The diplomat didn’t give details of the results of the talks but noted that "good and open exchanges of views" took place. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for South Korea's Foreign Ministry told The Wall Street Journal that Seoul hasn't committed to any sanctions against Russia. The representative added the talks with US officials involved not only Russia but also other issues, including Iran. On Tuesday, the Chosun Libo newspaper reported that Peter Harrell of the US State Department arrived in Seoul in order to persuade South Korea to impose sanctions against Russia. The same day, the United States as well as the European Union announced new rounds of sanctions against Russia, once again accusing Moscow of supporting militia forces in eastern Ukraine.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
India has so far been able to ignore Washington's imperative to turn its back on Russia in a bid to tighten US sanctions grip after the Indian foreign policy chief said Thursday the nation’s policy toward Moscow remained unchanged. “There is no change in our policy. We think that foreign policy is in continuity. Foreign policy does not change with the change in the government,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a comment on India’s relations with Russia following the deadly crash of the Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine. On Thursday, Sushma Swaraj met in New Delhi with US Secretary of State John Kerry who is on a mission to restore America’s crumbling ties with India in the wake of the NSA phone hacking scandal. Talking about US sanctions on Russia, Kerry said Washington “will obviously welcome India joining in with respect to [sanctions] but its India's choice.” The United States is reportedly mounting a campaign in Southeast Asia to press some of its nations into toeing US line on Russia, according to The Wall Street Journal. On Wednesday, the daily cited a senior US State Department official as saying he had met government officials in China, Singapore and South Korea this week to provide “a briefing on what we've done, answering questions and seeking support,” according to the report. "It's certainly our hope that countries in this region — which includes many significant financial and commercial centers — would join us in putting pressure [on Russia]," the senior official said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that he still hoped for a compromise to end India's opposition to a global deal that would address its concerns and help advance trade liberalization, just hours before a deadline passed. New Delhi has insisted that, in exchange for signing a trade facilitation agreement worked out in Bali last year, it must see more progress on a parallel pact giving it more freedom to subsidize and stockpile food grains than is allowed by World Trade Organization rules. "We are obviously encouraging our friends in India to try to find a path here where there is a compromise that meets both needs, and we think that's achievable. We hope that it's achievable," Kerry told reporters after talks with Indian leaders as part of an annual strategic dialogue. India's new nationalist government has demanded a halt to a globally agreed timetable on new customs rules and said a permanent agreement on food stockpiling and subsidies aimed at supporting the poor must be in place at the same time, well ahead of a 2017 target set last December in Bali. "Our feeling obviously is that the agreement that was reached in Bali is an agreement that, importantly, can provide for food security for India," Kerry said. "We do not dismiss the concerns India has about (the) large number of poor people who require some sort of food assurance," he said. Kerry, who was accompanied by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, held talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in a bid to revitalize ties that have soured over differences on trade, climate change and slowing Indian reforms.
He will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. The Indian leader, who swept to office in May with the strongest mandate in 30 years, is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama in September.
Factions including Ansar al-Sharia say they have taken over Libyan city after defeating forces of renegade general.
Armed groups claimed to have taken control of Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, after defeating units loyal to a renegade general, taking over thei barracks and seizing tanks, rockets and hundreds of boxes of ammunition.The main police headquarters was on Thursday still smoldering after it was hit by shelling a day earlier, and smoke rose from the barracks of al-Saiqa soldiers loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, once the strongest security body in the city until it was overrun earlier this week.
The armed groups' sweep through Benghazi was a heavy reversal for Haftar, who for months had led his loyalists in a self-declared campaign to stamp out "terrorists" and "extremists".His forces now appeared to only hold the airport on the city's edges.
Those opposing him belong to a newly-formed umbrella group called Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, made up of multiple armed factions.Among the factions is Ansar al-Sharia, the group accused by the US of leading a September 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic facility in the city that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.
"We are the only force on the ground in Benghazi,'' a commander of one of the coalition's factions told the AP news agency on Thursday.
He said the coalition's fighters had driven all fighters loyal to Haftar out the city, and congratulated his followers on their "victory and conquest".
The Shura Council was formed after US troops abducted a top commander, Ahmed Abu-Khatala, and accused him of involvement in the attack on the US embassy.
On July 14, the coalition said it took over a Benghazi army barracks that is one of the biggest in eastern Libya, called Barracks 319. Over the past week, they took control of more than five other barracks, including the Saiqa camp.
Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting.
Not this time.
After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents. “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.” Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.
But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”
“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked.
The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.
But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.
Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region, just as it has since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood one year ago. (Egyptian prosecutors have charged Hamas with instigating violence in Egypt, killing its soldiers and police officers, and even breaking Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 2011 uprising.)The diatribes against Hamas by at least one popular pro-government talk show host in Egypt were so extreme that the government of Israel broadcast some of them into Gaza.“They use it to say, ‘See, your supposed friends are encouraging us to kill you!’ ” Maisam Abumorr, a Palestinian student in Gaza City, said in a telephone interview.Some pro-government Egyptian talk shows broadcast in Gaza “are saying the Egyptian Army should help the Israeli Army get rid of Hamas,” she said.At the same time, Egypt has infuriated Gazans by continuing its policy of shutting down tunnels used for cross-border smuggling into the Gaza Strip and keeping border crossings closed, exacerbating a scarcity of food, water and medical supplies after three weeks of fighting.“Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, and the Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews,” said Salhan al-Hirish, a storekeeper in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. “They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, and now they are going after Hamas.”Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas. For Washington, the shift poses new obstacles to its efforts to end the fighting. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies continue to talk with Hamas, as they did under former President Hosni Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, Cairo’s new animosity toward the group has called into question the effectiveness of that channel, especially after the response to Egypt’s first proposal. As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.For Israeli hawks, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating.“The reading here is that, aside from Hamas and Qatar, most of the Arab governments are either indifferent or willing to follow the leadership of Egypt,” said Martin Kramer, president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and an American-Israeli scholar of Islamist and Arab politics. “No one in the Arab world is going to the Americans and telling them, ‘Stop it now,’ ” as Saudi Arabia did, for example, in response to earlier Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians, he said. “That gives the Israelis leeway.”With the resurgence of the anti-Islamist, military-backed government in Cairo, Mr. Kramer said, the new Egyptian government and allies like Saudi Arabia appear to believe that “the Palestinian people are to bear the suffering in order to defeat Hamas, because Hamas cannot be allowed to triumph and cannot be allowed to emerge as the most powerful Palestinian player.”Egyptian officials disputed that characterization, arguing that the new government was maintaining its support for the Palestinian people despite its deteriorating relations with Hamas, and that it had grown no closer to Israel than it was under Mr. Morsi or Mr. Mubarak. “We have a historical responsibility toward the Palestinians, and that is not related to our stance on any specific faction,” said a senior Egyptian diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. “Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Palestine.”Egyptian officials noted that the Egyptian military and the Red Crescent had delivered medical supplies and other aid to Gaza. Cairo continues to keep open lines of communication with Hamas, including allowing a senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouq, to reside in Cairo.Other analysts, though, argued that Egypt and its Arab allies were trying to balance their own overriding dislike for Hamas against their citizens’ emotional support for the Palestinians, a balancing act that could grow more challenging as the Gaza carnage mounts. “But I am not sure the story is finished at this point.”
In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm.All around the world, individuals were subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse, perpetrated and sanctioned violence for simply exercising their faith, identifying with a certain religion, or choosing not to believe in a higher deity at all. Militants in Pakistan killed more than 400 Shia Muslims in sectarian attacks throughout the year and more than 80 Christians in a single church bombing; the government arrested and jailed a number of those responsible for sectarian attacks, but it generally failed to prevent attacks.
In Pakistan, authorities continue to enforce blasphemy laws and laws designed to marginalize the Ahmadiyya Muslim community; these laws continued to restrict religious freedom, and remained the most visible symbols of religious intolerance.On International Religious Freedom Day, Secretary Kerry stressed that “nations that protect this fundamental freedom will have the partnership of the United States and the abiding commitment of the American people as we seek to advance freedom of religion worldwide.” It is our hope that this year’s report not only identifies the abuses, problems and violations, but also sparks the areas for change, action, and accountability. We invite governments, community groups, faith-based and secular organizations, students, activists, human rights defenders, change makers and every-day citizens to use this report to defend and advance international religious freedom, a universal right which we are all entitled. - See more at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper
http://www.abna.ir/Two Shia Scouts martyred in SSP terrorist attack in Quetta on Eid Day Two Shia Scouts embraced martyrdom due to a targeted attack on their lives by militants of Sipah-e-Sahaba in Quetta on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. The terrorists opened fire upon Syed Zakir Hussain and Syed Jawad Hussain on Sabzal Road in Quetta. They were martyred due to fatal wounds. Shia trader embraces martyrdom in Karachi
Shia trader, who was seriously injured due to terrorist attack by Sipah-e-Sahaba militants during Ramadan, breathed his last in hospital on Wednesday, second day of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Noman Raza Abidi, a Shia trader of Kareemabad was ambushed near Sohni Mobile Market in Kareemabad of Karachi’s district central. He was under treatment since July 22 (Ramadan 23) at the hospital where he breathed his last on Wednesday.
Shia parties and leaders have condemned the genocide against Shiites. They vowed, they would not sit in comfort and would do everything they can, to stop Shia genocide in Pakistan. They demanded the government to order military for countrywide operation against banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi now renamed as ASWJ and all their affiliated takfiri terrorists. They also demanded public hanging of the condemned terrorists.
http://www.ucanews.com/Pakistan's government must investigate the deadly attack on the minority Ahmadi community in Punjab province, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Amnesty called on citizens to write Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, "urging them to investigate the mob violence." The violent attack occurred on July 27 after an Ahmadi youth posted a picture on the social networking site Facebook that was deemed blasphemous. A 55-year-old woman and two young children were killed in the attack. One of the injured, a pregnant woman, later miscarried in the hospital. Amnesty also urged people to call on authorities to ensure no charges of blasphemy are brought against members of the Ahmadi community. Saleem ud Din, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said state authorities are not investigating the case, even though the community has identified numerous suspects. "Those involved in the brutal attack are roaming free in the city while the Ahmadi people are still in hiding due to fear and the tense situation," he said. The Ahmadi community are a religious minority that consider themselves Muslim but are regarded as heretics by most Muslims in Pakistan. They were declared non-Muslims by a constitutional amendment in 1974. In the 1980s, Pakistan's government made it a crime for the Ahmadis to publicly preach or claim they are Muslim, an offense carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death under blasphemy laws. Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission said the attack on the Ahmadi community "represents brutalization and barbarism stooping to new lows". "The people who were killed were not even indirectly accused of the blasphemy charge. Their only fault was that they were Ahmadi. Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalization and barbarism stooping to new lows." Read more at: http://www.ucanews.com/news/amnesty-calls-for-probe-into-pakistan-ahmadi-attack/71560
What do the parents think? That's always a crucial question when it comes to vaccinating kids. And it's particularly important in Pakistan, which is one of the last places in the world where the polio virus is still making kids sick.Health workers in Pakistan are trying to convince millions of parents to allow their children take the polio vaccine. But the program faces vehement — and at times violent — opposition. So researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently did a poll to find out if parents are part of the problem. The results surprised them. Imagine you're a parent in northwest Pakistan. You live in a remote village, perhaps in a mud hut on top of a mountain. Every few weeks some strangers carrying vials of a clear liquid come knocking on your door. "Frankly, if someone came to my house and said, 'You know, you don't know me from Adam, but I'd like to vaccinate your child,' I wouldn't let them," says Sona Bari, of the World Health Organization. But eradicating polio worldwide depends on these parents in Pakistan saying yes. Strangers showing up at your door isn't the only hurdle to getting children vaccinated. In Pakistan, the Taliban threaten to kill parents who immunize their kids. More than 60 vaccinators have already been killed in the past two years.
Delivering a very strong message to the country's hostile neighbour, the outgoing Army chief General Bikram Singh on Thursday said that his men have avenged the beheading of Indian jawans by the Pakistani troops last year. “We have responded to Pakistan at a tactical level to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in future,” Gen Singh said during a farewell ceremony held here. "We are carrying out tactical operations at the LoC. It is an ongoing process and our soldiers are doing their job...," General Bikram Singh added. When pressed by the reporters to elaborate on the issue, Gen Singh said, “It was done by the local commanders.” On the use of force against Pakistan, he said, “We have always responded to Pakistan at the tactical level on the borders. Use of force has been from tactical to operational to strategic level.” Gen Singh also praised the 1.3 million strong Indian Army and said that it is prepared to take on any challenge. “Indian soldiers are prepared for the line of duty, up for any challenge,” Bikram Singh said. The outgoing Army Chief also extended his good wishes to his successor Dalbir Singh Suhag and said that the Indian Army under him will reach unparalleled heights. "Army is a robust organisation, very very accountable, very responsive, very potent and a very relevant instrument of national power with the capability to take up any challenges," the outgoing army chief said. Lt. Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, whose appointment as Army chief had kicked up a row, today took over as the next head of the 1.3 million strong force succeeding General. Bikram Singh. Gen Singh also visited the Amar Jawan Jyoti before demitting office. After paying tribute to the martyred Indian soldiers, Gen Singh wrote a few words in the visitor's book before departing from the venue. On January 8, 2013, an Indian soldier Hemraj was beheaded by the Pakistani troops in the Mendhar area of Jammu and Kashmir – an incident which further strained the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Gen Bikram Singh had then warned Pakistan, saying India reserves the right to retaliate at the "time and place" of its choosing. Gen Singh also said the beheading was "unacceptable" and "most unpardonable" and the troops would respond immediately, aggressively and offensively if provoked.
War on the Rocks
Myra MacDonaldIf you think reconciling the Israelis and Palestinians is hard, try the Indians and Pakistanis. The latest war in Gaza has laid bare India’s and Pakistan’s different views about the Middle East, revealing a great deal about how these countries view themselves and each other. The newly elected Indian government of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become more confident about showing sympathy for Israel, bringing to the surface a relationship that has been growing for more than two decades. Pakistan refuses to recognize the Jewish state and its outrage over Palestinian deaths in Gaza is colored by its identity as a country bristling to defend the rights of Muslims around the world, from Palestine to Kashmir. These different worldviews could ultimately exacerbate the historical animosity between the two countries, and pit the pro-Israel Hindu right in India against the hawkish pro-military establishment in Pakistan. In the early decades after independence in 1947, it was India rather than Pakistan that was particularly vocal about the Palestinian cause. The partition of Palestine to create the state of Israel in 1948, coming just one year after British India was partitioned to create Pakistan, was seen in South Asia as a legacy of British imperialism. India’s commitment to champion the Palestinian cause fitted, therefore, with the anti-colonial spirit of the Non-Aligned Movement of which it was a leading member. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — disliked by Pakistan for her role in its defeat in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh — got on particularly well with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat. In addition to its anti-colonial stance, India had powerful domestic political reasons for supporting the Palestinian cause. The Israel–Palestine conflict is viewed monolithically in South Asia as one primarily between Muslims and non-Muslims. Indian governments, wary of alienating Muslim voters who make up roughly 14% of the electorate, had an incentive to side with the Palestinians. Finally, India was determined to prove its secular credentials. Support for the Palestinians — which was then a leftist cause — was one way for governments in New Delhi to show they could fairly represent both Hindus and Muslims, thus demonstrating that Pakistan had been wrong to insist on the need for a separate homeland for Muslims.
While Pakistan also viewed Israel as having been imposed on Palestine as a result of European colonialism, it was nonetheless more circumspect because of its alliance with the United States during the Cold War. Islamabad’s close ties with Washington also meant it was regarded with suspicion by Arab nationalists and kept at arm’s length. Though Pakistan refused to recognise Israel, Pakistani support for the Palestinians in the early decades after 1947 came from the public rather than officials, who had a different message. Its future military ruler, then-Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, massacred Palestinians on behalf of Jordan in the Black September civil war in 1970.
The end of the Cold War, Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat by the United States, and India’s own economic liberalization in 1991, all forced New Delhi into a major reappraisal of its policies towards the Middle East. The ideological approach that inspired the Non-Aligned Movement was replaced by a more pragmatic one designed to secure India’s economic and security interests. After siding mainly with secular Arab nationalists in the past, India began to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Pakistan, to secure its energy needs. Its new pragmatism also led it to give full diplomatic recognition to Israel in 1992. The two countries had much in common in terms of security. Both were status quo powers, with less incentive than their enemies to try to change the existing set-up — Israel when it came to Palestinian statehood and India in its conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir. Both were non-Muslim democracies that faced a threat from Islamist militants. Growing defense and security cooperation between the two countries bore fruit during the border war between India and Pakistan in the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir in 1999. At the time, India was facing sanctions over its nuclear tests the year before. When India ran short of artillery shells, Israel stepped in to supply them. India and Israel have steadily increased defense cooperation ever since. Among other things, Israel provides India with high-tech defense equipment that New Delhi has traditionally failed to get from the United States because of U.S. laws about transferring sensitive equipment. This includes Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control systems that could be used against Pakistan. In contrast to India, Pakistan has become, if anything, more ideological in its worldview. After the independence of Bangladesh undermined the raison d’etre for Pakistan as a homeland for India’s Muslims, it became more strident in asserting its Islamic identity. The anti-colonialism fuelling support for Palestinians was viewed through a distinctly Muslim historical narrative , which implied that undivided India might have been freed from British rule far sooner had its Muslim inhabitants not been let down by the Hindus. This narrative also conflated anti-Hinduism with pan-Islamist sentiment in which Pakistan became the defender of all Muslims. This worldview gained in strength over the years as the Pakistan-run jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan melded into its longstanding anti-India stance. Thus, for example, in one typical textbook for “Pakistan Studies” — a compulsory course in the country’s history and ideology — Hindus under the British Raj were players of a double game who let down the Muslims “on account of their primordial psyche.” The Pakistan Studies textbook, this particular one published in 2012 for use at the Islamia College University, Peshawar links Palestine to Kashmir, describing a resolution of both conflicts as integral to Pakistan’s national interests. Importantly, it stresses that Pakistan is committed to the peaceful resolutions of all conflicts, whitewashing Pakistan’s own role in nurturing Islamist militants to counter India, including in Kashmir. The narrative of victimhood, of a peaceful country forced to defend Muslims against threats both near in India and far in Israel, has served Pakistan’s security establishment well, allowing it to justify a large and politically powerful army. It is also self-perpetuating. Pakistan’s external behaviour — exerting influence through the use of Islamist proxies — has led to such difficult relations with India and Afghanistan that it can reasonably claim to be faced with hostile neighbors on both sides. This in turn empowers the military, reinforcing its role in domestic politics. The national narrative — which enmeshes Palestine and Kashmir, pan-Islamism with anti-Hinduism — has so far proved extremely difficult to challenge, whether in seeking peace with India, demanding a stronger role for democracy, or the full-scale dismantling of militant networks inside Pakistan. The different worldviews of India and Pakistan have been on full display since the latest crisis over Gaza erupted. In New Delhi, the BJP-led government made a show of support for Israel by refusing to allow a resolution in parliament condemning it for the strikes on Gaza. In 2006 , Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat state, visited Israel and promised to return. India’s support for Israel is somewhat hesitant and discreet for now. It voted in favor of a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution launching an investigation into Israeli strikes in Gaza. BJP hawks, however, are calling for India to be much more vocal in supporting Israel. Domestically, the government appears to have room to do so. Having won national parliamentary elections this year despite suspicions over Modi’s role in presiding over the killings of Muslims in communal violence in 2002, the BJP is in a strong position to override any objections at home to warming ties with Israel. Internationally, India has discovered that its relationship with Israel does not prevent it from building ties with Muslim countries, in part due to the Arab world’s own pragmatism and divisions on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and in part reflecting its own growing political and economic clout. Notably, it has been able to improve ties with Saudi Arabia — a country that is militarily close to Pakistan — while maintaining positive relations with Iran, a Saudi and Israeli rival. Growing world anger over high Palestinian civilian casualties might limit India’s public support for Israel in the short term. But the trend is clear. Neither concern about Muslim voters at home, nor traditional “Third Worldism” apply any longer to India’s policies towards Israel. Pakistan responded to the crisis in Gaza by sponsoring the UNHRC resolution setting up an independent commission to investigate Israel’s behavior in Palestinian territory. It also promised to observe a day of mourning for the Palestinians by flying its flag at half-mast. On social media, popular outrage occasionally spilled into outright anti-Semitism — at one point #IfHitlerWasAlive was trending on Twitter in Pakistan. Clearly, Pakistan is not alone in being angered by the scale of Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza. In other Muslim countries, resentment over Israeli policies is usually wrapped together with dislike of the West. Where Pakistan is unusual, however, is in its degree of hostility toward the United States, Israel’s main backer. The two countries have been at odds since the 1990s over Pakistan’s support for the Islamist militants it nurtured to counter India and exert Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led overthrow of the Afghan Taliban in 2001 exacerbated these differences without ever fully bringing them to the surface, so that Pakistani public opinion is both deeply hostile and suspicious of anything the United States says or does. Pakistan also has the distinction of mourning Palestinians rather more than its own people at a time of a major domestic refugee crisis. Close to a million people have registered as internally displaced persons after fleeing a military offensive in North Waziristan and there are increasing reports of civilian casualties in an operation that Pakistan, like Israel, says is to eradicate a threat from terrorism.
As the only country created specifically as a homeland for Muslims, and one that sees itself as an ideological Muslim state defending Muslim rights worldwide, Pakistan is particularly susceptible to the influence of external events. When Muslims are perceived to be ill treated by non-Muslims, in Palestine or Kashmir, Pakistan bristles with the sense of victimhood that allows it to justify maintaining a hyper-nationalist militarized state. In turn, it becomes a country that thrives on conflict, and where the military establishment dominates despite its incomplete transition to democracy. This is not necessarily the intention of many Pakistanis standing up for Gaza, but it is the effect. Outrage over Palestine feeds a carefully cultivated national narrative that wraps it together with perceived ill treatment of Muslims in Kashmir and conflates anti-India sentiment with pan-Islamism. Its stance will have no impact on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict; for all its talk of human rights abuses, Pakistan cannot afford to annoy Saudi Arabia by siding too closely with the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Hamas. The different approaches to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and to the Middle East as a whole, have long been a source of tension between India and Pakistan. By trying to steer a pragmatic course and maintain good relations with all players for its own economic, energy and security interests, India is increasing its diplomatic clout in the Muslim world, the very constituency Pakistan would like to consider its own. In doing so, it is pulling far ahead of its smaller, pricklier neighbor, accentuating Pakistan’s sense of victimhood. India is also using its relationship with Israel to build its high-tech military capabilities, giving Pakistan another cause for anxiety and another reason to prioritise defense spending. While this is a longstanding issue, the latest crisis in Gaza comes at a particularly delicate time for South Asia. Both Kabul and New Delhi fear that as the United States prepares to withdraw more combat troops from the region, Pakistan will step up support for Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Pakistan denies this. Yet in its stridency over Gaza, wearing its support for Palestine as a badge of national honor, Pakistan is showing no sign of stepping away from its national narrative. It is one that leaves no room for pragmatism or compromise. It is not the kind of mood authorities would normally encourage if they planned on making peace with Pakistan’s neighbors. Rather it is one that has spilled into open conflict with India in the past, while reinforcing the power of the military at home.
A recent spate of acid attacks in Balochistan has sparked an impassioned debate about rising Islamisation that is forcing an increasing number of women to stay at home. The horrific crime, which disfigures and often blinds its overwhelmingly female victims, has long been used to settle personal or family scores with hundreds of cases reported every year. But two fresh attacks on consecutive days in the province last week, where until a few years ago such assaults were unheard of, suggests a new pattern is emerging. Last Tuesday, two men on a motorcycle sprayed acid using syringes on two teenage girls who were returning from a market in Mastung town, 40 kilometres from the provincial capital Quetta.
The day before, four women aged between 18 and 50 had suffered the same fate in Quetta, in the market area of Sariab. They were partially burned. “In accordance with our Baloch traditions, they were wrapped in big shawls as well as covering their faces. That... saved (them) from severe injuries,“ said Naz Bibi, mother of two of the victims. Asked about the attackers, she said: “I can only request that they should not treat women in such a cruel way.“ In most acid attack cases around Pakistan, the majority of victims know their attackers. When caught, relatives found guilty speak of punishing their victims for having sullied their “honour” or that of their family with “indecent” behaviour. But, in these latest cases, the victims had no known connection to their assailants — which has led campaigners to suggest the attacks are part of rising religious extremism in the region. Vast and sparsely-populated but rich in resources, Balochistan has long been racked by a separatist insurgency that has staunch leftist secular elements — including strong participation by women — and which reveres Communist icons like Argentine revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. Separatists say the attacks on women are the latest battlefront in an ideological war between the rebels, who are fighting for a greater share of the region's mineral and gas wealth, and state-backed Islamist proxies who want to terrorise the population into acquiescence. “The aim of these inhuman acts is to prevent women from participating in education, as well as social, political and economic aspects of life by creating a climate of terror,” said Jahanzaib Jamaldini, vice president of the Baloch National Party, which is fighting for greater autonomy. This week, three more women suffered injuries to their legs and feet in yet another attack — though police and senior officials have so far said the latest incident was a case of a “family feud”. Mohammad Manzoor, a brother of one of the victims, lamented that the attackers were still at large. “They roam the area on motorcycles and the local people have spotted them, “he said. Militant involvement? In the Sariab district of Quetta, the scene of one of last week's attacks, Islamist groups like the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jammat (ASWJ), are increasingly coming to the fore. Dressed in Arab garb, they are able to roam the area armed with automatic weapons without fear of molestation -- leading many to believe they are given tacit state backing. “ASWJ controls the area with dozens of armed men,” said one young resident, standing under the group's flag as it fluttered in the breeze, adding that their presence scared families into preventing women from being out in public. The group said the accusations were “without any basis”. “We condemn these attacks,” Ramzan Mengal, the group's leader in Balochistan said. The acid attacks also fit a wider pattern of a steady erosion of women's rights, especially in separatist and erstwhile relatively secular strongholds. Al-Furqhan, an obscure militant group, recently appeared in the one-time separatist rebel stronghold of Panjgur district, which borders Iran, threatening private schools over the teaching of girls, according to residents. In an atmosphere rife with fear, no suspects have so far been arrested and no group has claimed responsibility. The first recorded acid attack in Balochistan came in 2010, with two more reported in 2012. Mohammad Aslam, a women's tailor in Sariab, has seen sales drop by three-quarters since the market attack. “Women are afraid to step out of their homes or their men stop them from going,” he said. Shopkeepers in Mastung reported a similar decline in sales. “We fear that such incidents could increase and leave no space for women in an already male-dominated society,” said human rights activist Saima Jawaid.
By AOUN SAHI, SHASHANK BENGALI A six-week Pakistani army offensive has succeeded in disrupting the militant groups that have long enjoyed free rein in the rugged North Waziristan tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, Obama administration officials say. But proof of the operation's success, they say, will be whether groups such as the notorious Haqqani network are allowed to reconstitute themselves in North Waziristan or elsewhere and again plot attacks against U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan or elsewhere. Previous Pakistani offensives in the tribal belt have either ignored groups like the Haqqanis — who are blamed for deadly attacks against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan — or allowed them to return. U.S. military officials believe that top levels of Pakistan's security establishment back the Haqqanis as a proxy force to maintain influence in Afghanistan. But with most U.S. forces withdrawing from Afghanistan at the end of the year, the U.S. military's ability to battle the Haqqani network is expected to diminish sharply. Obama administration officials have pressed Pakistan's military leaders in a series of meetings this month to ensure the group does not escape the current operation.
"We keep telling them they must go after all the terrorists and that they cannot cherry-pick," said a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks. "We've been quite emphatic about that."Pakistan insists that no insurgent groups will be spared in the offensive, which began in mid-June and has resulted in the deaths of more than 500 militants and the seizure of large weapons caches and bomb-making factories, according to unconfirmed Pakistani army reports.
But some officials say that insurgents fled the area before the start of the offensive, which had been rumored for several months. U.S. officials have not received photographs or other visual evidence from Pakistan showing it has directly targeted the Haqqani network. In the end, the senior U.S. official said, "We end up having a good conversation but the bottom line is we have to be convinced there is no reconstituting of terrorist facilities and safe havens."Some analysts believe that Pakistan is taking action now because of a provision in the 2015 Pentagon budget that could withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in counter-terrorism funding unless Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel certifies that Pakistan has "significantly disrupted the safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani network." Now that they have begun such an operation, "the Pakistanis are making an argument in Washington that they should be given continued coalition support," C. Christine Fair, author of "Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War," told the Times of India in an interview this week. Pakistan has received $28 billion in U.S. military and economic aid since 2002, and additional expenditures would be "outrageous," she said.
Pakistan has not given a timetable for the offensive, which began with airstrikes and has proceeded to ground operations in Miram Shah and Mir Ali, the largest towns in North Waziristan, which are now mostly controlled by the military. Pakistani officials declined to comment specifically on the Haqqani network, which analysts regard as one of the most experienced insurgent groups fighting in Afghanistan. The group, led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, is under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban but is seen as being more closely linked to Al Qaeda's central leadership. U.S. military leaders have long believed that Pakistan did not target the Haqqani network before because it does not carry out attacks in Pakistan. Afghan authorities also accuse Pakistan of sparing the Haqqani network in the current offensive, arguing that no senior commander in the group has been reported killed.
Last week, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, alleged that Pakistan's security establishment had shifted Haqqani fighters to safe places before the operation began, prompting swift denials from Pakistani officials.At a news conference the next day, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Afghanistan, whose army is struggling to contain a domestic Taliban insurgency, should take action against militants fleeing over the border from Pakistan. "It is … our expectation that action would be taken on the Afghan side to check the fleeing terrorists and not to allow Afghan territory to be used by anti-Pakistan elements," Chaudhry said. Tribal leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals from the militants have said the Haqqanis and other groups fled North Waziristan in the days before the operation began. With less than one-third of the tribal region reportedly under government control, many fighters are believed to have taken refuge in other areas of North Waziristan, including Datta Khel, the site of recent U.S. drone strikes, and in the thickly forested Shawal valley.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani journalist who closely follows militant groups, said the current operation has displaced the Haqqani network but the insurgents, who typically operate in groups of about 20, would eventually be able to regroup and plot attacks in Afghanistan from elsewhere in the area. "It would take some time for them to establish their training and communication facilities at some other place," he said, and targeting Afghan border provinces such as Khowst and Paktika soon "would not be a problem for them."
Ahmadiyya TimesAn independent religious freedom watchdog panel has welcomed the State Department’s annual religious freedom report and its list of the world’s worst offenders, which had laid dormant for three years. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was created in 1998, and serves as an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom was created in 1998 as an independent, bipartisan body. Public domain image The list of “countries of particular concern” had remained unchanged since 2006 — and hasn’t been formally issued by the State Department since 2011 — when Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan were cited. In April, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the list be doubled to include Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt. Turkmenistan was the only new addition to this year’s CPC list, bringing the total to nine countries. The State Department and the independent USCIRF have often been at odds on who makes the list of worst offenders, and in a statement, USCIRF noted the “disappointing omission” of Pakistan in particular. “Pakistan represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as CPCs,” said USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett. Katrina Lantos Swett serves as Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. On Sunday (July 27) ,a violent mob torched at least eight homes in an Ahmadi Muslim neighborhood in eastern Pakistan after a member of the minority sect was accused of posting a blasphemous photo online. A woman, two children and an unborn baby died in the blaze. Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK reports that since 1984, 244 Ahmadis have been murdered in Pakistan because of their faith. Ahmadi Muslims are considered heretics in Pakistan, and it is a criminal offense for them to identify as Muslim. Those who do may be subject to harsh anti-blasphemy laws, which include the death penalty among other punishments. Other religious minorities, including Shiite Muslims, Sufis, Christians, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Baha’is, have also been subject to attack in the Sunni-majority state. Syria was also left off the CPC list, even as the country’s civil war continues to devolve along sectarian lines. Militants from the Islamic State have persecuted Syria’s Alawite Muslim sect and Christians in Syria and Iraq. The extremist group’s recent ultimatum to Iraqi Christians in Mosul that they convert to Islam or face execution will likely bring further pressure on the State Department to add both countries to its CPC list next year. USCIRF also welcomed Monday’s nomination of a new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein. If confirmed by the Senate, Saperstein would be the first non-Christian to hold the position since its inception in 1998. The post has been empty since October.