Monday, August 11, 2014

Crowds turn violent after unarmed teen shot dead by Missouri police

Prepare for a long war against the Islamic State

Jonah Goldberg
The hawks (including me) were wrong about a lot, but some got one thing right. It's going to be a long war.
In the early days after 9/11, there was a lot of talk about a "clash of civilizations" and a long "existential struggle" facing the West. I once asked the late Christopher Hitchens what he felt on that terrible day and he said he felt no small amount of joy. Not for the suffering and death, but for the fact that the West finally had been awakened to the terrible but necessary struggle before us.
And for a time, many liberals bought into the idea that America was heading into a generational struggle with jihadism. There were a slew of books on the subject. Peter Beinart, for instance, wrote "The Good Fight: Why Liberals — and Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again." As the subtitle suggests, there was a lot of partisan mischief in his argument, but it rested on the premise that liberals must accept that "Islamic totalitarianism" — his phrase — has replaced communism as our enemy. On this, at least, Beinart and company briefly agreed with George W. Bush that the war against "Islamic fascists" — Bush's term — was the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."
That consensus evaporated in the hot rage ignited by the Iraq war. By the time President Obama was elected, even the war in Afghanistan — once the good war according to most Iraq war critics — had become an emotional albatross. Tellingly, Obama's first executive order was to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as quickly as possible.
This was a triumph for the new enlightened consensus that the war on terror wasn't really a war at all. In 2007, retired Gen. Wesley Clark co-wrote an op-ed for the New York Times ridiculing the idea that Al Qaeda was a military enemy. "Labeling its members as combatants elevates its cause and gives Al Qaeda an undeserved status," he argued. The "more appropriate designation for terrorists is not 'unlawful combatant' but the one long used by the United States: criminal."
Although Obama has tried to move captured terrorists into the domestic criminal justice system, to his credit, he never fully bought into this argument. Still, he cast terrorism as a manageable problem for the experts, not a civilizational struggle. Zeus-like, he personally went over his kill lists, selecting which enemies should be dispatched with a drone strike or, in the case of Osama bin Laden, the furies of SEAL Team Six. When new threats emerged, the White House dismissed them with the whitewash that "core Al Qaeda" was "on the run." All pretenders to Al Qaeda's mantle were little more than a "jayvee" squad, as Obama put it. It's OK to slumber again was the message.
One jayvee squad — the self-styled Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — now controls the territorial equivalent of Britain and is one of the best-equipped and motivated military forces in the Middle East. Everyday jihadists — many with Western passports — enlist in the struggle to create a global caliphate while the "Muslim street" from Turkey to Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic State like a sports team.
The Islamic State's atrocities are too numerous and too horrible to list here. It includes rape and slavery, religious cleansing, mass murder, public crucifixions and beheadings. Over the weekend, an Iraqi official said that the Islamic State had killed at least 500 Iraqi Yazidis, burying some alive, including women and children. The group is only too happy to tweet about all of it. Watch Vice TV's reports from Islamic State-controlled parts of Syria and you will quickly see how the word "criminal" is morally, logically and strategically inadequate. They indoctrinate children to become jihadists and suicide bombers. They vow to fly their black flag over the White House.
No one in the West wants a generational struggle with jihadism anymore than Israel wants perpetual war with Hamas in Gaza. The problem is the enemy always gets a vote. And it just may be that the Middle East will become the West's Gaza. And so far, nobody has a good answer for what to do about it.

Mugged by reality in the Middle East

By Michael Gerson
So ends a foreign policy experiment that began with two choices in 2011. In that hinge year, President Obama decided to stay out of the Syrian conflict and to passively accept the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces from Iraq (which he later claimed as a personal achievement during his reelection campaign).
I’m not sure the motivation behind these acts can be termed a strategy. They seemed rooted in a perception of the public’s war-weariness (which Obama fed through his own rhetoric), a firm determination to be the anti-Bush and a vague belief that a U.S. presence in the Middle East creates more problems than it solves. Not coincidentally, according to political scientist Colin Dueck, “elite, trans-Atlantic liberal opinion” viewed Obama’s approach as “the height of sophistication, regardless of its practical failures.”
Those failures are now massive, undeniable and unfolding: Atrocities in Syria (including the death of more than 10,000 children); an endless Syrian civil war in which the threat of the Islamic State gathered strength; the victory of the Islamic State against a hollowed-out Iraqi military; the massacre of religious minorities; the establishment of a terrorist safe haven the size of New England, controlled by well-armed, expansionist, messianic militants; the attraction of more than 10,000 global jihadists to the conflict, including thousands with Western passports; and now the forced return of U.S. attention to the region under dramatically less-favorable circumstances.
This is what the complete collapse of a foreign policy doctrine looks like. In the absence of stabilizing U.S. leadership, the Middle East has become a regional Sunni-Shiite proxy war in which the most radical and ruthless thrive.
The Obama administration seems gobsmacked by the speed and extent of this unraveling. The possible collapse of Kurdistan (one of our most reliable friends in the region) was something that even the worst-case American analyses during the grimmest days of the Iraq War did not contemplate. This is what shocked the administration into (limited) action and accelerated the rethinking of U.S. policy.
The options are few. The administration could seek the eventual destruction of the Islamic State safe haven. This would involve encouraging a political accommodation to increase the legitimacy of Iraq’s central government; stabilizing the defense of Irbil and Baghdad with immediate military aid (which the administration has tentatively begun); targeting the extremists on both sides of the (nonexistent) Iraq/Syria border; attempting to peel off support among Sunni tribes sickened by the Islamic State’s brutality; and dramatically strengthening the Iraqi government and the Kurds so they can regain the offensive over time. Thousands of U.S. troops would be necessary to advise Iraqi units, collect intelligence, conduct airstrikes and carry out special operations raids. This approach would require presidential leadership to mobilize American national will for a difficult fight against a determined enemy.
An alternative option might be the long-term containment of the Islamic State threat. This would also involve stabilizing the military situation in Iraq’s north and south but leaving Islamic State militants in control of large sections of Syria and Iraq — trying to degrade their ability to strike globally and making clear that attacks on Western targets would bring massive retribution. This assumes a level of rationality (Western, secular rationality) on the part of Islamic State leaders that can only be called laughable. It is also the strategy most likely — after, say, a large-scale attack traced to the Islamic State on a U.S. city — to result in U.S. divisions back in Mosul.
Or the Obama administration could continue to make a series of tactical adjustments to avoid further disaster while avoiding setting out any definition of victory, which might become a standard against which it is judged. This might (with luck) run out the second-term clock; it would also leave a toxic mess for the next president.
Clearly, the Obama administration is undergoing an internal struggle to define its ultimate policy goal. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey talks of a strategy to “initially contain, eventually disrupt and finally defeat [the Islamic State] over time.” Meanwhile, unnamed White House officials consistently downplay the ambition of U.S. goals in Iraq. And the president himself is a model of ambiguity, leaving the world to wonder if any of his various lines have a hint of red.
Is it even possible for Obama to make the psychological adjustment from “the ender of wars” to “the sworn enemy of the Islamic State”? His record offers no reason for encouragement. But on this unlikely transformation now depends the future of the Middle East and the security of the United States.

The case for doing nothing in the Middle East

By Stephen M. Walt
Every time the U.S. touches the region, it makes things worse. It's time to walk away and not look back.
In case you hadn't noticed, the Middle East is going from bad to worse these days.
The Syrian civil war grinds on. Israel and the Palestinians spent the last month in another pointless bloodletting (most of the blood being Palestinian). ISIS keeps expanding its control in parts of Iraq, placing thousands of members of the Yazidi religious sect in peril and leading the Obama administration to launch airstrikes and deliver airborne humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, officials back in Baghdad snipe mostly at each other. Libya continues to unravel, belying the high-fives that liberal hawks gave themselves back when Qaddafi fell. A U.S. general was shot and killed in Afghanistan, and another disputed election threatens democracy there and may give the Taliban new opportunities to make gains at Kabul's expense. Turkey's Prime Minister Recip Erdogan has been calling Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi a "tyrant," an irony given Erdogan's own authoritarian tendencies. A diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar remains unsettled. Nature even seems to be against us: the MERS virus on the Arabian Peninsula may be transmissible by airborne contact. I'm sure you could find some good news if you tried, but you'd have to squint pretty hard.
A string of events like this attracts critics and Cassandras like yellow jackets to a backyard picnic. In The Washington Post, neoconservative Eliot Cohen laments the "wreckage" of U.S. Middle East policy, blaming everything on Barack Obama's failure to recognize "war is war" and his reluctance to rally the nation to wage more of them. (Never mind that the last war Cohen helped get the United States into — the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — did far more damage than anything Obama has done.) A far more convincing perspective comes from former Ambassador Chas Freeman who surveys several decades of America's meddling in the region and comes to a depressing conclusion: "It's hard to think of any American project in the Middle East that is not now at or near a dead end."
Is there a silver lining in this disheartening tableaux? Perhaps. After all, when things are this bad, the need to rethink the entire U.S. approach to the region is hard to escape. If we cast aside familiar shibboleths and taboos and took a fresh look, what might we see?
Since World War II, the meddling that Freeman recounts has been conducted in partnership with various regional allies. These alignments may have been a strategic necessity during the Cold War (though even that could be debated), but the sad fact is that the United States has no appealing partners left today. Egypt is a corrupt military dictatorship with grim prospects, and Erdogan's AKP regime in Turkey is trending toward one-party rule, while its ambitious "zero problems" foreign policy has gone badly off the rails. Working with the Assad regime in Syria is out of the question — for good reason — but most of Bashar al-Assad's opponents are no prize either. Saudi Arabia is a geriatric, theocratic monarchy that treats half its population — i.e., its women — like second-class citizens (at best). Iran is a different sort of theocratic state: it has some quasi-democratic features, but also an abysmal human rights record and worrisome regional ambitions.
The view doesn't get much better no matter where one looks. The Hashemite monarchy in Jordan has been an ally for decades, but it remains heavily dependent on outside support and is too weak and fragile to be the linchpin of U.S. engagement. The same is true for Lebanon. Libya doesn't even have a government, let alone one the United States would want to be close to. Israel is wrapping up its latest outrage against the Palestinians-to no lasting strategic purpose — and its march to the right now includes open advocacy of eliminationist policies by prominent political figures. The "special relationship" with Israel also fuels anti-Americanism and makes Washington look both hypocritical and ineffectual in the eyes of much of the world. But Palestinian political groups are no more appealing: the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and ineffectual and elements of Hamas still proclaim the worst sort of toxic anti-Semitism. States like Qatar and Bahrain do provide valuable real estate for U.S. bases, and many of these governments cooperate with the United States out of their own self-interest, but it's hard to find anyone in the region that looks like a genuine strategic or moral asset these days.
Faced with this unpromising environment, what would be the sensible — or dare I say realistic — thing for the United States to do? The familiar answer is to say that it's an imperfect world and that we have no choice but to work with what we've got. We hold our noses, and cut deals with the least objectionable parties in the region. As Michael Corleone would say, it's not personal; it's strictly business.
But this view assumes that deep engagement with this troubled area is still critical to U.S. national interests, and further assumes the United States reaps net benefits from its recurrent meddling on behalf of its less-than-loyal partners. In other words, it assumes that these partnerships and deep U.S. engagement make Americans safer and more prosperous here at home. But given the current state of the region and the condition of most of our putative allies, that assumption is increasingly questionable.
In fact, most of the disputes and divisions that are currently roiling the region do not pose direct and mortal threats to vital U.S. interests. It is admittedly wrenching to watch what is happening in Syria or Gaza, or to Israel's democracy, but these events affect the lives of very few Americans directly. Unless, of course, we are foolish enough to throw ourselves back into the middle of the maelstrom.
Moreover, the Middle East today is riven by a series of overlapping conflicts along multiple fault lines, driven in good part by protracted government failures and exacerbated by misguided outside meddling. There's the division between Sunni and Shiite, of course, and between Islamists (of many different stripes) and traditional authoritarians (also of several different types). Add to that mix the conflicts along sectarian lines (as in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere), and the recurring suspicions between Arabs and Persians. And don't forget the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, which still reverberates throughout the Arab and Islamic world.
Here's where Americans need to remember the United States may have permanent interests in the Middle East, but not necessarily permanent friends. In terms of its strategic interests, the central U.S. goal since World War II has been to prevent any single power from dominating the oil rich Persian Gulf. However troubled we may be by all the divisions and quarrels in the region, those conflicts also make the possibility that one power will dominate the region more remote than ever. Does anyone seriously think Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS), the Kurds, Russia, Turkey, China or anyone else is going to take over and manage this vast and turbulent area, and smooth out all these rifts and feuds? Of course not. And if that is the case, then America's primary strategic goal will be met whether Washington lifts a finger or not.
Some will argue that we have a moral responsibility to try to end the obvious suffering in different places, and a strategic imperative to eradicate terrorists and prevent the spread of WMD. These are laudable goals, but if the history of the past 20 years teaches us anything, it is that forceful American interference of this sort just makes these problems worse. The Islamic State wouldn't exist if the neocons hadn't led us blindly into Iraq, and Iran would have less reason to contemplate getting nuclear weapons if it hadn't watched the United States throw its weight around in the region and threaten it directly with regime change.
So instead of acting like a hyperactive juggler dashing between a dozen spinning plates, maybe the best course is to step back even more than we have already. No, I don't mean isolationism: What I mean is taking seriously the idea of strategic disengagement and putting the whole region further down on America's list of foreign policy priorities. Instead of constantly cajoling these states to do what we think is best — and mostly getting ignored or rebuked by them — maybe we should let them sort out these problems themselves for awhile. And if any of them eventually want American help, it should come at a steep price.
Among other things, the policy I'm suggesting would mean the United States would stop its futile efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I've argued against such a course in the past, but it is now obvious to me that no president is willing to challenge Israel's backers here in the United States and make U.S. support for Israel conditional on an end to the occupation. Until that happens, even well-intentioned efforts to broker a peace will keep failing. Instead of continuing to squander valuable time and prestige on a fruitless endeavor, the U.S. government should disengage from this thankless task until it is ready to do more than just palaver and plead. If Israel's leaders want to risk their own future by creating a "greater Israel," so be it. It would be regrettable if Israel ended up an apartheid state and an international pariah, but preventing that tragedy is not a vital U.S. interest. (If it really were, U.S. policy since Oslo might have been rather different.)
To be consistent, of course, the United States would also end its military and economic aid to Egypt, Israel, and perhaps a few others. I don't expect Congress to suddenly grow a backbone and do the right thing here, but even a realist can dream, can't he? But even if the "special relationship" remains more-or-less intact, at least U.S. diplomats wouldn't be wasting more time and energy trying to do the impossible.
To be sure, the course of action I'm sketching here is likely to leave the Middle East in a pretty messy condition for some time to come. But that is going to be the case no matter what Washington decides to do. So the question is: should the United States squander more blood and treasure on a series of futile tasks, and in ways that will make plenty of people in the region angry and encourage a few of them look for ways to deliver some payback? Or should the United States distance itself from everyonein the region, and prepare to intervene only when a substantial number of American lives are at risk or in the unlikely event that there is a genuine and imminent threat of regional domination?
The latter course would be a real departure for U.S. policy, and I can see the potential downside risks. Some local governments might be less willing to share intelligence with us, or to collaborate on counter-terrorism. That would be unfortunate, but on the other hand, because anti-American terrorism emanating from the region is mostly a violent reaction to past U.S. policies, a less engaged policy would almost certainly make that problem less severe.
In any case, the results of a different approach could hardly be worse than what the United States has managed to achieve over the past 20-plus years. Unless Americans have a masochistic addiction to disappointment, this seems like an ideal time for a more fundamental rethink.
One final thought: this argument would not preclude limited U.S. action for purely humanitarian purposes — such as humanitarian airdrops for the beleaguered religious minorities now threatened with starvation in Iraq. That's not "deep engagement"; that's merely trying to help people threatened with imminent death. But I would not send U.S. forces — including drones or aircraft — out to win a battle that the Iraqi government or the Kurds cannot win for themselves. The United States spent the better part of a decade chasing that elusive Grail, and the end result was precisely the sort of chaos and sectarian rivalry that has produced this latest crisis. We may be able to do some limited good for the endangered minorities, but above all, let's do no further harm: not to the region, and not to ourselves.

Obama applauds nomination of new Iraqi PM as "step forward"

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday Iraq had taken "a promising step forward" in designating a new prime minister, vowing to step up support for a new Iraqi government in a widening conflict that his administration had hoped to avoid.
Speaking to reporters in the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing with his family, Obama said Iraq had made important strides toward rebuffing fighters from the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot, since the United States authorized air strikes last week.
He urged the quick formation of an inclusive government to address the needs of all Iraqis.
"Today Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort," Obama said in brief remarks.
Obama's comments and a congratulatory telephone call he made to Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi signal the administration's expectation, or hope, that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's 8-year-rule is all but over, even as Maliki shows no sign of relinquishing power.
"They’re treating him like he’s the prime minister already,” Michael Knights, a Boston-based fellow and Iraq scholar at the Washington Institute, said of Abadi.
"Now the U.S. can press on with its offer of enhanced security cooperation with Iraq."
Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim Islamist blamed by Washington for driving the alienated Sunni minority into a revolt that is fueling the Islamic State's brutal insurgency, deployed militias and special forces on the streets on Monday in a potentially dangerous political showdown.
Obama urged Abadi to quickly form a new cabinet that represents Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities. "This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task," Obama said. "It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve."
Abadi, a deputy speaker and veteran of Maliki's Dawa Party, was named by President Fouad Masoum on Monday to replace Maliki.
Obama's comments underline what one former U.S. official described as a potential "sea change" in Washington's ties with Baghdad if Abadi forms a government following increasing U.S. disenchantment with Maliki, who Washington backed as prime minister in 2006 when a Sunni insurgency raged and again in 2010 for a second term.
"The U.S. will finally have a partner in Baghdad," said Wayne White, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington and a former senior State Department intelligence official.
Born in Baghdad in 1952, Abadi was a trained electrical engineer before entering Iraq's government after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He was part of the political opposition to late dictator Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime and lived in Britain for many years. Two of his siblings were executed in 1982 for their membership in the then-outlawed Dawa party.
James Jeffrey, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, said he had met Abadi in Baghdad and believed he was "someone the United States could work with."
He said that Abadi's main strength was that "he's not Maliki" and has not alienated groups across the Iraqi political spectrum. He predicted that Maliki would resist but not be able to hold onto power. Too many forces inside Iraq, including the country's Shia establishment in the city of Najaf, have turned against Maliki, he added.
Jeffrey said that while some Iraqi army units remain personally loyal to Maliki, the presence of 600 American advisers make it difficult for Maliki to get all of Iraq's security forces to act on his behalf.
"He's really trapped."
A U.S. official said that to his knowledge the United States had not played a role in the selection of Abadi.
"We were sufficiently burned by the interference and choice of Maliki that people around here are not into king-making," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "In this case, he was pretty much chosen by the (Iraqi) process and everybody is pretty relieved that they have chosen somebody and that it was not Maliki."
Obama late last week authorized air strikes in Iraq to protect U.S. personnel in Arbil from the Islamic State, a Sunni fundamentalist militant group that has swept through northern Iraq, and to ensure that members of the Yazidi sect were not subject to systematic violence at the hands of the militants.
The air strikes carried out so far are the first direct U.S. military action in Iraq since the Obama administration completed its withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of 2011.

Timmy T - One More Try

'Heroic' mission rescues desperate Yazidis from ISIS

By Josh Levs and Dana Ford
The Iraqi air force and fighters with the Kurdish peshmerga carried out a dramatic rescue mission Monday at Mount Sinjar, taking supplies to desperate Yazidis and bringing some on board the helicopter to make it safely out. A CNN crew was on the flight that took diapers, milk, water and food to the site where thousands of people have been driven by ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.
CNN's Ivan Watson, who was on the chopper, described the mission as "heroic."
Teams hurled out bags and boxes of food from as high as 50 feet before approaching the ground. "We landed on several short occasions, and that's where -- amid this explosion of dust and chaos -- these desperate civilians came racing towards the helicopter, throwing their children on board the aircraft. The crew was just trying to pull up as many people as possible," Watson said.
Soon, some of the trapped families -- including babies and the elderly -- were packed into the flight.
"It was chaotic. It was crazy, but we were able to then lift off with about 20 civilians," Watson said. Yazidis, among Iraq's smallest minorities, are of Kurdish descent, and their religion is considered a pre-Islamic sect that draws from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
One of the oldest religious communities in the world, they have long suffered persecution, with many Muslims referring to them as devil worshippers. More than a week ago, they fled into the surrounding mountains when ISIS fighters stormed the town of Sinjar. Now, trapped without food, water or medical care in the summer heat, thousands of families are in desperate need of help.
It's already too late to save dozens of children who've died of thirst. But for the 20 or so people rescued Monday, the relief was palpable. The crowd on board the helicopter burst into tears as it took off. Gunners had to open fire at the ground in order to make it away from ISIS. "They flew in shooting; they flew out shooting," Watson reported. "There was not a dry eye on the aircraft."

Controlling the Ebola Epidemic

On Friday, the World Health Organization formally declared an international public health emergency in response to what its director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, called “the largest, most severe, most complex outbreak” of the deadly Ebola virus “in the nearly four-decade history of the disease.” And what has the world done in those 40 years to defend against the disease? Not much. Apart from inflicting a staggering human toll, the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa has laid bare how unprepared the United States and other advanced countries are to protect and treat thousands of Africans whose lives are threatened by an extremely dangerous virus for which there is no cure.
The W.H.O. reported that Ebola has infected about 1,800 people in four West African countries and killed almost 1,000 of them. The drugs that could potentially treat those already infected and the vaccines to protect healthy people from infection are all in the earliest stages of testing. And even if they do pass muster in clinical trials, they cannot be produced in large quantities quickly enough to stem the widening epidemic anytime soon.
These uncertainties were highlighted by the special treatment given to an American doctor and an American aid worker who were infected while caring for patients in Liberia and treated there with a drug that has worked well in monkeys but never been tested in humans. They were flown back to Atlanta to receive the best care possible in an isolation ward at Emory University Hospital. There were exuberant media reports that they had been saved by the drug and demands from Liberia that the drug be made available to African patients. Yet at this point no one knows whether the drug played any role in helping the two Americans, only that it didn’t kill them.
In any case, very little of the drug is available, and the small company that makes it does not have the capacity to produce large quantities to treat large numbers of patients in the field. Another drug candidate is in clinical trials with a small number of patients, but the trials were recently suspended and then partially reinstated because of fears that it could harm the patients. Meanwhile, a clinical trial of the first potential vaccine is being expedited, but it will be months before its safety can be verified and the vaccine made available for humans.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it: “We do not know how to treat Ebola or vaccinate against it — and it will be a long time before we do.”
Many drug companies have little interest in devising treatments or vaccines for Ebola because the potential for profit is small. Much of the research has been financed by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense and carried out by small start-ups, but some experts believe the federal government has not shown enough urgency to push these programs ahead.
Traditional public health measures, like finding and isolating patients who become sick, tracing their contacts and using stringent infection control procedures in hospitals, remain the best bet for containing the epidemic in West Africa.
The C.D.C. has elevated its response to the highest possible level and is sending 50 more health care professionals to the area, backed by hundreds more professionals in this country. Sierra Leone, which has the highest number of cases, is planning to deploy hundreds of troops and police officers to enforce isolation measures that its residents have so far ignored, and Liberia, with the second largest number, has declared a 90-day state of emergency that allows it to suspend civil liberties and impose quarantines. Nigeria has also declared a state of emergency. Such public health measures should ultimately, although perhaps not quickly, bring the outbreaks under control.

Russia: Lavrov talks Red Cross, Moscow, Kiev humanitarian agreement

Turkey lets Frankensteins loose in ME: Analyst

The Turkish government has been unleashing Frankenstein monsters across the Middle East region by supporting the Takfiri ISIL militants operating in Syria and Iraq, an analyst tells Press TV.
“You (Turkey) are letting Frankensteins loose all over the region, which is the last thing the region needs, because no matter what happens in Syria, all of these people with all of these fighting experience, they are going to be looking for another fight to get into,” Jim Dean told Press TV in an interview.
He added that the Middle East region now has to live for decades with Turkey’s “horrible mistake,” emphasizing that Turkey is “siding with the West” in its “destabilization program” for the region.
Dean said Turkey is currently helping the ISIL militants operating in Iraq by buying the oil they have been stealing from Iraq.
“We are tracking now ISIL and other jihadists that are taking over the oil areas; most of that oil they are selling it, transporting it to Turkey,” he said, adding, “So, Turkey is actually helping them fund themselves, which is making them independent even from the [Persian] Gulf states.”
The crisis in Iraq escalated after the ISIL Takfiri militants took control of Mosul, in a lightning advance on June 10.
More than a million people have been displaced in Iraq so far this year, according to the United Nations.
The ISIL has vowed to continue its raid towards Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that the country’s security forces would confront the terrorists, calling the seizure of Mosul a “conspiracy."

Pukhto Musiqi: Naghma - Wa Zama Khaista Kabula

Pakistan: No political representation of Ahmadis

Elections in Pakistan were held under a joint electorate system since 1947. All religious communities contested and voted for general seats at both federal and provincial level.
During the PPP government, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reserved seats for religious minorities in provincial assemblies in the 1973 constitution. The fourth amendment to the constitution in 1975 introduced six additional seats for minority groups in the National Assembly.
After Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims through an amendment to the constitution in 1974, their name was also added to the list of minorities with reserved seats. But these reserved seats were in addition to the minorities’ right to vote and contest elections in the general elections.
In 1984, Zia ul Haq introduced separate electorate by raising the number of seats for minorities from 6 to 10 in the National Assembly, and 9 to 23 in provincial assemblies. Ahmadis were allotted one National Assembly seat.
The separate electorate barred minorities from contesting or voting on general seats. This meant that there was, for example, only one seat available in the National Assembly to the Ahmadi community. So, the community could only vote on that one seat regardless of location of the candidate’s geography. Minorities lost the right to have a say in who governed them in their own constituencies.
In 2002, General (retd) Pervez Musharaf reintroduced the joint electorate system through The Conduct of General Elections Order. Shortly after, he added two more clauses to the 7th Article of the Order that specified a joint electorate system.
Sub-article 7B of the Order dictates that the status of Ahmadis remains unchanged. Article 7C of the Order suggests that if anyone has an objection to any name on the common voters’ list, an objection could be filed before the Revising Authority within 10 days of the issuance of the order. The Revising Authority is then bound to issue a notice to the person against which the application was made to appear and sign a declaration affirming his belief in the finality of the prophethood. Refusal to do so would result in the removal of his name from the joint electoral list and added to a supplementary list of voters as non-Muslim. This order appears to be a compromise between Musharraf and the religious clerics and did not specifically call for a separate list for Ahmadis. Yet, the Election Commission obtained data from Nadra and published a supplementary list of all Ahmadis in the country. The list, which includes home addresses of the people has been published for all elections since. This effectively means that there is one electoral list for all Pakistanis, and one supplementary list for the Ahmadi community.
Kunwar Idris, on behalf of the community, filed a petition in the Supreme Court in September 2007, claiming Musharraf’s Order “committed an invidious and impermissible discrimination”. The petition was admitted for hearing in February 2010 but is still pending after over a dozen hearings.

Bilawal Bhutto reiterates commitment to protect minorities
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has reiterated the commitment of his Party towards complete protection of minorities and equal rights on the eve of National Minority Day being observed in Pakistan today.
It may be recalled that August 11 was official declared National Minority Day by former President Asif Ali Zardari during PPP government in 2009 in line with the historic speech of Founder of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah at the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan.
You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”. In the same speech, Quaid-e-Azam said “We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one’s caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said it was imperative to follow the foot-steps and vision of Quaid-e-Azam, Quaid-e-Awam Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, the PPP continues to struggle the for rights and protection of Minorities amid A rise in bigotry and extremism. “PPP gave representation to the Minorities in the Senate in 2012 for the first time in the history,” he added.
He said the PPP and its leadership has an unshakable commitment to the protection and safeguard of the minorities as equal citizens with the same rights as that of the majority. It is with this commitment and pledge that the Party is fighting against the forces and elements who are bent upon targeting the innocent people of minorities.
He said his Party is concerned at the wave of violence against minorities in Punjab, Sindh and KPK where families and homes minority communities were burnt in Gujranwala, Gojra and Hindu traders were killed in Umerkot while Sikh traders were attacked and gunned down in Peshawar. PPP condemned these incidents in unequivocal terms and stands by the bruised communities for justice.
PPP Patron-In-Chief further said PPP always stood in the frontlines to safeguard minority communities and the places of worships.

Asif Ali Zardari - Champion of the politics of reconciliation

It is evident from the human history that whenever a nation has surfaced from the depths of helplessness and chose the way of dignity and self-respect by getting rid of misery, the credit goes to some leader who unites the people under one ideology and mission to make them a nation. After the demise of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan got only one true leader, Zaulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed. Zulfikar Bhutto reconstructed a defeated and disintegrated Pakistan from the scratch - an exemplary and unique feat that no other person could achieve in the history of Pakistani politics.
Zulfikar Shaheed laid the foundation of a people-friendly politics which put the country and the nation as his top-most priority and sacrificed his life for this mission. His great daughter Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto Shaheed whole-heartedly followed in the footsteps of her great father in politics and proved herself to be a true leader of the nation. Benazir Shaheed literally became the binding force between all the four provinces, but the enemy of the people of Pakistan could not bear this and brutally murdered her in a cowardly terrorist attack to pave way for their nefarious agenda.
After the demise of Ouaid-e-Awam (People's Leader) and Shaheed-e- Jamhooriat (Martyr of Democracy), it was Asif Ali Zardari who took the responsibility at this critical time to shoulder the burden of the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the only party which represents all the four provinces with an ideology deeply rooted in the hearts of almost all Pakistanis. At a time when the martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir brought grief and rage among the masses and inter-provincial harmony was at stake, it was Asif Ali Zardari who not only kept the party united by raising the slogan of Pakistan Khappay' (Long Live Pakistan) but also brought harmony among a grieved nation. Being a man of vision, he has bravely faced all the challenges that came his way and fought his political rivals with such a sagacity, deep insight, broad vision and unwavering resolve that even his opponents are forced to admit that he is the true successor of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the best politician of Pakistan.
Pakistan Peoples Party registered huge victory in 2008 elections and it brought a new and fresh change in Pakistani politics, as Asif Zardari kept all the political differences aside for the greater good. The most effective weapon through which he has conquered his political opponents is his politics of reconciliation. It was first time in the history of Pakistan politics that a winning party shared the power with all major political stakeholders.
It was the result of this politics of reconciliation that democracy has got a chance to strengthen its roots after a long period of dictatorship. Pakistan Peoples Party's five years in the central government is a bright example of this reconciliation policy. The democracy is strengthening in Pakistan today and it is only due to Asif Zardari, who not only consolidated the base of democracy during his five years in power but also handed over the power to next government in a peaceful manner which has guaranteed the country a bright and democratic political future. In Sindh Province too, the people's government of the PPP is following this golden principle of political reconciliation under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari, as per his vision. Despite having a majority in the provincial assembly, Sindh government has shared power with the MOM, which has a large representation of the people of Urban Sindh, just to respect the people's mandate and paving way for development and prosperity of the province. One year of Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh is a golden period for the development of the province and is also an example to follow for the other provinces. Sindh's people's government is leaving no stone unturned to bring prosperity and progress to the masses of the province and it is working day and night to achieve this goal under the able leadership of true political heir of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, Asif Ali Zardari. And this journey towards a bright future will remain continue.
After the demise of Quaid-e-Awam and Shaheed-e-Jamhooriat, the burden of the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the only Party which represents all the four Provinces, fell on the shoulders of Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan Peoples Party registered huge victory in 2008 elections, bringing a new turn to the Pakistani politics, when Asif Zardari introduced his policy of political reconciliation by keeping all the political differences aside.

'India under polio threat from Pakistan'

India may be gearing up against Ebola but a more serious threat is at hand.
One of 21st century's greatest public health achievements - India wiping out polio, is now under serious threat from across its borders.
The 10th meeting of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) held in London recently has concluded that the goal of stopping global polio transmission by the end of 2014 will be missed because of the worrying transmission in Pakistan and active export of the virus to other countries.
The World Health Organisation has confirmed that poliovirus from Pakistan has spread to Israel, West Bank and Gaza, and Iraq.
In 2012, there were 223 cases of polio in five countries. In 2013, there were 407 cases in eight countries.
IMB confirmed that it "cannot conclude that the grip on polio control is yet sufficiently strong. This is particularly because with just four months remaining until the 2014 deadline for stopping polio transmission, Pakistan has little hope of meeting this deadline, and Nigeria, with impending elections, is at real risk of losing the vital opportunity".
WHO says "Pakistan's situation is particularly problematic. Its polio control programme is years behind that in the other endemic countries. As currently constituted, the structure of the Prime Minister's Polio Monitoring Cell does not allow effective action against polio. A much stronger form of management and co-ordination is required".
WHO admitted that currently Pakistan appears likely to become the last polio endemic country in the world. This poses a serious threat to neighbours India which was in March 2014 declared polio free.
"It is an indictment of this country's programme that even in the easier eradication context of the low season, Pakistan has almost as many cases in the first 4 months of 2014 as in the whole of 2012 - and 9 times as many as in the same period in 2013. While some progress has been made in Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta, this is not sufficient to stop poliovirus transmission. It is vital that the prime minister and president urgently activate an emergency body with the resources, power and capability to transform this grave situation," WHO has said.
The deadline for global polio eradication has been repeatedly postponed and each time missed: the deadline years of 2000, 2004 and 2012 have all passed without the ultimate goal being reached.
IMB which is meeting against in London in October says that as the end-2014 deadline fast approaches, Nigeria and Pakistan are both at risk of failing to stop transmission in time (with greatest risk in Pakistan).
"There is a significant risk of one or more of the current outbreaks becoming prolonged. There is serious risk of failure to anticipate and prevent an outbreak elsewhere. Given these factors, the IMB's considered analysis is that the latest strategic plan goal of interrupting transmission by the end of 2014 is at extreme risk," WHO says.
The World Health Assembly recently declared polio eradication a programmatic emergency for global public health. WHO has called the spread of polio a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO says the last 1% cannot be allowed to persist any longer.
The IMB says that in late 2012, there was considerable optimism regarding the achievement of the polio free goal. Polio transmission in India had been interrupted and the three remaining endemic countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan) had made significant programmatic improvements. However, within a few months, events made the achievement of this goal appear less likely - targeted killing of polio vaccinators in Pakistan, polio virus entered Waziristan, a part of Pakistan in which polio vaccination had been - and remains - banned by Taliban commanders.
Poliovirus also spread from Pakistan to Syria, causing a major outbreak during the country's civil war. The IMB meanwhile has made several recommendations starting with the "establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Pakistan, building upon Pakistan's recent experiences in responding to natural disasters. Top-level civil servants, senior representatives of national, regional and local government, religious leaders as well as military leaders should be a key part of this process".
It also recommends that "the heads of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative core partner agencies should meet urgently with the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan to support their essential leadership of the Pakistan polio eradication programme, and to offer every possible assistance".
The next meeting of the IMB will be held in London on September 30-October 2, 2014.

Pakistan: Not to let terrorists return, regroup: corps commanders

The corps commanders on Monday expressed their resolve not to let the terrorists return or regroup and they will not find shelter in any part of the country.
The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) in its statement said, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Shairf chairing a corps commanders meeting here said the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb will be successful with the help of Almighty Allah coupled with support of the brave nation.
During the meeting a detailed briefing was given on operation Zarb-e-Azb and the overall security situation of the country.
Expressing his complete satisfaction on targets achieved so far in the ongoing military offensive in North Waziristan Agency, the Army Chief paid glowing tributes to the soldiers and martyrs for demonstrating unmatched valor during the operation.
General Raheel Sharif also spoke high of the tribal people for their sacrifices and cooperation and directed the concerned officials for provision of facilities of highest standard to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) besides assistance for their return to their homes.

De-radicalisation programme for North Waziristan IDPs

Dr Fawad Kaiser
While efforts to tackle polarisation are likely to have a positive long-term impact on radicalisation, their success will be inhibited if they are conducted through the lens of security
A total of 570 terrorists and 34 security forces personnel have been killed since Operation Zarb-e-Azb began. Around one million internally displaced persons (IDPs), belonging to 90,750 families, have been registered since the beginning of the operation. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has said, “Now that their command and communication infrastructure has been disrupted, we will never allow them to return.” In my view, simply referring to the risk of violence and terrorism is not enough to justify the plight and the fear these IDPs will have when they are being rehabilitated. Intervening in this non-violent or pre-violent radicalisation phase with a robust de-radicalisation programme is necessary. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA), in consultation with other institutions, can develop a national de-radicalisation screening programme to help counter terrorism and extremism in this cohort. A national de-radicalisation programme can then be implemented for people who are found to be vulnerable to extremism and need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated in society.
Such de-radicalisation programmes aim to discover whether rehabilitative forms of counter ideology can be used on Islamist extremists and terrorists in order to de-radicalise them and prevent them from committing acts of terrorism. In the 10 years following the 9/11 attacks of 2001, similar schemes were set up in almost every country where extremism became a problem, from the Far East to Europe. Some were lavishly funded, others poorly resourced. Based on classic criminal rehabilitation programmes, most involve a mix of vocational training and counselling, with a religious component designed to challenge the single narrative of Islamic extremism. They have been lauded by policymakers, counterterrorism experts and pundits as a critical part of the campaign to defend states and societies against militancy.
Notwithstanding the difficulties IDPs are going through, virtue ethics gives clear moral justification for programmes to prevent or stop radicalisation, provided that the programmes focus on developing participants’ capabilities to define and live their own good life. This justification for programmes that prevent radicalisation, or are aimed to stop a radicalisation process, poses constraints on the types of programmes that should be developed and the way participants are selected. Because the quest for a good life is a struggle for all human beings, it might not be stigmatising to point to a specific group that needs guidance or support. It needs to be carefully considered whether specific groups are targeted but, in principle, programmes should be open for every person in the camps.
De-radicalisation seeks to reverse the radicalisation process for those already or partly radicalised or help them to disengage with radical or extreme groups, whether or not they change their ideas. As a result, it tends to work. The unique approach of the de-radicalisation programme among IDPs can bring together social work with civic education in order to disentangle the individual’s sense of anger and hatred from their political view of the world, and help in tackling both the factors driving their anger and also re-educating them in the ways of democratic society and alternative ways of expressing and answering their concerns. The programme can talk them through a ‘hierarchy of needs’: first is self-responsibility and leaving violence, and second is leaving the ideology. Both are important but if you attack the ideology first, you leave the individual with nothing and no sense of meaning or worth. In a very few, the programme cases have been in danger of failing because they were too quick to focus on ideology. This is the key issue. De-radicalisation does not take place in a vacuum.
One of the reasons for the disappointment of the on-going intelligence and police led de-radicalisation programme in Pakistan is that, when released, its subjects return directly to villages in areas where support for the Taliban insurgents is strong. Even if individuals are convinced by what they have heard during the programme, they have to be very brave men to go back to their community and start saying that everyone else is wrong. Critically, research analysis shows that de-radicalisation screening and rehabilitation programmes work best when an insurgency or an extremist movement is losing. However, most agree that projects need a mixture of those with direct experience alongside professionals with other skills, such as psychologists, social workers and mental health practitioners. This blended approach brings a more holistic response. For ethical reasons, it is also important that the programme obtains consent from the participants and continues to provide financial and rehabilitative support for families even if they decide not to take part in this programme, as exposure may have harmful effects on them by opening up old wounds.
While efforts to tackle polarisation are likely to have a positive long-term impact on radicalisation, their success will be inhibited if they are conducted through the lens of security. This immediately reinforces the uneven power dynamic between government and army, which can hamper efforts at partnership and risk leaving communities more marginalised and fragile rather than empowered and included. Governments must also be mindful of who engages IDPs on counter-polarisation work. Heavy involvement of the army and intelligence agencies in integration work, for example, is not only inappropriate but reinforces suspicions on the part of communities that they are under surveillance and undermines government messages about “partnership”. Broadly speaking, the essential question is whether the objective of these programmes should be disengagement i.e. a change in behaviour or de-radicalisation, meaning a change in beliefs.
Counter-radicalisation efforts seek to tackle divisions, grievances, narratives and means, and de-radicalisation projects should aim at influencing both cognitive and behavioural aspects. Current de-radicalisation programmes focus largely on the ideological factor seeking to de-radicalise programme participants through disputation of the content of terrorist groups’ doctrines and religious interpretations. The process through which an individual changes from passiveness or activism to become more revolutionary, militant or extremist, especially where there is intent towards, or support for, violence requires being stopped. Programmes for IDPs can be directed against identified individuals who have become radical with the aim of re-integrating them into society or at least dissuading them from violence.
Governments play an important role in this regard in setting the policy framework, providing funding and addressing structural issues but communities also need to play their part for the overall approach to be successful. The government can sometimes struggle to conduct community-level intervention work at the local level, so there needs to be a partnership approach. Civil society responses in this regard will often occur in the normal pattern of every day life and interactions, rather than specific projects or interventions but it requires communities to be equipped to play this role and have established intergenerational relationships. There is also a role for frontline workers such as teachers, doctors, social workers and mental health professionals to offer support and further help.

Pakistan: Shahbaz Trying To Kill A Fly With A Cannon

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) the largest and main opposition party in the Parliament has strongly condemned Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab government for overreacting to a simple situation and creating an atmosphere of siege throughout province causing miseries to the ordinary people, commuters and daily wage earners.
“PPP is shocked over the manner in which Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has overreacted to call by Dr Tahirul Qadri to pay homage today to those who had recently lost their lives during the Model Town incident due to unwise, thoughtless and arrogant police action”, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said in a statement.
Kaira said Qadri may be a demagogue deserving no sympathy whatsoever but it makes no sense to punish the ordinary people for what the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief may be doing.
“Roads in major provincial cities have been blocked by placing containers, patients have been dying on roadsides due to lack of access to hospitals.
Gas stations and shops of daily food items are shut and public and private transport has come to a standstill. It is beyond comprehension as to why the provincial government has overreacted,” said Kaira adding that “It achieved nothing but exposed the provincial government’s sense of fear, paranoia and sheer desperation.”
The PPP leader said that the government of Shahbaz Sharif has miserably failed in tackling the situation in Lahore and was trying to kill a fly with a cannon.
He added that that “The chief minister has been unmindful of the huge social and human collateral damage which he inflicted on the hapless citizens and daily wage earners.”
The PPP demanded that provincial government should immediately lift the blockades faced by the province’s ordinary people and deal with Qadri in ways that are ingenious and non violent.

Pakistan: Police State

Wading through the clutter of the weekend just passed, key problematics might easily become lost to the analytical mind. The role, perception and political misuse of the police is one of them. Though a notoriously inept institution in Pakistan, the extent to which law enforcement officials have been played in a plot far-removed from them, is dangerous for the future, even in the short-term. Consider this: in the event of a great inqilaab that topples the current administration, the police force will remain the same. In the event of the PML-N government retaining power for the next four years, the police force will remain the same.
The policemen that Qadri’s supporters beat and torched at Bhera on Saturday, and clashed with in Model Town, the very same policemen who civilians saw manning petrol stations all over Lahore, hindering them, holding them back, and hurting them; the policemen who have been demonised as the face of the state, as the tools of state terror, and as reflections of the PML-N’s brute mentality, will not fall with the government. The government has, with all the force it could muster, thrust its weight and visibility onto the shoulders of this institution. This has been the greatest excess of the PML-N in all of its graceless political clambering. It has used the provincial police force as its own personal security agency. Without a moment’s thought, it has risked the safety of thousands of law enforcement officials, with TV screens around the country flashing with images of the culmination of a violent showdown between the state (police) and the anti-state on the streets. Of course the public is picking sides, and of course excitable mobs are invariably letting loose their frustrations at the police. After all, who else from the state, from the killing fields of politics, is visible at all?
A police state is generally defined as a country wherein there is no real distinction between the law (in this case law enforcement agencies) and the execution of political power. Over the last few days, any distance between the two in the Punjab has quickly eroded. Time and again, with complete abandon, the government has made the police its own stooge; from refusals to file First Information Reports (FIR) from victims of the Model Town incident, to the Model Town shootings themselves, to the PPO’s sweeping police powers, to cordoning off access and exit points to main roads and highways. Some kind of disconnect, at least perceptively, must be created to separate the idiocies of the government from the behaviour of the police, or more law enforcement officials will die at the hands of the mob and vice versa.

Pakistan: The elite war

by Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi
Pakistan is in the midst of a new elite war for the control of state power. Competing political leaders and parties are once again at each other’s throats in a bid to outmanoeuver one another. The newly emerging political star, Imran Khan, is leading the major political onslaught to dismantle the Sharif dynasty that controls the federal government and the most resourceful province of Punjab. Another religious-cum-political leader, Dr Tahirul Qadri, is mobilising his followers to generate enough political power to dislodge the Sharif brothers, i.e., Nawaz and Shahbaz. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have the support of some smaller political parties.
This is not for the first time that the civilian elite have fought with one another in a non-accommodating disposition. The standard operating procedure in Pakistan, where more governments have changed because of developments occurring outside the Parliament than inside it, is the launching of street agitation or calling upon supporters to storm Islamabad through a party-led, what is described as the Long March to Islamabad. In the past, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Benazir Bhutto/Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP actually launched long marches or threatened to do so against each other’s governments. In the past, both vowed to dislodge so-called dictatorial and corrupt governments that were said to have betrayed the ordinary people.
Now, Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif and their close associates are facing the threat of street agitation and the Long March because the two ‘saviours’ of the people of Pakistan want to remove the “personalised, corrupt and dictatorial” governments at the federal level and in Punjab. The earlier long marches or street agitations, going back to the anti-Ayub movement in 1968-69, did not improve governance or the quality of life for the ordinary people. The same is likely to be the outcome of the current political agitation. However, in the past, some such agitations did result in change of government, but such changes were not necessarily to the advantage of those who initiated the agitation.
Long marches and street agitations have become a recurring occurrence in Pakistan. The civilian elite use it to settle their political scores and the opposition parties often take to streets because neither the Parliament nor the ruling government care to develop negotiation skills for political conflict managements. The government relies either on tough talking or partisan use of the state apparatus to control the opposition effort to make life difficult for the government and paralyse it with the objective of coercing it into submission.
The civilian governments in Pakistan, including the two governments run by the Sharif brothers, have miserably failed to create a credible civilian political order that addresses the problems of the common people, who suffer from bad governance, growing economic pressures, a poor law and order situation and a selective or non-existent rule of law. The state system is unable to provide minimum civic and human services to the ordinary people. Instead, the two Sharif governments focus on personalised image-building, and media-oriented development projects, like roads, overhead bridges, bus services and distribution of free laptops to young people. They also distribute funds to victims of different crimes or incidents as personal acts of compassion rather than pursuing policies with a long-term perspective and focus on institution-building. The three issues haunting the people of Pakistan, i.e., electricity shortages, terrorism, and law and order, have received low priority.
Politics in Pakistan has, therefore, become a power struggle among the political and societal elite, who fight with one another, either to perpetuate themselves in power or dislodge their rivals from power. In this struggle, they change party affiliations and are prepared to spend a lot of money to pursue their agendas. Every political party is dominated by those who can dole out huge amounts of funds for party activities, especially to cover the cost of glamorous public meetings, massive propaganda campaigns and long marches.
The most interesting part of these elite wars is that the competing elite cannot succeed until they mobilise people to build street pressure on the sitting government. It is here that the role of the leadership, the mobilisation capacity of the party, a negative but hard-hitting defiant political discourse, attractive positive and negative slogans, and organisational capacity become important. Another key issue is the amount of funds a party can mobilise, whose detail is never made public.
Imran Khan’s and Dr Qadri’s parties seem to be dominated by the same old type of people with no concrete and clearly laid out plans to address the common people’s problems. Both have attracted young people, who are vigorous about changing the status quo in Pakistan, but they do not seem to be conscious of what it takes to knock out the well-entrenched interests and institutions in Pakistan, when there is no clear framework of the new order. The slogans of ‘revolution’ and ‘azadi’, and the verbal rhetoric for change, does not guarantee that the desired change can be achieved.
The attitude of the Sharif government towards Imran Khan’s demand was dismissive in the initial stages. He became more defiant and demanded Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. The Punjab government adopted tough administrative measures to upstage Dr Qadri, which resulted in violence. Imran Khan is also expected to face the wrath of the state when his party starts the long march.
If the ruling elite and the counter elite do not find some political solution by stepping back from their maximalist demands, the possibility of widespread violence cannot be ruled out. If the situation becomes very violent and unmanageable, the political initiative will shift to the military that has enough experience of deciding who will go home and who will be installed. We may know in a week or so if the Sharif brothers can salvage their faltering situation by using state coercion.

Pakistan: Iftikahr Ch, Sethi, Ramday, Ishtiaq Ahmed played key role in poll rigging

Giving details of planned rigging in May 2013 elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Monday revealed that former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, ECP member Ishtiaq Ahmed, the then acting chief minister of Punjab Najam Sethi, Anwar Mehboob, Riaz Kayani and Justice (r) Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday played key role in the election rigging.
“After October 30, 2011, PML-N got scared as their turn was fixed. Afraid of Tsunami, they decided to bring their own umpires in ECP” he told a press conference.
Imran Khan revealed that Justice Riaz Kayani, who was lawyer of Ittefaq Foundry, was made provincial commissioner of the ECP.
He said Tariq Qadri came visited him and explained that Justice Kayani was playing the game for Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
The PTI chief claimed that Punjab election commissioner Anwar Mehboob was transferred to Lahore and Tariq Qadri was transferred to Karachi in gross violation of election rules.
Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Justice Ramday also played major role in the rigging, he added.
“Ramday invited ROs on dinners where Iftikhar Chauhdry was the chief guest,” Imran said.
Imran Khan said prominent journalist Najam Sethi, who was elected acting chief minister of Punjab ahead of general elections, was the third player of rigging after former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Justice Ramday.
DROs and ROs started doing their work after our Mar 23 rally in Lahore and changed polling schemes, Imran said.
Imran revealed that Anwar Mehboob did the real job of rigging after he fell off the lifter on May 8, 2013. “Anwar Mehboob, on May 9, said we need tens of thousands new ballot paper. These extra ballots were needed for five Punjab divisions which had 98 NA seats. Anwar Mehboob was asked how can we print new ballot papers. He replied that we have orders from top” the PTI chief stated.
Imran said additional ballot papers were printed by out sourcing them, adding that Shaukat Noor, a local printer in Lahore, admitted that he printed extra ballot papers. The PTI chairman also claimed that he has an eye witness who has seen vote stamping at the house of PML-N leader Khwaja Saad Rafiq.
“I had tactically asked for only four constituencies because I knew what happened, that's why we didn't ask for more seats,” he said.
Now vote correction is being done in COMSATs basement, Imran claimed.
Khan said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did his infamous victory speech at the behest of Justice (r) Ramday as he was controlling the Returning Officers. Ramday made Nawaz Sharif do the victory speech so that ROs get under influence. Meanwhile, only 15% vote count was done by then.
NADRA chief was fired as to send a signal to others, this is common tactic employed by Sharif monarchy, he claimed.
Giving details of the rewards given to those who allegedly favoured the ruling government in general elections, Imran Khan said Najam Sethi was rewarded for ’35 punctures’ and his tax was waived. Mustafa Ramday was made Attorney General in violation of rules and Asad Ramday is member of the National Assembly from Toba Tek Singh while his niece is MNA on a reserved seat.
Imran claimed that ex-CJP son Arsalan Iftikhar was made Vice Chairman of Balochistan Board of Investment (BBOI). This was admitted by Hasil Bizenjo that ex-CJP had requested for Arsalan's appointment. On the other hand, Anwar Mehboob and current secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Ishtiaq Ahmed have been given extensions.
Tariq Bajwa and Shahid Khan are also rewarded for their duties.
PTI chairman Imran Khan said “We have no hope to get justice in the kingdom of Sharif.”
He said Azadi March on August 14 will be peaceful and requested the Punjab civil servants to save this country for the sake of their children.
Imran said that history gives us an example that a better democracy brings more progress. “Martial law is not the solution of country’s problems” he added.
Address the police authorities, Imran said Punjab police should not work as servants of Sharif family. “I appeal to Qadri shb, all political parties and even disgruntled PML-N members to join us, we will have a peaceful protest only” he said.
Imran Khan said he will try to bring Dr Tahirul Qadri on his agenda.

Pakistan: Two wrongs never make a right

In a TV talk show, to a question why politicians in Pakistan do not learn from history, one of the panelists gave an interesting answer: “Because history does not move in Pakistan.” Interestingly, the programme showed clips of speeches of Mian Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif where they were threatening the PPP government to mend its ways or get ready for a revolution and being hanged in public. At one place Shahbaz is quoted calling Zardari a master thief. From the way Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are addressing their workers, it is evident that our political leadership is short on civilised ways to negotiate national issues. But from the way the incumbent government has confronted the protests and responded to them show that the PML-N has not moved an inch either from its attitudes of the 1990s in dealing with opposition. Granted Tahirul Qadri is a late entrant to politics and is igniting violence by his fiery speeches that could create a law and order situation, but is using unthinking brute force the best way to nip the evil in the bud? Can the government close its eyes to the reality that Qadri possesses street power and brush him aside by merely saying that he is not worth talking to because his party has no presence in parliament? In other words can Qadri and his affiliates only be dealt with with the language of weapons, force and intimidation? It was this mentality that led to the Model Town incident on June 16 and what happened in Lahore and the Bahria interchange on the Motorway on August 9. The Qadri brigade was prepared this time round to face the Punjab police and following the instructions of their leader, they pounded the police with whatever weapons and force they could muster on Friday and Saturday. Several cars were set on fire, a police station was gutted and a police officer killed. Many injured are recovering in hospitals. On Youm-e-Shuhada (Martyr’s Day) yesterday, the workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were stopped from coming into Lahore. Chaos could be seen in different cities and districts of Punjab. If the PAT and its leader Dr Qadri are responsible for bringing the situation to this pass, the Punjab government is equally to be blamed for behaving more like an autocracy then a democratic government.
The Youm-e-Shuhada on Sunday has been mercifully relatively peaceful. Dr Qadri had planned a march on the day, which he suspended at the last moment, asking his workers to stay where they were and commemorate the day locally. There were speculations that he will lay out his plan of action regarding the revolution he plans to bring about, but he did not and has postponed it for another three days. He will make now embark on his revolution march on August 14, the day when Imran is taking out his independence march. Granted that Qadri and his party had been hurt by the Model Town incident, but what difference did resorting to violence this time round make? Peaceful protest is far more powerful than a violent one. One of the reasons why the lawyers’ movement was successful and achieved the desired results was that it never created a law and order situation; the state did, which fact eventually became a game changer.
One can perhaps see the present political circumstances in Pakistan as part of the evolutionary process that every society goes through before reaching democratic maturity and stability. But the evolutionary process cannot be left on its own to find the right direction and space. Political and social evolution has to be consciously managed and reared in the cultural, political and social context of a given country. That is why we have tons of theories and doctrines emanating from the principles applied to manage situations as the world progresses. So can our leaders afford to sit back and complacently allow the political process to play itself out in a manner reminiscent of our dictatorial past? In that case, no government can survive and will eventually be brought to its knees, since tyranny cannot endure beyond a point. The olive branch the government is extending now to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf could have been done earlier as well, if only the government’s advisors had had the sagacity to see the situation unfolding in the manner it has.
Pakistan’s survival depends on the peaceful resolution of differences and in the continuation of democracy. One hopes that the political leadership both in the government and opposition grasps this reality and will not allow August 14 to become another destabilising showdown in the history of Pakistan.

Pakistan: Undemocratic actions

Determined to quell the protests of Tahirul Qadri and his supporters, the Punjab government — with, surely, the backing of the prime minister — has raised the stakes alarmingly.
A siege mentality combined with a reckless willingness to use the coercive power of the state against political opponents left the provincial capital, Lahore, in a state of virtual lockdown over the weekend and disrupted the transport infrastructure in many parts of the province. To be sure, neither are Mr Qadri’s demands legitimate nor have his supporters been entirely peaceful during various run-ins with the provincial law-enforcement authorities.
Yet, this is the same Mr Qadri and the same set of supporters who a year and a half ago set out for Islamabad from Lahore, camped on the streets of Islamabad for days to press their unlawful and unconstitutional demands, and then disbanded — with little to no violence.
So it is clearly more than a little disingenuous for the PML-N leadership to claim that Mr Qadri and his supporters are now some great threat to the public peace and so, implicitly, responsible for whatever actions the PML-N government has decided to take against them.
Perhaps the larger tragedy here is that a political party that has been in power in Punjab for over six years, has an overwhelming mandate in the province and faces absolutely no threat of being toppled by Mr Qadri’s antics is showing itself to be so undemocratic in its actions.
Using the police and the administrative apparatus of the province in such a partisan manner, denying the citizenry its right to free movement and creating an artificial shortage of basic necessities — this is truly the stuff of undemocratic regimes.
Elected — legitimately — and twice in a row by the voters of Punjab, the PML-N is proving yet again why genuine and meaningful reform of the police and bureaucracy is so difficult regardless of who is in power.
Were there a more independent and rules-bound police and public administration in Punjab — something surely six years of being in charge would have made possible if there had been the political will — the PML-N would be unable to try and crush its political opponents.
And so long as that is the basic approach to power (crush or be crushed), the necessary institutional reforms will be resisted by civilian, elected leaders too.
Yet, the problems for the PML-N, predictably, have only increased thanks to the events in Lahore over the weekend.
Mr Qadri has announced he and his supporters will join the PTI’s Aug 14 rally in Islamabad — signalling an expected convergence of anti-PML-N forces.
Meanwhile, the PML-N’s strong-arm tactics will have alienated a few more potential political allies and surely left sections of the public unhappy as well.
Political isolation is never a winning political strategy — but it appears to be where the PML-N is headed at the moment.

Pakistan: PTI, Qadri long march: Situation getting dangerous

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah has expressed serious concern over the political situation in the country after the announcement of Dr Tahirul Qadri to join PTI’s Azadi March.
In a statement on Sunday, the PPP leader said the situation was getting “dangerous” and fears were emerging that the democratic set-up could be wrapped up.
The PPP leader said that Dr Qadri had made “very dangerous announcements”. “Who will be responsible if the country witnesses bloodbath after the annou­ncement of Dr Qadri?” he asked.
Mr Shah said the country was heading towards confrontation.
He said the situation required that the security forces should be on high alert in the coming days.

Pakistan: Kaira condemns Punjab Govt actions

Pakistan People Party (PPP) secretary information Qamar Zaman Kaira has condemned the actions of Punjab government and said reaction on situation have jammed the whole province, which has caused severe difficulty to the people of Punjab.
In his statement from Islamabad, Qamar Zaman said that it is beyond apprehension that why CM Punjab reacted too much over call of Dr Tahir Ul Qadri to pay homage to martyred activists of Model Town Incident.
The PPP secretary information said that Dr Tahir Ul Qadri might be emotional person and they do not have sympathy with him but he does not understand why people of Punjab are being punished. He added that all the roads of important cities of Punjab have been closed. People could not even reach to hospitals, shops, petrol pumps.
Qamar Zaman Karia said that it seems that Punjab government has gripped with fear and hopelessness. He reminded that PPP government in its tenure tackled the long march and sit-ins amicably and after that Dr. Qadri had cancelled its March and sit-in himself.
PPP leader demanded Punjab government to remove all the blockade and tackle Dr Qadri without any violence.