Saturday, June 12, 2010

Child Labour Day

As football fever spreads with the kick-off of the World Cup in South Africa this Friday, the United Nations labour agency today urged the world not to forget the plight of an estimated 215 million children who have to work for survival and miss out on education and sports. “Go for the goal – end child labour,” is the UN International Labour Organization’s (ILO) appeal to the international community ahead of World Day Against Child Labour, which will be marked on Saturday. The agency is calling particular attention to the target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016. “While billions are caught up in the excitement of the football World Cup, some 215 million children are labouring for survival. Education and play are luxuries for them. Progress towards ending child labour is slowing down and we are not on course to end its worst forms by 2016,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “We have to get the momentum going again. Let us draw inspiration from the World Cup and rise to the challenge with the energy, the right strategy and the commitment it takes to get to the goal,” he added. World Day Against Child Labour events will be held in more than 60 countries involving governments, employers, workers, and UN, civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), according to ILO. The events range from high level policy debates, to football matches and other sporting activities, public debates, media events, awareness-raising campaigns, cultural performances and other public activities. Many of the activities will also focus new attention on the “red card campaign against child labour” initiative led by the ILO, including the publication of a resource kit produced in collaboration with FIFA that is aimed at using football to support work in child labour elimination projects. In Geneva on Friday the International Labour Conference will also discuss the ILO’s new global report on child labour. On the same day, hundreds of local schoolchildren will participate in a solidarity event organized by a community association. The World Day is taking place one month after more than 450 delegates from 80 countries met at a conference in The Hague convened by the Netherlands to agree on a road map to accelerate progress to reach the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016. Agreement on the road map came as the ILO’s third global report on child labour warned that the global campaign against the scourge is at a critical juncture. The report shows that global efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour are losing momentum, and warns that unless they are significantly stepped up, the 2016 target will not be reached. In a related development, Brazilian football star Robson de Souza, better known as Robinho, has lent his support to ILO’s campaign to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in Brazil. Robinho, who will be part of the Brazilian squad at the World Cup, has agreed to be the face of the national campaign that is being carried out by the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) in Brazil. The Brazilian Government has set 2015 as the goal to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the South American country and 2020 for ending all forms of the problem.

Khyber Pukhtunkhwa unveils Rs294.2bn budget

PESHAWAR : Provincial Finance Minister Khyber Pukhthunkhwa Humayun Khan on Saturday presented Rs.294.2 billion balance budget for the year 2010-11 containing Rs. 69.3 billion annual development program, indicating 77 percent rise over the outgoing fiscal in the provincial assembly. The total revenue expenditures and income generation have been estimated at Rs. 294.2 billion for the next fiscal, said the provincial Finance Minister in his budget speech. Giving details of the receipts to be obtained in 2010-11, he said the province would receive Rs.123.4 billion from the central taxes, Rs.9.4 billion income expected from oil and gas royalty, Rs.6 billion net hydel profits apart from Rs.25 billion to be received by the province upto July 2010 as net hydel profit arrears. Rs.15.2 billion special grant expected to meet the growing challenge of terrorism while the provincial own receipts are expected to generate Rs.7.2 billion, he said adding, for the first time the province would get Rs.842 million from Malakand-III hydel power project, Rs.12.3 billion will be obtained from general sales tax on services and Rs.400 million from general capital income. The province expected to receive foreign loan to the amount of Rs.9.3 billion in 2010-11 while there was a provision of Rs.85.9 billion under the head of food trading. Referring to revenue expenditure for the year 2010-11, the Provincial Finance Minister said that of the total Rs.294.2 billion expenditures, Rs.127.9 billion have been set aside for the current revenue side that included Rs.9.4 billion for health and education, Rs.21 billion for police, Rs.11 billion for pension payment, Rs.51.9 billion for salaries and other miscellaneous charges to be incurred in the districts, and provision of Rs.150 million to Revenue and Estate for carrying out relief activities. Rs.2 billion have been earmarked for the subsidy on wheat, Rs.16.6 billion to go for O&M charges, Rs.5.9 billion allocated for investment and payment of arrears, Rs.9.6 billion would go to debt servicing, Rs.11 billion for capital expenditures, Rs.60 billion for the development program. He said that during next fiscal, the education department would make arrangements for provision of quality education and setting up of schools. 604 posts of teachers would be created in the new schools he said, adding, for education sector Rs.33.1 billion have been earmarked showing an increase of 32 percent over the outgoing fiscal. Similarly, he said Rs.2.9 billion have been allocated for setting up of 147 new colleges and libraries. Rs.5.9 billion have been allocated for the health sector in 2010-11 which is 48 percent more than the current year's allocation. The Provincial Finance Minister said his government has proposed to increase salaries of the government employees by 50 percent besides 15 to 20 percent increase in pension of retired officials. Hamayun Khan said following the announcement made by federal government in regard with increase in salary and pension, the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa has decided to implement the same decision in the province. Apart from increase in salary and pension, he added, it has also been decided to increase Medical Allowance up to 100 percent for employees of grade 1 to 16. The employees in grade 17 would be provided 15 percent of their basic pay as medical allowance. He also clarified that decision about increase in salaries would not be implemented on Police department. The Finance Minister said increase in salaries and pension of government employees would cost up to Rs. 22 billion annually. However, he went on to say, government decided to lift the burden while keeping in view increase of prices of essential commodities.

Is NATO to Blame for Russia's Afghan Heroin Problem? It had to be one of the weirdest displays the Russian president had ever seen. Laid out on a table were a mound of walnuts, a chess set, an old tire and an anatomically correct dummy — all stuffed with little baggies of imitation heroin. Titled "The Deadly Harvest," the exhibit was meant to show the clever ways smugglers have of getting Afghan heroin into Russia, which has become the world's largest consumer of opiates from Afghanistan since the U.S. began its war there in 2001. President Dmitry Medvedev stared at the objects and shook his head grimly. Behind him, wearing equally somber expressions, stood a group of Russian officials who would spend the day, June 9, lambasting the U.S. and NATO for not doing more to stop these little baggies from getting into the hands of Russia's youth. On the international stage, Russia's Afghan heroin issue has become the country's favorite crusade, and has allowed Russia to enter a global debate about Afghanistan that had previously left it on the sidelines. Its basic point is a reasonable one: NATO has fueled drug production by refusing to destroy Afghan poppy fields, which it stopped doing last year in the hope of winning the support of opium farmers. Perhaps less reasonable is Russia's belief that its heroin problem is caused not by its porous borders or its abysmal treatment of addiction (methadone therapy is illegal in Russia) but by NATO's policy on drugs in Afghanistan. Yet that is what Russian officials contend, and this week they embarked on a campaign of coordinated fuming over the issue. On June 7, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov was in Singapore for an annual defense conference, and he used his turn at the lectern to berate NATO's tolerance of poppy crops. At a Central Asian security summit in Berlin the following day, the chief of Russia's anti-narcotics agency, Viktor Ivanov, compared NATO to Dr. Frankenstein, suggesting that its Afghan drug policy was "giving birth to a monster." Then on Wednesday and Thursday, the Kremlin's information agency, RIA Novosti, held a conference on the heroin issue in Moscow. The exhibit of smugglers' tricks was its main attraction, and at the podium, some of the Russian speakers threatened to punish the coalition if it didn't change its approach to Afghan poppies. "Further assistance to the coalition must be predicated upon a more active position in the fight against drug production in Afghanistan," Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, told the delegates, suggesting that NATO's vital supply route through Russia could be cut if the destruction of poppy fields didn't resume. In its way, Russia is making an important point. Between 2005 and 2009, Afghanistan's yearly opium output jumped from 4,000 to 7,000 tons, and it now accounts for more than 90% of global supply, according to the United Nations. Russian state statistics say that opiates such as heroin and morphine kill around 30,000 Russians every year, three times more than the total number of Soviets killed during their 10-year war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. And the U.N. also says that the $65 billion earned every year from the sale of opiates partly goes to finance terrorists around the world, including the Taliban militants that the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan. But Russia is wrong to claim that NATO is ignoring the problem. NATO's March offensive in Marjah redoubled the crackdown on drug traffickers with the aim of cutting the Taliban off from its main source of funding, and U.N. data shows that Afghan opium production has fallen by about 15% since its peak in 2007. Russia insists that is not nearly enough, and has consistently offered the help of its own military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in stemming the flow of drugs through Central Asia and the Caucasus. Russia and the CSTO — which was founded in 2002 as Russia's attempt to balance against NATO's influence and whose seven members include Armenia, Belarus and a few Central Asian republics — are the only ones advocating the wholesale destruction of poppy crops as a solution. The livelihoods of millions of Afghans depend on opium farming, and at the RIA Novosti conference on Wednesday, M.K. Bhadrakumar, India's former ambassador to both Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, said poisoning the fields would only "stoke the fire of mass anger." And Prince Abdul Ali Seraj, who represents a coalition of Afghan tribes, in his speech called on the international community to "hand something of equal value to the farmers, and that way take the opium away from them." But the last word on the matter seemed to come on Wednesday from the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, who said that the coalition would not take Russia's advice about destroying opium harvests anytime soon. So Moscow's latest push in the debate has not gotten far. Yet analysts say that for Russia's leadership, the act of pushing is an end in itself. "It is important for Russia to show that it will not be left at the margins of the Afghan issue," says Omar Nessar, head of the Institute for the Center of the Study of Modern Afghanistan in Moscow. He points out that sooner or later the Americans will leave, and Russia will be left to grapple with Iran over influence in Afghanistan. "This is the way it has chosen to make itself known, and indeed its criticism here is justified," Nessar says. Natasha Kuhrt of the Department of War Studies at King's College in London says Moscow is also seeking to create points of contact between NATO and CSTO. So far the CSTO has not been taken very seriously in the arena of geopolitics, and Russia has been desperate to bring in new members and bolster its prestige. To this end, "Russia needs to position itself as a competitor in the battle for Greater Central Asia," which includes Afghanistan, Kuhrt wrote in an essay published June 8 in the Russian Analytical Digest. "Russia would like to see the CSTO engage in 'global peacekeeping' as a way of legitimating this organization. In the best-case scenario, NATO would acknowledge the CSTO as a dialogue partner. Unfortunately NATO has been reluctant to accord such a role to Russia." NATO's attitude toward CSTO could help explain the venom with which Russia has gone after the alliance over its failure to destroy poppy crops, and its insistence that the CSTO could help stop the flow of Afghan drugs. It is not yet clear whether Russia will be given such a role in Afghanistan. But as the war drags on, similar footholds are likely to emerge, putting

Pakistan's Tales of Deceptive Degrees and Dropouts HOUSTON: Kamran Riaz, the Associate Dean of Students at the University of Houston, was in his office when he was asked to help in a very delicate situation. A concerned Pakistani family had contacted the university to trace their son who had left Pakistan to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Houston.The university staff was baffled because they didn’t offer such a specialisation nor could they locate a student by their son’s name in their records. The worried parents sent the college copies of signed admission and scholarship letters on University of Houston letterheads and a check from a bank in California. “They were all forged,” said Kamran Riaz, who was once an international student from Pakistan at the university, and has been working in the Dean’s office for the last 20 years. “I have been put in some very awkward positions from time to time,” he added. A few years ago, on graduation day, an angry Pakistani father stormed into his office, upset that his son’s name was not announced like all the other graduates in the crowd. His whole family had come from Pakistan to attend the graduation, with his son dressed in a graduate’s cap and gown. But according to school records, the young man had never taken a class at the university, let alone qualified for graduating with a four-year degree. “His parents spent money, effort and time with the hope that they would see their son walk down the aisle at the convocation ceremony. And I had to tell them their son didn’t graduate.” Riaz said. “I feel sorry for the families that get conned.” The university has had to face similar problems with parents from other countries as well and there have even been a few instances of American parents being duped. But the number for international students is much higher, because it is easier for students to deceive their parents living thousands of miles away, with an education system they are not familiar with. One international student told his parents he was pursuing a degree in “social engineering” after transferring out of his engineering department to pursue a degree in sociology. He said as long as his Pakistani parents hear “engineering” in the title, they will pay for his tuition. They had no idea that American colleges don’t offer “social engineering” degrees. On his part, Riaz has had to step in and help his university deal with over a dozen cases of defrauded Pakistani parents in the last two decades. He insists that the numbers seem high because the University of Houston has one of the largest Pakistani student populations in the US. This year alone there are 77 Pakistanis on student visas in attendance. When Riaz attended the University in 1984, there were as many as 160 Pakistanis. But the question remains: how many Pakistani parents send cheque after cheque for tuition without contacting their child’s university, and never find out that they had been misled from thousands of miles away? Just two weeks ago, the son of a well-known caterer in Pakistan was arrested for alleged links with Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber. News organisations around the world quoted the caterer saying that his 35-year-old son had graduated from the University of Houston with a computer science degree in 2001. But the University of Houston did not have a record of him. Nor did any of its affiliate campuses. Slowly I sifted through a checklist of a dozen colleges in Houston, trying to find out where he spent his days while he was living in the US between 1999 and 2001. I had already visited some of his past residences listed in public records. From what I gathered, he had moved around quite a bit in three years but he was definitely not roughing it out as a student. Most of the apartments he lived in were high-end, equipped with first-class gym facilities and well-manicured gardens. Finally, I got a call from the Houston Community College (HCC). “He was registered as a computer science major here. But he never graduated.” Sharon Gee, who works with the student record department confirmed. “He paid tuition for four semesters, but dropped out of two.” Before leaving for Pakistan in the spring of 2001, he had only earned enough credits for one semester of college. A regular graduate in the US has at least eight semesters under his/her belt before earning a bachelor’s degree. Most Pakistani parents don’t know that community colleges in the US only grant two-year associate's degrees. They can cost as low as $ 2,500 a year, significantly less than bachelor’s awarding colleges, which range between $25, 000 and $40,000 a year. According to the US government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the HCC is one of the top five destinations for all international students. There are currently over 700,000 such active students in the US. After graduating from community college, some students do transfer to a four-year college to complete a bachelor's degree. “Parents in Pakistan send their children money on a regular basis. In extreme cases, even transcripts are forged,” Riaz said. Riaz encourages parents to verify the college and degree their child is pursuing, before waving them goodbye at the airport in Pakistan. The first step would be to check their child’s visa documents. All international students must obtain an I-20 document from one of the 10,000 SEVIS accredited American institutions, before they receive an F1 student visa from the US embassy. The I-20 must mention the name of the college the student has been accepted into. Unfortunately, according to SEVIS, each year roughly 200 certified schools go out of business or lose their accreditation. In such scenarios, international students have to transfer to another approved college and fill out a new I-20 form within 30 days to maintain their F1 visa status. Parents can stay up-to-date with their child’s status by receiving college-issued transcripts every semester. Since international students are protected under the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) in the US, Pakistani parents need written permission from their children to access transcripts and records. “Before you give them the tuition cheque ask them to give you authorisation to check their grades.” Riaz added as a message to parents. The United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan reported more than 7,000 Pakistani students were studying in the US in 2006. That was a 20 per cent increase from the previous year. Although the numbers aren’t out for this year, they will continue to be in the thousands. Even though there have been some reports that Pakistani students are avoiding applying to the US in fear of a backlash post-Faisal Shahzad, the reality is that hundreds of Pakistani parents continue to dream about giving their children something they never had – a world-class education at an American institution. Very few imagine that their child might return home with a deceptive degree or even worse, as a college dropout.

Afghan women swap burqas for police uniforms

In the heart of the violent birthplace of the Taliban movement, defying Afghan convention and family advice, mothers Magola and Faranaze decided to take up arms. From the southern province of Kandahar, they are among a handful women who have swapped the full Islamic veils known as burqas for life in uniform as members of Afghanistan's under-strength police force. "My parents don't like me to work for the police but I am happy to serve my country," said Magola, proudly wearing her blue uniform at the camp where she has been trained by US-led NATO forces. Magola and Faranaze are not their real names. Afghanistan is a country where strict Islamic beliefs and conservative convention prohibit most women from working. Out of a thousand recruits, police in Kandahar have only 20 women. Widowed during the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, Magola confided that she needed her police salary to feed her family. She has 12 children and six are still dependent on her. Like most Kandahari women, female officers wear burqas off duty. But at work, wearing scarves or hoods with their uniforms, women perform essential roles in areas that remain off limits to men.Female officers are responsible for knocking on doors, and ushering women away from homes before police swoop in for operations against suspects. "When the police are searching a compound, they can't go first. We have to knock on doors, explain why we are here, take the women aside so they can go inside," said Faranaze. "Once I went to a compound, we were looking for a pistol. The man had asked the woman to hide it. I went to her and said: 'I am going to slap you if you don't tell me where it is'. She had put it in a cooking pot." But they also encounter considerable risks in the war-torn country, where police are regularly targeted by insurgents. In Kandahar, "the Taliban assassinate people, there are one or two murders every day", said Magola. NATO forces are focused on training more police as part of one of their most ambitious counter-insurgency operations in the nine-year Afghan war.Operations to beat back the Taliban in Kandahar, heartland of a bitter insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government, are due to escalate in coming months as thousands more troops deploy. Afghan police and security forces are frequently on the front line. Three bombers attacked a police training centre in Kandahar this week, damaging the outer wall of the compound before they were killed.Among several other women on the force, one survived a bombing at their headquarters in downtown Kandahar city. Another tells of having been followed several times in the street recently. Besides the risks to their lives, Magola and Faranaze face disapproval from families who object that they work or simply fear for their safety. "One of my brothers works at the Saraposa prison. He told me to stop working for the police. I shook his hand and told him I would work with him hand in hand until I die," Faranaze said. During the Taliban regime, she said, "it was very hard, the Taliban didn't like women to leave the house. They were beating women with sticks." "We want God to take them away from the province. But without God's will we won't be able to do anything," Faranaze said. For Magola, however, there can be no question of the Islamist insurgents returning to power. "Every day I feel like I am going to die," Magola said. "But I don't want to die until I kill a Taliban.

A rare day off at the Afghan front

FOR army physiotherapist Emma Cameron, Anzac Day in Afghanistan means her first day off in a gruelling three months and a beer ration in what is normally a dry base at Camp Holland. Lieutenant Cameron, 29, from the Brisbane-based 2nd Health Support Battalion, sees on average between seven to 10 patients a day -- mostly Diggers -- suffering from sprains or sore lower backs, a legacy of the huge loads they lug when on patrol. In a telephone interview from her base in Tarin Kowt, she said her most memorable experiences so far involved "patrols outside the wire" to forward operating bases in the Chora and Baluchi passes northeast of Camp Holland.In addition to being a qualified physiotherapist, Lieutenant Cameron is also a combat medic, skills that have come in handy treating Afghan civilians. She admitted her parents worried for her safety in Afghanistan. "I think Mum and Dad are proud of me but at the same time probably wish I wasn't here just for the safety aspect," she said. "But they know I'm having a great time -- it's been such an amazing experience for me and this is what I trained for." Asked her plans for celebrating Anzac Day, Lieutenant Cameron replied: "I get to have a beer, which is pretty exciting, and it will be my first day off in three months." But there was no beer or day off for Dallas Coleman, 32, from Adelaide, an airborne electronics analyst onboard a RAAF P3-C Orion, who had to maintain surveillance over Afghanistan.

Afghan girls treated after suspected gas attack

Afghan girls treated after suspected gas attack By Hamid Shalizi, Reuters Saturday, 12 June 2010 * Share The Independent Close o DiggDigg o o FacebookFacebook o RedditReddit o GoogleGoogle o Stumble UponStumble Upon o FarkFark o NewsvineNewsvine o zYahooBuzz o BeboBebo o TwitterTwitter o Independent MindsIndependent Minds * Print * Email sponsored links: About fifty Afghan schoolgirls became ill and were taken to hospital after a suspected gas poisoning in their school in southwestern Afghanistan, officials said today, the latest in a spate of similar incidents. The teenaged girls fell ill and some became unconscious after smelling gas at their school in Ghazni, a two-hour drive south of the capital, Kabul, said senior provincial police official Nawroz Ali Mahmoodzada. "It is again the same kind of attack to discourage girls from attending schools," Nawroz Ali Mahmoodzada told Reuters. "It is very disturbing. We have not yet found any clues to say where this substance is from or who is behind it," he said. Safiullah, a doctor in Ghazni's central hospital, said most of the girls were treated and discharged. Others were still under medical care, he said. Mahmoodzada said none had died. Today's incident followed a similar pattern to other attacks at girls' schools involving an airborne substance which officials say could be poisonous gas. In other recent attacks in Kabul and in northern Kunduz province, girls reported smelling something sweet and then began fainting, and suffered dizziness and vomiting. However none of those cases resulted in deaths or long-term health problems. The Taliban, which banned education for girls during their rule from 1996-2001, has condemned such incidents in the past and denied any responsibility. They have however, torched dozens of schools, threatened teachers and even attacked schoolgirls in rural parts of the country where they are the strongest.

The Karate Kid

When a child star is cute and has a few instinctual acting moves, that's probably enough to get him by. Jaden Smith, who stars in the new remake of "The Karate Kid," scores on both counts, but he also has something that's rare to see in a child actor. He's got presence. As Dre Parker, a pensive and fatherless 12-year-old from Detroit whose mother (Taraji P. Henson) gets transferred to the forbidding city of Beijing (the extreme move isn't really explained -- I mean, couldn't she have been sent off to, you know, Denver?), Smith holds the screen while doing next to nothing, just standing there, silent and inquisitive, trying to figure out an angle on the situation that's closing in on him. Smith, of course, is the son of Hollywood royalty (his parents are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith), and you don't have to look hard to see traces, especially, of his father -- the cool glare of appraisal, the quickness of his fury. With his nifty cornrows (a junior rapper's 'do that marks how much he's grown up since "The Pursuit of Happyness"), Smith looks like an intensely aware goldfish. As Dre, he gets knocked down by bullies and drawn to the sweet sparkle of a teen violinist, but whomever he shares the screen with, he combines a kid's directness with an adult's way of holding himself in check. Though it's not too varied a performance, Smith, like his father, acts with an emotional ease that's almost gymnastic. A remake of the 1984 go-for-it classic, the new "Karate Kid" is longer than the original film (it's 140 minutes) and a couple of shades more downbeat, with Dre as a lonely Odd Kid Out in the bustling bureaucratic China that is his new home. Jackie Chan has a corresponding melancholy as the maintenance man who teaches Dre the art of kung fu. (Yes, they should have called it "The Kung Fu Kid" -- but you don't mess with brand titles like this one.) All in all, "The Karate Kid" is a more somber, less playful movie than the original, but at heart it's the same old irresistible candy corn. I did, for a while, miss the sly, poker-faced humor that Pat Morita brought to the role of Mr. Miyagi. When Chan's Mr. Han begins Dre's training by ordering him to hang his jacket on a hook, then throw it on the floor, pick it up, and do it all again and again, it's a variation on the wax-on, wax-off gimmickry of the first film. Morita, though, let us know that he was enjoying the slightly sadistic joke of the Zen discipline he was enforcing. Chan, in a scruffy goatee, plays Han as very serious, almost morose, in his mission. He makes the guru-mentor slightly damaged goods; Han needs this kid as much as the kid needs him. Their earnestness grows on you, though. The bond these two share is sincere and touching. The movie builds, of course, to the big kung fu tournament, in which Dre finally faces down a bully who has been trained to fight with ''no mercy.'' It's a piece of inspirational hokum that works nicely, though I do wish the film had been a bit more ingenious about shoehorning in the famous Ralph Macchio ''crane'' stance. That said, "The Karate Kid" is fun, and believable, on the most important level: It convinces us that Jaden Smith has what it takes to fight his way to the top.

Canadian troops tread fine line on village patrols

KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Canadian soldiers with night vision goggles slowly navigate through grape fields, wary of triggering booby traps planted by Taliban insurgents. The Taliban, who have fought NATO forces for nine years, are masters of the terrain, so they could have the advantage. Militants may be hiding a few feet away in irrigation ditches as deep as eight feet. After hours of heavy hiking, the Canadians reach a hamlet of mud-brick huts they have never previously visited, seeking intelligence that is becoming more critical by the day as NATO troops push to stabilize Afghanistan before a gradual U.S. pullout in 2011. A cell phone battery is discovered on a young man, immediately raising suspicions. Batteries are often used to trigger improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have killed more NATO soldiers than any other weapon in the conflict with insurgents. Questioned through a translator about why he is carrying a battery and no cell phone, the Afghan responds: “The Taliban don't allow us to have them. They would arrest me and hold me for 15 days. The Taliban frequently ban cell phones in areas where they operate to prevent being informed on. It is that sort of question Canadians and other U.S.-led troops constantly ask as they attempt to break Taliban networks. Finding answers has become increasingly urgent since Western forces launched a two-pronged strategy to pacify the Taliban. NATO forces in the Taliban's heartland of Kandahar Province will improve security and that will enable the Afghan government to win over the population by providing better services and creating jobs. The plan depends heavily on the cooperation and trust of the Afghan people, who are well aware of the risks of crossing the Taliban, a group that does not hesitate to publicly execute opponents. So it may take painstaking efforts to persuade Afghans that it is in their best interest to come forward. As part of their campaign to build ties with the local population, the Canadians donated speakers to a mosque. If the Taliban are not seriously weakened before the pullout, and there are no eventual peace negotiations, they may be in a position to return to power, which would be a foreign policy disaster for the White House. NATO fighter planes, tanks and combat helicopters have failed to do the job, so gaining intelligence is a huge priority. The Canadians have to be efficient to get results since they are expected withdraw from Afghanistan next year. The sergeant leading the night patrol, John Carr, was careful to be respectful of villagers. He makes a point of first approaching elders, who said they were happy his troops working to improve security. The Taliban had been moving through the area, he learned. Was it a small intelligence victory? It's hard to tell. After all, this is Afghanistan, where militants look and speak like everybody else. The Canadians pressed ahead in an area heavily infested with IEDs. After the call to prayer, they came upon about a dozen bearded men who had just left a mosque. The group also had nice things to say about the Canadian presence. But jumping to conclusions is risky in Afghanistan. While there no engagements during the patrol, after the Canadians ended the mission and recalled details of their grueling hike over burritos and chicken cutlets, someone fired an RPG at them.

Saudi airspace open for Iran attack'

Jerusalem Post Saudi Arabia will allow Israeli jets to use its airspace to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities reported The Times of London on Saturday. The report cited a US defense source as saying the Saudis have already done tests to ensure no jet is shot down in the event of an Israeli attack. The source added that the US State Department is aware of the action and agrees with it. The report cited a US defense source as saying the Saudis have already done tests to ensure no jet is shot down in the event of an Israeli attack. The source added that the US State Department is aware of the action and agrees with it. A Saudi government source confirmed that a blind eye would be turned to Israeli jets attacking Iran, according to the report. An Israeli attempt to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities would target uranium enrichment facilities at Qom and Natanz as well as a heavy water reactor at Arak and a gas storage development at Isfahan. The UN Security Council passed a fourth set of sanctions against Iran on Wednesday in the hopes of diplomatically stopping Iran's development of a nuclear weapon. Israel's Foreign Ministry released a statement following the passing of the sanctions which said that the resolution was "not enough," and that what was necessary now was for additional “significant steps” to be taken by various countries and international groupings.

Child labour thrives with no govt check

The NewsPK PESHAWAR: Despite being considered exploitative by many international organisations and even after being declared illegal, child labour continues in our society without any check by the government. Those working for eliminating the child labour said in the rural areas children worked in the fields as bonded workers and often go under-paid. In fact, they are often employed in return for only food and shelter that they get from the employer families. “The three most contributing factors behind this issue are poverty, illiteracy and parents’ authority over the children’s choice of work and wages. The social status, lack of proper skills and the ignorant attitude of the members of the society also plays a major role,” said Assad Ali Qureshi, a child rights activist who has run a project in the past in bid to improve the lot of the children by carrying out extensive advocacy. He said the laws existed but their implementation did not reach the children engaged in the labour.Another child rights activist Qudsia Bano said many a time the wages were paid to the parents for the work done by children. “In our society it is considered non-exploitative if a child below a certain age works to earn a living for the family,” she said.Qudsia Bano has worked in the central districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi and Nowshera. Jehanzeb Khan, head of Society for Protection and Awareness of the Rights of Child (SPARC), whose organisation launched a week today in connection with the International Day against Child Labour, said Employment of Children Act (ECA) should be amended to make it more effective. He believed legal protection to the children working in the informal sector such as agriculture and domestic work was the need of the hour. Saood, a 10-year-old child who works as a domestic servant with a family in Mardan, presents a classic case study of the situation of child labour. His other nine siblings are also working at different places. The child belongs to Sehray area of Shankar village in Mardan district and is sixth in number age-wise out of 10 children of poor parents. Saood is a Grade 2 student at a government school. He works part time as domestic worker. When asked why he had to work and stayed at others’ houses than his own home, he said innocently: “I don’t get the same food at my own home that I have at the employer’s house. Here I get meat and other delicious things to eat while at home I only take a loaf of bread with curry all the time.” According to Saood, his father is a lazy man and his mother a housewife. He is a child with so many talents but he does not have the opportunity to utilize them in a proper way.Saood likes going to school but the only thing that impedes his desire for study is the fear of beating by teachers. “I like studies and want to become an Army officer to earn a lot of money and have a luxurious life,” he remarked when asked about his career in case he managed to complete his education.

Karzai Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban

New York Times By DEXTER FILKINS KABUL, Afghanistan — Two senior Afghan officials were showing President Hamid Karzai the evidence of the spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference earlier this month when Mr. Karzai told them that he believed the Taliban were not responsible. “The president did not show any interest in the evidence — none — he treated it like a piece of dirt,” said Amrullah Saleh, then the director of the Afghan intelligence service. Mr. Saleh declined to discuss Mr. Karzai’s reasoning in more detail. But a prominent Afghan with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Karzai suggested in the meeting that it might have been the Americans who carried it out. Minutes after the exchange, Mr. Saleh and the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, resigned — the most dramatic defection from Mr. Karzai’s government since he came to power nine years ago. Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar said they quit because Mr. Karzai made clear that he no longer considered them loyal. But underlying the tensions, according to Mr. Saleh and Afghan and Western officials, was something more profound: That Mr. Karzai had lost faith in the Americans and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan. For that reason, Mr. Saleh and other officials said, Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival, Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials. “The president has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition or his own government to protect this country,” Mr. Saleh said in an interview at his home. “President Karzai has never announced that NATO will lose, but the way that he does not proudly own the campaign shows that he doesn’t trust it is working.” People close to the president say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011. “Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.” Mr. Karzai could not be reached for comment Friday. If Mr. Karzai’s resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama. The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the Taliban so that Mr. Karzai’s army and government can move in, allowing the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular and costly war. Relations with Mr. Karzai have been rocky for some time, and international officials have expressed concern in the past that his decision making can be erratic. Last winter, Mr. Karzai accused NATO in a speech of ferrying Taliban fighters around northern Afghanistan in helicopters. Earlier this year, following criticism by the Obama administration, Mr. Karzai told a group of supporters that he might join the Taliban. American officials tried to patch up their relationship with Mr. Karzai during his visit to the White House last month. Indeed, on many issues, like initiating contact with some Taliban leaders and persuading its fighters to change sides, Mr. Karzai and the Americans are on the same page. But their motivations appear to differ starkly. The Americans and their NATO partners are pouring tens of thousands of additional troops into the country to weaken hard-core Taliban and force the group to the bargaining table. Mr. Karzai appears to believe that the American-led offensive cannot work. At a news conference at the Presidential Palace this week, Mr. Karzai was asked about the Taliban’s role in the June 4 attack on the loya jirga and his faith in NATO. He declined to address either one. “Who did it?” Mr. Karzai said of the attack. “It’s a question that our security organization can bring and prepare the answer.” Asked if he had confidence in NATO, Mr. Karzai said he was grateful for the help and said the partnership was “working very, very well.” But he did not answer the question. “We are continuing to work on improvements all around,” Mr. Karzai said, speaking in English and appearing next to David Cameron, the British prime minister. A senior NATO official said the resignations of Mr. Atmar and Mr. Saleh, who had strong support from the NATO allies, were “extremely disruptive.” The official said of Mr. Karzai, “My concern is, is he capable of being a wartime leader?” The NATO official said that American commanders had given Mr. Karzai a dossier showing overwhelming evidence that the attack on the peace conference had been carried out by fighters loyal to Jalalhuddin Haqqani, one of the main leaders fighting under the Taliban’s umbrella. “There was no doubt,” the official said. The resignations of Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar revealed a deep fissure among Afghan leaders as to the best way to deal with the Taliban and with their patrons in Pakistan. Mr. Saleh is a former aide to the late Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary commander who fought the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Many of Mr. Massoud’s former lieutenants, mostly ethnic Tajiks and now important leaders in northern Afghanistan, sat out the peace conference. Like Mr. Saleh, they favor a tough approach to negotiating with the Taliban and Pakistan. Mr. Karzai, like the overwhelming majority of the Taliban, is an ethnic Pashtun. He appears now to favor a more conciliatory approach. At the end of the loya jirga, Mr. Karzai announced the formation of a commission that would review the case of every Taliban fighter held in custody and release those who were not considered extremely dangerous. The commission, which would be led by several senior members of Mr. Karzai’s government, excluded the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency run by Mr. Saleh. In the interview, Mr. Saleh said he took offense at the exclusion. His primary job is to understand the Taliban, he said; leaving his agency off the commission made him worry that Mr. Karzai might intend to release hardened Taliban fighters. “His conclusion is — a lot of Taliban have been wrongly detained, they should be released,” Mr. Saleh said. “We are 10 years into the collapse of the Taliban — it means we don’t know who the enemy is. We wrongly detain people.” Mr. Saleh also criticized the loya jirga. “Here is the meaning of the jirga,” Mr. Saleh said. “I don’t want to fight you. I even open the door to you. It was my mistake to push you into the mountains. The jirga was not a victory for the Afghan state, it was a victory for the Taliban.” Mr. Karzai has been seeking to build bridges to the Taliban for months. Earlier this year, the president’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, held secret meetings with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy commander, according to a former senior Afghan official. According to Gen. Hilaluddin Hilal, the deputy interior minister in an earlier Karzai government, Ahmed Wali Karzai and Mr. Baradar met twice in January near Spin Boldak, a town on the border with Pakistan. The meeting was brokered by Mullah Essa Khakrezwal, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kandahar Province, and Hafez Majid, a senior Taliban intelligence official, General Hilal said. A Western analyst in Kabul confirmed General Hilal’s account. The senior NATO official said he was unaware of the meeting, as did Mr. Saleh. Ahmed Wali Karzai did not respond to e-mail queries on the meeting. The resolution of that meeting was not clear, General Hilal said. Mr. Baradar was arrested in late January in a joint Pakistani-American raid in Karachi, Pakistan. But Mr. Karzai’s attempts to negotiate with the Taliban have continued, he said. “He doesn’t think the Americans can afford to stay,” General Hilal said. Mr. Saleh said that Mr. Karzai’s strategy also involved a more conciliatory line toward Pakistan. If true, this would amount to a sea change for Mr. Karzai, who has spent his nine years in office regularly accusing the Pakistanis of supporting the Taliban insurgency. Mr. Saleh says he fears that Afghanistan will be forced into accepting what he called an “undignified deal” with Pakistan that will leave his country in a weakened state. He said he considered Mr. Karzai a patriot. But he said the president was making a mistake if he planned to rely on Pakistani support. (Pakistani leaders have for years pressed Mr. Karzai to remove Mr. Saleh, whom they see as a hard-liner). “They are weakening him under the disguise of respecting him. They will embrace a weak Afghan leader, but they will never respect him,” Mr. Saleh said.

Kyrgyzstan invites Russian troops to end unrest

Kyrgyzstan's interim president says her government has asked Russia to send troops to quell ethnic violence that has killed more than 50 people and wounded about 700. Roza Otunbayeva says without outside help the provisional authorities can't end violence that has raged since Friday in the southern city of Osh. She said Saturday she had sent a letter to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asking him to send in military forces. There has been no response from Russia yet. Police and soldiers struggled to stop ethnic clashes as gangs of armed young Kyrgyz men marched on Uzbek neighborhoods and fires raged.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's mineral income declining

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a rich spectrum of minerals, but due to corruption, mismanagement, political influence and preferential treatment not much is being done to cater to these resources, according to a DawnNews report. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s mineral income is decreasing as it is not utilizing the full potential of its mineral wealth, the report stated.Besides precious and semi-precious stones, the province is rich in lead, antimony and copper. The mineral income of Peshawar has decreased from 13 million to 6.7 million in a year. In another mineral hub, Kohat, the income has shrunk from 15 million to 6.6 million. Malakand earned only 7.6 million this year from minerals, as compared to 15 million in the previous year.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa budget today; Rs300bn increase likely

The total outlay of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) budget for financial year 2010-11 is likely to amount to Rs 300 billion as against Rs 211 billion of the current financial year. The budget is scheduled to be presented in the provincial assembly on Saturday, June 12. With increase in the share in the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the province will receive an amount of Rs 200 billion in different heads from the federal government. The increase in resources would swell the volume of the annual development programme (ADP) by 40 percent. Talking to Business Recorder, KP Minister for Finance, Mohammad Hamayun Khan, said that under the 7th NFC Award the province would receive an extra amount of Rs 15 billion under 1 percent of the undivided federal divisible pool as compensation in the war on terror. He said that the provincial budget would be tax-free and people-friendly, with special measures for the generation of employment opportunities and revival of the industrial sector of the province. The resources arriving in head of the net profit on hydropower generation would be diverted for utilisation of the potential energy sector of the province. The annual development programme would be focused on development of social sector with priority on provision of health and education and establishment of infrastructure facilities. Regarding revival of the industrial sector, he said that during the budget making process the provincial government had consulted the business community. A special consultative workshop was held for the industrialists and traders to include their input in the budget document. He said that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has also announced a big package for the economic revival of the province. He said that efforts were on for utilisation of relief measures announced under the Prime Minister's relief package. The minister said that the resources of the province would be utilised for exploitation of the hydropower potential of the province. He said that the production of the hydropower would not only help overcome the prevailing energy crisis of the country but would also create a permanent mean of revenue for the province. He said that a handsome amount would be sanctioned for utilisation of the hydropower generation sector. He said that some schemes in this regard had already been approved, while some were in the process of the feasibility studies. Energy and power, he said, is an important sector of the province and its development is the dire need of the province. He said that first instalment of Rs 25 billion in head of the outstanding amount in head of the net profit on electricity would arrive in the first week of the next financial year. He said that the provincial government is taking keen interest in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the militancy and terrorism affected Malakand Division. In this regard, he said he was hopeful that the federal government and donor agencies would extend complete co-operation to the provincial government. Regarding the burden of the 50 percent increase in the salaries of the government employees, he said that the matter was under consideration at provincial level.