Court Challenges Put Unusual Spotlight on Pakistani Spy Agency

By DECLAN WALSH

LAHORE, Pakistan — Long unchallenged, Pakistan’s top spy agency faces a flurry of court actions that subject its darkest operations to unusual scrutiny, amid growing calls for new restrictions on its largely untrammeled powers.

The cases against the agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, have uncertain chances of success, analysts say, and few believe that they can immediately hobble it. But they do represent a rare challenge to a feared institution that is a cornerstone of military supremacy in Pakistan.

In the first case, due for a hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court has ordered the ISI to produce in court seven suspected militants it has been holding since 2010 — and to explain how four other detainees from the same group died in mysterious circumstances over the past six months.

The second challenge, due for a hearing on Feb. 29, revives a long-dormant vote-rigging scandal, which focuses on illegal donations of $6.5 million as part of a covert, and ultimately successful, operation to influence the 1990 election.

The cases go to the heart of the powers that have given the ISI such an ominous reputation among Pakistanis: its ability to detain civilians at will, and its freedom to meddle in electoral politics. They come at the end of a difficult 12 months for the spy service, which has faced sharp criticism over the killing of Osama bin Laden by American commandos inside Pakistan and, in recent weeks, its role in a murky political scandal that stoked rumors of a military coup.

Now its authority is being challenged from an unexpected quarter: the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Only weeks ago, Justice Chaudhry, an idiosyncratic judge, faced accusations of being soft on the military when he inserted the courts into a bruising battle between the government and army.

Now Justice Chaudhry seems determined to prove that he can take on the army, too.

“This is a reaction to public opinion,” said Ayaz Amir, an opposition politician from Punjab. “The court wants to be seen to represent the popular mood.”

The court’s daring move has found broad political support. Last Friday, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, compared the military to a “mafia” during a National Assembly debate about the plight of the four detainees who died in ISI custody.

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DAWN – US Congressional hearing may spell trouble for Pakistan

By Malik Siraj Akbar

The United States (US) Committee on Foreign Affairs is set to convene a congressional hearing on Wednesday (February 8), for an exclusive discussion on Balochistan.

The extraordinary event has generated great interest among followers of Pakistan-US relations, as the allies’ mutual relationship seems to be deteriorating. The powerful House of Representatives committee oversees America’s foreign assistance programs and experts believe it can recommend halting US assistance to Pakistan over human rights violation in Balochistan.

Calls for ‘independence’
While Islamabad has strictly treated Balochistan as an internal matter, the debate on such a divisive topic by the powerful committee has highlighted the level of American interest in Balochistan and its support, if any, for the nationalist movement. On its part, Pakistan has kept Washington at arm’s length on the Balochistan issue, by refusing to grant it permission to open a consulate in Quetta.

A Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who recently co-authored an article with Congressman Louie Gohmert expressing support for an independent Balochistan, will chair the hearing.

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Killing OBL & US citizenship for Dr Shakil Afridi, says congressman

US citizenship for Dr Shakil Afridi, says congressman

By Huma Imtiaz

WASHINGTON: A United States (US) Congressman has submitted a bill to the House of Representatives asking to grant US citizenship to Dr Shakil Afridi, the doctor who provided vital help to the US in finding Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

The bill submitted by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on Friday, called for Dr Afridi to be deemed “a naturalized citizen of the United States.”

In his speech in Congress, Rohrabacher, who is also the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight, said, “Pakistan’s Inquiry Commission on the Abbottabad Operation, the US mission which killed bin Laden, has recommended that Dr Afridi be tried for treason for helping the US. If convicted, he could be executed. My bill would grant him US citizenship and send a direct and powerful message to those in the Pakistani government and military who protected the mastermind of 9/11 for all those years and who are now seeking retribution on those who helped to execute bin Laden.”

Rohrabacher cited media reports that Dr Afridi’s wife, an American citizen of Pakistani origin was also missing. “This bill shows the world that America does not abandon its friends,”  adding that 21 members of Congress had endorsed the bill as well.

The bill, which was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, comes after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in an interview last week that Dr Afridi had provided key intelligence that led to the raid in Abbottabad.

Media reports had earlier said that Dr Afridi had organized a polio vaccination campaign in the city for the Central Intelligence Agency, in order to collect DNA sample to prove that the al Qaeda leader was present in the Abbottabad compound.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

http://tribune.com.pk/story/332342/us-citizenship-for-dr-shakil-afridi-says-us-congressman/

Congratulations – Pakistan defeats England 3-0

England slump to humiliating 71-run defeat as Pakistan complete 3-0 series whitewash

By Sportsmail Reporter

England’s miserable Test tour of the Middle East reached an appropriately sorry conclusion today with a 71-run defeat, and resulting 3-0 whitewash, against Pakistan.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-2097152/England-lose-Test-Pakistan-slump-3-0-whitewash.html#ixzz1lc5NmQwZ

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The Dönmeh heritage, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk & Modern Turkey

The Dönmeh: The Middle East’s Most Whispered Secret (Part I)

By Wayne MADSEN

There is a historical “eight hundred pound gorilla” lurking in the background of almost every serious military and diplomatic incident involving Israel, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Greece, Armenia, the Kurds, the Assyrians, and some other players in the Middle East and southeastern Europe. It is a factor that is generally only whispered about at diplomatic receptions, news conferences, and think tank sessions due to the explosiveness and controversial nature of the subject. And it is the secretiveness attached to the subject that has been the reason for so much misunderstanding about the current breakdown in relations between Israel and Turkey, a growing warming of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and increasing enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran…

Although known to historians and religious experts, the centuries-old political and economic influence of a group known in Turkish as the “Dönmeh” is only beginning to cross the lips of Turks, Arabs, and Israelis who have been reluctant to discuss the presence in Turkey and elsewhere of a sect of Turks descended from a group of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries. These Jewish refugees from Spain were welcomed to settle in the Ottoman Empire and over the years they converted to a mystical sect of Islam that eventually mixed Jewish Kabbala and Islamic Sufi semi-mystical beliefs into a sect that eventually championed secularism in post-Ottoman Turkey. It is interesting that “Dönmeh” not only refers to the Jewish “untrustworthy converts” to Islam in Turkey but it is also a derogatory Turkish word for a transvestite, or someone who is claiming to be someone they are not.

The Donmeh sect of Judaism was founded in the 17th century by Rabbi Sabbatai Zevi, a Kabbalist who believed he was the Messiah but was forced to convert to Islam by Sultan Mehmet IV, the Ottoman ruler. Many of the rabbi’s followers, known as Sabbateans, but also “crypto-Jews,” publicly proclaimed their Islamic faith but secretly practiced their hybrid form of Judaism, which was unrecognized by mainstream Jewish rabbinical authorities. Because it was against their beliefs to marry outside their sect, the Dönmeh created a rather secretive sub-societal clan.

The Dönmeh rise to power in Turkey
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