Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Video - Hillary Clinton meets with students in Iowa

What Would A Clinton Presidency Mean for Relations With Russia?

After a long buildup, Hillary Clinton finally announced the start of her campaign for the 2016 presidential race on Sunday. But what does the early frontrunner have in store for US relations with Russia? If the past is any indicator of things to come, nothing good.
Discussing the possibility of a Clinton presidency in a recent article for PolitRussia.com, analyst Ivan Proshkin noted that Russian hopes to 'wait Obama out' and negotiate with whomever comes after him would be a moot point, should Clinton be his successor. "There's nothing wrong with dreaming," the analyst notes, "but an analysis of the likely outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign does not inspire any confidence in [such negotiations] occurring."
Analyzing Clinton's chances, Russian America watchers, like their US counterparts, point to the dynastic politician's experience, her substantial political clout and powerful political and financial backers, as well as the absence of a dynamic Republican contender. The economy's signs of recovery, following nearly a decade of recession, certainly doesn't harm the Democrats, either.
So, if the 'Iron Lady of American politics' already has pundits crowning her the 45th president, what is it that Russian analysts find so depressing about her possible reign?
Well, for one thing, there's Clinton's sharply antagonistic rhetoric toward Russia, its "behavior" and its plans for partnership and cooperation with its former Soviet neighbors. Amidst the Maidan coup and Crimea's organization of a referendum to rejoin Russia last year, Clinton compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler, stating that the Russian leader's actions amidst the growing conflict in post-coup Ukraine was something akin to "what Hitler did back in the '30s."
Stubbornly defending her Putin-Hitler commentary as a call for "a little historical perspective," Clinton would go on to call the president "a tough guy with thin skin," and a "cold-blooded, calculating former KGB agent," comments receiving the acclaim of Congress Republicans and Republican pundits alike. At a fundraising speech last October, Clinton would state that the Russian president was "a bully" the US must "stand up to, encircle and…try to choke off his ability to be so aggressive." The former Secretary of State added in no uncertain terms that the Russian leadership's agenda "threatens American interests," noting that it was "a mistake" for European powers to seek to avoid the expansion of the sanctions war against Russia.With Republican big fish, think tanks and independent analysts frequently commenting on Clinton's famous 'Russia Reset' initiative as an example of the kind of 'poor leadership' she would show on Russia, the former Secretary of State has repeatedly responded that she has always been skeptical about the possibility for a real improvement in ties. Last July, Clinton noted that she was "among the most skeptical of Putin during the time that I was [in the State Department], in part because I thought he had never given up his vision of bringing 'Mother Russia' back to the forefront."

And while the long undeclared presidential frontrunner has had to jump through hoops for potential 'tough on Russia' sponsors and voters at home, the proof that Clinton was serious about the reset isn't actually that hard to find. As far back as 2012, when the chaos of post-Maidan Ukraine was nothing more than a nightmare scenario for Russian security analysts, Clinton gave a speech in Dublin, where she warned against what she called Russian moves "to re-Sovietize the region." Clinton admitted that "it's not going to be called that," stating that "it's going to be called a customs union…a Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it."
And Clinton backed her words with actions. As Russia Insider pointed out in an article last October, Clinton's State Department "steadily increased its anti-Russia line, and pushed for Ukraine to choose between Europe and Russia, plowing $5 billion into anti-Russian civil society groups in Ukraine." The independent analysis portal pointed out that the 2011-2012 protest-supporting ambassador Michael McFaul was "Clinton's man in Moscow," while then-State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt also served as Clinton's close Russia advisors. The pair ended up coordinating policy in Ukraine during the events of Maidan, handing out cookies and serving as kingmakers to post-coup Kiev.

Hence, while conservative commentators and their affiliated PACs and think tanks may be giving Clinton the evil eye, as far as Russia policy is concerned, the two political groups actually see eye-to-eye.

In his PolitRussia piece, Proshkin notes that Clinton's policy stance of isolating Russia, formulated during her tenure as Secretary of State, at least a year prior to the official cooling of relations over Ukraine, "denies Russia the right to carry out any sort of sovereign policy in the former Soviet Union, an area which, for a number of reasons (including historical and cultural) Russia considers as its area of interest." In this way, "any integration processes between the countries of the former Soviet Union under Russian leadership is termed 'Sovietization', 'anti-democraticization,' and by other terrifying words."

Proshkin argues that by "narrowing the field of Russia's sovereign policy to the limits of its frontiers," Clinton seeks to refuse Russia "the right to an independent foreign policy as such." The independent analyst believes that "this means that following her possible victory in 2016, Mrs. Clinton will not only attempt to squeeze Russia from Ukraine and the Crimea, but also from the Caucasus and Central Asia, where through Orange Revolutions new [pro-US] regimes can be set up, serving to "lock" Russia in a cordon sanitaire."
Ultimately, Proskin notes that Russian America watchers are nearly unanimous in their verdict that should Clinton be elected, Russian-American relations will see a "further deterioration and a slide into an even 'warmer' phase of the new Cold War." With Clinton seeking to "put Russia in its place" and Russia continuing its attempts to break out of the US-led world order, the analyst believes that a Clinton victory will ensure at least four more years of frozen relations between the two countries.

In 2009, amidst the much touted and heavily publicized 'Reset' of relations between Russia and the US, featuring Clinton laughing it up with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russian journalists noticed a minor error on the little red reset button rolled out as a symbol for the new era of improved ties. The famous red button on a yellow and black box included a minor translation error. Instead of reading 'Perezagruzka' (reset), the button actually read 'Peregruzka' (overload). Written off as a minor flub at the time, the significance of the error has grown from a minor blip into an ever-widening chasm. In hindsight, an aide's translation error may have turned into a harbinger of things to come. If Clinton clinches the nomination, defeats her opponents and becomes the next US president, the 'peregruzka' in Russian relations seems likely to reach new heights.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/analysis/20150412/1020801922.html#ixzz3XKp6C3xg

Despite Confrontation, Russia Still Looks to West for Approval

Despite the ongoing confrontation with the West over Ukraine, Russian leaders still see it as the ultimate source of prestige and approval, analysts told The Moscow Times on Tuesday after readers of U.S. magazine Time named President Vladimir Putin the most influential person in the world.
Putin's victory came after heavy campaigning on the part of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia's republic of Chechnya, who has previously slammed Western media for bias and conspiracy against himself and Russia overall.
Putin beat South Korean female rapper CL to win with 6.95 percent of the vote, Time announced Monday. Pop stars Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift rounded out the top five. The only non-entertainers in the top 10 apart from Putin were the Dalai Lama, Pakistani feminist activist Malala Yousafzai and Pope Francis.
"Russia's bellicose president has acquired notoriety abroad and adulation at home thanks to his rumored support for Ukrainian rebels and his annexation of Crimea last year. He continues to challenge European authority in the former Soviet states, and has stood by Syrian President Bashar Assad as the rest of the world has condemned his conduct in the civil war," Time said in one of its statements about the vote.
The online poll asked readers in late March to vote for who they thought had "changed the world this past year, for better or worse." Time did not specify how many people had participated in the poll, which allowed readers "a say" ahead of the editor-compiled list of the world's 100 most influential people that will be released Thursday.
Last year, Putin came 28th in the poll, with Indian politicians Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi dominating the vote. Analysts did not rule out that Kadyrov's support could have made a difference this year, with one suggesting that some people could have been given money to vote for Putin.
"I don't exclude the possibility that this result was somehow paid for," Alexei Malashenko, a leading analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The Moscow Times in a phone interview.
According to Time, 57.4 percent of the votes were cast in the United States, followed by Canada and Britain with 5.5 and 4.6 percent respectively.
Time named Putin person of the year in 2007 and ran an extensive interview with him.
Answering a question about being awarded the title during his annual news conference in 2008, Putin said that "if I were to react to everything that is written about me and change my behavior accordingly, I do not think we would have achieved all we have today."

Chechen Support

There were no reports of Chechens being coerced to vote for Putin, but in the past, Kadyrov has managed to drum up huge rallies in support of the Russian president.
Last October, Kadyrov summoned about 100,000 people for a march in the center of the Chechen capital Grozny to honor Putin on his birthday. Public workers were given a day off, with many people forced to attend the rally, Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) regional news website reported at the time.
Ahead of the Time poll, Kadyrov posted five appeals on his Instagram account, which has nearly a million followers, calling on people to vote for Putin "to show how we love our national leader."
Last month, Kadyrov accused foreign media outlets of "using any excuse to blame the head of Chechnya."
"If a pedestrian crossed the street in the wrong place, Kadyrov is guilty, if someone is suspected of a crime, Kadyrov is guilty," he said at a meeting with law enforcement officers, according to his Instagram account.  
Kadyrov is using the situation to earn points and show that his relationship with Putin is personal and exclusive, which is also a signal to law enforcement officers in Moscow who are irritated with him, Malashenko said.
"Ramzan has a very highly developed political instinct that doesn't fail him," he said.
Last year, Kadyrov told The Daily Beast news website "As long as Putin backs me up, I can do everything — Allahu akbar! [God is great]"
Following the Time vote, Kadyrov suggested the prominent publication was a credible platform to identify the most influential person in the world.
"We have proven again that there isn't a more authoritative leader in the world than Vladimir Putin," Kadyrov wrote on Instagram after Time closed the voting.

Added Value

While it might seem at odds with modern Russia's patriotic rhetoric to cite a foreign magazine as proof that Putin is the most authoritative leader, according to Malashenko, members of the Russian elite understand well that "authority and influence are made in the West."
"If his rating was low, Nikolai Patrushev [secretary of Russia's Security Council] would say that the Americans are doing their best to humiliate Russia," he said.
According to Alexei Makarkin, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow-based think tank, Western opinions of Putin are more important for the Russian elites that domestic ones, as they are regarded as more objective.
"Things like the Time 100 list are more important than the approval ratings produced by Russian pollsters," Makarkin said in a phone interview.
According to a March poll conducted by the independent Levada Center in Moscow, 85 percent of Russians support Putin's actions despite the fall in their real incomes.
The poll was conducted among 1,600 people with a margin of error not exceeding 3.4 percent.
"Even when people say that they don't like the West and see it as an enemy, mentally and culturally they still see it as the ultimate point of reference," Makarkin said.
"For instance, even fans of Stalin mention Churchill's praise of him to try to prove their point," he said.

Pak-India:- A new crisis is brewing between two nuclear-armed neighbors

By Tom Rogan

India and Pakistan each possess more than 100 nuclear warheads. Their political establishments really don’t like each other. Correspondingly, we should always pay heed to tensions between the two nations.
A new crisis is brewing.
Last week, India announced it will establish protected settlements to rehouse about 200,000 Hindus in the Kashmir Valley. Forced out of Indian Kashmir by Pakistan-supported Islamists in 1989-1990, the displaced citizens are a priority for Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government. Conversely, Islamist protests illustrate opposition to Hindu empowerment. India and Pakistan have been fighting over the province of Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947; they have fought three wars over it, in fact.
Then on Friday, Pakistan released Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, ringleader of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people across India’s financial capital. While Pakistan’s primary intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, has protected Lakhvi from prosecution, his release is striking. Because Pakistan knows that India knows that Lakhvi’s group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, benefits from the spy agency’s support, guidance and shelter. And it’s releasing him anyway.
Believing men like Lakvhi can undercut India’s regional influence, the ISI’s pro-extremist element is flexing its muscles by releasing him. The problem, however, is that it’s not just Lakhvi on the loose. With an array of terrorist groups under its thumb — elements of the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban, for two — the ISI has a terror portfolio with which to wreak havoc. And as attested by the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, the spy agency has repeatedly proven its support for groups that risk war. Lakhvi’s release is both a physical threat and a possible signal of increasing Pakistani aggression. It illustrates the looming danger in near-term India-Pakistan relations.
Regardless, the present crisis is centrally connected to Kashmir.
As evidenced by statements from Pakistan’s powerful army chief, General Raheel Sharif, and recent exchanges of fire, and with India now building Hindu-sectarian influence in the region, the risk of conflict between the two nations is increasingly real. Still, with Pakistan openly paranoid about India’s greater power, the country’s leaders are likely to regard what’s happening in Kashmir as a reflection of a broader Indian plan to weaken Pakistan.
Pakistan’s hardline anti-India factions will push for a tough response. While General Sharif has shown courage in previously confronting the hard-liners, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s weakness means that he has few reliable allies; the potential for escalation is thus significant. This mix of fear and emotion is at the heart of Pakistani politics and explains why successive governments have been either unwilling or unable to counter terrorist fanatics.
In addition, with Modi in New Delhi, this Indian government is far less tolerant of Pakistani terrorism than its predecessor. A repeat Mumbai 2008 would ignite a far stronger response. The risk is that Pakistan may gamble otherwise.
There is a central reality of international relations at stake here: Extremism is a political toxin that, unconfronted by strong leadership, risks disaster. Whatever happens, we’re left with a tragic truth. Four months after hundreds of school children were brutally murdered, Pakistan is re-energizing its demented waltz with terror.

Video - Hillary Clinton: This is why I'm running for president

Video - China discussion: Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House

Hillary Clinton Kicks Off 2016 Campaign in Iowa

Obama Endorses Removing Cuba From Terrorism List

The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama intends to remove Cuba from the American government’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, eliminating a major obstacle to the restoration of diplomatic relations after decades of hostilities.
The decision to remove Cuba from the list represents a crucial step in Mr. Obama’s effort to turn the page on a Cold War-era dispute.
It came after a much-anticipated meeting between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama over the weekend, the first such formal session between the leaders of the two countries in more than a half-century.
For more than 30 years, Cuba has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation shared only by Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Cuba’s place on the list has long snarled its access to financial markets and, more recently, emerged as a sticking point in negotiations to reopen embassies that have officially been closed for five decades.
Mr. Obama ordered a review of Cuba’s status in December, as he and Mr. Castro agreed to move toward normal relations.
White House officials said Tuesday that Mr. Obama had approved a recommendation by Secretary of State John Kerry to take Cuba off the terrorism list after the review of Cuba’s record and assurances from Havana that it would not support terrorism in the future.
“We will continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but our concerns over a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Mr. Earnest said the president would continue to “support our interests and values through engagement with the Cuban government and people.”
The State Department determined that Cuba had not engaged in terrorist activity in the past six months — a criterion for designating a country as a state sponsor of terrorism — and therefore no longer belonged on the list.
Washington’s isolation of Cuba, particularly its embargo of the island, has been a perennial source of hostility in Latin America, uniting governments across the region regardless of their ideologies.
Even some of Washington’s close allies in the Americas have rallied to Cuba’s side, sometimes making it hard to gain traction on other, unrelated issues, administration officials have said.
Cuba was attending the summit meeting for the first time since the gathering’s inception in 1994.
The meeting created the first publicly planned encounter of the American and Cuban presidents since 1958, though Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro shook hands in greeting at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa in December 2013 and President Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro shook hands and chatted briefly at a United Nations meeting in 2000.
To many, the decision to remove Cuba from the list affirmed the obvious. When Mr. Obama announced that he would seek normal ties with Cuba, he expressed doubt that the nation belonged on the list.
Last week, Mr. Obama appeared to be sharpening his defense of removing Cuba’s terrorism designation, telling NPR that the criterion for doing so is a “straightforward” evaluation of whether a country is a state sponsor of terrorism, “not do we agree with them on everything, not whether they engage in repressive or authoritarian activities in their own country.”
Analysts said Cuba’s designation had more to do with politics than any terrorist activity, and even before the decision was announced, critics attacked the move.
The terrorism designation “is a hot potato that is literally too hot for the banks involved to do the business,” said Antonio C. Martinez II, a New York lawyer whose practice includes the regulations surrounding Cuban assets.
“The banks involved in or contemplating doing business with Cuba have an enormous compliance burden that does not justify the costs,” he added. “That is why no bank wanted” to have accounts with Cuban diplomats in the United States, complicating efforts to reopen an embassy.
State Department officials said they had embarked on a thorough review to ensure that their decision could stand up to any questioning in a Republican-controlled Congress where there are fierce objections.
Cuba will not come off the list until after a 45-day review period, during which a joint resolution to block its removal could be considered in the House and Senate. The idea of removing Cuba’s terrorism designation has been met with considerable resistance from Republicans, including many Cuban-American lawmakers.
Even before any announcement had been made, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who has vowed to block any step toward normalizing ties, issued a statement saying that Cuba’s expected removal from the list “would be nothing short of a miscarriage of justice born out of political motivations not rooted in reality.”
She said that Mr. Obama’s administration was “so desperate to open up an embassy in Havana at any cost that it is willing to concede to Castro’s demand,” adding that the action would “further embolden the regime and undermine U.S. national security.”
The issue of the terrorism list has helped delay the opening of embassies that have been closed since 1961 during the Cold War.
Cuban officials have said they would find it difficult to move forward with diplomatic relations while remaining on the list, which they see as a blemish to their nation’s image and a scarlet letter that has blocked Cuba from doing business with American banks and led some international institutions to shy away from opportunities to work with Cuba.
The United States had sought to keep the terrorism designation question separate from the question of restoring diplomatic relations, focusing its demands on ensuring that diplomats could travel freely in Cuba and that Cubans would not be bothered by the police as they entered the redesignated embassy.
Cuba landed on the list in 1982 for its support of leftist insurgents in Latin America. It has remained on the list since then because, according to a State Department report in 2013, the most recent available, it has provided a “safe haven” for Basque separatists and Colombian rebels.
The Cuban government has also harbored an unspecified number of fugitives wanted in the United States, including Joanne D. Chesimard, who is on the F.B.I.’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 and receiving asylum in Cuba after escaping from prison in 1979. The F.B.I. said Ms. Chesimard, who now goes by the name Assata Shakur, espoused revolution and terrorism against the United States.
Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, last week called the move “another significant misstep in a misguided policy” and cited Ms. Chesimard’s case among his examples of Cuba’s terrorism record.
Still, as the State Department report noted, several of the Basque separatists had been repatriated to Spain, and Cuba has played host to peace talks between the Colombian government and a major rebel group, known by its Spanish acronym FARC.
Fidel Castro in a speech in 1992 said Cuba was no longer supporting insurgents abroad.
“There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups,” the 2013 report said.
Inclusion on the list has stymied Cuban banking and kept it out of many overseas financial markets. Not even its interests section in Washington, the diplomatic outpost that performs some functions of an embassy, could get a bank account as financial institutions worried about violating sanctions from the Treasury Department over doing business with a state on the terrorism list and running afoul of the trade embargo.


By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) ‘commander’ and alleged mastermind of the November 26, 2008, Mumbai (Maharashtra, India) terror attacks (also known as 26/11), was released from Adiyala Jail in Rawalpindi, in the Punjab Province of Pakistan, in the night of April 9, 2015. He furnished a PKR two million in surety bonds. According to Jail authorities, following his release, he was picked up by members of Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD), the LeT front organization amid ‘tight security’. His current location is not known. Earlier in the day, the Lahore High Court had dismissed the order of detention issued against him by the Okara District Coordination Officer (DCO) on March 14, 2014.
Lakhvi was arrested on December 7, 2008, along with six others allegedly involved in the Mumbai attack, and challenged his indictment in the Lahore High Court on December 5, 2009. A bail plea filed by him was dismissed in August 2010, and he continued in Jail – albeit, according to reports, in extraordinary comfort and with a range of perks and privileges that provided him unprecedented access to cadres of his ostensibly banned terrorist group, the LeT. He was granted bail by the Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court, citing ‘lack of evidence’ on December 18, 2014. Ironically, this was just two days after the December 16, 2014, Army Public School (APS) attack, in which 148 persons, including 135 children were killed, and in the wake of numerous declarations by the country’s political and military leadership that all forms of terrorism would be suppressed in Pakistan. A succession of maneuvers, thereafter, under intense pressure from India and the international community, has kept Lakhvi behind bars since then.
Meanwhile, the LeT founder and JuD ‘chief’ Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, also a close relative of Lakhvi, has roamed free across the country all these years under direct state patronage. Saeed, who has a USD 10 million US Government bounty on his head, is, according to Pakistani authorities, a “philanthropist”. Pakistan’s Minister for Defence Production, Rana Tanveer Hussain, on January 16, 2015, declared that Pakistan could not ban the JuD led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed because it is a charitable and not a terrorist organisation.
Unsurprisingly, despite several reports and claims of a ban on the ‘charitable’ JuD and the Haqqani Network (which operates under Pakistani state support against the Kabul regime in Afghanistan) in the aftermath of the Peshawar APS attack, it was subsequently confirmed that these outfits remained ‘legal’. Federal Minister of Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while clarifying that the Government had not outlawed any group after the APS attack, declared, on February 11, 2015, “Yes we are a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Charter and we will devise a policy on this topic [but] so far, we have only added 10 organisations – proscribed by the UN – to our watch list.” Interestingly, the Supreme Court on January 22, 2015, had directed the Federal Government to upload on its websites, details pertaining to terrorist outfits banned by the Government. The Court observed that no such record was available and friendly countries should also be informed in this regard. The Government had earlier claimed that it had banned 63 terrorist outfits, but no record or notification of such a list is in the public domain. It is, however, a fact that similar lists consisting of varying numbers of ‘banned’ terror groups had been released by the National Assembly in the past. It now emerges that all but 10 of these organizations are not banned but merely on a ‘watch list’ which places them under no legal restraint.
Amidst these developments, Islamabad continues with its deceptive posturing. Between December 17, 2014, a day after the APS attack, when the moratorium on execution of death penalties in terrorism-related cases was lifted, and March 10, 2015, when the Government decided to implement the death penalty in all cases, a total of 24 persons were executed. Of these, however, only eight have been involved in terror cases. Between March 10 and till April 10, 2015, another 46 prisoners were executed, of which none were terrorists. The eight terrorists who have been hanged include:
  • Niaz Mohammad, who was executed on December 31, 2014, in Peshawar Central Prison for his involvement in the assassination attempt on the life of then President General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf, on December 25, 2003. Niaz was a close aide of Adnan Rasheed, the chief ‘operational commander’ of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-linked Ansarul Aseer (Helpers of the Prisoners) – a unit which was founded to secure freedom for the imprisoned jihadis by conducting jail-break operations.
  • Ahmed Ali, who belonged to the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), was hanged at the New Central Jail of Multan in Punjab in the early morning of January 7, 2015. A resident of Shorkot, Jhang District, he was handed capital punishment for killing three men in an act of sectarian killing on January 7, 1998.
  • Ghulam Shabbir, also of SSP, was hanged at the New Central Jail of Multan in Punjab in the early morning of January 7, 2015. A resident of the Talamba area of Khanewal District, he had killed Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Anwar Khan and his driver Ghulam Murtaza on the Bohar Gate Road in Multan on August 4, 2000. Charges of sectarian violence were also proved against him.
  • Zulfikar Ali, who was convicted of killing two Policemen near the US Consulate General in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, was hanged at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi on January 13, 2015. Ali, a resident of Naval Colony, Hub Road, in Karachi, was associated with al Qaeda.
  • Mohammad Saeed alias Maulvi was hanged at Karachi Central Jail in the morning of January 14, 2015. Saeed who was associated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) was awarded the death sentence by Karachi ATC in April 2001 for the killing of DSP (Retd) Syed Sabir Hussain Shah and his son Syed Abid Hussain Shah on sectarian ground in an ambush near the Malir City Railway crossing in 2000.
  • Ikramul Haq of SSP was hanged at Kot Lakhpat Central Jail, Lahore, in the morning of January 17, 2015. In 2004 an anti-terrorism court in Faisalabad had given him the death sentence in connection with the killing of a man, Nayyar Abbas, at Shorkot area of Jhang District on July 9, 2001. Abbas was a guard of Altaf Shah of the banned Sipah-i-Muhammad at an Imambargah (Shia place of worship) in Shorkot.
  • Mohammad Azam alias Sharif and Attaullah alias Qasim, who belonged to the LeJ, were hanged at the Karachi central prison in the early hours of February 3, 2015. Both Attaullah and Azam were sentenced to death by an ATC in July 2004 for their involvement in the killing of Dr. Ali Raza Peerani on sectarian grounds on June 26, 2001 in the Soldier Bazaar area of Karachi.
None of the terrorists hanged were from leadership ranks.
According to officials of the Ministries of Interior and Law and Justice and Human Rights there were around 8,261 prisoners on death row in more than five dozen jails of the country as of on December 17, 2014. Around 30 per cent of them were believed to be convicted under the Anti-terrorism Act by Special Courts after 2003-04.
Meanwhile, in response to hangings and executions of terrorists in Pakistan, domestically oriented terrorist groups, primarily the TTP and its splinters, such as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, have intensified their operations. According to partial data compile by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the hanging of Aqeel alias Dr. Usman, the first terrorist to be hanged (on December 19, 2014) after the APS attack, at least 1,485 persons, including 354 civilians, 115 SF personnel and 1016 terrorists, have been killed in just 114 days (data till April 12, 2015). Overall fatalities in Pakistan in terrorism-related violence in the current year (2015) have already crossed at least 1,263 – 339 civilians, 103 SF personnel and 821 terrorists.
Pakistan continues with a two faced strategy of arbitrary and sporadic ruthlessness against domestic terrorists, on the one hand, and sustained support to externally directed terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan and India, on the other. In this, it has occasionally succeeded in deceiving elements within the international community into believing that it is acting against ‘terrorism’, and in turn securing the release of fairly regular doses of economic and military aid. In the process, it has created a domestic environment of extremism and endemic violence, within which all forms of terrorism continue to flourish. Pakistan has done grievous harm to its neighbourhood, and to the world, by long and continued support to Islamist extremism and terrorism, but it appears to have inflicted the greatest injury on itself.

Pakistan & Saudi Pressure - Poisoned gifts and unmet expectations

By Ayaz Amir

Pakistan could have handled this mess better, with slightly more finesse and subtlety. But the quality of decision-making in Islamabad is what it is. So there is no point in moaning over it, or being surprised by the fact that Pakistan is ending up annoying all sides and pleasing none. We’ve had jokers at the foreign office before but it is hard to recall when we had such a crew as the present one presiding over foreign policy. And let’s not forget who the foreign minister is: the PM himself. 

Saudi annoyance is not hard to understand. Everything suggests that the government conveyed more than it is now in a position to deliver. If this was not the case the Saudi and Emirati reaction would not have taken the form it has. They feel let down, which is a mild form of putting it, all because our side instead of being thrifty with pledges earlier was puffing out its chest and making bold and unwarranted declarations about the people of Pakistan ready to lay down their lives for the Holy Mosques, etc. 

We knew as well as anyone else that the Holy Places were never under any threat, and were not likely to be. The Saudis wanted troops and materiel for ground operations in Yemen. It shouldn’t have taken a Rommel to see this. But we kept at the swinging rhetoric and managed to give the wrong impression. Now that the Saudis are discovering the reality of our pledges, they can be forgiven for feeling let down if not betrayed.

If only we had the firmness of mind to convey a clear sense of what we could do prior to the Saudi action in Yemen. As it is, we have taken the right decision – there should be no doubt about that – but in a clumsy manner. Saying no is one thing but adding insult to injury requires special talent. 

The Chinese never supported us in any direct manner in 1971. But they did not give any other impression. They did not promise anything that they did not deliver.

All the same, let us get some facts straight. It is not just Yemen which is in ferment. The entire Middle East is in a state of crisis and Saudi Arabia has much to do with this state of affairs. The Saudis have suddenly become the guardians of order and legitimacy, denouncing the Houthis as rebels. Did anyone in the Arab world much remember legitimacy when British and French fighter planes were bombing Muammar Qaddafi’s forces and Qatar and Kuwait among others were helping arm and fund the anti-Qaddafi rebels? Qaddafi was taken care of but Libya, a stable country before, was plunged into chaos. There was no Al-Qaeda in Libya before; now there is. 

What about Syria? Saudi Arabia put its full weight behind the rebels trying to oust Bashar al-Assad from power and it’s been unhappy with the United States for not bombing Assad’s forces. 

What about Egypt? Mohamed Morsi was the legitimate ruler, duly elected, but the Saudis couldn’t stand the Muslim Brotherhood and backed el-Sisi when he seized power, immediately writing fat cheques to support the new regime. 

The Saudis don’t like the Brotherhood. They don’t like the Islamic State. They are paranoid about Iran. They are unhappy with the United States for not completely following their agenda. They are worried about their Yemen backyard. They have no problem with Israel. The question to ask: what do the Saudis like? What would make them feel completely secure? 

The Saudis are unhappy and worried because their Middle East is crumbling around them. Assad survives in Syria…with help from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. And instead of Saudi-supported rebels gaining strength, the Islamic State (IS) has carved out a presence for itself on Syrian soil and spread its tentacles across the border into Iraq. 

Left to its own devices, the Iraqi government could not have defeated the IS. But with Iranian help – and leadership provided by one of Iran’s top generals, Qasem Soleimani – the IS advance towards Baghdad has been stopped, and captured Tikrit retaken. Iranian influence dominant in Iraq only adds to Saudi gloom. 

The Houthi advance in Yemen comes on top of all these developments. And the kingdom, its patience boiling over, is resorting to arms to redress this situation…and calling upon its friends – in Pakistan’s case, nearly ordering it – to come to its assistance. The Houthis or their allies (forces still loyal to the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh) are thus just a part of the problem. For the Saudis the major problem is the spread of Iranian influence across the region. The likely conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran, with its attendant promise of ending Iranian isolation, adds to Saudi unease. 

Before the Arab spring the Middle East was such a comfortable place from the Saudi point of view, everything in its proper place. Now everything is in ferment and nothing is predictable except further disorder. 

But a further question to ask is whether Iran through insidious and sinister policy has manufactured this discontent or whether, by accident or design, it has merely profited from a situation not of its making. One does not have to be a Shia loyalist or an Iranian partisan to see that Iran had no hand in the Libyan uprising. It did not foment the unrest against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. It has not created the Islamic State. If anything, American and Saudi short-sightedness have created the conditions for the Islamic State’s rise and spreading influence. 

Iran has not created Saudi Arabia’s Houthi problem. And Iran has not influenced the Pakistani parliament to express its ‘neutrality’ in the Yemen conflict. 

For the moment, however, all these calculations take a backseat to the outcome of the fighting in Yemen. Can Saudi Arabia or the coalition it heads change the military situation against the Houthis? Can the Houthis be defeated and peace terms discussed with Saudi Arabia dictating the terms of a settlement? 

The use of airpower is one thing but most expert opinion is agreed on two mutually contradictory conclusions: 1) that a ground operation is necessary to push back the Houthis and create favourable conditions for the Saudis; and 2) that because of Yemen’s geography and the warlike temper of its people a ground operation is not a very sensible option. 

Presently, the Saudis are in no mood to listen to any advice which goes against the position they have taken. They want concrete help, what they were looking for from Pakistan, not advice…which is why the Saudi special adviser on religious affairs, Dr Abdul Aziz, who is visiting Pakistan has bluntly said that talk of mediation to resolve the Yemen issue was nothing but a joke. 

The Saudis are putting what pressure they can…the Emiratis having already hinted at unpleasant consequences for Pakistan. So does Pakistan remain firm on the path it has chosen or will it succumb to pressure? Let us at least eschew the clumsiness…in which context assorted ministers given to shooting from the hip would be well advised to leave formal responses to the foreign office. 

It’s not that we should get involved. Of course we shouldn’t. But Pakistan’s leaders should not have given the impression of promising more than what they could actually do. And they should have had the good sense to see why Saudi Arabia’s rulers were giving them a royal gift of 1.5 billion dollars. After all, the fires raging in the Islamic world have been there for some time and Saudi concerns and sensitivities are no secret. So when this gift was offered, the leadership should have had the sense to foresee the likely quid pro quo.

Far from asking any questions the leadership rejoiced in the perception that it had such good relations with the Saudis. Then it was the national interest to take the money (and where that money has gone, or to what ends it has been used, no one seems to know). Now that the Saudis want their chips to be cashed, the national interest is morphing into the colours of ‘neutrality’. They are not likely to be to be greatly amused.

Pakistan - Condolences to the House of Nawaz Sharif for failing to defend his Masters at the House of Saud

By– Syed Riaz Al-Malik

Condolences to the House of Nawaz Sharif for failing to defend his Masters at the House of Saud. You see, the “anti establishment” Nawaz Sharif did his best to drag Pakistan into Saudi Arabia’s aggression on Yemen.
(Refer to https://lubpak.com/archives/334712 for background)
But Pakistan’s “establishment” who are often referred to as “reading from a script” came out blazing against any Pakistani involvement in this act of Saudi aggression.
From Mubasher Luqman to Zafar Hilaly and from Sunni Ittihad Council to Sunni Tehrik, the opposition to joining the Saudis was unanimous!
Pakistan’s Sunnis, Shias, Christians and Ahmadis opposed Pakistan’s participation in Saudi agression on Yemen to prop up their Al Qaeda and ISIS proxies there. The only groups in Pakistan who were supporting Saudi Arabia/Al Qaeda/ISIS in Yemen are the fringe radicals from Salafi (Al Hadith, Jamaat ut Dawa/LeT) and Deobandi groups like Pakistan (Deobandi) Ulema Council lead by Maulana Whiskey Part Deux aka Tahir Ashrafi.
These are confusing times for Pakistan’s Sufyani Liberal lobby. Some of them had campaigned to paint Nawaz Sharif as “anti establishment” and pro-peace with India.
Today Nawaz Sharif’s Pro-Saudi stance is only supported by fringe Deobandi and Salafi groups like JuD/LeT who are the number one problem between Pakistan and India. Today, Nawaz Sharif’s Pro-Saudi stance is only finding currency amongst the hardcore Deobandi groups like ISIS-affiliated Taliban and other similar groups who want to join their AQAP and Daesh “comrades” in Yemen in fighting Saudi Arabia’s proxy war there against the Pro-elections Zaydi (Sunni-Shia hybrid), Hanafi (Sunni) Shafi (Sunni) and Ismaili (Shia) Nationalists there.
The United States has a bounty against Hafiz Saeed – the leader of JuD/LeT. But on the issue of Yemen, there seems to be a convergence of the radical right wing of the US and Israel. I hope this is an observational error – clearly not even in the same ballpark such as indirectly supplying arms to ISIS by giving them to Al Qaeda-FSA who then sell them to ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Meanwhile the pro-establishement vs anti-establishment debate just got murkier in Pakistan. If the establishment in Pakistan is defined solely by the military, then ALL the current pro-Army media spokespeople like Mubasher Luqman, Faisal Raza Abidi, Zaid Hamid, Zafar Hilaly, General Talat Masood, Ejaz Haider have come out clearly against Pakistan supporting Saudi Arabia’s aggression on the un-armed women and children of Yemen. Similarly those who have been painted as “anti-establishment” by certain sections of Pakistan’s “liberal” intelligensia (Nawaz Sharif) have come in support of Saudi bombing of Yemen and embroiling the Pakistani army there. The same army is already stretched thin fighting ISIS-affiliated Deobandi terror groups in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi.
This does not absolve the army for its past role in creating these very forces – just as one must not absolve Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif for their long-term loyalty, coordination and financing (from the Punjab Government coffers ) of the same groups.
What is clear is that since the transition from the Pro Taliban Pro Nawaz Sharif General Kiyani-General Pasha to General Raheel-General Rizwan Akhtar, there has been a clear change. General Kiyani jumped to support the Saudis when they were brutally crushing a similar pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. At that time, the army recruited scores of mercenaries in Pakistan. This time around, some Deobandi and Salafi terrorists – whose leaders have openly lobbied to join Saudi Arabia are alleged to be joining Saudi Arabia ground forces in the form of the AQAP in Yemen.
This is an establishment that is getting increasingly fractured and the Pro Saudi, Pro Al Qaeda, Pro ISIS faction of the establishment just lost a major power struggle today in its failure to officially embroil Pakistan in Saudi Arabia’s support for its Al Qaeda proxies in Yemen.

Pakistan - Learning diplomacy from Iran

Putting forth our point of view amicably, logically
 Pakistan would do well to take a leaf from Iran’s diplomatic ledger and learn a thing or two. Let us look at some interesting facts. Efandiar Rahim Mashaie, a candidate leading the Presidential race since the very first ballot, was out when division was created in the ranks of Council of Guardians of the Constitution and Rohani elected in his place. Efandiar Rahim Mashaie was the head of Intelligence Service. LA Times reports, “Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, was not only his top advisor but also an in-law and comrade during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war. He will retain his lesser posts. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields the ultimate power in Iran, intervened in 2009 to prevent Mashaei from serving as first vice president, a role that would have put him next in line as head of the government.”(April 9, 2011)
The National Review claims, “Rouhani is Khamenei’s agent but with a smile and style he’s now hailed as the face of Iranian moderation. Why? Because Rouhani wants better relations with the West. James Clapperthe Director of National Intelligence, had testified in Congress that only Khomeni could decide as one man whether Iran should build nuclear weapons. The Ayotullah is said to have issued a fatwa against development of nuclear weapons. Foreign Policy reported, “Iran argues that it has rejected nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islam and cites a fatwa of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as proof. …the issue is really governed by Shiite Islamic principles. Khomeini ruled out development of chemical and biological weapons as inconsistent with Islam,” Rafighdoost said.” (Rafighdoost was Khomeni’s bodyguard and head of his security detail. He was also a founding member of the IRGC) Published October 14, 2014.
Iran has finally broken the shackles of the deadlock that was holding down the nuclear deal talks after years of dedicated diplomatic strategy encompassed in diplomatic tactics. The sanctions have badly damaged the country. Tehran’s role in Middle East reconstruction becomes prominent in this backdrop of a changing relationship between both nations. Yemen is a hot potato. Javed Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Islamabad and concurrence to resolve conflict in Yemen diplomatically is an acknowledgement of the prominent role Pakistan can play in bringing about such a settlement.
UAE has slammed Pakistan’s role to offer diplomatic support to settle Yemen’s issue in a resolution by the Parliament, which it deemed as being neutral. According to Al Monitor, “Salman specifically wanted a Pakistani military contingent to deploy to the Kingdom to help defend the vulnerable southwest border with Zaydi Houthi-controlled north Yemen and serve as a trip-wire force to deter Iranian aggression. There is precedent for a Pakistani army expeditionary force in Saudi Arabia. After the Iranian Revolution, Pakistani dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq deployed an elite Pakistani armoured brigade to the Kingdom at King Fahd’s request to deter any threats to the country. In all, some 40,000 Pakistanis served in the brigade over most of a decade. Today only some Pakistani advisers and experts serve in the Kingdom.” Interestingly, coinciding with this scenario is the report that United States is speeding up arms supplies to the Saudi Arab to fight the Houthis. Interestingly, and paradoxically, the Houthis are an effective, and if I may add, the only check on the Al-Qaeda in Yemeni boundary. Interestingly too, whether Saudi Arabia wins or loses, it remains a win-win situation for USA.
‘This is a diplomatic tightrope for Pakistan. Our government will do well to remember that Pakistan shares no borders with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, that it is Yemen that has been invaded not Saudi Arabia and ‘if Pakistan intervenes militarily in any country it will be allowing others the right of hot pursuit within her border as well. Remember that India had threatened us with exercise of that right as America had done it in Iraq and Afghanistan though none of the two was its neighbours,’ says Wajid Shamsul Hasanformer High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom. I could not agree with his opinion more. We all agree that Pakistan has suffered grievously from ‘war on terror’, yet here we are, contemplating to offer ourselves in another war. Even such contemplation in light of history is ludicrous. Understandably, Pakistan does not desire to irritate Arab tempers yet it simply cannot afford to jump into the fray militarily. Let me strongly state: declining to interfere militarily does not mean it is a claim to neutrality. Let me also state that this may turn out to be a prolonged conflict and should this be true, it will result in Yemini backlash at some point that will only bloom into something uglier.
Iran understands the need to strengthen ties with the west now, hence Rouhani’s call to Putin in which both leaders ‘exchanged views on the sharp deterioration of the situation in the Republic of Yemen. The Russian side stressed the urgency of an immediate cessation of hostilities and of stepping up efforts, including by the UN, to develop options for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.’
Delhi looks on, holding its breath with events unfolding, waiting for Pakistan to wade into the Gulf quagmire to claim the intervention in Yemen is a gross violation of international law. What a gleeful pleasure that would be for India and to Pakistan’s chagrin, being caught with both feet on the back foot. Here I will remind my readers of the earlier quoted opinion by Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
“Iran must not be happy over our overly friendly relations with Saudi camp, there must be groups in Afghanistan not happy with the same. India has always been itching to teach us a lesson for claimed cross-border terrorism and no action against Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi,” says Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
Lest we forget, let me jog memories here that India and Iran signed an agreement in 2003. The “deal gives India the right to use Iranian military bases in the event of a war with neighbouring Pakistan, while India will provide Iran military hardware, training, maintenance and modernisation support.” (Global Beat Syndicate (KRT) March 3, 2003)
Alastair Crooke poses a thought provoking question in his piece: “But if the prospect of a Sunni coalition force does prove to be a chimera, and Yemen a Saudi failure, we shall surely see as a by-product more firing-up of jihadists in Syria and Iraq (the old remedy again).” (The WorldPost posted 04/06/2015)
Pakistan has one option: to throw its weight behind ensuring the diplomatic efforts to bear fruit. Half-hearted, tepid efforts will lead nowhere and spell trouble for Pakistan. The need of the hour is to ensure diplomatic efforts succeed. One suggestion here would be to use former President Mr Asif Ali Zardari as Special Emissary to Iran for this dispute, comments Manzar Qureshia leading political analyst from UK. With Iran’s newfound sense of diplomatic balance, this may well be a relatively easier task than handling Saudi Arabia who may feel short-changed by Pakistan. This of course is not true but playing independent when placing oneself in the role of a ‘Bakhshu’ can never be easy.
Second concurrent option for Pakistan is to ask Saudi Arabia to formally request UN or OIC countries to formulate strictly a ‘peacekeeping force’ to maintain the sanctity of the borders to be posted at Aden. This will help diffuse the volatile situation forcing the parties involved to come to the negotiation table.
Pakistan will do well to learn diplomacy from Iran. Put forth our point of view amicably, logically and diplomatically to our Saudi benefactors on one hand and work hard to bring a settlement to this issue as soon as possible on the other.