Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Naheed Akhtar " Shab E Gham Mujhse Milkar Aise Royi " |GHAZAL|

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari marks zero tolerance for negligence during calamities
Pakistan Peoples Party Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari chaired a meeting on flood preparedness and requested Chief Minister Sindh to direct the administration to have zero tolerance to any delinquency or negligence in dealing with any natural calamity arising out of the coming monsoon season in the province.
The briefing was arranged at Bilawal House today by Sindh government for the Patron-In-Chief to apprise him about the preparations by different concerned departments to face the situation following monsoon. The meeting was attended among others by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Hashaam Riaz Sheikh, Chief of Staff Chairman PPP, Minister for works and services Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, Minister for local Government Sharjeel Inam Memon, Minister for Agriculture Ali Nawaz Mehar, Finance advisor Murad Ali Shah, P. Secretary to CM Rai Sikander, Chief Secretary Sajjad Salim Hotiana, Secretary Health, Secretary Works & Services, Secretary Local Government, Secretary Agriculture, Secretary Planning & Development, Secretary Finance, Home Secretary, Commissioner Karachi, Commissioner Sukkur, Commissioner Hyderabad, Commissioner Larkana and Commissioner Mirpur Khas, Relief Commissioner, DG PDMA, Media Advisor Jameel Soomro and Chief Metrologist. On the occasion, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed for a monsoon contingency plan and better coordination among the concerned departments besides establishment of flood monitoring cell. He said there should be clear demarcation of responsibility of each department and authority while role of Irrigation Department remains key in case of floods ,he requested cm sindh to take public representatives on board and form committees to prevent deliberate breaches as well as. Strict law will be introduced and measures will be taken against those who are found guilty of breaches, he added. PPP Patron-In-Chief said rescue and rehabilitation plans should also be ready though the Met office has predicted 40% less rains during coming monsoon.

Afghanistan Delays Election Results
Afghanistan's election commission has delayed releasing preliminary results from the country's April 5 presidential election to allow more time to investigate possible fraud.
A vote count was expected on Thursday, but the Independent Election Commission said results will now be released on Saturday.
Election officials say the extra time is necessary to ensure that possible irregularities are thoroughly investigated. Some seven million ballots were cast on election day. Partial results put former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah in the lead with 44 percent followed by former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani with 33 percent.
It is unclear whether Abdullah and Ghani will receive more than 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a second round election.
Abdullah was the runner-up in the 2009 election won by President Hamid Karzai, amid allegations of irregularities and ballot fraud.
The winner of the April 5 election will replace Karzai who could not run again because of constitutional limits. The next president will oversee a transition during which a majority of international troops will be withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Final election results are due to be released on May 14.

Amnesty International's Recommendations for Afghanistan's Next President

Amnesty International released a list of recommendations for Afghanistan's next president on their website Monday evening addressing the basic human rights of the country. In the recommendation to the future president, Amnesty International asks that he support human rights by implementing international treaties to bring justice to the nation. Amnesty International's recommendations were retrieved from their website and the list is as follows:
1. Fulfill the Human Rights of Women and Girls
This not only means protecting and promoting women's and girls' rights and security, but also supporting women's engagement so that they are not marginalized but are leaders and participants in this transfer of power. Currently, women's human rights defenders face threats, intimidation and attack without adequate government protection. Violence against women and girls continues to be rife across the country and implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women continues to be limited. The new president must make supporting ALL of women's human rights one of his top priorities.
2. Abolish the Death Penalty
Trial proceedings in Afghanistan fall short of international standards of fair trial and by the end of 2013, more than 300 people remained on death row, with 174 death sentences issued in 2013 across Afghanistan. Judicial decisions are largely based on confessions from the accused, which are often coerced, including through torture or other ill-treatment. The new president must take immediate action to end the death penalty in Afghanistan.
3. Fulfilling Afghanistan's International Human Rights Obligations
Afghanistan's Constitution explicitly commits it to abide by international conventions that Afghanistan has signed and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The new president must ensure that Afghanistan abides by international law and support the work of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) to monitor respect for human rights in Afghanistan as well as to foster and protect it.
4. Ensure Accountability for Alleged War Crimes by Afghan and International Forces
The new President must ensure that all allegations of civilian casualties and harm resulting from national and international military operations are fully investigated and that a credible independent mechanism to monitor, investigate, report and provide remedy is created.
5. Help Internally Displaced People
According to UNHCR, there are around 600,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan, largely as a result of the conflict. Many experience multiple human rights violations including forced evictions, inadequate housing and lack of access to affordable food, water, health and education, sometimes leading to further instability in otherwise relatively stable urban areas. The new president must ensure that all necessary measures are taken to minimize displacement in areas affected by military operations; and help expand access for humanitarian actors seeking to meet the emergency needs of all IDPs and displacement-affected communities.
6. End Impunity for Past Human Rights Abuses and War Crimes
Inadequate investigations and accountability have hindered justice for past human rights abuses in Afghanistan. The new Afghan president must guarantee prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial judicial investigation of human rights abuses and war crimes, in accordance with international law and standards.
7. Protect and Respect Freedom of Expression
The new president must protect and respect freedom of expression in Afghanistan. Since 2001, more than 450 journalists and other media workers in Afghanistan, including 54 in 2013, have been killed, injured, beaten, threatened or detained.
Afghan journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to report on cases of corruption and criminal activity by government officials and members of the Afghan parliament, as well as reporting on cases of other human rights violations committed by the Taliban.
After the release of the recommendation list, civil and human rights institutions inside Afghanistan call for the government to not only consider, but apply and practice these recommendations.
"Based on the Afghan constitution the government is obligated to protect and respect human and civil rights of the citizens," Executive Director of Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said. "Like many other areas of social, cultural and economical issues there must be effective programs to support and develop human rights."
Afghanistan Civil Society Foundation (ACSF) also welcomes the proposal asking the government to put it into practice.
"Upcoming government must pay close attention and make it a priority to pledge international treaties," Head of Afghanistan Civil Society Foundation (ACSF).
Amnesty International adds that Election Day in Afghanistan was successful calling the next five years a chance for great opportunity to implement these recommendations.
The next president of Afghanistan is due to start his responsibilities in two months.

Hole in Afghan budget stirs unease as West starts packing bags

A $375 million hole in the Afghan budget is threatening public projects and civil servants' salaries, officials say, putting the aid-dependent economy under stress just as Afghanistan awaits a new leader and foreign troops prepare to go home.
U.S., U.N. and Afghan finance ministry officials have discussed ways to resolve what they say has become a critical situation for the budget, with civil projects most at risk as international assistance starts to taper off.
"If the political situation of the country does not become normal and businesses do not start again soon this problem will become even more worrying," Alhaj Muhammad Aqa, director general of the treasury at the finance ministry, told Reuters on Wednesday. "We will not only face problems in paying salaries of employees but we will have difficulties in other issues too."
Funding for security will not be affected, as costs are met by foreign governments which recognize that any chance of stability in Afghanistan rests on quelling the Taliban insurgency.
At the start of the month, Afghans voted for a new president to replace Hamid Karzai who steps down after 12 years in power. The international community poured billions of dollars of aid into Afghanistan during Karzai's rule, but the country's next leader could struggle to receive the same levels of support.
Preliminary final election results are due on Saturday, but early tallies show no outright winner, meaning further delays in the political transition. A run-off would occur in late May or early June.
Of the two frontrunners, ex-World Bank official Ashraf Ghani has called for radical economic reforms, while former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah campaigned on job creation and fighting corruption.
"We have to put pressure on the international community to help us cope with this problem," Aqa said. "This will become bigger if the presidential election goes to a second round." Officials put the growing hole in the $7.6 billion budget down to a sharp decline in domestic revenue, forcing some development projects to be put on hold. So far this year, the shortfall stands at $375 million due to falling customs, the finance ministry says.
About a third of the overall budget is earmarked for development projects, ranging from building schools and hospitals to roads.
Employees of a project producing electronic identification cards, a task jointly managed by the interior and communications ministries, said they have been told their jobs might go.
"The head of the treasury department of the finance ministry came with his team to our office and told us that there is a shortfall of around $500 million and they have to cut from every development project," Homayun Mohtat, head of the electronic ID card department, said.
Some employees said they had not been paid for months.
International assistance covers $5 billion of this year's budget, with the remainder filled by domestic revenue raising, mainly in the form of customs duties.
But customs revenue and imports are down since the start of the year, the finance ministry says. Taxes and exports contribute little to the state finances.
The U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis said last week Afghan revenue was much less than expected and the budget was a major problem. He said international donors and the finance ministry were meeting to agree a way to cover the hole.
The U.N. office in Afghanistan and the U.S. embassy in Kabul declined further comment. In January, U.S. lawmakers halved development aid to $1.2 billion for the 2014 fiscal year and with most foreign troops due to leave by the year's end, the new Afghan administration is being left, more than ever, to stand on its own feet.
After a dozen years of massive international aid efforts, Afghanistan is still one of the world's poorest countries. The U.S. decision to cut aid is also expected to shape the contributions of other donor nations.
Foreign powers have poured billions of dollars of aid into Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, but the country's next leader is unlikely to receive the same levels of financial support.
The prospect of dwindling inflows of foreign aid could stoke uncertainty as the United States and other NATO countries move to end their long war in Afghanistan, and as Washington seeks an agreement that would permit some U.S. forces to stay there beyond 2014.


What Pakistan wants from India

Election watchers in Pakistan realise that much would depend on the extent of the BJP’s mandate and who its allies would be in an expected coalition government.
Pakistanis have been watching the election scene in India with considerable trepidation. The intellectual elite and some sections of the media are aware that détente has progressed better whenever strong leadership has existed in both countries. However, an almost visceral dislike of Narendra Modi seems to blur perspectives, not only on account of the 2002 Gujarat riots but also in expectation of a turn towards ultra-nationalism, accompanied by chest-thumping, anti-Pakistani belligerence and a revival of Hindutva politics.
Observing that the umbrella secular vote, normally spearheaded by the Congress, has come under severe strain mainly because of anti-incumbency, analysts question whether there will be a new articulation of ‘post-Nehruvian centrism,’ leading to an embrace of the unfettered market model of ‘Modinomics.’ Doubts have been raised over whether this will lead to exclusivism or provide a mask for religious supremacism. While acknowledging the impact of Indian Muslims as an aspirational community in at least 110 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats, they are depicted as fragilely trying to negotiate space between victimhood and tokenism, without benefitting adequately from opportunities for education, employment or material security.
What India needs to understand
Pakistanis hope that decision-makers in the new Indian government would try to understand that Pakistan has changed in the last five years. As was observable in the 2013 election campaign, its parliamentary mainstream no longer claims to think obsessively about India. Democrats across the political spectrum in Pakistan want better regional co-operation in future, premised on mutually beneficial terms of trade, though they believe trade alone will not alter the baggage of the past.
There is a need to correctly assess the nuances of political transitions underway in Pakistan. These include the rise of a ‘nativised,’ right-of-centre bourgeoisie that occupies urban space, the emergence of newly empowered religio-political groups and a changing balance of power between institutions of state.
Pervez Musharraf’s indictment reveals that the military’s undisputed dominance may be eroding. Even its interference in the trade policy has to be seen in this light. From being a hegemon, the military may have become a veto player, still capable of influencing major decisions with regard to crucial issues of security and foreign policy. This is a major shift in Pakistan’s politics but transition to complete civilian supremacy may take a while.
An erstwhile partner of military dictators, Pakistan’s judiciary has asserted an independent stance for a while now, not hesitating to drag ubiquitous ‘agencies’ of state to court to explain disappearance of missing persons. Sadly, this has not been accompanied by alacrity to bring radical Islamic militants, including the seven arrested terrorists implicated in the Mumbai attacks of November, 2008, to book. Though this causes enough embarrassment or even introspection in the establishment, public opinion in Pakistan finds it difficult to counter frequent or repeated criticism from India on this account. Neither do Pakistani politicians and the media react well to macho, high-octane rhetoric from India, either in response to domestic posturing in Pakistan on Kashmir or international border incidents.
While it would be naïve to expect too much to change too quickly, election watchers in Pakistan realise that much would depend on the extent of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s mandate and who its allies would be in an expected coalition government. They assess, however, that regional coalition partners may not substantially impact the formulation of policies by the new government. There is a view, though, that compulsions of a rightist political lineage may force a BJP government to reverse ongoing peace initiatives or escalate tensions in Kashmir.
How then should relationships be forged with the new dispensation? How would Pakistan react to a possible policy of complete neglect — benign or otherwise? No easy answers appear evident at this stage. The way forward may have to be found through a mix of middle-of-the-road approaches accommodating reasonable expectations with respect to long-pending or contentious bilateral issues. Gradual visa relaxations for selected categories, easing of barter lists in cross-border trade, and opening up of more village-level meeting points and routes as between Kargil and Skardu are ways forward. While Mr. Modi’s stated inflexibility on Sir Creek is noted, retired Pakistani defence services personnel on Track II dialogues point to recent flexibility, through new joint surveys of the disputed land border, re-location of missing boundary pillars and exchange of non-papers including maps of old maritime boundary claims. These have brought considerable clarity in respective positions. India still relies on the median line principle, especially with respect to the base point from where the maritime boundary would be delineated. Give and take is possible to resolve this ‘low hanging’ dispute if political will can be built up, avoiding media hype to interpret this as a win or loss for one side or the other.
For some time now, especially after the Gyari avalanche in April 2012, Pakistan has been quite keen to resolve the Siachen dispute. This again signals a new flexibility in erstwhile military positions through Track II mediatory contacts, for possible agreement to a way forward. However, since then, the Indian position has hardened with strategists holding that control of the Siachen/Saltoro heights are not only technologically affordable now but tactically and strategically a desirable objective in the context of evolving threats from China. State sponsorship of terror Peace-loving Pakistanis acknowledge that any new subversive attacks from across the border on the Mumbai 26/11 model could elicit a much more drastic reaction from a BJP government. They know these are usually undertaken by terrorist outfits — support to whom the Pakistani military may not be ready to give up just yet, despite more serious domestic threats which it faces from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. There is grudging awareness that while these outfits can be curbed by the Army/Inter-Services Intelligence, they do enjoy certain clout in civil society. It may take more for civil society pressures to work from within to promote introspection and forsake use of such asymmetric options by the military.
If this does not happen, security mechanisms and the counter-terror grid in India would have to be honed further. Personal security threats to VIPs would continue. There can be no scope for complacency. Without lowering its guard on security in the homeland, the Indian establishment may have to think long and hard about evolving better covert responses to terror modules in a calibrated manner.

CPJ condemns move by Pakistan's ISI against Geo TV

The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by actions brought by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) against Geo Television today. In its complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the ISI accused Geo's parent company, the Independent Media Corporation, of conducting a "false and scandalous campaign undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of state institution (ISI) and its officers."
The media regulator has the authority to shut down broadcasters based on such complaints, and has done so under previous administrations of Pakistan.
"We call on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority not to act on this spurious complaint, and we call on Pakistan's security services to recognize the critical role of the media and exercise tolerance and maturity," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "The ISI is free to rebut allegations in the media but should not try to censor coverage."
Tension between Pakistan's military and intelligence communities and much of the media swiftly escalated following an assassination attempt on Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir on April 19. Mir was hit with six rounds from assailants on motorcycles as his car was traveling between Karachi's airport and the center of the city. Mir is severely wounded and recovering in the hospital. Geo TV has broadcast accusations that the ISI was involved in the murder attempt.

Pakistani Military Wants GEO TV Station Closed

Pakistan's Defense Ministry has requested the country's top-rated television station be closed after the station alleged that Pakistan's intelligence agency was behind the attempted killing of a leading journalist.
The ministry wrote to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority late on April 22 asking that it cancel the broadcasting license of Geo television.
The ministry complained about broadcasts on Geo that alleged that the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency was connected to an assassination attempt on the station's popular talk-show host, Hamid Mir.
Mir was shot three times while in his car on April 19 and is currently recovering in a hospital.
The New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists posted a copy of the Defense Ministry's letter on its website that accuses Geo of launching "a vicious campaign, libelous and scandalous in nature."

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: ''3 More Shias Shot Martyred In Pakistan''
At least three more Shia Muslims have been martyred by Deobandi Takfiri terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhagvi in different parts of Pakistan, The Shia Post reported on April 23, 2014.
KARACHI: A Shia Muslim Ejaz Hussain s/o Najaf Shah, aged-36, was shot martyred afterhe was attacked in Nusrat Bhutto Colony area. The martyr was traveling to his duty as a Bank Manager. He was resident of Gilgit-Biltistan.
His funeral prayer was offered at Miyanwali Colony Gilgiti Muhalla area of Karachi after Zohrain Prayer.
DERA ISMAIL KHAN: In village Shah-Dawo area of Tehsil Paharpur the terrorists of Pro-Taliban Lashkar-e-Jhagvi killed a Shia Muslim Nazar Abbas.
According to reports, a Shia Muslim Moharram ali has been abducted by Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ) terrorists.
FAISALABAD: The Takfiri Deobandi/ Wahabi pro-Taliban terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba shot martyred a Shia Youth Syed Ahsan Zaidi in Ghokowal area.
The martyr was attacked on his shop.
Last years two Shia brothers Jafar Ali Hyder Ali were also shot martyred at the same location.

Pakistan: Chairman of Baloch student Organisation abducted, comrades announce hunger strike till death
Senior Chairperson of the Baloch Student Organisation (Azad), Banuk Karima Baloch, revealed on Tuesday that the chairman of BSO-Azad, Zahid Kurd Baloch, has been abducted from Quetta on 18 March 2014. She said Zahid Baloch was abducted during a raid on a political meeting of the Organisation.
She expressed these during a press conference outside Karachi Press Club where they set up a hunger strike on to death protest camp for the release of their chairman. She said, “We expect you [media/journalists] to make our voices heard in the right mediums around the world.”
She added, “Baloch Students Organization - Azad (BSO-A) is a progressive democratic student organization that believes in peaceful struggle and has been striving for the Baloch rights including the right for freedom. In the struggle for these aims, BSO-Azad has been clear and open on its strategy since day one; which is, not only believing and advocating peaceful democratic struggle but also becoming an exemplary lead in it.
“Although BSO-Azad has been strictly committed to its democratic struggle, powerful Pakistani state elements could never tolerate our mere existence. From past 5 years, there has been an unannounced deadly crackdown against BSO-Azad that has left hundreds of our peaceful activists being abducted and dozens extra judicially murdered. In addition, BSO-Azad has also been unlawfully banned to carry out any political activity. Despite all of these brutalities, BSO-Azad has not compromised on its principal of peaceful democratic struggle.
“On March 18, 2014 at 5pm, Pakistani secret agencies and security forces abducted BSO-Azad Chairman Zahid Baloch also known as Baloch Khan from Quetta. I, along three other senior members of BSO-Azad are eyewitnesses to this incident of forced disappearance. Zahid Baloch was abducted in presence of dozens of other independent eye-witnesses. We did not disclose about his abduction because we hoped that they would bring him to surface at some point.”
She said the Organisation was deeply concerned about Chairman Zahid Baloch's safety because life is under serious threat. She urged the UN and world organizations to play there vital role in safe recovery of all BSO-Azad leaders.
She said: “After several CC meetings and thorough debates and discussions, BSO-Azad has decided to sit on a hunger strike till death protest against the abduction of student leader Zahid Baloch. This hunger strike till death will continue until Chairman Zahid Baloch is not recovered.
“We urge the UN to assure protection of our hunger strike protesters as this is part of our peaceful democratic struggle. We urge world groups to build pressure on Pakistan and insure safe recovery of student leader Zahid Baloch.”

Pakistan's under-funded Police :Trouble In Charsadda

While much of the media, public, and politicians’ attention in recent days has centred on the attack on one prominent anchor from one prominent media house, the country’s ‘existential war’ against terrorism seems near forgotten. But a deadly reminder came this week in the form of an explosion near a police vehicle in Charsadda, killing three people and leaving over 30, including 14 policemen, injured. While scores of people were at the Tehsil Bazar when the explosion occurred, the target of the attack was clearly the police. Indeed, the attack is being seen as part of a larger campaign against police patrol teams who are visible, who are everywhere and who are not heavily armed - not just in Charsadda but all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and across the country.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but suspicion has fallen on Pakistani Taliban insurgents who often target law enforcement forces and public places with bombings and shooting attacks. The police are no match for the well-armed, well-trained, battle-hardened militants. Twelve years into the war on militancy, Pakistan’s police are chronically under-funded.
This year’s federal budget gave the military about $6 billion and the police $686 million, a lopsided allocation mirrored in the disbursement of foreign aid.
How many more such attacks will occur before the state decides to take note? For how long will the people of these troubled areas be left to defend themselves in a lop-sided battle they have little chance of winning? At a moment when the Taliban have called off their ceasefire with the government, shouldn’t the state be better prepared for such attacks? For a country in the stranglehold of terrorist violence, the police cannot remain under-equipped and poorly trained. The government can only stamp out terror if it invests in the police.

Pakistan: The question:Who shot Hamid Mir?

Who shot Hamid Mir? Amidst the condemnations, the recriminations, the fighting and the posturing this one essential question has been lost in the din. Everyone from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on down has had their say and most have come down on the side of justice and truth. Nawaz visited the Aga Khan Hospital to inquire after Mir’s health and promised to bring his attackers to justice. The Senate, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies passed resolutions condemning the attack and a judicial commission comprising three Supreme Court justices have been tasked with investigating the incident. Many everyday working journalists have taken to the streets protesting this obvious attempt to silence the media. All this should be reassuring, not just to Hamid Mir himself, but to the entire journalist community. Today it is Hamid Mir whose life is under threat; tomorrow it could be any one of us. But even though those in power have said the right things, there are many reasons to be wary. The biggest disappointment has been the reaction of small-minded media organisations – and some ‘journalists’ – who have used the near-death of one from their fraternity to push forward their agendas in the name of patriotism.
The vendetta being pursued has reached such unprecedented heights that an experienced and veteran journalist like Imtiaz Alam, someone who has survived the many periods of media repression and has the scars to show for it, felt compelled to resign from his position as a talk-show host rather than be used in service of maligning a fellow journalist. The response from the military has been no better. The mere mention of the dreaded ISI was enough for the military apparatus to spring into action. The ISI is more concerned with protecting its own reputation and insisting that criticising it is out of bounds rather than finding those behind the attack so that its name can be cleared. Army Chief Raheel Sharif’s visit to the ISI headquarters seems designed to support the agency at a time when its performance and actions are getting a public airing. Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed has tried to play down talk of a civilian-military rift with the good intention of not letting things get worse. But for once state institutions need to move beyond their parochial interests. Who shot Hamid Mir? That is the only question everyone should be trying to answer.

Pakistan: Media under attack

Freedom comes at a price, but for the media in Pakistan the price is rather high, almost unaffordable. Since 1992 about 80 journalists have been murdered and many more injured - an unenviable distinction that puts our country among the most dangerous places in the world for working journalists. And the irony is that no one gets caught and punished. Whether the judicial commission set up to investigate the murder attempt on the life of television anchorperson Hamid Mir will help bring to book the criminals we are not optimistic, given the track record of such moves. If anyone involved in killing a journalist or attacking a media house was ever punished there is no example. Of course, there is all the fury and fulmination over such incidents but nothing happens the day after, till there is another such ghastly incident. But this must come to an end. Media acts as the lungs of society and in today's Pakistan its role is all the more critical. Given the enormity of challenges to the lives of people - ranging from misconceived national 'interests' to political pressures to evil designs of the underworld - journalists and media houses are in the line of fire. But there is no escape for them from this high-risk obligation. So let this be the test case for the media to secure its constitutional right of informing the people and for the government to decide how far it can go in delivering on its constitutional responsibility to ensure the media's right to inform and the peoples' right to be informed.
But how to go about it, for reasons not yet clear there are problems from the very word go. Within minutes of the incident the media house to which Mir worked for started accusing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate particularly its head Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam of masterminding the murderous attack. And, for that it copiously cited his brother and some of his colleagues with whom he had purportedly shared his fears. To an average viewer this was a bit unprofessional, in that a premier media outlet was maligning the country's premier intelligence agency and its chief even before the aggrieved party had filed its complaint with the police. Probably, finding it no more digestible the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department which speaks for the armed forces and its branches including the ISI directorate returned the fire. Curtly rejecting this wild allegation the ISPR questioned its authenticity and warned that 'legal and constitutional litigation against this shameful allegation' was being deliberated.
No less significantly, it asserted that the allegation by the concerned media outlet has 'resulted in gross insult and degrading of the army as an institution'. Realising, perhaps, that its channel has overplayed its hand, the media group issued a statement which 'clarified that it has not put the blame on any institution or section of any institution (read ISI)'. And that 'Mir had sent written and video statements to his colleagues and friends and members of family where security risks and threats to his life had been clearly identified... has been categorical in stating that some individuals in the security agencies have been after him for a while'. So, in essence, while the media group has disowned any role as a media house in what was broadcast by it, but has not disowned Mir's fears. Therefore, it is important that the ISI should help find the truth in the matter. It's just possible that having learnt that Mir has sent a video to a world body of journalists, accusing ISI of planning to harm him and whether some third-party or rival foreign intelligence outfit attacked him rightly assuming that ISI will earn the flak - who knows. For a change, therefore, the inquiry commission should seek help from all relevant quarters including the ISI and make public its verdict within the three-week mandated timeframe.

Pakistan: PEMRA committee formed to review govt application against Geo TV network
A three-member committee has been formed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to review the application filed by the Defence Ministry against Geo TV network for alleging that an intelligence agency of Pakistan was involved in attack over its anchor Hamid Mir, a private news channel reported.
On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry had moved PEMRA under PEMRA Ordinance 2002, section 33 and 36 for taking a legal action against Geo TV for framing allegations against Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
According to a statement, the ministry also provided the authority with the relevant evidence suggesting the media group’s involvement in tarnishing the image of the intelligence agency.
“The news channel has breached the code of conduct by accusing Director General (DG) of the ISI Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam of masterminding the attempt on senior journalist Hamid Mir,” the statement said. It added that action would be taken against the channel’s editorial and management team.
The PEMRA committee formed includes Pervez Rathore, Syed Ismail Shah and Israr Abbas. They will be reviewing the application and report to PEMRA with the facts.
According to PEMRA officials, Geo TV network would be provided a full opportunity for explanation of the actions it is being charged for.
On Saturday, Geo News’s anchorperson Hamid Mir was injured in attack by gunmen in Karachi. Geo News had showed a portrait of the ISI Chief Lt. General Zaheerul Islam, alleging that his agency was involved in the attack on Mir.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:-PTI: ‘Pressure group’ announces boycott of parliamentary committees

The Express Tribune
Disgruntled MPAs of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have decided to boycott parliamentary committee meetings until their grievances are addressed, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday.
According to sources privy to a meeting, the pressure group has objections over two major portfolios given to PTI’s coalition partners in the government.
The insider added a meeting was held among four pressure group lawmakers on Monday in the chambers of the assembly’s deputy speaker in which the MPAs expressed reservations on the allocation of portfolios.
“The disgruntled members claim that by giving two major portfolios to coalition partners, PTI will have to face the public’s resentment,” the insider added.
Requesting anonymity, a PTI MPA said the people of K-P gave PTI the mandate but the credit of governance will go to Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan (AJIP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) since they have the health and local government ministries, respectively.
“Are we not competent enough to run the health ministry,” the unhappy lawmaker questioned.
He added the pressure group members will not attend meetings of parliamentary committees until their grievances are addressed.
“Imran Khan promised that our issues will be addressed in three months, and notifications of the appointment of newly-inducted ministers into the provincial cabinet will be put on hold,” said the lawmaker. “People have expectations from us (PTI) but we will never be able to facilitate them, particularly in the matters of health and local government. This will be detrimental for us,” he added.
Another PTI legislator said, “Our resignations are still with the deputy speaker and whenever we feel that we are being taken lightly, we will not hesitate to give a green signal to the deputy speaker to accept them.” “If one MPA leaves the assembly, the entire group will follow,” he added, reiterating the pressure group’s pledge.

Pakistan's Healthcare crisis: In Pindi hospitals, no nurses but beds aplenty

The Express Tribune
As if the healthcare services available in the garrison city’s government hospitals were not already problematic, a dire shortage of nursing staff is making matters worse.
Data provided by hospital administrations reveals that the nurse-to-patient ratio in the three hospitals ranges from 1:12 to 1:16 during duty hours.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Nursing Superintendent Mumtaz Begum of Benazir Bhutto Hospital said that the general wards were understaffed to the extent that only one nurse was on duty.
“According to the Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC) criterion, there should be one nurse for 10 beds in general, and six nurses per patient in critical areas such as the intensive care unit, coronary care unit, emergency, dialysis and operation theatres. But here, one nurse is looking after two to five patients,” said Mumtaz. The 400-bed hospital has 155 sanctioned nursing posts, six of which are lying vacant. Moreover, 12 posts for head nurses out of a total of 26 have not been filled.
The data provided shows that 4,000 patients visit the hospital daily. “On average, 300 patients are admitted every day, while 1,200 patients are treated in the emergency wards daily,” said Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Asif Raza Chauhan.
“Each nurse is performing the duties of five nurses which is unfair on them and violates rules and regulations,” said a senior doctor at Benazir Bhutto Hospital, requesting anonymity. Considered the biggest medical facility of the city, Holy Family Hospital is also grappling with the overarching dearth of nursing staff.
According to hospital records, the 864-bed facility treated around 1 million patients last year.
It receives 1,500 patients daily, while 250 to 300 patients are admitted on a daily basis. There are currently 269 vacant posts, while 800 nurses are required.
District Headquarters Hospital Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Ijaz Sohail Chaudhry said, “Keeping in view the number of patients the hospital receives, the number of nursing staff is disproportionately low.” There are 120 nurses in the hospital, although it receives the bulk of the city’s patients relative to other hospitals, he added. However, he was unable to quote accurate figures.
Earlier, Health Adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister Khwaja Salman Rafique had claimed during a press conference in Rawalpindi that at least 13,000 nurses will be recruited for hospitals across the province to improve health services.
Citing this claim, the hospitals administrations have demanded the provincial government to start recruitment at the earliest to ensure the efficient provision of proper healthcare facilities.
According to the PNC website, there are 24 public health nursing schools in the private and public sectors offering basic nursing health programmes.
A report uploaded on the website mentions that one college of nursing was established in 1951, after which it took 30 years to add more.
Three additional colleges were set up in late 1981, while another was established in 2001. It also mentions that over 2,000 registered nurses, 1,200 midwives and 300 plus lady health visitors are trained in the country every year.

Pakistan: A state of anarchy

THE deaths of innocent people in terrorist attacks are not mourned anymore. Growing fatalities are mere statistics. What matters is only the safety of the ruling elite; never mind even if it is achieved by giving in to the barbarians.
Hours after the carnage of almost 30 poor labourers and vendors in Islamabad’s fruit market the government announced the release of more Taliban prisoners. They were all non-combatants, we are told. So why were they held in the first place? Why were they not produced before any court of law to prove their innocence? No answer. That, however, would not satisfy the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan leaders. Some 800 other prisoners must be released too as a show of sincerity by the government, they demanded. Refusing to further extend the truce, the TTP vows to resume attacks on the security forces.
But it has not shaken the resolve of our national leaders to pursue the elusive negotiated peace. A statement issued after last week’s meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security declared that peace be given yet another chance.
For sure it doesn’t matter if an army patrol is attacked in Peshawar, killing one soldier and injuring several others a day after the suspension of the ceasefire by the TTP. The fact is that the truce has never been fully complied with by the Taliban. But this government seems to have enormous patience to tolerate violence — no use of force come what may.
It has been several months now since the talks started, but there is nothing that can evoke even the slightest hope of them delivering peace. How many more chances is the government prepared to give to the militants while the erosion of its authority continues?
While the government still pins hopes on the talks making some headway, the TTP itself is broiled in bloody infighting that has killed dozens of militants. The fighting now seems to have stopped, but it has left the group more fragmented.
It is apparent that Mullah Fazlullah, now operating from across the border in Afghanistan, cannot keep the fractious group united. It was time for decisive action against the terror network. But the talks have provided Fazlullah and others a new lifeline. This despite the fact that he has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan forces from across the border in Afghanistan. Why the government wants to keep a man perceived as the butcher of Swat alive is beyond comprehension.
It has been a win-win situation for the TTP as it engages in negotiations with the government. While the terrorist network has secured the release of many of its activists, it has not conceded even an inch on the ground. So what have the talks yielded so far that the government is so desperate to give them another chance?
It is clearly the TTP that is dictating the terms now. The biggest gain for the group is that it has now got the legitimacy to operate freely and propagate its violent narrative with impunity. The charade of talks has allowed the group to strengthen its lobby influencing mainstream politics. It is certainly a very dangerous situation for the country’s security.
What is most worrisome is that the government seems to now be losing control over the capital Islamabad too. The mushrooming growth of radical madressahs affiliated with illegally constructed mosques is virtually placing the city under siege.
Last week, the notorious cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque renamed an illegally occupied children library after the slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. After lying low for several years following his release from prison Maulana Abdul Aziz is once again at his vitriolic best, preaching the violent takeover of the state. But this brazen defiance of the law does not seem to worry a spineless administration.
The shrinking authority of the state has never been so palpable. The country has all the symptoms of a failing state with rising lawlessness and militant criminality. A weak and ineffective government has little practical control over much of its territory, including the nation’s capital.
It has lost the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force by embracing militant outfits challenging the very existence of this state. The events over the last few months bear testimony to the country’s rapid slide into anarchy and shameful abdication of the state of its responsibility to protect the lives of its people.
Tailpiece: Two leading journalists were shot at, one of them wounded, in broad daylight in the heart of Pakistan’s two biggest cities in the space of two weeks. But there is little hope of the culprits being brought to justice. The targeted attacks on Hamid Mir and Raza Rumi illustrate the deadly culture of intimidation and retribution used to silence critics.
Several journalists have been murdered in reprisal for their work over the past years. Hardly any case has been solved. This record of impunity has fostered an increasingly more violent climate for the press in the country. Not surprisingly, Pakistan today ranks among the world’s deadliest nations for the media. These targeted attacks on journalists are, however, not isolated phenomena; they underscore widening ungoverned space conceded to non-state actors. The latest attacks involving high-profile media persons may have forced the government to take notice. But there seems to be no change in the government’s apathetic attitude in dealing with the rising militant violence.

Pakistan: Militant groups in Punjab

THE Punjab government, in response to a report in this newspaper, has furnished statistics pertaining to the last six months to show its commitment to tracking down militants and pursuing sectarian groups and hate-mongers in the province. It has also said that 3,500 cases have been registered against those who have resorted to activities such as delivering incendiary speeches and spreading hate literature. The official statistics and an accompanying statement, however, fail to inform us of what action it has taken on the piles of intelligence reports at its disposal about the growth of ‘sleeper’ cells of weapons-trained militants. There has also been the issue of allegations of an unannounced alliance forged by the ruling PML-N with a sectarian group made up of members of a proscribed outfit, ostensibly to ensure peace in the province.
True, there has been some positive activity in recent weeks. The provincial police have reportedly traced and arrested perpetrators involved in some high-profile attacks — but the government has yet to crack down on militants and sectarian organisations operating out of the province. For instance, no action has been taken to remove sectarian slogans scribbled on walls across the province, including major cities such as Lahore and Multan. Banned organisations collect funds with impunity and, in certain cases, act as final arbitrators in commercial and family disputes. Hate speeches are common and sectarian literature is distributed without fear of action. Other provinces may face the same situation, but that has to change, with Punjab showing equal resolve to deal with the problem as any other.
Punjab is the ‘birthplace’ of many sectarian and militant organisations. In the 1990s, it was at the centre of sectarian violence in the country. Violence has significantly declined in the province since the mid 2000s, but the militant organisations based in Punjab have grown both in size and operational capabilities and entrenched themselves deep in many parts. These organisations have cultivated close links with the banned Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan, and export cadres as well as violence to other parts of the country. In fact, some analysts argue, militancy in Punjab has elevated itself to an ideological phenomenon as violence has shifted to the conflict areas of the country. Or why would the strongest voices denouncing a military operation against the Taliban rise from here? The battle against militancy and sectarianism in Punjab cannot be won through half-hearted action. The government will have to increase its intelligence-gathering capacity and undertake a full-fledged operation to break up the underground networks of militant groups. More importantly, this fight will have to be fought on the ideological front as well.

Pakistan: Decimating the Houbara Bustard

News of our excesses has come out of Chaghai, Balochistan where, instead of preserving endangered wildlife, we are making every effort to wipe it off the face of the earth. It appears a Saudi prince has had the perverse ‘pleasure’ of hunting down as many as 2,100 Houbara Bustards in as little as 21 days, meaning that as many as 100 birds a day were killed for nothing more than ‘sport’. The prince apparently killed 1,977 birds and the remaining 123 were killed by other members of his entourage. The Houbara Bustard is a protected species and lives in wildlife preserves in Balochistan declared protected and safe areas. However, the prince also poached this bird in these protected areas. One would be forgiven for asking how this could even be possible but, lo and behold, the government has given these Saudi (and other Gulf) royals special permits allowing them to hunt the endangered bird. While in the larger scheme of things, considering the turmoil this country is going through, the issue may seem small to many, but it is the most befitting example of how we allow anyone of Saudi (or Gulf) descent to trample all over our sovereignty and right to protect what is ours. This is through no other fault but our own for not having the sense to protect this precious bird. This news has reached the media because of a report submitted by a divisional forest officer, detailing the hunting trip from January 11 to 31, 2014, right down to the number of birds killed per day. We should be thankful to this officer for revealing just how accommodating our governments are when it comes to pleasing the Arab sheikhs who have been given free rein to hunt the Houbara Bustard on our lands for years now. This is ironic considering that in their own countries, the Arab princes have declared the bustard a protected species and such violations are never allowed to occur. One wonders what the fate of the officer who compiled this report will be. It is not uncommon in our country to see people who do their job honestly and with a conscience get punished instead of rewarded. There are rumours that he has been ‘transferred’ from the forest department; one can only imagine his plight. The hunting of the threatened Houbara Bustard must come to an end; we must show some humanity and stop this butchery by our Gulf ‘friends’.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari calls on Hamid Mir

Pakistan People’s Party Patron in Chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on Hamid Mir at the private hospital where he is being treated and assured him of his support for freedom of press and his organization. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prayed for Mir's early recovery and added, that the PPP believed in the freedom of press and stands by Hamid Mir and Jang Group. Speaking to the media outside the hospital, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that the police were jointly working with other agencies to probe the attack. He added that some evidences have also been collected during the investigation. Memon expressed hope that the elements involved in the attack would soon be arrested. He further added that a case would be registered by Wednesday. Hamid Mir was injured in an armed attack in Karachi on Saturday.

Repeated shrine visits reflect Japanese politicians' infatuation with militarism

Despite fresh protests from Beijing and Seoul, a Japanese cabinet minister and nearly 150 lawmakers on Tuesday paid homage to a war shrine, showing their infatuation with militarism and aggravating regional tensions.
With U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo around the corner, the repeated shrine visits are also embarrassing for Obama and reflect the dwindling influence Washington has on Japan's right-wing politicians.
A response from Japan's neighbors or Washington over the shrine visit would be no surprise to Japan. Leader Shinzo Abe's visit late last year deeply soured Japan's relations with Asian neighbors and earned the country a diplomatic slap on the wrist from Washington, which said it was "disappointed" by the visit.
The shrine, which honors 14 WWII class-A war criminals, is a negative asset for Japan and has been repeatedly used by right-wing politicians to show their historical denialism and serve their goal of steering their country down a rightist path reminiscent of militarism.
The shrine visit is a provocation to Japan's neighbors, which fell victim to the country's aggression during WWII. The shrine has become a destructive factor in relations between Japan and its neighbors.
Rather than thoroughly reflecting on their view of history and correcting their acts, some Japanese right-wing politicians have resorted to double-faced tactics.
For example, politicians did not visit the shrine in person in order to avoid criticism from Washington and ensure the success of Obama's visit, but they dedicated trees or other offerings to the shrine with an aim to appease domestic right-wing forces.
The whole world should stay alert to some Japanese politicians' tactics and the country's future trend. It is in no country's interest to see Japan go down the rightist path.
It is fundamental for Japan to face up to and reflect on its history of militarist aggression and to make a clean break with militarism. The first step is to stop visits to the symbolic war shrine.

Video: Director finds the humor in the Israeli army

Talya Lavie debuts her new comedy ''Zero Motivation'' at the Tribeca Film Festival. Alicia Powell reports.

Pakistan: A eulogy for 2,100 bustards...Houbara bustard butchery by Saudi Bedouin Prince

On absorbing the final report on the massacre of wildlife in his region, I wonder if Jafar Baloch of the Balochistan Forest and Wildlife learned something important about the dynamics of Pak-Saudi relation: When a Arab country offers you $1.5 billion dollars, it becomes tremendously difficult to regulate its royals’ hunting activities in your reserves. Saudi Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was permitted to hunt a total of a 100 Houbara Bustards in 10 days, in Chagai, Balochistan. We fear our honorable guest may have somewhat overshot the limit by killing 2100 birds, an average of a 100 each day for 21 days. The Houbara Bustard is an endangered bird, whose meat is valued by the Arab falconers as an aphrodisiac. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has estimated the total global population of Houbara Bustards to be 110,000, declining at an average rate of nearly 25 per cent.
It may be a matter of pride for some to be personally responsible for slaughtering nearly 2 per cent of the world’s total population of a species of birds; and cause near-eradication of the bird’s indigenous variety in Pakistan’s nature reserves. Others, like me, find it appalling. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why the Saudi Prince and his hunting friends had been allowed to hunt any of these rare birds at all. This is, interestingly, the same bird whose migratory friends have sparked diplomatic rows with India in the past. These birds are known to migrate annually from Central Asia to India. Last year, our Eastern neighbour scratched its head over the diminished size of the incoming flock, and discovered that they were being poached in Sindh, on their way to Rajasthan. Whether this was negligence on Pakistan’s part, or some odd revenge plan for India’s attempts at restricting water flow into Pakistan, remains to be discussed in a humorous fashion. Enough pressure was mounted on Pakistan to halt the illegal hunting of these majestic birds, and so we did. But we’re always willing to make certain exceptions for our Arab guests and benefactors. We began granting them special permits to ‘poach’ on our land.
All of us who were outraged by news of the French restaurant denying service to Pakistani patrons and allowing only foreigners, will indubitably take offense at the idea of only foreigners being allowed to hunt a bird that locals are forbidden to harm. Saudis are not unaware of the rarity of Houbara Bustard. They have been conducting their own captive breeding program in the Mahazat as-Sayd reserve, recognising that the population of this species has been rapidly dwindling. The birds in our reserves are ostensibly fair game for the royal family. The Houbara Bustard also happens to be the provincial bird of Balochistan. With the region's human population in deep turmoil, it was only fitting for the glorious provincial bird to meet the same fate. The Prince’s actions are the equivalent of your house guest, repaying your warm reception by playing cricket in your living room; and grinning broadly as he poses for a picture next to a pile of broken furniture and fine china. The least we can expect is a formal apology from the state of Pakistan for issuing those special permits. For allowing such unspeakable, and potentially irreplaceable, damage to our wildlife.

Lenin's Popularity Highest in Years on Revolutionary's 144th Birthday
Support for the legacy of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin is on the rise, a poll published on the eve of the 144th anniversary of his birth showed.
Asked what they thought about Lenin's contribution to Russian history, 38 percent of Russians said his influence had been "mostly positive." The survey, conducted by the independent Levada Center pollster and published Monday, showed a steady increase in Lenin's popularity since 2006, when only 29 percent rated his influence as mostly positive. The figure had risen to 36 percent by 2012.
In a corresponding trend, the number of people who see Lenin's contribution as "mostly negative" has dropped from 27 percent in 2006 to 21 percent this year. Those who saw his legacy as "completely negative" also declined, from 9 percent in 2006 to 5 percent this year. The number of Russians who rated Lenin's legacy as "entirely positive" has remained steady for the past two years, at 13 percent. Lenin played a key role in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and is widely considered to be the architect of the Soviet Union. The poll was conducted among 1,603 Russians from March 21-24 in 45 Russian regions. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.

Putin restores rights of Crimean Tatars repressed by Stalin

Russia sees war with Ukraine as unlikely

War between Russia and Ukraine was unlikely, a senior Russian defense official said Tuesday. "I don't believe the Russians and Ukrainians will fight each other," Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. Antonov said Russian and Ukrainian military commanders continued to maintain contact, though this had reduced considerably. Among the issues the two defense ministries currently being discussed were returning Ukrainian weaponry left in Crimea and the return of servicemen recruited from Crimea to the Ukrainian army, he said. Crimea integrated into Russia on March 18 following a popular referendum not recognized by Kiev and Western capitals. Antonov also clarified that allegations Russia had beefed up its military presence in the border areas with Ukraine were false. "We conduct drills in those areas. But their scale does not require the invitation of foreign monitors and they don't exceed the limits set by the Vienna document (of 2011 on confidence and security-building measures)," he said.

Iraqi premier accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has slammed Saudi Arabia for supporting Middle Eastern terrorists, saying the policy has exacerbated the problems faced by Baghdad. Speaking in an interview with al-Manar TV on Monday, the politician stressed that Saudi Arabia's cherished dream to topple the regimes in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon will never come true.
Al-Maliki urged the country to stop funding and arming terrorists in Syria and warned that this policy will back fire on Saudi Arabia and its neighboring countries when the Syrian war bursts its banks and spreads to other regions. The Prime Minister also called on Saudi Arabia to stop meddling with Iraq's affairs and start respecting Iraqi interests.
Commenting on the Syrian crisis, al-Maliki stressed that the Syrian opposition was composed of criminals, terrorists and murderers and addressed the international community with a plea to help the Syrian government confront these terrorist organizations. According to the Iraqi Prime Minister, a peaceful solution is the only possible way out of the ongoing civil war in Syria that has claimed the lives of over 150,000 people and driven a third of its entire population from their homes.
Al-Maliki's relations with Saudi Arabia have always been strained. The Prime Minister has consistently come up with harsh remarks accusing Saudi Arabia with inciting and openly funding terrorist movements and seeking to destabilize Iraq. Abdullateef Al-Zayani, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, has repeatedly condemned al-Maliki's allegations against Saudi Arabia, calling them irresponsible and in defiance of political and diplomatic norms.
Read more:

Greek austerity has caused more than 500 male suicides – report

Spending cuts in Greece have caused some 500 male suicides since their implementation, according to a new study. The research found a positive correlation between austerity and suicide rates after other possible links proved to be unrelated. The 30-page study, titled 'The Impact of Fiscal Austerity on Suicide: On the Empirics of a Modern Greek Tragedy' and published in the Social Science and Medicine journal was authored by Nikolaos Antonakakis and Alan Collins from Portsmouth University. “Suicide rates in Greece (and other European countries) have been on a remarkable upward trend following the global recession of 2008 and the European sovereign debt crisis of 2009,” states the study’s abstract. Each 1 percent decrease in government spending resulted in a 0.43 percent rise in suicides among men, according to the study. Between 2009 and 2010, there were 551 deaths which occurred “solely because of fiscal austerity,” it stated.
“That is almost one person per day. Given that in 2010 there were around two suicides in Greece per day, it appears 50 percent were due to austerity,” one of the paper’s co-authors, Nikolaos Antonakakis, told the Guardian.
Antonakakis, a Greek national, said that he had been motivated to examine the link between austerity and suicide rates after watching media reports and hearing stories about friends of friends killing themselves.
While there had already been research into the impact of negative economic growth on health, there had previously been no studies linking austerity cuts with poor health and suicide.
“Our empirical findings suggest that fiscal austerity, higher unemployment rates, negative economic growth and reduced fertility rates lead to significant increases on overall suicide rates in Greece, while increased alcohol consumption and divorce rates do no exert any significant influence on overall suicide rates,” the study notes.
Antonakakis and Collins are both contemplating expanding their work by examining the link between economic austerity in other eurozone countries most affected by the crisis. This work could encompass Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland.
“These findings have strong implications for policymakers and for health agencies,” said Antonakakis. “We often talk about the fiscal multiplier effect of austerity, such as what it does to GDP. But what is the health multiplier?” he questioned.
The study identified some gender and age trends, finding that men in the 45-89 age bracket suffer the largest risk because of salary and pension cuts. There was no obvious rise in suicide rates among females.
“The fact we find gender specificity and age specificity can help health agencies target their help,” said Antonakakis.

NAHEED AKHTAR - Tumse Ulfat Ke Takaze

Pakistan: Moin Akhtar’s 3rd death anniversary today
The third death anniversary of legendary actor, comedian and host Moin Akhtar is being observed today. Akhtar proved his mettle and immense talent in the fields of Pakistani television, film and stage through his acting, play writing, direction and production. He made his debut for television on 6 September 1966, in a variety show broadcasted by PTV to celebrate the first defence day of Pakistan. He performed several roles in TV plays/shows and made an unforgettable trio with Anwar Maqsood and Bushra Ansari to entertain his fans. Unmatched comic timing and tasteful humour made Akhtar a beloved entertainer among the family audience. His most popular shows include Rozy, Half Plate, Such Much, Aangan Tehra, Loose Talk, Eid Train, Studio 2 ½, Studio 2 ¾. He also performed with Umer Sharif in stage shows Bakra Qiston Pe and Buddha Ghar Pe Hai in India. Akhtar also briefly hosted the Pakistani version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Kya Aap Banaingay Crorepati? He passed away on 22 April 2011 in Karachi after suffering from a heart attack.

Attempt on Hamid Mir’s life ‘an attack on media, democracy’: Manzoor Wattoo
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Mian Manzoor Wattoo has dubbed the murder attempt on anchorperson Hamid Mir as ‘an attack on media and democracy’. He also maintained that the attack was undoubtedly perpetrated by anti-Pakistan and anti-democratic forces, which must be exposed and brought to justice sooner rather than later. In a statement on Monday, Wattoo said that the PPP and its leadership’s commitment to democracy and freedom of expression were unequivocal and unflinching. He recalled that despite reservations of massive rigging, the PPP decided to accept the results of May 2013 elections just for the great cause of continuity of democratic process in the country.
While underscoring the importance of the freedom of media, Wattoo said that democracy and freedom of media were inseparable and were two sides of the same coin indeed. They co-exist and supplement the cause of each other for building a pluralistic society based on tolerance, equality and interfaith harmony, he added. “It is for this reason that the PPP considers democracy as non-negotiable,” he said and added that democracy must be protected at all cost come what may.
“The PPP stands for the empowerment of the people and so does the free media,” he said, adding that both were promoting the same cause in unison with each other.
He recalled that the PPP had launched a struggle for the freedom of press during successive dictatorships and that its workers and leaders were subjected to victimisation of the worst kind but that they upheld the beacon light of unfettered freedom of expression. He called upon the government to take all necessary steps to create an environment conducive for working journalists, who had become soft targets of maniacs.
It was so embarrassing that Pakistan had emerged as ‘the most dangerous’ country for journalists, he lamented.
He appreciated the overall role of the media for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions with sense of objectivity and said that only free media could assume this role effectively. The media had never lagged behind when the question of national interest was at stake, he added.

The chances of Modi echoing Vajpayee on Pakistan

By Ashok Malik
Each time a BJP government is seen as coming to office, a familiar question is heard: Could a BJP prime minister do a deal with Pakistan? The inevitable comparison is with Richard Nixon, the Republican president who broke the ice with China. This question is both valid and tiresome. It has found renewed mention in 2014, as opinion polls suggest Narendra Modi may become prime minister. The more optimistic (or excitable) are citing the precedent of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's outreach to Pakistan between 1999 and 2004.
So can Modi, should he become prime minister, achieve what Vajpayee did? To answer that, let us go back a decade and a half.
It is worth remembering Vajpayee's initial attempts to befriend Pakistan failed. In 1999, he travelled to Pakistan - the famous Delhi-Lahore bus yatra - and triggered heady emotions. Nawaz Sharif, then, as now, the prime minister in Islamabad, was receptive but the Pakistan army was cold. Within weeks General Pervez Musharraf had invaded Kargil. Next, in the summer of 2001, Vajpayee invited Musharraf to Agra. The Pakistani dictator misinterpreted the gesture as Indian surrender and the summit ended in a fiasco.
It was only in January 2002, a month after the terror attack on Parliament and following Indian troop mobilisation on the border, that Musharraf made a truly conciliatory statement. He agreed to dismantle the terror infrastructure and promised to neutralise the universities of religio-political extremism in his country. That he didn't - or couldn't - deliver is another matter.
Nevertheless a period of talks and negotiations began. Opening of trade routes was discussed, including between the two Kashmirs. The future of Kashmir itself was the subject of frank conversation. Visas became easier to get. All this culminated in Indian tourists going to a welcoming Pakistan and watching the 2004 cricket series. These were solid achievements and they carried into the early years of Manmohan Singh's government as well.
What caused the surly Musharraf of Agra 2001 to change, or least give the impression of change? There were three reasons. First, the events of 9/11 and the presence of American troops in the neighbourhood played a key role. The United States was then beginning a long military investment in Afghanistan. The George W Bush administration had good relations with New Delhi as well as Islamabad and emerged as an informal guarantor of good behaviour. Additionally, the war in Afghanistan became the greater jihad for south Asian Islamists. This took away pressure from India and Kashmir, which was relegated to the lesser jihad.
Second, by 2002, Musharraf was the undisputed leader of Pakistan. He commanded the army and had no political rival. In fact, he had a certain civil society popularity.
Third, the Indian economy was starting to shift gears. Investment, growth and job opportunities seemed to be rising. The middle class was optimistic. This gave Vajpayee the domestic political capital to venture a settlement with Pakistan even in ways that previously seemed impracticable.
Presuming he becomes Prime Minister next month, will this happy configuration be available to Modi? Analyse the strands.
In 2002, the US had just arrived in and committed itself to Afghanistan. In 2014, it is waiting to depart and its future role in the region is in doubt, as is the security situation on India's western frontiers. Also, unlike Bush, Barack Obama does not have a grand strategy that even remotely matches India's. His influence and leverage in south Asia is lower than that of any American president in some 20 years.
That apart, internal power equations in Pakistan are anything but clear. The ongoing friction between Sharif and the army chief, the threat from various factions of the Pakistan Taliban, the state of sectarian violence and unrest: this is a far cry from the relative predictability of Musharraf's early years.
Finally, in 2002-03, India was entering a decade-long boom; in 2014, it has just exited that boom. Without rescuing the economy and reviving the national mood, no Prime Minister will have the domestic political capital to risk diplomatic innovations, even if he wants to. Should he move into 7 Race Course Road, these factors will tend to influence Modi's Pakistan policy.

PAKISTAN: The AHRC condemns the attack on Hamid Mir and demands the suspension of the ISI chief until the inquiry is completed

A prominent journalist and television anchor person, Mr. Hamid Mir, was attacked by plain clothed assailants on April 19 while on his way from Karachi Airport to his television station, the Geo News. He was attacked twice at the Shahrah-e-Faisal, the busiest road of the city which goes from the airport to the down town area where Governor House and the chief ministers’ offices are located. Mir’s driver took him to the Aga Khan University Hospital, where he underwent emergency treatment. He was shot six times by two motor bike riders and one person standing under a bridge. At the time of the attack the CCTV camera, installed at that particular spot, was not working for reasons unknown. However all others were working at that time.
Mir had traveled from Islamabad to Karachi to cover the arrival of the former president and army chief, Pervez Musharraf, who landed in Karachi four hours after the attack on Mir. Musharraf arrived on a flight chartered from Karachi-based Princely Jets.
It is significant that the attack on Mir occurred during the period of the maximum security arranged for Musharraf’s arrival. This, and the fact that the security camera at the location of the attack was the only one not working speaks of the involvement of the ISI. The formation of the security protocol for such events is the sole responsibility of the ISI.
Musharraf was given a heavy protocol with many armed cars and guards from the Pakistan Rangers and Police. The high protocol arrangements were made at the Karachi airport from 2 pm and every person was searched on the way to the airport. Mr. Mir was attacked at 5 pm and assailants were given safe passage to run away.
Mir’s younger brother, Aamir Mir , his family members and other anchorpersons and journalists accused Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, the chief of the ISI, the notorious intelligence agency of the military, for involvement in the attack on Hamid Mir. They state that Mir had been receiving threats from the ISI and its chief for some months for extensively covering the issue of missing persons and the military’s involvement in the Balochistan situation, and also for criticizing the role of the military in the high treason case against General Musharraf by providing protection for him when he was hiding in the armed forces hospital.
In November 2012, an explosive device was planted in Mir’s car. It is not known whether this was an attempt to assassinate him or merely intimidate him. A right wing journalist by his writings Mr. Mir, an anchorperson of Geo news channel, accused some 'state actors' and some 'non state actors' of involvement in planting the bomb under his car.
Mir has also been under threat from the Taliban and other groups from Al-Qaida for some time now and on many occasions receives threatening calls from unknown persons believed to be from the state intelligence agencies. He has forwarded to the federal Minister for the Interior the telephone numbers from which the threats were received but no action or investigations have been conducted in the matter. Please see our earlier statement: PAKISTAN: Intimidation of journalists continues with the attempted assassination of Hamid Mir.
After the failed assassination of the famous journalist, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the Pakistan Military came out with a statement denying the involvement of the ISI or its chief in the attack. However, as a large number of media houses and journalists were openly accusing the ISI and its chief in the assassination attempt on Mir, the director general (DG) Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa said that they welcome the government’s commission to probe the attack. In the same tone he threatened the media houses that baseless allegations against government institutions will not be taken lightly and that stern action will be taken against the elements who blame the ISI. He said that Hamid Mir was attacked by miscreants who do not want peace to prevail in the country. He also said that pointing fingers at the military organisations is tantamount to defamation.
A report by Human Rights Watch states that the ISI has a long and well-documented history of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings of critics of the military and others. Those abducted are routinely beaten and threatened, their relatives told not to worry or complain as their release is imminent, and then when released they are threatened with further abuse if the ordeal is made public. Pakistani and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented the ISI's intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings, including those of many journalists. There were many complaints against the attacks of from ISI officers and their involvement in killings of the journalists.
In the case of Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, and for Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, disappeared from central Islamabad on the evening of May 29, 2011. His body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered on May 31, near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital. The circumstances of the abduction raised concerns that the military’s feared Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was responsible. In June 2011, the Supreme Court, at the request of the government, instituted a commission of inquiry into the killing. However, the commission’s failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. Mr. Saleem Shahzad had informed many media houses before his assassination that the ISI or secret agencies would kill him. He repeated his fears to the AHRC on many occasions.
There are examples of journalists like Hyatullah, Musa Khel and many from Balochistan who were killed after their disappearances by the powerful intelligence agencies of the army. A prominent journalist, Umer Cheema, was also abducted by the intelligence agency, the ISI, severely tortured and sodomised by army officials. But, as is typical where the military are concerned, no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted nor has any enquiry been concluded. Please refer to: PAKISTAN: Absence of rule of law provides impunity to military officials.
Mr. Umer Cheema, a senior journalist at The News International, a daily newspaper based in Islamabad, was kidnapped, tortured and humiliated for six hours on 4 September, 2010. He was picked up in cloak-and-dagger style in the early hours by men in commando uniforms and driven to a "safe house". Here unknown persons took over; he was beaten black and blue, humiliated beyond comprehension, he was made to strip off his clothes, hung upside down and remained in the illegal custody for hours. Finally, he was thrown out on the roadside at Talagang, 120 kilometres from Islamabad with a shaved head and a threatening message for Ansar Abbasi, the head of the newspaper's investigative section. Please see our Urgent Appeal: PAKISTAN: A senior journalist was abducted, tortured and kept incommunicado by the intelligence agencies.
In the murder of Hyatullah Khan, a judicial commission was formed which came out with the opinion that the secret agencies of the military were involved. However, the government has not made the report public and when the widow of Hyatullah Khan began to pursue the case she was also murdered and the ISI was given immunity.
Mr. Umer Cheema wrote in an article after the assassination attempt on Mir that the secret agencies have framed the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for their own convenience but their actions do not have any legal authority. Their officials believe in the notion that the agencies’ work starts where the law fails to deliver. With this thought in mind, they act with full impunity playing havoc with the lives of the citizens without any burden of guilt. But they do not forget to react if their wrongdoing is pointed out and any such aspersion is considered an attack on national security. Pakistan is one of the few democracies in the world with no mechanism of parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Even countries which were previously governed by military rule under authoritarian regimes have carried out intelligence reforms.
Umar Cheema was a 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellow. In 2004 during General Musharraf's government, he was deliberately hit by a moving car while doing a story on the international inspection of Pakistan's nuclear power installations.
Fifteen days before the recent attack on Hamid Mir he sent a recorded statement to the government authorities, his friends and his organisation, GEO TV. In the statement he said that he firmly believed that he would be attacked or eliminated in the coming days. He accused the chief of the ISI, Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, for responsibility of any such attack. In a recent visit to Dubai he also shared his apprehension with four other anchor persons. This was revealed by his friends.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has announced a three-member judicial commission to probe the attempted murder and asked the Supreme Court to nominate three judges. The PM knows himself that in the past, such commissions were formed and the judiciary failed to implement its own investigation because of the presence of the power intelligence agency. It is well known by all that any such commission is unlikely to produce any results. If by some chance results are found it is also well known that the government cannot go against the wishes of the ISI. It is also a fact that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power due to the invisible and unholy alliance between the ISI, the Taliban and ruling party, PML-N.
The AHRC urges the government to conduct a transparent inquiry by the proposed judicial commission, the ISI chief, Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, must be suspended from duty during the course of the investigation and a criminal case of alleged attempted murder must be brought against him. The AHRC also believes that an institution such as the ISI which conducts itself like a wild elephant must be disbanded as it is a burden on the state to which it brings only severe embarrassment.

Deutsche Welle correspondent target of possible attack in Pakistan

DW correspondent Abdul Ghani Kakar has reportedly been attacked in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. Observers say that Pakistani journalists are being increasingly targeted by both state and non-state actors.
According to Abdul Ghani Kakar,a freelance correspondent for DW based in Quetta, Pakistan, three armed men followed him on Sunday, April 20, and "rammed their vehicle" into his car in a possible assassination attempt. The unknown assailants fled the scene after attacking him, Kakar reported, adding that two passersby had been wounded and that he had received minor injuries.
The correspondent for DW's Urdu service said he had been getting "threatening phone calls" for the past few days.
Perilous Pakistan
Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world. According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, seven reporters lost their lives in Pakistan in 2013. A 2012 UNESCO report ranked Pakistan "the second most dangerous country for journalists the world over" after Mexico.
A day prior to the alleged attack on Kakar, Hamid Mir, a renowned Pakistani journalist and TV anchor, was shot three times in the southern port city of Karachi. Doctors say his condition is now stable.
he attack on Mir came less than a month after gunmen tried to kill a liberal journalist, Raza Rumi, who is known for criticizing the country's Islamists. Observers say these incidents highlight the risks the journalists in Pakistan are currently facing. Terrorism and Islamism are the most dangerous issues for Pakistani journalists to report on, says the non-governmental South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA). Kakar reports extensively on the Baloch separatist movement and human rights violations in Balochistan province for international and local media organizations. Experts say that Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province - which borders Afghanistan and Iran - is one of the most deadly places for journalists and reporters. Not only does the province face the challenge of a protracted separatist movement, it is also a hub for various Islamist militant organizations, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Kakar told DW that he had been receiving death threats from members of banned Baloch militant organizations.
Investigation begins
Muhammad Rafique, a local police officer, told DW the authorities were looking into Sunday's hit and run and were working to determine whether it was an attempt on Kakar's life or merely a road accident.
Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) has condemned the alleged attack.
"Thirty journalists have been killed in Balochistan in the past few years. The province's chief minister has finally promised to set up a judicial commission to investigate the murders after our protests," Irfan Chanda, BUJ president, told DW.
Threats from all sides
But the threat journalists face, according to experts, comes not only from various militant groups, but also from the government's security and intelligence agencies.
Imtiaz Alam, secretary general of SAFMA, told DW both state and non-state elements were against press freedom in Pakistan:
"So many journalists in Pakistan have been killed yet nobody has ever been brought to justice for these murders. The recommendations of the judicial commission investigating Saleem Shahzad's murder [a high-profile investigative journalist who was allegedly killed by the ISI in 2011] have never been implemented."
The relatives and aides of TV anchor Hamid Mir have blamed the military's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for the assassination attempt on the journalist on Saturday, April 19. The journalist has been critical of the country's intelligence agencies and military for their alleged role in the kidnappings of thousands of people in Balochistan. The Pakistani army has denied these allegations.
Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior columnist in Karachi, told DW that Pakistani journalists had to work under very difficult circumstances."Many journalists feel scared and threatened. Pakistani politics has been criminalized. It has become very difficult for journalists to perform their tasks freely."
Overall improvements in press freedom
Generally, however, experts agree that the Pakistani media enjoy a great amount of freedom to criticize the government, politicians, the military and its ubiquitous intelligence agencies, including the ISI, in such a way that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago.
"The struggle to report independently and objectively will continue," said Nasir Tufail, a senior producer at the private news channel, Geo TV. "What we have achieved is the result of our decades-long battle against suppression, and our longing for freedom."