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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tibetan Students Jailed for Defending Language Rights

Tibetan Students Jailed for Defending Language Rights

A poster in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture reads “No to mixed language!”
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener
A court in northwest China’s Qinghai province has sentenced eight Tibetan students to prison terms of up to four years for their role in protests defending their right to use the Tibetan language, according to sources in the region and in exile.

The students were sentenced on April 10 by the Chabcha (in Chinese, Gonghe) County People’s Court in the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD)  said on Wednesday.

The eight had been students at the Tsolho Vocational School in Chabcha county and were charged with “causing harm to social stability,” TCHRD said, citing an official report released on the “China’s Tibet” website.

Protester Sangye Bum received a four-year term, while Kunsang Bum, Jampa Tsering, and a protester identified only as Lhaten were handed terms of three years and six months each.

Wangyal Tsering and Choekyong Kyab were sentenced to three years and three months, and two others whose names were not reported received prison terms of three years and six months, TCHRD said.

Over a hundred students, teachers, and representatives from schools in the prefecture attended the court hearing, TCHRD said.

Protest over book

More than a thousand Tibetan students from various schools had protested on Nov. 26, 2012 over the release of an official Chinese booklet that ridiculed the Tibetan language as “irrelevant,” local sources had told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

The book also attacked exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and condemned self-immolation protests challenging Beijing’s rule as acts of “stupidity,” sources said.

Students burned copies of the book during the protest and called for “equality among nationalities and freedom to study the Tibetan language,” one source said, citing local contacts.

Chinese security forces suppressed the protest by firing warning shots into the air and tear gas into the crowd and by beating protesters, sending at least 20 to hospital with five reported in critical condition.

A number of students were then detained, with the whereabouts and condition of some still unknown, TCHRD said.
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Petition Drive as Australian University Cancels Dalai Lama Talk

Petition Drive as Australian University Cancels Dalai Lama Talk

The Dalai Lama speaks at the University of Ulster Magee Campus in Derry, Northern Ireland, April 18, 2013.
 Photo courtesy of OHHDL
The University of Sydney, one of Australia's top institutions of higher learning, has canceled a scheduled talk by Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, apparently due to pressure from China, triggering a global petition drive by a Tibetan students group to get the university to reverse the decision.

The university's Institute for Democracy and Human Rights had organized the on-campus talk by the Dalai Lama during his visit in June but decided recently to move the event off campus.

The move came after the university warned the organizer against using its logo or allowing media coverage or entry to the event by Free Tibet activists, according to reports.

"The university 'withdrew its support,' I think are the words that are used," Stuart Rees, emeritus professor at the University of Sydney, told Australia's national public broadcaster ABC News.

"Now whether they withdrew their support because they didn't think he was an appropriate person to have intellectually or politically or whether they withdrew their support because of outside pressures, I'm not sure," he said.

ABC said it had obtained emails from the head of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights to the university's vice chancellor, Michael Spence, confirming the decision "to withdraw our support for hosting His Holiness the Dalai Lama's planned speech at the university on June 18th."

"It will be moved to an off-campus location and no member of staff or associate of the IDHR will formally be involved in organizing that event."

The vice chancellor's reply exuded a sense of relief, according to ABC, saying the university has close ties with China.

'Financial ties'

Sydney University said in a statement it had never received an official request for the Dalai Lama to speak on campus.

The Australian newspaper quoted New South Wales Greens MP John Kaye as saying that the Dalai Lama had agreed to speak at the prestigious university during his June visit to Sydney.

But the university canceled the event “to protect its financial ties with the Chinese government,” Kaye said.

One report said the university canceled the visit to avoid damaging China ties, including funding for its cultural Confucius Institute.

"The only explanation for this shocking decision is that the University has caved in to pressure from China," Students for a Free Tibet, an advocacy group, said Friday as it launched a worldwide petition drive calling on the university and the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights "to immediately rectify their mistake."

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel laureate, gives numerous public speeches and university lectures every year.

"It's common knowledge that the Chinese government routinely tries to coerce these institutions into canceling the event and blocking the Dalai Lama," Tendor, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet, said in a statement.

"While most refuse to kowtow to China's pressure in order to maintain their commitment to academic freedom, the University of Sydney appears to have caved in," he said.

"A university without academic freedom is not a university at all. In stopping this talk, Sydney University has put the interest of the Chinese government over that of its students and stakeholders.”

China calls the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist, or "splittist," and frowns on overseas travel by the spiritual leader, who fled Tibet to India after a failed national revolt against Chinese occupation in 1959.

The Dalai Lama, who is currently on a visit to Northern Ireland, said Friday that peace and reconciliation remain critical for a resolution to the Tibetan issue.

To a suggestion at a forum that people can become tired of working for peace and reconciliation, the Dalai Lama said "this kind of work is not a matter of choice, but something we have to do," according to a report on his personal website.

"As he frequently tells Tibetans, in the long run the people we are in conflict with are the people we have to live with side by side, so we have to find a peaceful solution," the report said.

"In such situations, resorting to violence is like suicide. Taking a more realistic and holistic view can give us a more positive perspective, whereas getting caught up in the destructive emotions of anger, hatred and fear create unhappiness and bring nothing positive."
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Monday, 29 April 2013

Bhutan begins electing new Parliament

Bhutan begins electing new Parliament

The tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan begins electing a new parliament on Tuesday for only the second time in its history, five years after the Buddhist monarchy gave up its absolute power.
Voters will first choose members of the upper house National Council on Tuesday, a non-party body, then in the following weeks will decide which of five parties will form the next government in the National Assembly.

Since the beginning of April, the 67 candidates for the 20 elected National Council seats -- five more members will be appointed by King Jigme Khesar Wangchuk -- have been holding debates and public meetings in their respective districts after a local selection process.

In the more remote areas, villagers have walked for hours, or even days, to attend the forums and question the candidates at first hand, and election staff have made similar long treks to set up and staff polling stations in hamlets inaccessible by road.

Election officials were making a fourth attempt on Monday to reach Lunana in the far north by means of Indian military helicopters after bad weather frustrated the first three tries.

Tuesday has been declared a public holiday and Bhutan's land borders will be closed for 24 hours over the election period.

While interest is reported to be high, confusion persists about parliament's role in a hierarchical country with an illiteracy rate of some 50 percent, where for decades the monarchy's word has been law and is still deeply revered.

There have also been grumblings about the obligation for the candidates to make their pitches in the national language, dzhonka, which is one of half-a-dozen tongues spoken in Bhutan and not well understood in many rural areas.

The National Council, whose members have no party affiliation, monitors the actions of the government, reviews legislation and advises the king. It can also propose laws itself, provided they are not financial.

With an electorate of less than 400,000 and the use of electronic voting machines, results will be declared soon after the polls close, but will be no pointer to the National Assembly elections, whose dates have not yet been announced.

The centre-right Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party of Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley has governed Bhutan since winning a massive landslide victory in 2008. It took 45 of the 47 seats in the house against the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

This time round three new parties are in the fray, two of them led by women, but there is little between them in their centre-left stance and the requirement that all candidates must be graduates has caused them problems in their hunt for recruits.

Opinion polls are banned in Bhutan and analysts are thin on the ground, but the DPT is not expected to repeat its massive triumph of 2008.

The country known abroad for its high-end tourism and unique yardstick of Gross National Happiness has seen huge development under the DPT government but a wide income gap, youth unemployment and delinquency and urban migration are among the main issues expected to figure in the campaign. The DPT also faces seeing key figures barred from standing, with Home Affairs Minister Minjur Dorji and National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim appealing against recent convictions for corruption in a land allocation case dating back to before the last elections.

If their appeals are not heard, or not upheld, before the elections, the party will have to find new candidates. Information and Communications Minister Nandalal Rai could also be excluded for the alleged mishandling of large contracts for domestic airports.
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Google sees global censorship requests rising, S Asia no exception

Google sees global censorship requests rising, S Asia no exception

South Asian countries Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan are among the countries requesting search giant Google to remove content from its platform. Brazil and the US account for the highest number, followed by Germany, India and Turkey.
Search giant Google continues to receive governments' requests to remove content from its platform. For the July-December 2012 period, the company received 2,285 requests from governments across the world to remove 24,179 pieces of content, against 1,811 requests to remove 18,070 pieces of content in the first half of 2012.

Brazil and the US accounted for the highest number, followed by Germany, India and Turkey. "As we've gathered and released more data over time, it has become increasingly clear that the scope of government attempts to censor content on Google services has grown. In more places than ever, we've been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services. In this particular period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticising government officials or their associates," Susan Infantino, legal director, Google, wrote in her blog.

Google received 122 requests from various Indian government departments to remove 2,529 pieces of content from its platform, a significant rise compared with 64 requests to remove 109 items during the year-ago period.

Through court orders, Google received an additional 38 requests to pull down 413 items.

According to the Google transparency report, the company received queries regarding YouTube videos that contained clips of the film Innocence of Muslims from 20 countries---Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, Djibouti, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Maldives, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the US.

"Australia, Egypt, and the US requested that we review the videos to determine if these violated our community guidelines, which they did not. The other 17 countries requested we remove the videos. We restricted videos from view in Indonesia, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Turkey. Due to difficult circumstances, we temporarily restricted videos from view in Egypt and Libya," said the report.

During the period of turmoil in the northeast, Google received five requests from the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team to remove content from Google+, a Blogger blog, 64 YouTube videos and 1,759 comments associated with YouTube videos. The response team cited laws covering disruption of public order or ethnic offence laws. Google restricted 47 YouTube videos from local view, in addition to removing 12 YouTube comments and disabling local access to three Blogger blog posts that violated local laws.
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India proposes Kazakh pipeline to join TAPI

India proposes Kazakh pipeline to join TAPI

India and Kazakhstan, seeking to step up their energy links, discuss the concept of an ambitious pipeline that would bring hydrocarbons to the country via several countries. The two sides had first broached the subject last month.
India and Kazakhstan, seeking to step up their energy links, discussed the concept of an ambitious pipeline that would bring hydrocarbons to the country via several countries. The two sides had first broached the subject during Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov’s India visit last month.
In the second meeting on the subject on Friday, the 1,500 km-long pipeline was described by Mr. Idrissov as a “philosophical concept” which he and Mr. Khurshid felt would take time to implement. Till then, both sides will keep a close eye on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) which is slowly taking shape.

However this pipeline will be longer than TAPI which will serve as the role model. The Kazakh pipeline, proposed by India, will originate from the former Silk Road caravanserai city of Shymkent, an oil refining hub, and head into Uzbekistan. From there it will snake its way to Afghanistan and then follow the route to be taken by TAPI pipeline into India.

As officials told The Hindu earlier which first reported on the proposal, most hydrocarbon pipelines from Central Asia are on an east-west axis. This pipeline will, like TAPI, be on a north-south axis, providing a new route to South Asia for hydrocarbons extracted from Central Asia.
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Obama: 'I Am Not the Strapping, Young Muslim Socialist That I Used to Be'

Obama: 'I Am Not the Strapping, Young Muslim Socialist That I Used to Be'

April 28, 2013
Barack Obama
President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (AP Photo)
( - Speaking at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, President Barack Obama joked that he is no longer a young Muslim socialist.
Early in the speech, Obama jocularly said that his advisers "suggested that I should start with some jokes at my own expense, just take myself down a peg. I was like, guys, after four and a half years, how many pegs are there left?"
A few moments later, the president joked: "Now, look, I get it. These days, I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be. Time passes. You get a little gray."
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Alleged CIA operator goes on hunger strike in Peshawar jail

Alleged CIA operator goes on hunger strike in Peshawar jail

Alleged CIA operator Dr Shakil Afridi has reportedly gone on a hunger strike at the Central Jail Peshawar in what his lawyers and family members say is a 'protest against the jail administration’s ill-treatment.’
Afridi, through a fake vaccination campaign, was initially said to have provided a lead for the US Navy Seals' operation in which the al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad.
Afridi was arrested for his alleged links to the CIA, but was then given a 33-year jail sentence on another charge, this time for having links to the banned religious outfit Lashkar-i-Islam.
The decision from the appellate court is expected on May 3 as his counsels have completed the arguments in the case and are awaiting the judgment.
Afridi’s brother Jamil Afridi on Saturday said that the authorities had not allowed them to meet the prisoner, and since August 2012, they had no information about him.
“He needs medial check-ups too but the jail authorities are not willing to listen and not providing him the treatment as well as medicine,” Jamil said, adding, “he is on hunger strike as he is not treated well in there.”
Afridi’s counsel Samiullah Afridi told Dawn that for the last six months no one, even him, had been allowed to meet the doctor. "It is against the rights of a prisoner. We don’t know for certain what happened but family sources and insiders are saying that he is now on a hunger strike," he said.
“Denying a prisoner the right to consultation and meeting with legal advisor and family is an injustice,” he added.
“Perhaps it was the allegation that the doctor has given an interview to Fox News as well as the transportation of a camera and cellphone into the jail by some policemen that was made a pretext to deny him the meeting rights,” he remarked.
To a query about the possible outcome of Afridi’s plea, Samiullah said, “We have put forth all the legal arguments and now its up to the court of Frontier Crimes Regulations Commissioner to decide. The decision is likely to be announced on May 3, and we don’t know what it would be, but legally we are on stronger side on the verdict.”
About his arrest and conviction, the counsel said that it was suspicious how Afridi was arrested for his alleged support in the Osama bin Laden operation but had later convicted him on another charge within the day on May 23, 2012, without any trial which has no legal justification.
Samiullah added that the verdict announced by the trial court is also unjustified as the Assitant Political Agent’s authority is equivalent to that of a magistrate and he could only award a degree in any criminal case for just three years. But in this case, Afridi had been awarded 33 year imprisonment and that too without a trial.

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Pre-poll rigging through other means (Pak)

Pre-poll rigging through other means (Pak)

The bomb blasts ripping through the ANP, the MQM and, though to a lesser extent, the PPPhave been called a new kind of rigging. The idea of the Taliban, who take responsibility for every such attack, is to deter the leaders of these parties from addressing people in the time-honoured political jalsa. Whether it works or not is still to be seen. There is, after all, a possibility that the people will cast sympathy votes for the underdog, forgetting the corruption (or, at least, the anecdotal perception of it) of the ANP and the PPP. But the idea that hundreds of people will lose their lives and thousands will be injured before the elections is appalling. We all know how we have come to this pass and it is in bad taste if I say “didn’t I tell you” for the umpteenth time so let that pass. The parties in question are right in demanding protection for their leaders but their offices and workers are just too many to be protected. This is probably the most unique and sanguine form of pre-poll rigging in the history of elections and I cannot predict its fallout.
There is another form of pre-poll rigging which is weighted against the secular democratic parties. First, take the very translation of the word “secular”. Our Urdu writers generally call itladiniyat which literally means “without faith” or “having no religion”. But this translation falsifies the history of the term. This term is based on the theory of the separation of religion from governance. Europe learned to separate the two spheres after hundreds of years of wars of religion and millions of blighted lives through nearly 600 years. Religion was officially declared a personal matter and the function of the state was merely to ensure that everybody is given the right to practise it without harming others. This was exactly the principle enunciated by Mr Jinnah in his August 11 speech to the Constituent Assembly. And precisely because it was to the very body which was supposed to make the Constitution, he made it clear that religion will not be the business of the state and that people will be free to believe in whatever they liked. But then what other translation can be used? There is dahriyat which means “of the earth” since dahr means “the earth” but this came to be reserved for atheism in the translations of philosophy in the early 20th century so this term is even worse than the one we use now. My own suggestion is alami where alam means “world” and the “i” is added to show that it is an adjective.
The other form of subtle subversion of the secular parties is that they are forced to be apologetic and to use the vocabulary of the religious parties. This is partly their own fault. After all, was it not ZA Bhutto himself who tried to appease the religious right by injecting religious provisions which all previous governments had resisted and no subsequent government dared remove? And then, was it not the PPP whose ministers pandered to the religious right so that some members attended the jalsas condemning the killing of their own governor, while others waxed eloquent in the jalsas condemning the same incident. To a lesser extent, the ANP, or rather some members of it, did similar things though the MQM did not. However, this is a small part of the story. The narrative of the religious parties became mainstream thanks to the efforts of Ziaul Haq and now, whether it translates into votes or not, it defines political debate. This means that the secular parties are playing on other peoples’ wicket. That is why their performance is contradictory and sometimes hypocritical. This culture can be changed with effort but there is no chance of doing it for this election so the parties of the religious right have a natural advantage for now, which is a form of the inherent pre-poll rigging factor.
Yet another factor is the incumbency factor, which is also against the PML-N in Punjab, but the extent of the anecdotal evidence, the court cases and the media trials which the PPP has had to suffer is unmatched. Although most of our problems are because of wrong policies as I have written earlier, the social media and the jokes industry, to say nothing of the regular media, points only to the corruption which biases the voters against the PPP and the ANP. There is one kind of bias which is against all politicians and this we must guard against both in Pakistan and India. It is that everybody attacks politicians and politics without taking into account other decision-makers. This gives the impression that only the politicians are in politics whereas many other players are. Politicians are maligned in cinema, stories, jokes, media and the social media. That this happens all over the world is no consolation if you remember disasters like the “charge of the light brigade” which emerges as a piece of heroism instead of a monumental folly. And what price the battle of the Somme? And, indeed, all the failed battles for which generals go scot-free. What is wrong with this is that if one shows politicians as crooks and fools and if courts love to handcuff and fetter them as our returning officers did, the public will lose faith in the democratic process itself. This is already happening in many democratic countries so the turnout in elections is often low even in stable Western countries. But those are stable countries, whereas in Pakistan, if people lose trust in politicians the alternatives are the military and some form of fascist right-wing autocracy. How many people want that?
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The Lal Masjid report

The Lal Masjid report

The Lal Masjid saga represents the struggle that is undergoing in Pakistan between the extremists and the moderates and it is not going to be resolved anytime soon. ILLUSTRATION: ANAM HALEEM
The judicial commission mandated to investigate the 2007 Lal Masjid operation has released its report. Six years after the incident, which led to over 100 deaths, the operation continues to divide the polity demonstrating the extent to which Pakistan has mixed religion and politics. For a starter, it is a good development that the report has been made public. The report tells us clearly that military assistance sought was lawful and necessary given the escalation of tensions. In any case, Article 245 of the Constitution supports such interventions.
At the same time, the report of the one-man commission avoids fixing responsibility and also why the civil administration failed to tackle the problem. The larger question whether peaceful negotiations were possible also remains unanswered. While the report says that then prime minster Shaukat Aziz and president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf gave the “final decision”, it falls short of apportioning clear responsibility and the logical action to be taken. It has become commonplace to blame General (retd) Musharraf for everything that happened during 2007 — from the Lal Masjid fiasco to the imposition of emergency and to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The truth of the matter is that the civilians — both in the political sphere as well as in the bureaucracy — were fully involved in the decision-making.
Former ministers Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Ijazul Haq have also been blaming General (retd) Musharraf in a rather opportunistic style. The Aziz brothers of Lal Masjid had challenged the writ of the state, amassed weapons in a seminary and were out to impose their brand of Sharia in Islamabad and elsewhere. General (retd) Musharraf was mocked for not taking action and once he did, he received harsh criticism for his actions. The media’s role in this episode also requires a fresh look as some media persons became a party to the conflict as it unfolded. The role of negotiators and competing intelligence agencies required a deeper investigation. The Lal Masjid saga represents the struggle that is undergoing in Pakistan between the extremists and the moderates and it is not going to be resolved anytime soon. Sadly, the commission report raises more questions than it answers.
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Stolen elections

Stolen election

The elections have already been stolen. The targeted attacks on the PPP, the MQM and the ANP and the inability of these parties to indulge in any sort of electioneering are indeed a shame. This shows that some parties cannot participate while others can. And it is not the Election Commission who is deciding this.
What is more shameful is the lack of regret being shown by their political rivals. Asfandyar Wali informs us that the only two parties that expressed sympathy with the rising death toll of his party’s workers are the PPP and the MQM. The rest remain silent. There should have been more magnanimity. But then, possibly magnanimity would have put them out of favour in other quarters.
Ludicrous was the statement by Imran Khan in which he told the Taliban to be patient in their attacks as “very soon we will have a totally new government in place.” In other words, a government that is of their liking. Is this where we are heading?
But there is a catch here. If the bombings continue, will we be able to have a higher voter turnout? It is the high turnout that is expected to change the status quo in our elections this time round. What if we scare away our new voters?
At the same time, when we see where the bombings are taking place, we do realize that these are areas that are strongholds of the older parties. In other words, the voters of these parties are being scared into staying home.
Our attitudes to all this is also somewhat puzzling.  I recall once I asked President Zardari a very simple question when he had newly assumed office. Why was it, I asked, that we had hundreds of people coming out on the streets when there was a drone attack but no one protested suicide bombings, which killed ten times more people. He agreed with me but then said little else.
I give credit to Sherry Rehman, in her position as information minister, who tried to create more awareness about the victims of suicide attacks. How their families had been affected, how lives of thousands had been destroyed by the meaningless attacks. But she didn’t get very far and soon had to abandon the project.
Possibly the election was stolen with the installation of this caretaker government. The government is doing nothing to provide an level playing field for all parties concerned. It is quite a contrast that some parties can hold rallies with fear of any attack and others cannot even hold corner meetings without being bombed.
The caretaker chief ministers are also a joke. More so of Sindh, Balochistan and KP, where the security forces cannot guarantee the safety of candidates even at corner meetings. And yet they insist of hiring thousands of more policemen.
Here we can give hundreds of security men to protect a former military strongman but we don’t have the same will to protect those who want to come to power by contesting elections.
But this is an election of contradictions. Equally strange is the manner in which the country’s biggest political party has simply given up. While the ANP and the MQM continue to struggle and do some electioneering, the PPP is strangely very quiet and has not held any major political rally after the December Benazir death anniversary gathering.
Has President Zardari, who continues to call the shots in the party, decided that the PPP should concede the elections to the PML-N? Or is he simply being pragmatic and waiting for the MNAs to be elected before starting the politics of Jor-Tor.
There are some who suggest that the PPP and the PML-N have some understanding under which they will rule one after the other. This seems to far-fetched to be believed. The deals, if any, have been made elsewhere. The exit and re-entry of a green-haired “technocrat” may be a case in point.
It is one thing for us to pray that all goes well, another to do something about it. So far, the government has been unable to do much. No one of any consequence has been arrested. So will we be seeing the postponement of election or calling in of the army? Only time will tell.
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Know What Happening In Pakistan

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Rule of law and hypocrisy

Rule of law and hypocrisy

ISLAMABAD: It is regrettable that our country has remained democracy-starved for long periods in its history. However, genuine democracy can only be attained in Pakistan when our political elite accept the reality of the rule of law and when hypocrisy is eschewed. If this happens, it can result in the country adopting the right policies, taking into consideration pluralism, populism and institutionalism as a path to good governance. Our ruling elite should have the courage to create and implement genuine reforms that respect the rule of law and not the rule of a few in the country.
Hashim Abro
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2013.
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Sunday, 28 April 2013

One wounded in explosion in Hyderabad (Pak)

One wounded in explosion in Hyderabad (Pak)

One person was wounded in an explosion that took place in the Pathan Goth area of Hyderabad on Sunday, Express News reported. 
The explosion occurred outside Ma Ji Hospital. Initial reports suggested that it occurred due to explosives that were planted on a bike.
The bomb disposal squad arrived to the scene of the explosion.
Terrorist attacks have stepped up across the country ahead of the general elections, with the Taliban targeting the Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Hundreds March to Press for Letpadaung Protesters’ Release

Hundreds March to Press for Letpadaung Protesters’ Release

Protesters march to a police station near the copper mine in northern Burma's Sagaing division, April 26, 2013.
Hundreds of local villagers opposed to a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in northern Burma staged a protest march on Friday to demand the release of three demonstrators detained in clashes with police.
The three were detained Thursday after police shot and beat protesting farmers and activists in the first major violence surrounding the mine near Mount Letpadaung in northern Burma’s Sagaing division since the authorities brutally suppressed mass demonstration in November last year.
On Friday, activists said a group of 500 protesters set out on a march to the Nyaungpintha police station to call for the release of the trio, but were stopped by some 300 security forces, protesters said.
“They blocked our way with guns and shields,” local resident Zaw Naing told RFA’s Burmese Service.
“We were protesting to call for the release of the three detained activists who were arrested yesterday,” he said.
Security forces stand behind a sign warning protesters not to go any further, April 26, 2013. Photo credit: RFA.
Protesters had been heading to the police station from Ton village near the copper mine and were stopped near Wethmay village.
The protesters also demanded an end to the mine and permission for farmers to return to work on lands they say were illegally confiscated the mining project—a joint venture between the Burmese military's Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company, a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.
Thursday’s clashes broke out after security forces moved in to stop farmers from plowing fields in their bid to reclaim the land.
Police shot at and beat protesters, injuring ten, including at least one who suffered gunshot wounds, activists said.
Aung Soe, an activist from the Rangoon People’s Support Network, and two local residents, Soe Thu and Ko Sann, have been held since the clashes.
Monywa district deputy police chief Tin Tun said police had acted appropriately in Thursday’s crackdown, saying the farmers had gathered in an area that had been declared off-limits under Section 144, a provision that allows authorities emergency powers to control public order.
“I have warned them not to enter the forbidden area many times, but they didn’t listen to me and they started throwing stones at us and attacking us with sticks,” he told RFA.
“That’s why we cracked down on them according to the law.”
Police stand ready with shields and guns to stop the protesters, April 26, 2013. Photo credit: RFA.
State media reported on Friday that villagers had attacked the police officers with petrol bombs and stones, injuring 15 and prompting police to fire rubber bullets.
"Villagers attacked throwing handmade fire (petrol) bombs... and throwing stones at the security forces," the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported, according to the Associated Press.
Ko Latt, an activist from the Politicial Prisoners’ Families Network, rejected claims that the protesters had used petrol bombs.
“We had no plan for any kind of action like that,” he told RFA.
“We are just fighting to try to get back our land,” he said.
The mine project drew national attention with a brutal crackdown on protesters opposed to it last November, when police used smoke bombs containing highly flammable phosphorous to disperse protest camps, injuring dozens of demonstrators, including monks.
The crackdown prompted a government probe into the future of the mine, and last month the inquiry panel recommended that the project be allowed to proceed, despite conceding it only brought "slight" benefits to the nation.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who headed the committee, traveled to the area to urge local farmers to drop their protest, but some farmers have continued to refuse compensation and demanded the land be returned.
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Second Clash Reported in Xinjiang

Second Clash Reported in Xinjiang

Map showing location of Hotan county in Xinjiang.
Two community police personnel have been killed and three motor vehicles set on fire in China's troubled western region of Xinjiang's Hotan county, Uyghur sources said Friday, triggering a fresh security alert after the worst violence in four years earlier in the week.

The Uyghur Online website reported that investigations were under way following the fresh violence in Hotan's Yengi Awat (in Chinese, Yingawa) village on Thursday, two days after 21 people were killed in clashes in Siriqbuya (Selibuya) township in Kashgar prefecture.

The report did not provide details on the fresh incident in which it said two community security officers were killed and three vehicles burned.

"What we know is that this case is under investigation," the report said, adding that the motive behind the incident has not been identified. "The government did not comment on it."

Security patrols

According to Dilxat Raxit, Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the Hotan deaths followed clashes between local Muslim Uyghurs, many of whom chafe under Beijing's rule, and local people hired to "maintain stability" and watch over the neighborhood.

"We are still trying to establish the actual cause of the clashes, but one issue is that China has recently stepped up security patrols in the Hotan area," Raxit said in an interview on Friday.

"They have sent large numbers of uniformed personnel there along the state highway from Kashgar, and you can see Chinese military vehicles everywhere, frequently," he said.

In contrast to the earlier clashes, China's official media appeared to remain silent on the new incident and the authorities were reluctant to comment.

An official who answered the phone at the Hotan police department said, "I don't know about this."

Calls to the Hotan district government offices and to the county government that oversees Yingawa village went unanaswered during office hours on Friday.


The reports emerged as Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stability in the ethnically-divided region after the Siriqbuya violence which Chinese officials and state media said had erupted after community officials on patrol were attacked by Uyghur "terrorists" armed with knives at a house.

Reinforcements were called, and in the ensuing shootout six of the suspects were killed, state media said. Others were killed either after being slashed by the suspects or burned to death when the house was torched, state media reports said.

In total, 16 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians were killed in the Siriqbuya violence—the worst since ethnic clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese rocked Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi in 2009, killing nearly 200.

Xi gave instructions on "how to handle the case, deal with the aftermath, and maintain stability in Xinjiang", the state-run Global Times said on its website, citing a local report, and without quoting Xi's remarks directly.

China on Friday accused the United States of "double standards" for not endorsing Beijing's account of the violence, after officials in Washington said the U.S. was "deeply concerned" by accounts of discrimination against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China.

China accused the US of a "double standard" for not condemning the attack despite being a victim of terror itself.
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Envoy Urged to Press Uyghur Rights in China

Envoy Urged to Press Uyghur Rights in China

A map showing Kashgar prefecture's Maralbeshi (Bachu) county in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
An exiled rights group has called on the U.S. envoy to China to raise human rights violations against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority with the government in Beijing, two days after 21 people were killed in the worst episode of violence in the restive Xinjiang region in nearly four years.

U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke was visiting Xinjiang with a trade delegation when the clashes took place Tuesday in Maralbeshi (in Chinese, Bachu) county in Kashgar prefecture, and the U.S. State Department has called on Beijing to conduct a “thorough and transparent investigation of this incident.”

Chinese officials and state media said the violence erupted after community officials on patrol were attacked by Uyghur "terrorists" armed with knives at a house in Siriqbuya (in Chinese, Selibuya) township.

Reinforcements were called, and in the ensuing shootout six of the suspects were killed, state media said. Others were killed either after being slashed by the suspects or burned to death when the house was torched, state media reports said.

In total, 16 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians were killed in the clashes—the worst since ethnic violence between Uyghurs and Han Chinese rocked Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi in 2009, killing nearly 200.

The Washington-based Uyghur American Association (UAA) warned that Chinese media reporting on the incident should be “viewed with extreme caution” given a lack of details and independent verification, and urged the international community to dismiss allegations of a Uyghur terror plot.

The UAA called on Locke to raise any violations against the Uyghurs with the Chinese authorities and urge Beijing to find a “lasting political solution” to their grievances.

“It is vitally important for Ambassador Locke to remind the Chinese authorities that the constant attack on Uyghur identity, language, culture, religion, and ethnicity, as well as equating Uyghurs’ legitimate grievances with terrorism, separatism, and extremism, will not bring long-term peace and stability to the region,” said UAA President Alim Seytoff in a statement.

The UAA said that since the unrest of 2009, China had intensified its repression of the Uyghur people through “heavy-handed security measures” and the “arbitrary use of lethal force.”

It said that in addition to deploying anti-terror forces into Xinjiang following the clashes, authorities had also created “neighborhood watch offices” in areas of the region populated by Uyghurs, such as Kashgar and Hotan, to “spy” on the ethnic group.

“These offices were tasked to report any Uyghur from out of town or any kind of Uyghur gathering, even in the privacy of their house, to police or security personnel patrolling the area,” the group said.

“Subsequently, it results in an immediate unlawful house search by neighborhood watch officers and sometimes arbitrary use of lethal force by security personnel for any kind of resistance, causing the deaths of many people, with authorities usually labeling the Uyghurs involved as ‘terrorists’.”

Terror plot?

New York-based quoted anonymous official sources as saying that Tuesday’s incident was triggered after three community officials discovered a “terrorist” group watching a “terrorist” video during a house-to-house search.

It said that the officials, who had also found a cache of knives, reported the matter to police who soon after arrived on the scene with the police station chief and a group of officers.

“When they arrived at the scene, they found the three officials killed. The police chief was the only one armed with a gun among his team,” the Chinese-language report said, without providing the police chief’s name.

“When his six rounds of ammunition were exhausted, the terror group used a 1.2-meter [4-foot] knife to kill him and the other policemen.”

DWnews said the group “burned down the house with the bodies in it,” adding that among the community officials killed in the clash was ethnic Mongolian deputy town mayor Sung Chao.

The Global Times, an official Chinese media organization, reported that the remaining police officers had taken eight men into custody during the incident.

It said the “terrorists may have set a trap” in luring police officers and to their home before setting upon them with knives, quoting local officials.

Chinese authorities often accuse Uyghurs of terrorist activities, but experts familiar with the region have said Beijing exaggerates a terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest.

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) maintained that the clash was sparked by the shooting and killing of a young Uyghur by Chinese security forces that fired into a crowd angered over the illegal search of homes.

And an eyewitness told RFA's Uyghur Service on Wednesday that when a Uyghur woman refused to lift her veil during a search of area homes, a neighborhood watch officer forced her to do so, sparking the conflict.

Investigation urged

The United States on Wednesday urged China to carry out a full probe of the violence and "take steps to reduce tensions and promote long-term stability in Xinjiang."

"We urge the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of this incident and to provide all Chinese citizens—including Uyghurs—the due-process protections to which they're entitled," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters.

But China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday said the U.S. was using a “double standard” for not outright condemning the attack while also recently suffering from an act of terror, and said Washington should “reflect on its own problems.”

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two explosions occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. Two young men, one of whom was killed in a shootout with police, are suspected of having carried out the attack.

“We are firmly opposed to the U.S. confusing black and white, right and wrong. Not only do they not condemn violent terrorist attacks, but they also make casual and irresponsible accusations against China’s ethnic policy,” she said.

“We hope the U.S. can respect the most basic facts and stop the wrong practice of using double standards. They should look at themselves in the mirror more often to see all the problems in their own country instead of making casual accusations against other countries.”

In Xinjiang, rights groups say that the Chinese authorities are indiscriminately jailing Uyghurs in the name of fighting terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism, and are intensifying the influx of Han Chinese in the region.

Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness.
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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

South Asian states urged to develop cooperation in energy

South Asian states urged to develop cooperation in energy

Senior economist Dr Akmal Hussain has stressed upon the South Asian countries to develop co-operation in the field of energy and share their energy recourses by establishing a South Asian grid.
He also said Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan have lot of potential of generating power and these countries are capable of fulfilling the energy needs of the whole region.

Akmal was addressing a seminar on energy crisis organised by South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) on Friday. Akmal said that Pakistan's biggest problem in the power sector is circular debt and the government should arrange eight billion dollars to pay the debt. He also said Pakistan should also buy electricity from Iran and India to meet its need.

While quoting the data of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Akmal said 68 per cent losses are line losses, including power theft. He said Pakistan is producing 70 per cent electricity from thermal and only 30 per cent from hydel. We should construct small dams so that we can generate cheap hydel electricity, he added. Speaking on the occasion, senior economist Dr Ijaz Nabi said if we want to solve the problem of circular debt then there should be no subsidy on electricity and we should take steps to make power companies profitable. He said there is a concept in South Asia that cheap electricity is the right of every person and we need to change this concept. Electricity and gas should be given to the industries on priority basis, he added.

Energy expert, Dr Omar said after paying the circular debt we should introduce two slabs of rates, normal rate and peak time rates. He said during peak time rates should be more and industries will get electricity without interruption. He said the government should take steps to generate power from coal, adding that it is a wrong perception that electricity produced from solar and wind is cheap.
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Friday, 12 April 2013

MD Salim Ashrafi on New Trends in Terrorism

MD Salim Ashrafi on New Trends in Terrorism

Forum for integrated National security - FINS: MD Salim Ashrafi Chairman, state Walf Board, Chattisghad in a seminar on Threat to National Security: New Trends of Terrorism
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Monday, 8 April 2013

Cyber war and global order

Cyber war and global order
by -- Sreeram Chaulia
Startling new developments in the American national security doctrine have shaken the foundations of thinking about fear and safety in the world. Chiefs of intelligence agencies in the US have released a report claiming that cyber attacks and cyber espionage pose a greater danger than conventional terrorist groups like the Al Qaida. The speed with which Internet-based technology is evolving and the alacrity with which various state and non-state actors are trying to leverage it for their own self-interests is baffling even to an advanced web-based great power like America, not to mention less technically adept nations.

Concern over the rising vulnerability on the Internet has not only spooked the US defence establishment, but also spilled into American diplomacy vis-เ-vis China. Last month, the US National Security Adviser, Thomas Donilon, explicitly exhorted China to cease its “unprecedented wave of cyber attacks” against America and escalated the issue by warning that inaction and complicity of the Chinese government in incessant hacking of American critical infrastructure would “risk our overall relations.”

This missive followed a series of dramatic revelations about a nerve command centre in Shanghai--an imposing white government building believed to be run by the People’s Liberation Army--being the fountainhead of Chinese incursions into American Internet communication systems. Predictably, Beijing responded to Western allegations as “groundless accusations” and added that “China itself is highly vulnerable and among the most victimised by cyber attacks.” For an authoritarian regime to publicly admit that its own computer networks are being hacked by hostile powers is a significant revelation, besides being a clever alibi. It also reconfirms that we are living in an Internet-determined world order where conflict, cooperation and strategy are all inevitably tied to individual and group applications of Information Technology (IT).        

Cyber war capacities are not domains of only big guns like China and the US. They are spreading horizontally to middle and even minor powers. Notwithstanding all the punitive Western sanctions and curbs on its scientific progress, Iran is a fast learner that has announced its arrival on the stage with some spectacular ‘takedowns’ of enemy targets over the last year. In August 2012, a deadly virus infected the information network of the Saudi Arabian oil major, Aramco, and erased data on three quarters of its corporate computers. All the infected screens were left displaying an image of a burning American flag. 

It was a symbolic counter-attack by Iran against the economic lifeline of a US ally and a deadly rival in the Middle East, and also a payback for the Stuxnet virus which America and Israel had deployed a few years ago to disable Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.

In September 2012, Iran is said to have scored another cyber home run with a series of sequential Internet attacks on computers of giants of the American financial industry, including JPMorgan and Wells Fargo, slowing down the overwhelmed servers and denying customers access to banking services. These targets were fair game for the Iranians, as they are subject to a financial embargo by the same Western banks. Tit-for-tat is an old and essential ingredient of statecraft, but what the Internet is doing is to widen the scope for damaging one’s foes without having to break one’s military personnel and hardware into a sweat or spill blood.

Even in North Korea--which was recently visited by the CEO of Google Inc., Eric Schmidt, to open the eyes of what he called the “last really closed country in the world” to the benefits of the Internet--cyber war is being added to conventional and nuclear abilities. A devastating set of cyber attacks on South Korea’s vital information nodes and corporate computers are being attributed to Pyongyang, raising the temperature in an already conflictual East Asia.

Eventually, in the absence of any multilateral agreement at the level of the United Nations to moderate and set limits on cyber war, there could a balance of power and a "balance of terror" that will set in to regulate the murky business of hacking and destroying Internet assets of adversaries. Governing cyber weaponry is one of the cutting-edge problems facing the international community, on par with emerging issues like weaponisation of outer space and unmanned aerial attack drones.

While many governments are engaged in building up their cyber warfare sinews and flexing them against opponents, there are also some innovative and positive efforts to harness the Internet to deepen democracy inside nation-states. The government of Iceland has set an extraordinary example by deploying Web 2.0 technologies to draft its new, progressive Constitution. Dubbed as the world’s first “crowdsourced Constitution”, it was put together through citizen comments and suggestions via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. It was direct democracy at its very best, with nearly 4000 concrete inputs of Icelanders (no small figure in a country whose population is merely 300,000) pouring into a Constitutional Council, which then constructed the document that would be the basis for the laws of the land. Online debates and live webcasting of constitutional proceedings in Iceland have redefined the very meaning of participatory democracy.

If cyber war is looming like an unshackled monster, Iceland is offering an inspiration for a benign and constructive turn with web-enabled ‘netocracy’. Citizen empowerment is proceeding apace in many corners of the world via the Internet. Democracies that were suffering from a growing disconnect between average people and their elected representatives now have a powerful technological medium with which to increase accountability of rulers to the ruled. In India, we are moving in a direction of eliminating human intermediaries in service delivery on the premise that public goods can be disseminated with less corruption and more transparency if they are handled on web-based platforms. The Internet is thus reorganising the basic bond between rulers and ruled in democracies.

Dictatorships are, of course, already trembling at the potential for Internet-based revolts sweeping them away. 
Yet, we must avoid over-enthusiasm about the worldwide web as a means for proliferating human freedom. Evgeny Morozov’s book, The Net Delusion, cautions against “cyber-utopianism” and reminds us that the Internet is an open access medium that democratisers and totalitarians can both use at cross purposes to each other. The cyber war between states can also manifest in the form of a cyber war within states, i.e. among contentious factions and sections of society. The war that is shattering Syria today, for example, has all the makings of a full-fledged Internet-driven civil conflict fuelled by propaganda from transnational media outlets like Al Jazeera.

The current Internet era is thus a mixed bag, illuminating the old adage that technology is neither good nor bad in itself but the proof of the pudding lies in its application. Growing Internet penetration rates across the planet in the next decade will only intensify the struggles, both destructive and constructive, for competition and cooperation via the worldwide web. From an instrument of human and social will into an all-encompassing parallel world with its own order and breakdowns, the Internet is the defining feature of contemporary global relations. It is a historic challenge to try and shape it for collective good.
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