Battleground Islamabad: Imran vows to advance as clashes continue

By AFP | AP | Dawn.com | Mateen Haider | Irfan Haider

Excerpt;  “This is anarchy, not a revolution. Imran Khan is responsible for this situation,” political analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais told DawnNews.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1128786/pti-pat-protesters-enter-parliament

Imran’s move towards PM House prompted by a message: Javed Hashmi

By Dawn.com

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) president Javed Hashmi on Sunday addressed a press conference and called on the PTI chief Imran Khan to leave Parliament House.

Hashmi clarified the position on his differences with the party chief saying: “Imran Khan had assured the party of not moving ahead towards the Prime Minister House…until Shaikh Raheed brought a message with someone”.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1129002/imran-began-to-move-towards-pm-house-after-getting-a-message-javed-hashmi

Saving the Incompetent Sharif Brothers and this Rapacious Unfair System

By Omar

We know from history that the skill, wisdom and effort (and oodles of luck) needed to build and sustain a working democratic system (whatever you may think of the pros and cons of such a system is a separate and interesting discussion) in one of the ex-colonial countries is orders of magnitude greater than the skill needed to just run a functional government for a few years. Saddam, Gaddafi, Ayub Khan, they all ran functional regimes and even made their Universities conduct their examinations on time. But none had a system with adequate checks and balances or the mechanism to transfer power smoothly from one elite clique to another without having to shoot the other clique first.
It may be possible to repair the effects of poor governance by this or that democratic regime in a few years, but if the system as a whole is undermined and devalued, then it may never get working again, or may take decades to repair. Political authority (like money) is a shared (useful) illusion. Puncture the illusion and what is left is naked force (or, if enough of asabiya exists, a monarchy; whether called a monarchy or under some other name).

Given our history, it is a significant achievement that all parties participated in a reasonably (by our standards) fair election under reasonably (by our standards) neutral caretaker administrations and an actual transfer of power took place peacefully. All that progress can be (and is) being undermined by this sustained campaign against democracy and civilian politics (with TUQ playing a conscious and Imran Khan a characteristically semi-conscious role in the undermining). That the Sharifs are not the best rulers is hardly debatable, but that the system should be wound up on that account is a disastrous step beyond the punishment of the Sharifs for any specific crime or misdemeanor. They must be removed from within the system or else they must be tolerated for their term. There is no third choice.

We know very well from our history that the next step in the paknationalist (aka PMA) framework is a “technocratic government of all talents” and we also know that in short order that will prove worse than the poor Sharifs and will lack even the rickety checks and balances that limit the damage done by the Sharifs or any other democratically elected crook. Beyond that, we also know that the institutional biases of the Pakistani army in particular are utterly opposed to the rights of smaller nationalities and are determined to pursue suicidal and extremely disruptive policies with respect to relations with our neighbors and with the wider world. The Sharif brothers dalliances with ASWJ notwithstanding, it is the army that is most responsible for creating and sustaining various sectarian and islamofascist tendencies in the body politic. For all these (and other) reasons, this latest farcical soft coup is very bad news.

Finally, it is good to keep in mind that it is not all fun and games…there really IS a bottom. One fine day the whole shithouse could go up in flames (as East Pakistan did in 1971); and what follows could then cause significant discomfort even to those whose low opinion of the Sharifs or of bourgeois politics or of the current politicians, makes them look kindly upon any disruption to the system...

I would add that I have come around to agreeing with those who think that NONE of the major VISIBLE players really had a detailed plan or a script that has been faithfully followed during this farce. But that does not mean that there is no one with a coherent agenda. There are people with coherent agendas and they make hay while the sun shines on Imran Khan’s empty chairs. Just as the ASWJ terrorists are pursuing their agenda, the “Paknationalists” in the intelligence agencies are pursuing theirs. Sharifs (including Raheel Shareef) may have no plan and may be blundering in the dark, but some people have plans and most of them are dangerous…

Courtesy: Brown Pundits
http://brownpundits.blogspot.ca/2014/08/saving-incompetent-sharif-brothers-and.html?spref=fb

Is Imran Khan the biggest threat to democracy in Pakistan?

On the website of the leading Pakistani daily Dawn, two (of the four) articles in the section dedicated to editorials are as follows: ‘PTI’s bizarre proposals‘ and ‘The mask of anarchy‘.

The first, presumably written by the edit page staff of the paper, underlines the absurdity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s demands placed before the Nawaz Sharif government. Last week, the protest march, led by Imran Khan had stormed Islamabad’s red zone, proceeded towards the country’s parliament with next to no resistance from the government.

While, it was read as a victory for the protesters demanding Nawaz Sharif resign immediately the events that followed revealed that Sharif had played well. Because in the course of the next few days, the events unfolded in a way to make Imran Khan look increasingly vacuous, while Sharif held fort, quietly. From threatening to storming Sharif’s house, Imran Khan came down to demanding a temporary resignation, where he asked Sharif to step aside for a month so that the judicial commission’s enquiry into the alleged rigging in the country’s polls concluded without government pressure.

Naturally, national and international media reacted with ridicule. Almost in the way India’s media reacted when AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal first organised a dharna against his city’s police force, then quit the government and then decided to run for the general elections this year by challenging Narendra Modi. Like Kejriwal’s recent political trajectory in India, Imran Khan’s gimmicky ‘protest’ has not been received well by the media in Pakistan and abroad.

Understandably, therefore, the editorial in Dawn punches several holes in PTI’s stand on the Nawaz Sharif government by observing, “Consider that the very elections that the PTI is disputing were held under a caretaker government. Clearly then, even within the PTI’s scheme of things, if the PML-N was allegedly able to rig an election when not in office, could it not affect the outcome of a judicial inquiry when the party has governments at both the centre and in the principally electorally disputed province of Punjab?”

Almost as a nod to Dawn’s stand, an editorial on another Pakistan daily Express Tribune describes Imran Khan’s situation as ‘Lose Lose’. Talking about Khan’s grand announcements, the writer Saroop Ijaz says about PTI’s stir, “Everybody wants it to stop, except maybe Mr Imran Khan. One can only speculate on how those who truly care for him will be pained to see all this happening to him. It is all heading towards ending with a whimper; any banging sound will only be made by heads.”

The second editorial in Dawn spells it out without mincing words: “What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?”

Writer Babar Sattar observes, “If its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.”

And it’s not just Pakistanis who seem to be discomfited by Imran Khan’s flashy political rhetoric and confusing political message. New York Times’ Declan Walsh observes in a piece on the protest that the mood at the protests is mostly carnival-esque. He writes, “On the streets, Mr. Khan’s movement has the boisterous feel of a midsummer music festival. Pop stars introduce his speeches, which are punctuated by songs during which his supporters, many of them women, burst into dance. A disc jockey known as DJ Butt is part of his entourage.”

It’s almost impossible to ignore the glaring similarities with the anti-corruption movement started by Anna Hazare, steeped in rousing youth support. Like that movement was almost a performed, with all its pop culture ramifications, Imran Khan’s ‘protest’ seems theatrical, almost an elaborate attempt to confer heroism on Imran Khan, anew.

It’s equally hard to ignore, how, like the anti-corruption movement that AAP’s grandiose anti-establishment politicking ran out of fizz. And the latter got branded as ‘anarchists’ – a brand they anyway decided to flaunt with impudence. However, the petulance had its effect on the voters, reflected in the shoddy performance of the party in the general elections.

Imran Khan, might, well be headed in the direction. The Wall Street Journal notes that despite all the sound and fury, despite Khan promising at least a million protesters, the officials numbers could be anything between just 20,000 and 50,000. Definitely not more than 60,000.

Like we had noted in our live blog in the past, Khan’s call to stop paying taxes and utility bills was met were severe criticism from the business communities and intellectuals of the country who pointed out that he is encouraging the citizens to serve a death blow to their own country’s economy.

Also, PTI’s voters in Peshawar were reportedly wary of Khan’s theatrics and said that none of the promises made to them have even been taken up by Khan in the past few months. The region continues to suffer from the same old ills.

Walsh notes in The New York Times article, “Mr. Khan’s call for supporters to stop paying taxes and utility bills met with widespread derision because few Pakistanis pay income taxes, and the country is already crippled with power shortages.” Much like Kejriwal’s call to Delhi to stop paying bills was met with a fair amount of concern.

If the alarm bells ringing about Khan manage to shake his voters up, this protest movement might be just his undoing.

Courtesy: First Post
http://m.firstpost.com/world/is-imran-khan-the-biggest-threat-to-democracy-in-pakistan-1680387.html

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On army chief’s advice, govt to pursue talks with PTI, PAT again

By Kamran Yousaf

The government on Thursday approached both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give talks one more chance.

Prime minister and army chief met for the second time in three days against the backdrop of government’s lingering deadlock with PTI and PAT.

Insiders told The Express Tribune that Nawaz briefed the army chief about talks with Qadri and Imran.

According to sources, the premier told General Raheel that government had agreed to accept first two demands of PAT in return for Qadri calling off the sit-in outside the Parliament.

But an agreement could not be reached after Qadri refused to accept the government’s condition, sources said.

Sources further said the army chief advised the prime minister to give talks one more chance and after which the government decided to approach both PTI and PAT.

A senior government official claimed that the army chief conveyed a clear message to both Qadri and Imran to resolve the impasse through dialogue.

“It was agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of stalled process of negotiations for an expeditious resolution in the best national interest,” the spokesperson for the PM House added.

The crucial meeting was held hours after talks between government and Qadri broke down on Wednesday evening over the registration of First Information Report (FIR) of Model Town incident.

Following the meeting between the COAS and premier, the government agreed to accept Qadri’s demand of FIR.

The official while requesting anonymity also said the next 24 hours would be very crucial.

He also insisted that the army chief extended his support to the government in the face off of brewing political tensions.

However, army officials could not be reached for their reaction on the meeting between General Raheel and Nawaz Sharif.

Later, both PAT and PTI accepted army chief’s role as mediator and guarantor to end the crisis.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune
http://tribune.com.pk/story/754978/coas-asked-to-help-resolve-political-impasse/#.U_-DM1r3lvQ.facebook

Govt should voluntarily step down to avoid bloodshed, says Altaf Hussain

By Dawn.com

LONDON: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain terming all demands of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri as ‘valid’, has said that it would be in the country’s interest if the government voluntarily stepped down to avoid any bloodshed, DawnNews reported.

Talking about the anti-government sit-ins being held in the federal capital city and a possible government reaction, Hussain said that the government should consider the safety of women and children, participating in the sit-ins.

He further cited that the ‘third force’ would have to intervene, if Tahirul Qardi did not step back voluntarily.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1128264/govt-should-voluntarily-step-down-to-avoid-bloodshed-says-altaf-hussain

Pakistan: To Coup or not to Coup

By Ayesha Siddiqa

Excerpt;

Someone watching Pakistan from afar would really wonder if the state has not begun to resemble some of the countries in Africa. There is a deep power struggle amongst the ruling elite that totally ignores the fact that the country and its people cannot afford this kind of life style. Anarchy, in fact, has become Pakistan’s trademark. The battle for and obsession with power is to a degree that while challenging opponents leaders do not consider longer interest of the state and its people. Asking people not to pay taxes or sending money through official channels is not just about starving the government. It is about establishing a very bad habit that the country can ill-afford. What if Imran Khan makes the government tomorrow which does not meet an ideal standard that he seems to have set for his followers? This is not protest but a criminalisation of politics which is as bad as some of what he seems to object to.

We hear little about the negative impact of the current state of politics. People are actually losing opportunities and the economy is bleeding money faster than usual. The small and medium entrepreneurs that I talked to recently in various cities of Punjab complained about how business has almost dried up since the marches were announced. The reason people are not crying out loud and surviving is probably due to a parallel economy. The pro-government rallies are not likely to help improve conditions but increase the threat of a real conflict. Many believe that the clash between mobs is what might open doors for a hard coup.

Perhaps, the powers that be should take a plunge. It will be interesting to see what they then feel about a world they created themselves. The establishment and its many intellectual clients often refer to the Bangladesh model. What they often forget is that Dhaka’s political system or people’s choices did not change even with intervention. The challenges are far bigger than what some of the foreign qualified Chicago trained economists, commercial bankers or development gurus could manage to even understand. The US has some of the best universities but it has also produced experts that have often messed up with developing states rather than put things right. The question is can Pakistan afford such experimentation?

This is a not a moment for personal egos but for compromises which aim at benefiting the country and not just the individual. Instead of aiming at resignation of the prime minister it would help if Imran and Qadri could extract commitment for transparent institutional changes which will take this country a long way. If not then we have terribly lost our way into an endless abyss.

Courtesy: Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.
http://tribune.com.pk/story/754389/to-coup-or-not-to-coup/

Musharraf supports public’s demand for ‘change’

By Dawn.com

KARACHI: In an interview with a private TV channel on late Tuesday night, former president general (retd) Pervez Musharraf supported the demand for ‘change’ and stressed the United States must not interfere in Pakistan’s internal politics. His remarks come at a time when many have been speculating that the military is involved in the prevailing political crisis.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1127920

Those driving Imran, Qadri want to send PM home: Asma Jehangir

KARACHI, SINDH: Well-known legal expert Asma Jehangir has said that those driving the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Tahirul Qadri are hell bent on sending the Prime Minister home.

Talking to Geo News, She said it seems as if the law is of no value in the country as any individual can hurl any kind of allegations by pulling together a crowd of 10 people.

Reacting to the allegations levelled by the former additional secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jehangir said she had opposed his appointment in the ECP.

She said had the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry been involved in rigging, then Imran Khan could also have played a role in it. “All this is part of a conspiracy to dislodge the Prime Minister,” she maintained.

Asma Jehangir asked as to what it is that Imran Khan himself had done for the country. “If Imran Khan thinks that by resorting to such acts he can tie the knot, it is his mistake,” she added.

Read more » The News
http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-157751-Those-driving-Imran,-Qadri-want-to-send-PM-home:-Asma-Jehangir

Pakistan: The mask of anarchy

By Babar Sattar

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many — they are few

Shelley is believed to have introduced the idea of nonviolent resistance in his poem The Mask of Anarchy, which celebrated the power of ordinary people to defeat violence with pacifism. Thoreau in his essay Civil Disobedience advocated listening to one’s conscience and rising up against injustice and slavery. Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha, inspired in part by Shelley, aimed at freeing India from colonial shackles and seeking self-rule. Nelson Mandela suffered penalties of law to fight apartheid.

In transformational revolutions (eg French, American, Chinese, Iranian) the key idea has been to liberate the many from the oppression of the few. And civil rights movements (such as that of Martin Luther King) resonated with people when they sought equality and justice for those oppressed due to vile prejudice or tyranny of the majority. What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?

If this movement ensures that the mandate to rule in our democracy must be beyond suspicion, it will benefit ordinary Pakistanis. But if its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.

Continue reading Pakistan: The mask of anarchy

UN call to prevent Iraq massacre

Iraq conflict: UN warns of possible Amerli ‘massacre’

The UN has called for action to prevent what it says may be a possible massacre in the northern Iraqi town of Amerli.

Special representative Nickolay Mladenov says he is “seriously alarmed” by reports regarding the conditions in which the town’s residents live.

The town, under siege by Islamic State for two months, has no electricity or drinking water, and is running out of food and medical supplies. The majority of its residents are Turkmen Shia, seen as apostates by IS.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28910674

‘If TV cameras are removed from red zone, there will be no revolution’

By Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui

KARACHI: There has been a shift from one dominant institution to multiple institutions in Pakistan which has transformed into an urban country where provision of goods is now a privatised process. These thoughts were articulated on Wednesday by political economist Dr Akbar Zaidi invited by the Karachi University faculty of arts to deliver a lecture on “The Changing Nature of Pakistani State”.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1126627/if-tv-cameras-are-removed-from-red-zone-there-will-be-no-revolution

Hrithik Roshan to star in ‘Mohenjo Daro’

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

Disney India and Ashutosh Gowariker Productions Pvt. Ltd (AGPPL) are to collaborate on Mohenjo Daro.

Directed by Gowariker, the film will star Hrithik Roshan and new comer Pooja Hegde in an epic adventure love story set at the time of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Mohenjo Daro, meaning Mound of the Dead in Sindhi, is a lost civilization that was abandoned in 19th century BCE. The city’s ruins lie in the Larkana district of Sindh, and are a designated Unesco World Heritage Site since 1980.

Given the settings, the movie is likely to be a sweeping historical extravaganza, along the lines of Jodhaa Akbar and Lagaan, the former also an association between UTV Motion Pictures (aka Disney India), while the latter an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film; both movies were critical and box-office hits.

According to a press release, Disney India Producer Sunita Gowariker said, “There has always been a natural creative synergy between UTV and AGPPL in our previous movies. This time through our collaboration with Disney we’ll have an even greater focus on entertaining families”.

“After Jodhaa Akbar, we are thrilled to work with Ashutosh and Hrithik again, and we are excited about bringing another wonderful Indian story to the big screen,” said Amrita Pandey, VP and Head of Marketing & Distribution, Disney Studios, India.

Mohenjo Daro is set to go into production in South Africa from October 2014.

Courtesy: DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1126104/hrithik-roshan-to-star-in-mohenjo-daro

From czar-like prime minister to deputy commissioner-type character’

By Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Besieged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been assured by military that there will be no coup, but in return he must “share space with the army”, according to a government source who was privy to recent talks between the two sides.

Last week, as tens of thousands of protesters advanced on the federal capital to demand his resignation, Sharif dispatched two emissaries to consult with the army chief.

He wanted to know if the military was quietly engineering the twin protest movements by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan and activist cleric Tahirul Qadri, or if, perhaps, it was preparing to stage a coup.

According to a government insider with a first-hand account of the meeting, Sharif’s envoys returned with good news and bad: there will be no coup but if he wants his government to survive, from now on it will have to share space with the army.

The army’s media wing declined to comment.

Thousands of protesters marched to parliament on Tuesday, using a crane and bolt cutters to force their way past barricades of shipping containers, as riot police and paramilitaries watched on after being told not to intervene.

Military spokesman General Asim Bajwa tweeted a reminder to protesters to respect government institutions and called for a “meaningful dialogue” to resolve the crisis.

Even if, as seems likely, the Khan and Qadri protests eventually fizzle out due to a lack of overt support from the military, the prime minister will emerge weakened from political crisis.

Sharif may have to be subservient to the generals on issues he wanted to handle himself — from the fight against Taliban to relations with India and Pakistan’s role in neighbouring, post-Nato Afghanistan.

“The biggest loser will be Nawaz, cut down to size both by puny political rivals and the powerful army,” said a government minister who asked not to be named.

“From this moment on, he’ll always be looking over his shoulder.”

A year ago, few would have predicted that Sharif would be in such trouble: back then, he had just swept to power for a third time in a milestone poll that marked the first transition from one elected government to another.

But in the months that followed, Sharif — who had crossed swords with the army in the past — moved to enhance the clout of the civilian government in a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half of its history.

He irked the generals by putting former military head Pervez Musharraf, who had ended Sharif’s last stint as prime minister in a 1999 coup, on trial for treason.

Sharif is also said to have opposed a military offensive to crush Taliban insurgents and sought reconciliation with India.

Sources in Sharif’s government said that with civilian-military relations in such bad shape, Sharif suspected that the street protests to unseat him were being manipulated from behind the scenes by the army.

He also feared that if the agitations turned violent, the army would exploit the situation to seize power for itself.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1126545/

Islamist militants ‘kill reporter James Foley on video’

The Islamic State militant group has released a video online purporting to show the beheading of a US journalist. The victim was identified by the militants as James Foley, a freelancer who was seized in Syria in late 2012. The militants said it was in revenge for recent US air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq. The video has not been independently verified, but the White House said if it was genuine, the US would be “appalled by the brutal murder”.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28862268

‘India calls off sec-level talks with Pakistan’

NEW DELHI – India on Monday called off foreign secretary-level bilateral talks with Pakistan which was slated to be held on August 25, Times of India newspaper reported on Monday.

The paper reported that the Indian government decided this after a meeting between Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and senior Hurriyat Conference leader Shabbir Ahmad Shah in New Delhi. Earlier on Monday, the high commissioner met Kashmiri leader ahead of the proposed secretary-level talks between Pakistan and India.

Read more » Daily Times
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/18-Aug-2014/india-calls-off-secretary-level-talks-with-pakistan

USA: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew in Ferguson

By Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY

FERGUSON, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday, following nights of protests after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer.

“If we’re going to have justice, we must first have and maintain peace,” Nixon said at a Saturday afternoon press conference. “The eyes of the world are watching.”

Read more » USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/16/ferguson-missouri-michael-brown-rally-protests/14160469/

Israeli official confirms US nixed arms shipment; pols argue over who’s to blame

WSJ report of frayed relations between Washington and Jerusalem, including combative Obama-Netanyahu phone call, sparks firestorm among Israeli politicians

senior Israeli official confirmed to Israeli media that the US had suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid worsening ties over fighting in Gaza

Guided by History, a Jew Tries to Unite Two Faiths Divided by War in Gaza

NEWARK, Del. — Shortly after the latest cease-fire expired in Gaza on Friday, Jacob Bender gingerly climbed the steps of the mimbar, the pulpit at the Islamic Society of Delaware here. A Jew in a mosque, his hands palpably quivering but his reedy voice steady, he read some brief comments to close the afternoon’s worship service, called Juma’a.

Mr. Bender offered both hope and censure, twinned: Muslims and Jews could still be “partners for peace and justice,” he said. Israel and Hamas bore shared responsibility for the current carnage, he added, and more hatred would lead to more violence, while love would lead to reconciliation.

Read more » The New York Times

Some Israelis Count Open Discourse and Dissent Among Gaza War Casualties

By

JERUSALEM — The signs are everywhere.

At a recent demonstration in Tel Aviv against Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, counterdemonstrators chanted “Death to the left!” along with the more commonly heard “Death to Arabs!” Afterward, some of the right-wingers beat some of the leftists — using large poles that had held Israeli flags.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority blocked B’Tselem, a human rights group, from running a paid radio advertisement reading the names and ages of Palestinian children killed in Gaza.

Bar-Ilan University rebuked a professor who expressed empathy for all the war’s victims in an email to students.

And at a recent screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, a fading bastion of liberalism, when some audience members stood for a moment of silence in memory of four Palestinian boys killed as they played soccer on a Gaza beach, others who kept their seats berated them with cries of “Shame on you — what about our boys?” and “You’re raping the audience,” according to several people who were there.

In Israel, open discourse and dissent appear to be among the casualties of the monthlong war in Gaza, according to stalwarts of what is known as the Zionist left — Israelis who want the country to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and help create a sovereign Palestinian state.

Israeli politics have been drifting rightward for years, and many see that trend sharpening and solidifying now. Several polls find that as many as nine out of 10 Israeli Jews back the prosecution of the war by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When that support slipped a bit last week, it seemed to be because more people wanted an even more aggressive assault on Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza. Israelis who question the government or the military on Facebook, or who even share photographs of death and devastation in Gaza, find themselves defriended, often by people they thought were politically like-minded.

“One of the victims of war is any nuance,” said Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, who emigrated from New York in 1979. “The idea of having a nuanced position that recognizes the suffering on both sides and the complications is almost impossible to maintain.”

Rabbi Weiman-Kelman is the founder of Kol Haneshama, one of Israel’s largest and best-known Reform congregations, where every service ends with an adaptation of a traditional Hebrew prayer for peace that includes a line in Arabic borrowed from a traditional Muslim prayer. (Disclosure: I have occasionally attended those services.)

Read more » The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/world/middleeast/in-israel-open-dissent-is-among-the-gaza-war-casualties.html?_r=0

Was Treated Well, Says BSF Soldier Sent Home From Pakistan

Wagah:  After spending 48 hours in Pakistan’s custody, a Border Security Force jawan returned home this evening. “I was treated well,” said 30-year-old Satyasheel Yadav, who was swept onto the Pakistan side of the border in Jammu after he fell into the River Chenab on Wednesday. (After Falling Into River, BSF Jawan is in Pakistan’s Custody)

“They made me comfortable. I was given food. I have no complaints. I am very happy I am going home,” he said in a brief statement, hours before he was released by Pakistani troops.

Mr Yadav walked back across the border at RS Pura in the Jammu region, dressed in his combat fatigues and flanked by his seniors.

“I am grateful to them (Pakistanis) for treating him well,” said DK Pathak, Director General of the BSF after the trooper returned. “I can’t answer why they took so long to hand him over. They did ask some questions, it isn’t uncommon,” he added

Read more » NDTV
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/was-treated-well-says-bsf-soldier-sent-home-from-pakistan-572881?curl=1407502809

The Islamic State Is Right About Some Things

BY

I’ve talked about the Yezidis many times over the years. The main reason is that I find the obscure marginal sects in the Middle East interesting, because this is a region of the world where religious pluralism existed under very precise and strict conditions, and these groups deviated from those conditions and lived to tell the tale. The Muslim rulers, and more specifically in historical memory the Ottomans, tolerated a specific set of enumerated dhimmi, generally traditional Christian and Jewish groups. Though subject to persecution and oppression, in principle these groups had rights to exist within the Islamic framework. Heretics and pagans on the other hand were not tolerated. For example I have read the account of from the 17th century of an Ottoman official who was making a progress from Baghdad to Istanbul which is an excellent piece of ethnography. His entourage stopped in an isolated mountain valley in what is today Kurdistan. The local population were not Muslims, and when the official inquired as to their religion they told of how they worshipped the sun. Whatever the details of their origin this group obviously would be classed as pagans, and the official was faced with what to do with these people. The choices were conversion to Islam or death, the implementation of which would have been difficult at that moment. As a solution the local Jacobite Orthodox Christian bishop agreed to accept the people as his own, with nominal baptism. Presumably these people eventually became Christians in fact as well as name. But it goes to show that in the pre-modern world of the Middle East religious diversity persisted in the isolated places of the world. Groups such as the Druze offend Sunni Muslims because they are clearly derived from Islam itself, and Islam is the capstone religion in its own conception. Alawites seem to have emerged from the same milieu as the Druze, but they have retained a tenuous Muslim identity, which has accelerated under the Assad family. The Sunni Muslim stance toward these groups is that they are viewed as illegitimate heresies, not protected religions. The extent of Salafi* influence in one’s orientation also conditions how Sunnis view Shia (and there is variation within the Shia group, the Ismailis in particular viewed as heretical because their practice and theology differs more in obvious ways from Sunni orthodoxy; the Zaydi Shia are at the opposite extreme, being very similar to Sunni norms).

All this leads up to why the Islamic State, and Muslims generally to a lesser extent, tend to be extremely harsh in their attitude toward the Yezidi sect. The details of the Yezidi belief system are somewhat obscure, like that of the Druze, but they are clearly not Muslim. The media reports that the Yezidi are an ancient religion, with some relationship to Zoroastrianism. Many Kurds will also agree with this statement, assuming that something like Yezidism was the primal faith of their ethnic group. This may or may not be true. The origins of the Yezidi may actually be more like the Druze, if somewhat more ancient and obscure. Part of the lack of clarity I think goes back to the fact that there is some opaqueness overall in the first century or so of Islam. The social-religious world of the Middle East was a product of those years, but it is very different from them. For example Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrian influenced syncretistic Muslim sects were powerful anti-establishment forces across the Iranian cultural zone down to the 9th century. Quite a few extremist Shia sects (ghulat) seem to have made the transition to post-Islam, often imbibing Zoroastrianism of a Mazdakite flavor. Such a transition though was usually a cultural death sentence. Survival usually depended upon attaching oneself to a Shia identity, however tenuous (the Alawite strategy), or, fleeing to a geographically isolated region (in some cases these sectarians fled to the Byzantine Empire, and converted to Orthodox Christianity rather than revert to normative Islam!). Flight from the world is what the Druze and Yezidi have done in their fastness.

The current capture of Sinjar has been a humanitarian catastrophe for the Yezidi because it has been one of their traditional redoubts. The kidnapping of women, and the summary beheading or crucifixion of men, can be comprehensible in light of the Salafi Muslim vision of groups such as the Yezidi, which literally should not exist. Their obliteration would bring balance back into the Salafi world. While Christians and Jews may persist with the barest of sufferance, the existence of the Yezidi is an abomination to Salafi Muslims. What is occurring is a ethnic cleansing and genocide in straightforward terms. In fact Salafi Muslims would probably agree with the appellation cleansing, because the Yezidi to them are an offence to Being itself. Their existence is a matter is a matter of ritual purity in a metaphysical sense. I am wary of ever making analogies to Nazi Germany and the way it viewed the Jews, but this one clearly is a close fit. There is no path toward accommodation of Yezidi existence for the Islamic State, it is now down to an animal battle of survival for them, as they flee into the mountains as they have done so many times in the past.

Read more » http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-islamic-state-is-right-about-some-things/

A Separate Scotland

By Naomi Lloyd-Jones

With the independence referendum just around the corner, Naomi Lloyd-Jones asks why the Scottish Home Rule Association, an important precursor of the SNP, has been largely forgotten.

Informing electors of the importance of the opportunity now afforded them, one of Scotland’s most prominent nationalists declared that:

For the first time since the Union, they will have it in their power to determine whether Scotland is to recover the management of its own affairs.

At first glance we may naturally assume that this comment relates to the independence referendum that takes place this September, but it was actually written 121 years ago by William Mitchell, treasurer of the Scottish Home Rule Association (SHRA). In the same piece Mitchell urged that the time had come for his fellow countrymen to throw off the shackles of the Westminster party system and support solely those who were pledged to the restoration of a Scottish parliament. The SHRA, formed in 1886 in the midst of an acute constitutional crisis, sought the passage of ‘legislation for Scotland in Scotland’ and used the term ‘Home Rule’ to ‘express shortly the right of the Scottish people to manage their own affairs’. They counselled that only a reinstated legislature could ‘carry out what the people of Scotland want’, for ‘the Scottish people know their own business best’.

Read more » History Today
http://www.historytoday.com/naomi-lloyd-jones/separate-scotland

 

Why Americans See Israel the Way They Do

By ROGER COHEN, THE NEW YORK TIMES

TO cross the Atlantic to America, as I did recently from London, is to move from one moral universe to its opposite in relation to Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. Fury over Palestinian civilian casualties has risen to a fever pitch in Europe, moving beyond anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism (often a flimsy distinction). Attacks on Jews and synagogues are the work of a rabid fringe, but anger toward an Israel portrayed as indiscriminate in its brutality is widespread. For a growing number of Europeans, not having a negative opinion of Israel is tantamount to not having a conscience. The deaths of hundreds of children in any war, as one editorial in The Guardian put it, is “a special kind of obscenity.”

Continue reading Why Americans See Israel the Way They Do

Women cops on wheels to take on criminals on Delhi’s roads

By Karn Pratap Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi

You have seen them regulating traffic on roads and dealing with women complainants at police stations. Soon, you will find the women personnel of the Delhi Police patrolling the streets on two-wheelers (scooties), armed with the latest weapons.

Read more » Hindustan Times
http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/newdelhi/women-cops-on-wheels-to-take-on-criminals-on-delhi-s-roads/article1-1248316.aspx