Friday, August 29, 2014
“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad,” George Orwell wrote in “1984.” “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” For months now, the Saudi human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair has been clinging to the truth against the odds. Last month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison (with five years suspended), fined a large sum and barred from leaving the country for another 15 years — all because of social media comments and remarks to the news media about the kingdom’s miserable human rights record. Abulkhair, a lawyer, is a founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a group that the Saudi authorities have refused to register. For some time, he has been in the cross hairs of Saudi rulers, who brook no dissent nor challenge to their legitimacy. He was put on trial last October on a series of absurd and trumped-up charges, and then, in April, after the fifth session of the trial, he was arrested and thrown into prison under a counterterrorism law. Since then, according to Abulkhair, he has been tortured and mistreated, put in solitary confinement, deprived of medicine to treat his diabetes and imprisoned on the ground without a blanket. He has been moved five times, most recently to a prison 600 miles from his family. Orwell would certainly recognize him as a man clinging to truth. The verdict found him guilty of: seeking to remove the legitimacy of the state, harming the public order, inciting public opinion and insulting the judiciary, defaming the judiciary and discrediting Saudi Arabia by alienating international organizations, being head of an unauthorized association and speaking out for it and violating the Saudi cybercrime law. We list these at length so you get the flavor of how the kingdom throws the book at a dissident. Human Rights Watch said the charge sheet against him consisted “of little more than excerpts from statements he had made to various media outlets and tweets that criticize Saudi Arabia’s treatment of peaceful dissidents, especially harsh sentences against them by Saudi courts.” This case is only the latest in a long and sorrowful series of persecutions of those who stand for human rights and dignity in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia remains determined to shut the windows, close the doors and throw dissidents into solitary confinement. This is barbaric treatment of a man who spoke out for truth. http://magicvalley.com/news/opinion/columns/other-points-of-view-saudi-arabia-continues-repression-of-human/article_49f4b580-2e45-11e4-b59b-001a4bcf887a.html
Those jailed have been convicted of crimes including "breaking allegiance to the ruler", espousing a militant ideology and manufacturing explosives.A Saudi Arabian court sentenced 23 men to jail terms of up to 22 years for their role in militant attacks, state media said on Wednesday, part of a security crackdown in which scores of people have been imprisoned over the past week. On Tuesday state media reported that 17 men had been jailed for terms of up to 33 years. Last week, 48 men were sentenced to prison terms of up to 30 years and one was condemned to death for militant crimes. Those jailed have been convicted of crimes including “breaking allegiance to the ruler”, espousing a militant ideology, travelling to fight in foreign conflicts, setting up cells to attack foreigners and manufacturing explosives. Al Qaeda militants carried out a wave of attacks against foreign and government targets in Saudi Arabia from 2003 to 2006. Last month the militant group staged a cross-border raid into the kingdom from Yemen, its first on Saudi soil since 2009. That attack, along with growing radicalism stirred by the wars in Iraq and Syria, have fueled Riyadh’s security concerns. In February King Abdullah decreed long prison terms for anybody who goes abroad to fight or joins groups deemed extremist. Saudi Arabia has detained thousands since 2003 over security offences, jailing hundreds of them. Human rights monitors inside the Kingdom and abroad say some peaceful dissidents with no links to militants or Islamists have also been jailed during the security campaign.
The Saudi government may deny links to the group, but its promotion of hardline Islam is not something the west can ignore any longer.Islamic State (Isis), now being described in some quarters as “the most capable military power in the Middle East outside Israel”, is at the top of the global agenda. Naturally, there is discussion of its origins and backers. It is notable that, in particular, the Saudi government has scrambled to deny any links to the group. In the past two weeks, the usually low-profile Saudi ambassador in the UK sent a strongly worded letter to the Guardian. The embassy issued a press release to the same effect, and last week the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia himself made a statement condemning Isis. This follows a $100m contribution to a UN anti-terror programme. Saudi Arabia is increasingly feeling the heat of the Sunni hardline blowback. While the Saudi government technically doesn’t sponsor Isis, it has promoted a fundamentalist Salafi interpretation of Islam that has encroached into the mainstream Sunni space. This has created the conditions, inside and outside the country, for extremism to breed. The clergy is a powerful force in Saudi Arabia. Its influence derives from the fact that the royal family has entered into a formal pact with the sheikhs, under which the understanding is that the House of Saud can hold on to political power, while the religious establishment gets to dictate the national character of Saudi Arabia, one that has remained doggedly extreme. This vision has also been exported abroad by both state and non-state actors, the former as a clumsy substitute for a coherent foreign policy, by which the Saudi government contributes funds for mosques and charitable organisations in Muslim countries as a way of purchasing influence; the latter via personal wealth and the zeal of private citizens. Osama bin Laden was a perfect combination of the two, a personally motivated non-state actor, radicalised in the schools and mosques of Jeddah, who managed to also rope in the Saudi establishment by selling a religious mission to them – pushing back the Soviet invasion – in the guise of a political project. But it seems even Saudis are beginning to see the foolhardiness of this arrangement. In a searing essay in the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh last week, Hissa bint Ahmed bin Al al-Sheikh, a member of one of the most influential religious families in Saudi Arabia and a relative of the grand mufti, rails against the “farce of fatwas” in the kingdom, and records a litany of extremist measures introduced since the 1980s that have stifled public life and glorified a culture of “hatred and death” that she recognises in Isis. This is a culture disseminated via state media, the national curriculum and public order laws – legislation that many Saudi intellectuals warned against. The Saudi establishment has sacrificed its people, and the wider Muslim world that lies within its influence, in return for immunity from religious revolt of the type that threatened Mecca in the 1970s. While the immediate focus vis-a-vis Isis needs to be on practical counter-extremism measures, the west can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to Saudi’s internal contradictions. These have spawned a decadent and west-friendly royal family that preside over a society where clerics run amok, where imams rant against infidels, religious minorities are oppressed, education is heavily slanted towards religion and where people are beheaded for sorcery. As far as containing the radical Islamic threat, the status quo is increasingly no longer working – neither for the Saudis, nor the western governments who support them. Saudi salafism is not the wellspring of hardline Islamic groups worldwide, but it is part of something that might be – a tendency for Arab and Muslim governments to pay lip service to Islam to bolster their religious credentials through politically expedient means. These leaders simultaneously instrumentalise religion while oppressing any form of religious opposition. The combination of serious cash and the religious weight that comes from being the birthplace of Islam renders Saudi Arabia the most dangerous member of this club. The long-term solution to the constant reincarnation of radical Islamic political movements doesn’t lie in grand public gestures like anti-terrorism funding, strong statements of condemnation, or “rehabilitation clinics” for radicals, but in dismantling state-sponsored religious indoctrination. As the Isis threats march on, the old calculations no longer work in Arab governments’ favour.
Why would Isis offer to give up its captives in return for the release of a Pakistani serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas penitentiary? Andrew Buncombe goes on the trail of the mysterious Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
The message from the militants was revealing.
“You were given many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions as other governments have accepted,” it said. “We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention, like our sister Dr Aafia Siddiqui. However, you proved very quickly to us that this is not what you are interested in.”This message, reportedly sent to the employers of American journalist James Foley by fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which labels itself the Islamic State, highlighted an audacious gambit: they had sought to exchange Mr Foley for a Pakistani woman who has been dubbed Lady al-Qa’ida and who was once described as the world’s most wanted woman, but whom her family insist is an innocent victim. Isis also reportedly wanted £80m. The Obama administration declined to consider either option and the 40-year-old American journalist was subsequently beheaded. Amid the outrage and horror over the stark, shuddering murder of Mr Foley, the offer made by the militants for Siddiqui has led to fresh questions about the curious case of the 42-year-old mother-of-three. Who is she and why were Isis interested in her? Aafia Siddiqui was born in Karachi and grew up in an upper-middle-class family before travelling to the US to study. Siddiqui, whose mother once served in Pakistan’s parliament and whose father trained in the UK to be a doctor, began her studies at the University of Houston in Texas before moving to Massachusetts and earning a PhD in neuroscience from Brandeis University. She and her first husband, Amjad Mohammed Khan, an anaesthesiologist, left the US after the attacks of 11 September 2001, eventually returning to Karachi in the summer of 2002. While still in the US, Siddiqui and her husband were questioned by the FBI regarding their purchase over the internet of £6,000 worth of night vision equipment and body armour. They said it was for hunting. Siddiqui and her husband divorced in late 2002. He would later claim he was concerned about her increasingly extremist views. “I was aware of Aafia’s violent personality and extremist views and suspected her involvement in Jihadi activities” he told a local newspaper two years ago. Shortly after the divorce, Siddiqui allegedly married Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man accused of plotting the al-Qa’ida attacks on New York and Washington. Her family still denies this marriage happened and say the story was invented by the Western media. Yet other reports say there is substantial evidence of the marriage. Baluchi has been in US custody since 2003 and was moved to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2006. The US says he was one of two main people who handled the money that financed the 9/11 attacks. In March 2003, Siddiqui and her three children disappeared, just after the FBI announced a global “wanted for questioning” alert for her and her first husband. (Mr Khan was questioned over alleged terror links and released without charge.) It is believed she was mentioned as a possible al-Qa’ida operative by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was repeatedly questioned and tortured by the US after he was arrested in Rawalpindi at the beginning of March 2003. There remains an intense and ongoing debate about what happened to Siddiqui and her children during the next five years. Some believe they were held by the Pakistani authorities, while her family say she was a “ghost prisoner” of the US and was kept in a secret prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Her ex-husband believes she and her children spent those years at large in Pakistan, under the eye of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). The next confirmed sighting of her was in the summer of 2008 when she was detained in Afghanistan after being discovered close to the home of a senior official in Ghazni province. She was carrying documents describing the production of explosives, chemical weapons and the Ebola virus, and hand-written notes referring to a “mass-casualty attack” in the US. Siddiqui was eventually convicted in the US, not on terror-related charges but on counts of attempted murder – charges resulting from the claim, denied by her, that she tried to shoot her US interrogators while in Afghanistan. She was sentenced to 86 years in jail and is currently being held at the Federal Medical Centre in Carswell, Texas, which houses female prisoners with mental health issues. Prisoner number 90279-054 is not due for release until 2083. Since the release of the Isis email that referred to Siddiqui, there has been much speculation among experts about what it may signify. Dr Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistan scholar at Chatham House in London, said Isis may have been prompted by one of several militant groups in Pakistan who have called for Siddiqui’s release in exchange for Shakil Afridi. The case of Afridi, a doctor who was recruited by the CIA to try to locate Osama bin Laden and later charged with treason by Pakistan, is due to be reviewed again shortly. Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, said the use of Siddiqui’s name suggested the group may have some Pakistanis in its ranks, or at least influencing its decision-making processes. He said the Isis fighters may have been trying to secure support from hardline Muslims elsewhere in the world by claiming they were trying to secure the release of a Muslim woman they believe was wrongfully imprisoned by the US government. Following Siddiqui’s conviction in 2010, her elder sister, Fowzia, a Harvard-trained neurologist who worked at several US hospitals before returning to Pakistan, has been leading a campaign seeking her release and insisting she is innocent. Recently she managed to obtain more than 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for the US government to look at the case, a threshold that requires the Obama administration to consider the petition. Fowzia Siddiqui, who lives in Karachi and takes care of her sister’s children, said the lawyer handling the case had not been able to speak to Siddiqui for six months and the family had received no word from her independently. Asked about the significance of her sister’s name being included in the ransom message from Isis, she said: “As long as both the US and the Pakistani governments keep delaying the matter, such incidents will continue happening, because now the injustice done to her has come to the fore. Extremists, and any other faction, can use Aafia’s image to invoke emotions.” She added: “She has become a symbol of strength and injustice for Muslims across the globe. The best way to reduce such unfortunate incidents is to at least amend this one mistake by releasing her.” She said her family had learned about Isis only in the past few weeks. She had previously assumed people were talking about the Pakistani ISI. “Then someone corrected me that it was another organisation in Iraq.” The likelihood that Isis is using Siddiqui as an attempt to reach out to Muslims globally is supported by the fact that this is not the first time her name has come up. Isis also referred to her during ransom negotiations over a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped while doing humanitarian work in Syria in 2013. Isis has asked for £4.4m for the woman, whose identity has not been divulged and who remains in captivity. Previously, the Taliban in Afghanistan had called for Siddiqui’s release in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, the US army sergeant who was held captive for five years and released this spring after the US agreed to release five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
"You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits," Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012. "I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." But this suit was TAN. So, what message is he trying to send exactly? We consulted our in-house fashion expert -- Pulitzer prize winner Robin Givhan -- to answer just that question. "There is nothing wrong with that suit – well, except it’s a little big," Givhan said. "As they always are." She added: It says more about official, federal, political Washington that anything other than a dark suit with a white shirt and red tie counts as some sort of aesthetic heresy. That is a conservative two-button suit in a color that is perfectly appropriate for the time of year and the occasion. This was not a 'formal' news conference. Honestly, people are responding like he showed up in Pharrell Williams' short suit. I'm appalled by the Twitter feeds.
President Obama wore a tan suit on Thursday while talking about Ukraine and the Islamic State, and political Twitter promptly went nuts. Over the suit. You see, Obama has a tendency to wear gray or blue suits. "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits," Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012. "I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." But this suit was TAN. So, what message is he trying to send exactly? We consulted our in-house fashion expert -- Pulitzer prize winner Robin Givhan -- to answer just that question. "There is nothing wrong with that suit – well, except it’s a little big," Givhan said. "As they always are." She added: It says more about official, federal, political Washington that anything other than a dark suit with a white shirt and red tie counts as some sort of aesthetic heresy. That is a conservative two-button suit in a color that is perfectly appropriate for the time of year and the occasion. This was not a 'formal' news conference. Honestly, people are responding like he showed up in Pharrell Williams' short suit. I'm appalled by the Twitter feeds.The Twitter, you say? Well, yes, political Twitter did have a mini meltdown over the suit.
Deputy head of the largest Islamic training center, Darul Uloom Haqqania Madrassa located in Pakistan, called on the Taliban to fight against the Afghan government and foreign troops on Monday during an exclusive interview with TOLOnews. Reports indicate that Mullah Omar, the notorious Taliban leader, has awarded the madrassa many times in training newcomers to fight. "We call on the Afghan Taliban's and ask them what relations do the thousands of foreign troops have with Afghanistan?" asked Mawlana Hafiz-ul-Haq Haqqani, deputy head of the Darul Uloom Haqqania Madrassa. "They should fight against them [foreign troops] and the Afghan government." More than 4,000 Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are currently being trained by the madrassa. Those who have completed their training join either willingly or forcefully are sent off to fight in Afghanistan targeting military and non-military personnel. According to a number of Pakistani political experts, during the soviet invasion in Afghanistan many members of the Mujahidin were trained by the madrassa and sent out to defend the country. "Those who fought against the soviet troops alongside the Mujahidin were trained by the Pakistani madrassas," Mohammad Jan Babur, Pakistani journalist, said. Political analyst in Pakistan, Shamim Shahid, said the "Taliban regime in Afghanistan are graduates of Pakistan's madrassas." The Haqqania Madrassa trains more than 4,000 students, but Pakistan has roughly 16,000 active madrassas in the country, of which almost 600,000 students are learning.
According to the details, Pakistan army has clarified that the Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had requested Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif for playing positive role for solution to the current political crisis in the country. According to the tweet, DG ISPR Maj General Asim Bajwa said that during a meeting last night, the prime minister had requested the army chief to play positive role for solving political crisis in the country. He said that the government had requested for mediating between the PTI, PAT and government to solve the current standoff. AsimBajwaISPR @AsimBajwaISPR ISPR Release:#COAS was asked by the Govt to play facilitative role for resolution of current impasse, in yesterday’s meeting, at #PM House Earlier, speaking on National Assembly floor, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that neither the government nor the army has asked to play any role of a mediator to bring the current political crisis to an end.
Chairman PPP Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari telephoned leader of opposition Syed khursheed shah from Shanghai and appreciated his speech. He stated that the party position was clear that PPP does not support interventionist politics. He also said that We do not support extremes positions on either side. Chairman PPP reiterated what former President Mr Asif Ali Zardari said earlier that “Dialogue, dialogue and dialogue is the best remedy for diffusing the political standoff. We don’t believe in taking extreme positions in politics.”
Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says that resignation by anyone will not deliver justice, Aaj News reported. The PPP Chairman was expressing his thoughts on the social media site Twitter, saying that those responsible for rigging should be held accountable by courts and not a mob.
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah Friday urged the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to stand firm in defence of democracy and the constitution. “If any government is toppled by force, the ruling party doesn’t die but it remains alive,” Shah said while speaking in the National Assembly. The opposition leader said that the political parties defended democracy by rendering sacrifices. “Benazir Bhutto safeguarded democracy and the constitution by sacrificing her life,” he said. He said that the protesting parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, are playing a game of terror in the name of democracy. “If the protesting parties want to set the parliament on fire they can do it…but we will not allow them to torch the constitution,” Shah said. He urged Inter Services Public Relation (ISPR) to clarify if the army chief met the protesting leaders on their wish. Shah said that all political parties will stand steadfast to ensure supremacy of the constitution, the parliament and to strengthen democracy. He said it is unfortunate that a bad impression was created about the position of the government on the issue, while it is a matter of satisfaction that the interior minister has removed this impression. Khurshid Shah said the government should allow these undemocratic protesters to storm the parliament and destroy the state institution, so that they could be exposed before the nation of 200 million people with their ulterior motives. Mahmood Khan Achakzai said that the fight to defend democracy has entered the decisive stage and we will continue struggle in this regard. He suggested that the joint session of the parliament should be summoned to address the issue.
Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif is still in power after weeks of anti-government protests in the capital Islamabad. But experts say that he has been cut down to size, and the country's military is back in the driving seat.After two weeks of anti-government protests and demonstrations in Islamabad, the opposition leaders – cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri – have not been able to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign. Thousands of protesters continue to stage a sit-in outside the Islamic country's National Assembly (lower house of parliament), chanting slogans against the Premier, who they claim came to power through rigged elections. However, political experts say that both Khan and Qadri look increasingly isolated, and there is almost no chance that PM Sharif will step down. So the question is what have the opposition leaders achieved through mass rallies which kicked off in the eastern city of Lahore – a Sharif bastion – on August 14? Analysts say that the Pakistani military generals, which many in the Islamic republic believe are backing anti-Sharif demonstrations, have accomplished a difficult task: they tamed a popular civilian leader that has a history of acrimonious relations with their institution. The military is wary of Sharif's cordial moves towards the country's regional arch-rival India. The PM and the army are also not on the same page over the Islamic republic's Afghanistan policy, and more so on the future of the detained former military chief and ex-president, Pervez Musharraf. Experts are of the view that one of the reasons behind Pakistani military's alleged support of the anti-government rallies is to pressure Sharif and his government, banking on his weakness to engage in political bargaining with his opponents. In a report published on Wednesday, August 27, The Wall Street Journal said the Pakistani military was close to an agreement with Sharif in which "the prime minister would relinquish control of security affairs and strategic foreign policy". Abdul Agha, an Islamabad-based analyst, told DW that "Sharif has survived, but the army has cut him down to size. I would call it a symbolic coup," adding that the military did not need to intervene directly now. "I don't think Pakistan's military has any desire to be directly saddled with the unprecedented challenges the government faces now; it much prefers to influence matters from behind the scenes. In other words, the time isn't right for the military to take over," said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, in a DW interview. The experts are right: the military has intervened without staging a formal coup: On Thursday, August 28, Prime Minister Sharif formally requested his country's powerful army chief, Raheel Sharif, to intervene in the protracted conflict and act as a mediator. Analysts say that the PM had no option but to surrender to the will of the army after the police in the eastern city of Lahore registered a criminal report against him and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif - who heads the government of the eastern Punjab province - in the murder case of 11 members of cleric Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party. The PAT activists were killed in clashes with security forces on June 17. One of the opposition demands is that the brothers are arrested for "ordering" the killings. Both Sharif and his brother deny the accusations.
A setback to democracySharif took office in June 2013, after his Muslim League party won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections. Supporters of civilian rule and democracy had hoped it would usher in a new era of stability in Pakistan. The five-year rule of former President Asif Ali Zardari had seen the power of the military gradually curtailed. But experts fear that the two-week long protests against the 15-month-old government could bring the army back in the driving seat. "I don't know who the winner will be, but the real danger is that democratic norms and institutions could become its biggest casualty," Aqil Shah, Pakistan expert and visiting professor in the department of Government at Dartmouth College, told DW. "By baying for the blood of the elected government, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf's (Khan's political party) actions threaten the country's first democratic transition marked by the transfer of power from an elected government, which had completed its full term, to another," he added. Peace with India Before the start of the protests, there were also signs that Sharif was determined to take the foreign policy and defense matters under his control, which have traditionally been a military domain. In May, Sharif travelled to India to attend the inauguration ceremony of Indian Premier Narendra Modi in an unprecedented diplomatic move. His one-on-one meeting with Modi raised hopes that the two South Asian countries could finally bury the hatchet and live in peace.
But things have changed over the last few weeks. Sharif has been too busy negotiating with political rivals in order to save his government and is least bothered about ties with India or what is happening on the disputed border of Kashmir – a region that both Islamabad and New Delhi claim in its entirety. Last week, Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded gunfire across the Kashmir border, killing two civilians and wounding several others on each side. In an apparent blow to bilateral ties, India also canceled peace talks with Pakistan after Islamabad met with Kashmiri separatists. Earlier this month, PM Modi had accused Pakistan of engaging in "the proxy war of terrorism" in the Himalayan region. "There is far too much internal turmoil in Pakistan to enable PM Sharif to make any credible commitment to India (on peace talks)," Sumit Ganguly, India expert and professor of Political Science at the Indiana University Bloomington, told DW. Sarah Hees, Resident Representative of the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in India, is of the same view: "The general public attention in Pakistan lies on the protests and the government's response, whereas India's cancelation of peace talks made only minor headlines in Pakistani media. Nevertheless, it might further strengthen the conservative voices in times of already tense civil-military relations in Pakistan."
Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri met with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi overnight after the PML-N government asked him to play his "role" in ending the political crisis. (Source: AP).Pakistan’s powerful army chief has stepped in to mediate between the embattled government and the protesters seeking resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, bringing the military back into the centre stage and signaling a possible end to the high-political drama. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri, camping in Islamabad for more than two weeks, met with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi overnight after the PML-N government asked him to play his “role” in ending the political crisis. Khan wants the PML-N government’s ouster over alleged rigging in last year’s poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country. According to well placed sources, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan was also present during these meetings. “It was agreed that army negotiators will have backdoor interactions with both sides on Friday and prepare ground for an agreement between the two sides,” sources said. The government representatives will also meet the protest leaders and they will approve or sign the agreement mediated by the army. After meeting Gen Sharif, Khan told his weary protesters that army has become “neutral umpire” in the crisis. He still demanded resignation of the Prime Minister. “If he resigns we will celebrate it on Friday evening,” he said. Qadri also addressed his listless crowd of followers and said he had presented his revolutionary agenda to the army chief in the meeting. Sources said that the deal brokered by army will address Khan’s concerns about rigging and Qadri’s basic demand of inclusion of clauses of anti-terror laws in the case already registered against Prime Minister Sharif, his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and others in Lahore. Sharif is expected to survive in the political battle but he will become weak and unable to challenge army’s grip on foreign and security policy of the country. The army, which has so far been passive in the confrontation between the government and protesters, has a history of capturing power from democratically elected governments. Sharif himself was removed from office during a previous stint as prime minister in a military coup by the then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf in 1999. When politician differed in 1977 over the outcome of polls, then army chief Gen Zia-ul Haq imposed martial law. Meanwhile, leaders from across the political spectrum regretted the political tug of war that led to a crisis where the army got involved to settle dispute. “After this, we will not be able to hold our heads high,” Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Javed Hashmi, who is known for his outspoken opposition to military’s involvement in politics, was quoted as saying by the Dawn. “It is shameful time for all politicians who, despite having the time, could not resolve the crisis on their own.” Rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq had a more cautious response. He told a TV channel that if the army could intercede and end this crisis, well and good, but the military had no role in politics. Jamiat Ulem-e-Islam-Fazal spokesperson Jan Achakzai had a similar response. “It is a failure of the politicians who could not resolve the crisis. But I welcome any deal that remains within the spirit of democracy and the Constitution.” Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Syed Khursheed Shah, who is also leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said he would ask the prime minister why the army chief had to be asked to mediate when nearly all political parties were present in the house and had offered their support to him. Former Punjab Governor and PPP leader Latif Khosa put the onus of the military’s involvement squarely on the ruling PML-N’s houlders. “After killing 14 innocent PAT workers, the Sharif brothers were unwilling even to register their FIR,” he said, adding that the government’s delaying tactics in dealing with PAT and PTI further complicated the situation. Talking to DawnNews, prominent lawyer and rights activist Asma Jahangir criticised both Qadri and Khan, saying “Those who had wasted 15 days must be discouraged.” Nearly all parliamentary parties and politicians pleaded with them, but they did not heed anyone’s advice, she said. “Now, on a single phone call, they rush to Army House.” She criticised army’s blatant involvement in political affairs and said instead of using their proxies to destabilise the system, why don’t they impose direct military rule. Secular Awami National Party Haji Adeel said it is wrong to make the military a political guarantor; parliament is the supreme guarantor. “This is a major failure for all politicians,” he said.
http://www.thenewstribe.com/Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI) Chief and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) head Dr Tahir Ul Qadri have rejected the government statement that both the parties’ leadership called Army for mediation. Imran Khan said that office of Army Chief Raheel Sharif contacted him on phone that government wanted to negotiate. He said that it was 100 percent lie that PTI requested for army mediation adding that PTI did not give message to Army for mediation. Imran Khan reiterated his stand that PTI would continued its protest until PM resignation. He said that today announcement would be made that government could not rule the country. Earlier PAT Chief Dr Tahir Ul responding on government statement that PAT did not call Army for mediation and government was telling a lie. Addressing the party protesters, the PAT chief said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali khan told lie in the parliament. Army was called for mediation on the federal government and the PM request and rejected the government statement. He said the PM Nawaz Sharif told a lie and deceived the nation on this act he must be sacked. Tahir Ul Qadri said that tri party talks would be ended if Sharif brothers did not resign till today’s evening.
Military to act as "guarantor" as politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri continue to call for PM's resignation.The military has intervened in Pakistan's ongoing political crisis, playing the role of mediator between the government and opposition figures calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation over alleged voter fraud and government inefficiency. Imran Khan, the leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Canada-based anti-government cleric, have led separate protest sit-ins of thousands of demonstrators in Islamabad since August 14, calling for Sharif to resign. Late on Thursday night, both men separately met with Army Chief General Raheel Sharif (no relation to Nawaz) to discuss their demands, the military’s spokesperson confirmed, after earlier talks with the government repeatedly broke down. Discussions with government negotiators will resume on Friday, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the country’s interior minister, said. The prime minister had met with General Sharif earlier on Thursday, the latest in a series of meetings between the two. Khan and Qadri had earlier told their supporters that they had accepted the army's role as "guarantor" and "mediator" in the crisis. 'Voter fraud' The military has frequently intervened in politics in the past, carrying out repeated coups against elected governments to rule Pakistan for roughly half of its 67 years of independence. The last such intervention took place in 1999, when then-army chief Pervez Musharraf deposed PM Sharif and ruled the country for nine years. Khan has alleged that Sharif's PML-N party engaged in widespread voter fraud in the country’s 2013 general election, in which the PML-N won 189 out of a possible 342 seats. The then-incumbent Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won 46 seats, while Khan's PTI took 34 seats. Qadri and his supporters, meanwhile, reject the country's current system of governance, and the cleric has called for the elected government to be dismissed and replaced by an appointed government of technocrats, who would then rewrite the constitution. PM must resign Khan is due to address his supporters at the protest site outside the country's parliament at 6pm (13:00 GMT) to update them on the talks. Speaking shortly after his meeting with General Sharif, Khan said that he was prepared for a judicial commission to investigate his allegations of vote rigging, but that he would not accept that commission’s findings as long as Sharif remained in office. "As long as Nawaz Sharif is the prime minister, there will not be an independent or impartial investigation," he told supporters. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Asad Umar, a member of the PTI’s negotiating team, said that his party had accepted the army's role in the crisis "because the government is simply unable to come to a political solution". "Whatever decision is taken, however, it will have to be within the bounds of the constitution," he said. PM Sharif defiant Speaking on the floor of the national assembly on Friday, PM Sharif struck a defiant figure, refusing to step down and asserting his party's constitutional mandate to rule. "I have taken an oath under the constitution, it is my view that ... it is my responsibility and obligation to uphold every letter of that resolution," he said, referring to an August 21 resolution passed by the National Assembly that rejected the "unconstitutional" demands of Khan and Qadri. Earlier, on Thursday, the government ordered police in Lahore to register a murder case against PM Sharif and 20 others in a case relating to the killing of 11 Qadri supporters by police on June 17. The registration of the case had been a key demand of Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), but Qadri rejected the move, saying the case did not contain a full list of suspects and neither did it charge them under anti-terrorism laws, as he had demanded.
Even if PM Nawaz Sharif survives the current crisis, his government will be permanently weakened.Pakistan is in a state of crisis and the continuing deadlock between the government and opposition parties threatens to derail the constitutional order. Since the beginning of August, the two leading opposition groups - Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by a Canadian-Pakistani cleric Dr Tahir ul Qadri - have been mobilising their supporters for a regime change. Both have different objectives but are joined forces in the moment to oust the incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. On August 15, the two groups entered the capital and a few days later marched into the high security Red Zone where all the diplomatic missions and key state buildings such the parliament, supreme court and presidency are located. The crowds were smaller than expected but they are charged, parked in the capital and willing to storm into the PM House. The army which has been entrusted with the role to protect the state institution buildings has prevented this from happening and it has demonstrated that it will avoid a situation where it may have to intervene by force. The spokesperson of the armed forces has advised the "stakeholders" to engage in consultations and settle the issue. The army issued a formal statement saying: "…The situation requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in the larger national and public interest." The key demand of Mr Khan's PTI is that the PM should resign and pave the way for an independent inquiry into the alleged rigging that took place in the 2013 elections. Mr Qadri and his party PAT have more sweeping demands for a new system of government. Both groups have little new to offer beyond the overthrow of Sharif's government. There is no concrete plan, no direction for structural changes and most importantly no new national security paradigm. There doesn't seem to be a resolution underway in this political standoff. PM Sharif returned to parliament for support and he did receive it: Almost all the elected parties (except for Khan's which withdrew earlier) have backed him and passed resolutions in his favour. His core constituency - the business lobbies across Pakistan - also came out strongly in his defence. The reason was obvious: Karachi Stock Exchange lost 1375 points (the highest fall in a day) on August 11 over fears of political instability. The Pakistani rupee has also depreciated against US dollar since the crisis started. This comes at a time when foreign direct investment has been falling due to the security and political climate.Some estimates say that protests are causing a financial loss of Rs 150bn ($1.5bn) per day and hitting the daily wage labour. Even civil society including activist lawyers turned its back on Khan and his march by observing a symbolic strike across the country against any future deviation from the constitutional rule. Since August 20, formal talks between the government and leaders of protesting groups have not yielded results. The government has accepted most demands except that for Sharif's resignation. The various rounds of talks broke down and Khan made another grand speech to reiterate his accusations. In short, there is an impasse where the opposition is going to backtrack if only Mr Sharif quits the office. And, the statements from Sharif's camp are clear that such a resignation is not likely to happen. PAT also wants the Punjab Chief Minister, brother of the PM, to be removed from office due to the tragic showdown between his supporters and the provincial police which led to the deaths of 14 people. Shifting alliances Such political instability is not new to Pakistan. A lack of consensus on how the country has to be governed has plagued Pakistan's history with cyclical patterns of military rule and weak civilian governments. With the current protests, such schisms have captured public imagination through a powerful electronic media where the very rationale of democracy is being debated often in an adverse manner. The protests are unique for they are being televised into the homes of millions of Pakistanis and thus creating a broader impact. Another important dimension of the current mobilisation is a comeback of the Barelvi sect adhered to by the majority. Dr Qadri is a leading cleric of this relatively moderate order and has authored a major treatise against suicide bombings. In addition, the Shiite political party, Majlis e Wahadat e Muslimeen (MWM) has also joined the protests ostensibly against the policy of appeasement of armed sections of more hardline Deobandi groups which legitimise attacks on Shia Muslims and Sufi shrines. This is why a proscribed extremist organisation protested in favour of the current government. If this configuration has the patronage of the establishment - as some suggest - then a policy shift maybe underway. The state's alliance with the hardline jihad groups began in 1980s during the Afghan war and it has now expanded within the country. According to most observers, Pakistan's powerful military is the key player in this crisis. Given Pakistan's political history, the final arbiter of this conflict will be the army as well. Backdoor consultations have continued as close associates of the PM have been meeting the army chief. The PM has also consulted the army chief sensing that he may possess the key to final resolution. A few days ago, a Reuters report said that matters between the Army and Mr Sharif were getting resolved by the latter agreeing to "share" space with the army. In the recent days, Mr Sharif has resorted to building a political coalition, given due importance to the parliament and has avoided using brutal tactics to dispel the crowds in the capital. Observers say that this may be a little late as the situation is fast turning into a plan to manage his ouster. But Mr Sharif fights on. The truth is that Mr Sharif has been considerably weakened and even if he survives this crisis it may not be the end of the story. For most Pakistanis this is another spell of uncertainty; and the promise of economic recovery that shaped the 2013 electoral outcome seems even more distant. If there is a derailment of the constitutional order it will undo the gains made during the past seven years by Pakistan's political and civil society. If the PM is forced to resign it sets a wrong and dangerous precedent. And if there is no change, the autonomy for the civilian government will be restricted in key policies, most notably in Afghanistan where a transition is taking place. No matter what will end the current crisis, the future of democracy looks bleak unless the civilian forces join hands to reform the state structures, fix the electoral system, including party-structures, and provide better services through elected local governments.
By SALMAN MASOODThe Pakistani Army stepped into the country’s two-week-old political crisis on Thursday when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requested that the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, help defuse a standoff that has crippled the government. Thousands of protesters led by the opposition politician Imran Khan and the cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri have been camped in Islamabad since Aug. 15 as part of protest movements aimed at forcing Prime Minister Sharif to resign. The two movements are allied but have differing goals. Mr. Khan, who accuses Mr. Sharif of rigging last year’s general election, wants new elections, while Mr. Qadri is calling for an interim unity government to run the country. Every night, the two protest leaders have held rallies in Islamabad, defying predictions from government supporters that their movements would fade away. Efforts by Mr. Sharif’s government to end the crisis through direct negotiations have failed in recent days. Mr. Qadri’s campaign, in particular, has pressed a demand that Mr. Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab Province, resign first. Mr. Qadri’s campaign has been energized by anger among his supporters and the broader public over a police shooting episode in Lahore in June in which at least 10 of his supporters were killed. Mr. Qadri has accused Shahbaz Sharif, who has direct control over the Lahore police, of ordering the shootings. In an apparent bid to appease Mr. Qadri, the Lahore police on Thursday registered a murder case in relation to the shootings that named the Sharif brothers, several cabinet ministers and police officials as suspects in the case. The legal action falls short of an indictment, but it is an official notice that charges are being considered. Mr. Qadri and Mr. Khan had billed Thursday as the decisive day of their struggle to oust Mr. Sharif, leading to fears that they would push their supporters to storm the prime minister’s house and Parliament. But any such move could bring them into direct confrontation with soldiers guarding those buildings. As the tension mounted, Mr. Sharif met with General Sharif, who is not related to him, at the prime minister’s house in Islamabad — their second meeting in three days. The two men “agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of the stalled process of negotiations,” Mr. Sharif’s spokesman said. Later, Mr. Qadri presented the announcement as a victory. “The army chief has asked us to give him 24 hours to solve the crisis,” he told cheering supporters from atop a shipping container. Mr. Khan said he was postponing his “next plan of action” for 24 hours to allow General Sharif time to mediate. Then he left the protest site to meet with the army chief. The prospect of an army intervention in the political crisis is likely to make many here nervous, as the Pakistani military has a long history of either manipulating politicians from behind the scenes or directly seizing power in coups. The army’s relationship with Mr. Sharif is especially turbulent. Mr. Sharif’s last spell in power ended in 1999 with a coup led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, then the army chief. Now, Mr. Musharraf faces treason charges, one of several factors that have soured relations between the prime minister and the army in recent months. Mr. Sharif came to power hoping to show a strong civilian hand. But he has clashed with the military leadership over policy toward India and the Musharraf treason case, and by publicly siding with Geo, a television network that accused military intelligence officials of trying to kill one of its journalists.
As Imran Khan's supporters stage a sit-in on the streets of Islamabad, he reserves some of his ire for the Geo TV stationHamid Mir, one of the few remaining famous faces on what was until recently Pakistan's most watched television station, runs a nightly gauntlet to get to his Islamabad studio. For weeks the street outside has been full of rowdy supporters of Imran Khan, an opposition politician, who is leading street protests a few hundred metres away aimed at forcing out the government. Khan's supporters not only loathe the rule of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, they also hate Geo, the news channel that Khan decries from the roof of a converted sea container, from where he makes daily addresses to thousands of supporters. "They regard Geo as the enemy," says Mir. "[Khan] is talking against my channel every night and his workers attack our journalists every day." Some politicians have declined invitations to appear on his evening Capital Talk programme, saying they are unsure they can safely get behind the razor-wire topped wall recently erected around the building. The mood has been tense ever since Khan and Muslim cleric Tahir ul-Qadri launched parallel sit-ins on the streets of the capital this month . The deep animosity of Khan towards the Geo-Jang media conglomerate that employs Mir is one element of a political crisis that has bitterly divided the media and the political class. Many analysts also believe it has helped the military in its long-running battle for supremacy over the civilian government. Mir, a veteran journalist often close to the centre of events, played an inadvertent role in triggering the current crisis when he was critically injured by gunmen who opened fire on his car as he was travelling through Karachi in April. Even as he was unconscious in hospital his colleagues at Geo wasted no time in broadcasting explosive allegations that the attempted killing had been ordered on the direct orders of Zaheer ul-Islam, the head of the country's powerful military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). The accusation sparked fury from the army, who strongly rejected the unsubstantiated allegations and demanded that the enormously popular station be shut down. But Nawaz Sharif, a prime minister determined to bring to heel a military that ousted him in a 1999 coup, very publicly backed Geo. The standoff further soured relations with a military top brass already angry at Sharif for the high treason trial he ordered for the former dictator Pervez Musharraf and for the prime minister's dogged resistance to army demands for military operations against the Pakistani Taliban. It also nearly destroyed Geo. Not only have some of the channel's star names defected to rival broadcasters eager to eat into Geo's once commanding audience share, the company is said to be rapidly losing money, after cable providers and advertisers were pressured into dropping the channel. The network is now struggling along largely on money earned internationally from Pakistani viewers around the world. Commercial pressure has recently been reapplied following Geo's critical coverage of the Islamabad protests that failed to attract anything close to the 1 million people Khan had promised. "The people who are controlling Imran and Qadri say we are contributing to the failure of the protests because Geo is saying again and again that they failed to mobilise a million people," says Mir. "So again they are forcing cable operators to take us off the air." For his part, Khan has blamed Geo for being complicit in what he claims was the industrial rigging of last year's general elections – a claim that has not been supported by independent election observers. Although Khan's long sit-in outside parliament is ostensibly to protest against electoral fraud, most commentators believe he would not have launched his "long march" if Sharif had not been severely weakened by his bruising battles with the army. Some fear Khan and Qadri may even have unwittingly helped cement a "soft coup" by the army, which will leave Sharif in power but subordinate to the military. Mir believes the army had long been looking to nobble the country's lively private broadcasters, many of whom have become craven supporters of Khan and the military. "They know they have to divide us," he says. "They learned their lesson in 2007 that when we are all united there is no room for their conspiracies." Seven years ago, a united front by news organisations and lawyers ultimately sealed the end of Musharraf's long military rule. But despite his near assassination, which left two bullets inside him, and the beleaguered state of the company he works for, Mir continues to chide the army – he rounded off a recent show with a note to his viewers that "interference of army in politics is treason". And even though Geo, after weeks of being branded as an "anti-state" channel did eventually apologise to the army, Mir still insists that he was nearly killed by "some elements of the ISI … including the head of the ISI. I am not part of my organisation's apology because I am a victim and I need justice."
Mr Tahir-ul-Qadri might be wrong about everything else, but he was absolutely right in asking for an FIR to be registered against the accused of the Model Town incident, which left at least 14 PAT workers dead, and several injured. The PML-N remained insistent on defying both Session Court and Lahore High Court orders, until Thursday, when it finally gave in, hoping it would soften Mr Qadri’s stance, and buy the government some more time. It is truly unfortunate that the PML-N government tried to give the impression that it was making a huge concession for the sake of democracy, when in reality, all it has done is fulfil a legal obligation by ceasing to act as a hindrance. In any case, an FIR was finally registered in the Faisal Town Police Station against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and others including federal ministers and Police officials. Too little, too late. Mr Qadri rejected the FIR, and decided that the sit-in will not disperse without bringing the promised revolution. If Mr Qadri sought a face-saving, this FIR would have proven helpful. However, if the plan is to bring down the entire system, or send Nawaz home, or to pave the way for other powers to take control of affairs, then there isn’t much that the Government could do at this stage to satisfy the fiery cleric. He took no time to reject the FIR. Now, what? Enter General Raheel Sharif. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan announced that the government has requested the Chief of Army Staff to mediate between the parties. He obliged. This must be viewed as a serious setback for democracy in Pakistan. Calling in the COAS to mediate is akin to conceding that the elected government has failed to solve the crisis on its own. On General Raheel Sharif’s guarantee, both Imran and Qadri have agreed to ‘hold back’ for another 24 hours. At least, unsurprisingly, there is someone in Pakistan these revolutionaries listen to. The fact that the COAS has agreed to mediate tells us that the military is confident about what it wants from this, and how to achieve it. They might be the only ones. We cannot state with certainty how things will unfold from here onwards. Is there a package that the COAS has to offer? How will that ‘package’ address the issues raised by both PTI and PAT? What consequences will it entail for Nawaz, and democracy in Pakistan? And are we experiencing the climax of a soft coup? If we are, it has been sophisticatedly and cunningly executed. Bravo. And God help us.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi left the dharna in Islamabad and reached his hometown of Multan Friday morning, Geo News reported. According to the sources, the PTI president will rest at his residence for some time and would attend a funeral and wedding later during the day. The senior PTI leader did not speak to the reporters after arriving in Multan. He is likely to address a press conference later in the evening.
Of course, there are people whose loyalty to the two leaders at the sit-ins in Islamabad is absolute, and there are also people who are resolutely determined to protect the Sharifs-in-power whatever it costs. But they are not many in number; they are mere fringes of the huge majority of Pakistanis who stand in between these two extremities, bewildered and disappointed at the role model persona that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have assumed. Thanks to the ubiquitous media presence at the sit-ins - despite a rough treatment it sometimes receives at the hands of the ardent followers of these role models - an unmistakable contradiction has begun to appear between what they say and what they are. An impression has begun to crystallise that both grossly underestimate the intelligence of the wanting to lead it up the garden path to sign up their agendas of "Naya Pakistan" and "Green Revolution". Qadri argues that; his is a peaceful protest; he commits to respect rule of law and constitutionalism. But he has arrived at the gates of parliament and Supreme Court as the head of a highly-charged crowd; threatens to storm the Parliament building and turn it into a massive graveyard. This saviour of the poor enjoys the comforts of five-star hotel in his custom-made container while his zealous devotees including women and children are exposed to humid days and rain-drenched nights of Islamabad. His fellow-travelling role model, Imran Khan, never tires of sermonising people on merits of constitutionalism and rule of law, but wants to bring down an elected government by mere show of force; seeks forgiveness in the contempt case but doesn't take a minute to repeat the same cardinal sin; and exposes his ignorance of national interest to the limit of ridicule. How come you order civil disobedience against your country's national interest by asking overseas Pakistanis to commit crime of sending home remittances through illegal channel of 'hundi', or 'hawala' encourage people to make a run on banks, bankrupt the national kitty by refusing to pay taxes and utilities' bills. Consider, the respect the Quaid-e-Azam had for law and constitutionalism that he parted company with the Indian Congress in 1920 when Gandhi gave a call for civil disobedience. And Qadri should know what one of the greatest-ever revolutionary, Mao Zedong, said of a revolution; 'A revolution is not a dinner party...A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another', he had said. The women and children, who form the vanguard of Qadri's revolution march, hardly make for the grist the revolution wants. This being the persona of the so-called role models of our national politics, there is no question that these sit-ins and devotional pantomime put on show every evening at the D-Chowk, make for a cruel joke with the silent majority of Pakistanis. The sooner it is over the better for democracy in Pakistan. Yes, it is very much possible that the government had gone wrong at a number of places and in myriad ways. The brutality the Lahore police inflicted on Qadri's workers in Lahore is simply unforgivable. Likewise, the inordinate delay on the part of the government in conducting verification of votes remains unjustified. As to what punishment the government deserves it is for the courts to decide and in no case by the firebrand Imran and a fire-breathing Qadri; the duo must not raise the ante of bloodshed on the streets of Islamabad. They are here occupying vintage places on Constitution Avenue only because their demand to hold sit-ins is their constitutional right. But this does not mean that they should exploit that right by violating the same very constitution - which clearly predicates the exercise of their right to assemble anywhere with the proviso that they should assemble 'peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order'. This is so because, as the saying goes, 'your right ends where my nose begins'. The fact is that for over 10 days or so with sit-ins in progress - the Red Zone cordoned off while most of the city on high alert - life in Islamabad has come to a standstill. The authorities should not have allowed sit-ins at the D-Chowk even when mediators had given assurances. For example, even in the mother-country of democracy, Britain, only a well-marked out corner of the Hyde Park is available for such protests. What farce the sit-ins leadership should draw sustenance from wild allegations like the ones one Afzal Khan has made. He should have revealed the 'truth' when he came to know of it, and if not then it was only fair on the part of a person who was part of the Election Commission for such a long time he should have gone to the court instead of endearing himself to the PTI crowd. Insofar as Imran Khan is concerned, he is required to play it safe with these bundle of allegations.
http://radio.gov.pk/Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah has said that all political parties will stand steadfast to ensure supremacy of the constitution, the parliament and to strengthen democracy. Speaking in the National Assembly, he said it is unfortunate that a bad impression was created about the position of the government on the issue, while it is a matter of satisfaction that the interior minister has removed this impression. Khurshid Shah said the government should allow these undemocratic protesters to storm the parliament and destroy the state institution, so that they could be exposed before the nation of 200 million people with their ulterior motives. Mahmood Khan Achakzai said that the fight to defend democracy has entered the decisive stage and we will continue struggle in this regard. He suggested that the joint session of the parliament should be summoned to address the issue.
Security forces on Thursday safely recovered kidnapped Vice Chancellor of Islamia University Professor Ajmal Khan four years after his abduction by Taliban militants. A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that security forces and intelligence agencies had been trying to locate Prof Khan since September 8, 2010 when he was kidnapped in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa capital while going to university. “Civil society and relatives appreciated the untiring efforts of Pakistan Army for the safe recovery of Ajmal Khan,” said the statement. Military sources said that following his recovery Prof Ajmal Khan was handed over to his family. Prof Ajmal Khan was in Taliban captivity since September 7, 2010 when he was kidnapped along with his driver at gunpoint from Professor Colony in University of Peshawar. His driver was released two years later. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had demanded the release of four Taliban prisoners in the bargain of his release but government had earlier refused the offer. Prof Khan is also a close relative of ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and had been a staunch supporter of the war against militancy.
Police registered a case against 21 people, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz, Punjab ex-law minister Rana Sanaullah, five federal ministers and police officers over the deaths in Model Town during a clash between protesters and police, on Thursday. The FIR was registered under Sections 148, 149, 324, 302, 109, 427, 395, 506 Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 155/C police order 2002. The police registered the case on the complaint of Minhajul Quran Director Administration Jawad Hamid after a lapse of two months and eleven days. The complainant submitted an application to Faisal Town SHO for the registration of murder case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, MNA Hamza Shahbaz, former law minister Rana Sanaullah, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, State Minister for Power and Water Abid Sher Ali, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Rana Abdul Jabbar, Model Town Superintendent Tariq Aziz, Superintendent (Headquarters) Maroof Safdar Wahla, Civil Lines Superintendent Umar Cheema, the security superintendent, the Model Town assistant commissioner, a town municipal officer, Kahna Station House Officer Inspector Ishtiaq and Nishtar Town Station House Officer Ahmad Majeed Usman. The complainant said that the police officers, including DIG Operations Rana Abdul Jabbar, SP Headquarters Maroof Wahla, SP Model Town, SP Civil Lines, SP Security along with AC Model Town and TMO had come to Minhajul Quran Secretariat to demolish barriers, but they were told that they had been set up on court and police orders four years back for security purpose. He further said that DIG Rana Abdul Jabbar had informed him that he had received an order from Punjab CM and law minister Rana Sanaullah to eliminate the PAT chief and demolish the PAT secretariat. The complainant further said that the government had started panicking after Tahirul Qadri announced return to Pakistan on June 23, 2014 to hold a movement for the implementation of his 10-point reforms agenda “for the helpless and impoverished class”. He said that the killing of PAT workers were a loud and clear message from the government to Qadri prior to his arrival in the country. He said the police had resorted to tear gas shelling and later opened firing at the main gate of Qadri’s residence when the PAT workers staged a protest demonstration against the “unwarranted action of the Lahore police”. He said that DIG Operations Rana Abdul Jabbar had directed the police to open fire at PAT workers if they did not move back from Qadri’s residence. The complainant alleged that the police opened fire at the instigation of DIG Operations Rana Abdul Jabbar.FIR registered under Sections 148, 149, 324, 302, 109, 427, 395 and 506 of Pakistan Penal Code and 155/C of Police Order 2002
AS if the job wasn’t difficult enough, Pakistan’s polio vaccination efforts are now suffering due to a shortage of funds. The Ministry of National Health Services has said that the countrywide polio vaccination and awareness programme will come to a halt if funds are not arranged within the next two months. Once the trained workforce of 2,000 communications specialists as well as polio workers disperse due to nonpayment of stipends and salaries, it will be very difficult to bring them back and restart the programme. Moreover, vaccination efforts at the Chaman border crossing appear to have suffered for a number of days now and officials of the health ministry claim that they are reduced to arranging funds from alternate sources as a stopgap measure. The funding difficulties have been attributed to the ongoing political crisis in Islamabad which has distracted the government from its day-to-day responsibilities. In this case, those responsibilities include convening a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet, in which representatives of the provincial governments are present, to approve the PC I for the campaign, which will open the doors for funding from various donor organisations to flow in. An ECC meeting was held recently, but apparently representatives of the provincial governments were not present, reportedly due to the political crisis. Having braved security challenges, the anti-polio campaign now has to brave bureaucratic hurdles and a political stand-off. A mixture of four different government bodies and committees had to sign off on the funding the NHS requires to run the campaign. First it was the Central Development Working Party which approved the PC I, but the Planning Division required approval from the Council of Common Interests. When this was also achieved, the ECC had to sign off. One grows weary simply reading all the names and acronyms that make up government red tape, only to learn at the end that approval could not be obtained because a political crisis prevented key members from attending the last meeting. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation is preparing to review its decision to impose temporary travel restrictions on people travelling from Pakistan. That review is scheduled for November. What a pity it would be if the government is forced to tell the WHO to postpone its review because it has been unable to implement the required steps due to the political crisis in Islamabad.
CITIZENS displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan are justifiably asking numerous questions about their fate. Yet neither the civilian leadership nor the military high command has any satisfactory answers for the IDPs. Tribal elders from the conflict zone addressed a news conference in Peshawar on Tuesday, in which they raised many of their key concerns. The tribal people have two main questions: when will they be able to return and will the state care for them until it is safe to do so? These are valid concerns. The tribesmen say they are willing to wait even for a relatively long period, but that they must be given a time frame. The North Waziristan residents have also highlighted the problems they have faced since fleeing their native areas, including insecurity and lack of proper shelter. Perhaps the affected tribesmen are not wrong when they say that the response to the Swat IDPs’ crisis in 2009 was a lot more robust. For example, while the persons displaced by Operation Zarb-i-Azb have been given cash by the state, other arrangements have been found wanting. As the tribesmen look for answers, both the government and the military seemingly have bigger fish to fry. The IDPs’ plight is also a reminder of the general lack of attention the operation has been getting ever since the political crisis in Islamabad started brewing two weeks ago. When the operation began in June, ISPR, the military’s media wing, was very active in releasing frequent operational updates to the media. In fact, most of the information coming out of the conflict zone depends on the military, as the media does not have access. Yet for the past 15 days there has been mostly silence from the military. What is the status of the operation? Have all the areas been cleared of terrorists? When will it be safe for IDPs to go home? The security establishment has not given adequate answers to any of these queries. Let us not forget that, due to the operation, hundreds of thousands of lives are on hold, with families living in limbo. While civilians cannot be allowed to enter an active combat zone, the tribal people must at least be told how long they will have to wait till they can return. The spectacle in Islamabad has managed to take the limelight away from the plight of the displaced. The state cannot afford to forget these unfortunate people in the midst of all the noise. The military and the government — busy as the latter is in trying to ensure its own survival — must also inform the nation of the status of Zarb-i-Azb. Not too long ago, we were told the operation was meant to wipe out an existential threat to Pakistan; today its details have been drowned out by loud calls of ‘revolution’.