Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 6 March 2011





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Libyan crisis deepens as thousands flee

Libya dominated world events even by the end of the week with thousands of Libyans and foreigners fleeing the country. Contrary to the outcome of pro-democracy movements in Tunisia and Egypt where the dictators bowed down to the people’s uprising, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is still fighting back.

The Economist reported: “It is vital for the lengthy and difficult reconstruction of Libya that Libyans themselves depose Colonel Qaddafi. The idea of putting Western soldiers’ boots on Libya’s sandy soil is thus still out of the question. But a no-fly zone could save thousands of Libyan lives, just as an earlier one saved Kurds in Iraq. Even then, it is fraught with technical difficulties, it cannot fully protect the Libyan rebels against Colonel Qaddafi’s machine gunners and it is liable to ‘mission creep’.

“Among Libya’s opposition, most people, though by no means all, seem ready to accept Western help.

“As in all such mind-bending crises, it is best that the UN Security Council validates whatever course is pursued by the world’s beefiest governments, still inevitably led by the West, which, in turn means the United States, backed by Britain and France, its hardiest allies with a modicum of military muscle. The Americans are fearful of becoming embroiled in yet another distant venture. Among the Europeans, only Britain and Italy seem readier for a more robust involvement. China and Russia, though they voted for UN sanctions on Colonel Qaddafi in the Security Council, presently balk at a no-fly zone, let alone armed intervention by troops. Turkey, a key member of NATO in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern affairs, is so far dead against it, too. So, for the time being, it seems, are the majority of Arab governments”, reported The Economist.

However, it is clear that military intervention would not occur immediately given the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There was another pleasant surprise for liberal idealists on February 26, when the UN Security Council unanimously agreed (along with other punitive measures) to tell the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe the Libyan crisis. For Russia and China, voting in favour of such a motion went against the grain. Although they allowed the ICC, in 2005, to investigate Sudan, many people believed that all subsequent efforts to send dictators to court would be resisted in Moscow and Beijing. According to Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, the 15-0 vote to punish and probe Libya was a vindication of the ICC’s ideal: curbing crimes that “shock the conscience” of mankind.

The breadth of the anti-Qaddafi coalition is also a blessing for Barack Obama. He has taken political risks by re-engaging with the HRC - a body which the Bush administration thought too dreadful to touch - and by working with the ICC, even though America has yet to join the court.

Last week, while most people’s minds were on Libya, the HRC fluffed a chance to clean up its act. After a review of its own record since it was created five years ago, the council produced a document that dashed hopes of change. Moves to give a freer hand to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights - a job now held by Navi Pillay, a South African judge - had been blocked. Peter Splinter of Amnesty International, an advocacy group, compared the review process to an “elephant giving birth to a cockroach”.

The Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq stepped down, as did the Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. Protests continued in both countries, with pro-democracy campaigners complaining about the slow pace of reform and the continuing presence of allies of the former regime.

Pakistani Minister gunned down

Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

“Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was shot dead on Wednesday by the Taliban after he urged reforms to blasphemy laws.

There were emotional scenes as several thousand Christians buried their leader in his home village near Faisalabad.

Earlier, hundreds turned out for a church service in the capital. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told them his colleague had been “very rare”.

Wednesday’s assassination in Islamabad was the second this year of a Pakistani politician who wanted to reform the controversial blasphemy laws.

Bishop of Faisalabad Joseph Coutts told those present that the blasphemy laws - which Bhatti wanted to reform - were being misused to persecute minorities.

Referring to those who would glorify the minister’s murderers, he said: “We don’t want to worship a God who rewards killers.”

In January, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who had also opposed the law, was shot dead by one of his bodyguards in the capital.The blasphemy law carries a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam. Critics say it has been used to persecute minority faiths.

Observers say Bhatti’s killing leaves Pakistan’s Christians without their most prominent voice and threatens to silence debate on the blasphemy law. The government is accused of giving in to religious hardliners, reported the BBC. The religious intolerance and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism seem to make Pakistan an unstable country and a front state in the war on terrorism.

Hopes for jobs in USA

According to the Wall Street Journal, “A bumper US employment report published overnight showed the troubled jobs market cranked up a gear last month, raising hopes that a final piece of the recovery puzzle is falling into place.

The Labour Department said the unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 percent last month from nine percent in January, while the economy created a solid 192,000 jobs.

It was the first time the unemployment rate has fallen below nine percent in nearly two years.



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