Sunday, August 10, 2014
Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters on Sunday. Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added. "We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," Sudani said in a telephone interview, in his first remarks to the media on the issue. Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as "devil worshipers" and tell them to convert to Islam or face death. A deadline passed at midday on Sunday for 300 Yazidi families to convert to Islam or face death at the hands of the militants. It was not immediately clear whether the Iraqi minister was talking about the fate of those families or others in the conflict. "Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar," Sudani said. The minister's comments could pile pressure on the United States - which has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in response to the group's latest push through the north - to provide more extensive support. "In some of the images we have obtained there are lines of dead Yazidis who have been shot in the head while the Islamic State fighters cheer and wave their weapons over the corpses," said Sudani. "This is a vicious atrocity." ANCIENT RELIGION The Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, has prompted tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee for their lives during their push to within a 30-minute drive of the Kurdish regional capital Arbil. Earlier in their push through northern Iraq, Islamic State, which also considers all Shi'ites heretics who must repent or die, boasted of killing hundreds of captive Shi'ite soldiers after capturing the city of Tikrit on June 12. They put footage on the Internet of their fighters shooting prisoners. The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, are spread over northern Iraq and are part of the country's Kurdish minority. Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein's troops tried to crush the Kurds during his iron-fisted rule. Some were taken away by the executed former leader's intelligence agents. Now they are on the defensive again. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled for their lives after Kurdish fighters abandoned them in the face of Islamic State militants, and are trapped on a mountain near Sinjar at risk of starvation. "We spoke to some of the Yazidis who fled from Sinjar. We have dozens of accounts and witness testimonies describing painful scenes of how Islamic State fighters arrived and took girls from their families by force to use them as slaves," Sudani said. "The terrorist Islamic State has also taken at least 300 Yazidi women as slaves and locked some of them inside a police station in Sinjar and transferred others to the town of Tal Afar. We are afraid they will take them outside the country." "The international community should submit to the fact that the atrocities of the Islamic State will not stop in Iraq and could be repeated somewhere else if no urgent measures were taken to neutralize this terrorist group," Sudani said. "It’s now the responsibility of the international community to take a firm stand against the Islamic State to reach a consensus on a legitimate decision to start the war on Islamic State to stop genocides and atrocities against civilians." The militant group, which arrived in northern Iraq in June, has routed Kurds in its latest advance, seizing several towns, a fifth oilfield and Iraq's biggest dam - possibly gaining the ability to flood cities and cut off water and power supplies.
Former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf Sunday said the country continues to remain where it was when he quit the government six years ago and advised the incumbent government to step down if it is unable to resolve issues. Addressing his party’s convention here via telephone, Pervez Musharraf observed that people are not getting employment while poverty is on steady rise and the country’s progress remains stuck. “People continue to remain mired in the swamp of difficulties,” he noted and condemned the Model Town tragedy and what was presently going on in Lahore. He said he had no compulsion to leave the country and even if he did travel abroad he would return to Pakistan and its people. “The purpose for going abroad is only to visit my ailing mother,” he added. “Where can I go from Pakistan…my life and death are tied to this country,” Musharraf said. He regretted several ‘fabricated and baseless’ cases are registered against him. Earlier, the former president Pervez Musharraf was declared Chairman of his party, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) during the convention.
Political activities have reached their peak in the capital after Imran Khan’s announcement that his party would hold its planned ‘long march’ protest in Islamabad on August 14 at any cost and would not settle for anything less than the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and re-election in the country. Alongside, Tahirul Qadri has also announced to lead a ‘revolution march’ towards Islamabad. So far, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Qadri’s party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have not joined hands for combined efforts to challenge the government. If at some stage this happens, it could be consequential in many ways for the government as well as for democracy in this country. The brewing political crisis has created a panic-like situation among the ranks of the party in power; the prime minister has formally sought help from the political leadership of country to avert it. Former president and co-chairman of PPP Asif Ali Zardari is actively trying to find a political solution. He is said to have talked to Imran Khan, Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi and Qadri during the last few days. Syed Khurshid Shah, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, has also been playing an active role in bringing both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif to a middle ground. PML-N secretary information and senator Mushahidullah Khan tells TNS that the prime minister’s resignation is out of question. “We have approached Imran Khan more than once for dialogue but he does not want to talk. How can a leader of a political party preclude the possibility of dialogue? Recounting is not the jurisdiction of government; the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and courts are the right forum to heed such demands.” The government is going to deal with Tahirul Qadri in a tough manner. He says his party is serious to reform the electoral system of the country. “Tahirul Qadri is a non-political entity and would soon leave country again. He comes only to create chaos.” The PML-N has been trying his best to bring the PTI to the dialogue table. The 33-member electoral reforms committee of parliament has already met once and elected Ishaq Dar as its head. The PPP leaders think the PML-N needs to approach the situation in a sober way. “Shahbaz Sharif as the chief minister of the largest province used to lead protest marches against load-shedding and the federal government during our last tenure. Nawaz Sharif went to the Supreme Court against our government [Memo Case]. But we stuck to the policy of dialogue. The PML-N did not use the forum of parliament in the past to resolve issues; ironically it is now asking the PTI to come to the parliament,” says Qamar Zaman Kaira, PPP’s secretary information. Kaira says his party would not allow anybody to harm democracy. “There is only one way to reform the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and that is constitutional reforms. I do not know where would Imran Khan bring in a new ECP in his new Pakistan? I think the PTI has assumed that after the government falls, a new ECP would emerge automatically.” He says the long-march would be a good experience for Imran Khan and PTI. “He would understand what state’s pressure or oppression means; it would be a good political training for the PTI workers.” Kaira concludes that both parties will have to come to a middle path.” PM Nawaz Sharif has conducted meetings with more political leaders during the last few days than he did during the last six months. The political situation has also helped bring minor political parties like Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to the centrestage. JI chief Sirajul Haq has been trying to mediate between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. Khan who almost ignored his long-time friend and PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar has discussed the long march in details with Haq who has met twice with the PM and Imran Khan during the last couple of days. It really is a test of nerves. Background meetings with PTI leadership reveal that it has been trying to exert more pressure to achieve maximum benefit at the negotiating table. The PTI is aware that re-election under the present ECP and system would not help its cause. The party knows it is not in a position to pursue its agenda of radical electoral reforms, a new constitution for ECP and mechanism for a caretaker setup in the parliament; so, it has been exerting pressure outside the parliament. The party is looking for a strong commitment through ‘reliable guarantors’ to get its demands accepted and get them passed from parliament. The PTI leadership may reach an agreement with the government but would go for its August 14 long march as planned. Imran Khan would not accept anything short of delivering his ‘victory speech’. Political analysts think the situation has brought the military establishment on the driving seat again. It would make the final decision about the fate of this system and democracy in Pakistan. In his column for The News on August 5, Ayaz Amir wrote that no change has ever occurred in Pakistan except through the power of the sword — the open or hidden intervention of the army. “Why should it be different this time? Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are playing no one’s game. The script in front of them is their own. But the arena or theatre in which they are playing their parts is controlled not by them. Over it fall the long shadows cast by the army’s bayonets. Whether we like it or not, such is the nature of the Pakistani state, such are the contours of Pakistani politics.” PML-N leadership which has been very critical of role of establishment in politics, especially in the Musharraf case, is not issuing any more provocative statements. The last visit of PM to the General Headquarters on July 17 is said to have resulted in “bringing both sides closer”. How would the establishment react to Imran Khan’s long march? The million dollar question would remain unanswered till August 14. Khan has already conveyed a strong message to the military establishment that he felt betrayed by them in the May 2013 elections.
A NEW BOOK AIMS TO UNDERSTAND THE MIND OF THE PAKISTAN MILITARY.
Aqil Shah’s The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan (Harvard University Press, 2014) takes a hard look at the Pakistan Army and its regular interventions in politics. We recently spoke with Shah, who teaches at Princeton University, about his book, the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan, and more. Excerpts:What inspired you to write this book? The book is primarily concerned with understanding why militaries launch coups, and this is explored in the context of Pakistan. The 1999 coup by Pervez Musharraf rekindled one of my earliest political memories, the judicial murder of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose government was overthrown, as my father explained at the time, by a “vicious mustached monster.” It drove me to try to systematically understand and explain military politics in Pakistan, but the existing social-science scholarship left me dissatisfied. Most of it explains coups through nonmilitary factors—weak civilian institutions, poor leadership, and the military’s corporate interests—without any regard for the military’s own beliefs system that shapes the views and behavior of its ranks. The authoritarian attitudes of senior officers provide the moral justification for both the Army’s permanent role as Pakistan’s guardian and its recurrent political interventions. My book emphasizes this neglected factor. Some readers have described your book as cynical. Is that fair comment? I take a critical view of the military’s political role. There is no such thing as pure objectivity; what I write is my interpretation of the “facts.” I have a pro-democracy bias and strongly believe that civilian control of state is a universally-applicable principle of democratic governance, not a culture-specific concept as some generals believe. The book is an informed critique of military praetorianism. Has the acquisition of nuclear weapons impacted the Pakistan Army’s thinking? Nuclear weapons have surely shaped the military’s institutional mindset in relation to India, mainly by emboldening it to wage a proxy war in Kashmir in the belief that having nuclear weapons rules out conventional war. The generals have overthrown civilian governments both before and after Pakistan developed nuclear weapons. The possession of the bomb has not had as pronounced an effect on the military’s perceptions of its proper role in the polity as some would like to think. Operation Zarb-e-Azb began in mid-June in North Waziristan to cleanse the tribal agency of local and foreign militants. What’s your take on the military offensive? There are least two important dimensions to Zarb-e-Azb. The first one is the avoidable and largely ignored humanitarian crisis created by the criminally negligent response of both the military and the federal and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments. Almost a million people have been displaced and left to fend for themselves. The state’s abdication of its responsibilities has encouraged and allowed violent nonstate actors to fill the vacuum. The second dimension is terrorism. Does this operation represent more of the same old, same old whack-the-“bad”-Taliban approach or does it signal a real departure from the policy of using jihad in support of a revisionist foreign policy? The military’s claims to the contrary, its definition of terrorism still does not seem to include terrorist groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network or Lashkar-e-Taiba. This is perhaps because it still considers these to be its strategic assets for ongoing and future use in Afghanistan and against India.
United State of America warns its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Pakistan.
Attributable to political tension, and bad conditions in the country especially in Punjab USA has issued the travel advisory for Pakistan. According to the U.S. Foreign Department report, the American citizens should avoid non-essential travel during the bad condition in Pakistan. American citizens must be avoided to attend in any protest or meeting in Pakistan, report added. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/us-warns-its-citizens-to-avoid-travel-to-pakistan/#sthash.2xpOQilL.dpuf
The reason for using children is that it becomes difficult for the police to lodge a case against a child under the juvenile law. Even if a child is arrested, they get bail without any difficulty. The first information reports (FIRs) against children are also quashed. It may be noted that Independence Day celebrations have already started all over the city. People are buying not only national flags but also badges, stickers and other items to celebrate the day. Maqbool Ahmed, a citizen, told Dawn that despite the ban traders were selling fireworks and firecrackers. “Children take more interest in fireworks than badges and other things. Every time I go to the market, my children ask me to purchase fireworks for them.” He said at the start of the month, he purchased a flag and hoisted it on the roof of his house. “The flag will remain there for another two weeks and after that I will save it for next year.” He said buying fireworks was wastage of money because children use it for entertainment of just a few seconds. Moreover, fireworks can be dangerous for children. Not only can they injure themselves but also fireworks can trigger a fire inside the house. “I cannot understand why the law enforcement agencies have ignored the sale of fireworks in the city,” he said. Ijaz Ahmed, a trader, said sometimes police took action against firework sellers. Some persons were also arrested in the past for selling fireworks without obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC). “At the moment, traders are using children to sell fireworks. The reason behind it is that police do not take action against children. Moreover, children sell fireworks while roaming in the markets and streets so they can easily avoid police action,” he said. Kamran Ahmed, a nine-year-old child, who was selling fireworks in a market at I-10, told Dawn that he was a student of Class IV and had been selling fireworks to supplement his parents’ meager income. “Nowadays there are summer vacations and I have completed my homework so I can give time to this business. Children from my area come to my stall and buy fireworks,” he said. While replying to a question, Kamran said his father was a painter and the family lived in a rented room of an apartment in Sector I-10/2. “My father buys fireworks from Purana Qila in Rawalpindi. I keep most of them at my home because whenever police come they confiscate fireworks instead of arresting me. In case of a big order, I go home and bring the fireworks for the customers,” he said. Riasat Ali Azad, a Supreme Court lawyer, told Dawn that it was a crime to sell fireworks without getting an NOC. “Police should take strict action against the illegal business because incidents can take place because of the use of fireworks, especially by children,” he said. Meanwhile, the Industrial Area police arrested two persons for selling fireworks in I-8 Markaz. Mohammad Imran, an official in the police station, said it was a bailable offence so both the suspects were released by the court. In reply to a question, he acknowledged that a number of children were selling fireworks in the markets. “But there is always an adult behind these children who provide them investment, material and protection. The police try to arrest the persons who use children for selling fireworks,” he said.Because of a ban on the sale of fireworks, some people in the city have started using children to sell fireworks ahead of Independence Day.
US President John F Kennedy once noted: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Not to say that Pakistan is in the midst of any form of revolution, Tahirul Qadri’s polemics notwithstanding, but in this case the government does face protests, and by trying to violently pre-empt peaceful protest, which is the democratic right of citizens, it ensures that violent protest will follow. Qadri is preparing supporters to observe what he has declared Yaum-e-Shuhada (Martyr’s Day) today to commemorate the victims of the tragedy in Model Town on June 16 when 12 of his supporters were gunned down by the police while demonstrating. The incident spread the perception among people that the government was willing to use force against its political opponents, but instead of dispelling that idea, the government has only reinforced it with oppressive tactics that have resulted in chaotic fighting between police and political workers. Lahore, the PML-N’s stronghold, has been brought to a virtual standstill over the last two days by the government’s attempts to block Qadri’s supporters from entering the city or gathering. The thin pretext given is the government says it received intelligence they were planning to use violence, though so far it has not provided evidence for this claim. Citizens in Lahore have naturally been angered by the government blocking roads and preventing fuel supplies, disrupting daily life. Protests are now a part of life in Pakistan and neutral citizens have learnt to avoid them, but by blocking numerous access roads into Model Town and putting containers around the area where Tahirul Qadri’s residence is located, the government has turned citizens’ anger onto itself instead of Qadri. The constitutionality of restricting citizens’ movements in this manner was also questionable, though the Lahore High Court when hearing a petition on the issue decided that the government was only obliged to ensure citizens had right of way and were not completely restricted. It appears as though Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N colleagues still think this is the 1990s when democratic governments could often get away with undemocratic behaviour because of the lack of a free press and an independent judiciary. Then many people were used to seeing parties in power using the state’s resources for political purposes, but this is no longer the case in a Pakistan where every small action is immediately seized upon by the press. Then too in the 1990s it was the virtual blood-feud between the PML-N and the PPP that brought down both parties in the end as they connived with the establishment and presidents to destabilise each other on multiple occasions. The belief in Pakistan now was that after eight years in exile the Sharif brothers had learnt political maturity and the ‘reconciliation’ philosophy espoused by Benazir Bhutto and ratified by Nawaz Sharif and Bhutto in the 2006 Charter of Democracy (COD) was part of their political philosophy. The tyrannical crackdown on Tahirul Qadri’s supporters around Punjab in the last three days and the use of police to impound containers and block roads has hence shocked many people and most importantly has provided ammunition for Imran Khan’s claims that the Sharif’s are ‘monarchs’. Yaum-e-Shuhada is a trial run of what could happen on August 14 when Imran Khan descends on Islamabad with his supporters. The government says it will try to prevent him from entering Islamabad and has designated an area outside the city for the protest to take place. It is also reaching out to Imran for talks, but given that it is at the same time arresting his supporters, it has made it even more unlikely that he will listen. His recent statement that the PML-N will be responsible if the military intervenes shows how far the government has played into his hands since he was the one who began this confrontation. There is still time for the government to change tack and allow Imran Khan his protest, just as it should allow Tahiru Qadri’s, but its stance seems to have hardened instead. August 10 is a dress rehearsal for Independence Day and could destabilise the country further.