Tuesday, July 26, 2011

sharabi ghazal....Pashto.. Urdu

PAKISTAN:One-year after catastrophic floods, thousands still affected

Twelve months after the devastating floods, thousands are still affected and continue a daily struggle to support their families and re-establish livelihoods.

The first anniversary of the floods is a painful reminder of how long and difficult the recovery is turning out to be.The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society continue to work together to assist families whose land has only recently been replanted for the first time. Emergency relief distributions continue to the most vulnerable communities around Jacobabad, in northern Sindh, as subsistence farmers await the germination of their first post-flood rice crop, planted with ICRC seed and fertilizer.

The anniversary of the catastrophic floods also marks the onset of the new monsoon season. As some 2010 victims struggle to recover their lives and livelihoods, others now worry that changing world weather patterns will cause renewed flooding. In 2011, with an expanded volunteer base, a stronger and more capable Pakistan Red Crescent, supported by the ICRC, will continue to assist victims of calamity, whether caused by recurrent natural disasters or the fighting that grips many parts of the country. “We’ve been assisting vulnerable Pakistani communities for six decades, through all major wars and natural disasters. By our actions, the ICRC has made it clear that we are committed to our strictly humanitarian work in Pakistan, principally by supporting fighting-affected communities in the north-west and Balochistan, but also in support of communities affected by natural disasters,” said André Paquet, the acting head of the ICRC delegation in Pakistan. “Our close partnership with the Pakistan Red Crescent is stronger than ever, and we are prepared to do our share in the event of another flood catastrophe.”

With almost 2,000 killed and 11 million made homeless, the devastating floods that began in July 2010 inflicted catastrophic damage on a country already reeling from the effects of fighting. “While the 2010 floods claimed fewer lives than the disastrous Kashmir earthquake of 2005, many observers considered the devastation caused by the floods to be on a similar scale,” said Mr Paquet.

In partnership with the Pakistan Red Crescent, the ICRC assisted more than two million people during the floods – making the ICRC’s operation in Pakistan its biggest in the world last year in terms of the number of people receiving aid.

The ICRC reached flood victims in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh and the Punjab with food, clean water, emergency shelter and medical services.

As floodwaters receded, the ICRC provided seed, farm machinery, basic tools and fertilizer for more than 600,000 farmers throughout Pakistan to enable them to restore farm incomes.

Throughout the flood relief operations the ICRC maintained its commitment to the fighting-affected communities of the north-west, while expanding its assistance to communities in major cities affected by the spread of the fighting. Some 230,000 people displaced by fighting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were given food rations each month between early 2010 and May 2011.

Thousands of people have received life-saving care at the ICRC surgical hospital for weapon-wounded patients in Peshawar and in Quetta medical clinics, and more than 11,000 people have benefited from the ICRC’s limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation programmes in the last year.

KARACHI:Where is government’s writ?

Rocket and bomb attacks, target killing and indiscriminate series of firing have become a norm in Karachi and indicate that there is no writ of the government. On Sunday alone, 25 people were gunned down for no fault of theirs. The number of casualties and the kind of most sophisticated weapons being used by warring factions raise the most vital question: who is behind this blood-shedding? Despite the fact that those involved in this painful battle are local, it is clear that there are foreign elements that are providing funding and supplying arms and ammunition. As long as weapons in such a large quantity would remain in unsafe hands, there is no possibility of peace returning to the City of Lights. Should one believe that whatever is happening in Karachi is the end result of a political conspiracy to convert the beautiful metropolis of Sindh into a graveyard? It must be recalled that in 1980s, Nooriabad Industrial Zone was the hub of production activity but due to extortion mafia, industrialists abandoned their units and migrated to Gadoon Amazai and later shifted to Punjab. Now the residents of Karachi have started shifting to other parts of the country since they are convinced that city is not worth living.
The most unacceptable situation is that no one is ready to accept responsibility as far as federal and provincial governments are concerned. Calling meetings, appointing commissions and issuing statements have never resolved an issue of this proportion. Therefore, President Zardari’s four-man committee or calling a meeting in Islamabad would not lead to any solution. One possible solution could be to hand over Karachi to the army for a combing operation to de-weaponise its population and eliminate no-go areas. If two of the three main stakeholders believe this would help, why is this not being done by taking the third partner into confidence that the proposed operation would not be any group specific? What needs to be feared is the chances of Karachi lawlessness spreading to other cities of the country. Is anybody bothered about it? Apparently none!

Egypt women demand equal rights in new charter

Fifteen Egyptian groups called on Tuesday for women's rights to be guaranteed in the new constitution, after a popular uprising that toppled the regime paved the way for a new charter.
"We are not proposing a new constitution, but we want women's rights to be included," Amina ElBendary, a professor of Arab and Islamic Civilisation at the American University in Cairo, and one of the signatories, told a news conference.
"We have simply put forward some suggestions of clauses which could be included in the next constitution," she said.
After eight weeks of research in various parts of Egypt, the 15 groups are calling for a women's quota in parliament and in local councils, as well as equal rights for women at work and in education.
"The women we have met are very concerned about their rights, they want the law to protect them," said Azza Soleiman, a long-time women's rights activist.
"The women are not questioning the sharia," the Islamic law on which personal status laws are based, "but they want the law clearly defined because the interpretations can vary," she said.
"We don't want Egypt to adopt the same interpretation as in Saudi Arabia," said Soleiman.
The statement comes as Egyptians await a new constitution, after the previous one was suspended by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which took power when president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.
The SCAF has said parliamentary elections would take place before the end of the year, after which a new constitution would be drafted and a presidential election would be set.
But a debate has raged over whether elections or a new constitution should come first.
It is expected that early elections would benefit the well-entrenched Muslim Brotherhood, and many have called for a constitution first so as not to give Islamists too much power in drafting it.
The military rulers recently announced that the women's quota in parliament, established by Mubarak, would be abolished.
In the last parliamentary elections in 2010, women had a quota of 64 seats in the 445-member parliament, or around 13 percent.

Karzai outlines Afghan 'conditions' for future US ties

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday outlined conditions governing negotiations for a future strategic partnership with the United States as he met defence chiefs at his palace.
The new US ambassador in Kabul, Ryan Crocker, has said the US has no interest in permanent military bases in the country and does not want to project its influence in the region by remaining in Afghanistan.
But fears remain among many Afghans over any long-term American presence in the country following the departure of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
Karzai said Afghanistan's conditions included foreign forces working within Afghan legal rules, US troops not taking prisoners or maintaining jails, and an end to controversial night raids by elite commandos.
He gave no details how the demands would shape negotiations, as he addressed heads of the army, police and intelligence services in a speech marking the end of the first phase of security transitions from foreign to local forces' control.
"There are many other conditions on the economy and sovereignty and all other aspects... and about respect to the Afghan constitution," Karzai said.
"They also have their own conditions, but we haven?t agreed on anything yet."
Seven parts of the country were ceremonially handed over from foreign to Afghan forces last week, although NATO officials say it will be up to two years before each area will assume full control for security and governance.
All Western combat troops are due to leave by the end of 2014.
"NATO and the international community are helping our country. But this will not go on forever and we don't want it forever," Karzai said.
"We are not proud of that. The good news will come when we, Afghans, are protecting our own homeland.
"It will happen only with hard work and sacrifice. Especially from our Afghan forces," he added.
Critics have said the process is premature because Afghan forces are not ready to hold off the Taliban, and they say it is motivated by a political timetable as coalition nations start to bring some of their troops home.
The deputy head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Michael Keating, said in a statement Tuesday that the focus on the first phase of transition must be used to improve Afghanistan's institutions.
"Transition will only succeed with adequate investment in development, governance and the rule of law," he said.
"The momentum around transition must be captured to fast-forward efforts to strengthen Afghan institutional capacity, especially at the provincial level."

Pakistan has failed to invest in prevention measures since last year's floods

Pakistan has failed to invest in prevention measures since last year's floods that killed 1,750 people and is vulnerable to another disaster this monsoon season, Oxfam said Tuesday.
The relief agency marked one year since the beginning of the 2010 disaster, when flooding inundated a third of Pakistan, by calling for more to be spent on reconstruction, suitable housing and early-warning systems.
About 21 million people were affected by the worst floods in Pakistan since the country was founded in 1947, and tens of thousands of people are still living in emergency camps.
"Pakistan needs to act now. Investing in measures today that reduce the impact of disasters is essential to save lives and safeguard development gains in the future," said Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan.
"It will ensure schools built with aid funds are not washed away and that farmers can keep the crops they have toiled over. A year after Pakistan's mega floods it's time we learnt this lesson."
Releasing a new report entitled "Ready or Not", Oxfam said that 37,000 people were still in camps in Sindh, the worst-hit province, and 800,000 families nationwide were without proper homes one year on.
It warned that river embankments had not been rebuilt, leaving villages more open to flooding, and that two to five million people were likely to be affected by this year's monsoon floods.
"Villagers in areas that we work fear new flooding. Many are planting fewer crops than usual as they are worried that their harvests will be destroyed in fresh floods," Khan said.
"In some areas, where fresh flooding has already begun, families have started to dismantle their houses and move to higher ground as they are scared of losing everything again."
The Pakistan government's response to the 2010 floods, which began in the last week of July, was widely criticised, with much of the emergency relief aid coming from foreign donor nations.
Kaniz Mai, 48, a farm worker from Punjab province, told a press conference in Islamabad that Pakistani authorities "did nothing for our protection and we handled the situation ourselves".
"We therefore appeal to people to make arrangements themselves before any tragedy hits," she said. "Nothing is expected from the government this year and they are not going to do anything in the future."
Crops, roads, schools, electricity lines and bridges were all washed away last year in a country already suffering from Islamist militant attacks and political instability.
Pakistan's chronic corruption has also made donors wary of giving more money, and the Oxfam report said a UN appeal had a shortfall of $600 million for "early recovery activities".
Acted, a French aid group, said in its own report marking one year since the floods that Pakistan was still in desperate need of help despite international focus now being on other disaster zones such as Somalia.
"Initial response to the UN fund-raising was strong, but humanitarian aid is falling off," Acted said. "Sustained commitment by international actors is crucial to fill the gaps, enable reconstruction and ensure food security."
Two people have died in flash floods in Rawalpindi in recent days, but the government has not reported any serious flooding and the meteorological department predicts the 2011 monsoon will be below average.
"So far there has been no unusual impact on river flows, which remain normal," chief meteorologist Arif Mehmood told AFP. "Our forecast also suggests there will be no flooding in the next 15 days."
The strength of the annual downpour between July to September is vital to hundreds of millions of farmers across South Asia who rely on the rains to irrigate their crops for much of the rest of the year.

Afghanistan hits back over U.S. aid spending report

Afghanistan's government hit back Tuesday over a U.S. watchdog report on aid spending in Afghanistan last week, saying several assertions in the report were wrong and that future audits needed to be "more balanced and accurate."
Afghanistan's finance ministry said while it welcomed outside scrutiny, any funds that had been misused or ended up in the hands of insurgents were not the government's responsibility because only a fraction of aid flowed through state coffers.
The ministry also said its relations with the current U.S. Treasury Attache had been "strained" over the past year and that it looked forward to resuming a "professional" partnership when an "effective" replacement had been selected.
The comments follow a report released last Wednesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog created by U.S. Congress to scrutinize how U.S. aid money is spent in Afghanistan.
The finance ministry said it was "disappointed" that in the eight months spent in Afghanistan, the auditors "were unable" to meet with any senior finance ministry official.
"The government would welcome the opportunity to participate in future audits, strengthening Afghan capacity and resulting in more balanced and accurate findings," the ministry said, adding that "several assertions ... misrepresent the facts."
In the report, SIGAR said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had banned U.S. government advisers from the central bank and that the atmosphere there had become "hostile" for U.S. officials training bank regulators and trying to uncover financial crimes.
The central bank has been at the center of controversy for months and its governor, Abdul Qadir Fitrat, resigned in June saying he feared for his life over his role investigating the collapse of Kabulbank, the country's biggest private lender.
The bank handed out hundreds of millions of dollars in unsecured loans to a roster of the country's elite.
The Afghan government called his resignation "treason" and charged Fitrat was partly responsible for the fraud scandal.
Fitrat, who chose to announce his resignation in the United States, said "high political authorities" in Kabul had undermined the central bank's effort to investigate Kabulbank. The Kabulbank crisis has led to a suspension of IMF funds.
Tuesday, the finance ministry said the central bank "refutes that its environment is hostile to international advisers" and was seeking renewed support in implementing measures set by the IMF to strengthen its financial sector.
It said the government had recently written to the IMF's new director, Christine Lagarde, asking for her "personal intervention" in technical support for the central bank "after international support had been fully removed."
SIGAR also stated that Congress had appropriated over $70 billion since 2002 to implement security and aid projects in Afghanistan but neither country had done enough to ensure money was not siphoned off to militants or whisked abroad.
But Afghanistan's finance ministry said of that $70 billion less than $2.1 billion had been channeled through the government and only $46 million had been used "at the discretion of the Afghan government," representing 0.07 percent of all U.S. funds.
"Funds that are being misused, or channeled to support the activities of insurgent groups, are not the responsibility of the government," it said.
Afghanistan relies on foreign aid for around 90 percent of its spending but many international donors are reluctant to channel aid through the country's ministries because of a lack of capacity and rampant corruption.
Public sector corruption in Afghanistan is seen as worse than in any other country except Myanmar and Somalia, according to corruption watchdog Transparency International.
Karzai has acknowledged graft exists in his government but has said foreigners are also to blame.

Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani arrives in India