Sunday, June 22, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks on Sunday with Egypt's newly-elected President Abdel- Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo in the first visit of a high-profile US official to Egypt since Sisi took office earlier this month. The visit is seen by Egyptian experts as a sign of warming relations between Washington and Cairo after months of tensions since the removal of the first-democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi by the military last July following mass protests against his one-year rule and his currently-blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group. "This is a beginning of a gradual improvement of ties between Egypt and the United States that considers Cairo a key player in the turmoil-stricken region," said Abdel-Raouf al-Reedy, former Egyptian ambassador to the United States and head of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs. During his visit to Cairo, Kerry told reporters that "this is a critical moment of transition in Egypt" and that "the United States is very interested in working closely with President Sisi and his cabinet and Egypt to make this transition as rapidly and smoothly as possible." The visit is part of Kerry's tour in the region when the crisis in Iraq worsens. During his tour, the chief US diplomat is expected to visit the restive country, where armed insurgents have recently seized a number of Iraqi cities. "The United States is aware that Egypt is a central regional country amid tension in the Gulf region and turmoil in Syria, Libya and Iraq," Reedy told Xinhua. He added that the United States is concerned that the recent " dangerous developments" in Iraq might lead to a regional war that would harm its interests in the Middle East and its number one ally there, Israel. The US administration has recently decided to release some of its partially-suspended annual aid to Egypt by delivering 10 Apache attack helicopters and 650 million US dollars. After Morsi's removal, the annual military aid Egypt from the United States was suspended. The former ambassador told Xinhua that the restoration of ties "will remain gradual without leaps," noting that the partial release of US aid to Egypt and Kerry's talks with Sisi represent "an important stage" in the US-Egyptian relations. The visit comes one day after Egypt confirmed the controversial mass death sentences of 183 Morsi supporters and Brotherhood members, including the group's leader Mohamed Badei. Washington has always voiced concern about the security crackdown on Morsi loyalists that have left about 1,000 dead and thousands more detained in Egypt's reportedly overcrowded prisons over the past 10 months. "I emphasized also our strong support for upholding the universal rights and freedoms of all Egyptians including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association," Kerry told reporters after meeting with Sisi, stressing on "the essential role of a vibrant civil society, free press, rule of law and due process in a democracy." The former Egyptian diplomat said that improving relations with Egypt does not mean that the United States is giving up on the Muslim Brotherhood, yet he said that the US support for the group is "eroding." Political science professor Gamal Salama said that Kerry's visit is mainly concerned with improving its ties with Egypt's government, as the US concerns about rights and freedoms were used as "pressure." "The position of the United States on the developments in Egypt has been reluctant since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 until today," Salama told Xinhua, adding that the world power is now attempting to reassess the situation in light of recent developments. "The United States is a big power that wants to preserve its interests in the region and so it seeks to contain the situation with Egypt," the professor explained. With regards to the Brotherhood, Salama expressed belief that the United States is unlikely to give up on the group but it will continue improving ties with the new leadership. "The United States had good ties with Mubarak and they still maintained good relations with the Brotherhood then," Salama illustrated, stressing that the United States is not a "unilateral " state.
Iran's supreme leader accused the United States on Sunday of trying to retake control of Iraq by exploiting sectarian rivalries, as Sunni insurgents drove towards Baghdad from new strongholds along the Syrian border. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's condemnation of U.S. action came three days after President Barack Obama offered to send 300 military advisers to help the Iraqi government. Khamenei may want to block any U.S. choice of a new prime minister after grumbling in Washington about Shi'ite premier Nuri al-Maliki. The supreme leader did not mention the Iranian president's recent suggestion of cooperation with Shi'ite Tehran's old U.S. adversary in defense of their mutual ally in Baghdad. On Sunday, militants overran a second frontier post on the Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues the goal of its own power base, a "caliphate" straddling both countries that has raised alarm across the Middle East and in the West. "We are strongly opposed to U.S. and other intervention in Iraq," IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. "We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition." Some Iraqi analysts interpreted his remarks as a warning to the United States not to try to pick its own replacement for Maliki, whom many in the West and Iraq hold responsible for the crisis. In eight years in power, he has alienated many in the Sunni minority that dominated the country under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. Khamenei has not made clear how far Iran itself will back Maliki to hold on to his job once parliament reconvenes following an election in which Maliki's bloc won the most seats. Speaking in Cairo, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States wanted Iraqis to find a leadership that would represent all the country's communities - though he echoed Obama in saying it would not pick or choose those leaders. "The United States would like the Iraqi people to find leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of Iraq, that is prepared to be inclusive and share power," Kerry said. (Full Story) The U.S. and Iranian governments had seemed open to collaboration against ISIL, which is also fighting the Iranian-backed president of Syria, whom Washington wants to see removed. "American authorities are trying to portray this as a sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shi'ites and Sunnis," said Khamenei, who has the last word in the Islamic Republic's Shi'ite clerical administration. (Full Story) Accusing Washington of using Sunni Islamists and loyalists of Saddam's Baath party, he added: "The U.S. is seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges." During Iran's long war with Saddam in the 1980s, Iraq enjoyed quiet U.S. support. Tehran and Washington have been shocked by the lightning offensive, spearheaded by ISIL but also involving Sunni tribes and Saddam loyalists. It has seen swaths of northern and western Iraq fall, including the major city of Mosul on June 10. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized oil-rich Sunni Gulf states that he said were funding "terrorists" - a reference to the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have backed Sunni rebels against Syria's Iranian-backed leader, Bashar al-Assad. "We emphatically tell those Islamic states and all others funding terrorists with their petrodollars that these terrorist savages you have set on other people’s lives will come to haunt you,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying on Sunday. WESTERN OFFENSIVE ISIL thrust east from a newly captured Iraqi-Syrian border post on Sunday, taking three towns in Iraq's western Anbar province after seizing the frontier crossing near the town of Qaim on Saturday, witnesses and security sources said. They seized a second border post, al-Waleed, on Sunday. (Full Story) The gains have helped ISIL secure supply lines to Syria, where it has exploited the chaos of the uprising against Assad to seize territory. It is considered the most powerful force among armed groups who seized Falluja, just west of Baghdad, and took parts of Anbar's capital Ramadi at the start of the year. The fall of Qaim represented another step towards the realization of ISIL's military goals - erasing a frontier drawn by colonial powers carving up the Ottoman empire a century ago. ISIL's gains on Sunday included the towns of Rawa and Ana along the Euphrates river east of Qaim, as well as the town of Rutba further south on the main highway from Jordan to Baghdad. Jordan said traffic had stopped arriving from Iraq. An Iraqi military intelligence official said Iraqi troops had withdrawn from Rawa and Ana after ISIL militants attacked the settlements late on Saturday. "Troops withdrew from Rawa, Ana and Rutba this morning and ISIL moved quickly to completely control these towns," the official said. "They took Ana and Rawa this morning without a fight." IRAQ SPLINTERS Military spokesman Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi said the withdrawal from the towns was intended to ensure "command and control" and to allow troops to regroup and retake the areas. The towns are on a supply route between ISIL's positions in northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria, where the group has taken a string of towns and strategic positions over the past few days from rival Sunni forces fighting Assad. The last major Syrian town not in ISIL's hands in the region, the border town of Albukamal, is controlled by the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's branch in Syria which has clashed with ISIL. A monitoring group said on Sunday that ISIL fighters in northern Syria had for the first time been seen using U.S.-made Humvee all-terrain vehicles seized from the Iraqi army. (Full Story) Disowned by al Qaeda in February after defying the global leadership to pursue its own goals in Syria, ISIL has pushed south down the Tigris valley since capturing Mosul with barely a fight, occupying towns and taking large amounts of weaponry from the collapsing, U.S.-trained Iraqi army. Sunni militants also seized Tal Afar, west of Mosul, an Iraqi government official said late on Sunday. Tal Afar has been contested for a week after the military initially lost the community of Sunni and Shi'ite Turkmens and then kicked off a counter-offensive. Iraqi officials have wanted to use Tal Afar as a launching pad for rallying Mosul's Sunni population to oust ISIL. Overnight, ISIL fighters attacked the town of al-Alam, north of Tikrit, according to witnesses and police in the town. The attackers were repelled by security forces and tribal fighters, they said, adding that two ISIL fighters had been killed. State television reported that "anti-terrorism forces" in coordination with the air force had killed 40 ISIL members and destroyed five vehicles in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown. There was a lull in fighting at Iraq's largest refinery, Baiji, near Tikrit, on Sunday. The site had been a battlefield since Wednesday as Sunni fighters launched an assault on the plant. Militants entered the large compound but were repelled by Iraqi military units. The fighters now surround the compound. A black column of smoke rose from the site on Sunday. Refinery officials said it was caused by a controlled burning of waste. At least 17 soldiers and volunteers were killed in overnight clashes with ISIL militants in the Saied Ghareeb area near Dujail, 50 km (30 miles) north of Baghdad, army and medical sources said. Near the city of Ramadi, west of the capital, a suicide bomber and a car bomb killed six people at a funeral for an army officer killed the previous day. SUNNI CLASHES Relations between diverse Sunni fighting groups have not been entirely smooth. On Sunday morning, clashes raged for a third day between ISIL and Sunni tribes backed by the Naqshbandi Army, a group led by former army officers and Baathists, around Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, local security sources and tribal leaders said. More than 10 people were killed in clashes, the sources said. On Friday, ISIL and Naqshbandi fighters began fighting each other in Hawija. Iraqi and Western officials have argued that ISIL and other Sunni factions may turn on each other after capturing territory. The fighting has threatened to tear the country apart for good, reducing Iraq to separate Sunni, Shi'ite and ethnic Kurdish regions. It has highlighted divisions among regional powers, notably between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iraq's Kurds have meanwhile expanded their territory beyond their autonomous region in the northeast, notably taking over the long-prized oil city of Kirkuk. Two Kurdish militiamen were killed by a roadside bomb there on Sunday, a police source said. The government has mobilized Shi'ite militias and other volunteers to fight on the frontlines and defend the capital - thousands of fighters in military fatigues marched in a Shi'ite slum of the capital Baghdad on Saturday.
Ukraine nationalists have clashed with police outside the citadel of the Orthodox Church in Kiev, the Pechersk Lavra, as the churchgoers and monks were about to hold a peace service praying for an end to violence in Ukraine. According to various media reports up to 500 ultra-nationalists, representing the Right Sector and Ukraine's Patriots neo-nazi movements, clashed with around 100 policemen in an attempt to disrupt the Procession of the Cross at one of the centers of the Eastern Orthodox monasticism in Eastern Europe. The procession was supposed to start at noon local time in the Holy Dormition Cathedral of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and end up at the monument of the Unknown Soldier. Participants in the rally, mostly elderly, oppose Kiev's military operation in the Donetsk region. Ultra-nationalists claimed that “separatists” were planning to use the event as a chance to gather and form a “Kiev's People Republic” and used a “few dozen grandmas” to disguise their plan.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says militants belonging to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will turn against their Saudi Arabian and Qatari supporters who call them “revolutionaries.” Maliki said on Wednesday that the situation in Iraq is due to a conspiracy by certain political factions. “You hear the Saudi, Qatari and some other Arab media calling them (ISIL terrorists ) revolutionaries and that the Iraqi army is a sectarian force, but they’ve forgotten that they are living in countries brimming with sectarianism and marginalization of minorities,” al-Maliki said, adding, “We tell them and all our friends and Arab brothers to be sure that terrorism will never be limited to the Iraqi borders.” Meanwhile, he expressed optimism that Iraq would soon weather the ongoing crisis. Maliki also said army forces will continue their operations against the ISIL Takfiri group until victory is achieved. He expressed gratitude to Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for encouraging volunteers to join the army and help the government. More than two million Iraqis have already volunteered to join the fight against the Takfiri militants. The ISIL Takfiri group threatens to take its acts of violence to several Iraqi cities, including the capital, Baghdad On June 10, the ISIL militants took control of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, which was followed by the fall of Tikrit, located 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad. The Iraqi premier has blamed Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the security crisis and growing terrorism in his country, denouncing Riyadh as a major supporter of global terrorism. Ban on Turkish and Saudi Products Requested According to the Anadolu news agency, Afaq TV aired commercials calling on Iraqis to boycott the products of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, saying that this boycott is the least Iraqis can do for the blood of their martyrs. The volume of trade between Turkey and Iraq is around $12 billion annually, whilst the trade between Saudi Arabia and Iraq reached $1.33 billion in 2011. Widespread unrest spread in northern and western Iraq when armed Takfiri groups, led by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), took control of some parts of the country, including that of Nineveh and Salahuddin. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have claimed that they have not interfered with Iraqi affairs or supported armed groups in the country. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said militants belonging to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will turn against their Saudi Arabian and Qatari supporters who call them “revolutionaries.” The Shia Intellectuals of Pakistan have also Proposed a Economic Boycott of Saudi , Turkish and Qatari Products under the Present Scenario due to their financial Support and Training Facilities of the Takfiri Terrorists ,who have not only Martyred thousands of Shia Men and Women in Iraq , But have also attacked and Destroyed , a No. of Shrine of Noble Religious Personalities , which are Highly revered by the Shia Community , But are also of High Importance and Honour for the Sunni and other Sects of Islam. So in this regard , the Intellectual have endorsed the Economic Boycott on the Saudi , Qatari and Turkish Products and Service By the Shia Muslims around the World , which May By the Use of their Airlines , or the Items Imported from these Countries to their Respective Countries.
The Iraqi army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are battling for control of Iraq's largest refinery outside Baiji north of Baghdad, with each side holding part of the complex. But in the town of Baiji itself, a few miles away, which is completely under the control of ISIS, residents say they are most frightened by ISIS militants going door to door asking about the numbers of married and unmarried women in the house. "I told them that there were only two women in the house and both were married," said Abu Lahid. "They said that many of their mujahedin (fighters) were unmarried and wanted a wife. They insisted on coming into my house to look at the women's ID cards (which in Iraq show marital status)." ISIS says its men have been ordered not to bother local people if they are Sunni, but in many places they are imposing their puritanical social norms in the towns they have captured. In Mosul people were at first jubilant that ISIS had removed the checkpoints that for years had made movement in the city very slow.
Merchants and farmers were ordered to reduce the prices of their goods. But tolerance and moderation on the part of ISIS is intermittent and may be temporary. In one case in Mosul a woman was reportedly whipped, along with her husband, because she was only wearing a headscarf rather than the niqqab cloak covering the whole body. In some captured towns fanatical ISIS militants start imposing rules about women's clothing, watching TV in coffee shops and cigarette smoking almost before the fighting is ended. The restraint, or lack of it, shown by ISIS has important political implications. When al-Qaida in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS, insisted on local women marrying their fighters during the Sunni-Shia civil war between 2004 and 2008, they alienated much of the Sunni community. They killed even minor government employees. "I would rather have my door kicked in by American soldiers than by al-Qaida because, with the Americans, I would stand a better chance of staying alive," a young Sunni man in Baghdad said at the time. Such feelings enabled the Americans to create Sahwa, an anti-al-Qaida force among the Sunni.
ISIS could isolate itself again through its brutality and bigotry, though its leaders show signs of recognizing where they went wrong last time. Its fighters act as the shock troops of what has turned into a general Sunni uprising, but it is only one part, albeit the most important, of a loose alliance of seven or eight militant Sunni groups that could easily break apart. For now, it is held together by a common sense of grievance and hatred against Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, and his government whom it sees as persecuting and marginalizing the Sunni community. The departure of Maliki will remove part of the glue holding together the ISIS-led Sunni alliance. Some strains between the Sunni rebel factions are already evident: When the Naqshabandi Army, of which Saddam Hussein's former deputy Izzat al-Douri is titular head, put up posters of Saddam in Mosul, ISIS gave them 24 hours to take them down or face the consequences. The Naqshabandi Army did not want a confrontation and complied. Government television channels try to push the idea that the Sunni coalition is already in disarray, but this is probably premature. In most Sunni towns captured by the insurgents, people say they are more frightened by the return of vengeful government forces than they are by the presence of ISIS. For the moment, the battle lines have steadied north of Baghdad after the blitzkrieg advance of ISIS and its allies. The fighting for Baiji refinery has been swaying backwards and forwards for the past five days. Further south, ISIS holds Tikrit, though a resident said "many people are fleeing to Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan because they think that if the Iraqi Army returns, it will shoot everybody indiscriminately". In Sunni areas ISIS is still mopping up resistance: yesterday its fighters captured al-Qaim close to the border with Syria after a fight in which 30 government soldiers were killed.
One aspect of ISIS's success receives too little attention. Its prestige has been enhanced across the Sunni world, especially among young Sunni men in bordering countries. For a decade television in Sunni states has dwelt on the oppression of the Iraqi Sunni and it is undeniable that it was ISIS forces that broke Baghdad's dominance over its Sunni minority. ISIS successes may already be having an impact in Syria, where its fighters have overrun the headquarters of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor province in the north-east of the country. In the mainly Shia city of Baghdad, there is terror of ISIS breaking through and conducting a general massacre. It is noticeable that ISIS has not activated its cells in Sunni enclaves and there have, by Baghdad standards, been few bombs. It may be that ISIS is over-stretched, but it could be waiting for its fighters advancing from the north to get closer to the capital before activating its cells inside the city. Sunni and Shia in the capital are both worried for a further reason. The government has handed over security in many parts of Baghdad to militiamen who have been setting up their own checkpoints. Some belong to Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, a splinter group from the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's movements, who are well-armed and wear black. There are other militias such as Ketaeb Hezbollah, no relation to the Lebanese movement of that name, who wear a green uniform like the army. Both these militias carry more authority than regular soldiers and the police, many of the latter melting away and staying at home.
Baghdadis consider these militias as semi-criminal groups quite capable of kidnapping likely targets for ransom at their checkpoints. Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is seen as being under the influence of Maliki and the Iranians but its men act generally in their own interests. The strength of the militias was on display yesterday in Sadr City, the stronghold of the movement led by Sadr. Twenty thousand armed men were paraded with heavy weapons such as machine guns, multiple rocket launchers and missiles as well as assault rifles. Sadr has pledged that these militia will only act in defence of the Shia shrines in Samarra, Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf, but the state's inability to defend these holy sites illustrates how far its authority has withered in the past two weeks. The military situation remains fluid. "My bet is that the government will not be able to retake Mosul, but ISIS will not be able to keep it long-term," said an Iraqi political analyst who did not want to be named. He argued that Mosul was a traditional and nationalist city and not a particularly religious one, so ISIS will ultimately be evicted by its people. That may be so, but ISIS has proved by its ferocity that it is difficult to dislodge once in power. In its Syrian capital at Raqqa on the Euphrates it publicly crucified young men who had started an armed resistance movement to oppose it.
Supporting moderates is vital to countering gains made by extremists, says US president.
The US president, Barack Obama, has said he “deeply concerned” about the terrorism threat posed by Australian jihadists fighting in Syria on their return to Australia.
Al-Qaida-inspired militants who have violently seized territory in Iraq could grow in power and destabilize other countries in the region, President Barack Obama said. The Iraqi public will ultimately reject the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the extremist Sunni group threatening Iraq's government, but the group still represents a medium- and long-term threat to the United States, Obama said. "We're going to have to be vigilant generally. Right now the problem with ISIS is the fact that they're destabilizing the country," Obama said, using a common acronym for the group. "That could spill over into some of our allies like Jordan." The Sunni insurgency in Iraq and neighboring Syria is just one of an array of threats the U.S. must guard against, Obama said in an interview recorded Friday and airing Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." He pointed to the group Boko Haram in north Africa and al-Qaida groups in Yemen that he said also demand the attention of the U.S. and its partners. "What we can't do is think that we're just going to play whack-a-mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up," Obama said. "We're going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy and we're going to have to partner and train local law enforcement and military to do their jobs as well." Obama's comments came as U.S. lawmakers and officials within his own administration are grappling with the best way to address the growing insurgency in Iraq just years after American troops pulled out. As bloody sectarian violence breaks out once again in Iraq, a president who opposed the Iraq war and vowed to end it is finding the U.S. being lured back into the conflict by the deteriorating security situation. Obama has announced plans to send 300 special operations forces into Iraq to train its military, but insists the U.S. military can't effectively quell the conflict unless Iraq's own Shiite-led government pursues a more inclusive approach that doesn't shun the Sunni minority. The issue has divided Congress, with some lawmakers criticizing Obama for doing too little and others warning the return of armed troops to Iraq could be the first step toward pulling the U.S. back into the conflict. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the unwillingness of Iraq's military to defend the city of Mosul begs the question of why the United State should. "I'm not willing to send my son to defend that mess," Paul said Sunday on CNN. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she believes the U.S. needs to be talking to Iran because it can play a major role in helping to prevent a major war between Sunnis and Shiites. She also voiced concerns about the need to build up intelligence to help track recruits from Europe and the United States who have gone to the Middle East to participate in the wars there. "There will be plots to kill Americans," she told CNN.
Sexual violence continues in India unabated.
The December 2012 gang rape and subsequent death of a 23 year old woman led to a shift in discourse on sexual violence in India. For the first time, the blame shifted from victims to perpetrators, fostering changes in certain colonial era criminal laws. However, the changes have failed to provide crucial protection and redress. Important recommendations, forwarded by the three-member committee following the incident, were ignored, and sexual crimes rage, as uncontrolled as before. News headlines depicting sexual violence have not changed since December 2012.
Gruesome abuse and killings of victims have shaken the human conscience but not the criminal justice system in a country, which continues to prove itself a 'systemic failure'- even after state promises of ensuring its effectiveness. Every 20 minutes, a rape is committed in India; but only 4 out of 10 incidents make it to the country's justice system. Such low reporting of sexual assault, due to legal complexities and ideas of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, make the possibilities of justice remote, and create an insufficient deterrent in society. Recent gory reports, such as the hanging of raped girls, the sexual assault of a female judge in her official residence, the pumping of bullets into the private parts of a woman after an assault, and the burning of a dead body following a gang rape, are sufficient evidence to conclude that the 'system' has systematically failed. An insensitive, poorly funded, inefficient, and unnecessarily hierarchic structure called the criminal justice system has proven nothing but a demon to women seeking justice. Why does the state fail to curb sexual crimes? Cultural aspects cannot be ignored. The substance of the law and its implementation, are two different aspects. The 2013 amendments of laws dealing with sexual assault improved the legal literature, making it more favourable to women, but not the culture of implementation. The redress system faced by a sexual assault victim has enormous challenges, ranging from legal to cultural. Filing a First Information Report (FIR), the first step in seeking justice, is hard in India. But, it is nothing less than a Herculean task when a woman complains of sexual assault. Due to the culture of enforcement of laws in the country, legal texts alone don’t determine her rights and entitlements. Negative stereotyping and attacking the self-esteem of the rape survivor is one of the prime reasons for not reporting the crime and accessing the criminal justice system. Moreover violence against women in India is an institutionalised phenomenon. Before noting the FIR, policemen often satisfy themselves with knowledge of whether the victim wore the 'right' clothing', ate the 'right' food, kept the 'right' male friends, or uses 'questionable' modern electronics like a mobile phone. The 2013 amendments, though they expand the definition of sexual assault and promise to be more sensitive to women, also carry forward negative elements. They retain discriminatory and stereotype concepts like 'insult' or 'outrages to women's modesty' in order to define a criminal act. The culture of impunity for sexual violence is widespread and has contributed much to propagate the crime. Both de-jure and de-facto culture of impunity for crimes, including sexual crimes, is one of the prime contributory factors for such crimes. In India, de-jure impunity is propagated through several legal instruments that validate immunity for state actors. A provision called 'prior sanction' was incorporated in several security legislations for this purpose. Section 45, 132, 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, section 125 and 126 of the Army Act, 1950, section 45 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, state that no court shall take cognizance of any offence committed by certain state actors unless prior sanction is granted by the appropriate government authority. It has been observed that the 'sanction' for prosecution is granted only in the rarest of rare cases; invariably, authorities, at their discretion, reject an application for ‘prior sanction’. This is one of the reasons for the perpetrators of Manorama's rape and murderare yet to be brought to justice. Manorama was found dead within hours of her detention by armed forces in Manipur in 2004 leading to massive public outrage. De-facto impunity is equally prevalent in the criminal justice system and its enforcement institutions. Police authorities often deny or block access to justice, by refusing the registration of allegations. The process of investigation and trial remains extremely slow and unscientific. Routine practices of torture by security enforcement agencies create a fear psychosis. It discourages formal complaint, propagating a culture of impunity at all levels of the administration of justice. Such a culture is tolerated under different laws and practices with state 'acquiescence'. The principle of due diligence is too narrowly adopted in the legal system to hold private actors accountable for violence against women. Sociologically speaking, a society based on a patriarchal structure, prescribes male dominance and promotes authoritarian personalities. Law enforcement agencies are based on masculine ideologies. Institutions like the police and the military provide space for such personalities. They foster the tendency to impose power and control over women and their autonomy. This is why police often refuse to register cases of sexual assault, and even if they register them, there is little to no guarantee of justice. Additionally, males disproportionately dominate the police and the armed forces, whereas women comprise little more that 6% of such forces. The judicial system cannot be spared either. It, too, inherits perceived dominating ideologies over women's bodily autonomy, and administers the law accordingly, encouraging impunity for sexual violence. The country's judicial system, hailed, as one of the most powerful institutions for protection and promotion of human rights, is still not congenial to female victims of sexual assault. An inadequate number of judges, prolonged periods of litigation, manipulation of medical reports, intimidation of victims, and non-protection of witnesses are barriers to justice in all types of violations. Cases of sexual assault are not immune to this trend. Corruption and political influence are two blameworthy factors. India’s judiciary has adopted and exhibited prejudiced attitudes against women from time to time and justified impunity for sexual assault. In October 2013, a Delhi High Court judge was found sermonizing in an order when he prescribed 'girls are morally and socially bound not to indulge in sexual intercourse before a proper marriage, and if they do so, it would be to their peril and they cannot be heard to cry later on that it was rape.' The judge ignored the law of the country to uphold things in which he had been trained, and undermined the principle of the rule of law. It is unforgivable that, Bhawri Devi – who was gang raped in 1992 by five men when she was working in a field – had to listen to a judgement three years later delivered by a District and Session court judge, that dominant caste men would not rape a women belonging to an oppressed caste. Examples of such misguided judicial pronouncements abound in India, from 'Mathura to Manorama' and beyond. The country's political leaders, who have immense influence over ordinary citizens, do not lag behind in pronouncing and promoting misogynistic ideologies regarding sexual assault, reinforcing impunity. The media also reflects their perceptions. Politician Babulal Gaur, Home Minister in Madhya Pradesh, has justified rape, saying 'Rape is sometimes right'. According to Ramsevak Paikara, Home Minister of Chhattisgarh, 'No one commits rape intentionally, it happens by mistake'. And, then there is Mulayam Singh Yadav, a prominent senior politician who has said, 'Boys make mistakes, why hang them?' And, then there is Abu Azmi, a senior politician, who supported Yadav by stating that 'women who were raped should also be hanged'. These statements and perceptions expose the tip of the iceberg; and can help one understand how India’s institutions, and the individuals representing the institutions, are certainly not free from authoritarian and misogynistic ideas that further propagate the repression of victims of sexual assault. In India, social space to be a sexual being is virtually non-existent. Repression rules mainstream society. Talking about sex or sexuality is taboo; it is unwelcome in the public domain. An inclusive culture for sharing space is discouraged especially when it comes to space where opposite sexes can meet. Young children grow up in a gender-segregated environment; the urge to play or mingle with the opposite sex is suppressed simply due to the pain of parental or social disapproval. In Indian society, repressed sexuality is often quoted, for instance by authors like Sudhir Kakar, as a reason for sexual and gender-based violence. Society prescribes that women be pure, chaste, and celibate before 'marriage', suffocating her sensuality and sexuality. Men are free from control in expressing their sexuality; their attacks are tolerated with an explanation of a double standard, that 'boys will be boys'. Women are advised to have some sort of self-protection as a defence mechanism against getting raped. Prevalence of such a culture prohibits women from reporting crimes that are sexual in nature. In addition, society has its own calculated notion of sexual behaviour. For example, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code enters into the private space of citizens and criminalizes consensual same sex, tagging it 'unnatural sex'. It is still a valid law despite widespread public opinion calling for its repeal. Legal institutions upholding such measures disallow freedom of citizens over their bodily autonomy and their choice of life. Violence against women in India continues and will continue, due to a pervasive prevalence of discrimination based on gender, which starts at birth and continues until death. Laws, if enforced properly, are undoubtedly instruments to control and modify human behaviour. Change will be accomplished when the state takes certain appropriate legal and non-legal measures. Measures to modify and improve the social and cultural patterns of conduct of both men and women in order to achieve equality and to negate the culture of impunity. Such an environment, if achieved, will impact the country's criminal justice and law enforcement mechanisms profoundly. Sexual and gender based violence will be minimized but not eliminated. It is important that law enforcement begin with legal education in the law. Citizens should believe in and respect the law. The ordinary person has no idea what the law prescribes. They hardly care, as the criminal justice mechanism is a failed system in India and they are aware of the possibility of immunity from this system. It is only when men and women from all walks of life subscribe to the principles of the rule of law and non-discrimination and believe in the equality and dignity of each individual that law enforcement can begin to do its job effectively.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Aitazaz Ahsan today said Shahbaz Sharif has put democracy in danger. Talking to journalists, the Senator said that PPP wanted that Nawaz government should complete its five year term which is essential for democracy in the country. However, the patron lawyer said that Shahbaz Sharif had turned enemy of his brother Nawaz Sharif and created difficulties for PLM-N government in centre. Ahsan said that CM Punjab did not take notice of Model Town tragedy till 10 hours; sacrificing Rana Sanaullah for this sad incident was not enough measure. He said no justification could be given for opening direct fire on protesters adding that Lahore tragedy was the worst incident in history of the country. PPP leader said that Model Town incident had weakened the democracy in the country demanded that real culprits should be brought to justice.
Some 350,000 people have been displaced since the start of an army offensive against militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan a week ago, officials say.
Long lines of buses and lorries are reported waiting in intense heat for security clearance to enter the nearest town of Bannu. There are fears the refugees could spread polio, as many of the displaced children have not been vaccinated. The offensive began after a deadly attack on Karachi airport. The attack was claimed by an Uzbek militant group and the Pakistani Taliban. 'No faith' Tens of thousands of children are among those who are currently on the move in the tribal region. Many of them have never been vaccinated for highly-infectious diseases - like polio - because of a Taliban-imposed ban. Local officials say they are doing everything they can to deal with the unfolding humanitarian crisis. A camp for the displaced people has been set up near Bannu. But most families have refused to go there, saying the place lacks basic necessities like water, food and sanitation, the BBC's Shahzeb Jillani in Islamabad reports. Several refugees told the BBC they felt angry at the military for bombing their homes. Many more admitted they had no faith that the Pakistani government could help them. The army said at least 200 militants, many of them Uzbeks, had been killed since it began air strikes on militant targets in Shawal and other areas of North Waziristan last Sunday. There is no independent media access to the area and no way of confirming the casualty figures. Tanks and troops are also being sent in for a full-scale operation to target Taliban and foreign militant networks based near the Afghan border, the military says. North Waziristan has a population of almost seven million. Officials say approximately 80% of the population is still living in the area as the military strikes escalate.
Interior Ministry has imposed Section 144 at Benazir International Airport and its surrounding area ahead of the arrival of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri. According to police sources, entry into the airport premises carrying banners and placards would not be allowed while those coming towards airport would be arrested. The sources added that more than 6000 policemen would be deployed to stop the Awami Tehreek workers from going to airport. All the roads towards Islamabad airport have been sealed, while passengers inside the airport are being provided shuttle services, hence emergency situation has been declared in all the Government hospitals of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for 24 hours. Shuttle service has been provided to the passengers for Ammar Chowk and Koral Chowk. The district administration has advised the citizens to avoid unnecessary traveling. According to police, all these measures were adopted due to security threats. Meanwhile Dr. Altaf, the spokesman of PIMS Hospital told media that all the doctors and paramedical staff of PIMS Hospital and Poly Clinic have been instructed to remain alert on their duties. Hence, MS including all staff of Allied Hospital of Rawalpindi were also being ordered to remain on their duties. Earlier on Saturday, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan imposed ban on holding any kind of rally or public gatherings in the federal capital, while ordering additional security on sensitive areas in the twin cities. A high level meeting chaired by Nisar took place here in Islamabad where the security arrangements of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri’s arrival were reviewed. Interior Minister directed Commissioner Islamabad to impose a ban on holding any kind of rally or public gathering in Islamabad. He also directed the law enforcement to carry an intensive search operation of the twin cities Rawalpindi and Islamabad along with the adjacent areas and rid them of the militant elements on war-footing.
Analysis: The security crisis in Iraq may foreshadow what is to become of Afghanistan after US withdrawal
As the White House ponders its next moves in Iraq, it also faces the question of how to best prevent the precarious security order it has established in Afghanistan from unraveling once U.S. troops withdraw at the end of 2016. That question was put to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey when the pair appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday to discuss the Defense Department’s budget. “First, Afghanistan is not Iraq, internally, historically, ethnically, religiously,” Hagel responded. “Second, there is strong support in Afghanistan today for America’s continued [presence] as well as our NATO ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] there.” Dempsey agreed, saying it was “unlikely” Afghanistan’s security status would devolve to create the kind of vulnerabilities that allowed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to take root in Iraq. Some 10,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through this year, and all will be fully gone by the end of 2016. But the incoming Afghan president — whichever candidate emerges victorious in the disputed run-off race — wants the U.S. military to stay and help, unlike Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki who refused an agreement that would allow a small force of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011. Following Afghanistan’s national elections in April both run-off candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai said they would sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that would ensure U.S. troops stay in the country beyond 2014. Continuing the U.S. troop presence is far more popular in Afghanistan's legislature than it was in Iraq's. Afghanistan's leadership, of course, may have little choice but to agree: Their national budget cannot cover the $5 billion a year needed to fund the Afghan national security forces built by the U.S. over the past decade; that money will instead come from the U.S. and other donor countries for the foreseeable future. Still, the ethnic breakdown of those security forces — particularly in the Afghan National Army — is problematic. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that in Afghanistan’s southern provinces, the population is mainly Pashtun and the forces deployed there are not. They could be seen as “an occupying power in the south,” Graham argued, in much the same way the Shia-dominated Iraqi army was viewed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which the Iraqi security forces abandoned last week to ISIL fighters and their allies. There are, however, concrete differences between the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi army and police forces, and the Afghan National Army. The Iraqi security forces are predominantly Shia. Despite multiple appeals from both the U.S. military and the U.S. government to bring more Sunnis into their ranks, the Iraqi government has instead been weeding them out. In Afghanistan, the ethnic makeup of the army is more balanced: Pashtuns make up 43 percent, Tajiks 32 percent, Hazara 12 percent and Uzbeks come in at 10 percent, with the rest made up of smaller ethnic groups. But many of the soldiers are still illiterate despite years of training and billions of U.S. dollars, and the desertion rate remains high. They’ve struggled to face Afghan Taliban fighters in combat, and their loyalties have been scrutinized after periodic attacks on Western military personnel embedded with them. Taliban units have been able to launch spectacular attacks on targets within heavily fortified Kabul and the endemic corruption within the Afghan government and its security forces has prompted concerns about authority vacuums once the U.S. leaves. Critics of the withdrawal plan in Washington say a lower number of U.S. troops will limit U.S. ability to operate against Al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Afghanistan and gather intelligence — something Washington is currently struggling with in Iraq as it scrambles to understand and identify ISIL members and their allies, and line up possible targets for attack. There are wider, regional ramifications, too. Afghanistan, like Iraq, has jealous neighbors. And, like Iraq — a theater of proxy war for Saudi Arabia and Iran — Afghanistan has also been a battlefield for regional arch-rivals India and Pakistan. “Fundamentally, the war in Afghanistan is an Indo-Pakistan proxy conflict layered atop Afghanistan’s ethnic cleavages,” Thomas Lynch, at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, wrote Wednesday. “In this decades-old struggle, NATO counterinsurgency forces are but a temporary participant.” Lynch argues that Pakistan perceives the U.S.-backed order in Kabul as favoring India, motivating it to tacitly support the Afghan Taliban and allied groups interested in disrupting stability in Afghanistan. U.S. leaders have long misunderstood the struggle to establish a security foothold in Afghanistan to battle Al-Qaeda and its affiliates around the world, he writes. “It is best viewed as it has always been discussed in Afghan, Pakistani and Indian circles: a Pakistani-supported Pashtun rebellion against a Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara-dominated Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with links to New Delhi and Tehran,” says Lynch. The regional powers reinforcing Afghanistan's civil war are the strongest comparison to Iraq. Pakistan would view any derailment of the Afghan National Army as a break up that would create well-equipped militia forces, Lynch argues, and unlike in Iraq, where the U.S. has been able to mobilize aircraft carriers on standby in the Persian Gulf to assist at a moment’s notice, the U.S. military will find it much more difficult to send assets into landlocked Afghanistan to help stabilize the environment if Pakistan prevents safe passage across its borders. President Obama’s decision to stick with his plan for troop numbers in Afghanistan given the crisis in Iraq continues to spark criticism in Republican quarters. “He seems determined to pull out completely, whether or not the Taliban is in a position to re-establish itself, whether or not Al-Qaeda senior leadership finds a more permissive environment in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and whether or not Al-Qaeda has been driven from Afghanistan completely — one of our primary aims in this conflict from the beginning,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said this week. The White House and Democratic leaders argue that after billions of dollars, years of training, U.S. troop deaths and voter fatigue, Afghanistan will have to maintain its own security with minimal U.S. help. In May, President Obama declared, “I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” as he signaled the end of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. “Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century — not through signing ceremonies, but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who are trained to take the lead and ultimately full responsibility.” Almost three years ago he used similar language to declare an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq: “We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty,” Obama said in October 2011. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”
Express News Report
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri on Sunday said he would stage protests outside the PM house in Islamabad and hold Nawaz Sharif responsible if any of his workers are killed during protests, Express News reported on Sunday. Qadri said peaceful workers were being arrested and tortured under an ‘undemocratic’ PML-N government. “If I am killed upon my arrival, my workers should remain calm,” he added. As Rawalpindi prepares for Qadri, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been imposed in the city and public gatherings have been banned until 12pm June 24, Express News reported on Sunday. Qadri is due to arrive at Benazir Bhutto International Airport at 8am on June 23. Pillion riding has also been banned in the city and mobile services may be suspended in Islamabad and Rawalpindi tomorrow, according to sources. Speaking to Express News, PAT leader Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi said that the imposition of section 144 will not stop PAT supporters from receiving their leader upon arrival. “Our organisation team in Rawalpindi-Islamabad were coordinating with the district police officer (DPO) and district coordination officer (DCO) to make arrangements for Qadri’s reception,” Dr Abbasi stated. “We attempted to organise the reception in a manner that did not trouble anyone,” he said, adding that the police invited 12 of their workers last night under the ruse of finalising said arrangements and arrested them instead. He claimed that over 500 party supporters have been arrested from various parts of the country. Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed also spoke to Express News and claimed the police were raiding houses of PAT workers. “Whenever the government says they will give freehand to organise a protest, it means they will create hindrances,” Rasheed said, adding that he will give more details in a press conference at Islamabad Press Club at 6pm today. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Punjab chapter president Ejaz Chaudhry claimed that the government wishes to repeat the events of the Model Town tragedy. He told Express News that the two Sharif brothers – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif – had a hand in creating disturbance. ‘Police harassing PAT workers’
‘Benazir Bhutto: A National Icon’ conference by IBA & K.U : In thoughts & memory, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed comes alive
On June 21, the memories and spirit of Benazir Bhutto come alive but why is it that she is forgotten when the day ends, asked senator Aitzaz Ahsan.
The senior member of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) central executive committee was speaking at the ‘Benazir Bhutto: A National Icon’ conference jointly organised by the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) and the University of Karachi Benazir Bhutto Chair on Saturday. IBA’s auditorium was full, yet silent. The conference was divided into two sessions, the first on Benazir Bhutto the politician and the second on Benazir Bhutto the woman. At the inaugural session, Ahsan spoke about the courage of the woman in facing the hardships and trials of her journey. “We as a nation, put people in stereotypical boxes and we do not venture beyond those set images,” he said, adding that Benazir is simply known as a brave courageous lady but was much more. “We must explore her and look beyond what we are told and I hope this conference leads to setting up of a research group on her.” Former ambassador Hussain Haroon lauded Benazir’s dedication towards her work. “She would work for up to 18 to 19 hours a day and would correspond with her party members via email at all times.”
IBA dean and director Dr Ishrat Husain said that if she had been the prime minister of Pakistan today, the country would not have been going through such rough times as her economic policies would have helped improve the situation. “Benazir had a modern, progressive and pluralistic vision for the country.” Moderator Farhatullah Babar, former spokesperson for Benazir, started off with a sentence-long definition of her. “For her whole life, Pakistan was her identity, but on December 27, 2007, she became the identity of Pakistan.” Babar said she faced the judicial murder of her father, the assassination of her two brothers, an exile and the death of her mother to an illness; losses and hardships that left a mark on her but it led her to honours that no woman in Pakistan has ever received. “When I once asked her what decision she is most proud of, she responded instantly: ‘I take pride in saying no at a time when saying no appeared difficult’,” he said. “Despite the fact that a fatwa was issued against women rulers by Sheikh Bin Maaz and Pakistan was threatened to be expelled from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, she survived,” said Babar. “Her most outstanding achievement was that she irreversibly changed the landscape of women in Pakistan and this remains as her most enduring legacy.” Her moment of glory was when she took the oath the first time; when she finished the hall rang with shouts of Jiye Bhutto and she whispered, ‘Today I have avenged my father,’ he said, tearing up as emotions got the better of him. The next speaker, Prof ND Khan, said that Benazir was a woman who would go on a hunger strike at the death of a dove. “Her last book should be researched upon as she touched on topics such as the Palestinian issue and the Chechnya uprising,” he said as his voice quivered with emotion. “I dream that one day, from among you, will emerge another Benazir.”
With her latest project, Oscar-winning film-maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is creating local heroes for children – and concealing inspiring messages in cartoons
Two years ago, the director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy became the first Pakistani to win an Oscar.
Stylistically, she's going more for Studio Ghibli than Disney, but she's at pains not to write off the potential subtexts behind even the most mainstream cartoons. "On the surface your story may be about princesses and mystical creatures, but there's always room for subtle messages and themes to run in parallel." Smuggling messages of female empowerment to the young of Pakistan through cartoons has, in fact, already been done. Burka Avenger is a multi-award-winning animated TV show about a teacher in an Islamabad girls' school who, when she dons a niqab, transforms into a kick-ass martial arts defender of gender and educational rights. The show, created and directed by musician and social activist Aaron Haroon Rashid manages to ditch the image of the burka as a tool of oppression and revamp it as a masked avenger-style superhero accessory. Time magazine named the character one of the world's most influential in 2013. Chinoy sees both productions as canaries down the mine, hopefully to be seen by the next generation of Pakistani film-makers. "We should capitalise on the progress made with both to expand the industry and produce more original animation. We need to put the narrative first, and Burka Avenger has paved the way in this regard. The growth of the animation industry will depend on how content like Three Braves is received. The talent and skill are there, and the passion is palatable. I have no doubt that we can compete with the very best in the world given the time and resources." She's still involved in documentaries; has just completed one, Peacekeepers, about the UN's all-female, Bangladeshi peacekeeping unit in Haiti. Like Three Braves, it's a conscious move into more upbeat territory. Not, she stresses, that downbeat themes necessarily make for similiarly toned movies. "While shooting Saving Face, there were times when I felt disheartened by the atrocities around us but found hope in my subjects. It was important for me to make a show for Pakistanis because news channels remind us constantly about how our system fails. I want to remind people that there are times when our system works or when people, despite the system, work to make a difference. By showing positive stories from some of the darkest places, I want to inspire Pakistanis to own up to their issues and become changemakers in their communities."
Here’s a script that only Punjab’s government, and its bullies, could have done justice. First a late night meeting where Punjab’s law minister demands that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) upstarts be taught a lesson. The commissioner protests, but is snubbed. The ‘lesson’, it seems, was forcibly removing court sanctioned security barricades from outside the Minhaj ul Quran secretariat, that too in the middle of the night. Then, when shown the court order allowing the security, the police (DIG, no less) lied about a court order to remove them. Then the police tear gassed, baton-charged, and directly shot at protestors. More than 12 people got killed. Then they paraded their goon, Gullu Butt, practically in front of the camera, smashing cars, etc, as the police looked on. Then the Model Town SP hugged and patted Gullu for his good work, all in front of the camera. But then the media exposed much of their brutality, and their lies. So they tried to fudge records at the hospital. Then they got caught again, and fled the scene. They bungled again, when forced to arrest the goon and present him before the magistrate. Trying to play smart, they tried to rush Butt through proceedings, face hidden and with only two policemen. But the public caught on, and gave the villain a good thrashing. And as this tragic-comedy rolls on, surely the police will do more to embarrass their institution even further. But somewhere in this farcical investigation very serious blame will need to be laid at someone’s door. Lives were lost. Men and women died. And the usually hands on chief minister, so ready to suspend senior and junior staff alike for the slightest slackness, will not be able to talk by this episode with just a long face and some sad words. And not the easiest of his questions will be just where and from whom the order to open direct fire came from. That is not to say, of course, that events before and after the shooting were any less significant in terms of violation of the law at the hands of its upholders. Police officials, too, can no longer be allowed to walk away from practical murder just with light suspensions. Soon they will make calls, get the official corrupt machinery in motion, and find themselves out in the field (with all its advantages), the deaths and the disgrace being a distant matter. But this time, thanks largely to the media that has exposed police brutality yet again, the people will not allow the powerful to simply walk away from such grave excesses. The CM is in the spotlight. He had better deliver, and ensure justice is done, or be prepared for a worse public backlash.
What can be more tragic than the fact that the very institution, which is supposed to protect and provide security to the masses against attacks and crimes, is itself being dubbed as the biggest security hazard to the people of this country?
Gullu Butt truly represents what ails this society. Normally, in our stories or plays, there is a character who does not only develop a repute for being renowned for some comical satire but also some message that he conveys due to his silly behaviour. This character is usually benign and is used to give a refreshing break to the story. In our older plays, Gullu Badshah was such a character. However, the Gullu Butt that we have seen in the media in the last few days is more like the henchman of the big bad villain that we see in movies who perfects the art of carrying out the nefarious designs of his lord and master with ruthless authority and arrogance. The tragedy is that, unlike the henchmen in the movies who work for dons in the underworld and partake in underhanded activities to break the law, Gullu Butt was aided, abetted and applauded in daylight by state police with absolutely no inhibition for the atrocious crimes that he was committing. This daylight, recorded evidence of the power of the powerful and the complete helplessness of the powerless is a chilling reminder of the times we are going through. While the evidence of being in the information age is given by the way Gullu Butt has become a household name in the matter of a few hours, the evidence of still being in the stone age is given by the complete absence of any protection against the belief that might is right. That is why the combination of tools and technology that have instant spread value with mindsets that are primitive is so dangerous as it shows and inspires people to disbelieve that any right, whether human or legal, can ever triumph over any wrong that is inhuman and illegal. Thus the debate starts that democracy and its systems are eventually subject to the people who run them. Like they say: it is the man behind the gun or, more figuratively, it is the man behind the danda (stick) who wields the power to make a mockery of any system that is created in books by men who believe more in the power of the pen rather than the power of the gun. The sad thing is that state institutions are all being discredited by this systematic process of handing them over to people who are neither competent nor capable to run the institution. The systematic politicisation of institutions has made them appear ‘anti-people’. What can be more tragic than the fact that the very institution, which is supposed to protect and provide security to the masses against attacks and crimes, is itself being dubbed as the biggest security hazard to the people of this country? This is not the first time that institutions have been reduced to a mockery. We have seen that happen to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), we have seen that happen to the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and now we see that happen to the police. The initial investigation of the Model Town incident also reveals the same pattern of putting people in and taking people out on “who obeys the ruler more than who obeys the rule” code of behaviour. The Inspector General (IG) was removed a few days before this incident despite the fact that he was due for retirement in a few months. The basis of this removal or change will go down in the report as early retirement but we all know, due to the information age, that the real reason was his willingness and loyalty to carry out the Model Town operation may not have been comparable to his successor. This change at the top normally sends a very strong message all the way down: those who do not want to comply will have no future. Thus the choice is either ‘you change or you will be changed’. While external security may be a matter for the armed forces to take up, without the presence of a capable police force, their combined force to counter the external force is definitely weakened. Sindh is a classic example of where the police have become a spectator in the armed brawls of various parties who openly have their militant wings, which are more powerful than our own security forces. Due to the unwritten quota system of putting their own people in positions that matter in the police by each party, crime and target killings have completely ruined the Dubai-like potential of our commercial hub in Karachi. As a result, the Rangers have been called in to help but have gradually become helpless as the gangsters of the city exploiting the disengaged and disabled ranks of our police departments and constant changes based on party loyalties have made Karachi an easy target for target killers. The previous IG Sindh, in a suo motu appearance in the Supreme Court (SC) admitted that as many as 50 top posts were based on who knows what rather than any merit. In this scenario, a Gullu Butt leading the charge of the police brigade may be bizarre for people watching television but perfectly normal for our political leaders. Eventually, philosophy is subject to psychology. Capitalism or communism, democracy or autocracy is not just holding the book of the constitution in our hand or conducting elections every five years, but a state of mind, a way of thinking and then actually behaving accordingly, making the power of the ordinary people greater than the people in power. We have known autocrats in Egypt who, in the past and even now, are carrying out elections but we also know their intent is to, under the guise of democracy, carry out their autocratic designs. Leaders in this country are also prone to this infection of democracy hypocrisy where they claim to have sacrificed their lives for democracy but their lifestyles, their conduct, their approach all belie this claim. The danger of this pretend democracy is that the unaware mind of the simple public then starts feeling that maybe democracy is not the right answer to their problems and that then gives space to autocrats to step in. Thus, the biggest danger to democracy is the mindset of the rulers whose inability to practice what they preach creates a huge distrust not only in their own character and standing but also in the system that allows such people to repeatedly degrade and destroy the spirit by which each citizen is empowered to make the leaders accountable to his/her rights.
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah on Saturday expressed annoyance over the absence of Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan after the Islamabad blast and during the launch of North Waziristan operation. Speaking to media persons outside the Parliament House, Shah said the interior minister should come and face the situation and questions of the parliamentarians. He also said that freedom of expression is beauty of democracy, and people and politicians should be allowed to hold peaceful rallies in Islamabad. “Public rallies and processions cannot topple a government. However, if any major blunder is committed, then there could be a threat to the government. There is no threat to democracy from such gatherings in the capital,” Shah said. To a question, he said that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was made a scapegoat after the Lahore tragedy. “Rana’s resignation reveals that it was proved that some wrong had been done on the part of the government in Lahore incident,” he added. The opposition leader said that solution of all the problems being confronted by the country lies in democracy. “We are with democracy; country’s future linked with democracy and no one would be allowed to derail it,” he declared. He said that all the issues being faced by the country should be discussed and solved in parliament. “We will do what ever required for protecting democracy,” he added. Shah said that protests and demonstrations are a democratic right of the political parties, but they should remain peaceful. He expressed the hope that the judicial commission constituted by the Punjab government to probe the Lahore incident would reach to its conclusion soon. Shah urged media to report any sensitive incident with responsibility and care. “Incidents being negatively reported by the local media, internationally damages the country’s image,” he said. He added that reporting of the Karachi airport attack by the local media had badly damaged the country’s image abroad. “After the Karachi incident, Maldives president cancelled his trip to Pakistan and insurance companies had doubled insurance rate of plane,” he added.
CLEARLY, demonstrating a little bit of efficiency in the Model Town affair in Lahore could have saved the Punjab government a lot of trouble. The intervention from the top for which the province is famous was missing for long hours as the situation outside the Minhajul Quran secretariat on Tuesday deteriorated gradually. If that delay defied logic, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had been rather slow in giving marching orders to two of his senior associates in government. The step that he has now resorted to could have been taken immediately after the firing incident outside the Minhajul Quran office. The delay allowed doubts and accusations to creep in and the opposition demands got louder with time.
By Lisa Schlein The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 6,000 refugees have fled into Afghanistan to escape fighting between Pakistan government forces and Taliban militants in the North Waziristan region. The agency says it is bracing for a larger exodus if fighting continues to escalate. The U.N. refugee agency reports 6,452 Pakistanis have fled into the eastern parts of Afghanistan from North Waziristan. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards says his agency is helping authorities in the eastern province of Khost to register and assist those arriving. “The newly arrived women, men and children trekked across the mountains from Pakistan to seek safety,” said Edwards. “They are being accommodated with local Afghan communities for now. However, clearly these communities have limited resources and absorption capacity to help.” Edwards says shelter, clean drinking water and sanitation are urgently needed. He says UNHCR is concerned that families close to where the fighting is raging will be exposed to further violence. And this, he says, could make it difficult for aid agencies to reach them with humanitarian aid. Pakistan’s military mounted an offensive to oust al-Qaida-linked Taliban insurgents from North Waziristan June 12, a week after the militant group attacked Pakistan’s biggest airport in Karachi. That dramatic attack left 36 people dead, including 10 Taliban gunmen. It also caused cease-fire talks with so-called moderate Taliban to collapse. This prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launch an all-out assault on North Waziristan to remove the Taliban from their tribal base. But the fighting is causing a flood of people to flee their homes in search of safety. The Pakistani government confirms more than 100,000 people have been displaced internally from North Waziristan into several areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. UNHCR spokesman Edwards tells VOA the Pakistani government has not yet asked for assistance, but if it does his agency and others will do what they can to help. In the meantime, he says his agency will work to assist the thousands of refugees who have fled into Afghanistan. “We are always concerned when people are displaced,” said Edwards. “The difficulty in this area, as you know, is that it is an insecure area. It is very difficult to access. It is mountainous. Getting help to people there is challenging to say the least.” Pakistan has been hosting hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees for years. But in a worrying turnabout, Edwards notes this is the first time refugees from Pakistan have fled into Afghanistan. He says there are no refugee camps in that part of Afghanistan. He adds the work ahead is daunting.