Monday, July 14, 2014

The Sweet Sound Of Rabab

Current Ukrainian crisis is not in Europe's interests

Europe is not interested in maintaining the current crisis situation in Ukraine. Russia's permanent representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov expressed his point of view in an exclusive interview to the Itar-Tass correspondent.
"I believe that maintaining the current crisis situation in Ukraine is not in the interest of Europe. I will not speak for the United States, but in some respects it is more aligned to their interests. However, it is clear that it is not in the interests of Europe, including the European Union, because for Europe, Ukraine is not just a playground for geopolitical games, as to some other countries, but is a serious large neighboring country with great potential," he explained. According to Chizhov, "some members of the European Parliament understand it." "Others might need more time to realize it," he added.
Permanent representative expressed the hope that the first resolution of the newly elected European Parliament in Ukraine, which is expected to be adopted in the upcoming Thursday, will be more objective than the previous statements of the members of European Parliament. "I hope to call for an early end of the violence, and this requires a cessation of hostilities and the beginning of the negotiation process, without any preconditions. Perhaps this is the only thing that is necessary in the current situation," said Chizhov. However, he pointed out that "if the EP wants to take the role of mediator in the political situation in the south-east of Ukraine, then it should take at least equidistant position" with respect to both conflicting parties.
Permanent representative also commented on the recent sanctions against leaders of the People's Republics. Those sanctions "do not contribute to the atmosphere that is necessary for political dialogue". "Nowadays, I think everyone already know and recognize, including the European Union that Ukraine's problem has no military solution. Solution can only be political, but a political solution can only be achieved through a political dialogue. And it turns out that those people with whom this political dialogue should be conducted and who are really controlling the situation in the east are subject to sanctions. What is the logic? These measures are deprived of any logic," he added.
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Pakistan: IDPs are our national heroes: Asif Ali Zardari

Former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has said that the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are our national heroes, says media report.
In a statement, Asif Ali Zardari said that the government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) handled the IDPs issue properly during the Swat Operation and they were sent home early.
He also stated that they took care of the people during the floods and took United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on board.
Zardari said that war on terrorism is the conflict of the entire world and the international community should come to Pakistan’s help.
The former President added that the government should leave their ego behind and mobilize the NGOs, civil society and the entire nation.
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Full audit of Afghanistan presidential votes delayed

The independent election commission (IEC) officials informed of a delay regarding the full audit of votes from the runoff presidential election.
IEC Chief, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said the independent election commission could not start the full audit of the votes as the agreement between the two presidential contenders was reached without considering the issues of the election commission. Nuristani further added that the UN mission in Afghanistan has also requested to delay the audit of the votes until the international election observers arrives.
He said the audit of the votes is expected to start on Wednesday once the international election observers arrives in Kabul.
Nuristani also added that the election commission is busy with the preparation of the operational programs for the audit fo the votes.
The agreement to fully audit the runoff election votes was reached between the two presidential contenders following the mediation of the US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The two candidates agreed that the audit process should take place in Kabul and all the votes from the capital and other provinces will be audited in Kabul. Nuristani said the preparations for the operational launch of the votes audit will be completed by Tuesday and practical audit will be launched on coming Wednesday.
The observers of the two electoral teams will also monitor the votes audit and the two candidates have vowed to abide by the results of the extensive audit.

Pakistani Shia High Court Judges Receive Death Threats
Three Pakistani Shia judges of the Lahore High Court have received death threats from a banned sectarian organisation prompting the government to enhance their security.
A senior Punjab police officer said that the three Shia judges of High Court here had recently received threatening letters from unnamed person or organisation.
“However, the law enforcement agencies are suspecting anti-Shia organisation – Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – behind the threats to Justice Ali Baqar Najfi, Justice Muzahir Ali Naqvi and Justice Mazhar Iqbal,” he said. Additional police personnel have also been deployed at the court’s entry and exit points and outside the courtrooms. “The Elite Force commandos have also been deployed for the security of the three judges,” the official said.
According to the Lahore police, top Shia professionals have threats to their lives.
“There has been a general threat perception to top Shia professionals. The police could only provide security to those who have received threats from any sectarian group,” the official said. Three eminent Shia figures, an eye surgeon, a chartered accountant and a lawyer, were recently killed in Lahore. Shia organisation, Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen spokesman Muzahir Shigri told PTI that the three Shias died in targeted killings, pointing a finger at the LeJ.
“All the prominent Shia personalities including professionals are under threat from the banned sectarian groups especially LeJ and government must provide them security and take action against it (LeJ),” he said.
Shias make up about 20 per cent of Sunni-majority Pakistan’s population. They face religious persecution as many consider them to be heretics.

Human Rights Watch Urges Sri Lanka Not To Deport Pakistani Christian Asylum Seekers

A primary Human Rights Group calls on the Sri Lankan government to halt its moves to deport the Pakisani asylum seekers arrested in the country.
Human Rights Watch has urged the Sri Lankan Government to suspend moves to deport Pakistani asylum seekers arrested in the country. These Pakistani Assylum seekers include troubled Pakistani Christians and Muslims fleeing from Pakistan as result of growing persecution on religious bases.
Human Rights Watch said: at least 142 Pakistanis arrested in police raids in Sri Lanka in June 2014 are at risk of deportation. The Sri Lankan Controller General of Immigration and Emigration should not deport members of Pakistani minority groups until the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has had full access to them and determined their need for international protection. The majority of them are members of the Ahmadiyya minority, though the detainees also include Christians and Shia Muslims. UNHCR has not had access to the detainees, who are being held in Boosa detention centre.
Significantly, the UN refugee agency has previously acknowledged at least six of the group as refugees. Conversely, some of the media reports quoted the Immigration Controller Chulananda Perera as saying: the government was able to deport the detained Pakistanis because it had not given them permission to register asylum claims.
Bill Frelick-Director for refugees at Human Rights Watch said: Sri Lankan authorities are threatening Pakistani minority group members with deportation at the very time when persecution of these groups is escalating in Pakistan, preventing asylum seekers from lodging claims in no way absolves Sri Lanka from its duty not to return them to possible persecution.
However, under the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ in international law, governments are forbidden to force the refugees to return to the places where they would be at severe risk of persecution or other serious harm. Nonetheless, the Sri Lankan government has taken effective moves to deport these Pakistanis which are manifestly against the principle which may cause the deported asylum seekers some serious harm upon return.
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Pakistan: Ahmadi Muslim man shot dead in Nawabshah, Sindh

The victim, 38 years old Imtiaz Ahmad, was standing in front of a business he owned in Trunk Bazar when he was struck by a bullet to his head.
An Ahmadi man was murdered today in Nawabshah, a town 170 miles northeast of the Pakistani port city of Karachi in the Sindh province.
According to a statement issued via the micro-blogging website, Twitter, the press department of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan said that the victim, 38 years old Imtiaz Ahmad, was standing in front of the business he owned in Trunk Bazar when he was struck by a bullet to his head.
Nawabshah, situated in Shaheed Benazir Abad District (so named after the murder of Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan) has a bloody history with numerous Ahmadī murders.
Although the cause of Imtiaz Ahmad’s murder has not been formally determined, the victim’s family has endured faith-based murders in the past.
Victim’s uncle, Seth Muhamad Yousaf was gunned down in Nawabshah because of his faith after the airing of a TV episode, Aalim Online, where an infamous hate preacher had facilitated issuance of a fatwa to murder Ahmadīs because they were apostates.
Seth Yousaf was the local Ahmadiyya community president when he was murdered in September 2008.
According to local reports, Seth Yousaf’s son, Asif Daud, was also targeted a few months ago but luckily he escaped the murder attempt.

Lahore experiencing unannounced load shedding

There is no respite for the residents of Lahore in the holy month of Ramzan as unannounced load shedding continues in the city.
Residents of the city and surrounding areas have to face 14-16 hours of unannounced load shedding. The power outages are taking place during Sehri and Iftar despite promises made by the government.
People complain that due to a lack of sleep at night and businesses remaining closed during the day they are falling victim to mental distress.
Residents of Lahore say that even if there is electricity they cannot operate any machines due to low voltage.

The world celebrates Malala Day

Video: Malala campaigns on behalf of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria

Malala's Mission: 'Bring Back Our Girls, Now and Alive'


ABC News | ABC Sports News
The most famous schoolgirl in the world, Malala Yousafzai, is bringing worldwide attention to the plight of the more than 250 young girls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Arriving in Abuja on her 17th birthday, Malala had a series of meetings Sunday with desperate parents and with girls who had escaped the kidnapping. Her one birthday wish: "Bring back our girls, now and alive." Parents of the missing girls made a 20-hour journey through dangerous territory in northern Nigeria, risking their lives to meet with the Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school.
In an emotional meeting, 11 fathers and one mother shared their grief and frustrations that their daughters had not been found after 90 days in the forest. They described going into the forest themselves, with bows and arrows, to rescue their daughters, but being told to turn back because they might not come back alive. "All they are asking for is for the government to search for their daughters," Hadiza Usman of the Bring Back Our Girls movement said. "They feel neglected and abandoned." Many of the parents sobbed as they talked of their missing daughters, saying they were so worried they couldn't work or even eat. Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, cried, too, remembering how it felt to almost lose his own daughter. "When she was shot, her mother said it would have been worse if they had kidnapped her," he said. "But there is hope. We must be hopeful." Malala said, "When I was hearing the story of the girls being kidnapped on Twitter, it was everywhere, but I did not really know what the parents would be feeling. And then I came here and I met the parents and all of them crying. And it just made me cry and my father was crying as well."
A Message for the President
Malala, who now lives in Great Britain for her safety, promised the desperate parents that she would be their voice when she meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan today.
The president has been widely criticized for being unable to contain a string of terrorist attacks by Boko Haram, or find any of the more than 250 missing schoolgirls.
Despite the pressure of being just a 17-year-old girl going before the president of a country to speak her mind, Malala expressed optimism that she will be able to have an effect.
"I'm very hopeful that my voice will have an impact and it will reach to the President and he will take action, and I'm hopeful that the voice of those parents who were crying and those girls who were sharing their feelings with me," Malala said. "I'm hopeful that he will listen to it carefully and I'm feeling a bit confident because these people are with me. And I'm representing the people -- the people of Nigeria."
Malala was also representing the girls abducted by Boko Haram. On Sunday she spoke with five school girls, ages 16 to 18, who escaped shortly after they were kidnapped. They shared their devastating stories. Kauna Bitrus, 16, described how her father was shot and killed by Boko Haram; her mother and sister were also shot and injured. Hauwa, 18, said she still limps after jumping from the speeding Boko Haram truck that was taking her away. She says she has nightmares every night, but wants to go back to school to become a lawyer.
Rebecca Ishaku, 18, said she is afraid to go to school, even though she wants to learn. She said she still has hope that her classmates will be found.
She also talked about what it meant to her and the others who escaped the kidnappers to have Malala speaking to the president. "She makes us happy because of what she said," Ishaku said. "She goes and tell our president, 'Bring back our girls.'" Malala to Boko Haram: 'Think About Your Sisters' But Malala said that she not only had a message for the president, she had one for Boko Haram, if they were listening to her words.
"My simple message to Boko Haram is to think about your own sisters. ... They should understand that what they are doing is badly impacting, badly affecting the name of Islam," Malala answered. "It's not the real Islam. So they should think about their own sisters and they should release those girls. It's a request. It’s a request. Please."
But instead, Boko Haram marked the third month of the girls’ captivity by releasing a video Sunday showing its leader, Abubakar Shekau, standing in front of armored vehicles, flanked by masked militia, mocking the Bring Back Our Girls movement.
He claimed responsibility for three bombings last month, and said the schoolgirls would not be freed until the Nigerian government released the “army” of Boko Haram extremists in jail, saying sarcastically, "Oooh, bring back our army." In the end, Malala said she believes words are stronger than armies.
She is launching a new hashtag today, #StrongerThan, celebrating the courage and sacrifice of the kidnapped girls.
"My voice and the voice of these girls here in Nigeria and the voice of the parents is more powerful than any weapon here on earth," Malala said.
"And it was our voice that defeated terrorism in Pakistan in Swat Valley and here it is going to be our voice that will defeat all the terrorist activities and all the terrorism here."

Pakistani journalist jailed in Afghanistan

An Afghanistan court has sentenced a Pakistani journalist to four years imprisonment after finding him guilty of traveling to Nangarhar province without proper documentation, according to an official spokesman for the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul.
“A court in Nangarhar informed the embassy that Faizullah Khan, working for ARY News as a reporter, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment for entering Afghanistan without proper documentation,” said Akhtar Munir.
According to Munir, Khan was arrested in April. “Afghan officials have informed Abrar Hussain, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, that Khan was arrested by police in Nangarhar province in April 2014 after he failed to prove that he had entered Afghanistan with proper documentation,” he added.
“Khan had also been accused of espionage but the court dropped those charges and instead found him guilty of illegal entry to Afghanistan,” said Munir. The spokesman said the embassy was pursuing the case and would provide legal assistance to Khan to secure his freedom. “The ambassador has met cabinet members from Nangarhar … we are positive we can secure his release,” he added.
Akbar Achakzai, an Afghan journalist, said Khan had entered Nangarhar province to interview senior members of the Taliban, and was detained by police shortly after his arrival.
Both the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have condemned Khan’s detention and called on Islamabad and Kabul to ensure his safe return.

Pakistan: Cross-border attack

Two soldiers and a captain were killed and two more soldiers wounded in an attack on a check post in the Bajaur tribal Agency from across the border by about two dozen militants armed with sophisticated weapons on Saturday. The pre-dawn attack was reportedly initiated by a rocket attack that hit the check post and led to the deaths and injuries. Although an unnamed senior government official bravely claimed that the militants were forced to flee after troops resisted, the truth probably lies in the very nature of such guerilla attacks, which are broken off after the element of initial surprise is exhausted and before the military can call for an effective response locally as well as through reinforcements, including the possibility of air power. The way such attacks play out therefore is more likely to be a swift, short assault, followed by a breaking off and retreat before the military can bring its superior force to bear. Although there is so far no claim of responsibility, it is reasonable to assume that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is behind the attack. The reason this assumption has weight is that such attacks are not new. After Mulla Fazlullah fled Swat in the wake of the military operation in 2009 and found refuge across the border in Afghanistan, reportedly thanks to the ‘generosity’ of the Haqqani network, cross-border attacks by much larger contingents have been mounted from time to time. If the reports about thousands of TTP fighters having crossed over into Afghanistan in anticipation of Operation Zarb-e-Azb are correct, it is logical to assume that the Haqqani network may have extended their hospitality to the new arrivals like the old and offered them safe havens from which they can operate against the Pakistani military across the border. It should not be forgotten that Mulla Fazlullah, formerly the leader of the Swat Taliban, today is the anointed chief of the TTP. As far as Operation Zarb-e-Azb is concerned, the initial euphoria regarding the military’s long overdue offensive has quickly dissipated because of concerns regarding the manner in which the operation has been mounted and is being pursued. The loud announcements of the offensive even before it began lost for the military the element of surprise. The cordon thrown around areas of concentration of the Taliban suffered from being too little too late and unable to completely close the trap. The result was that many TTP fighters moved into other tribal Agencies, just like they did during the 2010 South Waziristan offensive, or made their way across the Afghan border in order to live to fight another day. Like in previous military campaigns in FATA, the failure to secure and cut off escape routes for the guerrillas on a theatre-wise basis may turn out once again to prove a fatal flaw in the strategy. It can be surmised that the reported falling out of the military establishment with the Haqqani network may have had something to do with the latter’s earlier protection accorded to Mulla Fazlullah, and now the current crop of fleeing fighters. If this analysis is correct, Pakistan must brace for more such attacks, perhaps on a bigger scale and with increasing frequency, a campaign helped immeasurably by the long, porous border and the forbidding terrain.
Given the above, this promises to be a long war, irrespective of the military’s claims that it has by now cleared Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. If the pictures of the main bazaar of Miranshah after the military’s endeavours are perused, it looks like a shell-shocked moonscape, with no sign of human or any other form of life. Retreat in the face of superior force is a sine qua non for guerrilla warfare. One more reason why cross-border attacks may increase is the situation inside Afghanistan in the run up to the withdrawal of foreign troops. As that presence thins incrementally, the Taliban will mount probing attacks on the Afghan army as they have done in recent days in Helmand and Kandahar. Not only is the Afghan army’s resilience a big question mark, the current impasse over the Afghan presidential run-off elections, despite the mediatory efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry in getting the rival candidates to accept a UN-supervised recount of the disputed results, can feed into ethnic divisions that may eventually impact the ranks of the Afghan army too. With already tenuous control over most of its territory, including the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas, it seems ironic if not laughable for the Pakistan foreign office to wax indignant over the attack and ‘call’ upon the Afghan authorities to prevent such attacks and cooperate with Pakistan’s ongoing operation against the TTP. Even were they able, it is not clear the Afghan authorities have any love lost for what they see as their Pakistani tormentors of long standing. Pakistan therefore will have to rethink its defence of its western border on its own.

Agony of Pakistani women enslaved by Dubai sex trade
Victims reveal horror that awaited them at Dubai
Zunera, 16 once dreamed of becoming a computer engineer. Instead, the bright-eyed girl was tricked into prostitution in the UAE, beginning a four-year nightmare of cruelty, violence and rape.
Pakistan has long been an important source of cheap labour for the Gulf state, particularly its booming construction sector. But campaigners and officials say hundreds of young Pakistani women are also trafficked every year to supply the thriving sex trade in the brothels and nightclubs of Dubai.
Zunera and her sister Shaista were two of them. More than a year after she escaped, Zunera's pain is still etched into her stumbling, hesitant voice – and also into her body, which bears the marks of countless beatings. Vivid, angry scars run the length of her legs from ankle to hip, reminders of a botched operation after she was shot three times by the gang who trafficked her.
Zunera and Shaista managed to escape their tormentors in 2013 but still live in hiding in a two-room house in a slum, fearing revenge attacks. AFP is withholding their full names and precise whereabouts for their safety. Their ordeal began in her hometown in Punjab province, when the family got into money trouble and a neighbour named Ayesha offered the sisters domestic work.
After a while Ayesha suggested she take the sisters to Dubai to work in her beauty parlour, getting fake papers to help the underage Zunera leave Pakistan. Shaista is so traumatised by her experiences she can barely recount her harrowing ordeal. Fighting back tears, Zunera revealed the horror that awaited them at Dubai.
“Ayesha took us to the lavatories at the airport and told us that we will be serving her clients for sex,” Zunera told AFP. "We started crying and then she told us that we travelled on fake documents and if we said anything we would be handed over to police right there." Faced with no alternative, the sisters went with Ayesha, thinking they could just avoid having sex with the clients.
"The first time, she herself was present in the room and made us do what the clients wanted. We were raped in front of her and with her assistance," Zunera said. After that, Ayesha told the clients to keep their cell phones connected to her number during the intercourse so she could hear what was happening – and if they were refusing to cooperate.
"She used to torture us whenever we refused to perform certain sexual acts, and she told us that she knew whatever had happened inside the bedroom," Zunera said. The women were not allowed to go out or even speak to one another freely. They could speak to their family in Pakistan by phone occasionally, but under duress.
"She used to beat one of us and ask the other sister to talk on phone to our parents, threatening to kill us if we revealed anything about the brothel," Zunera recalled. From time to time, Ayesha brought the women back to Pakistan to renew their visas, frightening them into silence by telling them she would kill their whole families if they revealed the life they had been tricked into.
But eventually in March 2013 the sisters plucked up the courage to share their ordeal to their elder sister Qamar, who eventually obtained their freedom – but at a cost. "The brother of Ayesha and the younger brother of her husband came to our house. They fired three shots which hit me,” Zunera said. "In hospital, she sent policemen who harassed me and asked me to start walking despite the fact that my leg had undergone surgery.”
The family fled from the hospital and went into hiding because their neighbours also started abusing them for being prostitutes. Zunera's family approached a court to try to crack trafficking ring run by Ayesha and her husband Ashfaq. The court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to act but the case has since made little progress.
Lawyer Zulfiqar Ali Bhutta, who is fighting Zunera's case, says the trafficking gangs often have influential connections to politicians and the police. "Several gangs smuggle dozens of young girls from Pakistan to Dubai for prostitution every week. Nobody takes action against them," Bhutta said. "The main accused in this case, Ashfaq, fled from the court in front of FIA officials. They did not arrest him despite the court cancelling his bail," he said.
A recent US State Department report on people smuggling said the UAE government was making significant efforts to tackle sex trafficking, pointing to prosecutions and protection offered to victims. In 2013, the US report said the UAE government identified 40 victims and referred them to state-funded shelters.
But if the UAE authorities are keen to confront the problem in Pakistan indifference reigns. "It is true that hundreds of girls are being taken to Dubai for work in beauty parlours, in music and dance troupes, but there is no proof that any of them has been smuggled for prostitution," said Syed Shahid Hassan, deputy director at FIA Faisalabad. For Zunera and Shaista, their ordeal has abated but not ended.
Ayesha has surrendered to a court but been freed on bail. The sisters now live in constant fear that a gunman will come back for them.

Pakistan: August 14 should not be politicized
The opposition leader, Syed Khursheed Shah has urged the government and Imran Khan not to politicize the August 14-like national day.
Talking to media at his residence in Sukkur, he said, “We will not become a part of any protest, we have already mentioned this thing and if we are invited at any function by the government on the day then we will think about it.” He said, “We took a political decision and brought down the dictator (Musharraf) from power. The decision was democratic and all our decisions will be democratic.”
He further said that if PML-N had registered a case against Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 from October 12, 1999 then it would not see such days.
Talking about aggression of Israel, he said that PPP condemns the bombardment of Israel in Ghaza and requested the government to denounce it and raise the issue in the United Nations.