Thursday, January 8, 2015

Video - Obama Pays Respects at French Embassy

Video - U.S. sending assistant secretary of state to Cuba for talks

Video - Eiffel Tower goes dark for Paris attack victims

Suspect in Paris Attacks Trained With Al Qaeda in Yemen, U.S. Official Says

One of the two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received terrorist training from Al Qaeda’s affiliate there before returning to France, a senior American official said on Thursday.
The suspect, Saïd Kouachi, 34, spent “a few months” training in small arms combat, marksmanship and other skills that appeared to be on display in videos of the military-style attack on Wednesday carried out by at least two gunmen on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.
Mr. Kouachi’s training came at a time when many other young Muslim men in the West were inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who by 2011 had become a senior operational figure for the terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A United States intelligence official said on Thursday that both brothers were in the United States database of known or suspected terrorists, and were on an American no-fly list for years.

The Kouachi brothers have been under scrutiny for years by French and American officials. Saïd Kouachi’s younger brother, Chérif, first came to the attention of the French authorities as a possible terrorist a decade ago, when he was in his early 20s. He was detained in 2005 as he prepared to leave for Syria, the first leg of a trip he hoped would take him to Iraq.
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials on Thursday were still trying to determine whether the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen had explicitly ordered the attack, although there was no indication so far that the brothers had received direct orders from the group or were part of a larger cell in France.
But a recent issue of “Inspire” — the propaganda magazine published by the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — encouraged its followers to attack Westerners who have insulted the Muslim faith. It identified Charlie Hebdo’s top editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, whose name appears in a two-page spread under the heading, “A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away — Defend the Prophet Muhammad.”

French magazine attack set to deepen Europe's 'culture war'

A deadly attack on a French satirical magazine that lampooned Islam seems certain to fuel rising anti-immigration movements around Europe and inflame a "culture war" about the place of religion and ethnic identity in society.
The first reaction in France to Wednesday's killing of 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo by two masked gunmen who shouted Islamist slogans was an outpouring of support for national unity and freedom of speech.
But that looks likely to be little more than a momentary ceasefire in a country gripped by economic malaise and high unemployment. France has Europe's largest Muslim population and is in the throes of a virulent debate over national identity and the role of Islam.
"This attack is bound to accentuate rising Islamophobia inFrance," said Olivier Roy, a political scientist and Middle East specialist at the European University Institute in Florence.
A book by journalist Eric Zemmour entitled "Le suicide francais" (French suicide), arguing that mass Muslim immigration is among factors destroying French secular values, was the best-selling essay of 2014. The publishing event of the new year is a novel by controversial author Michel Houellebecq that imagines a Muslim president winning power in 2022 and enforcing religious schooling and polygamy in France and banning women from working.
That intellectual ferment has mingled with public anxiety over the radicalization of hundreds of French Muslims who have gone to join Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraqand who security officials fear may return to cause carnage in France.
The far-right National Front lost no time in linking the most deadly act of political violence for decades to immigration and calling for a referendum to restore the death penalty, even though a leading French imam, Hassen Chalghoumi, said the right way to counter Charlie Hebdo was not through bloodshed or hate.
Party leader Marine Le Pen, who opinion surveys suggest would top the first round of a poll if a presidential election were held now, said "Islamic fundamentalism" had declared war on France and that demanded strong, effective action.
While she was careful to draw a distinction between Muslim citizens who share French values and "those who kill in the name of Islam", her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, and her deputy, Florian Philippot, were less cautious.
"Anyone who says Islamist radicalism has nothing to do with immigration is living on another planet," Philippot told RTL radio.
Imams intoned prayers outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo on Thursday and Islamic leaders urged their faithful to join in national mourning for the victims, whose cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad had drawn the wrath of many Muslims in the past.
In what justice officials said looked like revenge attacks, shots were fired overnight at a mosque in the western city of Le Mans, and a blast destroyed a kebab shop next to a mosque in the central town of Villefranche-sur-Saone.
Socialist President Francois Hollande urged the French last month to embrace immigration as an economic and cultural boon to the country and not make migrants a scapegoat for economic woes.
His conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, attempting a political comeback, has demanded much tighter European border controls to curb illegal migration.
Marine Le Pen has attacked visible symbols of Islam in French life such as Muslims praying in the street, hallal food being served in schools and women wearing headscarves.
Many left-wing secularists share those concerns in a country where the separation of church and state took decades of struggle.
A survey last year found French people believe immigrants make up 31 percent of the population, roughly four times the real number. Although France collects no ethnic or religious statistics, a reliable estimate published by the Pew Research Centre put the Muslim population at about 7.5 percent.
That is well ahead of 6.0 percent in the Netherlands, 5.8 in Germany or 4.4 in Britain, yet groups hostile to immigration and Islam, which they often conflate with terrorism and crime, are on the rise in all those countries.
A grassroots movement called PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, warns Germany is being overrun by Muslims and has staged weekly rallies of up to 18,000 people in Dresden. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders have urged Germans to shun the protests, which Merkel said were organized by people "with hate in their hearts".
PEGIDA, whose rise mirrors electoral gains by the right-wing Eurosceptic Alternative forGermany (AfD) party, was quick to claim the Paris attack vindicated its views.
"The Islamists, against whom PEGIDA has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed inFrance ... that they are not capable of democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution," the movement wrote on its Facebook page.
"Our political leaders want us to believe the opposite is true," the group said. "Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany?"
A poll taken in November, well before the Paris attack, found 57 percent of non-Muslim Germans feel threatened by Islam.
In Britain, the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, said the Paris attack was the result of a "fifth column" living in European countries.
    "We've encouraged people from other cultures to remain within those cultures and not integrate fully within our communities," Farage told LBC radio.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who has called "multiculturalism" a failure and is seeking to restrict migration from poorer European Union countries, condemned Farage's comments, saying this was no time to play politics.
Social scientists say neither France's secular integration model, which confines religion to the private sphere and bars the wearing of religious symbols in schools and government buildings, nor the multicultural British and U.S. model, which recognizes separate ethnic and religious communities, has prevented violence by a fringe of alienated young Muslims.
In the Netherlands, traumatized by the killing of film producer Theo van Gogh by an Islamist gunman 10 years ago, outspoken anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders is topping public opinion polls. Within minutes of the Paris events, Wilders, who has lived under police protection for a decade, repeated calls to close Dutch borders to Muslim immigrants and said in a statement: "The West is at war and should de-Islamize."
In the Nordic countries, where far-right anti-immigrant parties are gaining ground, Muslim leaders said their communities faced a wave of violence.
Omar Mustafa, chairman of the Islamic Association of Sweden, said many mosques had set up night patrols after recent arson and racist attacks on Muslim communities.
"Times are tough now," Mustafa told Reuters. "The forces of hate, anti-democratic forces, are trying to set the agenda, both the extremists on the right and those who are religious."

This new graphic shows the state of the U.S. war in Afghanistan

Courtesy U.S. Forces Afghanistan
The U.S. military has shifted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, ending the 13-year Operation Enduring Freedom as NATO and its allies move to new chapter there. There are many ways to contextualize that, and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan released this graphic Tuesday in an attempt to provide the scope of what they’ve done in the last year, and what comes next.

The graphic shows the vast amount of equipment that has come home since early 2014. U.S. Forces-Afghanistan had 19,400 shipping containers in the country in February 2014, but had reduced that number to 597 as of mid-December. It moved nearly 30 million pounds of cargo by plane last year, and another 8.8 by helicopter.

At the war’s peak, there were hundreds of U.S. bases in Afghanistan, many with no more than a dozen troops at them. That number was cut back to 87 in February 2014, and 25 in December.

The U.S. now has about 10,600 troops in Afghanistan. That number will fluctuate over the next few months, as NATO partners send more forces to take part in Resolute Support. Once they are there, the U.S. number will be cut by about 1,000, officials said.

After Peshawar Attack, Pakistan's Civil Society Under Threat

By Kiran Nazish

Following the attack on a school in Peshawar, newspapers in Pakistan have been flushed with worrisome op-eds and analysis pieces on the country’s failure as a democracy and the consequences of its long cooperation with militant groups.
The criticism by the liberal English media has always existed but the Peshawar attack on a school by the Taliban, which killed more than 140 people, mostly children, swung the country’s civil society into a new urgency to protest. In big cities there have been demonstrations and vigils outside press clubs, and government buildings, many of them calling out terrorism and asking the government to go after the so-called “good” Taliban it formerly embraced over the past decade.
Protests called out on the government’s policy of differentiating between “good” and “bad” Taliban. “All Taliban are bad”, the slogans would say. Some children in protests in Karachi and Islamabad were seen holding placards that flashed, “Good Taliban, bad Taliban, we want dead Taliban.” Many journalists, lawyers and activists have come out in their cities, adding new strength to what had previously become a largely stifled liberal voice over the years.
But as their voice gained strength in the past few weeks, causing a threat to religious groups that either directly or indirectly support the militant mindset of Islam (including those that support the Taliban), their safety has been put at startling risk, with law and order organizations unable to do much to protect them.
In Islamabad, after an independent political candidate, Mohammad Jibran Nasir, led a series of protests outside the controversial Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, he was threatened by the Taliban: “Stop your protests or you will be responsible for the consequences.” Jibran had gathered hundreds of people outside the symbolic red mosque and called for the police to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Maulana Abdul Aziz, who has publicly defended the Taliban and the dastardly attack on children school in Peshawar. But the 27-year-old political activist said these threats will not deter the civil society anymore. Jibran said, “We are here to save our mosques. Our mosques should preach love and peace. They must present the right spirit of Islam.” After much resistance by the police, an FIR was registered against Abdul Aziz, as the pressure of the protesters grew day after day.
Meanwhile, civil society vigils were physically attacked in Lahore near Liberty Chowk during a commemoration for the slain Salman Taseer, an assassinated governor of Punjab province. A number of unknown militants used batons to charge a group of civil society activists and some workers of the left-wing Awami Workers Party (AWP). The attack came while peaceful activists held candles in memory of the former governor, who was killed by his guard on January 4, 2011 for advocating for a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. People were beaten, many were critically injured, and banners were torn. After the sudden attack, when civil society members moved to register an FIR against the assailants, the police refused to comply. Many supporters went on social media protesting and calling out for support from others to pressure the police to register an FIR. Sherhbano Taseer, the governor’s daughter, tweeted, “Video shows faces of attackers at the vigil today… they hit elderly women and manhandled media.” The District Police was supposed to conduct a speedy and thorough investigation, but so far they have been unable to even identify the attackers.
Former Governor Taseer was a staunch advocate of reforming the controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which have been reportedly misused by religious extremists against minorities including Christians and Shia Muslims. It is important to recount that, after the murder of Salman Taseer, a lot of similar liberal voices who spoke against the law were found to self-censor their opinions on the issue. Politicians and activists who advocated for the reform of the law were also silenced. While the government at the time was moving to amend the law, it reevaluated its decision and let the law remain unchanged.
It is vital to understand how Pakistan as a democracy has been struggling under the religious pied pipers in the country, who have over the past decade gained near unanimous popularity among the masses. Any alternative political voice or efforts by civil rights organizations to call out this mainstream, miscalculated version of Islam have been attacked by “unknown miscreants.” It’s been tough for legal institutions to punish or at times even officially identify these miscreants due to threats against them.
One senior police investigations officer in Islamabad, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Diplomat that “in most cases we can identify [the] miscreants behind attacks, but we are bound not to disclose or take any action.”
Many police officials have been threatened by religious parties, especially in cases related to blasphemy law, religious minorities, or the banned militant groups.
While the Pakistani government vowed to pursue action against the Taliban following December’s tragedy in Peshawar, the goal seems impossible to accomplish under a system where civil society has no voice or power to play its vital democratic role. Until Pakistan’s civil society and moderate political voices are given solid support by the state, the country can hardly even begin to fight this monster called Taliban.

No hope on the horizon for Pakistan’s myriad problems

Author: Sajjad Ashraf
Pakistan is in a state of discord. Its civilian governance structure is becoming corrupt and oligarchic. Its façade of democratic order belies a more tawdry reality characterised by money, patronage and cronyism, in which parliament exists to enhance the privileges of the few.
Pakistan’s problems are long-standing, rooted in governance failures, with the resultant erosion of state authority. 2014 was no different in this respect.
Pakistan’s civil-military divide, manifested in the government’s clumsy handling of former President General Pervez Musharraf, remained at the centre of Pakistan’s political debate through the year.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif locked horns with the army by preventing the General from going abroad, after the courts granted him bail in several politically motivated cases. The army showed that it would not stand by when its former chief was insulted. In this process, Sharif was the loser. The mistrust between the military and the civilian government was palpable.
The Sharif government was rocked by simultaneous sit-ins by Tahir-ul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek party and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party in front of Parliament House in Islamabad, beginning in mid August. While Qadri folded quickly, Khan only wound up his protest in the wake of the Peshawar killings in December, winning kudos for showing statesmanship in a time of national crisis. The army repeated its desire for a political solution to this impasse and Khan’s tenacity in persisting with widespread agitation, while weakening Sharif, has helped the army to attain an even stronger political position.
Sharif showed little energy in tackling the problem of terrorism until the army took the initiative by launching Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Sword of the Prophet) in North Waziristan, following the terrorist attack on Karachi Airport in June. The latest reports indicate that 2100 militants and 190 servicemen have been killed in this operation.
A terrorist attack on an army-run school in Peshawar on 16 December killed 145 people, including 132 teenage children. This attack exposed the government’s lack of preparedness towards a menace that has claimed over 50,000 Pakistani lives over the last decade. When the nation clamoured for action, Sharif feebly announced that his government would set up a committee to draw up policy to tackle terrorism — forgetting that his own government had announced a National Internal Security Policy in February 2014.
Again, Prime Minister Sharif showed no sign of leadership. For him, building roads and talking the talk on development are panaceas for Pakistan’s problems. Large projects are waved through without stakeholder consultation on feasibility or environmental concerns. As an example, the metro bus project in Lahore is now being replicated in Islamabad. This 24 kilometre project could cost as much as 75 billion rupees (US$744 million). Stories of underhand behaviour abound in the awarding of state contracts. Public functionaries are replaced with political cronies when expensive national projects or imports are negotiated.
Sharif’s governance style — one that heavily involves his family and a coterie of associates — easily degenerates into the politics of patronage. Parliamentary oversight is inadequate. Cabinet meetings, when they are held, are devoid of substance. Pakistan’s minorities also suffer the wrath of religious fanatics and those who raise the spectre of blasphemy allegations in order to eject people from their homes.
The Sharif government has been lethargic when it comes to reforming Pakistan’s healthcare, education and skills programs. Over 25 million children do not attend school and Pakistan ranks second from the bottom in South Asia according to arecent UN Human Development Report.
Finally, the government’s record on economic management leaves much to be desired. The recently released State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) annual report confirms that national debt has increased by 25 per cent in the 17 months or so that the government has been in power, while the number of taxpayers has actually declined to a mere 1.7 million in a population of 186 million. This jeopardises Pakistan’s future.
Pakistanis deserve much better in 2015. They are unlikely to be so lucky.

Pakistan at a tipping point


The savagery of the slaughter of 132 schoolchildren and nine teaching staff in Peshawar last month stunned even hard-bitten politicians and journalists used to senseless atrocities. The terrorist killers riddled students with bullets and forced schoolchildren to watch as they burned a teacher alive.
Such a horrific deed, leading commentators declared, should prove a turning point, if not a tipping point, finally to force Pakistan’s squabbling factions, the nominal political rulers, the army commanders, the insidious army intelligence, the judges who have given the shelter of the law to terrorists, to put their heads together and pull Pakistan back from becoming a failed state.
That is too much wishful thinking: It would need a quantum leap in imagination, creativity and cooperation between nasty antagonistic players who have their own petty empires to defend, and who are egged on throughout by bigger powers who, frankly, don’t give a damn about Pakistan or the health and safety of its schoolchildren.
Take a bow: the United States, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, tiny rich Persian Gulf sheikdoms and even India.
From the start, Pakistan was a mess, born out of bloodshed, murder and mayhem. Founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah described it as “moth-eaten” because its west and east wings were cut off by India. An estimated million people were killed in 1947 as 10 million migrated from India to Pakistan and from Pakistan to India.
The new countries went to war quickly over Kashmir, went to war again in 1965 and war again in 1971 when India acted as midwife for the bloody creation of Bangladesh from what had been East Pakistan.
The Pakistan military’s senseless slaughter in overturning the election result in East Pakistan and the war of 1971 sucked in the global powers, especially the United States, China, the Soviet Union and India, for whom Pakistan was a pawn in their bigger games.
My first taste of Pakistan came on an October night in 1969 as 10 of us trundled in a Land Rover along the rutted road beside the banks of the Ravi River outside Lahore. It was almost 10 p.m., but we were welcomed with open arms by our host, whom none of us had ever met and to whom we had given no advance warning of our arrival. Our only connection was that one of us knew the daughter of the family and she had said that if we were ever in the vicinity, her parents would welcome us.
They did, and even excused themselves for not being properly prepared because they had just finished a dinner party. They cleared the table, prepared fresh food for dinner and beds for us all. It is hard to imagine such generosity being spontaneously offered in the United Kingdom or the U.S. or Japan — but it was the kind of hospitality that I also received a few days later in India.
They also gave free political lessons about the Indian subcontinent. He was a retired brigadier in the Pakistan Army, a fair-skinned and upright Pathan in every sense, married to a lively dark-skinned Bengali convert from Hinduism. She joked that her husband had been the key player in putting Ayub Khan into power in 1958 because he had a “stubborn and rather stupid sense of duty instilled at Sandhurst.”
The brigadier defended the Lahore front in 1965 brilliantly, but was sacked as a scapegoat for Pakistan’s defeat, but then invited back to give lectures at the army staff college when his achievements were belatedly recognized.
They warned that East Pakistan was unstable, and likely to succumb to Bengali nationalism unless the generals ruling Pakistan woke from their drunken stupor to understand how neglected the Bengalis felt.
Pakistan in those days was safe. (So too was Afghanistan. In the early 1970s I made several trips and climbed the hillside shanties of Kabul, taking pictures, with no worries for my safety other than that I might slip on the steep path or tangle with a goat.)
Peshawar and the frontier regions of the Khyber pass and Baluchistan were fine, provided you did not trespass on tribal customs. Pakistani women went out without veils in the cities. Draft beer brewed in Pakistan was on tap in major hotels, and privileged journalists regularly sipped superior Scotch in his hotel suite with the once and future leader of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
But 1971 brought the terrible beauty of Bangladesh and utter defeat for the Pakistan Army. Bhutto took power. He could — should — have accepted the defeat as evidence of a changed world to create a more manageable Pakistan, with enough challenges for his political genius. He made an uneasy peace with India as the price of bringing home 93,000 prisoners of war. But in Bhutto’s mind, India remained the enemy, which allowed Pakistan’s defeated army to grow its claws again, helped by weapons from China and the U.S.
Bhutto, sadly for Pakistan and for himself, played a devilishly corrupt game with everyone. He was unable to accept opposition rule in the frontier and Baluchistan, using violence to create continuing instability. He played politics with the judiciary and army.
Worst, he roused religion, renaming the country an Islamic state, betraying Jinnah’s promises that people of any religion could feel safe in Pakistan.
This involved more than his own drinking habits: It encouraged men with little education to set themselves up as mullahs and paved the way for General Zia-ul Haq, who overthrew Bhutto and had him hanged, to intensify the Islamic campaign.
Bhutto also became the father of the Islamic atomic bomb. He was famously reported as saying: “Pakistan will fight, fight for a thousand years. If … India builds the (atomic) bomb … (Pakistan) will eat grass or (leaves), even go hungry, but we (Pakistan) will get one of our own.” The legacy of Bhutto’s downfall and death was that the military back re-entered politics with a vengeance.
Moscow and the Americans made their major contribution to destabilizing Pakistan when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and the U.S. used Pakistan as a conduit and proving ground for rebel fighters to arm and train for the assault on the godless enemy in Afghanistan. Be careful what you wish for: The Americans got the Soviet Union out, but created new lawless badlands across whole swaths of Afghanistan and Pakistan, triggering the deployment of shadowy nonstate, quasi-state and secret state players, all in their own games.
Fast-forward to the expressions of horror at the Peshawar massacre. It was the largest and most outrageous of terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s educational establishments. Have we forgotten Malala Yousafzai so quickly?
Even though the commentators are almost certainly wrong that the Peshawar massacre will create a tipping point in Pakistan’s history, they are right that it is high time for the country and its leaders to come to their senses.
Professor Ramesh Thakur of Australian National University wrote recently in these pages that to rescue the state, Pakistan’s military must be brought under civilian control and all intelligence links to Islamist militants severed.
Wise words, but it is not easy to accomplish them. Pakistan has too many armed and dangerous players with lucrative empires to defend and foreign backers with deep pockets.
Too many Pakistanis still accept a distinction between “bad” terrorists or Taliban — who attack Pakistanis — and “good” ones — who attack India or other enemies. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s warning of 2011 that it is dangerous to breed poisonous states in your backyard to bite your neighbors has not been heeded. More than 50,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorist attacks since 2001.
Pakistan has to get over its fixation with India, and realize that it must work out its own salvation. It could do with some help from its friends who have directly or indirectly funded its path to a failing state. Sadly there is little sign that other players in the modern great game have understood that they have a responsibility if Pakistan is to be pulled back from the brink.

Pakistan - A Muslim Man Beat A Christian Mother Brutally While She Defended Her Daughter From Him In A Rape Attempt

A Christian woman brutally beaten while defending her daughter during an attempted rape assault by a Muslim man.
A Muslim man beats a Christian woman during an attempted rape of her daughter
A Muslim man beat a Christian woman during an attempted rape of her daughter

According to media reports, the incident took place at around on December 6, 2014 when Shaheen along with her daughter, sister and niece was going back home from a factory when Khawar Khokhar reportedly started hurling abusive comments at her daughter and allegedly attempted to rape her daughter. The incident occurred at the Toka Wala Chowk in Satokitla, a village of Punjab province of Pakistan. Alarmed by the situation, Shaheen tried to prevent Khawar Khokhar from his evil intentions. Upon this unexpected interference Khawar became enraged and beat all of them with a cricket bat.
After bashing four of them, he forcibly tried to take Shaheen’s daughter away and mocked them to do whatever they wanted to. He held her daughter by hand and tried to take her away while Shaheen and her sister got in the way and prevented him from doing so. Khawar, infuriated by this obstruction and began beating Shaheen and her sister brutally causing sever injuries to both of them. Reportedly, Shaheen’s clothed were torn during the struggle and her arm bone and fingers were fractured as a result of the bashing. Her sister also sustained severe injuries. Shaheen was afterwards thrown on a pile of garbage in a very critical condition.
Alarmingly while the incident took place, no one came forward to help the women as the alleged perpetrator Khawar Khokhar is an influential man of the area and has a criminal history as well. The family of the victims protested joined by some rights activists and finally the police registered an FIR No.1124 against Khawar Khokhar. The FIR was registered under sections 337/5-6 and 354 Pakistan Penal Code on December 13, 2014 at the Police Station Satokitla.
Khawar Khokhar has not been arrested so far by the police, the victims are receiving threats to dislodge their complaint while the police seems reluctant to conduct fair investigations.
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Pakistan - Blasphemy accused killed after release

A blasphemy accused freed a few days ago was shot dead here on Wednesday.
Police said it appeared to be a case of target killing.
The man, identified as 52-year-old Aabid Mehmood alias Aabid Kazzab, owned a hotel and lived in Kamra village. He reportedly had claimed ‘prophethood’ in October 2011 and a case was registered against him under Section 295-C of CrPC on a complaint lodged by his son-in-law Sadaqat Ali.
Aabid was sent to jail after his mental condition had been examined by a board of doctors at the Rawalpindi District Headquarters Hospital. He was released from Adiyala jail after about two years because of his mental and physical condition.
On Tuesday, some masked men took him from his house in Ahatta area and his bullet-riddled body was found on Wednesday in deserted area near Usman Khattar Railway Station. He had been shot in the chest and head from a close range.
Police shifted the body to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital in Taxila for autopsy.
Investigation officer Ayub told journalists that since Aabid had been jailed in a blasphemy case, police were investigating the murder from different angles, including target killing and personal dispute. He said that on a complaint of Ghulam Ibrar, a brother of the deceased, the scope of investigation had been widened.
When Aabid’s body was brought to the village, a group of enraged people gathered there and did not allow members of his family and other relatives to bury it in the local graveyard. He was later buried in the courtyard of his house.

Amid Winter Season: Electricity Load Shedding Further Increased In Balochistan

Quetta Electricity Supply Company (QESCO) has further increased the electricity load shedding in entire Balochistan, amid the winter season.
Qesco has cited increase in shortfall as the reason behind increase in load shedding. According to QESCO sources, Electricity demand in Balochistan, excluding Makran, is 1,650 Megawatt and supply is only 500 Megawatt. This has resulted in a shortfall of 1,150 Megawatt.
Federal government uses the pretext of unpaid electricity bills of Balochistan to reduce power supply to the restive province. Over 100 billion rupees are due in unpaid bills from Balochistan; more than 80% of these are dues of farmers.
Farmers dispute the figure of electricity dues that they owe to the federal government. According to Zimindar Action Committee, a union of agriculturalists, Farmers are willing to pay all their dues provided that federal government brings down the dues to reasonable level.
2200 Megawatt electricity is produced in Balochistan but its consumed by National electric grid and Balochistan only gets 500 Megawatt.
QESCO only gets 6% of electricity form the national electric grid. Still, federal government reduces the supply of electricity to Balochistan due to weaknesses of Balochistan government.
Credit: Express Tribune
Credit: Express Tribune
“It’s the responsibility of Dr. Malik and Mahmood Achakzai” to raise the issue of load shedding with Federal government, However they are busy in protecting their personal interests,” said an analyst.

Pakistan - Banned groups

An event organised by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat in Chakwal at the weekend showed how banned groups continue to advertise their presence in the country and how the local administration does not want to or is not able to block their activities.
As per the usual practice, the proscribed group was given full freedom to announce its meeting, and a news report noted how the busy squares in the city were decorated with ASWJ banners in the run-up to the meeting.
A local official said it was not the ASWJ but its ‘parent’ body, the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, that had been banned.
He was wrong. Both he and the state need to go over the list of banned groups once more before they allow themselves the innocence with which they approach this very serious matter.
As things stand, the moment an organisation is given the title of ‘proscribed’, it is seemingly freed from any control or oversight by the state.
A banned outfit assumes the status of a force that instils fear in everyone around. It is a group which cannot be challenged and that is above reproach. There may be a change in name, but that’s about all the adjustment needed.
The proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammad took up a new identity as Tehreek-i-Khuddam-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Taiba was renamed Jamaatud Dawa; in essence though they retain their original character. The sameness of ideology, leadership and ranks in the new groups that have emerged from the embers of the old ones, should negate any impression that they are different.
It then becomes very clear that unless strict measures are put in place to disperse the ranks of such groups and to put curbs on the activities of their leadership, a common past and shared objectives will reunite them.
Any exercise in banning an organisation would be of cosmetic value unless there are legal provisions, as well as a willing government, to stop individuals — the leaders of the group — from resorting to hate-mongering in the name of ideology.

Pakistan's Imran Niazi - ‘Containered’ again'

The country has barely had time to draw breath after the (for some) heart stopping events in parliament revolving around the passing of the 21st constitutional amendment and the amendment to the Army Act 1952 to try religion-exploiting terrorists in military courts. That did not deter the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, freshly returned from London, to threaten the government once again that if it did not set up the judicial commission he has been demanding to investigate the alleged rigging in the 2013 elections by January 18, he would restart his agitation. It may be recalled that Imran Khan called off his four-month agitation in deference to the Peshawar massacre of school children on December 16. But immediately after parliament passed the constitutional amendment on Tuesday with the PTI remaining absent as it has been since this summer, Imran Khan has not wasted a minute in returning to his agitational mode. The negotiations between the government and the PTI have clearly not got very far. Both sides have, under a prior agreement, refrained from sharing details regarding the talks and in particular what divides the two sides. So the only real hint we have on that is the casual comment by Imran Khan that the kind of judicial commission the government is prepared to set up is not acceptable to the PTI. Not that this leaves us any the clearer about what is that ‘kind’ of judicial commission and what exactly are the PTI’s objections to it. As far as the alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections is concerned, it remains unproved and if the results of the investigation under the aegis of an election tribunal into the votes cast in NA-122 (where Imran Khan was defeated by the current Speaker of the National Assembly Mr Ayaz Sadiq) are anything to go by, the PTI’s case may have suffered a setback. While Imran Khan claims thousands of votes were bogus or rejected on technicalities in this and other constituencies where leading lights of the PTI lost, the recount in NA-122 ended up increasing Ayaz Sadiq’s votes marginally. Of course the election tribunal has yet to present its final report, but the portents do not look good for the PTI. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid did not let the opportunity to refute Imran Khan’s ‘thousands of bogus votes’ assertion go unchallenged on the basis of the NA-122 investigation preliminary outcome.

It is a pity that Imran Khan and the PTI’s belated obsession with alleged rigging has blinded them to the ground realities and situation in the country. The PTI should have been in parliament to contribute to the political class’ ownership of the struggle against terrorism, reservations about military courts notwithstanding, especially after giving the amendments their blessings in the All Parties Conference (APC). Despite showing up in the APC, the PTI has once again set its face against the rest of the political parties in parliament and arguably the country, united against terrorism after Peshawar. At this time in particular, when the situation requires the entire country’s focus on the struggle against terrorism and not the distraction of another ‘container’ agitation, PTI and Imran Khan are once more painting themselves into a corner and galloping into isolation on their quixotic quest. That having been said, however, this should not be construed as license for the government to sit on its hands and just let Imran Khan whistle in the wind. That may turn out to be a temptation too far as it could reignite the divisions previously witnessed in the country during the ‘container revolution’ and which will certainly draw attention away from the task and challenge at hand against terrorism. Therefore the government should, if it has nothing to hide or fear, set up the judicial commission (with the help of the Supreme Court) and allow this canker in our side to be dealt with once and for all. Only then, when these wounds have healed and become just a memory, will we as a people be back on course against the existential threat posed by barbaric fanatics.