Monday, January 5, 2009

Bhutto’s birth anniversary observed

ISLAMABAD, Jan 5 (APP): The 81st birth anniversary of country’s first elected Prime Minister and founder of Pakistan Peoples Party Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto observed throughout the country including Northern Areas of the country in simplicity due to the sanctity of the Holy Month, Moharam-ul-Haram.District level functions of Quran Khwani were held in almost all parts of the country where the party leadership and workers had actively participated. At many places free food (Lunger) was also distributed.In the Federal Capital, the main ceremony of Quran Khwani was held at Central Secretariat of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).Party workers and local leaders participated in the ceremony and also offered Fateha for Bhhutto’s family members who embraced martyrdom in fighting against the dictatorship and restoring the rights of the people.

The Frontier Post
The world won’t be aging gracefully. Just the opposite Neil Howe and Richard Jackson
The world is in crisis. A financial crash and a deepening recession are afflicting rich and poor countries alike. The threat of weapons of mass destruction looms ever larger. A bipartisan congressional panel announced last month that the odds of a nuclear or biological terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the year 2014 are better than 50-50. It looks as though we'll be grappling with these economic and geopolitical challenges well into the 2010s. But if you think that things couldn't get any worse, wait till the 2020s. The economic and geopolitical climate could become even more threatening by then -- and this time the reason will be demographics. Yes, demographics, that relentless maker and breaker of civilizations. From the fall of the Roman and the Mayan empires to the Black Death to the colonization of the New World and the youth-driven revolutions of the 20th century, demographic trends have played a decisive role in precipitating many of the great invasions, political upheavals, migrations and environmental catastrophes of history. By the 2020s, an ominous new conjuncture of these trends will once again threaten massive disruption. We're talking about global aging, which is likely to have a profound effect on economic growth, living standards and the shape of the world order. For the world's wealthy nations, the 2020s are set to be a decade of hyperaging and population decline. Many countries will experience fiscal crisis, economic stagnation and ugly political battles over entitlements and immigration. Meanwhile, poor countries will be buffeted by their own demographic storms. Some will be overwhelmed by massive age waves that they can't afford, while others will be whipsawed by new explosions of youth whose aspirations they cannot satisfy. The risk of social and political upheaval and military aggression will grow throughout the developing world -- even as the developed world's capacity to deal with these threats weakens. The rich countries have been aging for decades, due to falling birthrates and rising life spans. But in the 2020s, this aging will get an extra kick as large postwar baby boom generations move into retirement. According to the United Nations Population Division (whose projections are cited throughout this article), the median ages of Western Europe and Japan, which were 34 and 33 respectively as recently as 1980, will soar to 47 and 52, assuming no miraculous change in fertility. In Italy, Spain and Japan, more than half of all adults will be older than the official retirement age -- and there will be more people in their 70s than in their 20s. Graying means paying -- more for pensions, more for health care, more for nursing homes for the frail elderly. Yet the old-age benefit systems of most developed countries are already pushing the limits of fiscal and economic affordability. By the 2020s, political warfare over brutal benefit cuts seems unavoidable. On one side will be young adults who face declining after-tax earnings, including many who often have no choice but to live with their parents (and are known, pejoratively, as twixters in the United States, kippers in Britain, mammoni in Italy, nesthocker in Germany and freeters in Japan). On the other side will be retirees, who are often wholly dependent on pay-as-you-go public plans. In 2030, young people will have the future on their side. Elders will have the votes on theirs. Bold new investments in education, the environment or foreign assistance will be highly unlikely. Aging is, well, old. But depopulation -- the delayed result of falling birthrates -- is new. The working-age population has already begun to decline in several large developed countries, including Germany and Japan. By 2030, it will be declining in nearly all of them, and in a growing number, total population will be in steep decline as well. The arithmetic is simple: When the average couple has only 1.3 children (in Spain) or 1.7 children (in Britain), depopulation is inevitable, unless there's massive immigration. The economics of depopulation are grim. Even at full employment, real gross domestic product may decline, because the number of workers will be falling faster than productivity is rising. With the size of markets fixed or shrinking, businesses and governments may try to lock in their positions through cartels and protectionist policies, ushering in a zero-growth psychology not seen since the 1930s. With each new birth cohort smaller than the last, the typical workplace will be top-heavy with graybeards. Looking for a flexible, creative, entrepreneurial labor force? You'll have come to the wrong address. Meanwhile, with the demand for low-wage labor rising, immigration (assuming no rise over today's rate) will double the percentage of Muslims in France and triple it in Germany. By 2030, Amsterdam, Marseille, Birmingham and Cologne are likely to be majority Muslim. In Europe, the demographic ebb tide will deepen the crisis of confidence reflected in such best-selling books as "France is Falling," by Nicolas Baverez; "Can Germany Be Saved?" by Hans-Werner Sinn; or "The Last Days of Europe," by Walter Laqueur. The media in Europe are already rife with dolorous stories about the closing of schools and maternity wards, the abandonment of rural towns and the lawlessness of immigrant youths in large cities. A recent cover of Der Spiegel shows a baby hoisting 16 old Germans on a barbell with the caption: "The Last German -- On the Way to an Old People's Republic." In Japan, the government half-seriously projects the date at which there will be only one Japanese citizen left alive. An important but limited exception to hyperaging is the United States. Yes, America is also graying, but to a lesser extent. We are the only developed nation with replacement-rate fertility (2.1 children per couple). By 2030, our median age, now 36, will rise to only 39. Our working-age population, according to both U.N. and census projections, will continue to grow throughout the 21st century because of our higher fertility rate and substantial immigration -- which we assimilate better than most other developed countries. By 2015, for the first time ever, the majority of developed-world citizens will live in English-speaking countries. America certainly faces some serious structural challenges, including an engorged health-care sector and a chronically low savings rate that may become handicaps as we age. But unlike Europe and Japan, we will still have the youth and fiscal resources to afford a major geopolitical role. The declinists have it wrong. The challenge facing America by the 2020s is not the inability of a weakening United States to lead the developed world. It is the inability of the other developed nations to be of much assistance -- or indeed, the likelihood that many will be in dire need of assistance themselves. A major reason the wealthy countries will need strong leadership are the demographic storms about to hit the developing world. Consider China, which may be the first country to grow old before it grows rich. For the past quarter-century, China has been "peacefully rising," thanks in part to a one-child policy that has allowed both parents to work and contribute to China's boom. But by the 2020s, as the huge Red Guard generation born before the country's fertility decline moves into retirement, they will tax the resources of their children and the state. China's coming age wave -- by 2030 it will be an older country than the United States -- may weaken the two pillars of the current regime's legitimacy: rapidly rising GDP and social stability. Imagine workforce growth slowing to zero while tens of millions of elders sink into indigence without pensions, without health care and without children to support them. China could careen toward social collapse -- or, in reaction, toward an authoritarian clampdown. Russia, along with the rest of Eastern Europe, is likely to experience the fastest extended population decline since the plague-ridden Middle Ages. Amid a widening health crisis, the Russian fertility rate has plunged and life expectancy has collapsed. Russian men today can expect to live to 59, 16 years less than American men and marginally less than their Red Army grandfathers at the end of World War II. By 2050, Russia is due to fall to 20th place in world population rankings, down from fourth place in 1950. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flatly calls Russia's demographic implosion "the most acute problem facing our country today." If the problem isn't solved, Russia will weaken progressively -- raising the nightmarish specter of a failed state with nukes. Or this cornered bear may lash out in revanchist fury rather than meekly accept its demographic fate. Of course, some developing regions will remain extremely young in the 2020s. Sub-Saharan Africa -- which is afflicted with the world's highest fertility rates and ravaged by AIDS -- will still be racked by large youth bulges. So will several Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. In recent years, most of these countries have demonstrated the correlation between extreme youth and violence. If that correlation endures, chronic unrest and state failure could persist through the 2020s -- or even longer if fertility fails to drop. Many fast-modernizing countries where fertility has fallen very recently and very steeply will experience an ominous resurgence of youth in the 2020s. It's a law of demography that when a population boom is followed by a bust, it causes a ripple effect, with a gradually fading cycle of echo booms and busts. In the 2010s, a bust generation will be coming of age in much of Latin America, South Asia and the Muslim world. But by the 2020s, an echo boom will follow -- dashing economic expectations, swelling the ranks of the unemployed and perhaps fueling political violence, ethnic strife and religious extremism. These echo booms will be especially large in Pakistan and Iran. In Pakistan, the number of young people in the volatile 15- to 24-year-old age bracket will contract by 3 percent in the 2010s, then leap upward by 20 percent in the 2020s. In Iran, the youth boomerang will be even larger: minus 31 percent in the 2010s and plus 30 percent in the 2020s. These echo booms will be occurring in countries whose social fabric is already strained by rapid development. One teeters on the brink of chaos, while the other aspires to regional hegemony. One already has nuclear weapons, and the other seems likely to obtain them. All told, population trends point inexorably toward a more dominant U.S. role in a world that will need us more, not less. For the past several years, the U.N. has published a table ranking the world's 12 most populous countries over time. In 1950, six of the top 12 were developed countries. In 2000, only three were. By 2050, only one developed country will remain -- the United States, still in third place. By then, it will be the only country among the top 12 with a historical commitment to democracy, free markets and civil liberties. Abraham Lincoln once called this country "the world's last best hope." Demography suggests that this will remain true for some time to come.

Afghan army to grow to 100,000 by 2009 end

Afghan army to grow to 100,000 by 2009 end
Afghanistan News.Net
Monday 5th January, 2009 (IANS)
The Afghan national army was to grow to more than 100,000 troops by the end of this year, a spokesman said Monday.

The troops are to be trained by US-led international forces, as NATO commanders in Afghanistan demand additional soldiers to effectively combat the resurgent Taliban militants.

So far a total of 85,000 army soldiers, drawn from Afghanistan's various ethnic groups, have been trained by military officers from the US, France and Britain since the start of the programme in 2002.

'We will have up to 30,000 new soldiers, trained by coalition military partners in the course of 2009,' said General Zahir Azimi, chief spokesman of the Afghan defence ministry.

'With the new recruits Afghanistan will have more than 100,000 soldiers towards the end of the year,' he said, adding that the forces would also be equipped with modern military gear donated by the allied forces, mostly by the US government.

In 2008, Afghanistan experienced the worst insurgency since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001. The Taliban-led militants, who grew in recent years in numbers and strength, extended their writ to larger swathes of the country and penetrated districts adjacent to the capital Kabul.

With more than 290 foreign soldiers killed, 2008 was also the deadliest year for the nearly 70,000 international troops from 42 nations deployed in Afghanistan.

Following this difficult year, the commander for NATO-led forces in the country, US General David McKiernan, asked for additional troops to contain the insurgency.

The US government has announced to nearly double its troop presence in the country by sending up to 30,000 extra soldiers, while other NATO members also hinted to increase their troop presence in the country.

'With no doubt we will face fierce fighting in 2009 and in terms of severity of violence, it will not be different from 2008,' Azimi said. 'But what makes this year different is our superiority in having more Afghan and international forces to fight the militants.'

Although the international community agreed to expand the Afghan army from its initial projected 70,000 soldiers to 132,000, Afghan and foreign military experts believe it may take up to a decade before Afghan units are capable of carrying out independent operations.

Afghans condemn NATO troops during anti-Israel protests

Monday, January 05, 2009
CREDIT: Omar Sobhani/Reuters
KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan - Carrying banners reading "Death upon Israel" and shouting against "the enemies of Muslims," hundreds of Afghans converged on the Kandahar's city centre Monday to angrily denounce Israeli attacks on Gaza.

"We are requesting Muslim countries to stop this barbaric attack, and we further condemn all non-Muslim countries, especially United States, for supporting the attack," said one protester, Mulave Khuja Muhammad, a member of a religious council, or shura, in Kandahar.

About 500 Palestinians, including a growing number of civilians, have been killed in the ongoing offensive by Israelis in Gaza, now in its ninth day.

In Kandahar, about 800 protesters chanted slogans against Israel and its supporters as the Israeli flag was set on fire. They also shouted "glory to Allah and glory Islam and Muslims."

The crowd turned its anger against coalition forces in the province, demanding the immediate withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, which includes about 2,700 Canadians.

"We do not want help from non-Muslims countries. They have proved in Afghanistan that they are unable to help Muslim countries," said Muhammadullah, another protester, according to an interpreter.

"We blame NATO for killing Afghan civilians as well," he said.

Protesters said international human-rights organizations have been too slow to get involved in the conflict, and condemn the growing civilian death toll.

"This is not fair that non-Muslims are attacking Muslims and killing their children and women," said Jamil Ahmad. "Where is human rights? Where is (the) world community? Why they are silent?"

Bismillah Afghanmal, a member of Kandahar's provincial council, spoke out at the protest against the bombing "whether it takes place in Afghanistan" or elsewhere.

"I am telling the world community especially to work on the Palestinian issue and end this kind of bombardment. I am totally against human loss, especially innocent people," he said.

The protest has stirred up increased fear among residents of Kandahar City. Many worry the anti-Western rhetoric could translate into an increase in the number of suicide bombings and insurgent attacks across the region.

Military officials at Task Force Kandahar had no immediate comment regarding the protest.

Zardari to visit Kabul today

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari is flying to Afghanistan today (Tuesday) for a daylong visit that will include discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on various bilateral issues.Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pakistan’s Ambassador-designate to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq would accompany the president.
Sources said Zardari and Karzai would discuss ways to jointly combat terrorism and are likely to deliberate upon a future direction for bilateral cooperation.The sources said Pakistan is seeking improved trade relations with Afghanistan and is ready to allow duty concessions on the import of over 1,000 items from Afghanistan under the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.Similarly, the Afghan side is also likely to offer tariffs concessions to Pakistan on various items, they said.
Pakistan’s desire to gain access through Afghanistan for its products to Central Asian Republics is also likely to be discussed, the sources said.

Brooding dwellers of NWFP, Fata see ominous future coming

Militancy, power and gas loadshedding, price hike and kidnappings paint a gloomy picture of the Frontier

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Javed Aziz Khan

PESHAWAR: Million of residents of Frontier and Fata are worried about the future of their families and the fate of their homeland in the wake of unprecedented crises that the region has been facing for the last many years.

Uncertainty and insecurity has been prevailing everywhere for the last over two years and one cannot find a person who is not scared of everyday bomb blasts, suicide attacks, rocket barrages and kidnapping for ransom.

“On the 1st of January, when people across the world were celebrating the advent of New Year, the residents of the capital city woke up with no light in their homes. To their utter disappointment, there was no gas in their stoves when one wanted to prepare breakfast,” recalled Abdul Rahman, a resident of Dora Road, near Kohat Road in suburbs of Peshawar.

Peshawar and other parts of the country have been severely hit with record power and gas loadshedding over the last several months. People are surprised as to why a country has been hit so severely with power and gas crises that was never witnessed in the past.

“On the one hand we stay at home due to the hours-long power and gas loadshedding, while on the other we cannot go outside for the fear of being kidnapped for ransom. The situation has come to such a passÈ that people who never carried guns are now carrying Kalashnikovs,” remarked Javed Khan, chief executive of a pharmaceutical unit.

Kidnapping for ransom has recorded an unprecedented increase during the last half of 2008. The official statistics, which never showed the real figures, have even admitted over 90 percent increase in the crimes last year.

Kidnapping for ransom has confined people to their houses after sunset while carrying weapon has become a must. The suburban towns wear a deserted look after the sunset following manifold increase in the crime rate.

As kidnapping has deserted the surrounding of Peshawar, the threat of bombings and suicide attacks have stopped people from visiting crowded bazaars, parks and public places. Many believe that Peshawar is the second vulnerable town after Swat in terms of worsening law and order situation.

Four suicide bombers had struck in Peshawar while overall 30 had blown up themselves across the NWFP during the year 2008. At least 16 suicide bombers hit their targets in the adjacent tribal areas to make things worst for those living in this part of the world.

The US drone attacks, rocket barrages from unknown locations and attacks on Nato supplies have further played havoc with peace of mind of the people of the area. Desertions in police and security forces speak volumes for threats to those supposed to improve the law and order.

“Apart from that, you see the price hike. The prices are far higher in Fata and Frontier than those in other parts of the country. A common Peshawarite could get a 20kg bag of flour at Rs930 three months back when it was being sold at around 400 in Punjab. The same is with the prices of other edibles,” lamented Nazar Ali of Qamardin Garhai.

People are surprised as to why not the prices of items, which shot up as a result of increase in fuel prices, were reduced after the price of per barrel petrol has come down to 36 US dollars from 140.

“Not only the price has not been reduced according to the international market but petrol and gas are not being sold in the city filling stations to create an artificial crisis,” Naseer Khan, a political worker associated with the ruling coalition, opined.

The situation has disappointed people to the extent that they have started demanding of the rulers to step down due to their failure to improve the situation. “If this is really the part of an international conspiracy of separating and isolating the region from the rest of the country and the world, then why the rulers are silent? Why those in power are acting on the directives of others,” questioned Farmanullah, a teacher by profession.

Following the ugly turn in situation, the dwellers of Peshawar, Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat, Hangu, Mardan, Charsadda and Swat districts of Frontier as well as North and South Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur tribal agencies have either shifted to Islamabad and other places or they are planning for it in the near future.

“There are no signs of improvement in the law and order situation in Peshawar and other troubled towns. So it is better to shift to safer place and invest there instead of risking your life and family,” stated the disappointed Nadeem Malik.