Sunday, June 26, 2011

PPP secures majority in AJK elections

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has secured majority in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly by securing 19 seats in elections on Sunday.

According to unofficial results of 34 seats so far, Pakistan Muslim League (N) stood at second position by grabbing nine seats, Muslim Conference got third position with four seats besides two independents.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate and former Prime Minister of AJK Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry from LA-3 (City Mirpur-III) and President PPP AJK Ch. Abdul Majeed LA-2 (Chakswari Mirpur-II) have won their seats.

Among the other PPP winners were Afsar Shahid LA-1 (Dadayal Mirpur-I), Syed Azhar Hussain Gillani (LA 39, Valley-4), Sardar Yaqoob (LA 19 Rawalakot-3), Afsar Shahid (LA-39, Valley-4), Chaudhry Akbar Ibraheem (LA-34 Jammu-Gujarat), Abdul Salam Butt (LA-40, Valley-5) Sardar Qamar Zaman (LA-14, Bagh-II), Chaudhry Abdul Majeed (LA-2, Mirpur), Sardar Ghulam Sadiq (LA-18, Ponch-II) and Mian Abdul Waheed (LA-23, Neelum-1) Mutloob Inqalabi and some others.

President Muslim Conference Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan (LA-13,Bagh-1) and central PML(N) AJK Raja Farooq Haider also won their seats.

The result of one constituency from district Bagh has been held.

Arrest of Pakistani officer revives fears of extremism within military

Brigadier General Ali Khan was close to retiring at the end of a distinguished career in the Pakistani Army when he was detained early in May - and accused of links with an outlawed Islamist group.

His arrest, which became public Tuesday, shocked fellow officers at army headquarters and again raises the specter that senior ranks of the Pakistani officer corps may be infiltrated by Islamist militants.

Brigadier Khan is the most senior officer to face such allegations since 1995, according to a CNN analysis of previous cases.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Khan was believed linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation). He said efforts were underway to arrest members of the group who had been in contact with Khan.

"The military has zero tolerance for any such activity and strict disciplinary action will be taken against those involved," said Major General Abbas.

Pakistani officials say Brigadier General Khan, who is 59, had an administrative role at army headquarters in Rawalpindi. His work did not involve counterterrorism and he did not command any unit. But he would have seen plenty of sensitive information.

Khan comes from a military family stretching back three generations, and has a son in the armed forces. Pakistani media report that one of his brothers is a colonel with the intelligence service.

Reuters news agency quoted Khan's wife as dismissing the allegations as "rubbish," saying her husband was "an intellectual, an honest, patriotic and ideological person."

"It's a fashion here that whosoever offers prayers and practices religion is dubbed as Taliban and militant," Reuters quoted her as saying.

One of his brothers, Bashir Khan, told the Pakistani television network Aaj that the brigadier had been in the army for 25 years – serving with UN peacekeepers in Bosnia and spending time in the United States. In 2008, Khan received the highest honor available to soldiers of his rank.

Khan's detention comes amid heightened concern about religious extremism within Pakistan's armed forces.

Hizb ut-Tahrir says it is committed to non-violence but has urged soldiers to rebel against the military hierarchy and its goal it to establish a global Islamic Caliphate.

Pakistani sources tell CNN that in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, it produced pamphlets urging soldiers to turn against their commanders.

The group was outlawed by General Pervez Musharraf in 2004 but a Pakistani court subsequently overturned the ban. It is also active in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Simon Valentine, a British researcher who has studied extremism in the Pakistani armed forces, said that while Hizb ut-Tahrir doesn't advocate violence "a cardinal element of its ideology and modus operandi is to infilitrate the armed forces and, once gaining sufficient support, cause a military coup."

"Despite claims of zero tolerance of HuT within the Army," he said, "militant Islam, including the HuT, has much support from the grass roots to the highest level within all branches of the armed forces."

Valentine, who has researched Hizb ut-Tahrir in depth, said its views enjoy widespread support throughout Pakistani society.

"Such militancy as seen in the HuT is fuelled by an increasing anti-Americanism which is rife throughout Pakistan," he told CNN.

Hassan Abbas, a scholar at Columbia University who has written extensively about Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI, told CNN he suspected there was more to the case than any alleged contacts with Hizb ul-Tahrir.

"Association with such a group would not be enough to hold him for six weeks," especially as Khan was weeks away from retirement, he said.

Abbas, author of "Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror," said there is an alarming trend that includes Pakistani pilots refusing to bomb militant strongholds, and units surrendering to militant groups rather than fire on them.

Last month, Pakistani Taliban insurgents stormed the Naval Air Station in Karachi, apparently armed with inside information on its layout and security. They destroyed two U.S. supplied surveillance aircraft.

Days before he was abducted and murdered, Pakistani journalist Syed Shahzad described that attack as "the violent beginning of an internal ideological struggle between Islamist elements in the Pakistani armed forces and their secular and liberal top brass."

He went on to quote unnamed sources in the ISI, Pakistan's military intelligence service, as saying: "It was shown several months ago that the Pakistan navy is vulnerable to Islamists when a marine commando unit official was arrested.....Now, they (intelligence) realize how the organization (navy) is riddled and vulnerable to the influence of militant organizations."

Last year two serving officers - including a colonel – and two former officers were indicted in a court martial for allegedly planning a terrorist attack on the Shamsi airbase.

Shamsi - in Balochistan province - is a remote base reportedly used by the United States drone program. The four were alleged to have been in contact with Hizb ut-Tahrir. They have pled not guilty.

And in 2004, several lower-ranking air force personnel were convicted in connection with assassination attempts against Pakistan's leader at the time, General Pervez Musharraf.

One of them, Abdul Islam Siddiqui, was hanged but maintained he was innocent of involvement. Other soldiers said they had been tortured into implicating him.

Valentine, who is a regular visitor to Pakistan, said Khan's arrest may be "part of an attempt to bolster the army's reputation amid accusations that it is pro-militant," in the wake of the raid by U.S. special forces that killed bin Laden.

But Hassan Abbas believes the military had no desire for the Khan case to become public. "The military is in deep crisis in the aftermath of Abbottabad," he says. "They would have preferred to hush this up."

CNN Hero working harder than ever to stop sex trafficking

Diabetes explosion leads to 350 million suffering from disease worldwide
Rates of diabetes have exploded in the past three decades with an estimated 350 million people in the world now suffering from the disease, according to new research.

Almost every region of the planet has seen a rise in diabetes prevalence or has failed to reduce levels of the disease, a major international study has revealed.
The condition, which is the result of poorly controlled sugar levels in the blood, can lead to serious compliations such as damage to the kidneys, blindness, nerve damage, heart disease and limb loss.
Each year, high blood sugar levels and diabetes kill three million people worldwide.
Increasing life span and increasing body weight are thought to be the main factors causing diabetes rates to rise, especially among women, say researchers.
But genetic factors in some ethnic groups, nutrition in the womb, diet in early life and levels of physical activity have also played a role in the rising diabetes rates.Scientists analysed blood sugar data on 2.7 million people aged 25 and over throughout the world and used the results to estimate diabetes prevalence.
Their results showed that the number of adults with diabetes more than doubled from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2008, considerably higher than a 2009 estimate of 285 million.
Across the three decades, the proportion of men with diabetes rose by 18% from 8.3% to 9.8%. The proportion of women with diabetes increased even sharper, from 7.5% to 9.2%, an increase of 23%.
The findings were published in a special online report by The Lancet medical journal.
Professor Majid Ezzati, from Imperial College London, who co-led the investigation, said: "Diabetes is one of the biggest causes of morbidity (illness) and mortality worldwide.
"Our study has shown that diabetes is becoming more common almost everywhere in the world. This is in contrast to blood pressure and cholesterol, which have both fallen in many regions.
"Diabetes is much harder to prevent and treat than these other conditions."
Between 85% and 95% of diabetes cases fall into the type 2 category, which is linked to lifestyle. Type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes is a separate auto-immune disorder and much less common.
The study showed that diabetes rates had risen most dramatically in Pacific island nations, where a greater proportion of people have the condition than anywhere else in the world. In the Marshal Islands, one in three women and one in four men have diabetes.
Elevated blood glucose and diabetes prevalence was also high in southern Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, central Asia, north Africa and the Middle East.
Among high-income countries, those of Western Europe had seen a relatively small increase in diabetes prevalence. Rates were highest in the US, Greenland, Malta, New Zealand and Spain and were lowest in The Netherlands, Austria and France.

Number of Afghanistan refugees has doubled in 2011

They are the faces of civilians caught in the crossfire in Afghanistan. Facing internal conflict, the number of people fleeing their homes in Afghanistan has more than doubled compared to this time last year, says Refugees International, an advocacy group for displaced persons.

"In the first five months of 2011, we have more than 91,000 people fleeing their homes. And this is in comparison to last year at the same time period when there was 42,000," Refugees International advocate Lynn Yoshikawa said.

"They are living in cramped corridors ... sharing homes, living outside in tents. They have a lot of difficulties with breathing conditions, very limited access to medical facilities to address the problems. A lot of it is chronic," said Yoshikawa.

Yoshikawa visited tent cities across Afghanistan earlier this year with her colleagues, taking photos of the refugees' living conditions and sharing them publicly for the first time with CNN. In describing the makeshift camps, Refugees International representatives say some were situated along major roads within Afghanistan's capital of Kabul, thrown together with discarded objects such as old cars, plastic tarps and torn sheets.

The humanitarian group warns that Afghans continue to be driven from their homes by coalition air strikes and special forces raids.

"There is still a lot of displacement happening and it's not being properly addressed," said Yoshikawa. "The military isn't reporting people that they see displaced from their military operations. That prevents humanitarian agencies from going to respond because often these are areas inaccessible because of these high levels of conflict."Gen. David Petraeus, outgoing Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, has long said the military tries to be as careful as possible.

A U.S. State Department's spokeswoman said Friday that despite President Obama's announcement to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan within the next 15 months, the United States is committed to Afghanistan's long-term stability.

"We do continue to support efforts internally in Afghanistan to ensure that refugees are well managed," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "With regard to the larger question of security in Afghanistan ... our goal is not to allow more insecurity but continue to transfer increasing security to the Afghans. Refugees and other folks who need protecting we have in mind as this strategy evolves with Afghans gaining more strength."

Yet questions remain about the extent of corruption within Afghanistan's security forces, including local police, who Refugees International says are now also driving Afghans from their homes.

"We talked to displaced people who said the Afghan local police, which are supported by U.S. military... are extorting money from people, demanding taxes, using their power to abuse civilians. They've also been implicated in allegations of murder and torture in these communities," explained Yoshikawa.Afghan government officials have often said they are already trying to improve their security forces. Nuland says the United States is working closely with Afghans to ensure there are "good human rights standards" and "anti-corruption standards"

Refugees International says larger humanitarian concerns remain, with many displaced families fearful of returning home after fleeing violence.

The group says that many of those critical local police units, tasked with protecting Afghan residents, are now so corrupt that they should not be funded until strict recruiting and discipline standards are met.

Nawaz suffering from army, ISI phobia

Former President General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf has said the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has fallen in army and ISI phobia and making wrong statements to take credit for action which he has never taken.

In an interview with a private TV channel, the former military dictator said Mian Nawaz Sharif

was opposed to nuclear tests and these were carried out under pressure of institutions.

He also referred to the PML-N chief’s claim that Kashmir issue was nearly resolved during the Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan and said that that there was not a single world about Kashmir in the joint statement issued at the end of the Indian leader’s visit. He described Nawaz Sharif as the biggest enemy of Kashmiris and said that he in fact sold out Kashmir and now by speaking lies, he is trying to muster support.

Musharraf said Pakistan was in worst type of economic condition during the days of Nawaz Sharif while he (Nawaz) now talks of country making great progress during his rule.

He said it is beyond one’s comprehension how bin Laden stayed in Abbottabad for five years. He said the drone attacks were damaging the sovereignty of Pakistan and a way out will have to be found.

The former army chief said it is not appropriate to remain silent while the Pakistan Army was being criticised. He said army is a well organised institution but there could be some extremist elements at the lower level.

He regretted that while the country suffered the most in the war on terror, it is being made target of criticism and threatened.

Musharraf said terrorist attack at PNS Mehran base was a security failure which must be investigated.

In reply to a question, Musharraf said he cared for the Sharif family more than Nawaz Sharif. He reminded that he secured permission from Saudi Arabia for treatment abroad of Shahbaz Sharif when he fell ill.

He said whatever Nawaz Sharif says about him (Musharraf) is nothing but a bundle of lies. He said he failed to understand the problems of Nawaz Sharif and said that he put behind the bars Najam Sethi and Husain Haqqani and he (Musharraf) got them released

Tehran moot confers award on late Benazir

The ‘International conference on the global fight against terrorism’ on Saturday, posthumously awarded former prime minister Benazir Bhutto for her leading role in the fight against terrorism. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani conferred the award, which was received by Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, the middle child of late Benazir. President Asif Ali Zardari, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Sudanese President Omer Al Bashir were also present at the occasion.