Thousands rally against Putin, dozens detained

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Thousands rally against Putin, dozens detained

Aydar Buribayev
MOSCOW

(Reuters) – Russian police broke up an opposition demonstration in Moscow on Saturday, one of around 50 rallies across the country with thousands protesting falling living standards under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

A coalition of opposition groups declared a national “Day of Anger” with nationwide rallies tapping into anger which has been rising since the economic crisis hit. The protests mixed local issues with anger at the federal government.

Opposition groups have been heartened by unusually large rallies in recent months. But riven by division they were unable to match the 10,000 people who gathered for a January rally in the western city of Kaliningrad, one of the largest in a decade.

“The mood has changed, but it has not yet turned into a movement,” said Masha Lipman, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank. But for the micro-managers in the Kremlin “the stakes are extremely high,” she said.

At least 1,500 people turned out in the Pacific port of Vladivostok, raising their hands to support a motion to dismiss Putin’s government. Around 1,000 rallied in Saint Petersburg and hundreds gathered in several other cities.

“People have no work and they are fed up,” said Ivan Fotodtov, 26, a Vladivostok web designer who braved snow to protest rising bills cutting into his stagnant wages.

Local elections last week showed support for Putin’s United Russia party has fallen since the start of the economic crisis, which brought a sudden end to 10 years of growth and drove unemployment above 9 percent. Last year, gross domestic product fell by about 8 percent, Russia’s worst performance since 1994.

DETENTIONS

In the capital, hundreds of police officers blocked off the central Pushkin Square and detained dozens of protesters when they began to chant, shouting “Freedom!” and “This is our city!”

A Moscow police spokesman said 70 people were detained after 200 tried to hold an unsanctioned rally.

U.S. Senator John McCain on Thursday warned that Saturday’s protests were a test of the Kremlin’s tolerance for dissent. “The eyes of the world will be watching,” he said at the Senate.

In Kaliningrad, organizers of the January rally said they decided to cancel a demonstration on Saturday after authorities offered talks and hinted that police would break up the protest. A coalition of opposition parties split since the first rally.

Some 2,000 people gathered without placards near the site of the January protest, but quickly dispersed in heavy rain.

Protesters across the country had a dizzying array of demands, but they were united in their anger at the ruling United Russia party.

One poster in Vladivostok called for “Free Speech, Free Elections!” while others demanded more funding for children’s sports and lower household bills. A poster calling for Putin to kill himself was quickly torn down by other protesters.

Around 1,000 people gathered in the Siberian city of Irkutsk to decry Putin’s decision to reopen a factory that locals say pollutes Lake Baikal. The crowd cheered as opposition leader Boris Nemtsov called on Putin to quit.

“Yes to Baikal, No to Putin,” chanted Nemtsov, the leader of the opposition Solidarity movement, which has been criticized for hijacking local protests.

“Each region has its own issues, but everyone sees their lives are getting worse,” Nemtsov told Reuters. “The protests are only going to grow.”

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Mideast Quartet ‘strongly supports’ Palestinian state: Ban

Mideast Quartet ‘strongly supports’ Palestinian state: Ban


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

RAMALLAH, West Bank : UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday said the international community “strongly supports” Palestinian efforts to build a viable state at the start of a visit aimed at reviving peace talks.

He kicked off his two-day visit by meeting Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank political capital of Ramallah and praising his plan to build the institutions of an independent Palestinian state by mid-2011.

Ban is also expected to meet senior Israeli officials and to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, still largely in ruins following a 22-day Israeli military campaign launched in December 2008.

Ban arrived in Ramallah a day after the Middle East diplomatic Quartet called for Israel to halt all settlement construction and for both sides to reach a peace deal by 2012.

“The Quartet has sent a clear and strong message: we are strongly supporting your efforts to establish an independent and viable Palestinian state,” he told Fayyad ahead of the formal talks.

At a joint press conference after the meeting Ban called on both sides to revive talks suspended after the start of the Gaza war, saying “we have to get negotiations under way”.

The Palestinians grudgingly agreed to US-led indirect talks earlier this month but those efforts largely fell apart two days later when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new settler homes in mostly Arab east Jerusalem.

Ban “condemned strongly” the decision to build the homes and warned that, “for the negotiations to succeed, it is vital that the parties act responsibly on the ground.

“All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in the occupied territories, and this must stop,” he said.

Fayyad had earlier taken Ban to a vantage point outside Ramallah to show him a large swathe of West Bank territory known as Area C which is under exclusive Israeli control and off limits to Palestinian development.

From the observation point, Ban could see Israel’s controversial separation fence, a Jewish settlement and the skyline of Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to locate their future capital.

“The visit to Area C was an opportunity for the secretary general to see the difficulties that we face on a daily basis in our efforts to develop and build in preparation for our state,” Fayyad said at the press conference.

As part of his state-building plan, Fayyad has vowed to establish “positive facts on the ground” in Area C, which he said makes up some 60 per cent of the occupied West Bank.

Fayyad, a former World Bank economist, hailed the Quartet’s statement as “positive and comprehensive”, but said more must be done, including allowing Palestinian security forces to operate throughout the West Bank.

On Friday, the Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States) issued an ambitious statement after a meeting of senior officials in Moscow aimed at getting moribund peace talks back on track.

“The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity … to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in east Jerusalem,” it said.

It also urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks on final status issues – security, borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – and to reach a peace deal within 24 months.

Israel has criticised the deadline, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisting that “peace cannot be imposed artificially and with an unrealistic calendar” during an address in Brussels.

“This type of statement only harms the possibilities of reaching an accord.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat welcomed the Quartet’s call, but asked for a mechanism to insure a complete settlement freeze.

The Palestinians have demanded the freeze apply to mostly Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Six Day War and unilaterally annexed in a move not recognised by any other government.

Israel’s announcement regarding the 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem infuriated the United States, in part because it coincided with a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has since discussed the matter directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and on Friday Clinton insisted that the strong US reaction was “paying off”. – AFP/ms

The dark face of Jewish nationalism

The dark face of Jewish nationalism


By Dr Alan Sabrosky

12 March 2010

Alan Sabrosky considers the characteristics that differentiate Jewish nationalism from other nationalisms, highlighting in particular its intrinsic extremism, its xenophobia, racism and militarism, its undermining of civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries and its propensity to hatred and racial exclusivity.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu once remarked to a Likud gathering that “Israel is not like other countries”. Oddly enough for him, that time he was telling the truth, and nowhere is that more evident than with Jewish nationalism, whether or not one pins the “Zionist” label on it.

“…whereas extremism in other nationalist movements is an aberration, extremism in Jewish nationalism is the norm, pitting Zionist Jews (secular or observant) against the goyim(everyone else)…”

Nationalism in most countries and cultures can have both positive and negative aspects, unifying a people and sometimes leading them against their neighbours. Extremism can emerge, and often has, at least in part in almost every nationalist/independence movement I can recall (e.g. the French nationalist movement had The Terror, Kenya’s had the Mau Mau, etc.).

But whereas extremism in other nationalist movements is an aberration, extremism in Jewish nationalism is the norm, pitting Zionist Jews (secular or observant) against the goyim (everyone else), who are either possible predator or certain prey, if not both sequentially. This does not mean that all Jews or all Israelis feel and act this way, by any means. But it does mean that Israel today is what it cannot avoid being, and what it would be under any electable government (a point I’ll develop in another article).

The differences between Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and that of other countries and cultures here I think are fourfold:

1. Zionism is a real witches’ brew of xenophobia, racism, ultra-nationalism and militarism that places it way outside of a “mere” nationalist context — for example, when I was in Ireland (both parts) I saw no indication whatsoever that the Provisional Irish Republican Army or anyone else pressing for a united Ireland had a shred of design on shoving Protestants into camps or out of the country, although there may well have been a handful who thought that way — and goes far beyond the misery for others professed by the Nazis;

2. Zionism undermines civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries in a way that other nationalist movements (and even ultra-nationalist movements like Nazism) did not — e.g. a large majority of American Jews, including those who are not openly dual citizens, espouse a form of political bigamy called “dual loyalty” (to Israel and the US) that is every bit as dishonest as marital bigamy, attempts to finesse the precedence they give to Israel over the US (lots of Rahm Emanuels out there who served in the Israeli army but NOT in the US armed forces), and has absolutely no parallel in the sense of national or cultural identity espoused by any other definable ethnic or racial group in America — even the Nazi Bund in the US disappeared once Germany and the US went to war, with almost all of its members volunteering for the US armed forces;

3. The “enemy” of normal nationalist movements is the occupying power and perhaps its allies, and once independence is achieved, normal relations with the occupying power are truly the norm, but for Zionism almost everyone out there is an actual or potential enemy, differing only in proximity and placement on its very long list of enemies (which is now America’s target list); and

4. Almost all nationalist movements (including the irredentist and secessionist variants) intend to create an independent state from a population in place or to reunite a separated people (like the Sudeten Germans in the 1930s) — it is very rare for it to include the wholesale displacement of another indigenous population, which is far more common of successful colonialist movements as in the US — and perhaps a reason why most Americans wouldn’t care too much about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians even if they DID know about it, is because that is no different than what Europeans in North America did to the Indians/Native Americans here in a longer and more low-tech fashion.

The implications of this for Middle East peace prospects, and for other countries in thrall to their domestic Jewish lobbies or not, are chilling. The Book of Deuteronomy come to life in a state with a nuclear arsenal would be enough to give pause to anyone not bought or bribed into submission — which these days encompasses the US government, given Israel’s affinity for throwing crap into the face of the Obama administration and Obama’s visible affinity for accepting it with a smile, Bibi Netanyahu’s own “Uncle Tom” come to Washington.

The late General Moshe Dayan, who — Zionist or not — remains an honoured part of my own Pantheon of military heroes, allegedly observed that Israel’s security depended on its being viewed by others as a mad dog. He may have been correct. But he neglected to note that the preferred response of everyone else is to kill that mad dog before it can decide to go berserk and bite. It is an option worth considering.


Alan Sabrosky (PhD, University of Michigan) is a 10-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at docbrosk@comcast.net.

Behind the Afghan imbroglio

Behind the Afghan imbroglio

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Saleem Safi

Moscow offered to train a few officers of an Afghan law-enforcement agency. Kabul was ready to accept the offer, but the US killed the proposal. After the rebuff, the Russian ambassador publicly stated in a BBC interview that the US was creating difficulties for his country in Afghanistan.

The Americans ignored two important points since the occupation of Afghanistan. One, the Afghan psyche of rising against all occupation forces. This becomes more dangerous when jihad fits into their scheme of national resistance. Similarly, the seeds of Islamism sown during the Soviet War in Afghanistan have bolstered the capacity of anti-Western Taliban and Hekmatyar forces abetted by Al-Qaeda to defeat the US-NATO alliance.

Two, that all neighbouring and regional countries were involved in proxy wars in Afghanistan. These players had also become a part of the problem. The US-NATO alliance did not appreciate this fact. Rather, they mistakenly considered the occupation of Afghanistan as synonymous with expulsion of all regional players from the scene.

Currently, the proxy wars of the neighbouring and regional countries are major hurdles in the way of stability and peace in Afghanistan. The changing goalposts of the US agenda, its failure to defeat opposing forces through a meaningful strategy and pushing out neighbouring countries from the equation are but a few of the gaffes. The regional players of the great game felt that the US agenda was not limited to finishing Taliban and Al-Qaeda alone.

First of all, Iran was alienated for no good reasons. Initially, Iran honestly helped the US-NATO alliance against the Taliban. But George W Bush and the Neocons responded by hyphenating Iran with North Korea and Iraq as a member of an “axis of evil.” Without finishing the job in Afghanistan, the US occupied Iraq on flimsy grounds. Though Iran could make a natural ally in both places due to its strong abhorrence for Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, the overconfident George W Bush and the Neocons did not feel any need for Iranian help. The occupation of Iraq actually added to Iran’s not-so-misplaced fears of being the next target.

Similarly, the growing US-Iran tensions on the nuclear issue further pushed apart these probable partners. This tension touched new heights during the last term of George W Bush in the White House when the Western media ran a campaign of leaking “official” information about a possible US-Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites. In this scenario, Iran decided to play its cards carefully on both fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan, to keep the US-NATO alliance at bay.

The recent arrest of Jundullah leader Abdul Malik Rigi and his revelations regarding the active American support in training and equipping the group from its bases in Helmand confirmed Iran’s suspicions.

A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is an equally important factor in Afghanistan. For the last three decades, any faction in Afghanistan that supports Saudi Arabia automatically opposes Iran, and vice versa. One reason for the Iranian boycott of the recently held London Conference was the Western alliance’s intention of engaging Saudi Arabia in the future reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Some analysts even believe that Arab and Western interests in Afghanistan are running in parallel.

After 9/11 China wholeheartedly welcomed US arrival in Afghanistan. But the US attack on Iraq before the stabilisation of Afghanistan and the construction of a modern sprawling military base in the far-flung eastern Nooristan province close to the Chinese border raised many eyebrows in Beijing. According to some information, US intelligence had initially called in and trained some young Uyghur Muslims in Afghanistan for creating troubles in Xinjiang province. These factors also dragged China into the fray. So China responded to the Western challenges in Afghanistan on two fronts: economic diplomacy through huge investments in the mining and water sectors of Afghanistan, and partnering a friendly country for creating direct influence through dependable proxies. On both fronts, China seems to have made headway.

During the attack on Afghanistan, the Russians had offered full-fledged support to the invading US and Western forces in the form of land and air routes for logistical support. The US could hardly believe such largesse from an erstwhile opponent that had taken a beating in Afghanistan from the same Western alliance. As Russia considered both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban a threat to its interests, it honestly supported the US-NATO alliance. Some routes are still being used by NATO forces for supply.

But later events compelled Russia to change its tune and tone on Afghanistan. Russians deduced that the Western powers pursued a hidden agenda in Afghanistan. Similarly, the construction of large and long-term modern military bases in Afghanistan and awarding of fast-food supply contract on the bases for ten to twenty years rang alarm bills in Moscow. Such steps gave credence to the “theory” that the Western alliance was actually eyeing the vast Central Asian energy resources.

Ultimately, Russia also resorted to creating influence through proxies. An example of the proxy war between Russia and the US was the latter’s rebuff to the Russian proposal for training a few officers of an Afghan law enforcement agency. Kabul was ready to accept the offer, but the US killed the proposal. After the rebuff, the Russian ambassador, Zamir Kabalov, publicly stated in an interview with BBC that the US was creating difficulties for his country in Afghanistan.

Besides, a novel proxy war between the US and Germany, allies in the NATO, is most astonishing. To the dislike of the US, the Germans have independently created pockets of influence in northern Afghanistan. Since their arrival, they have focused all military, economic and political efforts on the northern half of the country. On many other occasions, UK and US priorities are also on divergent trajectories.

Turkey, a NATO member, and the US are also not on the same page when it comes to priorities in Afghanistan. Turkey gave asylum to Abdul Rasheed Dostam when he was expelled by the US and brought him back against American wishes.

The US made a monumental mistake by bringing India into Afghanistan in a big way. The Western alliance was in the knowledge that Pakistan had sacrificed everything to become their ally in the war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They knew that Pakistan ran a huge risk of a strong backlash at home from extremists and Al-Qaeda. Pakistan embraced these mortal threats on the condition that India is kept out of Afghanistan. But despite the many sacrifices by Pakistan, the US conveniently ignored Pakistani reservations, thus creating a security nightmare for this country.

Pakistan half-heartedly fell back on support from some Afghan factions. On the other hand, India endeared all the powerful anti-Pakistan elements in the Afghan government. So a proxy war between the two South Asian nuclear powers has rendered peace in Afghanistan well nigh impossible.

Beside these proxy wars, the regional players are also countering each other in many ways. The Central Asian states and Iran are poles apart on individual interests. The tug of war among the Central Asian states for securing individual interests is not a mystery. Similarly, Iran and Pakistan are unable to speak from the same page when it comes to their national interests in Afghanistan.

The Western alliance’s blunders, the neighbours’ interference through proxy wars, regional scrambles and the international community’s inability to come up with acceptable solutions has turned Afghanistan into a melting pot.

How can peace and stability be restored to Afghanistan? This question will be addressed in the next column.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem .safi@janggroup.com.pk

Taliban: the unanswered questions

Taliban: the unanswered questions

Saturday, March 20, 2010
By Iqbal Haider

The record breaking rise in suicide attacks and the onslaught of repeated explosions all over the country, more recently in Lahore and Mingora, have naturally caused countrywide shock, anxiety and concern. People at large are anxious to find a real effective strategy to eradicate these extremist militant religious forces, their suicide bombers and the unending incidents of terrorism. Some say that the Government should hold negotiations with the Taliban. Some of the bearded or non-bearded leaders of the religious parties have been offering their services for mediating with these terrorists.

The first question that needs an answer is who the Government should hold talks with? Quite often, we hear about numerous groups of these Taliban. Some are called Afghani Taliban. Some are referred to as Pakistani Taliban, are they any different in their ideology or modus operandi? Some even issue character certificates to them as being ìGood Taliban or ìBad Taliban. On what grounds are they branded so, is not known and how do they differ is also not clear. Some are classified on regional basis that is Punjabi Taliban or Pakhtun Taliban, etc. They may be soon the basis of their existence in that area but are they in any manner different from each other? This is not the end of the list. There are several other militant equally bigoted and ferocious religious groups operating in Pakistan, such as the group of Fazlullah, Sufi Muhammad, various Lashkars and Jihadi groups in the names of Islam or Jihad-e-Kashmir and many banned organisations such as the SSP, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al-Dawa, etc. I refer to them collectively as ìTaliban.

The categorisation or classification of Taliban would have been of some importance or relevance had they followed a different religious sect, norm or modus operandi. The differences of shades in their beliefs or activities are of least importance. A pertinent question that arises is would the negotiations with one group would lead to a peaceful settlement with all? It is not likely, as every group appears to have its own leader, objectives and force. Would all of these extremist barbaric violent groups agree to come on a common negotiations table? This again appears to be highly unlikely. Even if one or more groups agree to hold meaningful negotiations with sincerity of purpose with the Government, then the second most important question arises as to what the agenda would be and what should be the preconditions or steps for creating conditions conducive for successful dialogue. The parties to the negotiation and their mediators, if any, will have to determine the agenda for this meeting.

It is an undeniable fact that the common denominators amongst all groups of Taliban are their peculiar religious norms and common modus operandi of enforcing their brand of religion through force and terrorism. During the tenure of the Taliban in Afghanistan, we have witnessed there a rigid ban on use of internet, education for women; destruction of schools and colleges; ban on all forms of enjoyment fine and performing arts; forcing people to grow beards; destroying invaluable historical heritage of the world i.e. the Bamyan Buddha statues; forcing non-Muslims, particularly Hindus, to wear a distinctive bracelet in their wrist; indulged in intolerance and attacks on muslims of different sects; prohibition against sports like cricket, the Pakistani football team visiting Afghanistan wearing knickers on the field was harassed, abused and returned after shaving their heads; enforcing a peculiar form of justice system and sentences in the name of their own interpretation of Islam; imposing a bigoted and retarded system of education and curriculum, opposed to the basic injunctions of Islam and norms and practices of modern societies in the world. The aforesaid is not a complete list of the lifestyle and permissible and non-permissible acts according to the Taliban. The crucial question is will the Taliban agree to give up such abhorrent stone-age norms and practices of their brand of Islam? If they will not budge an inch, then the question arises will the Government of Pakistan or the supporters of the Taliban in Pakistan accept, adopt and implement most obscurantist and oppressive laws and practices of the Taliban.

I am afraid that under the policy of appeasement and encouragement of the bigoted militant sectarian religious groups, followed by their creator General Zia and promoter General Pervez Musharraf and their allies, Pakistan is being Talibanised gradually. This policy of appeasing and supporting the Taliban, either under the most ill-conceived notion of them being ìstrategic depth of Pakistan or the so-called repeated peace agreements with Taliban, signed by Musharaf regime and also by our present elected rulers, have only resulted in rise and rise of terrorism and influence of the Taliban of which, there are so many shocking instances and trends one can point out. To name a few, I may remind, the MMA Government had attempted to impose their brand of Islam under the garb of the unconstitutional ìHasba Bill. During the same period, shops selling musical instruments or music and audio videos were destroyed in Peshawer and a respected scholar and author of a book, ìShaitan Moulvi was murdered in Swat. A woman singer was killed in Peshawar. In several parts of the Frontier women were physically prevented from casting their vote repeatedly with the agreement of the national level political parties, both during the tenure of MMA rule and even now in the most recent by-elections under the present elected Government, who claims to be enlightened and progressive. During the Musharraf regime, we witnessed an alarming mushroom growth of madressahs, who were also allowed to store lethal weapons and receive arms trainings. Even in the Federal and Provincial capitals, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, women wearing jeans and t-shirts or half-sleeves were warned and intimidated.

One cannot also ignore or deny alliance of PML-N with the banned and bigoted militant organizations such as the SSP and Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the latest by-elections held in the Punjab. Shocking is the fact that the PML-N which claims to be the most popular party of Punjab has to seek support from these undesirable banned extremist outfits. It is also a fact that until very recently, important ministers in the Punjab Cabinet have been denying the very existence of the Taliban in any part of Punjab, perhaps to provide them with covert support and mislead the people that they represent. It is not surprising that according to reports, Taliban are willing to accept Chief Minister of the Punjab as the mediator and have offered to him a ceasefire, as reported in the national dailies. Will that ceasefire be on imposing the brand of religion of the Taliban? Will this ceasefire, through PML-N or any other leaders of political parties, guarantee an end to terrorism in Pakistan? The people need answers to these questions. The people of Pakistan will under no circumstances accept the Talibanís brand of religion which is against the very basic tenets and injunctions of Islam nor do I foresee Taliban giving up their obscurantist and oppressive religion and practices. Nor are they likely to surrender arms and give up terrorist activities in Pakistan. There should be no doubt or confusion about the real aim and agenda of Taliban.

Their clear object is to takeover the state of Pakistan, all its resources, wealth, weapons particularly the nuclear arms, in the name of religion. Some of the segments of the Taliban have already pronounced these aims. In fact in April 2009 the Taliban had proudly expressed their determination to takeover Islamabad as well, after they had established their control over 11% of the territory of Pakistan, according to reliable published assessments.

Pakistan is already at war from within with Taliban. Never before, neither in any war with India, nor otherwise, have our top brass Army officers, along with the brave soldiers of our Army, paramilitary forces, police and thousands of innocent citizens, faced martyrdom in such a large number at the hands of Taliban. Each suicide attack and explosion causes irreparable loss of not only life, but also to our already detoriating economy. The need of the hour is that the people of Pakistan must express their determination that they are not prepared to accept the injunctions, norms and lifestyle of the Taliban under any circumstances or for any petty gain or consideration. Ceasefire with an end to terrorism is acceptable but not on the terms and agenda of the Taliban.

Some of the political parties wearing the label of religion or not, must not lend any moral or material support, covertly or overtly, to the Taliban for minor gains or victories in elections. Why should we blame India, when we have within Pakistan such well-wishers, protectors and supporters of extremist militant banned obscurantist religious organizations such as the various segments of Taliban, SSP, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and several other militant Lashkars who are enough to destroy our peace and progress.

We must rise against the nefarious aims and objects of Taliban and their terrorism which is threatening not only the integrity of Pakistan, but also peace and prosperity in the South Asian region. Instead of pursuing a blame game with our neighbours which will only help the Taliban in spreading their influence, we must adopt the policy of cooperation and collaboration not only within Pakistan, but also with our neighbors particularly India, Afghanistan, Iran and China to defeat the inhumane objectives of the Taliban, through concerted efforts on a national and regional basis.

The author is a former senator, senior advocate of the Supreme Court, former attorney general and ex-minister for law, justice, parliamentary affairs and human rights.

Email: ihaider45@yahoo.com

Relatives of force-disappeared Baloch protest rally in front Pakistan’s PM residence

Relatives of force-disappeared Baloch protest rally in front Pakistan’s PM residence

on 2010/3/20 0:40:00 (2 reads)
slamabad: The family members of forced disappeared Baloch in affiliation with Voice for Baloch Missing Persons ended their three day (17-16-19 March) token hunger strike here on Friday and took out a protest rally opposite Pakistani PM’s residence. These families had long marched via train from occupied Balochistan to Pakistan’s capital to protest in front of UN office and Pakistan Supreme Court in order to draw their attention towards the plight of those families (people of Balochistan) whose loved ones have been missing for years.

Several Baloch students from Islamabad visited the Baloch protest camp to show their solidarity with the families of abducted Baloch political activists. One of the female Baloch students in Islamabad while talking to BBC Urdu said that “It is devastating to see these families wandering from one city to another and knocking door of Pakistan’s impotent judiciary. She went on to say that “It is a gross Human Rights Violation that several Baloch have now been disappeared for 9-10 years. It is a big blow on the face of those so called Human Rights Organisation which claim to be protecting the Human Rights of innocent people, off course that includes the UN as well”.

Addressing the crowed Mr Nasrullah Baloch chairman of VBMP said that Balochistan and Baloch are suffering at the hands of Pakistan military from last 62 years. Baloch genocide is taking place in a planned method by the state [Pakistan]. The current ongoing military operation is the fifth offensive action against Balochistan, since the 1948, 1958, 1963 and 1973, thousands of people have been killed, many thousands displaced from their own villages, towns and cities. He alleged that presently thousands of Baloch forced disappeared person are being physically and mentally tortured in secret prisons of Pakistan military and intelligence agencies.

He said according to VBMP’s findings 200,000 people have been displaced from Dera Bugti and 250,000 people were displaced from Kohlu and Barkhan regions of Balochistan. Nasrullah Baloch also alleged that around 8,000 people including the family of Zarina Marri had been arrested & disappeared from different regions in Balochistan most of whom are still missing. He said bringing forced-disappeared Baloch to surface and releasing Baloch political activists was a part of the so called relief package for Balochistan but unfortunately the people of Balochistan have neither seen any package nor the Baloch missing persons have been released. Despite the claims of Pakistan’s PM that Baloch political prisons will be release, more and more people are still being arrested, disappeared and killed by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and security forces.

He appealed the media, Human Rights Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, and the United Nations Human Rights Council to play their role for the early and safe release of Baloch abducted persons.

Meanwhile families of two Marri Baloch have reported that two of their relatives were arrested on 17-03-2010 from Hazar Ganji fruit and vegetable market. The abducted men have been named as Master Sanam Hussein Marri Baloch and Ghulam Hussein Marri Baloch who had come from Sindh to visit their families in New Kahan Quetta, ‘also known as the “Gaza Strip” of Balochistan’. New Kahan and its residents have been under watch by Pakistani intelligence agencies and military since the dictator Musharraf came to power. Several people had been arrested form this tiny Marri populated area. The region have been under siege most the time, several people including Asad Marri Baloch, Banuk Gul Naz Marri, Murad Khan Marri have been killed by Pakistan military during raids on News Kahan.

Courtesy : Balochistan National Newspapers

UN report criticises covert troops who committed Afghan killings

UN report criticises covert troops who committed Afghan killings

Jerome Starkey

18afghanistan_385x185_697465a.jpg
Child relatives at the gravesite of five people killed, including three women, during a joint US-Afghan night raid in Paktia province

March 16, 2010

Covert troops who killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl in eastern Afghanistan went on to inflict “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” on the survivors of a botched night raid, a report by the UN said.

The family of the victims in Paktiya province have accused Nato of trying to cover up the atrocity after an investigation by The Times revealed that two men, who were also killed, were not the intended targets of the raid. One was a police commander and his brother was a district-attorney.

The unpublished UN report, which was acquired by The Times, contradicts Nato’s version of events. Rear-Admiral Greg Smith, Nato’s communications director, had said that the women had been dead for several hours when US and Afghan gunmen started shooting into the family home.

The report, written in the aftermath of the February 12 attack, states: “As a result of the operation, five people were killed, two men and three women, all belonging to the same family.” There were about 25 guests and three musicians at the house on the night of the raid. They had gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn child. It was only when a musician stepped outside to go to the lavatory at about 3.30am, that someone flashed a light in his eyes and he ran back inside shouting “Taleban”.

Witnesses said that Commander Dawood, the policeman, was shot with his son, Sediqullah, 15, when they ran across a courtyard. His brother, Saranwal Zahir, was shot trying to protest the family’s innocence. The three women were caught in a volley of fire behind him.

The UN report said that guests and injured relatives were then “assaulted by US and Afghan forces, restrained and forced to stand barefeet for several hours outside in the cold”.

“Further allegations were also raised that US and Afghan forces refused to provide adequate and timely medical support to two people who sustained bullet injuries, resulting in their deaths hours later,” the report added.

The family insist that Commander Dawood and his niece Gulalai, 18, who was engaged to be married this summer, might have survived if they had been taken to hospital sooner.

Waheedullah, 22, one of the guests at the party who works as an ambulance driver in Gardez, said that he was dragged across the compound by his hair. “The Afghans said put up your hands. I stood up and I don’t know who was behind me. I was kicked from behind and fell over,” he added.

He saw a gunman with blond hair and a fair beard. “They were American special forces,” he said. The Afghan troops were using American rifles and wore patches on their sleeves with the local phrase for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force. The Americans were wearing “wood yellow” clothes, he said, which were different from the regular army’s green uniforms.

The report also sheds light on the identity of the killers. Local US troops, who are part of the conventional US Army, denied any knowledge of the raid. “According to local authorities, the night raid was conducted by US Special Forces from Bagram, which arrived in Gardez days prior to the operation,” the report states.

:: Article nr. 64327 sent on 20-mar-2010 07:56 ECT
www.uruknet.info?p=64327

Link: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7063184.ece