Friday, October 31, 2014

3 Reasons Modi Is Misguided on Pakistan

By David J. Karl
The new Indian government has pursued a noticeably harder line toward Pakistan-based terrorism than its predecessor. During the recent electoral campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a “zero-tolerance policy” and promised to “Talk to Pakistan in Pakistan’s language because it won’t learn lessons until then.” He has responded to the ongoing firefights along the Kashmir divide with aggressive shelling. Consonant with his tough-guy image, he boasts that “The enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated,” and displaying his skill in wordplay he proclaims that “This is not the time for empty talk [‘boli’] … but for bullet [‘goli’] for our soldiers.”
Mr. Modi’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, stated last week that while New Delhi is willing to talk with Islamabad, “effective deterrence” is key to dealing with Pakistan. Referring to the cross-border skirmishes in Kashmir, Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley similarly warns that “Our conventional strength is far more than theirs and therefore if they persist with this, the cost to them would be unaffordable. They will also feel the pain of this kind of adventurism.” And a senior government official reports that “The prime minister’s office has instructed us to ensure that Pakistan suffers deep and heavy losses.”
The merits of this tougher posture have sparked a lively debate within India. Some observers caution that “machismo has never worked as a plan against Pakistan” and that an approach based solely on coercion is “a dangerous game” that could easily spin out of control. A former Indian envoy to Pakistan contends that a policy of escalatory response is “what the Pakistani army wants and we are falling into this trap.” Others, however, argue (here, here and here) that Mr. Modi has no choice but to reply robustly to what are deliberate Pakistani tests of his resolve.
But beyond this debate, there are other problems associated with Modi’s new line toward Pakistan that have so far escaped much notice. The first is that the coercive policy does not differentiate between jihadi groups over which Pakistan has some control and those that operate entirely in defiance of the Pakistani state and view triggering conflict between New Delhi and Islamabad as a way to advance their own interests.
This problem is rooted in what can be called the Sorcerer’s Apprentice syndrome, from Goethe’s classic tale about the dangers of Pakistan’s habit of conjuring up proxies it cannot ultimately handle. A timely example occurred two months ago when jihadi forces assaulted a naval dockyard in Karachi, apparently with the aim of seizing a Pakistani frigate that would be used to attack Indian warships with anti-ship missiles. So far, New Delhi shows no evidence of even recognizing the deterrence conundrum raised by such actions.
The risks of this approach are compounded by a second, even more basic, problem. The Modi government seems to believe that it can pursue a get-tough approach without the bother of engaging Islamabad diplomatically. Despite Modi’s active courting of India’s other neighbors, a leading spokesman of his political party argues that New Delhi has no interest or reason to focus on Pakistan until Islamabad proves its credibility as a negotiating partner by lifting the shadow of terrorism. According to media reports, Modi’s government is in no mood to take the first step to de-escalate cross-border tensions or resume diplomatic talks.
In August, New Delhi abruptly cancelled foreign secretary-level talks on the grounds that the Pakistani ambassador had continued with the longstanding practice of meeting with Kashmiri separatists. This reaction may have been right in principle. But in practical terms, it amounted to a demand that Pakistan – which draws much of its national identity from the Kashmir conflict – make a significant diplomatic concession without receiving anything of importance in return. This was certainly no deal that any civilian government in Islamabad could accept as the price for merely beginning a conversation with Modi’s team, much less one that was then embroiled in a deep political crisis at home and uncertain of the military leadership’s allegiances.
More recently, New Delhi has rebuffed other diplomatic overtures from Islamabad and Mr. Modi failed to take the time to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when both were in New York for last month’s annual conclave of the U.N. General Assembly.
Indeed, the Indian government is in danger of becoming captive to its hawkish rhetoric. Defense Minister Jaitley emphasizes that “Of course we can talk to Pakistan, but it is up to Pakistan to create an atmosphere for talks.” Given the turmoil inside Pakistan, it will be difficult to start any sort of meaningful dialogue with Islamabad as long as that condition is strictly insisted upon.
A third problem is even more fundamental. Mr. Modi appears to believe he can revitalize India’s great-power prospects without the trouble of reaching a basic accommodation with Pakistan. Yet New Delhi’s continuous ructions with Islamabad have constantly proven vexatious to its larger ambitions. They sap precious national resources (including the armed forces) and divert the attention of those leaders who prefer to look to larger arenas. They also create a paradox: India yearns for a place in the first ranks of world power and yet cannot establish much sway over its own neighbors. Despite the common civilizational and historical links that permeate South Asia, New Delhi has been unable to integrate the region in the same way that Beijing has economically stitched together the much more culturally diverse and geographically disperse East Asian area.
Ignoring Pakistan may well score short-term political points at home but it is a poor strategy for the longer-term items on Mr. Modi’s agenda.
Crafting the right blend of deterrence credibility and substantive engagement with rival states is a hard task for any government. But so far, the Modi government seems fixated one objective while paying little heed to the other.

Behind India’s Pakistan quandary

Faced with Pakistan’s firing across the LoC, India has no option but to respond. However, in general, more subtle strategies to contain and counter threats from Pakistan would be in the country’s interest.
Pakistan’s annual ritual of raising the Kashmir issue and the outdated U.N. resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has been followed by similar statements in Pakistan, including by the Chief of Army Staff, Raheel Sharif. Young Bilawal Bhutto has vowed to wrest every inch of Kashmir from India! The National Assembly has called for a diplomatic offensive. Pakistan’s desire to internationalise the Kashmir issue has been mentioned as one of the plausible reasons for the recent ceasefire violations by it.
Left to Pakistan, the Kashmir issue would never go off the international radar screen. However, Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise it cannot succeed in the face of a mature Indian response. For starters, the international scenario has completely changed from the days when Pakistan’s theatrics on Kashmir attracted international attention. India has come a long way since then. Above all, Pakistan is not the same, both in its capacity to mobilise international opinion and the priorities of its people.
Manifestos and Kashmir issue
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s manifesto for the May 2013 election in Pakistan contained the following paragraph on Kashmir: “Special efforts will be made to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN resolutions and the 1999 Lahore Accord and in consonance with the aspirations of the people of the territory for their inherent right of self-determination.” Significantly, this paragraph found a place in a three-page chapter on foreign policy and national security, beginning at page 80 of the 103-page document, with the first 79 pages devoted to bread-and-butter issues such as economic revival, energy security, agriculture and food security, a new framework for social change, democratic governance, science and technology, the employment challenge, speedy justice, etc.
The chapter began by acknowledging that Pakistan was at war within and isolated abroad, its independence and sovereignty stood compromised, its economic weaknesses were forcing it to go around with a begging bowl in hand; while foreign states undertook unilateral strikes on its territory, non-state actors used it as a sanctuary to pursue their own agendas, oblivious to Pakistan’s interests and the country’s social, economic and political schisms were creating grave misgivings even in the minds of its friends. It noted that Pakistan is located at an important junction of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Therefore, it could be a bridge between the energy-rich Central Asia and Iran on the one side and energy-deficit countries like China and India on the other and could also become a flourishing transit economy as the shortest land route from western China to the Arabian Sea, while linking India with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics. The paragraph on Kashmir figured at among the policy objectives listed in this chapter. It was preceded and succeeded by others such as establishing cordial and cooperative ties with Pakistan’s neighbours, making foreign policy formulation the sole preserve of elected representatives, making sure that all civil and military institutions, “including those dealing with security and/or intelligence matters” act as per the directives of the federal government, and according special importance to promotion of external trade, etc.
The manifesto of the other major party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had similar prioritisation with the first 60 out of 74 pages devoted to empowerment for all, inclusive and equitable growth, infrastructure and a new social contract, etc. However, the following reference figured on page 73: “We support the rights of the Kashmiri people and during our current government we initiated and continued to pursue a dialogue process agenda with India, including on Kashmir. We will not allow lack of progress on one agenda to impede progress on the others. Without prejudice to the UN Security Council Resolutions, we support open and safe borders at the Line of Control [LoC] to socially unite the Kashmiri people. We note that India and China have a border dispute and yet enjoy tension free relations.”
Ties with India
This did not imply that Pakistan’s major parties were about to jettison the Kashmir issue. Far from it. However, since political parties trim the sails of their manifestos to the winds of public opinion, the two manifestos were a good indicator of the priorities of the Pakistani people and the issues agitating their mind. To be sure, a civil or military leader in Pakistan can still whip up short-term hysteria on Kashmir, especially in periods of tension with India. But in a reflection of the public mood, India was not an issue of even marginal consequence in determining the choices of voters in the May 2013 election. The manifestos were unusual in their candour and content and a departure from the influential security state narrative, which ranks confronting “enemy India” over the welfare and progress of the Pakistani people. However, what has transpired after the 2013 election is extraordinarily usual for Pakistan and India-Pakistan relations.
Soon after the election, the Pakistani media reported that the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani, had advised the Prime Minister-elect, Nawaz Sharif, to go slow on relations with India. Subsequently, the killing of five Indian soldiers in a Pakistani ambush at the LoC in the Poonch sector in August 2013 put paid to the efforts of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to revive the peace process with the Nawaz Sharif government. During the visit of Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif to India in December 2013, it was decided to take the trade agenda forward, with India agreeing to give significantly improved market access to Pakistani products in return for Pakistan moving to a non-discriminatory market access regime (euphemism for Most Favoured Nation). However, Pakistan baulked at the eleventh hour, reportedly because of opposition by the army and the reluctance of the Nawaz government to clinch such an important deal with the outgoing Indian government on the eve of elections. Whatever the reason, Pakistan has failed to seal the trade deal, widely acknowledged by its top economists and businessmen to be in its interest, in spite of the positive attitude of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on the issue. The promise generated by Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in in May 2014 was cut short by the meeting of the Pakistan envoy with the Hurriyat leaders.
From recent events, it appears that the security state paradigm, which is revisionist not only regarding accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, but also India’s leading role in South Asia and beyond, is on the ascendant again in Pakistan. Pakistan’s adversarial posture towards India has entailed heavy costs for us and significantly heavier costs for the smaller Pakistani economy. The gap between the two economies is growing. Therefore, sustenance of this posture by Pakistan would imply increasing detriment to its economy and the well-being of its people who, more than Kashmir, crave better governance and economic opportunities. The imperatives underlying the candour and constructive ideas in the manifestos mentioned remain unchanged. Therefore, it would be wrong to assume that the thinking underpinning those ideas has vanished or should count for nothing in our policy formulation.
Countering threats
Pakistani provocations, not entirely missing in periods of dialogue, tend to increase in its absence. Some are attempts to infuse life into its flagging “Kashmir cause” and drag us into verbal duels in the international arena, but have no impact on the ground situation. These, therefore, deserve cursory dismissal. References to Kashmir at the U.N. and the Pakistan-inspired hackneyed resolutions by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are some examples. We did well in responding to the Pakistani reference to Jammu and Kashmir at the UNGA at the level of a First Secretary, while offering, in Mr. Modi’s speech, dialogue without the shadow of terror.
There are, on the other hand, provocations which impact the ground situation adversely for us. These include Pakistan’s continued harbouring of anti-India terror groups, infiltration of terrorists across the LoC and attempts to destabilise the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. Such efforts need to be thwarted resolutely. Faced with Pakistan’s firing across the LoC, we have no option but to respond. However, in general, more subtle strategies to contain and counter threats from Pakistan would be in our interest.
Finally, the jingoistic and threatening rhetoric in a section of our media in response to each provocation from Pakistan does us no good. Our growing power ought to be felt by our adversaries and not flaunted. Threatening language tends to drive a significant number in Pakistan, who think constructively of relations with India, into the arms of the security state proponents.

Pakistan: Imran Khan in his labyrinth

His obstinacy is depriving him of erstwhile allies
Led by false hopes Imran Khan has landed himself in a cul-de-sac. It has suddenly dawned upon him now that the army and courts won’t support any move against the status quo. One is not sure how long this moment of lucidity remains. Instead of going round and round and reaching the same dead end, he needs to stop for a while, relax and do some thinking. Unless he does so it may not be long before workers, tired of unproductive protest marches, start ditching him.
Despite all the commitment on the part of his workers and spending huge amount of funds, Khan has failed to get Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. A good leader has to try a new set of tactics when the old ones fail. It is not a matter of shame to change course or stage a retreat when necessary. The resignations sent by his MNAs have yet not been accepted. Would it not be more sensible to try now to achieve his objectives through Parliament? By returning to NA the PTI can play a key role in evolving the much needed electoral reforms.
Imran Khan’s obstinacy is depriving him of erstwhile allies. The first to part company was Tahirul Qadri. He needs now to take note of Sirjul Haq’s remarks whose Jamaat-e-Islami is a part of the coalition led by the PTI in KP. The unbending stance taken by Nawaz Shrif and Imran Khan has led Haq to maintain that “both are playing dirty politics for their own benefits”, and that the both are “two sides of the same coin”.
Despite its confrontationist politics, the PTI is considered to be a party with a modern outlook. Khan needs to review what kind of an image the PTI is acquiring by following JI’s ideological lead. On Wednesday the KP Assembly put aside a resolution for Malala Yousafzai whose Nobel brought honour to KP and Pakistan. Instead the Assembly passed another resolution to press the US for freeing Aafia Siddiqui.

Deprived province: ‘Flawed policy main obstacle in development’

The Express Tribune
Scholars on Thursday emphasised that development activities and political participation were to go hand in hand if economic progress was sought in Balochistan.
Speaking at a conference on “Balochistan: Enhancing the Pace of Development and Prosperity” they stressed that the main obstacle to development has been flawed official policies which pursue programmes and plans without involving the public.
Inaugurating the conference, organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed explained the standing committee on defence, of which he is the head, had initiated the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package.
Secretary Ministry of Communications and former chief secretary of Balochistan, Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, presented an overview of the development work in the province.”It is no wonder that today Balochistan has the lowest social indices,” he said. He added that this year, for the first time, 90 per cent of the allocated funds were disbursed.
Vice-Chancellor of the Agriculture University, Faisalabad, Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan added to the discussion saying that Balochistan had 33 million acres of cultivable land which was about the same as in Punjab.
“Only the problem of water scarcity has been neglected otherwise Balochistan could have been a source of food security for the entire country,” he said.

Pakistan: The PTI circus

The PTI may have a flair for drama but possesses precious little regard for democratic norms. Ever since Imran Khan announced that all his MNAs would resign from the National Assembly, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq has made clear that each MNA would have to confirm their intention to vacate their seats alone and in person. The thinking behind this is that the MNAs may have been pressurised to resign by Imran against their will. There is some reason to believe this may be the case since only 25 of the party’s 33 legislators showed up at the National Assembly, with one member being sick and Imran himself staying away. This means at least six PTI MNAs may not wish to resign and there are reports that a total of 15 want to retain their seats and had been assured by Shah Mehmood Qureshi that there would be no resignations handed in. Whether those reports are true or not, it is undeniable that the MNAs were there to provoke further controversy rather than follow the speaker’s rules. They showed up en masse and wanted to collectively confirm their resignations. The only reason they would do this is the worry that the MNAs would waver if the party leadership wasn’t around to pressure them. Now the PTI wants to clarify its stance by writing to the ECP, but this is likely another distraction since the power of the election body to involve itself in parliamentary matters is limited.
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah has now urged the MNAs to not be afraid of the party leadership and follow the procedures for resigning. One cannot help but remember how Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after giving his fiery speech at the joint session of parliament, was asked by the speaker to come to his office to confirm his resignation but chose to ignore that and flamboyantly walked out. The double game it seems the PTI has been playing all along is to press for the dismissal of the government but to retain its seats if that doesn’t work out. Had the PTI MNAs resigned and the government survived, the party would have lost seats in the next Senate elections. This mix of revolutionary fervour on the surface and calculating pragmatism underneath is an unappealing combination. The negotiating jirga team has urged the government not to accept the resignations with the rationale that it will box the PTI into a corner and possibly lead to midterm elections. But the system should be strong enough to survive this prolonged drama, no matter how it ends.

Pakistan: Imran, Siraj befooling masses
Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Zahid Khan has criticized Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Ameer Sirajul Haq, Geo News reported.
In a statement, Zahid Khan said Sirajul Haq and Imran Khan were support for each other and they were merely befooling the masses through their statements.
He said Sirajul Haq will not quit the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because he knows this way the PTI government will be paralyzed.

Pakistan: Politics of resignation

ON Wednesday, as most — though, tellingly, not all — PTI MNAs went to parliament to confirm their resignations, Asad Umar joked on Twitter that it was more difficult to resign than to get elected.
While there are some obvious punchlines in the cat-and-mouse game between the PTI MNAs and Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, the issue of PTI resignations remains a serious and complex matter.
To be sure, there are no real legal or constitutional impediments to resigning from parliament — anyone who wants to resign can and should be able to do so. The matter is purely political: for several reasons, the PML-N, and possibly the speaker in particular, would rather the PTI not resign from parliament.
For one, a National Assembly without the party that garnered the second highest votes in the May 2013 general election would lose some of its claim to completeness and representativeness. For another, a spate of by-elections nationally would allow the PTI, even if it only backs so-called independent candidates, to keep in the spotlight the issue of alleged rigging in 2013 and would act as a mini-referendum on the PML-N government.
Perhaps most importantly, the PML-N and Mr Sadiq are hoping that the PTI will reconsider —– knowing full well that the push for resignations has come not from the MNAs themselves but from PTI chief Imran Khan.
Yet, the PML-N seems singularly unwilling to do the very thing that could possibly get the PTI to reconsider on the issue of resignations: pushing ahead aggressively with electoral reforms. Having seen off the immediate threat from the anti-government protests led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, the PML-N leadership seems to have slipped back into complacent mode, determined to work on an agenda of its own choosing. But electoral reforms are very much a political and governance necessity and for the PML-N to pretend they are not — or that the issue can be tackled leisurely at a time of the PML-N’s choosing — is to set up further problems for the party.
Even on the nomination of a permanent chief election commissioner, the PML-N seems content to work in tandem with the PPP to delay an appointment, ostensibly because electoral reforms should be finalised first, even though there is no urgency on the electoral reforms front to begin with.
Yet, for everything the PML-N does wrong, the PTI more than matches it in terms of stubbornness and bloody-mindedness. Having spent much of the year focusing on electoral reforms, the PTI seems least interested in the latter now, for what else could justify its wanting to resign from parliament and taking itself out of the electoral reforms process altogether?
Even the Supreme Court, in throwing out challenges to the 2013 election, has indicated that the correct path to all things election-related is to follow laid-down procedure.

Pakistan: Lesson for the PTI

The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed all the three petitions seeking the annulment of the 2013 general elections on the grounds of rigging. According to the SC, it cannot entertain a petition based on mere allegations, unless there is proof that the 2013 general elections were rigged. The court opined that it is not the job of the SC to investigate allegations of rigging. On the issue of maintainability, the court stressed the importance of the election tribunals as the right forum to file such petitions. The petitioners, according to the court, also lacked locus standi to file the petitions, and unless the parliamentarians were made a party to the petition, since they would be the direct affectees of any decision given in the case, the petition could not be taken up.
According to legal experts, the SC should not have been involved in political matters and it was a wrong step by the petitioners to knock at the doors of the SC. However, by dismissing the petitions the court has closed the door to the elements trying to gain concessions from the court. After the ending of the sit-in by Dr Tahirul Qadri, all eyes were set on Imran’s expected decision to call it a day. Imran’s persistence to the contrary is now being seen as a tactic to wait for the SC’s decision on the petitions filed to render the 2013 elections null and void. There were speculations that any hint about rigging in the general election by the court could be used as another launching pad by Imran to intensify his protest and agitation against the government. The SC has done the right thing by refusing to be dragged into political matters for which other forums for redress of grievances exist. For the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), the lesson is that it should agree to the proposal floated by the government of appointing a judicial commission to probe into the allegations of rigging. This straightforward and simple formula could have ended the animosity between the PTI and the government right in the initial days of the dharnas (sit-ins) but the PTI has irrationally stuck to its demand for the resignation of the prime minister. Such petulance is not a sign of mature minds. Imran Khan should revisit his maximalist demand before he loses totally loses credibility on the touchstone of being a responsible politician.

Pakistan: Will we de-radicalise?

The bloodthirsty Mumtaz Qadri appears to be on a lifelong mission to turn the country into a nation of pious murderers. An inquiry report has revealed shocking facts regarding the shooting in Adiala Jail earlier this month that left one blasphemy accused dead and another wounded. The prison guard who shot the blasphemy accused Muhammad Asghar, a mentally ill 70-year-old Briton, it turns out got his spiritual training from the murderer of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. The guard had spent two weeks deployed on duty to watch over Mumtaz Qadri in confinement, during which the latter corrupted his mind with his extremist indoctrination and incited him to kill Muhammad Asghar. The report also suggests that Qadri enjoys a venerable status within the prison in the eyes of the staff and other inmates. Moreover, he had two other guards lined up for carrying out similar assassinations. How much our security forces have been radicalised should be evident by now as almost every violent incursion into military bases and institutions involves radicalised insiders. The situation is alarming when a cowardly cold-blooded murderer who shot the very person in the back he was supposed to be guarding enjoys immunity and privileges even while he is in prison. The fact that the guard he influenced managed to smuggle weapons into the prison speaks volumes of our prison security regime.
The problem is bigger than it seems at first glance. It is not only about the facilities Qadri has been given during imprisonment. One should not forget that the lawyers community and other rightists garlanded and showered this person with flowers after he committed the murder. It is the fanatical mindset that has permeated into wide sections of our society. Ironically, our judiciary, considered to have attained independence after its restoration in 2009, has failed to provide justice by sitting on Qadri’s appeal against his death sentence. Such an atmosphere is obviously going to persist unless the state comes up with a powerful counter-narrative that will not only serve to reverse the increasing radicalism, which has even infected parts of our security forces, but will challenge the credibility of this existing zealot ideology. Right now, whoever speaks against the charade of justice present in our judicial system in blasphemy cases is threatened with death. First Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatii and then a lawyer, all of them spoke against the abuse of the blasphemy law and all of them got assassinated. Here is the corollary: those who stand with the fanatical extremism will get a safe haven and treatment like Qadri while those who try to challenge it will meet the fate of Taseer and Bhatti.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

China urges UN to focus on poverty reduction, promotion of development

Poverty reduction and promotion of development should be placed at the center of the UN development system's work, a Chinese envoy to the world body said Wednesday.
"There are still over 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty around the world, one third of whom are children," Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN said at a UN General Assembly committee meeting.
"Poverty reduction remains one of the biggest global challenges," he said, stressing that the UN development system should continue to put poverty reduction and promotion of development at the center of its activities, strengthen management and coordination, improve efficiency, and effectively help developing countries and countries in special situation, among them least developed countries in particular, achieve sustainable development.
Wang added that the priority of development financing should continue to focus on honoring Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.
"At present, North-South Cooperation still serves as the main channel of international development cooperation, and ODA is still the main source of development financing that cannot be substituted," he said.
The Chinese envoy also called for more support for South-South cooperation.
"The United Nations development system and agencies should provide South-South cooperation with necessary policy and financial support while respecting the special features and principles of South-South cooperation," Wang said.

Saudi Arabia and its merciless judges

Sixty people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2014. Even religion-related crimes can carry the death penalty, because the kingdom sees itself as the protector of Sunni Islam.
The punishment was harsh, but for some it wasn't harsh enough. Writing on his website "Free Saudi Liberals," Raif Badawi had criticized leading Saudi scholars and the role of Islam in public life in Saudi Arabia. The judge called that "offending faith," and went on to accuse Badawi of ridiculing Islamic dignitaries and crossing "the boundaries of obedience." Later, a charge of apostasy was also added to the list, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. In July 2013, the sentence was passed - 600 lashes and seven years in jail. Badawi appealed, and in May this year the judge announced a new sentence: 1,000 lashes and ten years in jail, plus a fine equal to 195,000 euros ($250,000).
Badawi's fate is no isolated case. In Saudi Arabia, human rights activists and critics of the establishment are regularly sentenced to draconian punishments. In July this year, one court sentenced the activist Walid Abu al-Khair to 15 years in jail. According to an Amnesty International report, the judge found him guilty of "disobedience to the ruler," "attempted questioning of the legitimacy of the king," "damaging the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations," and the "preparation, possession, and passing on of information that endangered public order." Al-Khair is also a human rights activist who earns a living as a lawyer, and one of his most prominent clients is Raif Badawi.
Flexible law
In his ruling, al-Khair's judge also made use of a new anti-terrorism law, even though that was not in force when al-Khair was charged. The law, which came into force in February 2014, was meant to give the state a weapon against "terrorist crimes," a catch-all term that the legislature used to encapsulate the following crimes: attempts to "disturb public peace," to "destabilize the security of the population of the state," to "threaten national unity," or to "damage the reputation or the image of the state." The Saudi judges are now basing a number of their rulings on these flexible terms.
In the last two years in particular, several Saudi human rights activists and bloggers have been sentenced to long jail terms, which has led to a severe limitation of press freedom in the country. Saudi Arabia currently occupies number 164 out of 180 countries in the press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.
Meanwhile, the country is close to the top of the table when it comes to capital punishment. According to Amnesty, at least 79 people were executed in the country in 2013, and 60 in 2014 so far.
The death penalty is mainly imposed for murder and drug-dealing, but it can also be imposed for "crimes against religion." The Shia cleric Nimr Bakir al-Nimr was sentenced to death in mid-October for allegedly stirring up violence between faiths and organizing protests, as well as disobedience to the king.
The conviction sent out a signal, according to Menno Preuschaft, Islamic studies professor at the University of Münster in Germany. "It demonstrated that they are not willing to tolerate any formof, or tendencies toward, revolution or transition," he told DW.
Preuschaft said it was not surprising that so many rulings are based on religious laws. The ruling family in Saudi Arabia draws its political legitimacy from its role protecting Islam and its holy sites. That role justifies its theological leadership position within Sunni Islam both nationally and internationally. "From the monarchy's point of view, any criticism of religion is a criticism of its own leadership," said Preuschaft. "That's also how it defends its own monopoly on power."
Diplomatic challenge
The disastrous human rights situation in Saudi Arabia represents a diplomatic challenge for German foreign policy. Saudi Arabia is an important international player, both strategically and economically, explains parliamentarian Ralf Mützenich, who sits on committees on both foreign policy and human rights in the German Bundestag.
That leads to strains in the relationship, because of the human rights situation and the death penalties. "Of course, it raises difficult questions," said Mützenich. "But we can't ignore those. We have to address them openly."

U.S: The Secrets of New Jersey

IN his very first promise as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie pledged on Inauguration Day in 2010 to shine daylight on the workings of his government. “Today a new era of accountability and transparency is here,” Mr. Christie said. “Today, I will sign executive orders that will make our finances, our budgeting and our processes more transparent for all citizens to see. Today, change has arrived.”
But that change never did arrive. The Christie administration has defended itself against at least 22 lawsuits from watchdog groups and news organizations seeking information under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. One of those lawsuits was filed by WNYC. Our reporters have requested dozens of documents from Mr. Christie, and those requests have been met with silence, resistance or outright refusal.
For example, we’ve asked about taxpayer spending on Mr. Christie’s travel out of state. He has been away for some part of more than 100 days in 2014, often to raise money for Republican candidates. In the process, he has built name recognition and constructed a political operation that appears to be laying the base for his own presidential run. Most of these trips are paid for by campaign groups or the Republican Governors Association, which Mr. Christie chairs. But some are paid for by the state, and a security detail always travels with the governor. The public has a right to know how much taxpayers spend on this travel.
In response to an open records request for information about just two days of his travel, the Christie administration sent us a document so heavily redacted as to be all but meaningless.
During the New Jersey Legislature’s investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures, it came to light that state employees at the governor’s office were engaged in political activities during Mr. Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign. They kept a list of potential mayors who might support him; they compiled information about those officials and visited them to ask for their endorsement. We filed an open records request to see that list of mayors.
The administration argued that this information is exempt from open records act disclosures, and denied our request.
One of our reporters also asked to see written notifications from the governor’s ethics officer to executive branch employees about participation in partisan political activities during his re-election campaign. After all, by law, election campaigns must be run separately from the offices of government.
That request was denied for similar reasons.
If Mr. Christie has politicized his office, he’s hardly the first elected official to do so. And no party has a lock on government secrecy. As WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein has reported, the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has persuaded the Federal Highway Administration not to release New York’s financing plan for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. Years after the plan was drawn up, it remains a secret.
Open records laws like New Jersey’s — called freedom of information laws in other jurisdictions — are key tools for reporters and citizens in learning whether laws are being violated, what officials are doing and what it is costing taxpayers.
When a request for public documents is denied in New Jersey, the only recourse is to appeal to a council appointed by the governor that has yet to rule against him, or file a lawsuit against the government. The Christie administration is losing many such cases and being told not only to release the documents, but also to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs.
The open records law was explicitly designed to create incentives for elected leaders to act transparently, and to punish them for violations. But Mr. Christie is using the state attorney general’s office to fight the lawsuits, causing delays and running up costs that are ultimately borne by the taxpayer, not by the governor. From January 2012 through Aug. 7 of this year, the administration paid more than $440,000 to reimburse lawyers in open records cases.
The right to know is a pillar of democracy, and Mr. Christie may well be asking us to elect him president in two years. It’s time he stopped fighting the public’s requests for information and fulfilled his own promise to usher in “a new era of accountability and transparency.”

Hillary Clinton: Working Women Are Good for All Economies
Former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the economic case for women’s participation in the economy Thursday at Georgetown University. An oft-rumored presidential candidate, Clinton said policymakers shouldn’t ignore any solution that might work when it comes to encouraging more women in the workforce.
After a staggering rise beginning in the middle of the 20th century, the labor force participation of working-age women in the U.S. has steadily fallen since the year 2000. At 56.7 percent, it’s still well behind the rate for men, which is 69.1 percent, according to the Labor Department. Though about 4 in 10 primary bread winners are now women, women in the U.S. make about 78.3 percent of what men do.
“It’s very clear that the more women we can get to participate fully and get paid equal pay for equal work, the faster our economy will recover and economies across the world likewise,” Clinton said. “The GDP projections that have been calculated if we could get women’s labor force participation to equal men’s are really staggering.”
In developed countries like the U.S., closing the participation gap would result in an 8 to 10 percent of an increase in gross domestic product over the next 15 to 20 years, Clinton said. In less developed countries, it could be 30 to 40 percent and around the world, GDP would grow by nearly 12 percent by 2030.
“It is true that if more women have the opportunity to participate fully in the formal economy, they, their families and their communities will prosper,” Clinton said.
She also pointed to lessons the U.S. could learn from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose national agenda is focused in part on encouraging more women into the labor market and with whom she met a few weeks ago at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York.
“He spoke about the obstacles discouraging Japanese women, educated women, in a highly developed country, from entering the workplace, and the cultural shifts that are needed to break down those barriers,” Clinton said. “Expanding flexibility in the workplace, access to child care and elder care, and would boost productivity and allow more parents – men as well as women – to work full days without stress and heartache.
When workers aren’t performing to their full potential, the economy on the whole can’t either, Clinton said. Basic workplace policies can address some of the barriers for women.
“A lack of flexible and predictable scheduling, affordable child care, paid sick leave and paid leave – we are one of the few countries without it – keep too many women on the sidelines.”
Clinton stressed the need to measure the role of women in what she referred to as the “informal economy,” performing unpaid labor like housework and child care, which underpins stability of the formal economy. At the same time, she said, access to capital, markets, skills training, capacity building and leadership – all undertaken by the council Clinton founded as secretary of state called the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership – would encourage more women to head their own businesses.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, took to the same stage at Georgetown less than a month ago to voice a similar message.
“We have pushed the envelope on the negative effects of excessive inequality on growth, the fiscal implications of climate change and – something very close to my own heart – the role of women in the work force and their powerful potential to boost growth and incomes,” she said in an Oct. 2 speech.

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Turkey Finds Out 1 Is the Loneliest Number

By: Kadri Gursel
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) leaders who have ruled Turkey for the past 12 years generally ignore and sometimes deny the criticism that they have pushed Turkey into loneliness in the region and the world because of their foreign policies.
There is only a single reference of AKP officials accepting — with reservations and justifications of course — that they are the architects of Turkey’s loneliness. It is a 140-letter Turkish declaration in August 2013 in social media by Ibrahim Kalin, then-chief adviser to the prime minister. His tweet read: “The claim that Turkey is alone in the Middle East is not correct. But if this is a criticism then we must say. This is precious loneliness.”
The godfather of this so-called concept of “precious loneliness,” Kalin was appointed deputy secretary-general of the presidency after Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president. But AKP circles did not adopt his concept, and the child was abandoned and hoped to be forgotten.
This so-called preciousness Kalin attributed to Turkey’s loneliness could at least have had some boast of "standing on the right side of history at the risk of isolation and adhering to ethical superiority."
But in international relations, loneliness means the inability to set up alliances and failure to persuade international organizations to take action. To assert that this loneliness is an asset for Turkey is nothing more than a futile attempt at spin-doctoring.
I noted in an international meeting in Bodrum on Oct. 17-19 that Kalin’s “precious loneliness” concept, which was received with cynical smiles by the world at the time, has not been forgotten despite the passage of time.
A senior Western security official who was attending the 10th “Bodrum Round Table,” organized by prestigious Istanbul-based think tank Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), when talking on the unwillingness of Turkey to join the anti-IS coalition, posed a question: “Is Turkey being dragged to a dangerous loneliness?” I later found out that this “dangerous loneliness” warning by this official who didn’t want to be identified was actually a predetermined message. It wasn’t spontaneous. If Turkey’s loneliness really needed a modifier, that would obviously be not “precious” but “dangerous.”
To be in danger is in the nature of Turkey’s loneliness. Turkey with its policies, until the eruption of the IS crisis at its southern border, had already sentenced itself to loneliness in the region and world. Ankara, by exaggerating its affinity to the Muslim Brotherhood in its reactions to the July 3, 2013, coup in Egypt, had already confronted the new administration in Cairo as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Ankara’s Gaza and Hamas-focused Middle East policy had become a factor blocking a satisfactory solution to efforts of normalizing relations with Israel that were severed after the 2010 flotilla incident. After 2011, Ankara’s Syria policy, which sought to topple the Damascus regime and replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, brought Turkey into confrontation with Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran. As a result, the only country in the Middle East that Turkey has an alliance with is Qatar.
The AKP government opted to distance Turkey from the EU perspective and in general terms from the West and orient it to the Middle East as a strategy compatible with Ankara’s internal and external politics. The outcome was loneliness also in Europe.
In the General Assembly vote for two-year UN Security Council membership on Oct. 17, Turkey’s resounding defeat with 60 votes (against 132 votes for Spain) was noted as a dramatic illustration of Turkey's loneliness in international organizations as well.
Before Ahmet Davutoglu became foreign minister in 2008, Turkey received 151 votes to become a Security Council member for a two-year term.

Grim Fate Awaits Women, Girls Captured by Islamic State

The Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has captured hundreds of women and girls over the last few months. The very few who have been able to escape tell stories of rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

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Former President Asif Ali Zardari paid rich tributes to martyred soldiers
Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party former President Asif Ali Zardari has paid rich tributes to soldiers for fighting menace of terrorism in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency.
During operation in Khyber Agency against militants 21 terrorists were killed and eight soldiers martyred in Qabar area of Bara Tehsil on Wednesday.
Former President in a message paid tributes to valiant forces for fighting militants “the savage and barbarians who want to impose their distorted ideology by force on the people”. He said the people of Pakistan will never succumb before these militants and fight them to the finish.
Former President Prayed to Almighty Allah for grant of eternal peace to the souls of martyred soldiers and courage and strength to members of bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss with equanimity. Our martyrs like these soldiers are heroes and the nation is indebted to them, he said.

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U.S. Watchdog Says 'No Unified Strategy' For Afghan Counternarcotics

The United States' watchdog for Afghanistan is warning that the country's lucrative opium economy is threatening reconstruction efforts, and the United States is not adequately addressing the problem.
The quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), released on October 30, says that counternarcotics has "largely fallen off the Afghan agenda" of the U.S. government and international community.
In an interview with RFE/RL on October 28, SIGAR head John Sopko said, "They don't have a unified strategy. I think you could also reach out to the Afghans and make certain they're part of this strategy."
Sopko criticized the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the counternarcotics unit of the State Department. "There is nothing that they have said to me or my staff that would indicate that there's any idea of how to improve the situation," he said.
Sopko said Washington has "wasted" over $7 billion on counternarcotics.
He told RFE/RL, "Has anyone had their job performance -- in the State Department, Department of Defense or [US]AID -- affected by the fact that they failed over the past 13 years to do anything on counternarcotics? No."
The report said that nearly $3 billion had been spent on law enforcement efforts for counternarcotics, despite Defense Intelligence Agency reports suggesting that the U.S. is seizing only about $12.7 million in heroin annually.
Using the U.S. State Department's $695.3 million 2004-2009 contract with the private defense contractor DynCorp as the basis for its calculations, the report also noted that the average cost for eradicating a hectare of poppy was $73,608
The report points out that opium provides up to 411,000 jobs -- more than the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) -- and is the country's most valuable cash crop. The UN estimated in November 2013 that cultivation had reached a record high.
"The sine qua non of narcotics trafficking is corruption," said Sopko. "You cannot have one without the other."
Sopko pointed to comments made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in 2003 when he was Finance Minister that, without international aid, Afghanistan risked becoming a "narco-mafia state" as evidence that Ghani is aware of the problem.
"If a narco-mafia starts running the countryside, they don't care about women's rights, they don't care about children's rights, they don't care about democracy, they don't care about feeding and helping the poor -- they just care about making a profit," said Sopko. He added that the narcotics trade has a "direct funding link" to the insurgency.
The report's findings did not stop at counternarcotics. It also noted that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had made the decision to classify data which allows the public to evaluate the "single most costly" feature of reconstruction -- the training, equipping, and sustaining of the Afghan National Security Forces.
"We are always concerned when out-of-the-blue, for no apparent reason, stuff is classified that for years and years and years has been unclassified," said Sopko. "The information we're asking for cannot be used by terrorists, it cannot be used by the Taliban because it's generic information."
Sopko also said that he was concerned over the U.S.military's refusal to exclude supporters of the insurgency from receiving government contracts.
"I remain troubled by the fact that our government can and does use classified information to arrest, detain, and even kill individuals linked to the insurgency in Afghanistan, but apparently refuses to use the same classified information to deny those same individuals their right to obtain contracts with the U.S. government," he wrote in the report.
Sopko said the corruption problem in Afghanistan was serious, and urged both the U.S. and Afghan governments to address it.
"We can't address these problems by ignoring them. I almost feel sometimes like I'm dealing with an alcoholic in AA. The first rule of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first rule of any addiction problem is: recognize that you have a problem," he said. "The narcotics problem is not going to going to go away. Corruption is not going to go away. If we don't address it, if we don't face the fact then it's going to overwhelm that poor little country."

The Capabilities of the Afghan Military Are Suddenly a Secret
Mark Thompson
Watchdog says U.S. taxpayers can’t know if investment is paying off.
For years, American taxpayers have been able to chart how well the Afghanistan security forces they’re funding are faring, because “capability assessments” detailing their progress have been routinely released.
As the U.S. military prepares to withdraw most of its 34,000 troops still in Afghanistan by the end of this year, the American-led command there has suddenly made such information secret.
Classifying the data “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says in Thursday’s quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”
A U.S. Army spokesman says the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan decided to classify the capability ratings as part of its “responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners” as they assume “full security responsibility” for their country’s defense.
U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $50 billion training and outfitting Afghan security forces. In the prior quarterly report, issued in July, the IG used the then-available-but-now-classified data to report that 92% of Afghan army units, and 67% of Afghan national police units, were “capable” or “fully capable” of carrying out their missions.
“The Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] capability assessments prepared by the [U.S. and NATO-led] International Security Assistance Force Joint Command have recently been classified, leaving the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction without a critical tool to publicly report on development of the ANSF,” the report says. “This is a significant change.”
The capabilities of Afghan forces become more important as the U.S. and its allies pull out, leaving local troops to battle the Taliban largely on their own. There are reports that Taliban forces are gaining ground in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, vacated earlier this week by U.S. Marines and British troops, and in the northern part of the country.
Past SIGAR reports have used summary data about major Afghan units’ readiness, sustainability and other measurements to trace their progress. More detailed reporting on smaller units has always been classified to keep the Taliban and other insurgents ignorant of Afghan military weaknesses. “It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the report says.
“SIGAR has routinely reported on assessments of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police as indicators of the effectiveness of U.S. and Coalition efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF,” the report says. “These assessments provide both U.S. and Afghan stakeholders—including the American taxpayers who pay the costs of recruiting, training, feeding, housing, equipping, and supplying Afghan soldiers—with updates on the status of these forces as transition continues and Afghanistan assumes responsibility for its own security.”
ISAF made the change an after August review “to address potential concerns about operational security,” Army Lieut. Colonel Chris Belcher said in an email from Afghanistan. He said that such information “could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and the coalition forces serving alongside them.” He added that ISAF “will continue to provide SIGAR access to the information necessary to enable the organization to carry out its Congressionally mandated duties.”

Upset with delay, Kabul shelves request for arms aid from Delhi

by Praveen Swami |>
Frustrated with India’s failure to deliver long-promised military aid, new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has told New Delhi that he wishes to revisit his predecessor’s request for assistance, diplomatic sources have told The Indian Express. President Ghani’s decision to place Afghanistan’s arms-aid request on hold, the sources said, had been conveyed to negotiators from the Ministry of External Affairs earlier this month.
The freeze on the aid request, a government source in Kabul said, reflected President Ghani’s belief that the outreach to India would poison the country’s relationship with Pakistan, without yielding any dividends in return.
New Delhi was reported to have firmed up plans in February to pay Russian firms to supply Afghanistan’s armed forces with small arms, field mortar and air support platforms — much as it backed anti-Taliban warlord Ahmad Shah Masood in his battle against the Taliban before 9/11. No equipment has, however, been delivered so far. The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to requests for comment from The Indian Express.
Sushant Sareen, an analyst at the New Delhi-based think tank Vivekananda International Foundation, said the Afghan move showed President Ghani “is doing the same his predecessor first did, and betting on appeasing Pakistan”. “This should also be a lesson to us that delayed decisions mean lost opportunities,” he said.
Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai had first requested Indian military aid in 2012, invoking a strategic partnership agreement, which commits New Delhi to assist in “the training, equipping and capacity building programmes for [the] Afghan National Security Forces”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, however, stalled Karzai’s request, fearing arms aid to Afghanistan would complicate peace talks with Pakistan. In February, the then External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had said that India would deliver helicopters desperately needed by the Afghan air force “very soon”. “We have also been giving them some logistical support and we hopefully will be able to upgrade and refurbish their transport aircraft,” he had said.
Karzai had sought helicopters for Afghanistan’s fledgling military, badly hit after the Pentagon terminated contracts of Russian-made Mi-17s, saying the contractor was in violation of sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. India agreed to supply two Cheetah light helicopters, which were to have been delivered in May 2014 but have not yet arrived.
New Delhi’s assistance was also sought to refit six ageing An-32 transport aircraft in Ukraine, where the Indian Air Force is now upgrading its own fleet. Afghanistan has received four modern C-130 transport aircraft from the US, but an earlier $500 million contract for the supply of 20 second-hand Italian-made C-27A aircraft had to be scrapped amidst problems with maintenance and spare parts. Finally, Afghanistan sought A2.A18 105-milimetre howitzers, light artillery that has served the Indian Army for decades in the mountains and is now in the process of being phased out. The Afghan army now has an estimated 84 second-hand A2.A18s — donated by Slovakia and Bosnia — but needs greater numbers for its expanding mountain counter-insurgency units.
International observers have become increasingly concerned about the ability of the Afghan army to hold in the face of Taliban attack in the coming years, a fear underlined by the collapse of similar multi-ethnic, US-trained forces in Iraq. Afghanistan’s government does not have the revenues to meet the costs of maintaining an army, estimated at $ 4.7 billion a year.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation donor states agreed in 2012 to meet the costs of the Afghan army until 2017, but also sought “gradual, managed force reduction” to about 2,28,500. Kabul fears the social consequences of putting over 100,000 trained soldiers out of jobs, and worries that recession in the West could lead to a further scaling back of support.
In addition, Afghanistan’s army is riven by the same ethnic tensions as the country. The army’s strength is 38 per cent ethnic Pashtuns, 25 per cent Tajik, 19 per cent Hazara and 12 per cent Uzbek. In the event international funding for the forces dries up after 2014, the army could start collapsing back into the warlord militia organisations from which it was initially drawn.

Pakistan: I Still Dream Of The Day Mother Was Tortured And Arrested Says Daughter Of Asia Bibi

The daughter of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman being held on death row in Pakistan, has spoken out about the alleged torture her mother experienced at the hands of enraged mob.
Esham Masih only 9 years old when the incident took place says, “My friends told me that people were torturing my mother at the fields where she used to work.” “I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men,” she added.
“I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested,” she said. “I could not sleep properly. They had torn her clothes. The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again. They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us. After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle’s house. But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away.”

Cameron appalled at blasphemy convicts treatment in Pak

During a telephonic conversation, British Prime Minister David Cameron has pressed his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif over the case of a “mentally ill” Scottish man who was shot in a maximum security prison.
The British authorities want Asghar, from Edinburgh, to be returned to Britain. The British premier has described the treatment of Mohammad Asghar, currently on death row after being found guilty of blasphemy, as “appalling”.
Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death in January after he wrote a number of letters in which he claimed to be the Prophet (PBUH).
The two leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of UK troops this week after a 13-year mission in the country.

It’s not easy doing business in Pakistan, says WB report

Pakistan is ranked 128th out of the 189 countries surveyed for the latest World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ annual report, a drop of 18 places from last year.
It means it is not very easy, in fact hard, for entrepreneurs to open a business, get electric power and import a container in Pakistan.
The report, released the other day, for the first time included Lahore in addition to Karachi to collect labour market regulation data.
However, data from both cities with reference to difficulty of hiring, rigidity of hours, difficulty of redundancy, redundancy cost, unemployment protection scheme, health insurance for permanent employees and court sections specialising in labour disputes are the same.
According to summary of ‘Doing Business’ reforms in 2013-14, Pakistan has made trading across borders easier by introducing a fully automated, computerised system for the submission and processing of export and import documents.
The report, titled ‘Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency’, also expands the data for three of the 10 topics covered, and there are plans to do so for five more topics next year.
The report finds that in the past year governments around the world continued to implement a broad range of reforms aimed at improving the regulatory environment for local entrepreneurs.
Singapore tops the rankings on ease of doing business. Others on the top 10 are: (from 2-10) New Zealand, Hong Kong, Denmark, South Korea, Norway, the US, Britain, Finland and Australia.
But the report, despite revisions to its methodology after upsetting China in past years, left emerging market giants far down the list, fast growth and success in drawing investment notwithstanding.
China ranked 90th, barely improved from 93 a year ago; Brazil is 120th, also up three places; and India was ranked at 142, two spots worse than before.
All three ranked lower than troubled economies and difficult investment environments like Russia and Greece. But that only underscored the admittedly narrow focus of the survey, in terms of assessing a country’s success.
“‘Doing Business’ measures a slender segment of the complex organism that any modern economy is,” admitted World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu in a foreword to the report.
“An economy can do poorly on ‘Doing Business’ indicators but do well in macroeconomic policy or social welfare interventions.”

Pakistan: Whisked away: Baloch nationalist leader Lal Jan goes missing

The Express Tribune
Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) leader Lal Jan Baloch went missing on Wednesday from the Uthal area of Lasbela district. Lal Jan had served as BNP-M’s deputy secretary general and had quit his political activities eight years ago.
“Lal Jan was present on his farmland in Uthal when security forces whisked him away along with two of his farm labourers,” BNP-M’s acting chief organiser Dr Janzeb Jamaldini alleged during a press conference at Quetta Press Club on Tuesday.
Condemning the incident, Jamaldini announced a series of protest demonstration across the province. He said the BNP-M would hold protest demonstration on November 3 and observe a shutter-down strike across Balochistan on November 7. “We will intensify our protests, if the missing BNP-M leader is not released.”
Jamaldini alleged that the security forces had picked up more than 200 activists of the BNP-M in the past one-and-half-year – right after National Party (NP) came into power.
“The local administration and government do not know about these raids as security forces do not consider provincial government an authority,” he said, adding that “Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has failed to solve the issue of missing persons and extra-judicial killings.”

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Pakistan: People bribed by India tried to malign Kashmir cause

Former Interior Affairs minister Senator Rehman Malik has condemned the mistreatment Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto was subjected to when he went to London to express solidarity with Kashmiris on Sunday.
Talking to journalists at his residence in Karachi, Senator Rehman said that people bribed by India tried to put a dent to Kashmir cause and urged the government to probe the treachery. He said the United Nations (UN) was an international organisation and if referendum can take place in Scotland then why not in Kashmir.
He demanded of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take notice of the incident at the Kashmir rally in London and said that Bilawal Bhutto raised voice for Kashmiris and had visited London to express solidarity with them. "Workers of a party tried to harm Kashmir cause after taking money from India,” he said.
He said that cases should be launched against those who committed treason against Kashmir cause. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari's tweet said that hue and cry against Bilawal's speech failed; nevertheless the PPP chairman completed his speech. “Indian agents tried to stop my brother from speaking but Alhamdulillah they did not succeed,” she said.
“We stand by our Kashmiri brothers and sisters,” Aseefa said. Former federal minister and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Babar Ghauri conveyed grief over the incident, saying that Pakistanis, wherever they may be, must control their sentiments. “The dissents must develop the habit of tolerance,” he said. He also condemned the attack on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI's) office in Hyderabad.
Hasan Niazi, a nephew of PTI chairman Imran Khan, was taken into custody by London police from Kashmir Million March. According to reports, Niazi was released shortly after being detained in the wake of commotion caused by some participants of the march. “I simply used my right to protest, I did nothing wrong by doing so,” Niazi said while speaking to a TV channel.
The uproar was seen after the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto arrived at the Trafalgar Square to deliver a speech at the rally but had to cut short his speech as some participants started chanting slogans against him.

BALOCHISTAN's Pampered killers

By Sajjad Hussain Changezi
“BALOCHISTAN is barren, it produces nothing”, said my non-Baloch university mates in a friendly discussion we had some years ago in Lahore. “Punjab feeds Pakistan its wheat, NWFP [now Khyber Pakhtun­khwa] energises Pakistan with electricity, Sindh fills our pockets with proceeds from its ports, Kashmir and the Northern Areas [now Gilgit-Baltistan] quench our thirst with their rivers; Balochistan gives us nothing, absolutely nothing.” Outnumbered by my eloquent friends, I said nothing about the natural gas siphoned out from my barren province.
However, now I want to go back to my friends and fight.
For Balochistan’s ‘infertility’ has ended. The province’s dry lands, from Quetta to Khuzdar, and from Kalat to Panjgur, have all begun to produce. They produce human beings overnight. You may well argue about their health, as they don’t breathe. Their nails are pulled out, their limbs slashed, their bodies exhibit burn marks, and in some cases, their eyes are drilled. The infertility is over and dead bodies continue to appear on the earth’s surface every other day. It’s almost magic.
Recorded history suggests that political campaigning has never been an easy task. Look at Hussain who rose up against the Umayyads, or Che Guevara who challenged the Cuban government or Martin Luther King who fought racial discrimination in the US. Why go so far? Even young children and women campaigning for universally acknowledged rights, such as Malala for education and lady health workers combating polio, have had to pay a price.
All deliberately avoid any mention of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Many states and societies resort to violent means to defend the status quo against campaigners who want to break the status quo. Hence, the tortured bodies which regularly appear across the Baloch belt in Balochistan are of people involved in a range of activities, from militancy to ‘Free Balochistan’ wall chalking, from anti-state blogging to disseminating secessionist literature, from delivering public speeches intolerable to the state to even accompanying friends or relatives who do so. That is the high cost they pay for campaigning against the state.
In the same Balochistan, however, there are ‘political’ groups who want the Constitution amended to declare Shias non-Muslims. Their militant wing, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), headed by Malik Ishaq who lives a normal life in Punjab, can kill 1,500 members of an ethno-sectarian minority, the Shia Hazaras, and have their ‘success story’ published in Pakistan’s major dailies without Pakistan’s media monitoring bodies noticing it. Their notorious target killers, Saifullah Kurd and Dawood Badini, can ‘disappear’ from within the high-security anti-terrorist jail within the ever-vigilant Quetta Cantonment.
Hazaras have often been targeted while travelling between their two neighbourhoods — actually two open-air prisons — Alamdar Road and Hazara Town, situated at either end of the small Quetta valley. Eyewitnesses have seen motorcyclists spray Hazara passengers with bullets, stand over their dead bodies, audaciously raising slogans and vowing to cleanse Pakistan of its Shias.
‘Notice’ taken by chief ministers, suo motu actions (which are anything but ‘action’) by chief justices, and condemnations by ever-condemning politicians, all deliberately and carefully avoid any mention of the notorious LJ. Only bureau chiefs take the name, because the group orders them to publish their statements claiming responsibility and pledging more attacks.
The ‘political’ group holds a massive jalsa in the heart of Quetta city, in the hockey ground on Zarghoon Road, minutes away from the governor and chief minister houses. Chowks across the city display colourful flags of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. As though this is another regular jalsa, the city walls are plastered with ‘Chalo chalo hockey ground chalo’ slogans and welcoming posters that local leaders Ramzan Mengal and Haji Rafiq want their president, Maulana Ludhianvi, to see and admire on his way to the venue. Then, when the jalsa is at its peak, they even go musical, singing ‘Jhangvi’ poems and celebrating the ‘double century’ they scored last year when 115 Hazara Shia were murdered on Jan 10, 2013 in twin blasts on Alamdar Road and another 116 were butchered on Feb 16, 2013 in Hazara Town.
After eight Hazara vegetable hawkers were shot dead by LJ last week, Dawn published an article by Mohammed Hanif which quotes the unofficial remarks of one of Quetta’s senior-most police officers. In this patriarchal society of ours where the traits of being weak and vulnerable are seen as feminine and hence worthy of ridicule, the officer is quoted as saying, “Hazaras, you know, are our ladla babies”. I can imagine the sarcastic smile on his face while attempting to act serious in front of a senior journalist.
Hanif Sahib, please tell that police officer from Quetta that all of Balochistan knows it is not the Hazaras who are the pampered babies, it is Lashkar-i-Jhangvi who are the pampered killers.

Pakistan - Radicalised guards

A MONTH ago, Mohammed Yousuf, a prison guard at Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail, shot and injured the elderly Mohammad Asghar, a blasphemy convict with a history of mental illness.
The internal inquiry into the shooting has brought to light findings that are deeply worrying. It seems that Mr Yousuf spent a little over a fortnight guarding Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. Within this brief span, Qadri succeeded in indoctrinating the guard with his extremist views on Islam.
Indeed, his powers of persuasion appear to have been such that two other prison guards were similarly radicalised and told to track down other blasphemy convicts jailed there, presumably with the intention of harming them.
What is also disturbing is that his influence, according to other prisoners, led guards to give Qadri special treatment and receive religious instruction from him.
A month before the attack on Mr Asghar, a prison guard had reportedly told a murder convict to kill those who had been jailed for blasphemy, promising him a weapon and telling him he could atone for his sins by doing so.
That such murderous instincts should now be apparent in those tasked with keeping a watchful eye on prisoners is hardly surprising in our milieu.
In fact, it is entirely possible that such a process of radicalisation is gaining traction in other places of incarceration in the country as well, although only a thorough investigation can ascertain this. But there is ample anecdotal evidence that extremist views are spreading in society, and certain incidents have supported allegations of radicalisation in institutions ranging from the military forces to the police.
No doubt, the idea of radical extremism — much of it drawn from societal trends — within the ranks of those whose job it is to serve the law and keep the peace is nothing short of frightening.
From the top tier downwards, Pakistan’s institutions need to undertake a serious exercise in introspection and start taking control of a narrative that shuns extremism.

Pakistan: Arab commander among 4 killed in US drone strike in South Waziristan

At least four suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan`s South Waziristan tribal region, Dunya News reported. According to sources, four missiles hit a house in Azam Warsak village in Tehsil Barmal area on Thursday morning. The house was completely destroyed and four people including al-Qaida affiliated Arab commander Adil and three Uzbek fighters were killed. South Waziristan is considered as a sanctuary for local and al-Qaida-linked insurgents. The Pakistani army has carried out a massive operation there but militants still have hideouts in some pockets. The latest U.S. drone strike is the 16th of its kind since the start of this year. To date, at least 117 people have reportedly been killed and 22 others injured in such strikes in Pakistan.

Pakistan: Khursheed Shah advises PTI to trust its members
Opposition leader in National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah on Wednesday advised Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to have trust in its members and to fulfill the legal requirements for getting their resignations accepted.
Talking to media representatives here, Khursheed Shah ruled out the possibility of mid-term elections as a result of the PTI’s resignations.
He said there has been a pressure on the government not to accept resignations of PTI members but it will make no difference at all even if they are approved.
The Opposition leader said no member of Election Commission of Pakistan could be removed and that they should voluntarily tender their resignations.

Pakistan: Do 15 PTI MNAs not want to resign?

The PTI’s appearance in the National Assembly (PTI) was only a mock exercise as majority of the PTI MNAs came to the assembly on the assurance of Shah Mehmood Qureshi that they would not appear before the speaker to confirm their resignations.
Up to 15 MNAs, including three from the Punjab, refused to resign and boycotted the party meeting held on Tuesday, The News has learnt. A well-placed source in the PTI informed The News that sooner or later the party members have to resign from the assembly; however, till the third week of November they would not resign at all.
“The PTI party meeting was held on Tuesday to finalise the strategy on confirmation of their resignations. However, the leadership has to face real tough time from the majority of MNAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they left the meeting. Even three MNAs from the Punjab also refused to resign from the assembly after which the party’s vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave them an assurance that they would not appear before the speaker,” said the source who was present in the meeting.
He said majority of the MNAs once again raised their voice during the party meeting and refused to resign from the National Assembly until the PTI quit the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly as they have to face the people who gave them the mandate. Upon this, Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured them that the party leadership would take a decision by November 30, said the source. The source further confirmed that disgruntled MNAs then assured the party leadership that they too would postpone their resignations till the last week of November.
“The PTI now is entirely banking on its November 30th rally in Islamabad and if it succeeded to grab the maximum attention and held a mammoth gathering, then it could opt for the resignations,” said the source.
The source further said that almost 15 MNAs left the meeting and were leaving for their native towns when Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured them that they would not resign from the assembly on Wednesday as they would not appear before the speaker.
The same was conveyed to the ruling party as well as the speaker which is why instead of appearing before the speaker the PTI MNAs directly went to the deputy speaker’s chamber.
“If the PTI was sincere and ready to resign from the National Assembly, then why did they wait in the deputy speaker’s chamber? If the speaker was not giving them time to meet, then they should have repeated Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s example and announced their resignations on the floor of the house,” said the source.
When contacted, PTI spokesperson Dr Shireen Mazari said none of the PTI MNAs had refused to resign from the assembly as 25 MNAs were present in the assembly. She said the PTI had taken the decision in principle that they had already resigned from the assembly and confirmed it in front of deputy speaker as well and now they would not appear before the speaker.
When asked whether 15 MNAs in the party, including three MNAs from the Punjab, refused to resign from the assembly on the party’s direction, Dr Mazari said this was not true as everyone had seen that 25 MNAs were present in the National Assembly with the party’s vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
To a question as to whether Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave them any assurance that their resignations would not be accepted as they would not appear before the speaker, she said Shah Mehmood Qureshi had given no such assurance to any party member.
When asked whether the party leadership had to face a tough time during Tuesday’s meeting as there was a heated debate in the meeting on the resignation issue, she said the debate was on the by-elections and nothing else.

Pakistan: Wattoo sees decline in Imran’s popularity
PPP Punjab President Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo has predicted that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan will not be able to prolong his sit-in and his popularity graph will eventually go down.
“Like Dr Tahirul Qadri, Imran cannot manage to prolong his sit-in. His popularity graph will eventually plunge to the lowest level as people are getting frustrated with his style of politics,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting of the party provincial office-bearers here on Tuesday, Mr Wattoo said Imran Khan should not have put his political career at stake by insisting on the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through the politics of sit-in. He argued as how the prime minister, having two-thirds majority in parliament and support of majority opposition parties, could tender his resignation.
He said the Nawaz government had made the lives of people miserable due to inflated bills and loadshedding. “A consumer who used to pay Rs5,000 electricity bill previously is now paying over Rs15,000 a month,” he said. He asked Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to tell the people as why the PML-N government had failed to control loadshedding.
Shahbaz pegged a tent at Minar-i-Pakistan during the PPP regime to protest against loadshedding, he said while pointing out that outages had worsened during the last one and-a-half years.
Mr Wattoo formed monitoring committees to evaluate the performance of the party office-bearers in Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin, Faisalabad and Sheikhupura.

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto keeps his promise to Chaudhry Aslam’s family
Pakistan People Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari fulfilled his promise Tuesday by paying one-year tuition fee of the children of deceased SSP Chaudhry Aslam.
Aslam’s widow Noreen Chaudhry Aslam has said that Bilawal and his sister Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari met her children abroad and have paid the fees of their studies.
Noreen reportedly said that Bilawal had assured her that the education of her children was his responsibility and he would not forget the services of Aslam.
“We expect that Bilawal will solve our other problems and that terrorists will be eliminated soon,” the SSp’s widow reportedly said.