Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The international rights group Freedom House reports that 2014 saw an overall decline in political rights and civil liberties around the world, concluding that democratic ideals are under the greatest threat in 25 years. The group ranked Syria at the bottom and cited violence in Ukraine.
2014 was marked by an explosion of terrorist violence and brutal tactics, according to the international rights group Freedom House, making it an "exceptionally grim" year.
In its annual report, released Tuesday, the group notes that the decline in democratic ideals spread across the world, with Syria receiving the lowest country score in over a decade. Syria has been caught in civil war and terrorist violence for years.
Tunisia was the one exception, becoming the first Arab country to achieve the group's status of "free" in the past four decades.
Arch Puddington, vice president for research at Freedom House, told VOA the most significant declines in freedoms were caused by terrorism.
"One of the most discouraging developments, is this upsurge in terrorism," he said. "We have never seen in the past, ever seen the impact of terrorism on democracy to be as significant as it was in 2014."
Puddington said terrorist attacks have led to thousands of people being uprooted from their homes, women kidnapped or seized as prizes of war, and the massacres of religious minorities in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
A lack of democratic governance, Freedom House says, created the environment for terrorism to grow.
Freedom House says some 2.6 billion people, or about a third of the world's population, live under "not free" conditions, suffering under political repression, indiscriminate violence, gender violence, state surveillance, and curbs on personal movement, expression and communications.
Other examples included Egypt's roll back of the democratic gains of the Arab Spring, with its suppression of the media, human rights organizations and political dissidents. Turkey, too, saw an aggressive campaign against pluralism, as did China.
Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19, a British human rights organization, added that changes by the United States and other Western allies also have had negative implications.
"The other really worrying trend has been that in countries in Europe and North America where we've seen the traditional strong defenders of human rights internationally, because of their encroachment around issues such as mass surveillance, encroachment around human rights related issues, this sets a very negative precedent," said Hughes.
But people at the grass roots level in Ukraine, Hong Kong and Brazil are pushing back, according to both Freedom House and Hughes.
Hughes said recent U.N. work toward sustainable development goals will help countries on issues such as human rights and freedom of expression.
"Without those standards and without support to grass roots civil society you cannot hold governments, lawmakers, and other power brokers to account," he said.
The biggest mistake democracies can make, says Freedom House, is to accept the proposition that they are impotent in the face of strongmen for whom bullying forms the basis of political exchange. Ordinary citizens, the organization says, have shown their willingness to challenge such rulers.
Rejections of democratic standards
More troubling, Freedom House said, are more explicit rejections of democratic standards, such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "including the outright seizure and formal annexation of Crimea," which it noted as a "prime example."
Freedom House also said Chinese President Xi Jinping has grown more aggressive about defending disputed maritime territory, and as his anti-corruption sweep has reached deeply into the Communist party, the report said the probe has ignored the principles of due process.
Freedom House named one other possible culprit for the decline in democratic freedoms: the fight against terrorism. It said governments such as Venezuela, Kenya and China have invoked terrorism laws to silence dissent.
Iranon nuclear weapons development, the senior U.S. House of Representatives Democrat said on Wednesday.
"Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance," said Representative Nancy Pelosi during a news conference on the sidelines of an annual retreat for Democratic lawmakers.
But Pelosi stopped short of saying that the invitation to Netanyahu should be withdrawn by House Speaker John Boehner.
Earlier this month Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of the House and Senate and the speech is scheduled for March 3, just two weeks before the Israeli leader stands for re-election on March 17.
Boehner, who did not consult with the White House before extending the invitation, has defended his surprise invitation.
A spokesman for Pelosi said she spoke by telephone on Wednesday with Netanyahu, but he did not provide further details.
"It's a serious big honor that we extend (to Netanyahu). That it should be extended two weeks before an election in the country without collaboration (with) the leaders in Congress and without collaboration with the White House is not appropriate," Pelosi said.
The Obama administration has been involved in protracted talks with Tehran on stemming Iran's ability to produce a nuclear weapon. It is hoping to wrap up those talks by the end of March.
Members of Congress have been threatening additional sanctions on Iran if a satisfactory deal is not reached.
By Nia-Malika Henderson
Like the attire of other first ladies, Michelle Obama's clothes have been scrutinized endlessly for what type of messages they convey.
And she gets high marks for her "fashion diplomacy," as she engages with foreign leaders at home and abroad. Her choice to go with a suit rather than a dress for the first time at this year's State of the Union address "was a glimpse of the self-aware, tough-minded, straight-talking lawyer who took a brief hiatus from the public eye," according to Robin Givhan.
So it is with Obama's attire in Saudi Arabia — a country with a very strict dress code for Saudi women, who are not allowed to drive and who live under a system of male guardianship. In a country that demands women adhere to a strict dress code in public (face and hair covered, and long, flowing robes), Obama went with a flowing blue top, black pants and no head covering.
Obama's choice is not without precedent. Laura Bush in a visit with King Abdullah made the same choice in 2006.
Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice also wrote in her 2011 book about Abdullah offering her a gift of a black robe and veil that she refused to wear.
But Obama is much more associated with clothes and fashion; she sets trends and boosts brands. And in the age of social media, she has an unparalleled global audience.
On Twitter, her move sparked outrage, as reported by my colleague, Adam Taylor:
More than 1,500 tweets using the hashtag #ميشيل_أوباما_سفور (roughly, #Michelle_Obama_unveiled) were sent Tuesday, many of which criticized the first lady. Some users pointed out that on a recent trip to Indonesia, Michelle had worn a headscarf. Why not in Saudi Arabia?
Keep in mind that Michelle Obama does not make fashion choices lightly, particularly on the world stage. Her fashion choice comes as the late Saudi king Abdullah's legacy on women is considered in light of the ascension of Crown Prince Salman to the throne.
It's also a more social-media-friendly version of political messages delivered overtly by other first ladies.
In 1995, Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience at the U.N. Women's Conference in Beijing, "Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women's rights."
Ten years later, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan in 2005, Laura Bush also emphasized women's rights before a group of Arab leaders. She said: "Freedom, especially freedom for women, is more than the absence of oppression. It's the right to speak and vote and worship freely. Human rights require the rights of women. And human rights are empty promises without human liberty."
The Saudi delegation of leaders walked out before she got to that line, something she notes in her book, "Spoken from the Heart."
Ten years after that, Obama, this time with her fashion, has made a similar statement.
Bush said in 2005 that "women who have not yet won these rights are watching," and Obama, in Saudi Arabia with no headscarf and in slacks, makes the message that much easier to see.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/mumtaz-qadri-appeal-case-will-justice-be-done-court-adjourned-till-february-3/#sthash.XwHLxphl.dpuf
Although billions dollars were invested by the world community and the Afghan government in the last thirteen years for eradication of poppy cultivation but still Afghanistan is one of the biggest opium producers in the world. Why the efforts of the government and the global community in the last thirteen years were not effective? What was the reason behind increase of addicts’ number? Why alternative should be given to farmers? And additional numbers of questions were discussed in a free Jirga with government authorities, lawmakers, experts and representatives of 34 provinces. Deen Mohammad Mubarez Rashidi former acting minister of counter narcotics who was one of the participants of this free Jirga said, “Despite the efforts of the Afghan government and the world community in the last thirteen years, Afghanistan is still among the drug producers in the world. I believe in the first step, rule of law should be implemented for prevention of poppy cultivation and drug production. According to constitution and the law on war on drugs, all departments of the Afghan government have to fight drugs. Because drug cultivation, production and trafficking is crime.
Talking on this issue that why poppy alternative should be given to farmers, Rashidi said, “Based on law, if alternative is given or not given, no one is allowed to cultivate poppy, produce or consume drug and traffic it. If only for the help of farmers, alternative is given to farmers, it is good if the government afford it. Since thirteen years that the Afghan government has been fighting poppy cultivation, the alternative livelihood has been one of the four cases of war on drugs. But the government should improve agriculture, so there would be no more excuse to farmers to cultivate poppy. Talking on the relations between farmers’ economic situation and poppy cultivation Rashidi went on to say, “If we don’t care alternative livelihood in Afghanistan, and say that if the farmers don’t cultivate poppy, what they should eat this in fact itself is an excuse for increase of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, because the alternative livelihood undertaken by the Afghan government and the world community for the farmers only will be meeting their ten percent needs and the rest will remain.
Mentioning the fifteen province in which poppy is not cultivated Rashidi said, “This is not true if we say that if the farmers don’t cultivate poppy, what to eat. And the fifteen other provinces should also cultivate poppy. Therefore it could be an excuse for poppy cultivation. Those farmers who cultivate poppy, violate the constitution, they are a threat to security, shed the people blood and bring misfortune to our youth.
What solution would be followed by the upcoming administration for prevention of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, Rashidi said, “The only solution that can rescue the country from misfortune is enforcing and implementation of law, having firm political determination, acceptance of Islamic values, tackling the farmer’s problems, creation of coordination among responsible bodies in the direction of prevention of poppy cultivation and sincere cooperation of the world community. Nasima Niazi a female lawmaker from Helmand while considering lack of government attention to improve farmers living condition as one of the reasons behind increase of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan despite huge investments said, “In the last thirteen years the government unfortunately has not provided better living conditions for our youth and farmers, has not implemented public utility projects.
So, unemployment and poverty are the reasons behind increase of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. While poppy cultivation brings more benefit to international mafia and less advantage to farmers. Helmand is one of the provinces that unfortunately have been hunted by this sinister phenomenon. Insecurity and lack of government attention have caused increase of poppy cultivation. She also considers alternative livelihood to farmers as one of the solutions that could be effective for prevention of poppy cultivation. Ms. Niazi added, “If job opportunities be available to our youth, they will not resort to drugs. Bordering with neighboring countries and migration of Afghans to these countries have caused large number of Afghans be addicted to drugs. So the government should put creation of employment at the top of its priorities and should have firm determination for elimination of this nasty phenomenon and the international community should also act seriously. Former MoCN Gen. Khodaidad considering alternative livelihood as one of the effective means for prevention of poppy cultivation, said, “Unfortunately the government has failed in the last thirteen years to implement the farmers opinions for alternative livelihood and opium replacement, properly. There was no suitable coordination between the MoCN and the world community. In the provinces lack of coordination between governors and security authorities have caused increase of poppy cultivation and number of addicts.
Considering illegal the poppy cultivation, production and trafficking according to Islam religion and the constitution, he emphasizes that opium funds terrorism war in Afghanistan. If the Afghan government doesn’t implement serious measures for elimination of this phenomenon, until 2016, its control will be out of authority of the government.
Hashim Alokozai a senator from Helmand province and a local tribal elder said, “If in the last thirteen years attention was focused for improvement of agriculture and the farmers living condition, today no one, no farmer would have been planted poppy in no province of Afghanistan. Helmand is a province is that grows the best cotton and marketing grounds should have been paved for this product. Lack of attention to farmers’ requirement has caused increase of poppy cultivation. He added, In order Afghanistan regain its proper position among the world countries and the Afghan people not to be considered as the biggest opium producers, all government bodies including provincial governors, district governors, and security authorities should establish coordination among themselves for implementation of the rule of law. Suraya Raiszada
Totally unfit for democracy
Despite being in power for the third time, Nawaz Sharif has yet to realise that a country with 190 million population cannot be run like a small family business concern. If a PM ruling a modern state was to follow the micromanagement based model of a small enterprise, run with the help of handpicked and pliant relatives by an arrogant family elder whose directives must not be challenged, disasters would not be not far behind.
The confrontation with the PTI and PAT had resulted from this highly personalised and arrogant style of running the country. Imran Khan’s original demand of reopening the four constituencies was rejected out of hand. Tahirul Qadri who had a considerable following received the kind of treatment that characterises military rule than democracy. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, who were endowed with similar inflated egos, turned out to be the government’s nemesis.
It was arrogance that led Nawaz Sharif to remain absent from Parliament for months. What was the need to listen to noisy speeches when a docile Cabinet was willing to do the PM’s bidding? It was only after the PTI and PAT, seemingly in collusion with the offstage players, threatened to drag Nawaz Shrif out of the Prime Minister House that he sought the Parliament’s support. The PM and his copycats in the Cabinet attended several consecutive National Assembly sittings from beginning to the end, having an earful of the critical comments from the Opposition.
Once the crisis was over, it was again business as usual.
The style of governance led to the petrol crisis followed by an unprecedented power breakdown. In both cases the government found scapegoats. A storm is again gathering. Pakistan Bar Council has announced a countrywide strike against the 21stamendment. There is a likelihood of the religious parties also chiming in. The military courts were accepted by many legislators under duress. With no judicial commission in sight, Imran Khan too might use the situation to give another jolt to the government. The PML-N, it appears, will face crisis after crisis till the end of its tenure.
As the details filter through, the police department’s actions look increasingly questionable. Why was a trainee given a job which perhaps ranks amongst the most dangerous in Pakistan right now? In a duty that envisages tactical progression through urban landscape, requires experience and excellent marksmanship, why was a person chosen who had not even passed the academy? Furthermore, a single policeman is absolutely useless for this job; a single person cannot even guard both ends of a single road, let alone the multiple attack avenues available in an urban environment, such as rooftops, windows and street corners. While the policeman was wearing a bulletproof vest, he lacked basic protective gear such as a helmet; and was therefore shot in the head. The police had deployed multiple polio teams in the area all guarded by a few constables each, when a singular team, comprising of a heavy police contingent would have been safer – slower, yet safer. The superior officer who ordered this deployment not only sent the young constable to his death, but also endangered the lives of the polio workers – who fortunately managed to escape the attackers in this instance.
Such negligent actions by the police department, in the light of recent attacks on polio teams and the militant threat of reprisal is nothing short of criminal and should be pursued accordingly. Police methods seem ill-thought out and behind the times. As the military is flushing out militants from their tribal strongholds, urban metropolises like Karachi are destined to be the new hotbeds of extremism, and to some extent they already are. The Karachi police needs to reorganize, learn urban warfare, utilise modern surveillance technology and establish special militarized police squads. While all this may be in the future, for now, what the severely undermanned Karachi police isn’t short of, is the capacity think and plan contingencies- doing which would have prevented this horrible tragedy.