Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pakistan home to 50mln illiterate people: UNESCO

Pakistan tops the list of 21 developing countries as being one where budget allocation for defence exceeds spending on primary education, according to a UN agency UNESCO.

A local representative of UNESCO, Arshad Khan, revealed this during an address to media forum on the topic of ‘Education in Pakistan’.

“The number of uneducated people in Pakistan has mounted to over 55 million and counting, ” he feared.

The Millennium Development Goals (DMG)s’ education-related targets seem difficult to have been achieved by 2015 given the incompetence and non-seriousness of the prevailing government, he informed attendees.

Over 41 per cent people have never attended school while over two-third female population have no idea about education, he said.

On the occasion, Secretary Education Lateef Tahir vowed that the education ratio in capital city of Islamabad would be raised up to 100 per cent.

'We'll Fight Until Gaddafi Is Gone'

The leaders of Britain, the US and France have written a joint article saying Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi must go - and go for good.

US condemns Bahrain for crackdown on Shiite groups

The Obama administration condemned Bahrain's moves Thursday to disband two Shiite opposition groups, urging the ruling Sunni minority to favor pluralism instead.
"We're concerned by it. These were legitimate political societies that were recognized by the government of Bahrain," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
"We call on the government of Bahrain to support freedom of association and expression, and to foster an environment that encourages political pluralism and participation."
Bahrain's Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs earlier filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Islamic Action Association and the powerful Al-Wefaq party a month after a bloody government crackdown on protesters crushed an opposition movement that called for democratic reforms, state news agency BNA reported.
The decision comes "due to the breaches of the kingdom's laws and constitution committed by both associations and for their activities that have negatively affected the civil peace and national unity," according to the statement.
"We would welcome them reversing this particular action," said Toner. "It is of concern to us that this is a registered, legitimate political society that has before now been recognized by the government of Bahrain."
Jeffrey Feltman, President Barack Obama's assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, is due to visit Bahrain next week during which he hopes to speak with the different parties, Toner said.
The United States voiced concern Wednesday over prison deaths in Bahrain after the Shiite Muslim opposition said a fourth detainee, Karim Fakhrawi, had died in custody.
Saudi-led forces entered Bahrain last month, sparking a war of words between various Gulf Arab states and Iran, and freeing up Bahraini security forces to crush the protests that had erupted February 14.
Al-Wefaq was the main opposition group in parliament, controlling almost half of the 40 seats before its MPs resigned.
The group has called for political reforms and for transforming Bahrain to a constitutional monarchy.
But its leaders, have never publicly called for the departure of the pro-Western Al-Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled Shiite-majority Bahrain since 1783, as radical Shiite groups and protesters have done.
The Islamic Action Association has also joined the protests in which Bahraini authorities said that 24 people were killed in the only Shiite-majority Gulf Arab state.

Govt personnel involved in rights abuse: HRCP

Describing 2010 as a particularly bad year for minorities, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said the government did not even extend sympathies to the victims of faith-related killings.

The HRCP’s ‘State of Human Rights in 2010’ report released on Thursday noted that there had been few positive developments in the country with regard to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The country witnessed a series of faith-based attacks in which not only were minorities targeted but 418 Muslims belonging to various sects were killed. Suicide attacks on Muslims injured 628 people, mainly Shia and Barelvi.

“All indications suggest that there are even worse times ahead,” the report said.

“Extremist views grew more vociferous as voices for basic human rights and tolerance became more isolated in face of violence and intimidation.”

It said the police were not only not doing enough to protect the minorities from attacks but had also been accused of harassing or being complicit in framing false charges against their members.

Presenting the report, HRCP chairman Dr Mehdi Hassan said most of the human rights violations were being conducted by government functionaries, including police.

“Under such conditions, who will ensure that the laws are being implemented?”

The report said prejudices of law-enforcement personnel were believed to be a hurdle in effective protection of religious minorities in serious danger from Taliban or sectarian militant groups.

HRCP secretary-general I.A. Rehman said that in most of the religious-based killings the federal and the provincial government concerned even failed to express sympathy with the victims. He referred to faith-based killing of 99 Ahmedis across the country.

The report highlighted a growing spread of hate literature and said it had been monitored that in the mainstream Urdu newspapers 1,468 news articles and editorials promoted hate, intolerance and discrimination against Ahmedis.

“A student in Lahore was denied admission to MSc in zoology in a sate-run college because of his faith.”

The report said little progress had been made in bringing to justice those involved in violence and arson against a Christian locality in Gojra in 2009.

About 25 per cent of the 102 Sikh families in Orakzai Agency were forced to leave their generations-old homeland after Taliban asked them to pay Jaziya or leave the area. They were able to return after a military operation.

According to the Balochistan director of the federal human rights ministry, at least 27 Hindu families from the province sought asylum in India because of security threats.

Mr Rehman said the political parties had failed to contribute towards improving the human rights conditions.

“They cannot even speak clearly on the issue because they are not true political parties, these are just brokers and rubber-stamps,” he said.

The reports said at least 64 people were charged under the blasphemy law in 2010 and many of them were imprisoned.

A Muslim and two Christian men accused of blasphemy were killed in police custody.

The report highlighted a bleak picture of the official state of affairs regarding the blasphemy law and said 2010 saw the government’s flip–flopping on reform of the controversial law and also showed how it lost nerve in the face of intimidation by extremists after the idea of reform was floated.

On the law and order front, about 12,580 people were murdered and 581 kidnapped for ransom. At least 16,977 cases of kidnapping were reported.

US drones strikes were responsible for 957 extra-legal killings and 338 people were killed in police encounters. Only 28 suspects were injured and captured.

At least 1,159 people, included 1,041 civilians, were killed in 67 suicide attacks.

During the year, 2,542 people were killed and 5,062 injured in terrorist attacks.

Target killings in Karachi claimed the lives of 237 political activists and 301 other civilians and 81 people were killed in the Lyari gang wars, the report said.

Another 118 people were killed and 40 injured in 117 incidents of target killing in Balochistan, including 29 non-Baloch settlers and 17 members of the Shia Hazara community.

The bodies of 59 missing persons were found in Balochistan.

The report lauded parliament for adopting the 18th Amendment through consensus and then responding quickly to the Supreme Court’s reservations on the procedure for appointment of judges by passing the 19th Amendment.

Clinton warns against hasty Afghan withdrawal

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday backed further away from a US timeline to start pulling troops from Afghanistan in July, warning "political expediency" would benefit the Taliban.
Speaking at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin, Clinton also warned of a "violent spring fighting season" in Afghanistan as the Taliban try to exert themselves in areas where Afghan forces are due to assume control.
"We have to steel ourselves and our publics for the possibility that the Taliban will resort to the most destructive and sensational attacks we have seen," she said.
Clinton hailed the "heroic sacrifices" by nations in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and insisted there has been progress in fighting the insurgents.
"We need to ensure that these sacrifices are not overtaken by political expediency and short-term thinking," Clinton told the NATO meeting in Berlin.
"We need to worry less about how fast we can leave and more about how we can help the Afghan people build on the gains of the past 15 months," she said.
President Barack Obama has tripled US troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 since taking office in 2009 but had promised to begin a drawdown in July. The nearly 10-year-old war has become unpopular in the United States and allied nations.
Foreign ministers of nations involved in Afghanistan met for three hours, hearing on-the-ground assessments from General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, along with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, according to a US official.
Clinton said that Afghanistan was seeing real, but reversible, progress and pointed to President Hamid Karzai's March announcement that Afghan forces would assume security in key areas including the southern province of Helmand.
"For the transition to be sustainable and irreversible, and for reconciliation and diplomacy to bear fruit, we must sustain our efforts," Clinton said, according to her prepared remarks.
"We need to underscore that we are transitioning, not leaving," she said.
Despite public opposition, Obama's Republican political foes have attacked him over the July deadline, saying it would be the wrong signal to the Taliban and discourage neighbouring Pakistan from acting against insurgents.
The Obama administration has gradually de-emphasised the timeframe, instead saying that most US forces would leave in 2014 -- the date set by last year's NATO summit for putting Afghans in charge of their own country's security.
Clinton appeared to de-emphasise that date as well, saying that the United States was committed to "building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that will last well beyond 2014."
"The Taliban need to know that they cannot wait us out," Clinton said.
Critics of the war, including lawmakers in Obama's Democratic Party, scoff at assessments of progress, pointing out that last year was the deadliest in Afghanistan for both Afghan civilians and the US military.
Support for the Afghanistan war, launched in pursuit of Al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, has also dwindled among US allies.
But Clinton renewed a US call for NATO nations to drum up $1 billion to help sustain the Afghan National Army.
While keeping up the military effort, the Obama administration has also embraced efforts for reconciliation in Afghanistan, concluding that there is ultimately no political solution to the conflict.
Clinton's robust call on Afghanistan came at a NATO meeting dominated by Libya, where France and Britain have taken the lead and sought greater support from NATO allies.

CIA will not halt operations in Pakistan

The Central Intelligence Agency has no plans to suspend "operations" in Pakistan against terror suspects despite objections from leaders in Islamabad, a US official said Thursday.
Pakistan has criticized missile strikes by US drone aircraft against Islamist militants in the country but CIA Director Leon Panetta has told intelligence officials that he has a duty to prevent attacks on the United States, the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
"Panetta has been clear with his Pakistani counterparts that his fundamental responsibility is to protect the American people, and he will not halt operations that support that objective," the official said.
The CIA chief on Monday held several hours of talks at the agency's headquarters outside Washington with Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
US media had reported that Pasha and other officials told the United States to rein in drone strikes and slash the number of CIA agents and special forces operating in the nuclear-armed Muslim country.
[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

Apparently reflecting the CIA chief's stance, American drones resumed missile attacks in Pakistan on Wednesday for the first time in a month, targeting fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network near the Afghan border.
The unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at a vehicle in the South Waziristan district, striking a route used by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-allied militants who cross into Afghanistan to attack NATO-led troops, Pakistani officials said.
It was the first missile strike since March 17, when Pakistan's civilian and military leaders strongly protested over a US drone attack that killed 39 people, including civilians and police, in North Waziristan.
Pakistan's foreign ministry and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani both sharply criticised the latest bombing raid.
But analysts and former US intelligence officers say there is little chance the CIA would abandon the drone bombing campaign despite a series of diplomatic rows, and even if Pakistani leaders, for domestic political purposes, publicly criticized the strikes.

Western calls for reforms in S.Arabia only empty words:German expert

Western calls for democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab Persian Gulf states are only empty words, according to a prominent German expert on the Middle East.

Talking to the Deutschland radio station on Wednesday, Guido Steinberg of the Berlin-based German Institute for International Politics and Security (SWP) said that the western demands for democratic reforms in some of the Arab Persian Gulf countries were 'only rhetoric.'

This applies especially to the energy-rich states in the Persian Gulf region, he added.

Steinberg made clear that the US and Europeans would continue to strive for stability rather than democratic changes in those Persian Gulf countries.

'No one wants Saudi Arabia to take a similar way like Egypt, Tunisia or Libya, especially because of the dangers linked to the oil and gas supply of the world economy,' said Steinberg who was a top anti-terror advisor to former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

He predicted the West would continue its policy of 'cronyism' involving Arab Persian Gulf 'dictators.'

Steinberg highlighted especially American double standards when dealing with dictatorial Arab regimes.

The US dropped its support for the Mubarak government very quickly but is continuing 'to back the regime in Bahrain and also in Saudi Arabia,' he added.

Health of Bahrain hunger striker slumps as regime comes under pressure

Britain and the European Union have heaped diplomatic pressure on Bahrain over the alleged killing of pro-democracy activists in custody, while the health of a hunger striker protesting at the beating and arrest of her dissident father has deteriorated markedly.

In a meeting with Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, the British ambassador to Bahrain, Jamie Bowden, raised concerns over the deaths of four dissident prisoners in the last week. Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, speaking through a spokesman also called on the Bahrain regime to immediately release all those who have been detained for peacefully expressing themselves. Ashton announced she is to visit Bahrain next week and her spokesman called on the authorities to "investigate all recent events which have resulted in loss of life and injuries".

The high-level interventions follow what pro-democracy activists in Bahrain complain has been a period of minimal censure from Europe and the US of the renewed crackdown. They came as Zainab al-Khawaja, a 27-year-old mother on hunger strike following the beating and arrest of her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja – a prominent human rights activist – along with her husband and brother-in-law, saw her health slump. She had been speaking out against the government's treatment of her family through the media and her Twitter blog but she struggled to stand up, vomited and could no longer breastfeed her 18-month-old daughter, according to her mother.

"I asked if I could put some sugar in her water because I can see her suffering and her daughter is crying for milk because she can't breastfeed her. She said no," said Khadija al-Khawaja, 52. "She is just sleeping. I go and wake her up, she opens her eyes and speaks to me and says she is OK. I told her you have a little girl whose father is not here and if anything happens to you … but she feels she needs to do something. She is very angry and very upset about what is happening."

The family has received no information about the fate of Abdulhadi, Zainab's husband Wafu Almajed or her brother-in-law Hussein Ahmed. But there was hope for her uncle who was arrested three weeks earlier, when his wife was called to bring clothes for him to the military court building, though she was not allowed to see him. Abdulhadi was beaten and arrested after he denounced the King of Bahrain and called for him to be put on trial. It is thought the two other men were arrested because they were with him at the time, but were not the targets.

The Bahraini government has widened its crackdown on dissent by preparing a case to dissolve Al Wefaq, a registered political society that previously held 18 of the 40 seats in the chamber of deputies before it withdrew in protest at the government's handling of demonstrations in February. It is also trying to shut down the Islamic Action Society, another registered society. A spokesman for the British foreign office denounced the move as "a backward step for reform" and said "the best way out of the situation is through inclusive dialogue".

Kareem Fakhwiri, a member of Al Wefaq, was buried on Wednesday after he died in police custody and suffered extensive bruising.

"We are deeply concerned by the many reports of human rights abuses in Bahrain," said a foreign office spokesman. "We are particularly worried by the deaths of four prisoners in the past week. Our ambassador raised these deaths with the minister of interior on 14 April. We call on the government to investigate them fully and transparently and we continue to urge the Bahraini authorities to act in accordance with the law and to meet international standards for the treatment of detainees."

Khadija al-Khawaja said she was increasingly afraid the authorities would call to announce her husband's death, after she visited Kobra Fakhwiri, the widow of Kareem Fakhwiri.

Canada to help build Peshawar-Torkham Highway

Canadian High Commissioner Ross Hynes said that the government of Canada will assist in the construction of the Peshawar-Torkham Highway to mitigate the problems of the masses. He stated this while speaking in a high level meeting here on the Pak-Afghan border.
Phased construction on the road will start next week and is expected to be completed within three years. A team of engineers, he said would arrive next week.
The meeting discussed the Liaison Office on the Peshawar-Torkham Highway at Torkham, noting that it will help resolve problems faced by traders and travellers. During the briefing it was stated that the office would promote coordination between the two neighbours.

Concrete steps for development of FATA

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that Government is taking concrete measures for the development of Federal Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). The Government, he maintained, is determined to address the sense of deprivation among the people of these areas by bringing them into mainstream politics.

The Prime Minister was talking to Haji Muneer Ahmad Khan Orakzai, MNA from FATA, who called on him at Prime Minister’s House here on Thursday.

The Prime Minister said that the Government is according to priority to provide education and health facilities in all agencies. He asked that the Tribal elders and local administration from FATA should be taken onboard to implement these policies.

Referring to the drone attacks in the tribal areas, the Prime Minister said that the Government has strongly condemned the attacks and termed it violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan territory. He maintained that the issue is being raised at all the forums and with the NATO Forces to convey them the concerns of Pakistan. These attacks, he added, are counter productive in war against terror.

Haji Muneer thanked the Prime Minister for his personal interest for the development of FATA. He apprised him of the progress of various gas supply schemes initiated by Federal Government in all the agencies.