In Pakistan, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been placed under house arrest again and is being barred from leading a scheduled protest today against Pakistan’s military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Pakistani officials placed Bhutto under a seven-day detention order, saying her protest plans defied emergency laws. In an interview with the BBC today, Bhutto called on General Musharraf to resign. Bhutto also said it is now likely her Pakistan People’s Party would boycott January parliamentary elections. There were reports that at least 1,500 Musharraf opponents had been arrested overnight.
This comes as foreign ministers from the Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies are threatening to suspend Pakistan from the organization unless General Musharraf lifts the state of emergency. Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said a decision would be made on November 23.
Don McKinnon: “So the message is, you’ve got about 10 days. We believe you can achieve this. It will mean you stay within the full ambit of the Commonwealth. But on the other hand, if you ignore and continue to violate those Commonwealth principles, you know the consequences.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also calling for General Musharraf to lift martial law.
Ban Ki-moon: “I would hope that the Pakistani government will do more, including the lifting of emergency measures, as well as releasing detained political leaders and particularly the special rapporteur of the United Nations. I again urge Pakistani leadership to meet the expectations of international community in further realizing the democratization process of Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports the Bush administration has concluded it is not legally required to cut or suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan despite General Musharraf’s imposition of martial law and crackdown on the opposition and independent media. The U.S. has given Pakistan nearly $10 billion since 2001.
A new study by congressional Democrats estimates the total economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now total approximately $1.5 trillion. The study estimates the “hidden costs” of the conflict including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars. The Washington Post reports this amount is nearly double the $800 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage the wars through 2008. The report estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.
The Washington Post is reporting the Pentagon is seeking $100 million for weapons to help fight battles from space. As part of the $460 billion military appropriations bill, the Pentagon is seeking funds for a “prompt global strike” program that could deliver a precision-guided six-ton warhead anywhere in the world within two hours. According to the Post, the warhead would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload and return to earth. The warhead would be fired at hypersonic speed — far greater than the speed of sound. The Pentagon is also seeking $7 million for an “offensive counterspace” program, which would give the military the means to disrupt or destroy an adversary’s space systems or the information they provide. Another $300 million is being sought for programs to protect U.S. satellites in space and to attack enemy satellites.
The United Nations Security Council is preparing to vote to extend the mandate for U.S. and other foreign forces to stay in Iraq. But according to the website Alternet, the Security Council is poised to cut the Iraqi parliament out of the decision. In June, a majority of Iraqi legislators passed a resolution opposing renewing the mandate unless conditions are placed on it, such as a timetable for the departure of American troops. But according to sources within the Iraqi delegation to the United Nations, the resolution has never been distributed to the Security Council members, as is required under the U.N. resolution that governs the mandate.
Amnesty International is urging NATO forces in Afghanistan to stop handing prisoners to Afghan security services because it puts the prisoners at risk of torture and other ill treatment. Amnesty says scores of prisoners handed to Afghan’s intelligence service have been subjected to torture and other abuse, including being whipped, exposed to extreme cold and deprived of food. Earlier this year, a group of prisoners in Afghanistan said they were subjected to beatings and electric shocks after Canadian troops handed them over to Afghan officials.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a long-sought suspect in the slaying of American journalist Daniel Pearl was secretly detained and interrogated by U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies before he died earlier this year. Lawyers and human rights advocates say the revelation suggests that the interrogation of Saud Memon may have led to his death. U.S. officials have not said where Saud Memon was held or interrogated. Legal aid and human rights groups in Pakistan said they have been told he was held at a secret CIA black site in Bagram, Afghanistan, before being turned over to Pakistan early last year. In April, Memon was dumped, badly injured and weighing less than 80 pounds, in front of his Karachi home. He died less than a month later. One human rights activist said, “His body looked like a 16-year-old boy’s. He had completely lost his memory. It wasn’t possible for him to survive. He couldn’t recognize his wife, children.” Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002 and then beheaded. Saud Memon allegedly owned the shed where Pearl was killed.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a worldwide ban on foreign investment in Iran’s oil and gas industry and other financial sanctions unless Iran abandons its nuclear program. Brown’s comments came in one of his first major foreign policy addresses since becoming prime minister.
Gordon Brown: “Iran has a choice: confrontation with the international community leading to a tightening of sanctions or, if it changes its approach and ends support for terrorism, a transformed relationship with the world. Unless positive outcomes flow from Javier Solana’s report and the IAEA, we will lead in seeking tougher sanctions, both at the U.N. and the Europe Union, including on oil and gas investment and the financial sector. And Iran should be in no doubt about the seriousness of our purpose.”
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also called for tougher action against Iran.
Angela Merkel: “As far as Iran is concerned there are, as I see it, there is a high level of agreement. On the one hand, we have the joint position that in the framework of the U.N., if Iran does not change its behavior, then we must consider further sanctions.”
In Gaza, at least six Palestinians died and 100 more were wounded on Monday during a rally to commemorate the third anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death. Hundreds of thousands of supporters from Arafat’s Fatah faction rallied in Gaza City in the largest Fatah gathering in the city since Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in June. Doctors at hospitals in Gaza said all of the dead and most of the wounded were Fatah supporters. Hamas and Fatah accused each other of starting the violence. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have detained another Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament, Mariam Saleh. About half of the 74 Hamas legislators are currently in Israeli jails. Saleh is the former Palestinian minister of women’s affairs.
In Russia, more than 30,000 birds and countless fish have been killed since Sunday where an oil tanker broke apart in the Black Sea. Scientists are calling the situation an ecological catastrophe.
A European human rights panel have accused the United Nations and European Union of using totally arbitrary methods to determine who is on terrorism blacklists. The lists are used to freeze assets and ban individuals from traveling. The Council of Europe’s legal committee is urging an overhaul of international regulations on blacklists in order to allow suspects to have access to evidence against them, rights to a fair trial or impartial review. The committee said current methods “violate the fundamental principles of human rights and rule of law.” Approximately 370 individuals and 60 organizations worldwide have been blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council or the European Union.
In news from Africa, the U.S.-backed Somali government has shut down two more radio stations in the capital Mogadishu. On Monday, authorities closed Shabelle Radio and briefly detained two of its senior staff. Earlier today, heavily armed troops raided Radio Banadir. Reporters Without Borders said the Somali authorities were showing contempt toward the free media. Eight local reporters have been killed in the line of duty in Somalia this year.
U.S. Border Patrol agents along the California-Mexico border fired tear gas and hit protesters on Sunday in an effort to break up a camp to protest U.S. immigration policies. The No Borders Camp was set up last week on both sides of the border. As part of the camp, demonstrators built a cross-border kissing booth where activists on both sides of the border kissed through holes in the fence that separates southern California from Mexico. Video shot by San Diego Indymedia shows Border Patrol agents shooting tear gas and pepper spray at the nonviolent demonstrators. Three demonstrators were arrested and charged with impeding a federal officer. Organizers with No Border Camp said two of the arrested had been refused medical attention. Organizers describe the No Border Camps as action camps and temporary autonomous zones meant to challenge neoliberal capitalism, border militarization and migration controls.
In Boston, 15 members of Veterans for Peace and three supporters were arrested on Sunday after they were barred from holding antiwar signs or speaking during the city’s Veterans Day Parade sponsored by the American Legion. They were charged with disturbing a public assembly.
And former Democratic Congressman Augustus Hawkins has died at the age of 100. He was the first African American from California to be elected to Congress. He was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and authored the legislation that formed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was described as a longtime champion of workers, fair housing and civil rights. In a statement, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called Gus Hawkins “the author of some of the most significant legislation ever passed in the House … particularly in the areas of education and labor. … He cared about poor and working people.”