Friday, August 8, 2014
Two U.S. F/A-18 jet fighters bombed artillery of Sunni Islamic extremists in Iraq on Friday, escalating America's military involvement more than two years after President Barack Obama brought home forces from the country. Obama authorized "targeted airstrikes" if needed to protect U.S. personnel from fighters with ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. The U.S. military also could use airstrikes to prevent what officials warn could be a genocide of minority groups by the ISIS fighters. Meanwhile, a senior Kurdish official told CNN that ISIS militants captured Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam, just north of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. According to the official, the militant fighters have been using U.S.-made weapons seized from the Iraqi army, including M1 Abrams tanks. There had been conflicting reports about who controlled the dam on the Tigris River, with heavy fighting under way between ISIS fighters and Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga. U.S. officials have warned that a failure of the dam would catastrophic, resulting in flooding all the way to Baghdad. In other fighting, an Iraqi airstrike killed 45 ISIS fighters and injured 60 Friday in the northern town of Sinjar, the country's state-run National Media Center said. Sinjar is the town that ISIS raided last weekend, causing members of the Yazidi minority there to flee into surrounding mountains without food, water or shelter and prompting concerns of a potential genocide.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has issued orders to the police to arrest Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, sources in the Punjab administration told DawnNews on Friday. The orders were issued as PAT workers armed with clubs clashed with policemen in Lahore Model Town, with reports of several people being injured. Sources added that the government has also recommended to the federal government that Qadri’s name should be put in the Exit Control List (ECL). PAT leader Rahiq Abbasi told DawnNews that workers will not allow any attempt to put Dr Qadri under house arrest. He added that the entire nation was watching through the media the atrocities being carried out by the Punjab police against the party workers. Abbasi vowed to turn every street and neighbourhood in Lahore into “a war zone” if the PAT chief is arrested. Speaking to the media, Punjab Law Minister Rana Mashood alleged that the PAT was conspiring to disrupt the ongoing military offensive, Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan Agency. He said that Tahirul Qadri and his supporters had planned to attack seven districts in Punjab. The PML-N leader said that law enforcement forces will not allow the ‘mob’ of Tahirul Qadri to disturb peace in the country. Mashood said there was no place in Pakistan for those who do not abide by the law and the Constitution.
Pakistan: Punjab govt given two-hour ultimatum to remove all barricades as PAT supporters storm Model Town
http://tribune.com.pk/Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers on Friday managed to infiltrate barricades around PAT chief Tahirul Qadri’s residence in Model Town, Express News reported. While talking to the media, PAT spokesperson Qazi Faiz gave a two-hour ultimatum to the Punjab government to remove all barriers in Model Town, warning that upon failure of doing so Youm-e-Shuhda would transform into Youm-e-Inqilab. According to Express News, police have launched a crackdown against PAT workers in Model Town. “If the government doesn’t remove these barriers within two hours, PAT workers will remove them themselves,” said Faiz, adding that Punjab police should allow workers to enter the secretariat peacefully to mark Youm-e-Shuhuda. Earlier, Express News footage showed police running away from protesters as they poured into Model Town. An Express News correspondent present at the location said workers wanted the protests to remain peaceful but were forced by the police to step out and remove the barricades themselves. Earlier today, Qadri urged his supporters to remove all barriers and overcome all obstacles and continue gathering at his residence to transform the future of the country and fight for their rights.
The catastrophe of Iraq has been growing steadily worse for weeks, but by Thursday, it became impossible for the United States and other civilized nations to ignore it. Iraq’s bloodthirsty Sunni extremists were threatening the extermination of tens of thousands of members of religious minorities who have refused to join the fundamentalist Islamic state the terrorist forces want to create. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, drove Christians, Yazidis and other minorities from their homes by giving them a choice between religious conversion or slaughter. There have been reports of scores of civilians being killed. Many of these frightened and desperate people have surged toward the Turkish border and some 40,000 are estimated to be suffering from heat and thirst on Mount Sinjar in northeast Iraq. So it was not surprising to hear President Obama announce Thursday night that the United States was dropping food and water supplies in northeast Iraq and that he had authorized targeted airstrikes against ISIS, if needed. Mr. Obama made a wise policy call, and showed proper caution, by keeping his commitment not to reintroduce American ground troops in Iraq, but humanitarian assistance for the imperiled civilians was necessary. Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said his government had begun providing aid to these Iraqis, including dropping supplies at Sinjar from Iraqi helicopters. Turkey, already inundated with refugees from the Syrian civil war, is building a refugee camp in northern Iraq. An American official told The Times that fear of a “humanitarian catastrophe” had prompted Mr. Obama to consider the airdrops of emergency supplies and airstrikes against militants besieging the mountain. From a political viewpoint, Mr. Obama created credibility problems for himself last year when he raised the strong possibility of military retaliation against Syria for using chemical weapons in the civil war there, then reneged in favor of a diplomatic deal with Russia that forced Syria to give up its stocks of chemical weapons. He ran the danger of compounding that problem if he did not act now. Mr. Obama shaped the issue in terms of a humanitarian crisis — he said ISIS had talked of the destruction of the Yazidis, an ancient sect, and said that would be genocide. He voiced alarm over the rapid gains of ISIS, a brutal former affiliate of Al Qaeda that aims to establish a caliphate across Syria and Iraq that would be governed by a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, and he showed determination to protect American diplomats and other personnel at the consulate in Erbil and at the embassy in Baghdad. The militant forces, battle-hardened, flush with money and weapons, have racked up stunning victories against the well-trained and highly motivated Kurdish pesh merga forces. They were reported to be controlling a checkpoint at the border of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, which is only 30 miles from the government headquarters in Erbil. ISIS also appeared to have captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, which provides electricity for Mosul and controls the water supply for a large territory. Should that structure fail, or be damaged in the conflict, it could flood with catastrophic consequences. Iraqi Kurds were vital allies in the American-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein and continue to have close ties to the American government. Their semiautonomous region — peaceful, prosperous, reasonably well governed and an oil producer — has been the consistent bright spot in Iraq’s tumultuous postinvasion history. It would be a huge blow for the Kurds, Iraq and Turkey, a NATO ally, if ISIS took over the region.
Speaking at the White House, President Obama again pressed Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences. A move by Iraq’s government to appoint a prime minister who could credibly unify the country and lead the counterattack against the extremists has stalled. That division, Mr. Obama said, plays into the terrorists’ hands.
After so many years in Iraq, Americans are justifiably skeptical about what military involvement can accomplish anywhere — and the Middle East is so complicated that even seemingly benign decisions can have unintended consequences.
The United States, Turkey and other allies should move quickly to meet the Kurds’ needs for ammunition and weapons as well as advice on more effectively deploying the pesh merga and integrating Kurdish operations with Iraqi security forces. Under pressure from the United States, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq finally agreed this week to cooperate with the Kurds and to provide air support, and should continue to do so. That will still leave Mr. Obama with the task of framing a broader strategy that involves Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the United Nations, just to start.
The Iraqi ethnic and religious minority descends from some of the region’s most ancient roots and face executions for a reputation as ‘devil worshippers’Reports that Islamic militants have trapped up to 40,000 members of Iraq’s minority communities have spurred the US into considering a military-led humanitarian action. Most of the trapped people are members of the Yazidi religion, one of Iraq’s oldest minorities. They were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar in the Iraqi north-west region, or face slaughter by an encircling group of Islamic State (Isis) jihadists. The UN has said that roughly 40,000 people – many women and children – have taken refuge in nine locations on the mountain, “a craggy, mile-high ridge identified in local legend as the final resting place of Noah’s ark”. Gruesome images of brutally slain people have emerged in the past week, as local officials say that at least 500 Yazidis, including 40 children, have been killed, and many more have been threatened with death. Roughly 130,000 residents of the Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar have fled to Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan to the north, or to Irbil. Reports of violence, repression and murder by Isis and other extremist groups have become increasingly prevalent in Iraq. Christians have also been targeted for their faith. The country’s largest Christian city was all but abandoned on Thursday, as Isis advanced through minority communities in the north-west. On Thursday, the UNSC condemned the Isis attacks on the Yazidi community, saying those responsible could face trial for crimes against humanity.
Who are the Yazidis?A historically misunderstood group, the Yazidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish, and have kept alive their syncretic religion for centuries, despite many years of oppression and threatened extermination. The ancient religion is rumoured to have been founded by an 11th century Ummayyad sheikh, and is derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by a philosopher), Christianity and Islam. The religion has taken elements from each, ranging from baptism (Christianity) to circumcision (Islam) to reverence of fire as a manifestation from God (derived from Zoroastrianism) and yet remains distinctly non-Abrahamic. This derivative quality has often led the Yazidis to be referred to as a sect. At the core of the Yazidis’ marginalization is their worship of a fallen angel, Melek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel, one of the seven angels that take primacy in their beliefs. Unlike the fall from grace of Satan, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Melek Tawwus was forgiven and returned to heaven by God. The importance of Melek Tawwus to the Yazidis has given them an undeserved reputation for being devil-worshippers – a notoriety that, in the climate of extremism gripping Iraq, has turned life-threatening. Under Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries alone, the Yazidis were subject to 72 genocidal massacres. More recently in 2007, hundreds of Yazidis were killed as a spate of car bombs ripped through their stronghold in northern Iraq. With numbers of dead as close to 800, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent, this was one of the single deadliest events to take place during the American-led invasion. The Yazidis had been denounced as infidels by Al-Qaida in Iraq, a predecessor of Isis, which sanctioned their indiscriminate killing. Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP in Iraq, broke down in tears on Wednesday, as she called on the parliament and the international community to “Save us! Save us!” from Isis.
Researcher Cale Salih (@callysally) interviewed the Yazidis’ spiritual leader Baba Sheikh for the New York Times last month. She wrote:
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism more broadly has pushed thousands of Yazidis to seek asylum in Europe. According to some estimates, 70,000 people, or about 15% of the Yazidi population in Iraq, fled the country. For a religion that does not accept converts and strongly discourages exogamy, the assimilation of Yazidi youth in Europe threatens the faith’s continued existence. “People have gone out of fear of attacks or fear of racism. This makes it hard to protect the faith,” said Baba Sheikh. [...] For the past several years, Baba Sheikh, the Yazidis’ spiritual leader, tells me he has canceled the official yearly religious ceremony at Lalesh temple, the holy site of the Yazidis, out of fear of attacks.
Tens of thousands of religious minority Yazidis are trapped on a mountaintop by Islamic State forces. Ivan Watson in Irbil reports on the bloody onslaught.
http://www.thehindu.com/A five-year-old child has been detected with polio in Pakistan’s Sindh province, making him the ninth confirmed case this year in the area, officials said on Friday. Umair was among the four children from across the country whose samples were sent to Islamabad’s National Institute of Health for examination, which confirmed after six weeks, Dawn online reported. “So far he is the oldest among the children inflicted with polio in Sindh and he was allowed to be administered with polio drops just once a few years back,” a health official said. The official said that the victim was among the children whose families stubbornly stopped them from being vaccinated. The total number of polio cases detected in Pakistan this year has risen to 105.
Unvaccinated children from North Waziristan could infect other children, international health officials say.About 160,000 unimmunised children have come to KP since the June start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the military counter-insurgency operation in North Waziristan, WHO Health Cluster and Emergency Co-ordinator Dr. Fawad Khan said. The unvaccinated children are the result of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)'s campaign against immunisation in areas it controls or controlled, doctors say. KP children who either missed a vaccination or are too young to have been vaccinated could be at risk. "We are tracking the displaced people in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and elsewhere to give them the oral polio vaccine [OPV]," Dr. Elias Durry, WHO emergency co-ordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, said. "It is of paramount importance to vaccinate the displaced people repeatedly because they bear a potential risk to the local children." "We have already administered the OPV to 200,000 people at 40 transit points to the displaced population, but there's a need to vaccinate all the 950,000 displaced persons regardless of their ages," Khan said. "We are launching a 10-day campaign to administer OPV to the displaced population to not only protect them, but also to protect the KP children." TTP at fault for the disease's spread IDPs and officials are faulting the TTP for the disease's spread. Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic. As of July 31, it had confirmed 102 cases of polio this year, according to the Polio Global Eradication Initiative. The TTP have deprived 700,000 children in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of access to the OPV, Dr. Abdul Latif, polio co-ordinator in Waziristan, said. The Taliban are solely responsible for inflicting lifelong disability on the children, he said. "The infected children will remain a burden to their families even when they grow up, because of disabilities," he said. Children in KP have also suffered. "The parents of 35,000 children refused to let their children have OPV in every campaign in KP," he said. "Defiance by parents of OPV has greatly hurt the polio eradication effort." Parents condemn militants Aggressive efforts to eradicate polio are unlikely to materialise as long as the Taliban exist, Dr. Raees Khan of the KP Health Department said. "The army should kill all the Taliban militants to safeguard the country's children." "Despite our willingness to vaccinate our children, we weren't able to do it," Gulzar Mehsud, an internally displaced person (IDP) with a polio-stricken son, said. "They targeted schools and healthcare facilities to leave us without medicine and education." "The TTP has no mercy for children," he said. "My son fell victim to polio because of the Taliban's opposition … my family has been cursing them for rendering him handicapped." Muhammad Hanif, father of 6-month-old Habiba, who was diagnosed with poliomyelitis July 15, also condemned the TTP. "The local prayer leader said vaccination was against Islam, and my daughter is paying the price," he said. "Now we are sure that the Taliban are the enemies of children."
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in a message to the nation on Thursday urged the people to step out and join his ‘Azadi’ march to Islamabad on August 14. He said that people should join the march for their own future and not for the sake of Imran Khan. “I have everything, but I am concerned about my nation,” read the message in Urdu. “If you do not step out on August 14 to fight for your rights, there will be no change in the country.” The PTI chief has closed doors on negotiations with the government and is set to lead a “million-man” march to the federal capital on August 14 to end Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s “monarchical rule”. A PTI core committee meeting is scheduled for Sunday to finalise preparations.
Pakistan’s government should rescind the suspension of fundamental rights and the grant of military authority for law enforcement in Islamabad, Human Rights Watch said today. Powers given to the military risk misuse in the face of ongoing large-scale political protests. “Pakistan faces very real threats of terrorism, but giving unbridled powers to the army and suspending fundamental rights is the wrong response,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Suspending rights and judicial oversight is an overbroad and disproportionate measure that should be rescinded.” On August 1, 2014, the government invoked article 245 of the constitution, permitting the military to carry out law enforcement in Islamabad. Under article 245, the government also suspended fundamental rights, including the courts’ jurisdiction to enforce freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and habeas corpus, allowing detention without charge or remedy. Invoking article 245 also gives the armed forces excessive powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. Soldiers are permitted to shoot to kill after giving a warning, but are not bound by standard rules allowing them to act only in self-defense or to protect the lives or property of others. They can conduct arrests and searches of property without a warrant. The minister of interior, Nisar Ali Khan, said article 245 was invoked because of security and counterinsurgency concerns after the military undertook an offensive against Taliban forces in North Waziristan, but it is now in force at a time when opposition politicians, including Imran Khan and Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, have announced they would lead anti-government marches and protests in Islamabad. Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to participate in marches and demonstrations in the coming days. Recent calls by opposition leaders for workers and activists to disregard the law and use force against the authorities has raised concerns about the peacefulness of the protests. In response, the government has filed criminal cases against members of the opposition and placed protesters in administrative detention to stop protests from taking place. “Opposition leaders need to take steps to ensure that their protests are peaceful,” Adams said. “At the same time, the government and army need to ensure that article 245 is not used to suppress peaceful protests and other basic rights. Those arrested who have not been charged with a credible offense should be released.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, permits some restrictions on certain rights during an officially proclaimed public emergency that “threatens the life of the nation.” According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the international body of experts that monitors compliance with the treaty, any derogation of rights during a public emergency must be of an exceptional and temporary nature, and must be “limited to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” Under international law, countries may not invoke a public emergency to permit arbitrary deprivations of liberty or unacknowledged detentions, nor may they deviate from fundamental principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence. People held as administrative detainees under a lawful state of emergency should, at a minimum, have the right to be brought before a judicial authority promptly after arrest, be informed of the reasons for detention, and have immediate access to legal counsel and family. They also should be allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a fair hearing, and to seek a remedy for mistreatment and arbitrary detention. “The government has a responsibility to protect the population from terrorist attacks while upholding the fundamental rights and liberties of the citizens,” Adams said. “But giving the military broad powers to carry out law enforcement functions is a grave cause for concern in a country where the military has a long history of interfering in civilian government and violating basic rights.”
http://www.nation.com.pk/PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s movement was confined to his residence on Thursday as the police lay siege to his house and the party secretariat and blocked the main roads leading there, by erecting barriers and placing containers in the Model Town neighbourhood. Heavy police contingents are on guard around the Minhaj-ul-Quran Secretariat as well to cope with any emergent situation. Several police pickets are also set up in the locality and barriers erected to restrict the movement of PAT workers. “We are strictly ordered to stop Qadri from leaving his residence and his supporters to converge in front of the secretariat,” a police officer told reporters at a picket set up close to the party headquarters. Even the police on Thursday was unwilling to allow the vehicles of the opposition leaders who wanted to visit the secretariat. “We will not allow any vehicle of the opposition leaders as there is a possibility that they may take Qadri along with them on return,” a police officer commented, requesting anonymity. Following a heavy deployment of police force, Model Town appears to be a “no-go area.” On the other hand, the provincial hierarchy is yet to decide whether or not a full-fledged operation be launched at the PAT Secretariat to capture Qadri who is wanted by the police in connection with a criminal case. Lahore police Wednesday booked the PAT chairman on the charge of waging a war against the state, hurling threats and inciting violence. Police sources claimed the first information report (FIR) was sealed on the government orders and further proceedings were deferred as the investigation of the case has yet to be handed over to any investigator. Political pundits say the government is using the FIR as a bargaining chip to reach some settlement with Qadri. Instead of acting according to the law, cops ready to raid are awaiting government instructions to begin ‘capture Qadri’ operation at the PAT Secretariat. The PAT chief has not approached the courts for pre-arrest bail. “The decision to arrest Tahirul Qadri will be taken at the highest level. Police are there and are ready to raid, but the government has yet to give a green signal to the law-enforcing agency,” a police investigator disclosed to The Nation. As the riot police reached the PAT headquarters late Wednesday, a large number of the party workers, armed with rocks and sticks, gathered outside the secretariat to support their chief. Local residents are facing immense problems because of the police blockade as they are not being allowed to go to their residence in cars. The police have also hired hundreds of containers from different companies to block the entry and exit points and some others spots in Lahore. As the Martyrs’ Day announced by PAT is approaching fast, both the PAT and the government are busy in preparations. The PAT is preparing for observing the day while the government machinery is all set to stop the movement by using various tactics. However, a large number of PAT workers from different parts of the province managed to reach PAT headquarters on Thursday. A camp was also set up by the female wing of PAT in front of Qadri’s residence. Meanwhile, a large number of PAT workers were seen sitting in front of the PAT Secretariat. More than 30 buses were also seen parked at a public park in front of the PAT Secretariat to provide transport facility to the workers on August 10. To combat the possible police attack, the PAT workers have collected a huge stock of sticks and foam pads as preventive measures. Some PAT leaders claimed that ahead of Youm-e-Shuhada, more than 500 activists were arrested by the police across the Punjab. Since his landing in Lahore, the Canada-based cleric has been threatening to overthrow the PMLN-led regime by leading a revolution with the support of opposition parties. Although Qadri was literally put under house arrest, a senior police officer denied the reports.
The World Bank in a widely-disseminated report titled Pakistan Country Programme Snapshot April 2014 identified a host of governance challenges that continue to hamper growth in the economy that include "rule of law, security and a legacy of corruption, to resource management and the effectiveness of the civil service." The report however, acknowledges that "in terms of political governance important milestones were reached with the adoption of the 18th Constitutional Amendment which delegated service delivery responsibilities and resources to the provinces and the completion of a full term in office of a civilian government for the first time in Pakistan's history." This statement is qualified in the report with the proposal to strengthen the system by "the parallel establishment of a professional police service and independent prosecutors." The significance of the latter statement is obvious at the present moment in time with the looming threat of the million-march by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf scheduled on Independence Day and the government's extraordinarily stringent measures to combat it. These measures are unfortunately reminiscent of not only how protests were dealt with by sitting governments during military dictatorships but also during civilian governments - an example being the long march led by Nawaz Sharif for the restoration of the judiciary in 2009. While holding no brief for the PTI's list of untenable demands that include the resignation of the Prime Minister or indeed for the government's over reaction in deliberating on apprehending PTI leaders on trumped-up charges and closing fuel stations along the Lahore-Islamabad highway yet the fact remains that Pakistani politics has invariably worked to the detriment of the economy. One would, of course, urge the two protagonists to negotiate with the intent to resolve the underlying issue of electoral reforms and agree on the number of constituencies that would be audited immediately, and based on the outcome the year of the next general elections. The confrontation that the PTI and the government appear to be gearing up for is likely to have a massive economic cost, which our depleted treasury can ill afford. The report also highlights the challenge of resource management and here one can place the onus on the federal as well as provincial governments mainly because the former is not focusing all its resources on resolving the energy crisis, but is supporting mega road projects that should not be the immediate priority, and the latter have no capacity to deal with the devolved subjects like education and health under the 18th Constitutional Amendment. In addition, the federal government expenses that should have been reduced as a consequence of the devolution continue to be just as high. The report also notes that "state-owned entities (SOEs) actual and potential losses as well as related flows of subsidies are a fiscal risk. These two challenges will require strengthening of tax administration and SOE corporate governance." And unfortunately the poor performance of the Federal Board of Revenue continues, as per the third review of the International Monetary Fund, and the government has failed to improve corporate governance because of its sustained failure to appoint heads of SOEs as per the rules laid down by the superior court. And finally the effectiveness of the civil service remains a challenge for Pakistani governments, which is partly attributable to the politicisation of senior bureaucrats whose promotions/appointments have little to do with competence in a particular sector. It may be recalled that during military and civilian governments appointing military men and strict civil service disciplinarians like Nargis Sethi to head ministries or SOEs have failed to produce results because they do not have the expertise to deal with long standing governance and technical issues. Be that as it may, it was heartening to note that the report maintains that "at the provincial level the governments of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are formulating and implementing good governance strategies. These programmes are comprehensive and aim to improve government performance and service delivery by strengthening public finance management, revenue mobilisation, transparency, accountability and performance monitoring." One does note that there is no mention of the success or otherwise of the implementation of these strategies and one hopes that the pace of implementation is accelerated.
The sense of looming crisis because of Maulana Tahirul Qadri’s August 10 ‘Martyrs Day’ rally in Lahore and Imran Khan’s ‘Million March’ on Islamabad on August 14 seems to be deepening. A flurry of activity and exchanges amongst political leaders of various parties on Wednesday underlined the growing sense of urgency to defuse the confrontation between the government and these challengers before things get out of hand and lead to a destabilisation not only of the sitting government but also the democratic system per se. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI’s) coalition partner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has also become active in the mediation efforts. JI leader Sirajul Haq met Imran Khan and Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and conveyed messages back and forth. The thrust of what Sirajul Haq shared with the media afterwards was that he had tried to find some middle ground between the government and the PTI to head off the threatened confrontation. While agreeing in principle with Imran Khan’s contentions about non-transparency and even rigging in the general elections 2013 (an afterthought shared increasingly by other opposition parties including the PPP), Sirajul Haq said he had advised the PM to address the complaints of the PTI. In answer to a question, the JI leader reiterated his party’s wait-and-see position by saying a decision on whether to join the PTI’s long march on August 14 would be taken after the JI’s Palestine solidarity rally on August 10. Peripherally, August 10 may also determine the JI’s decision based on what happens in Lahore on that day vis-à-vis the Qadri rally. In addition to Sirajul Haq, the PM received visits from Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Ejazul Haq and other leaders. Former president Asif Ali Zardari worked the phones from London for the second day running, calling Imran Khan and Qadri. On the sidelines, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah met Asfandyar Wali. Whatever else these efforts may or may not have yielded, they failed to persuade Imran Khan for talks or a dialogue with the government and he refused to back down from the August 14 march. In his body language and statements, Imran Khan seems convinced that he is on the brink of a historic opportunity, one that will open the pearly gates to power for him if he stays the course. The government on the other hand (including the younger Sharif sibling’s government in Punjab) seems to be working on a two-track strategy. On the one hand, Shahbaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders have tried to dangle the carrot of talks before Imran Khan, while on the other hand, despite denials, it now seems clear that the Punjab police (bolstered to a strength of 10,000 in Lahore) has orders to arrest leaders and workers of PTI (a list reportedly of 600) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (400), block routes into Lahore on August 10 or even before with 450 containers forcibly seized from private transporters, and impound hundreds of motorcycles purportedly being used by PTI workers for mobilisation for August 14. Raids for the arrest of those on the lists have been reported from some parts of the country, with mixed success since the PTI has ordered its critical cadres to go underground in anticipation of being detained to prevent them mobilising for August 14.
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri on Thursday claimed that the Sharif family plans to flee to the US to prevent accountability. Qadri affirmed that he would not leave Pakistan without bringing about what he called revolution in the country. “I’m here to forge rule of law, the rule of God and to eliminate corruption and rigging and for the accountability of looters. No matter the government is planning to put me on the ECL, I assure you that I’m not going anywhere,” he said. He claimed that the Sharif family is preparing to flee along with their family servants.
President Barack Obama said on Thursday he had authorized U.S. air strikes to blunt the onslaught of Islamist militants in northern Iraq and began airdrops of supplies to besieged religious minorities to prevent a "potential act of genocide." Obama, in his most significant response yet to the crisis, said he approved "targeted" use of air power to protect U.S. personnel if Islamic State militants advance further toward Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, or threaten Americans anywhere in the country.
At least three policemen have been injured in a clash with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers in Model Town in today’s wee hours. Talking to the media outside the residence of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, Pakistan Awami Tehreek President Dr Raheeq Abbasi said Yaum-e-Shuhada would be observed peacefully on August 10 to commemorate the martyrs of Model Town Tragedy and Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The roads leading to the residence of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri have further been barricaded with more containers. Moreover, large vehicles have been interdicted from entering the city. According to sources, Punjab government is considering to detain Dr. Qadri under sections 3 pr 16 of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) to avoid any law and order situation. PAT Chief’s name is likely to be put on the Exit Control List (ECL) because of a case registered against him for allegedly inciting people to violence. The government thinks that Tahirul Qadri may attempt fleeing from Pakistan, claim sources. On the other hand, investigations are being carried out against Dr. Tahirul Qadri in the money-laundering case while several other cases against him are in pipeline.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PLMQ) Chaudhry Shujaat says the incumbent rulers desire to become civil martial law administrators of Pakistan will never be realized, Samaa reported. He said this while holding a joint press conference with PAT leader Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri outside the latter’s residence here on Thursday. Shujaat, unhappy after being forced to take a long walk to reach a rather besieged Minhajul Quran Secretariat, said, “Model Town should be renamed as Jalainwala Town given the government’s draconian crackdown on Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).” Pitching in on the occasion, PMLQ’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said that by ordering Punjab police to lay siege of PAT headquarters the government had shown its true colors.
The United States has been quietly telling Pakistani politicians that it would stay neutral if the threatened agitation in the country leads to a government change through “constitutional means”, but would be opposed to a coup. This message from Washington has been delivered to government and opposition politicians and military leaders by US Ambassador Richard Olson ahead of next week’s planned agitation by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and some other opposition parties amid worries that the situation could spiral out of control. “Ambassador Olson has been discussing the political scenario,” said one politician who had recently met the envoy. He asked not to be named. Mr Olson, who had held a series of meetings earlier, met JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday. Another politician said the American ambassador had quite candidly conveyed the US concerns in his meeting with him and had categorically opposed a military takeover. Speculations are rife in the country about an impending political change, as PTI’s long march and sit-in planned for Independence Day anniversary draws closer. Foreign diplomats have been closely watching the developments. Mr Olson too has been meeting key leaders to keep tabs on the situation. In a country where people believe in the myth of American influence over political developments, the words of the ambassador are seen as a bellwether of things to come. No-one could be a stronger believer of the myth than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself, about whom a former US ambassador had noted: “The fact that a former prime minister believes the US could control the appointment of Pakistan’s chief of army staff speaks volumes about the myth of American influence here.” In his conversations with political and military leaderships, Ambassador Olson has said the US would not take any position if a change in the government comes through constitutional means. He was quoted as having said that the test has been the country’s Constitution and that “Constitutional change would be perfectly legitimate”. This message, it is said, has been conveyed across the political spectrum. The second part of the American message being delivered to the army and the politicians is that a military coup would be unacceptable and could trigger suspension of assistance.