Thursday, June 19, 2014
Hostilities in eastern Ukraine are a “civil war steadfastly heading toward genocide,” according to the Kremlin chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov. Speaking at a meeting with volunteers who help accommodate Ukrainian refugees in Russia’s southern Rostov Region, Lavrov said Thursday that, “What is going on there [in Ukraine] is, in my opinion, a civil war steadfastly heading toward genocide of [the country’s] own population.” Vladimir Gromov, a Luhansk-based opposition activist who heads southeastern counter-intelligence forces, has accused Ukrainian command of deliberately targeting civilian quarters during their sweeping missile attacks on the city. “They target the most defenseless citizens. It is systematic genocide. An ethnic cleansing,” Gromov said Wednesday in a comment to RIA Novosti. Violence in southeastern Ukraine has been on the rise since the beginning of a punitive operation launched by the Kiev authorities in mid-April that has claimed hundreds of lives. Over the past few days, the Ukrainian army increased the intensity of mortar attacks, pounding residential districts and places with high population density. Moscow has called for an immediate end to the bloodshed, but despite numerous promises to initiate the de-escalation process, Kiev has so far not made any moves to stop the attack.
Four Taliban militants attacked a NATO base near the Pakistani border, exchanging fire with police and destroying dozens of supply trucks
The Obama administration has been actively seeking alternatives to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq approaches the formation of a new government following recent parliamentary elections, according to U.S. officials. When the current crisis began last week, the administration told Maliki in no uncertain terms that time was short for his Shiite-dominated government to reach out to Sunni and Kurdish communities with new offers of political inclusion. Otherwise, officials said, Kurds would likely see the upheaval as an opportunity to form their own state, while at least some Sunnis would likely join with Islamist militants advancing on the capital. Since then, while Maliki has taken some tentative steps, there has been virtually no substantive movement, officials said. In recent days, U.S. representatives on the ground in Baghdad — led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk and Ambassador Robert Stephen Beecroft — have consulted with Sunni, Kurdish and Shiites outside Maliki’s governing alliance, to explore the possibility of forming a new government without him. Although Maliki’s alliance won the most votes in April elections, with 92 out of 328 parliamentary seats, he must build a majority coalition in order to retain control of the government. The Iraqi Supreme Court certified the election results on Monday, starting a timeline for government formation.
The irony of the current crisis, a senior administration official said as the outreach began, is that “there’s an ability to unite the country” in opposition to the militants. “But in order for that to work, more needs to be done to address the legitimate concerns of all communities, including the Sunnis and Kurds. Absent that, their incentives to take part aggressively” in fighting advancing forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “is much less.”
Maliki’s spokesman Ali al-Musawi said that this is the wrong time to seek Maliki’s removal. For him to step down now “would not only mean chaos, it would be surrender to terrorists,” he said. There are few if any candidates to lead a new government who could win the support of all parties. Most of the likely contenders, including Osama al-Nujaifi, leader of the largest Sunni political group; Sunni politician Ayad Allawi, who headed a multi-ethnic coalition in the last election; and Shiite Ahmed Chalabi, are all well-known and well-worn figures on the Iraqi political stage and likely to be unacceptable to one or more groups. Some of Iraq’s neighbors, meanwhile, including the Sunni monarchy in Saudi Arabia, have been pushing for the formation of an interim coalition government as the fastest way to remove Maliki and push sectarian disagreements over who should rule down the road.
The situation in Iraq is truly worrisome, as militants threaten to tear the country asunder and disrupt the fragile, short-lived period absent all-out war there. We have strategic interests in preventing Iraq from unraveling, not least of which is that we don’t need the country to become a haven for terrorists, particularly those who might see America as a target. And of course, there is the uneasy subject of oil: Volatility in the region has already sent global oil prices soaring. On Wednesday, militants were said to have taken control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery. We have to tread carefully here. There are no saints to be seen in this situation. Everyone’s hands are bloody. And, we don’t want to again get mired in a conflict in a country from which we have only recently extricated ourselves. As we weigh our response, one of the last people who should say anything on the subject is a man who is partly responsible for the problem. But former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in the administration that deceived us into a nine-year war in Iraq, just can’t seem to keep his peace. In an Op-Ed published with his daughter, Liz, in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, the Cheneys write: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” This, from the man who helped lead us into this trumped-up war, searching for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, a war in which some 4,500 members of the American military were killed, many thousands more injured, and that is running a tab of trillions of dollars. During the lead-up to the war, Mr. Cheney said to Tim Russert: “I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. Even if it were indeed rare to be “so wrong,” as Mr. Cheney puts it, he was vice president in an administration that was much more tragically wrong. His whole legacy is wrapped in wrong. At one point in the article, the Cheneys state: “Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change. Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing.” Mr. Cheney must think that we have all forgotten the scene from “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary, in which President George W. Bush, brandishing a club on a golf course, looks into the camera and says, “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you.” That is quickly followed by, “Now, watch this drive,” and a shot of Bush swinging at the ball.
In fact, on one of the rare occasions that Mr. Cheney was actually right, in 1994, he warned about the problems that would be created by deposing Saddam Hussein:
“Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have to the west. Part of eastern Iraq, the Iranians would like to claim, fought over for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire.”
That was quite prescient. And yet, the Bush administration pushed us into the Iraq war anyway, and the quagmire we now confront. That’s why it’s so galling to read Mr. Cheney chastising this administration for its handling of the disaster that Mr. Cheney himself foresaw, but ignored. I know that we as Americans have short attention spans, but most of us don’t suffer from amnesia. The Bush administration created this mess, and the Obama administration now has to clean it up. The Cheneys wrote: “This president is willfully blind to the impact of his policies,” Mr. Cheney seemingly oblivious to the irony. George W. Bush may well have been a disaster of a president (in a 2010 Siena College Research Institute survey, 238 presidential scholars ranked Bush among the five “worst ever” presidents in American history), but at least he has the dignity and grace — or shame and humility — to recede from public life with his family and his painting, and not chide and meddle with the current administration as it tries to right his wrong.
Pakistan's Operation Zarb-e-Azb updates: Army gunship helicopters kill 15 terrorists east of Miramshah
Fifteen terrorists were killed in Zartatangi mountain heights, east of Miramshah by army gunship cobra helicopters last night when spotted. It was one of the main communication centres of terrorists, said an ISPR statement. “In a separate sniper action, eight Uzbeks were killed around Miramshah while planting IEDs on the road Miramshah-Mirali,” the statement added.
Senior Obama administration officials insist Afghanistan is not Iraq, with a population far more receptive to a continued U.S. presence and the promise of a new unity government. But the officials could offer no assurances that Afghanistan won't devolve into chaos after Americans leave, as Iraq has.
The deteriorating situation in Iraq is giving Congress pause about President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, with fears that hard-fought gains could be wiped out by a resurgent Taliban. “There’s no guarantee,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a Senate panel Wednesday. “It is up to the people of Afghanistan to make these decisions, their military, their new leadership that will be coming in as a result of their new government.” The U.S. military mission in Iraq ended in December 2011 after eight years of war that cost hundreds of billions of dollars and more than 4,400 U.S. lives, a conclusion welcomed by a war-weary nation. The Obama administration had proposed keeping a residual U.S. force in Iraq to continue training Iraqis, but Baghdad rejected Washington’s demand that its troops be granted immunity for prosecution while in the country. In the absence of the Americans, the fast-moving Sunni insurgency of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has prevailed over Iraqi security forces, conquering several cities, and is threatening the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described for Congress on Wednesday how some Iraqi security forces abandoned the fight against the ISIS. “Two divisions and part of two, and one national police organization did in fact throw down their arms and in some cases collude with (ISIS) and in some cases simply desert in northern Iraq,” Dempsey said. Lawmakers fear a replay in Afghanistan after 2016 when U.S. forces leave. Last month, Obama announced that about 10,000 troops would stay in Afghanistan at the end of this year but be fully withdrawn by the end of 2016. In a private White House meeting Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pressed Obama about his definitive timetable for drawing down American troops, especially in light of the crisis in Iraq. The president defended his plan as the right approach, according to a congressional aide familiar with the talks who wouldn’t discuss it publicly by name because the meeting was private. At two separate hearings on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats pressed administration officials about whether history would repeat itself and whether Afghan forces could defend the country after the U.S. leaves. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., asked whether the timeline “emboldens militants in the country to wait (us) out.” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., predicted a reconstituted Taliban will threaten Afghanistan as the ISIL has done in Iraq. “We’ve seen this movie in Iraq,” McCain said. James Dobbins, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, countered that in Iraq “people didn’t want us and not a single Iraqi politician was prepared to advocate our staying. In Afghanistan, the people overwhelmingly want us to stay, and every single contender in the presidential election said they would sign the (bilateral security agreement).” Western powers are counting on a peaceful transition in Kabul, but last weekend’s runoff vote has prompted allegations of election fraud. Candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai hope to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who was prevented from seeking a third term. At the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wondered what the U.S. had learned from Iraq that could be applied to Afghanistan and whether its forces could defend themselves. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed concern about a collapse in Afghanistan undercutting a nuclear-armed Pakistan. Dempsey said he was concerned about Afghanistan’s future and said the U.S. military would continue to work on building a resilient Afghan force. “But at the end of the day, a security force is only as good as the instrument that wields it, and that’s the central government,” the general said. He added that Afghans are “more tenacious fighters than their Iraqi counterparts.” The Afghanistan war has lasted more than a decade, cost billions of dollars and killed more than 2,100 members of the U.S. military. Obama has public sentiment on his side in taking steps to end the conflict, while a number of lawmakers are resistant to keeping U.S. troops in the country beyond 2016. “I don’t think we want to be the permanent occupiers of Afghanistan,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in an interview. “At a certain point, with our help, it’s up to the Afghan government to earn the support of its people. And if they can’t do that, I don’t want American troops simply to be there in harm’s way with a recalcitrant government.”
Afghanistan's security forces are braced for street demonstrations in the coming days, as rival camps in Saturday's presidential elections trade allegations of fraud. The first official results are not expected until 2 July so all sides are being urged to show restraint in a country where political divisions are coloured by ethnicity. The Election Complaints Commission (ECC) has begun to sift through more than 2,500 alleged violations, levelled at both presidential hopefuls and election officials. Meanwhile, the BBC understands that President Karzai is holding meetings behind closed doors, amid the clamour to have a senior member of the election body suspended. It follows claims that the official, Zia-Ul-Haq Amarkhail, personally interfered in the electoral process, after he was spotted shifting unused ballot material out of the election headquarters. Attempts to stop him by a senior member of the police were broadcast on Afghan TV on election day, but there has been no explanation about what he was up to, creating suspicion in some quarters that the extra ballots could have been used fraudulently. Unbelievable turnout? Among the other alleged transgressions that the ECC is having to probe are ballot stuffing, intimidation, and underage voting. Many, but by no means all of the allegations of foul play are coming from Abdullah Abdullah's camp, the presidential candidate who, in the first round of voting in April, secured a million-vote lead over Ashraf Ghani, but not enough votes to win an outright majority. After claiming he was robbed of the top job following widespread fraud in 2009, Dr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, fears he is being robbed once again and has promised to provide evidence of fraud to the media "in due course". Dr Abdullah claims that in some areas - particularly in the insecure east - there has been an "unbelievable high turnout". This, he claims, is a marker of "fraud engineered on an industrial scale". His allegations have still to be tested. His key areas of concern are: The accuracy of the seven million turnout figure provided by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) - a body he fears is partisan. His worry is that an inflated turnout figure could be used to mask fake votes The apparent dramatic increase in voter turnout in some key areas - despite not many people living in those areas Reports of high voter turnout in areas where high levels of insecurity have been a deterrent to voting in the past Dr Ashraf Ghani's camp have also registered complaints of fraud and have accused Dr Abdullah of being selective in his criticism. But they have been less specific in their claims and told the BBC that they are content to leave the ECC to do its job. Faizullah Zaki, who heads up Dr Ghani's campaign, said that the "mass mobilisation" of voters could help to explain why turnout figures appear to be higher in some places compared with the first round of the presidential race back in April. He also claimed that in the second round they were able to get more women out to vote. The IEC said 38% of women cast their ballots in Saturday's presidential race - a figure which is considered high in what remains a deeply conservative country. No confidence A lengthy complaints and appeals process will mean it will take time for any concrete evidence of foul play to emerge. So Afghans are being urged to exercise patience. Millions of dollars have been spent on getting the mechanics of this election right, and Afghanistan is under pressure to deliver a "credible" election result. But confidence in the country's institutions is still clouded in doubt amid worries of deep-seated corruption and cronyism. Thousands of election workers were sacked following the first round of polls and Dr Abdullah says he has "no confidence" in the chief justice, who under the new constitution is responsible for hearing election disputes which are unresolved by the (ECC). In 2009, arbitration of election disputes was handled by a hybrid body which included international figures. This time round the first port of call is the ECC and the international community is being far more "hands off" after past accusations by senior politicians of foreign meddling. The Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), an Afghan watchdog body charged with trying to improve democracy and governance, is calling on Afghanistan's leaders to show restraint. It has its own reservations after it dispatched 9,000 of its own observers on election day. They returned with claims of violations at nearly 4,000 polling stations. But its view is that for democracy to prevail, the election authorities must be given time to do their job. Nader Nadery, chairman of FEFA, said it appeared that "fraud has happened in different parts of the country but we just don't know the scale of it". He has urged against "premature speculation" and said that any talk of "deals" between the two competing presidential camps would simply "undermine the electoral process". Both sides appear to be positioning themselves ahead of any definitive result, with the possibility that Ashraf Ghani could fare better than he did in the first round. Yet many commentators believe that the next few weeks will require strong leadership to avoid frustrations plunging Afghanistan into a crisis.
Afghanistan's presidential election has been plunged into crisis after one candidate demanded a halt to vote counting, suspended cooperation with election authorities and called for a UN commission to mediate over cases of "blatant fraud". It was an unexpectedly strong challenge to an election that had initially been celebrated as a qualified success, with high turnout in both the first round and a 14 June run-off, despite Taliban threats and violence. Former foreign minister and mujahideen doctor Abdullah Abdullah had already signalled that he was unhappy about preliminary turnout figures for the second round, and wary of large leaps in voter numbers in the strongholds of his rival Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat. But the force of his complaints and the extent of his demands raise the prospect of weeks of fraught disputes and further delays to a process that is already painfully slow. A final decision on who has won is not due until 22 July. "We have asked our monitors to leave the offices of the [election] commission, and we are asking for the counting process to be stopped immediately," Abdullah told a news conference in Kabul. "We all know that the turnout was not as high as it was said," he added. "The exaggerated number of votes reported from the provinces was not in proportion with that area, let alone the security situation." Ghani said shortly after that his observers would continue to monitor vote tallying, and that stopping the count would be an insult to voters. The election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled for over a decade, should pave the way for the country's first democratic transfer of power. Afghans hope the change will revitalise a feeble economy and perhaps push the country towards peace. The speedy inauguration of a new leader is also vital to keeping US troops in the country past the end of this year to back up an Afghan army with limited capacity. They can only stay if Kabul signs a long-term security deal with Washington, and Karzai has deferred the decision to his successor. The first round of voting in April was hailed as a victory for democracy, after voters turned out in unexpectedly high numbers and the results were broadly accepted by all candidates. The second round also appeared at first to have gone relatively smoothly. An election observer mission from the US-based National Democratic Institute concluded two days after the poll that "the problems it observed did not appear to be widespread or systematic". Since then questions have mounted about the leap in voter turnout in Ghani strongholds. His supporters say he effectively mobilised voters, especially conservatives from his own Pashtun ethnic group, who struck deals with Taliban commanders to allow villagers to go to the polls and reluctantly let women cast their ballots in defiance of tradition. Abdullah and his backers have hinted instead that they used poor security and political influence to stuff ballot boxes on a scale that fits uneasily with population numbers for many areas. Asked what might induce him to rejoin the vote counting process, Abdullah made a proposal likely to infuriate Karzai, who fought hard to ensure foreigners had no official role in running or monitoring the election. "One way would be to form a joint committee between the two candidates under the supervision of the UN," Abdullah said. A UN spokesman said they were keen to support the election but had not received any suggestions of a new role for the organisation before the news conference. The UN "regretted" Abdullah's decision to pull out his observers, spokesman Ari Gaitanis added, and called on both teams and their supporters to "act responsibly in the interest of national unity and avoid any statements or actions that could disrupt due process".
Syria has overtaken Afghanistan as the world's least-peaceful country, according to a new study, with South Sudan coming in third. The Global Peace Index examines 22 indicators across 162 countries, including military spending, homicide rates, and deaths from conflict, civil disobedience, and terrorism. Iraq, Somalia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, North Korea, and Russia also fared poorly in the index, which was compiled before the recent upsurge in fighting erupted in Iraq. The United States also saw its position decline due to last year's Boston Marathon bombing. The report finds that rising global violence caused the world's governments to spend an estimated $9.8 trillion -- 11.3 percent of global gross domestic product -- on containing or dealing with the consequences of violence. Iceland tops the index as the most peaceful country, followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Finland, Canada and Japan.
Residents of a Taliban-infested region in northwest where the military launched a major offensive continue to flee on Thursday, officials said. So far the offensive has largely relied on airstrikes but the easing of the curfew to allow residents to leave could indicate a more intense ground offensive is in the making. Roughly 63,000 people left the North Waziristan tribal region in the weeks before the offensive began on Sunday, fleeing previous airstrikes and because of fears of a larger offensive. Authorities expect another 130,000 people to be displaced in the coming days. A steady stream of trucks, vans and vehicles loaded down with household possessions, including beds, fans and televisions, started to roll down the road connecting the capital of North Waziristan, Miran Shah, with Bannu in the nearby Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC has expressed grave concern on arrests of some Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers in Bangkok today. It’s reported that hundreds of homes of Pakistani Christian Refugees were raided by Bangkok police who are waiting for their interviews with UNHCR after their registration. According to WVIP, The situation of Christians Asylum seeker in South East Asia is getting worst day by day, These Pakistani Christians were forced into exodus from Pakistan after being victimized by “Blasphemy Law”, “Forced Conversions” and accusations of preaching amongst the “Non-Believers” in order to convert them from Islam to Christian faith. The UNHCR, Churches and many Other Organizations are doing their best to protect and help the Pakistani community in Sri-lanka, Bangkok and Malaysia. All of these destitute are facing a lot of challenges from the Immigration departments of these Countries. Recently, these countries has started crackdown against illegal residents, this is exhilarating that thousands of Christian Asylum seekers are living without the visas. Last week 100s of Pakistani Christians were arrested in Sri-lanka and now today 11 people were arrested in Bangkok for not having the valid visa. This situation has put many Christians into grave situation, 100s of Christians had left their homes/Condos in these countries and took refuge in save places to avoid arrests and deportation. Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Congress PCC has said that we are informing UNHCR and Secretary General of UNO about grave situation of Pakistani Asylum Seekers in Bangkok, Colombo and Malaysia. “PCC will also write to Martial Law Administrator of Thailand, President of Sri Lanka and Prime Minister of Malaysia to take note to consider Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers under humanitarian situation who were forced to flee from Pakistan after oppression and Persecution” said Nazir Bhatti Nazir Bhatti said that we will bring this serious situation of Pakistani Christian Refugees with Amnesty International, Human Right Watch and International Red Cross of UNO that harassment of Pakistani Christian Refugees may be immediately stopped.
Ahmadiyya Times"I am happy here compared with Pakistan. Pakistan was dangerous. We could not go outside without our brothers and fathers, if you are a woman especially."
Fleeing discrimination and violence, members of a Muslim sect have abandoned their homes in Pakistan to find an unlikely refuge in China. "Every day I heard the sound of guns," said a 37-year-old surnamed Saeed of his former home Lahore, Pakistan's second city. "We prayed every day, because we felt something could happen to us at any time." He is one of hundreds of people who have sought asylum in China in recent years, often from conflict and violence-stricken countries including Iraq and Somalia. The government tolerates their presence but provides almost no support, while human rights groups have for years condemned Beijing for deporting tens of thousands of asylum seekers who enter it to escape oppression in North Korea and Myanmar. Around 35 of the almost 500 UN-registered asylum seekers and refugees currently in China are Ahmadi Muslims -- a sect which believes their 19th century founder Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet, and that Jesus Christ died aged 120 in Srinagar, in Indian-ruled Kashmir. They are among the most persecuted minorities in Pakistan -- a constitutional Islamic republic which bans them from calling themselves Muslims or going on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. In 2010 militants stormed two Ahmadi prayer halls, killing 82 worshippers in gun and grenade attacks, before targeting a hospital where victims were being treated. Ahmadi mosques and graveyards are regularly desecrated. Even high-achieving Ahmadis have been shunned, including physics professor Abdus Salam, Pakistan's only Nobel laureate. China is regularly condemned by the US State Department for its restrictions on religious freedom, which analysts say are key elements of the tensions it faces in Buddhist-majority Tibet and mainly Muslim Xinjiang. But Saeed, who arrived four years ago, said: "From a security point of view, China is good. "There is almost no terrorism compared to Pakistan, where there is killing and persecution of minorities every day," he told AFP in a rented apartment in Sanhe, a city outside Beijing where clumps of high-rise apartment blocks overshadow restaurants offering donkey meat burgers. Two of his cousins were killed in the 2010 attack, he added. The Ahmadi refugees in Sanhe said they paid middle-men up to $3,000 each for Chinese visas -- more than twice the average yearly income in Pakistan. Once in China, Saeed said, "You have to do everything for yourself." He lives off overseas family donations and added: "I don't expect anything from the Chinese." New arrivals receive no benefits unless the UN grants them refugee status after a gruelling 18-month series of tests and even then China refuses to integrate them, denying them the right to work while they wait for acceptance from a third country, often for years. "In this kind of a situation, you can't enjoy life much," said Saeed. But teenager Laiba Ahmad, who arrived around two years ago with her mother and several siblings, had no doubts, even though she does not have enough Chinese to attend school. "I am happy here compared with Pakistan," she said. "Pakistan was dangerous. We could not go outside without our brothers and fathers, if you are a woman especially." On a recent afternoon around 10 refugees gathered in Saeed's flat for an English lesson. Practising the present tense, they called out descriptions of their jobless lives. "We play football daily," offered Ahsan Ahmad, 22, who fled Pakistan after mullahs attacked two of his uncles. "We offer prayer daily," said another student. China signed up to the UN's refugee protocol in 1982, but does not have any mechanism to assess their claims, leaving it to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Its Beijing office has only eight permanent staff to cover the world's most populous country. "Sometimes I wonder how these individuals survive... the assistance we provide is barely enough," said Francis Teoh, senior UNHCR protection officer. China adopted a revised entry-exit law last year which entitles refugees to documentation, but refugees and UNHCR said it has yet to be enforced. Rights groups have previously accused China of taking a harsh stance towards North Korean asylum seekers in order to maintain good relations with Pyongyang. Pakistan has long been an ally of China, which has fought a border war of its own with Islamabad's arch-rival India. "Refugee issues in China are tangled with some of the most politically and strategically sensitive issues in the Asia-Pacific region," said Lili Song, visiting researcher at Northwestern University's Center for Forced Migration Studies. "There may also be concerns about attracting more asylum seekers," she added. Saeed left earlier this week with his wife and two-year-old daughter for a leafy suburb in the US, ahead of World Refugee Day on Friday. But others wait on. Yasir Chaudry, 24, a former air-conditioning engineer who left his wife in Pakistan, shares a crumbling apartment with two other refugees who rise in the late afternoon and fill their days surfing the Internet, watching DVDs, or throwing around a frisbee held together with black masking tape. "All I have time to do is think, so I think about bad things, like how my family is not together," he said. "I didn't want to leave my country. These problems all come into my mind."
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE
Gullu Butt, active member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and police tout, was beaten up by an angry mob in Lahore, Express News reported.
Pakistan Army has taken control of border areas of Mamoond Tehsil in Bajaur Agency, hoisting the Pakistani flag there after almost a decade. Official sources said that the forces have set up posts in the border areas while locals have also expressed their support for the army. Meanwhile, the tribesmen said they would work alongside the forces to establish peace.
An Islamabad Court on Thursday issued arrest warrants for the owner of ARY Network Salman Iqbal, anchorperson Mubashir Lucman, Akeel Karim Dhedhi and Naeem Hanif in a criminal case pertaining to defaming Jang/Geo group.
As the death toll rises to eleven in the aftermath of the outbreak of violence in Model Town Lahore, questions surrounding the police brutality remain unanswered. Reports of pre-emptive emergencies declared in nearby hospitals before a single shot was fired, in addition to the police-sanctioned vandalism of one of PML-N’s workers makes the claims of ignorance made by the ruling party almost unbelievable. It is virtually impossible that the police took things into their own hands in Model Town, the traditional stronghold of the PML-N, without any orders from above. The government’s claims of the police acting on its own does not do them any favours either. If the PML-N cannot even control the police in the places where it is strongest, how is it supposed to adequately look to the affairs of the entire country? The government did not need to give weight to the accusations of Dr. Qadri against the government, and instead of quelling the new rhetoric of state terrorism that is quickly gathering momentum, the PML-N has only added fuel to the fire by lodging FIRs against PAT workers and Dr. Qadri’s son. The victims of the Model Town incident will be used for political leverage, and only allow Dr. Qadri to exploit this incident to further his anti-democratic agenda and incite his supporters against the government. Other political opponents will jump in, and the hole that the PML-N has dug for itself will be made deeper. This heinous and entirely unnecessary action by the police force divides the country when it is imperative to stand united, and shifts the attention of the populace from the operation in North Waziristan to upcoming rallies and protests against the government. This was one of those rare periods in our history when the entire country was focused on finding solutions for one problem, and for once, a holistic action against terrorism looked to be the country’s top priority. Just when the debates of whether there is such a thing as a good terrorist, and whether the sectarian outfits deserve immunity had begun to surface, the actions of the government have pushed those issues to the background. The naysayers of the operation will use this opportunity to remind everyone of the inadequacies of the government and will cite this incident as an example of how the government will transgress its responsibility when the country is in a state of war. The PML-N needs to admit its mistake for the interests of the entire country, and give up those that allowed this to happen, no matter how high they are on the food chain. Setting up a judicial commission alone will not suffice, and for once, the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
In Pre-partition India, police forces of two Indian states - Punjab and Bihar - were notoriously known for their brutality. The post-Partition two Punjabs and Bihar still live up to their reputation with shameful aplomb. What happened in the Model Town neighbourhood of Lahore on Tuesday, the capital of Pakistani Punjab, only contributes to the argument that our police are a living legacy of colonialism in society. The encounter between the police and Qadri's activists took place in and around his party-cum-teaching centre in the city's leafy neighbourhood of Model Town resulting in heavy casualties: 11 people, including two women, were killed and a very large number of them received injuries - 61 of them suffered gunshot wounds - during a daylong clash between the police and Qadri's men and women; the injured also included 25 policemen. At the end of the day both sides could claim a kind of victory - police insisting it succeeded in removing barriers from the site and Qadri men lionizing their sacrifices for the cause of the 'revolution'. Dismayed people watched the grisly violence in Lahore as it played out in gory details, obscuring the North Waziristan military operation, which is so much critical to the very survival of Pakistan. Some say all of it was a setup by the government to puncture the 'revolution' while others insist Qadri is dancing to the tunes set by the GHQ. The question whether it was a well-honed conspiracy to damn the Sharif government or a bid to 'nip the evil in bud' may find an answer in a protracted and contentious debate in which for the present we have no interest. What interests us, and worries us, is the manner the Punjab police went about to remove barricades and barriers built around the Qadri complex and the kind of apparently-organised resistance put up by the defenders of the complex. And as it happened everything that could go wrong went wrong. Some of the visuals of the Model Town battlefield imprinted on mind are too horrific; one simply cannot bear an old white-bearded protestor being struck at his frail ankles, or a notorious wanted-by-police gangster leading the law-enforcers' charge on the protestors, or mysterious absence from the site of any top-notch political bigwig for the whole day. Indeed it was an apocalypse. There are questions that must be answered. These barriers were there on the site for more than three years; in fact ever since Tahirul Qadri issued a 'fatwa' against the Taliban in 2011. His risk of being a victim of reprisal had the official recognition and the barriers as security measure were allowed to remain in place by the administration, quite often earning it the outrage of the neighbours. And this was not specific to Qadri complex, as we have such security barricades and barriers all over the country. The question is why now the local administration felt necessary to arrive at the place, at the dead of night with heavy earthmoving bulldozers under the protection of an unusually large contingent of police. And if there was resistance, as it was, why then options other than brute force were not employed, defying the standard practice in dealing with resistance to removal of encroachments. And one very pertinent question: who brought in this Gullu Butt who kept vandalising the vehicles at the place with vengeance as the police officials watched him with unabashed glee. Is he the kind of cat's paw the Lahore police are often accused of employing? There are equally pertinent questions the Qadri side has to answer. For one, there is the puzzling riddle as to why Dr Qadri decided to come to Pakistan with a bang and launch a 'revolution', the rationale for which is neither here nor there, at the very time when the people of Pakistan must showcase total unity and stand behind its forces that are fighting the nation's most critical war. He claims to be rejecting the Taliban's version of religion and politics yet his moves tend to undermine the oneness and togetherness expected of all segments of Pakistani society including political parties. Then there is the question: if and why the Qadri activists were in a state of battle-readiness when the issue was only removal of barriers and barricades. Were they equipped with lethal arms as contended by the police? Let 'revolution' wait; first preference should be the national security in these trying times. In the meanwhile, both the government ministers, particularly federal railways minister Saad Rafiq and law minister Rana Sanaullah (the latter is widely considered as a deputy of a visibly shaken Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif) and the Qadri followers must show restraint; and they should help the judicial commission to investigate and give its verdict as to what had gone wrong on that fateful day and who should be held responsible for it, although Qadri has rejected this one-man judicial commission, arguing that those who carried out 'mass murders' have lodged themselves an FIR against his party activists, including his son, under terrorism charges.
The appointment of a Judicial Commissions to probe the Tuesday killings of PAT workers is widely being interpreted as a ploy to calm down the PAT workers rather than punish the culprits. The announcement has failed to satisfy even the legal community as the province-wide protest by lawyers at the call of the Punjab Bar Council would indicate. Two incidents on Monday and Tuesday have raised questions about the role of the government in the brutality committed on the PAT workers. The live video of a man reportedly close to the PML-N, who broke the windscreens and window panes of cars belonging to PAT workers under the supervision of the police, was shown by the private TV channels. There are rumours regarding pressure being exerted on doctors to change the medicolegal reports. The presence of a police officer on Tuesday in the concerned Medical Superintendent’s office in the latter’s absence was interpreted by the media as a move to change the reports. The government still fails to realise the seriousness of what it allowed to happen outside the PAT chief’s residence. It is free to bury its head in the sand but it will do so at great risk to itself. Nobody is likely to be satisfied by feigned ignorance on the part of the chief minister. It is difficult to believe that police would have shot to kill the protestors on its own. This could not have happened without encouragement, if not directives, from some of the higher-ups. To enjoy a modicum of credibility, the government has to make some heads roll. Unless it does so, the protests are likely to spread far and wide. It is understandable on the part of the opposition to condemn police high-handedness. While doing so the opposition parties must ensure that they do nothing that provides anyone an excuse to wind up the system. The baby must not be thrown out with the bath water.
So far the Punjab government has been unable to find a single supporter for its brilliant idea of removing the barriers from Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s home and his institution Minhaj-ul-Quran in Model Town, Lahore in the wee hours of Wednesday night. What had been the compulsion that the government could not wait until morning for the so-called operation? The Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif has announced a judicial commission to probe into the incident that has claimed eight lives including two women, and wounded 80 people. He has also vowed to step down if his government is found complicit in the mayhem. The FIR filed yesterday has nominated Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s son and 3,000 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) activists. According to the Law Minister Punjab, Rana Sanaullah, PAT has been responsible for rousing anger in the police by not cooperating in letting the barriers be removed. He said that there had been reports of illegal movement of arms and ammunition inside Minhaj-ul-Quran and that the PAT activists have been found taking oath on the Quran to topple the present government through a revolution. The police, according to the minister, did not use force until they were forced to do so by the PAT activists. The Punjab government has been in a state of denial over the killing of innocent people by its police and has blamed an unseen force for the dirty game of beating and killing people.
Pashto singer Gulnaz alias Muskan was killed in the Gulburg area of Peshawar Cantt. Police said unidentified gunmen entered the house of Gulnaz also known as Muskan and shot her dead. The family of the deceased singer said four people had come to the house and after a verbal scuffle had opened fire on Gulnaz. She was shifted to the hospital but succumbed to her injuries. The police have registered a case on a complaint by Gulnaz’s brother Sadaqat. The singer originally hails from Par Hoti area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Mardan district. Police has launched an investigation into the murder.
Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders have declined the offer to meet Muslim League Minister. The delegation of Ministers wanted to visit Minhaj Ul Quran Secretariat. Earlier CM Shahbaz Sharif presided cabinet meeting in Lahore today and decided to send Tahir Khalil Sindhu, Nadeem Kamran and Raja Ashafaq to Minhaj Ul Quran Secretariat, however PAT leaders have declined to meet them.