard carefully expressing their measured hopes for the operation while reminding of the earlier operations that did not produce sustainable results. Political parties across the board appear to be supportive of the military operation after all options of negotiations with the militants have already been exhausted. A few parties like Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have chosen to oppose it firmly while Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam-F (JUI-F)has demanded to pair it with a policy framework to deal with terrorism in the longer run. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), the third largest party in the federal parliament, has protested on not being taken in confidence before deciding for the operation. Just when these lines are written, PTI head Imran Khan has come out of the National Assembly Session and is talking to media saying that the talks should still go on alongside the operation. Amidst this landscape of political and popular support, the Armed Forces of Pakistan have finally decided to take on the militant hideouts in North Waziristan (NW). Pakistan has been long resisting the demand for a stern military operation in this part of FATA from liberal, progressive Pakistanis. The operation has been on the wish list of the West (read America) too but without any heed from Pakistani authorities. In fact, the foreign office under Hina Rabbani Khar was frequently heard stating that the operation in North Waziristan would be undertaken on Pakistan’s own timeline and not under duress by any foreign power. The time, fortunately, has arrived. But what exactly has happened for the time to be ripe for the operation? For one, the negotiations have, as is claimed, divided the terrorists who are busier than ever in managing internal rifts. Secondly, many skeptics in Pakhtun civil society believe that the Afghan assets have been removed from NW and taken abroad, which makes the military operation a safer option. Especially after the Karachi Airport Attack, fixing the renegadeshas become need of the hour. According to the press release by the ISPR on last Sunday, “our valiant armed forces have been tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and color, along with their sanctuaries”. The statement further says, “ With the support of the entire nation, and in coordination with other state institutions and Law Enforcement Agencies, these enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country”. That roughly puts the operation objectives as follows. One: all terrorist organizations having sanctuaries in NW would be eliminated regardless of what nationality and tribe they belong to, which means, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan militants, Uzbeks and Chechens along with all other shades of sectarian outfits etc. whosoever is present in NW. Two: The sanctuaries of all kinds of terrorists would be eliminated. Three: The target will be the groups who are against the state of Pakistan (just to remind, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other such outfits are not against the state of Pakistan). Four: The ‘enemies of the state’ would be targeted wherever they are over the length and breadth of the country. Now that describes a rather tall order. If one is getting the objectives right, the operation has to extend to the settled areas of Pakistan sooner or later. The ones our army seems to be well intentioned to eliminate – the TTP and Uzbek/Chechen mix – have strong support from the groups operating in settled areas of urban Pakistan with impunity. There has been strong circumstantial evidence to suggest ideological, tactical, operational and logistic ties between LeJ, Ahl-eSunnah-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), Lashkar-e-Toyeba (LeT), TTP, Punjabi Taliban and other Al-Qaida affiliated groups. In 2009, Pakistan Army’s GHQ was attacked and several officers were held hostage by the militants. The LeJ chief Malik Ishaq who was serving jail term in Lahore, was flown in a military plane to Islamabad and was ‘requested’ to mediate between military authorities and the militants. The attack was later claimed bythe AmjadFaruqi group of TTP. In April this year, former Interior Minister Rehman Malik verified strong links between TTP and LeJciting reports of investigation agencies. He said that the two groupshad been frequently claiming the responsibility of each other’s terror activities. Earlier, three terrorists were identified who were killed in a case of mistakenly exploded bomb in ManghoPir in Karachi in October 2013.UmerKhattab, a senior CID officer had told the media at that time that two deceased terrorists identified as Rafiullah Baloch and Abdul Majid Baloch were from TTP while the third one,Saqib alias Saqib Punjabi was fromLashkar-e-Jhangvi. There has been some very disturbing news about alleged ties of LeJ with elements within the military establishment, which the new army leadership is expected to fix on priority basis. According to an excerpt from The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 by Carlotta Gall, some of her sources inside Pakistan Army reported to her about the conversation between the then-Army Chief Gen (R) Pervez Kayani and LeJ chief Malik Ishaq during the post-GHQ attack negotiations. When Gen Kayani asked Malik Ishaq to stop sectarian killings, Malik Ishaq reportedly replied, “We are your children but we will not follow this”. On which General Kayani, Gall writes, preferred to remain silent. There are umpteen other instances where ferocious militants like Usman Saifullah Kurd (LeJ operational head of Balochistan), DawoodBadini (Second-in-Command of LeJBalocistan), Shakirullah Jan (LeJGilgit/Baltistan) and Arifuddin (LeJGilgit/Baltistan) among others, were allowed to escape from high security detention facilities controlled by army and FC in Quetta and Gilgit-Baltistan. It is, thus, very important for the army leadership to look into these holes within its own establishment if a strategy of seeing militants as their strategic assets and proxies is no more being followed. Rehman Malik’s statement of last April also claimed the presence of 500 ‘terrorists’ of Ghazi Force in Kohat and in seminaries of Islamabad. He further claimed, which has also been independently reported by various journalists that pery-urban areas in Islamabad’s vicinity especially Bara Kahu had become strongholds of terrorists.Meaning thereby, that the blowback of Zarb-e-Azb would be an un-manageable Zarb-e-Azeem (the great strike) from militants if countrywide terrorist sanctuaries are not decimated. In short, Zarb-e-Azb would be a litmus test of whether Pakistan has had any change of mind on the use of proxies to serve its geo-political agenda. If the strategic depth doctrine still exists in the shape it existed in 1990s and most of 2000s, the hope of these terrorist groups being shunned completely, is rather misplaced. The progressive forces in Pakistan, while extending all out support to our Armed Forces for Zarb-e-Azb, are keeping their fingers crossed for a real change in the right direction.
Pakistan actress Veena Malik and her beau Asad Bashir were invited for an official visit of BBC London during their four-month tour of the United Kingdom as ambassadors of the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC). They were also interviewed for a BBC TV program.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned the Punjab Police brutalities in Lahore, which resulted in killings of several people, including women. “Such brutal use of force against protests is a slap on democratic traditions,” PPP Patron-In-Chief stated adding Punjab government should apologize to the people and order immediate action against the officials involved in the killings and torture of people. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the country needs to reiterate and follow the golden words of Founder of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah Unity, Faith and Discipline. It is the high time in the history of our country that we need to break from politics and protests to fight unanimously against the menace of terrorism, he added. He said that President Asif Ali Zardari had laid foundation of shining example of political tolerance, non-vindictiveness and non-violence to strengthen the democratic traditions in Pakistan. PML-N government should keep these traditions alive instead of crushing as entire nation and its leadership have given great sacrifices to achieve the democratic order in the country. PPP Patron-in-Chief expressed sympathies with the families of victims and demanded best possible medical treatment to all the injured of the incident.
Pakistan’s Christian community Sunday held a protest demonstration outside the Governor House calling for the thorough rights of possession of St Francis High School located in Anarkali.
The protest started from the Lahore Press Club to the Governor House. It was attended by hundreds of Pakistani Christians, was prepared under the umbrellas of Archdiocese of Lahore and directed by Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shah, Reverend Andrew Nisari, Joseph Francis and Samuel Piara of Pakistan Christian National Party, Martin Javed Michael, Father Shahid Miraj, and Convener of World Minorities Alliance Dr J Salik. In protest, senior Christian leaders held responsible the Punjab government for disregarding the apprehensions of minorities and said all the educational institutions created by Christians and financed by missionary donations should be in the ownership of the community. Andrew Nisari told Christians had played a prominent role in running schools after the establishment of Pakistan in 1947 and a majority of Pakistan’s political leadership had acquired education from these institutions. He added it was unfortunate that despite these precious contributions, the formerly nationalized St Francis High School had not been given back to its original owners. Archbishop of the Catholic Church Sebastian Francis Shah told that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his speech on December 19, 2013 at Governor House had assured the community that St Francis High School would soon be returned to its original owners. However, Archbishop pointed out that this promise was never satisfied and the Christians continued to protest but to no benefit. Talking to The News, Pakistan Christian National Party Director, Joseph Francis said that protests would continue all over the country till St Francis High School, which provided education to over 3,000 students, returned to its original owners. He insisted PM Nawaz Sharif to return the school to Anarkali Church administration. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/christians-held-protest-seeking-repossession-of-st-francis-school/#sthash.zUwpbxW9.dpuf
A few years ago mullah Tahir-ul Qadri was out promoting his book of Fatwa about moderation in Islam when western media confronted him with his own videos where the hate-preacher is seen promoting Pakistan blasphemy laws and advocating killings of blasphemes.
While Pakistani armed forces fight Islamist extremists and Taliban terrorists in the northern areas, a blatant sectarian hate campaign aimed at Ahmadiyya community by an extremist group has overtaken the industrial city of Faisalabad in the Punjab province of Pakistan. According to several local sources and reports in social media, thousands of billboards, banners, posters and signage on taxis and rickshaws have sprung up during the last few weeks in every part of the city advertising a '6-day, Qadiani Eradication Training' offered by Minhaj-ul-Quran Ulama Council, a part of the infamous mullah Tahirul Qadri's Minhaj-ul Quran organization. Mullah Tahir-ul Qadri, a Canadian citizen, surfaced on the world stage when he was caught in lies by the western media a few years ago. Mullah Qadri was out promoting his book of Fatwa about moderation in Islam when western media confronted him with his own videos where the hate-preacher is seen promoting Pakistani blasphemy laws and advocating killings of blasphemers. At one point mullah Qadri is seen taking credit for being the father of the Pakistan's blasphemy law. There has been numerous cases of anti-Ahmadi handbill distribution in Faisalabad and other parts of Pakistan by various extremist groups.
According to PersecutionOfAhmadis.org, an Ahmadiyya hate events archival website, the past hate campaigns have resulted in murders of Ahmadis, destruction of personal property, and desecration of the Ahmadiyya mosques and graveyards in the city and its surrounding towns. The Punjab government and the law enforcement authorities appear oblivious to the threat and have not taken any notice of the hate campaign, local sources have reported. In one instance, it was reported to Ahmadiyya Times, the local police personnel were seen providing protection to the hate campaign epicenter at the Baghdadi Mosque and associated Jamia Nooria Rizvia madrasa where reportedly over 400 students are learning the sectarian hatred taught by one Qari Hdayat Rasool, a follower of mullah Tahir-ul Qadri. Faisalabad, formerly known as Lyallpur, is the third largest metropolis in Pakistan, the second largest in the province of Punjab after Lahore, and a major industrial center in the heart of Pakistan, according to Wikipedia entry about the city.
More broadly, Dunford expressed increased confidence in the Afghan security forces, and said he did not believe that the military collapse playing out in Iraq would occur in Afghanistan once U.S. combat troops leave. He said the U.S. fully expects to get a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan’s government that will allow up to 14,000 U.S. and NATO troops to remain in the country next year to advise the Afghans and conduct counterterrorism missions. The U.S. left Iraq after the government in Baghdad refused to agree on a security arrangement. “I don’t see, at least today, the divisive politics that obviously resulted in the situation in Iraq playing out here in Afghanistan,” said Dunford. “We’re encouraged by the fact that we will have a bilateral security agreement. I’m encouraged by the fact that we have multiethnic (presidential) tickets.” Sunni militants are advancing across Iraq, taking control of several cities in the north and moving toward Baghdad, while roiling Sunni-Shiite ethnic tensions. In the face of the brutal al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, some Iraqi security forces have fled. The failure of the Iraqi troops to hold off the ISIL, just three years after American troops left the country after eight years or war, has led some U.S. leaders to question whether the same slide into chaos and insurgent control will happen in Afghanistan. Dunford said that while Afghan military leaders at times expressed frustration with President Hamid Karzai, including his decisions to limit close air support missions or other partnered operations with NATO troops, “not once was there a hint that they wouldn’t follow his direction.” Noting the deteriorating situation in Iraq, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said President Barack Obama was “about to make the same mistake in Afghanistan he made in Iraq.” Asked what can be done to prevent that from happening, Dunford said the U.S. and NATO need a signed security agreement so they can continue to train and advise the Afghan security forces, and the next president “needs to have an inclusive government” and reach out to all the ethnic groups in the country. He said there was less violence during Afghanistan’s runoff presidential election over the weekend than during the initial voting in April. And he added that, overall, the level of violence in Afghanistan this month is lower than the same time last year. “What we’ve seen is that the Taliban have been unable, right now, to maintain any kind of momentum against the Afghan security forces,” said Dunford. “What’s remarkable about that is, number one, the Afghan forces are in the lead and not us. And, second, the Taliban indicated a very strong intent to disrupt the elections and to increase the level of violence prior to the elections, and we simply didn’t see any surge in violence.” He added that there was growing divisiveness and frustration among the Taliban. “We’ve seen some mistrust develop between the Taliban senior leadership and the rank-and-file fighters out in the provinces,” Dunford said. “I think the morale of Taliban fighters has been affected adversely as a result of the lack of success.” The U.S. has announced it will leave about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan at the end of this year. Of those, 8,000 will train and advise the Afghans, and the rest would conduct counterterror operations. NATO countries will contribute another 4,000 or more troops.
The Pakistan Army operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ in North Waziristan entered its third day on Tuesday, as at least 50 militants were killed in the pre-dawn bombardment of fighter jets in different areas of tribal agency. According to sources, the aircrafts of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) targeted eight militant hideouts in Khusur, Khushali and Kaski areas in Mir Ali Tehsil of North Waziristan and killed more than 50 militants, most of whom were foreigners. Several militants also sustained injuries in the offensive as causality toll is expected to rise. On Monday, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISRP) had confirmed the killing of more than 34 militants and martyrdom of two Pakistan Army soldiers in the offensive in Shawal area of North Waziristan in wee hours of Sunday. The warplanes had also six militant hideouts in the airstrikes. The latest killings propelled the death tally in three days of operation to past 180. On the other hand, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has postponed his visit to Sri Lanka in the view of North Waziristan operation. In a statement issued early on Tuesday, ISPR stated that army chief was scheduled to leave for Colombo on four-day official visit today but he has deferred the program. - See more at: http://www.pakistantribune.com.pk/16169/50-militants-killed-in-north-waziristan-airstrikes.html#sthash.60Fwk37v.dpuf
It has taken a long time, and precious time has been wasted. And we have had buffoons who wouldn’t be given the time of day anywhere else setting themselves up as self-proclaimed muftis and hogging acres of newspaper space and hours on television, spouting nonsense in the name of peace, democracy and freedom of expression and adding to the confusion of a confused nation. But slowly, slowly, the Islamic Republic, Fortress of Islam no less, is being compelled by the force of circumstances to leave the phantoms of the past behind and wake up to the reality of today’s problems. Not that the denizens of the Fortress have become suddenly wiser, or their understanding has been illuminated by a flash of lightning. No, the cruelty of circumstances is leaving them no choice but to emerge from the welter of their monumental confusion and begin to see things for what they are. With the start of the North Waziristan operation the playing with shadows, the embracing of shallow peace doctrines, the nonsense of the self-proclaimed muftis has hopefully ended. Wars against insurgencies – especially an insurgency as strong and well-entrenched as that of the Taliban – do not end in a fortnight, or a month, or even six months. They can go on and on, as we have seen in Sri Lanka, as we have seen in Chechnya. And you have to face the wind and brave the elements, and summon up reserves of courage you thought you never had before you can raise the standard of victory. Material resources are important. You can’t do without them. But more important are such intangibles as resolve and the spirit of sacrifice…plus the quality of leadership. So this operation is not going to end soon and there will be no shortage of heartache and suffering on the way. In our long history of migrations there will be another migration. And people will be displaced from their homes and the wretched of the earth will bear a greater share of the suffering than those in a better position to look after themselves. But at least, after a long time, our path is clear and our course is set. The worst thing in any conflict is vacillation…swinging from one mood to the other, and not sure of what to do. As a nation we have displayed our share of doubts and vacillation. This last year was especially bad, indecision elevated to the status of an art form. Such was the sum of our national confusion that the All Parties Conference which should have been seen as the farce it was, was applauded by so many as an act of statesmanship. The NW operation hasn’t happened just like that. It has been preceded by two things: the taming of the media, the opportunity for which was provided by the media civil war, to put it no more bluntly than that; and the education of the government. To say anything more about the media civil war would be to step on too many brittle toes. So let us desist. The education of the government has led to some surprising developments, forcing its hand and putting an end to its vacillation. Overnight, this adult education programme has turned leading doves in the cabinet, with a known bias against the army, into prime time hawks. The present stances of the defence minister, Khawaja Asif, and the information minister, Pervaiz Rashid, are somewhat different from the positions they so loudly took when the media civil war started. By adjusting their line and length – one of Sheikh Rashid’s favourite phrases – they are flowing with the tide. Someone who has become irrelevant in this entire process is the interior minister, Ch Nisar, who started off as a peace advocate and a Taliban apologist but who, for various reasons, seems to have run out of favour with the prime minister. He is not to be under-estimated but for the moment at least he is on the side, other ministers stealing a march on him. But he is a veteran of many an in-house struggle and needs no tips on survival from anyone. Who are the cooks in the PM’s kitchen? A couple of relatively junior bureaucrats playing larger-than-life roles, a former newspaper columnist (a friend of mine, incidentally), and two or three ministers, no more. The parliamentary party is irrelevant; the cabinet is irrelevant. Collective decision-making and anything remotely resembling cabinet responsibility have never been part of the PM’s style. But it has worked for him. After all he is prime minister for the third time, not you or me. So he can turn to all the gurus and pundits and say, who are you to teach me these tricks? And the pundits would be stumped for an answer. In fact it is true to say that in all of Pakistan’s history there has been no luckier entity than the House of Sharif. Brilliant politicians have bitten the dust or drunk from the cup of humiliation. Through luck or the power of prayer, or whatever, the Sharif family has survived and prospered. Note even something in the present education of the government: tensions with the army haven’t quite ended but the PM, reading the writing on the wall and seeing which way the wind is blowing, instead of travelling further on the path of political hara-kiri has done an about-turn and is now all for an operation against the Taliban insurgency. Just a few days ago the government seemed panicked by the prospect of Allama Tahirul Qadri’s return, and his invoking the spectre of a ‘revolution’ against the existing order. But all this talk of agitation and marches has been upstaged by (1) the start of the NW operation and (2) Khawaja Asif executing his near miraculous switch-around from army-baiter to army-defender. All this is very smart and clever. And clever moves are good enough for minor things or everyday exigencies. For something more serious, for something like Pakistan’s crisis of survival, trickery, alas, is not enough…a slightly higher quality of leadership is required. From Pakistan to Iraq, from Iraq to Syria, the world of Islam – if we can call it that – is in a state of ferment: civil war in Syria, civil war in Iraq, a serious internecine conflict in Pakistan. Bashar Al-Assad has been able to hold on in Damascus because of a toughness few people would have credited him with, and because of the Syrian military. The Maliki government in Iraq is unable to stem the advancing tide of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – an Islamist force more radical than Al-Qaeda – because the Iraqi army is not being able to put up much of a fight. In all this extended arc of fire the most cohesive, professional military force is the Pakistan military…army and air force. If the battle for Fata, despite our various failures of leadership, is not turning into a rout of the Pakistani state, if the Taliban are not turning into the advancing spearheads of the ISIS, it is only because of this one factor, the Pakistan military. We have romanticised democracy too much in Pakistan. Whatever the level of democracy our collective illiteracy deserves we have achieved it. Whatever the freedom of expression our collective ignorance deserves we have it. But today the problem Pakistan faces has gone beyond democracy and the gibberish spouted in the name of freedom of expression. This doesn’t mean we roll up democracy and the media, only that we understand what is at stake. The Taliban don’t believe in democracy. They believe in freedom of expression only for themselves. The only language they deal in is that of force. The only language they understand is that of arms. So let us brace ourselves for this conflict and try to give a good account of ourselves. And let us show the world that we are capable of defending ourselves. In war nations can be destroyed. But nations can also emerge stronger from the flames of conflict. Maybe, after all the setbacks and frustrations of the past, this is how our steel is tempered.
If there were any reservations, tactical or strategic, about launching an all-out military operation against militants in North Waziristan these had ceased to exist for quite some time. The military high command had relented on its rejection of Americans' demand for action and the government-sponsored peace overtures to the militants' apex body, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were leading nowhere. A kind of target-specific operation was on, but the blowback it tempted was disproportional to the gains on the ground, the terrorist attack on Karachi airport and massacre of Shia pilgrims on Pak-Iran border being the disturbing aftermath. With the month of Ramazan less than a fortnight away the window for a result-oriented move against militants and their sanctuaries in North Waziristan was getting shorter by the day. Then there on the horizon have unfolded quite a few high-profile militancy narratives that are rich in psychological promise to serve as morale-boosters for the terrorist outfits in Pakistan. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram has literally put the state and its forces out of action in almost one-third of the country. In Iraq, the holy warriors of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) are now knocking at the door of capital city by scoring stunning battle victories against the defenders of the nation. In China, the extremists have stepped up their attacks graduating from their status of knife-wielding criminals to suicidal attackers. No wonder then both the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Uzbek militants promptly claimed responsibility for the attack on the Karachi airport, which on that day of action was the main story on world media outlets. Rightly then one final and decisive move against the curse of militancy couldn't be put off any further. How urgently, and comprehensively, this operation was needed is obvious from the nation-wide instant support it received. Given that the action against militants in North Waziristan Agency is an internal issue and it involves our own people, the time taken by the government to finally go for it has logic to it. The prime minister was of the mind that military operation should be the last option, and now when such an action dictated its justification the government is on the 'same page' with the military leadership. The comprehensive action against foreign and local terrorists has been launched 'on the directions of the government', says the Pakistan Army's spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa, with Defence Minister Khawaja Asif adding that the operation would be decisive. This war on terror being a national endeavour its outcome is going to be more critical than any other war Pakistan fought before. Not only the government and the military have to be on the same page; the entire nation, particularly the political parties too should be on the 'same page'. What message other than that we as a nation are not one on this war against terrorism we would be sending out to the world at large by making anti-operation statements and holding anti-government rallies as soldiers engage forces antithetical to all that Pakistan stands for. In this narrative where do the PTI rally at Bahawalpur (later, it postponed its programme on security reasons), Tahirul Qadri's revolutionary landing in Islamabad and Sheikh Rashid's train march fit, while military operation is on in tribal areas. Their leaders need to revisit their plans, and ask their workers to come on streets vociferously pledging all their support to officers and jawans fighting the blood-addicted forces of the evil. A divided nation is never the winner of a war. If the much smaller ISIL force has made spectacular gains against the half million strong US-trained Iraqi military the only reason are the clashing perspectives hosted by the principal political stakeholders of that country. Also, we need to accept the fact that terrorism is not a localised affair confined to North Waziristan; it is a curse that permeates the entire national landscape, effectively pre-empting the possibility of its piecemeal handling. When military struck at Uzbeks' hideouts in tribal areas they hit back in Karachi, and their affiliates murdered two dozen Shia pilgrims in Balochistan. Rightly then while announcing initiation of the operation the ISPR has underscored the need for 'co-ordination with other state institutions and law enforcement agencies ... (to ensure) these enemies of the state will be denied space across the country'. Of course, the ISPR could say only this, beyond that, it is the patriotic duty of the political parties, religious groups and all other segments of society to behave and act as a united front against the terrorists, be they extremist fanatics or foreign-funded saboteurs. This war is not about gain or loss of territory, nor is it a score-settling venture. It's all about Pakistan and it must be won whatever the costs.