Thursday, August 28, 2008

Respect right to freedom of assembly: UN tells India

August 28, 2008 by sudhan
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Expresses concern over violent Kashmir protests

Srinagar, Aug 27: The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday voiced its concern about the recent violent protests in Kashmir that have led to civilian casualties and restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression.

“OHCHR calls on the Indian authorities and in particular security forces to respect the right to freedom of assembly and expression, and comply with international human rights principles in controlling the demonstrators,” a spokesman of OHCHR said in a statement in Geneva.

“The use of force should be proportionate to the threat posed and firearms must only be used in dispersing a violent assembly to protect individuals against an imminent threat of death or serious injury,” it added.

The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for thorough and independent investigations into all killings that have occurred so far.
OHCHR also called on the demonstrators to use only peaceful means when protesting.

“Leaders of the different protesting groups have a responsibility to ensure that demonstrations are peaceful and that the demonstrators are not carrying sticks, guns or other weapons and refrain from intimidation,” stated OHCHR.

The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has been deployed to observe a ceasefire in disputed Jammu and Kashmir since 1949. The princely state was split between India and Pakistan after they won independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.

Killing of Kashmiris continues: 3 more die in troops firing

August 28, 2008 by sudhan

Srinagar, Aug 27: Three civilians were killed and at least 50 others injured when Police and paramilitary CRPF troopers fired upon the protesters in different parts of the Valley on Wednesday, witnesses and reports said.
2 killed in Budgam
Tension gripped Soibugh area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, Wednesday afternoon when troopers and policemen arrested a youth Rafiq Ahmed, locals said.
They said that as the news about Rafiq’s arrest spread in the area people defied curfew and took to the roads demanding release of Rafiq. Policemen and paramilitary CRPF troopers opened fire to disperse the protesters killing Hilal Ahmed Mir son of Abdul Khaliq Mir on the spot and injuring 15 others. Injured were rushed to a hospital where Ghulam Nabi Wani succumbed.
Protester killed in Handwara
A civilian was killed and six others injured when troopers opened fire to disperse the protesters at Banday mohalla in Handwara on Wednesday, witnesses said.
They said troopers beat up the namazis near Banday mohalla who came out of the Masjid after offering Zuhar prayers this afternoon. As word about Namazis being beaten spread in the area people came out on the roads and staged a massive protest.
Policemen and troopers who reached the spot opened fire injuring one Muhammad Yousuf Banday critically. He was rushed to Sub District Hospital Handwara where he died.
Meanwhile residents of Chopan mohalla Handwara staged massive protests against troopers barging into their houses during night. “Troopers barged into our houses last night and resorted to arson,” residents of Chopan mohalla Handwara alleged.
Witnesses said that as the word about the incident spread in the area hundreds of people defied the curfew and took to the roads. Policemen reached the spot and resorted to baton charge to disperse the protesters. Policemen fired tear smoke canisters and resorted to aerial firing. In police action at least six protesters sustained injuries.
10 injured in Rainawari
Reports said that as the curfew was relaxed in the Rainawari area in Shehar-e-Khaas here,
Paramilitary CRPF troopers allegedly beat up a woman and another person without any provocation during relaxation period. Later CRPF men gate crashed into the house of 75-year-old priest Haji Noor Muhammad Mugloo and beat up the inmates, including men and women. The house hold goods were also ransacked by the CRPF men, locals alleged.
As the word about the incident spread in the area people came out on the roads and tried staging a demonstration. CRPF troopers opened fire on the demonstrators injuring at least 10 persons.
2 injured in Naidkhai
At least two persons were injured when police and troopers opened fire to disperse a procession at Naidkhai in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district Wednesday evening, witnesses said.
They said that troopers without any provocation hurled choicest of invectives on the residents who had come out to buy essential commodities. People responded by raising pro-freedom and anti-India slogans and tried staging a protest. CRPF troopers opened fire to disperse the protesters injuring at least two persons.
Bakers ‘beaten’ for preparing bread
Residents of many Shehar-e-Khaas localities on Wednesday accused paramilitary CRPF troopers of going berserk and beating up the bakers to pulp who tried to prepare the bread.
“ Bakers who tried to open their shops this morning were beaten to pulp by the troopers. They (troopers) told the bakers that they will kill them if they prepare any bread for the people,” a caller from Nawa Kadal told Greater Kashmir over phone.
The indefinite curfew imposed by the authorities on Sunday entered into fourth day, today. “We’ve nothing to eat, children and kids are starving,” said another caller from Bohri Kadal.

Militarism and a Uni-polar World

August 28, 2008 by sudhan

By Lenora Foerstel | Global Research, August 27, 2008

The Trilateral Commission was founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller as an off-shoot of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR). David Rockefeller was chairman of the CFR in 1970 and subsequently became the founding chairman of the Trilateral Commission. Soon the membership of the Commission had grown to 300 members, including prominent political figures like Zbigniew Brzezinski. Most members of the Trilateral Commission are bankers, media moguls, or corporate CEOs, primarily from North America, Europe and Japan, while all members of the CFR are U.S. Citizens.

The Commission seeks to extend its influence abroad and is careful to avoid the scrutiny of congressional investigations. The CFR on the other hand, focuses on the control of American media.

When American media discuss globalism, they rarely mention that the Trilateral Commission sets most global economic goals, primary among them being the creation of a one-world system of trade. It is basically a form of fascism in which global corporations and their elite CEOs determine the policies and direction of world governments. The creation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank after World War II was intended to encourage Third World countries to borrow money from wealthy nations, so long as they agreed to the imposition of a wide range of “structural adjustment policies.” Any nation borrowing money from either organization would not be allowed to nationalize its natural resources and would be unable to prevent foreign corporations from buying or controlling those resources.

Shortly before World War II, Hjalmer Schacht, a German banker, toured the United States soliciting American corporate support for Hitler’s new fascist state. U.S. corporations not only agreed to support Germany against the socialist economic system of the Soviet Union, but also declared their opposition to the strong labor movement arising in the United States and Europe.

General Motors was prominent among the corporations that supported the Nazi government, investing $20 million in industries owned or controlled by Herman Goering and other Nazi officials. Other US multinational corporations that profited from and supported Hitler’s industrial war machine included General Electric, Standard Oil, Texaco, International Harvester, ITT and IBM. Today, Standard Oil of New York is unabashed in honoring its chemical cartel that manufactured Zyklon-B, the poison gas used by the Nazi gas chambers. (1)

Among the eminent business leaders backing these multinational corporations were the Rockefellers and Prescott Bush, father of George Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush. Prescott Bush worked with his father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, in the family firm Union Banking Corporation to raise $50 million for the Nazi government by selling German bonds to American investors from 1924 to 1930.

Even though the United States helped to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II, many of the powerful elite families continued to support Hitler’s fascist ideology after the war. John Rockefeller III was an uncritical believer in the doctrine of Thomas Robert Malthus, who claimed that population always increased at a geometric rate while food supply increased at the slower arithmetic rate. Malthus therefore concluded that population growth had to be rigidly controlled. Today, his theory is widely criticized for failing to take into account the vast technological advances in agriculture and food production.

Rockefeller also accepted Hitler’s concept of an Aryan race, leading him to propose population control on the poor and people of color, whom he believed were producing children of inferior intelligence. In an effort to support such views, the Rockefeller family became involved with Eugenics, a fascist doctrine that advocated breeding a superior race by eliminating the mentally ill, physically handicapped, and racially inferior.

Continued . . .

Pakistan’s Flawed Presidency

August 28, 2008 by sudhan

By LIAQUAT ALI KHAN | Counterpunch, August 27, 2008

Pakistan has been unsuccessful in designing a stable presidency. Two competing models vie for approval. Pakistan’s formulaic constitution, borrowed from the legal-political traditions of England and India, establishes a ceremonial presidency subordinated to parliament. The president with few powers is the head of state and represents the unity of the Republic. The ceremonial presidency empowers elected assemblies to run affairs of the state and provinces in accordance with the wishes of the people. It also spawns political cronyism, allowing politicians to freely broker power relations, distribute ministries and governmental offices on the basis of connection rather than competence and, for the worse, use state resources to advance personal and family interests.

The competing model, which Pakistan’s generals as well as American policymakers prefer, institutes a strong presidency - a praetorian presidency - that listens to the armed forces and kow-tows to American interests. Under the praetorian model, the President exercises formidable powers, appoints heads of the armed forces, and can dissolve dysfunctional or discordant elected assemblies. Even the judiciary is made subservient to the President. The praetorian presidency empowers what Pakistanis call the establishment—a congregation of bureaucrats, army generals, advisers, and experts. The praetorian presidency focuses on economy and foreign relations. But it alienates political forces and weakens elected assemblies. Consequently, corruption permeates the state machinery with little or no accountability.

The nomination of Asif Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to contest the presidential election is a disturbing development. If elected, President Zardari would further muddle the models of presidency. Zardari might not use the iron hand of praetorian presidency, as did General Pervez Musharraf, to please the establishment and foreign masters. Under no circumstance, however, will Zardari be the ceremonial president.

Ceremonial Presidency

The ceremonial presidency works best when the president is a non-political, consensus figure enjoying the trust of major political parties. Ideally, the ceremonial president is a person of great stature, unimpeachable character, and favorable reputation. The ceremonial president must not be the head of any political party, nor must the ceremonial president be ideologically inclined toward a certain foreign policy, domestic agenda, or political set up. This apparent neutrality of the ceremonial presidency generates confidence among political forces that the state is open to political diversity and pluralism.

Zardari does not qualify to be a ceremonial president. Though many criminal cases filed against Zardari were fabricated, his reputation is sullied with charges of corruption. His recent conduct to make and break political accords regarding the restoration of judges also leaves the impression that Zardari equates the art of politics with amoral cunningness rather than tough bargaining over controversial issues.

Furthermore, Zardari is politically too powerful to be a ceremonial president. He is the co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the party in power. The other chairman is Zardari’s own son. This family hold on the rank and file of the PPP will continue to exist even if Zardari resigns from co-chairmanship. Furthermore, the Prime Minister, a member of the PPP, is unlikely to challenge President Zardari on the theory that the Prime Minster has the constitutional powers to run the country. For all practical purposes, therefore, Zardari will run the country as the top man even if the praetorian presidency is constitutionally dismantled.

Praetorian Presidency

In opposing Musharraf, the PPP was planning to introduce a complex constitutional package in the parliament to cut down powers of the praetorian presidency. Almost all political parties favor restoring the constitution to its formulaic format. This political consensus will now fall apart. If Zardari is elected to be the president, the PPP would most likely withdraw the constitutional package. The constitution, as it stands, confers huge powers on the president. Zardari would want to retain these powers in case the political tide turns against him or the PPP.

Even the United States would prefer that the constitution remains as is, and that the praetorian presidency is not weakened. It is easier for the U.S. to deal with one strong man at the top than with an elected parliament accountable to the people. The U.S. can fight the war in Afghanistan more effectively if Pakistan furnishes its intelligence and armed resources to defeat the Taliban and foreign fighters. Pakistan’s praetorian presidency can deliver these resources to satisfy U.S. interests in the region, including the pressure on Iran. Zardari, a powerful man who cannot overcome the reputation of being a crook, is a godsend for the U.S. In the past, the U.S. has deftly exploited praetorian characters, such as Manual Noriega, Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, and Pervez Musharraf, for its global interests.

Pakistan under Zardari

Regardless of whether the constitution is restored to ceremonial presidency, Pakistan is in for a rough ride under Zardari. Now that the coalition has split, Zardari’s personal character will be politicized, highlighting his past criminal record. A sullied civilian president will diminish the nation’s confidence in political rule. The insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas will intensify their battle against the government, increasing suicide bombings. The war in Afghanistan will spill over the border into Pakistan, as the U.S. daringly strikes the terrorist infrastructure on both sides of the border. Engaged in inter-personal politics, the government will have little time to solve the nation’s basic problems, including shortages of electricity, fuel, and clean water.

Ali Khan is professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas, and the author of the book, A Theory of Universal Democracy (2003).

MIDEAST: Israel Pushes Ahead with Settlement Expansion

August 28, 2008 by sudhan

By Mel Frykberg

JERUSALEM, Aug 27 (IPS) - Israel has published tenders for the construction of 1,761 illegal housing units for Israeli settlers in occupied east Jerusalem alone, according to the Israeli rights group Peace Now.

The expansion plans come despite promises by the Israeli government at last year’s peace summit at Annapolis, Maryland (in the U.S.) to freeze all settlement growth.

“Once again this government has shown that its words and commitments are meaningless, and they have no intention of keeping to their word,” says Peace Now.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed repeatedly that settlement construction or expansion in the West Bank is contrary to international law and Israel’s commitments under the ‘road map’ peace process.

The road map was a series of peace-building measures proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2002 and subsequently developed by the diplomatic Quartet of the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States.

Ban Ki-moon further urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity and to dismantle outposts erected since March of 2001.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, normally a diehard supporter of Israel, also expressed her concern about the settlement building during her last visit to Israel several months ago.

“It’s important to have an atmosphere of confidence and trust,” Rice said following talks she held with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. “The United States believes that the (settlement) actions and the announcements that are taking place are indeed having a negative effect on the atmosphere for negotiation.”

The new construction should not be allowed to shape future Israeli-Palestinian borders, which remain under negotiation, Rice said. “The United States will not let these activities have any effect on final status negotiations, including final borders.”

The Geneva Conventions specifically forbid the transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory.

But even as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was meeting with Abbas in Jerusalem last week in an endeavour to further the peace process, plans for further settlement construction were already under way.

At the beginning of the month, prior to Peace Now’s statement, the Israel Lands Authority published tenders for the construction of 130 new housing units in Har Homa, East Jerusalem.

Continued . . .

US election: Anti-war veterans begin protest in Denver

August 28, 2008 by sudhan

The protest, organised by Iraq Veterans Against the War, was not approved by the city of Denver

Backed by hundreds of demonstrators, an anti-war veterans group began marching toward the Democratic convention hall today to press Barack Obama into supporting a quicker US withdrawal from Iraq.

The protest, organised by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), was not approved by the city of Denver. Trucks of armed police in riot gear were dispatched to watch closely for any eruptions of violence.

Garett Reppenhagen, a US army sniper who served in Kosovo and Iraq, said the march aimed to prod Obama and the Democrats into making good on their campaign-trail promises to end the war.

“He goes to Iraq to do PR stunts to build his credibility on the war, but he’s afraid to come home and face anti-war veterans,” Reppenhagen said. “I’m not voting for hope. I want practical solutions.”

The IVAW march is slated to culminate at the Pepsi centre, the heavily guarded convention arena, but law enforcement is likely to halt the trek before it reaches downtown Denver. Reppenhagen said the police were “working with us” but could not say how far protesters would get.

In a further complication for the marchers, many in the boisterous, sign-waving crowd came out more for Rage Against the Machine than rage against Obama’s war policy.

The popular rock band played a free concert that was timed to end just as the anti-war protest began, encouraging music fans to join in and confront the Democrats. Asked what inspired him to march, one 26-year-old demonstrator shrugged, “I’ve got nothing to do today.”

Demonstrations at this week’s convention have proven more low-key than early forecasts predicted, although police fired pepper spray into a crowd on Monday night before arresting 100 people for blocking the streets.

“Many [in the crowd] were observed carrying rocks and other items that could be used to threaten public safety,” the city police said in a release on the arrests.

Yesterday saw 18 more arrests, bringing the total for convention week to 135. The biggest controversy arose over videotape showing a Denver police officer pushing a young female anti-war protester, Alicia Forrest, to the ground with no apparent provocation.

The officer later arrested Forrest when she began telling reporters about the confrontation. She was released from jail this morning.

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