Politics in Pakistan Army & Democracy

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The army generals are in charge of Pakistan; they have a firm grip over defense and security policies foreign affairs, and internal matters. There had been a struggle between the army and Nawaz Sharif for quite some time. During his second term as prime minister in the early 1990s, Sharif attempted to remove a military chief but instead had to resign himself. In 1999, Sharif replaced then army chief Pervez Musharraf,but army commanders launched a coup against Sharif, and Musharraf came to power. By 2016 Sharif faced much the same dilemma..

Pakistan’s political system is broken: its political parties are ineffective, functioning for decades as instruments of two families the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, two clans, both corrupt. The Bhutto-Zardari axis may be considered “left leaning,” while the Sharif brothers may be considered “right leaning.” The Sharifs are much closer to Pakistan’s military, and to Pakistan’s Muslim fundamentalists. Punjabi, the Sharifs represent Pakistan’s major ethnic bloc, and the devout Sunni Sharif has an advantage over the Bhuttos, who have Shiite ties.

Pakistan held successful elections in February 2008 and has a coalition goverment .Voting in Pakistan is intensely personal, with parties gathering votes primarily through allegiance to an individual candidate who is either a feudal or has a proven ability to deliver services. Pakistan is a developing country with some modern facilities in major cities but limited in outlying areas. The infrastructure of areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) regions were devastated by an October 8, 2005, earthquake and have not yet been fully rebuilt. Massive flooding in 2010 destroyed infrastructure throughout the Indus River valley.

Pakistan continues to face extraordinary challenges on the security and law enforcement front. The country has suffered greater military, law enforcement, and civilian casualties in fighting extremism and terrorism than almost any other country. In the midst of this difficult security situation, Pakistan’s civilian government remains weak, ineffectual, and corrupt.

Pakistan’s long term stability depends more and more upon the government’s willingness to confront difficult economic policy choices it has long sought to avoid. Pakistan must begin to address a breadth of economic challenges that would overwhelm many emerging economies: overhauling the tax infrastructure, eliminating over $4 billion in circular debt in its energy sector, altering revenue sharing agreements among the provinces and the Federal Government, reversing a contraction in consumer credit and expanding financial access, removing price controls in commodity markets, preventing a crisis in water distribution, and breaking Pakistan’s dependence on external financial support.

A number of extremist groups within Pakistan continue to target US citizens and other Western interests and Pakistani officials. Terrorists have demonstrated a willingness and capability to attack targets where U.S. citizens are known to congregate or visit. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings — including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices — assassinations, carjackings, assaults, and kidnappings. Pakistani military forces are currently engaged in a campaign against extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, formerly known as Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). In response to this campaign, militants have increased attacks against both civilian and goverment targets in Pakistan’s cities and in late 2010 launched several coordinated attacks against Pakistani government and civilian targets, especially in Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies.

By 2011 children of the country’s leading political figures were stepping out of their parents’ shadows and into the public realm. Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and wife of PML-N MNA Capt (Retd) Safdar, made her political debut in November 2011 while addressing a women’s convention. The 38-year-old defended her family against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s ‘asset declaration’ campaign. Defending her father, Maryam said had Nawaz completed his second term, he would have made Pakistan an economic power at par with Malaysia, Turkey and Singapore. Nawaz Sharif had groomed Member of the Provincial Assembly Hamza Shahbaz [Hamza Sharif], son of the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, for a future political role. Hamza, 40, was rocked by a succession of scandals. He was alleged to have amassed billions through speculative trading in the poultry industry. His problems were compounded when Ayesha Ahad Malik claimed she was Hamza’s legitimate wife. Maryam’s stepping out for her family and taking on a political role suggested Nawaz Sharif was not happy with the conduct and performance of Hamza Shahbaz. PML-N observers were of the view that Maryam was a far better option than Hamza Shahbaz.

The only son of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto told hundreds of thousands of supporters on December 27, 2012, the fifth anniversary of his mother’s death, that he would carry forward her legacy, an appearance designed to anoint him as a political heir. “I am the heir to the martyr,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, told the crowd in the southern province of Sindh, referring to his mother and to his grandfather, the founder of the current ruling party who was hanged by a former military ruler. “If you kill one Bhutto, there will be a Bhutto in every house Bhutto was joined by hundreds of high-ranking officials, including the current president, his father Asif Zardari, to commemorate his mother’s killing in a gun and suicide attack during a 2007 political campaign rally. He is still not old enough to contest the elections scheduled for spring 2013 – the minimum age is 25. Bhutto, who has his mother’s good looks, would only turn 25 in September 2013.

On 11 May 2013, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections, and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the third time. The election marked the first time since independence in 1947 that one elected goverment completed its term and peacefully transferred power to another. Independent observers and some political parties, however, raised concerns about election irregularities. Formal adjudication of challenges of disputed election results was weak and the high courts did not meet statutorily prescribed deadlines for adjudication in the majority of cases.

Violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nongovernmental actors contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country, particularly the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly known as the North West Frontier Province), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Militant and terrorist bombings in all four provinces and in the FATA resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, during the year 2013 terrorist and extremist attacks and operations to combat insurgency resulted in 4,369 deaths, of which nearly 2,413 were civilians, more than 544 were security forces, and more than 1,412 were terrorists or insurgents.

Discontent with the Sharif government grew in 2014 because of nationwide power shortages that have crippled economic activities in Pakistan. Moreover, critics said that a lack of clarity on how to tackle a deadly Islamist insurgency at home and reported differences with the military in terms of dealing with neighboring Afghanistan and India are primary sources of civil-military tensions.

In June 2014 prominent cleric-turned-politician Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan, vowing to organize anti-government protests. Canada-based Tahir-ul Qadri pledged a “peaceful revolution against a corrupt democracy.” But the sudden homecoming fueled speculation that Pakistan’s powerful military may be using him as a proxy in efforts to sideline the political goverment Widely known as a pro-army cleric, Qadri’s  Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) is one of the country’s best organized political parties. Its base of support is rooted in Qadri’s large following from the vast network of mosques and religious centers he set up across Pakistan. Qadri’s ability to quickly organize mass rallies and openly denounce the civilian Goverment has long been seen as evidence that he is backed by the army as a way of sidelining civilian leaders.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan demanded a full audit of the votes cast in the 2013 parliamentary elections, claiming that rigging was conducted to turn seven million votes into 15 million votes. He told a news conference on July 15 that ‘mid-term election wouldn’t derail democracy’. The PTI was pretty vague about what it would regard as victory — mid-term polls or a full audit of the May 2013 election results as was being done in Afghanistan. He called for a tsunami protest march on August 14, the Pakistan Independence Day. The Azad parade with regard to the Independence Day would be held in the morning whereas the ‘million march’ would reach Islamabad in the evening. Imran Khan knows that if Nawaz Sharif got his full term, it would be difficult for Khan and his PTI to win the next elections in 2018.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader, downplayed the impression that differences within the opposition might lead to mid-term Elections The PPP is the biggest opposition group in the National Assembly, followed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Tahir-ul-Qadri, leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), rejected Imran Khan’s demand of mid-term elections. “I am against the system of which Imran Khan is also a part.” he said, adding that revolution was the only remedy of the problems of the country. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) decided not to become a part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) agitation campaign after differences emerged at the top level. Tahirul Qadri says he wants a complete end of this corrupt system and rulers. He will stop at nothing short of a revolution, even if it entails violence.

The PML-N camp did not appear to be in the mood to concede anything to the PTI unless forced to do otherwise by the army, which did not look likely. The Saudis appeared to be betting on Nawaz, while the Americans did not seem to have any favourites. One observer noted “Mid-term election is called when there is a serious crisis, which doesn’t exist right now except that one political party that failed to get vote as per its expectations wants it”. Even the PTI’s own coalition partner in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Jamaat-e-Islami, is equally opposed to it.

Muhammad Ziauddin wrote 06 August 2014. that “the clash between Imran and Nawaz appears to be no more than a tussle between Punjab’s two right-of-centre political factions, one led by the Sharifs, masquerading as some kind of royalty, and the other by an autocratic Ultimatum Khan plus a couple of zeroes like the media-manufactured Maulana Inqilab Qadri, the two-some Chaudhries at the fag end of their political careers and the loudmouth- loser, Sheikh Rashid.”

An editorial in the Daily Times on 07 August 2014 noted that “The complexity of the political and economic situation has been completely ignored by politically immature figures such as Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. The Azadi (independence) march and the Inqilab (revolution) march of both respectively, meant to derail the democratic process only to revive it later with a fresh mid-term election or with a new system are only muddying the water instead of helping to resolve problems…”

Political bickering over alleged rigging in the 2013 elections further eroded whatever economic stability the country was aspiring to. Investment, both domestic and foreign, dwindled due to terrorism and the energy crisis.

Wonders took place after two previous long marches, the one threatened by Benazir Bhutto in 1993 and the second sponsored by Nawaz Sharif in 2009 for restoration of dysfunctional superior court judges. At that time, the PPP-led federal government had conceded to Sharif’s demands as soon as the mammoth crowd had reached Gujranwala. That deal was struck through intervention of the top general of that time. Confusing signals came from the PTI that they wanted a million people to join its tsunami march. Simultaneously, the lack of preparations was too obvious and open.

Not long after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) pioneer launched his Azadi March from Zaman Park, Lahore towards the government capital some 375 kilometers away, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) pioneer Dr Tahirul Qadri likewise reported to dispatch ‘Inqilab March’ (insurgency walk) from Model Town. Khan and Qadri have vowed that their supporters will camp out in Islamabad until Sharif agreed to step down and new elections are held. The government quarters believed Imran Khan’s less field hardened, urban crowd of 200,000 comprising mostly youth, would get tired and bored within 24 to 36 hours of the sit-in despite all the political rhetoric and emotions being shown by his camp.

The presence of Chaudhrys of Gujrat in the Qadri camp was also a dividing factor, as Imran’s PTI did not wish to carry them along, even when the most important Sharif hater of present times, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, was hell-bent on doing so. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) decided not to join the PTI either on the way to Islamabad or after reaching there. Instead, the PAT planned to reach the federal capital on August 16, a day after the PTI.

Thousands of opposition protesters rallied in Pakistan’s capital 15 August 2014 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The protests in Islamabad, led by opposition leader Imran Khan and Muslim cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, constituted the biggest challenge yet to Sharif’s year-old government. Khan and Qadri vowed their supporters will camp out in Islamabad until Mr. Sharif agrees to step down and new elections are announced. The unrest raised questions about Pakistan’s stability at a time when the army was waging an offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants in the country’s lawless tribal areas and when the influence of sectarian militant groups was growing. The rally failed to attract the vast crowds Khan had promised, and other opposition parties on August 18 distanced themselves from his appeal for civil disobedience.

Members of Sharif’s party suggested the protests are secretly backed by elements in the military, which had a troubled relationship with Sharif. The military was frustrated with the government, especially over the prosecution of former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf for treason. There had also been differences between the government and the army on how to handle the Pakistani Taliban. The government had insisted on peace talks but eventually the army launched an offensive.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaaf (PTI) party announced 18 august 2014 that its lawmakers have all decided to resign from the 34 seats they control in the country’s National Assembly. The party also said its lawmakers would resign from all provincial parliaments with the exception of the legislature in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which the party controls. That announcement meant Pakistan would have to organize a raft of fresh elections.

Tens of thousands of protesters have forced their way past a barricade of shipping containers in the Pakistani capital as they marched on parliament to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Some 40,000 Pakistani riot police and paramilitaries had used the containers to seal the “Red Zone” — the diplomatic and political district of Islamabad — before the march began.

Police did not intervene 19 August 2014 when protesters broke down barricades and forced their way into the high-security “Red Zone.” The area houses the parliament and offices of the prime minister and president along with other key government buildings. In an unexpected reaction to the political tensions, Pakistan’s powerful military called for a “meaningful dialogue” to resolve the crisis. In a brief statement, it warned that the situation requires “patience, wisdom and sagacity from the all stakeholders to end the prevailing impasse.”

Pakistan’s powerful military stepped in on August 29, 2014 to act as “mediator and guarantor” to broker a deal between embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and two anti-government leaders calling for his ouster. While the army is unlikely to grab power at a time when chronic economic, security and energy challenges are facing Pakistan, some analysts did not rule out the possibility of the military’s involvement in encouraging the anti-government protests in order to retain its share in key national matters.

Pakistan’s military rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s claims he did not ask the army to play a role in defusing the of crippling anti-government demonstrations in the capital. Sharif came under severe criticism from pro-democracy forces in the country, largely for turning to the army in his bid to resolve what analysts saw as a crisis that needed political means to settle. Pakistan’s powerful military held an unprecedented Sunday meeting of its top commanders who said the government should immediately end the standoff peacefully.

Pakistani security forces cleared hundreds of anti-government protesters from the state television studio after they seized the building on 01 September 2014 and briefly took the channel off the air. The protesters stormed into Pakistani Television, or PTV, as it carried live coverage of the demonstrators in its offices in the capital, Islamabad. Later in the day, crowds of protesters armed with wooden clubs tried to break through police lines to push their way to the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad. Police responded by firing tear gas.

Khan and Qadri’s supporters waged months of protests calling for Sharif to step down over alleged rigging of the 2013 elections that brought him to power. Sharif refused to step down, and by mid-November 2014 protesters remained camped out around the country’s parliament. Qadri gave up and left the country, although Khan was still in Pakistan and addressing his supporters.

By December 2014 even Khan’s audience in Islamabad had dwindled to a few hundred loyalists. Khan pledged to ‘shut down’ several Pakistani cities in his campaign to force the premier to step down over claims he rigged last year’s election. Khan’s campaign was due to culminate in moves to ‘close’ the whole of Pakistan later in December.

Information Minister Pervez Rasheed said 08 December 2014 that Imran Khan’s ‘Plan C’ aimed at creating chaos had begun from Faisalabad. Imran’s ‘Plan A’ was to attack democracy, ‘Plan B’ to besiege the democracy, ‘Plan C’ to create anarchy while his ‘Plan D’ is aimed at destroying democracy. But none of the plans conceived by Imran will ever succeed, he said while addressing a press conference.

Sharif spent most of 2014 locked in disputes with the powerful military, with tens of thousands of protesters camped near the prime minister’s residence demanding that he resign. During those protests, speculation mounted that the military was considering a coup to oust Sharif. In order to keep his job, Sharif reportedly conceded foreign-policy decisions to the military.

The United Nations, the European Union, and human rights groups have deplored the government’s heavy-handed measures taken following the Pakistani Taliban’s gruesome ambush of a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014 that left 147 people dead, the deadliest ever attack in Pakistan. Pakistan hanged more than 300 people since lifting a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014. Many were convicted in closed military courts, which critics say fail to meet fair trial standards.

Mumtaz Qadri was executed in February 2016 at the order of the Islamabad High Court five years after he assassinated a liberal Punjab governor over his calls to reform the country’s blasphemy laws. Thousands of hard-line Islamists rallied in the heart of the Pakistani capital for four days to denounce Qadri’s execution and to call for the introduction of strict Shari’a law in Pakistan. The sit-in protest ended on 31 March 2016 after protest leaders said they were given assurances that controversial blasphemy laws would not be amended and more than 1,000 Islamists detained by police during the protest would be released. The government, however, denied it had acceded to any of the protesters’ demands.

The PM has found himself in a difficult situation following the April 2016 “revelations” made by the so-called Panama Papers. Leaked documents show that three of the prime minister’s children had links with offshore companies that owned properties in London. One clear sign of the political pressure felt by the Sharif family from the Panama Paper scandal was that the family reportedly discussed the possibility of the prime minister stepping down for two three months while an independent commission conducted an inquiry. One possible replacement could be Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. In case the PM’s post needs to be filled until the 2018 elections then getting Shahbaz Sharif or Ishaq Dar elected as members of the National Assembly and then getting them elected PM was also considered by the family.

 

CURRENT GLOBAL POLITICAL SCENARIO

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Globally we face a multiple crisis of the economy, energy, food, and of the ecology of the planet. The world is slowly and gradually changing from a unipolar world to a multipolar world, where there are numerous centres of power. Even though it is a subtle process and the USA still holds a superior status, yet the process of change has already taken the first step.

Alternate centres of power have been developed in the world. The European Union, ASEAN- Association of South East Asian countries, SAARC- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, BRICS- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are the organizations, which are slowly and gradually gaining more and more political influence in the international scenario. Even US President Barack Obama said that, “The country he inherits will no longer be able to call the shots alone, as its power over an increasingly Multi-polar world begins to wane”.

Common international problems like environment issues, economic downfalls and terrorism also add to the fact of reducing gaps between the international issues thus giving them a common ground. Global governance and multilateralism would also strengthen the concept of a multipolar world. Hence it can be concluded that even though the world today is not completely multi polar, it is not completely unipolar either.

Natural resources, particularly in the form of clean water and food are ranking candidates to end up fighting over. The First World War was about land grabs. World War Two was about the hearts and minds of different ideologies. The Global security is a delicate balance and it may not take much for it to descend into a global war in a world of 7.5 billion human beings.

The important role that international peacekeeping forces play is maintaining international peace and stability. UN and regional peacekeeping is a strategic priority for the United States. These efforts made by the U.S. with the international community, is helping to save lives and prevent the escalation of conflict. Not only do the UN and regional peacekeeping operations help prevent countries and regions from sliding into chaos, but their very presence reduces the likelihood that military will be called upon

Saudi king labels Israeli offensive in Gaza a war crime

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah criticised international inaction over Israel's offensive in Gaza, which he described as involving mass slaughter and “war crimes against humanity”, in a speech read out on his behalf on state television. -Reuters Photo

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel’s offensive and describing this as a war crime and “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as a leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has played only a background role in the diplomacy to reinstate calm in Gaza, leaving the main Arab pursuit of a ceasefire to close ally Egypt and fellow Gulf monarchy Qatar.

“We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that did not exclude anyone, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality,” Abdullah said in a brief speech read out on his behalf on state television.

“This (international) community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification.”

His speech, which focused mainly on what he described as a Middle East-wide threat from militancy, followed criticism by some Saudis on social media, including prominent clerics, over Riyadh’s quiet response to the Gaza crisis.


Political complications


The kingdom’s policy towards Gaza is complicated by its mistrust of the territory’s ruling Hamas, a movement with close ideological and political links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh regards as a terrorist organisation.

Saudi Arabia believes the Brotherhood has a region-wide agenda to seize power from established government leaders, including the kingdom’s al-Saud dynasty, and has quarrelled with Qatar over its support for the group.

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates, said the speech was a bid to rebut accusations that Saudi Arabia – along with allies Egypt and the UAE – was happy to see Hamas weakened by Israel’s offensive, which was prompted in part by increasing Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

“People want to see a stronger position from these three countries and it is not coming over very strongly,” he said.

The kingdom’s muted response to the crisis so far has been echoed across a region already absorbed by a series of civil wars, insurgencies and internal political strife that have erupted in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings.

Since the Israeli air and ground onslaught began, Saudi Arabia’s public expressions of condemnation over the violence have been mostly limited to statements following the weekly cabinet meetings, and to pledges of humanitarian aid.

Newspaper coverage, which often follows the official line in Saudi Arabia, has often relegated the conflict to inside pages in sharp contrast to previous Israeli incursions into Gaza.

Some editorials have taken the rare step of blaming Hamas for the bloodshed, in which 1,509 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed, rather than Israel. There have been 66 Israeli deaths, 63 of them soldiers.

Riyadh took a far more prominent role at past junctures of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It sponsored the 2002 Arab peace initiative offering the Jewish state an end to conflict with all Arab states in return for the creation of a Palestinian state and return of Palestinian refugees. Israel rejected it.

Since the offensive began, however, King Abdullah has met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon to discuss the crisis.


Ceasefire collapse


The conflict in Gaza has coincided with Saudi attempts to navigate multiple regional crises, including political chaos in Egypt, two separate insurgencies in its neighbour Yemen and wars in Iraq and Syria.

This regional turmoil is set against Saudi Arabia’s bitter rivalry with Shia power Iran and its fears of rising influence exerted by Sunni militant groups the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which seek to topple the al-Saud dynasty.

In his speech, Abdullah condemned militants who he said were killing innocent people and mutilating their bodies in contravention of Islamic teachings.

He also called on the region’s leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being hijacked by militants.

He further said he was disappointed by the lack of any follow-up from other countries to his proposal two years ago to establish an international centre to combat terrorism.

Israel declared a Gaza ceasefire over on Friday only hours after it was announced, saying Hamas militants violated the pact 90 minutes after it took effect and apparently captured an Israeli officer while killing two other soldiers.

The truce was the most ambitious attempt yet to end the fighting and followed increasing international alarm over the soaring Palestinian civilian death toll.

Turkish PM slams Israel for ‘Hitler-like fascism’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. -File Photo

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday launched one of his strongest attacks yet on Israel over its offensive in the Gaza Strip, accusing the Jewish state of showing “Hitler-like fascism” against the Palestinians.

Speaking at a mass rally in eastern Turkey to promote his candidacy in presidential elections, Erdogan said he was happy to give back an award that was bestowed upon him by an American Jewish Group in 2004.

The American Jewish Congress wants the decoration to be returned after protesting Erdogan’s bitter attacks where he has compared Israel to the Third Reich which slaughtered millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

“If you support this cruelty, this genocide, this Hitler-like fascism and child murderer regime, take your award back,”

Erdogan said at the election rally in the eastern province of Van.

In typically bombastic mood wearing a casual shirt and sunglasses, Erdogan showed no sign of reining in rhetoric that has angered not just Israel but also Ankara’s Nato ally the United States.

“What is the difference between Israeli actions and those of the Nazis and Hitler?” he asked.

“How can you explain what the Israeli state has been doing in Gaza, Palestine, if not genocide?” he said.

“This is racism. This is fascism. This is keeping Hitler’s spirit alive, “he added.

Erdogan, who presents himself as a champion of Palestinian rights, has heightened his criticism of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, firing almost daily tirades at election rallies in the run-up to the August 10 presidential vote.

The premier has faced accusations of anti-Semitism from Israel and American Jewish groups but said the record of Turkey and himself on protecting Jews was irreproachable.

“Who stood up for Jews at a time when they were expelled from their home countries? It was our ancestors, it was the Ottomans,” he said, referring to the sanctuary given to Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century.

“Aren’t you embarrassed? How immoral you are…. It is us who protects the Jews on our soil and lets them live safely. “

His rhetoric has already put an end to any chance of Turkey and Israel normalising their relations, following the storming by Israel of a Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza in 2010 that left 10 activists dead.

Praying for the children in Gaza and Syria


My Eid is dedicated to the brave & innocent kids of Gaza! May Allah protect them.

Just imagine this young boy was your brother or son what will you do??

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Israel targets more mosques in Gaza…

This is what Israel calls “defending itself” killing innocent children and women. all what Israel kills is civilians.

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UN: ‘world stands disgraced’ as shelter for Gaza children is shelled by Israel

A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries

A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries caused by an Israeli tank shelling at a UN school in Jebaliya refugee camp, 30 July 2014

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said the shelling of the school, being operated by the UN as a refugee camp, was a “serious violation of international law”

United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday.

At least 15 people, mostly children and women, died when the school in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza. More than 100 people were injured.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said the attack was “outrageous and unjustifiable” and demanded “accountability and justice”. The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel.

Fighting in Gaza continued through the day despite a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire called by Israel from 3pm. A crowded market in Shujai’iya was hit in the late afternoon, causing at least 17 deaths, including a journalist, and injuring about 200 people, according to Gaza health officials. They said people had ventured out to shop in the belief a ceasefire was in place. Witnesses said several shells struck as people were running away. Israel said rockets and mortar shells continued to be fired from Gaza.

At the UN school the first shell came just after the early morning call to prayer, when most of those taking shelter were asleep, crammed into classrooms with what few possessions they had managed to snatch as they fled their homes.

About 3,300 people have squashed into Jabaliya Elementary A&B Girls’ School since the Israeli military warned people to leave their homes and neighbourhoods or risk death under intense bombardment. Classroom number one, near the school’s entrance, had become home to about 40 people, mostly women and children.

As a shell blasted through the wall, showering occupants with shrapnel and spattering blood on walls and floors, Amna Zantit, 31, scrambled to gather up her three terrified infants in a panicked bid for the relative safety of the schoolyard. “Everyone was trying to escape,” she said, clutching her eight-month old baby tightly. Minutes later, a second shell slammed through the roof of the two-storey school. At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 injured. Most were women or children.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said the shelling of the school was a “serious violation of international law by Israeli forces”.

Krahenbuhl said: “Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN-designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

Khalil al-Halabi, the UN official in charge of the schools in the area, was quickly on the scene. Bodies were littered over the classroom, and the badly injured lay in pools of blood amid the debris and rubble caused by the blast. “I was shaking,” he said. “It was very, very hard for me to see the blood and hear the children crying.”

By daylight, the detritus of people’s lives was visible among ruins of the classroom: a ball, a bucket, some blankets, tins of food, a pair of flip-flops. The corpses of donkeys, used to haul the meagre possessions of refugees to what they thought was safety, lay at the school’s entrance as two lads wearing Palestinian boy scout scarves collected human body parts for burial. Five of the injured were in a critical condition in hospital.

Halabi was facing impossible requests for advice from those who escaped the carnage. “These people are very angry. They evacuated their homes and came here for protection, not to be killed inside a UN shelter. Now they are asking me whether to stay or leave. They are very frightened. They don’t know what to do.”

The attack on the school was the sixth time that UNRWA premises have been hit since the war in Gaza began more than three weeks ago, the UN said.

Palestinians fled their homes after Israel warned that failure to do so would put their lives at risk. Those at the Jabaliya school were among more than 200,000 who have sought shelter at UN premises in the belief that families would be safe.

Analysis of evidence gathered at the site by UNRWA led to an initial assessment that Israeli artillery had hit the school, causing “multiple civilian deaths and injuries including of women and children and the UNRWA guard who was trying to protect the site. These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army.”

Krahenbuhl added: “Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response, are being killed. Our shelters are overflowing. Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue.”

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said it was investigating the incident at the UN school. Initial inquiries showed that “Hamas militants fired mortar shells from the vicinity of the school, and [Israeli] soldiers responded by firing towards the origins of the fire”, a spokeswoman said.

A UN source said there was no evidence of militant activity inside the school.

The US, which has been at odds with Isarael’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over efforts to secure a ceasefire, condemned the school shelling but did not specifically blame Israel.

The incident comes after an explosion at another UN school in Beit Hanoun last week as the playground was filled with families awaiting evacuation. Israel denied responsibility for the deaths, saying a single “errant” shell fired by its forces hit the school playground, which was empty at the time.

UNRWA has rejected the IDF’s account, saying an initial shell was followed by several others within minutes. Reporters who visited the school shortly afterwards said damage and debris was consistent with mortar rounds. UNRWA has found rockets at three of its schools in Gaza in the past three weeks, which it has swiftly condemned as “flagrant violation[s] of the neutrality of our premises”.

Israel says militants from Hamas and other organisations launch rockets from the vicinity of UNRWA properties.

The Israeli military said it had targeted more than 4,100 sites in Gaza since the start of the conflict on 8 July. The death toll in Gaza rose above 1,300 on Wednesday.

Three soldiers were killed in fighting around Khan Younis, bringing the total IDF death toll to 56. Three civilians have died in rocket attacks on Israel.

In an emotional statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the “destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering”.

He said: “You can’t look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grandchildren, from ever worse violence.”

He called for a renewed “commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinians”.

Support for the military operation among the Israeli public remained solid. A poll published by Tel Aviv university this week found 95% of Israeli Jews felt the offensive was justified. Only 4% believed too much force had been used.

The million dollar question at COP19: Where’s the money?

The COP 15 at Copenhagen was probably the most hyped up one of all the Conference of the Parties, and one of the most disappointing. Despite the presence of so many Heads of State, including the newly elected US President Obama, there was hardly any outcome that could be called encouraging, especially for the countries most threatened by climate change. No wonder people called it a COP-OUT!

Be that as it may, these Conferences are extremely important. Four years down the road, COP19 opened its doors in Warsaw, Poland, buoyed by the IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change) report that has actually taken the wind out of the sails of all climate change deniers, by presenting incontrovertible proof of climate change.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: “This Working Group I Summary for Policymakers provides important insights into the scientific basis of climate change. It provides a firm foundation for considerations of the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems and ways to meet the challenge of climate change.”

And challenge it is, especially for countries like Pakistan, who have once again figured high on the Global Climate Risk Index. Prepared by Germanwatch, the Global Climate Risk Index 2014analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves, etc.). The most recent data available — from 2012 and 1993-2012 — were taken into account. The countries affected most in 2012 were Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan. For the period from 1993 to 2012 Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti rank highest.

As far as the current COP is concerned, the lead author of Pakistan’s Climate Change Policy, Dr. Qamaruzzaman Chaudhury, former Director General Meteorology Department, and currently Senior Advisor to LEAD Pakistan does not see anything groundbreaking happening in Warsaw.

According to him, “COP19 is being held in the context of growing threat from climate change yet limited actions are taking place. We cannot expect a great deal from this COP 19, as it is essentially a preparatory to COP 21 planned during 2015. As such Pakistan should try to focus on the following areas where some progress is expected:

a) implementation of the Durban Platform around adaptation, loss and damage,
b) finance and,
c) an agreed process on national commitments to the 2015 deal.”

This is essential as most experts and those who have been following the negotiations over the years feel that it is about time some real financing saw the light of day, especially as all the mechanisms and organisational structures are in place.

Developing countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Haiti and now Philippines, who have been so badly hit by extreme events, need financing from the Adaptation Fund to develop adequate coping mechanism. Dr. Pervaiz Amir, who was a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change in the previous regime, and is a leading agro economist, says, “Cop 19 in Warsaw Poland will try to break the stalemates of SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice ) which ended at a deadlock in Bonn which I attended this year. Indications are that countries will try to get some timetable in place for carbon emissions reduction.

IPCC warnings need to be heeded to and its 5th report provides new knowledge for debate and discussion. Pakistan should stress for funding for adaptation and urge for urgent action for the most vulnerable populations. It requires much help in agriculture, water and energy adaptation. It should highlight its plight and seek joint venture funding for the above priority areas.

At Copenhagen, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, as well as the Minister for Environment had both represented the country. After the 18th Amendment, the subject has been devolved to the provinces, and the Ministry is now a Division. However, to look at the upside, now the Prime Minister himself holds the portfolio of Environment. Will that fact have any bearing on Pakistan’s stance at the COP 19, still needs to be seen.

The official delegation to Warsaw has as its members the Director General Environment, and the Secretary Environment. What should they be pitching for and how should they safeguard Pakistan’s interest there?

Malik Amin Aslam, former Minister of State for Environment and Global Vice President, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature, believes that Pakistan,

Being a country extremely vulnerable to climate change, Pakistan has a direct stake into the success of the climate negotiations at COP19. In particular, the country negotiation team needs to press for the climate finance architecture to start delivering on its promise for adaptation finance and for the Durban platform negotiations to shape up into a truly robust post-2015 climate agreement. Pakistan is already facing climate adaptation costs to the tune of billions of dollars every year and can ill afford another round of procrastinated political negotiations. The country needs to ensure that its climate vulnerability is reflected in all UNFCCC categorisations and it also need to remain closely aligned to the debate on the “loss and damage” instrument so that its contours can be framed to compensate countries like Pakistan.

The Conference has commenced and already many feel it is a run up to the 2015 one, where the Kyoto Protocol will be up for review. For Pakistan, it is important that the focus remain on getting a good bargain for the country due to its extreme vulnerability. For that to happen, however, the climate change narrative needs to be mainstreamed in the media, at the policy and planning level, and at the community level as they are the ones facing the brunt of the disasters that keep visiting due to the changing climate.

The richer, developed countries, especially those that are responsible for much of the effects on the climate, need to shoulder their responsibilities not only by mitigating the causes, but also by making the resources available to the countries which need to take adaptive measures. They may not be the cause, but are certainly being impacted by the results of climate change, and need to be compensated.