Saturday, August 13, 2011

David Cameron is sounding a lot like Hosni Mubarak

David Cameron doesn't look like Hosni Mubarak -- hated scourge of Egyptians. That would be Robert De Niro.

Nor does dapper Dave look like Tunisia's ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, or Syria's aptly-onomatopoeaic Bashar al-Assad, or any other tyrant from Pyongyang to Minsk.
But in making a reflexive call to curtail social media, Cameron sure is sounding a lot like a potentate, and perhaps forgetting, in a moment of madness, his place in history, as an encourager-in-chief of this year's democratic uprisings across the Middle East.
Cameron's call, made to British parliamentarians in the wake of this past week's appalling riots, seems to echo the very tactics deployed by Mubarak and his ilk to stay in power -- and we know what happened there.
And it would be wrong, as everyone from academics, technologists and anarcho-bloggers in bedsits have been quick to remind him. Curtailing social media won't stop people rioting. Effective policing, perhaps organized via social media, might be a better idea.That also seems to be the view from the millions across the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East who secured their liberty from dictatorship in large part by artful deployment of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr et al and, yes, BlackBerry Messenger. And still are, as they secure their revolutionary accomplishments.
On communal TVs in poor villages across the sprawling Nile Delta or the sweltering backstreets of teeming Cairo, Egyptians watched the violence from London and were as appalled and flummoxed as any right-minded folk from England's gentle shires.
Poor, desperate, burdened by a future uncertain and a sclerotic, rudderless government -- if anyone could be excused a bit of cathartic anarchy, it's Egyptians.
But unfailingly polite and good-natured, they can't understand why people in the rich West, possessed of worldly items beyond their dreams, would trash and steal.These are people who think that Facebook helped deliver them from tyranny. That has elevated social media in the Middle East to a status it probably doesn't yet deserve, as some magical panacea to deliver just about everything -- a voice, hope and much-needed prosperity.In some places, it is taking over government function. Access to the new administration in Tunis is best done by Facebook these heady post-revolutionary days. Tunisian civil servants seem to barely pick up their mobiles to speak or text these days, so absorbed are they by Facebook. For a few months, there was even a blogger in the cabinet, until he fell out with his colleagues because he was live-tweeting their meetings.
With the Mubaraks and their cronies blamed for Egypt's poverty, and as fingers are pointed at corruptors embedded inside Cairo's dysfunctional government, Egypt's apprentice democrats promise that with plurality will come a meritorious economy with jobs, healthy incomes, hope for the future.
In this, they are egged on by Western leaders. Indeed, David Cameron was the first world leader to visit Cairo after the revolution, just 10 days after Mubarak stepped down in February.
That's all very well, but for all the talk of "Facebook Revolutions," penetration and connectedness to the net and even to mobiles is still very limited in Egypt, beyond the big cities.
But the surprising outcome of the revolution sent Egyptians a subliminal message that being connected -- whatever that meant to people who weren't -- can deliver extraordinary results.
So more Egyptians than ever are now spending larger portions of their limited incomes to get online, because they think -- misguidedly perhaps -- that being online is an automatic way out of grinding poverty.
In the main, it is very encouraging. And democratic.
But wait! On that village TV, beaming from the place Egyptians now know as the mother of parliaments, the same man who rushed to their capital to tell them their digitally-inspired revolution was a wonderful thing for them and humanity, is now saying that the facilitating medium that helped them make history should be curtailed?
How very Mubarak.

USAID initiates project on MAP sector in KP

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)is providing $900,000 support to a local NGO Human Development Organization Doaba (HDOD) based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to help improve the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant (MAP) sector.

The funding support is provided through a sub-award by the USAID Pakistan Entrepreneurs project. Agnes G Luz, Chief of Party Entrepreneurs and Yousuf Jan, Executive Director HDOD signed the sub-agreement on July 12, 2011 in Islamabad to carry out the project titled "Value Chain Development of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants" in various districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Dir Upper, Swat and Shangla.

The initiative will help local MAP collectors in many ways and is expected to increase their income by at least 50% in the course of the project.

Value Chain work is a crucial step in ensuring that the 5000 MAP collectors who were supported in terms of training and toolkits under the Post Flood Livelihood Recovery project by USAID and HDOD and 7000 more MAP collectors, get connected to better buyers from viable and more sustainable markets at the local, national and international levels. Interventions will include technical trainings to MAP collectors, business and marketing training for sales agents, development of linkages with alternative markets and relevant business service providers, and collectors' mobilization and capacity building.

These interventions are expected to result in at least 50% increase in incomes of 12,000 MAP collectors, amounting to $1.68 million shortly after end of the project.

Pushto channel

PROVIDED the government comes up with the requisite funding, a new Pushto TV channel by the name of Abaseen TV is set to be launched by the end of the year, a report in this paper says. A PTV project, the channel has been on the drawing board for the past five years, the rationale for its existence being that since the Taliban are using satellite TV to spread their propaganda, the state has to fight back with a Pushto channel of its own. However, there are a few issues that need to be considered. Firstly, official media has credibility issues, as people take what is broadcast on official channels with a grain of salt. Ideally, countering extremist propaganda is best left to the independent media, which enjoys a better standing with the public. Also, in this particular case, the dynamics of the target region need to be considered: Fata and those parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the state wants to target have very little terrestrial TV penetration, with cable`s presence even less. Here it is radio that rules, and perhaps that`s where the state`s attention should be focused.

One recalls the `radio insurgency` carried out not too long ago by militant mullahs using crude FM transmitters. There were at one time nearly 150 pirate FM stations in operation. But far from playing Top 40 hits or hosting peppy talk shows, most of the stations were used as platforms for anti-state propaganda and the preaching of extremist ideology. Until 2009, Mullah Fazlullah, better known as `Mullah Radio`, was something of an FM personality in Taliban-ruled Swat, while recent reports indicate that militant commander Faqir Mohammad has resumed radio broadcasts, reportedly from Afghanistan. Perhaps the state should concentrate on preventing these extremist radio stars from starting up again and ensuring that the airwaves are not misused to spread hate.

FATA people welcome FCR reforms, extension of Political Parties Act

Parliamentarians and members of civil society hailed political, legal and administrative reforms brought about with amendments in FCR and allowing of activities by political parties in FATA.They congratulated President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other PPP leadership of taking these bold decisions for the betterment of the people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).The two important and historic documents, including Amendments in Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 to the Tribal areas were signed by President Asif Ali Zardari here at Aiwan-e-Sadr on Friday.
Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Ameer Haider Hoti while welcoming the signing ceremony of two important documents at the President House said it will not only impact on KPK and FATA but it will have positive effect throughout the country.
He said it was an old standing demand of the people of FATA and after signing these documents, the people of FATA would have been satisfied.

Oxfam flood aid to Pakistan embezzled, report finds
An independent financial investigation found invoices had been falsified and cheques manipulated to divert funds in two projects managed by a Pakistani agency working with the charity.
The unnamed culprit identified by the investigation had been fired and the British charity had cut all financial ties with the agency.

Oxfam said it hoped to recover all the missing money.
Neva Khan, Oxfam GB's country director in Pakistan, said: "We will recover every penny of this money and continue to ensure that donors' funds reach the people who need it most.
"Oxfam has a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and we, and all our partners, share a commitment to high legal, ethical and moral standards." "Corruption is never acceptable. It, literally, takes away food from peoples' mouths; takes away clean water to give them life; and takes money away that could provide people with better hygiene and shelter."The investigation by accounting firm PwC had been ordered by Oxfam after its own checks found suspicions of fraud.
A spokeswoman said the missing money had not come from public donations, but had been taxpayers' money from the Department for International Development.
The fraud took place during a period from September 2010 to March 2011 from funds covering operating expenses, overheads and human resources in two aid programmes managed by the Pirbhat Women's Development Society.
Pirbhat was delivering water and sanitation goods to temporary camp sites in Shahdadkot and Larkana, in upper Sindh, and distributing cheques to flood-victims to meet their basic daily needs.
It said the senior official identified in the report as a perpetrator and beneficiary of fraud was fired in May.
A statement from Pirbhat said: "We feel that our good work and our name has been blackened because of the action of one senior individual who has badly let us down as well as the communities we work with.
"We have already taken steps to tighten up our policies and practices to ensure something like this never happens again".
Oxfam raised more than £39 million to help victims of what the United Nations said was the worst natural disaster it had ever seen.
More than 1,750 died and more than 18 million were affected by last summer's floods.
Floodwaters first swept away houses and roads in the north east, before surging south and submerging large swathes of farmland for weeks as rivers burst their banks.
The crisis was made worse by a slow response from the Pakistan government and from the start there were widespread allegations of corruption.

London Police Say Nearly 600 Charged Over Riots

UK police and courts under fire for handling of riots

In Britain there have been more arrests and more deaths following the mob riots in London and other cities.

A 22-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a pensioner.

And a teenager was arrested over a text message she'd allegedly sent inciting others to riot.

The latest developments come as police defend their role in dealing with the riots.

And the courts too are now under fire for handing down sentences which some say are too harsh; others see as too soft.

ANNE BARKER: In the days since the mob violence spiralled out of control, British police, almost as much as the rioters, have come in for a pasting.

DAVID CAMERON: Initially the police treated the situation too much as a public order issue rather than essentially one of crime.

ANNE BARKER: The Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament on Thursday that police chiefs had admitted to tactical mistakes that allowed the riots to spread and that it was only when he and other government leaders returned from leave that thousands more police went onto the streets and the violence was brought under control.

The criticisms were put to the Government's Committee on Civil Emergencies, after which police from the very top down to the rank and file were forced to defend their role.

Some officers described unacceptable working conditions that left them powerless against the mobs, including one station which ran out of handcuffs.

POLICEWOMAN: We were having missiles thrown at us, in reality I was wearing what I'm wearing today, so my protection was the hat that I've got on and the Mc Vest.

POLICEMAN: The moment that the cavalry arrived and more officers coming in with more kits and the larger shields, of course there was a sense of relief.

ANNE BARKER: Others, like John Graham from the Police Foundation say the politicians have got it wrong.

JOHN GRAHAM: I don't believe actually that they can or should take the credit for the way in which the police, albeit later than most people would have preferred, the extent to which the police did eventually gain control of the streets in London.

ANNE BARKER: Now, as hundreds of suspects are hauled into court, the justice system too has come under fire.

Magistrates face intense public pressure to come down hard on convicted looters, which has seen jail terms handed to some youngsters who may have done nothing more than steal a couple of tee-shirts or in one case, six months gaol for a man who stole a few bottles of water.

Others, like Derrick Campbell, a former adviser to the government on gang related crime say the courts aren't going in hard enough.

DERRICK CAMPBELL: There has been a high level of disgust and frustration at some of the mealy-mouthed sentences that we've seen dished out. It's just not acceptable and people are still very angry. We've seen individuals getting a day; three weeks; two days.

ANNE BARKER: Already around 800 people have appeared in court charged over the riots.

But with nearly double that number arrested and many referred to higher courts, it could be months yet before they're dealt with.

U.S., Afghan presidents discuss security responsibility transitions

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on Friday discussed progress in handing over security responsibility towards a full Afghan lead in 2014.

The White House said in a statement on Friday that the two leaders spoke via video teleconference for about 30 minutes on a number of topics, including "progress by coalition and Afghan national security forces as security responsibility transitions towards a full Afghan lead in 2014," and their work together to forge "a long-term strategic partnership."

They also discussed "their shared commitment to Afghan-led reconciliation and support for a strategy of regional engagement," the White House said.

It said the two leaders looked ahead to a regional summit slated for Nov. in Istanbul, Turkey and an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany in Dec., and agreed to maintain their close consultations going forward.

Obama and Karzai reaffirmed their commitment to the mission in Afghanistan in a phone conversation on Sunday, one day after a helicopter crash killed 30 American service members, the largest single-day loss of U.S. forces in the decade-long Afghan war.

On Thursday, Obama and his national security team were briefed via video conference by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force General John Allen about the situation in Afghanistan.

New political era dawns in Fata

The federation on Friday unveiled a major plan of political reforms and development in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as part of efforts to blunt the appeal for militancy by allowing greater political activities through key amendments in the relatively tough federal laws and initiating comprehensive development projects.
President Asif Ali Zardari signed

the decree that allows political parties to operate freely in Fata. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was also present who announced development projects for Fata. The law amendments include changes in Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and extension of Political Parties Order 2002 to tribal areas. The Fata has been in the international focus since 9/11 terrorist attacks and later the US-led international war against terror, as the area is not only has strongholds of defunct TTP, headquartered in Waziristan, but is also considered by the US as the global headquarters of al-Qaeda. In his speech at a ceremony at the President House, President Zardari declared: “In the long run we must defeat the militant mindset to defend our country, our democracy, our institutions and our way of life,” Zardari said, describing the system of justice in the tribal belt as ‘obsolete’. The president also accepted the demand to set up a hospital in Fata and assured that it will be constructed on fast track.
The two orders signed by the president will set into motion the far reaching administrative, judicial and political reforms in the tribal areas he had announced on the eve of Independence Day two years ago but the implementation of which had been stalled for various reasons.
“Henceforth the political parties, subject to appropriate regulations to be framed, will be freely allowed to operate in the tribal areas and present their socio-economic programmes,” the Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. Babar said that by allowing political parties to operate freely means ‘a vacuum has been filled’ and that parties would now liaise with tribal elders in order to carry out their activities in a peaceful manner.
Under the reforms, an accused has to be produced before an authority within 24 hours of his arrest and has the right to bail. The practice of arresting tribesmen under the notion of ‘collective responsibility’ will also be softened, said Babar.
Prime Minister Gilani in his remarks said the government had launched the second cadet college in Wana, South Waziristan, and three more such colleges would be constructed. Similarly, the government has started work on two highways of international standard and work on two more is about to start, he added. The PM said, “We shall ensure that all traditional routes of the historical passes are brought up to international standards to facilitate trade with Afghanistan, Central Asian States and beyond.”
The Pakistani security forces have been fighting against foreign and homegrown militants in much of the tribal belt, but because of long porous border they have been enjoying a fair degree of freedom of movement, despite action against them on the both sides of the border over the past decade.
Security experts believe that this was largely due to the lesser number of security checkpoints set up either by the Nato/ Isaf forces and lack of will and action on part of the Afghan government that led to increase in cross-border incursions in Pakistan from the Afghanistan side. In past few months, even those local militants who had fled operations by Pakistani military and slipped into Afghanistan, have been returning to mount major attacks on the security forces and police in Fata.
Afp ads:Talking to the media explaining the salient features of the reforms package Babar said contrary to past practice an accused shall have right to bail and it will be mandatory to produce him before the concerned authority within 24 hours of arrest. Women, children below 16 and aged above 65 shall not be arrested or detained under collective responsibility.
He said that henceforth the whole tribe will not be arrested under the collective responsibility clause. Step-wise action will be taken, at first immediate male members of family will be arrested followed by sub-tribe and then by other sections of the tribe, he said.
Cases will now be disposed of in a fixed timeframe and checks placed on arbitrary power of arrest under the notorious Section 40-A of the FCR.
Appeals will lie before appellate authority comprising of commissioner and a dedicated additional commissioner (judicial) to be notified by the governor.
The reforms envisage setting of a Fata tribunal headed by chairman and two other members out of whom one shall be a person who has been civil servant of not less than BPS 20 having experience of tribal administration and other member shall be a person qualified to be appointed as judge of high court well conversant with Rewaj.
The FATA tribunal shall exercise power of revision against orders/judgments of appellate authority and shall have powers similar to high court under Article 199 of the Constitution.
A new section has been added for action against false prosecution in civil and criminal matters. Under it the defendant will be entitled to adequate compensation in criminal matters and compensatory costs in civil matters.
He said that no person shall be deprived of his property without adequate compensation as per prevailing market value in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 procedure in settled areas.
For the first time the funds at the disposal of the political agent shall be audited by Auditor General of Pakistan, the spokesperson said.
Section 58-A has been added to make provision for jail inspections by FATA tribunal, appellate authority and political agent. Rules will be framed for regulating the Agency Welfare Fund.
The political reforms are expected to gradually help Pakistani government to tighten its writ through political means and purge Fata of terrorism and extremism. The observers also opined that this development might lead to creation of another province for administrative purposes.
Local tribesmen were alienated as result of US-imposed war against terror on Pakistan a decade ago, making it easier for militant networks to recruit young men to take up arms to fight the Pakistani government and avenge a covert American drone war. During this course thousands of Pakistani civilians and security personal embraced martyrdom.
Held in the jam packed hall of the Presidency the signing ceremony was witnessed by tribal elders drawn from all the seven tribal agencies, five frontier regions, Fata parliamentarians, KPK governor, provincial cabinet of KPK, diplomats, civil society members, media persons and representatives of a number of NGOs.
Farhatullah Babar said representatives of various political parties who had earlier formed a multi parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms and had called on the president in March this year calling for early implementation of the promised reforms also witnessed the signing ceremony.
The political parties represented included ANP, PML-N, JI, PPP-S, PML-Q, MQM-S, NP, PKMAP and JUI (F). The prime minister, federal ministers, secretaries and diplomats also attended the function.
Tribal elders, FATA parliamentarians and representatives of political parties behind the President’s desk signalled the broad based consensus of all stakeholders as the driving force behind the reforms package, he said.
Speaking on the occasion the President said that his head bowed in gratitude before Allah for having fulfilled yet another promise made with the people of FATA. He congratulated the tribesmen for harmonising reforms with their tribal customs and traditions.
He said that the legal and political reforms would rid the tribal people from a century of bondage and usher them into mainstream of national life while respecting local customs and traditions.
Some may say that the reforms are not enough and much more needs to be done, he said adding “let it also not be forgotten that no one took even a single step in the last one hundred years to reform the FCR and give political rights to the people”.
The president said that the door had been unlocked and it is for the people of tribal areas to decide how much reforms they wanted in their system of governance. Any system imposed on them from outside would be counterproductive, the president cautioned.
Babar said the reforms hammered out in consultation with all stakeholders approved in principle on August 12, 2009 in a meeting in the Presidency that was also attended by the prime minister. The meeting had left it to the president to announce it any time he deemed fit.
Although the president had announced the reforms two days later on the eve of 63rd Independence Day, its implementation was stalled for a variety of reasons, Babar said.
The signing today has made the process of reforms irreversible, he said. Any attempt to undo it will require dismantling of consensus among the stakeholders and another order to be signed by the president, Babar said.
The century old Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) will be tamed to make it responsive to the human rights of the people, he said.
The permission to political parties to sell their programs in tribal areas will counter the pernicious one-sided campaign of militants to impose their ideological agenda on the people rejecting the state, the Constitution, democracy and indeed our very way of life, he said.
President Zardari said the law had been changed in accordance with the aspirations of the people and democratic principles while respecting local customs and traditions.
Babar said after the amendments in the law the arbitrary powers of arrest and detention without the right to bail had been curtailed.
He said that the FCR was a draconian law under which there is no provision of appeal, wakeel or daleel (no right to appeal, or engaging lawyer or reliance on reasoning) against the orders of the executive. The tribesmen were subjected to the whims of administration officials. People have been arrested and kept in jail for long years without trial under the FCR. Under it, a person could be sent to jail for three years without trial. The jail term could be extended indefinitely in installments of three years and under the territorial responsibility women and children had been arrested and sent to jail in the past.
The amendments have changed the most obnoxious provisions of FCR, Babar maintained.
Giving background of the efforts made in the past to bring about the changes, Babar said, in November 2004, the Senate passed a unanimous PPP resolution calling for changes in the FCR.
In 2004, the former prime minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto formed a special committee of the PPP called the Fata Reforms Committee.
Subsequently, she also filed a petition in the Supreme Court for political reforms in the tribal areas.
In November 2004, the Senate adopted a PPP resolution for reforms in Fata.
In August 2005 the Senate adopted the report of its Committee of Human Rights that called for changes in the FCR.
In August 2008, the Bhutto Foundation invited hundreds of tribesmen from all tribal agencies to solicit their views on the FCR and on political reforms in the tribal areas who unanimously recommended a minimum set of reforms.
In January 2009, the President invited Fata tribesmen to the Presidency and heard them say what they had to about the FCR and political reforms. The cabinet committee on FCR under Farooq Naek considered all of these and other previous reports that had recommended changes in the law in accordance with the wishes of the people.
Next month the Cabinet approved the report of the cabinet committee on FCR which were also approved by the President, he said.
In March 2011, representatives of major political parties called on the President in the Presidency demanding an early implementation of the reforms package.

Swat returns to normality

By Zofeen T. Ebrahim | DAWN.COM
Something died within the people after the militants fled and the military took control of the place, says Zubair Torwali, a civil society activist in Behrain, upper Swat.

As the 64th Independence Day of the country approaches, while there could be many reasons for the people of Swat valley to celebrate – freedom from Taliban rule and the worst of the floods now behind them with signs of rebuilding everywhere, Torwali feels “something is amiss”.

“The people of Swat used to enthusiastically decorate their homes and the bazaar with flags and there was an air of patriotism. That feeling is missing today, probably because it’s now being forced on to them,” he commented.

One reason could be the army presence that is not doing much to warming the locals to them. Apart from the countless mesh of military and paramilitary check-posts and pickets spread across Swat, there are slogans painted on walls thanking the army for saving the people of the valley. A vast majority of shops have shutters painted white and green and a crescent — the Pakistan flag – with ‘Long Live Pakistan Army’ written on many. Local shopkeepers say all this is the work of the army.

Ironically, despite the daily harassment they have to tolerate, many in Swat prefer the gun-toting soldiers to the militant butchers. “Lesser of the two evils,” says Torwali wryly.Today, despite memories of bomb blasts and public display of dead bodies, Swat, with its population of 1.8 million, seems to be tottering back to its feet. The place is getting ready to receive visitors and authorities and hopes that the alpine beauty of the valley with its archaeological sites and trout fishing can beckon back travellers.

Stuck in a traffic jam with all manner of vehicles snaking their way about the bazaars of both Saidu Sharif and Mingora, which just two years ago were ghost towns, hints at life returning to normality.

While waiting, you get a kaleidoscope of local sights and sounds. Men with and without beards, men pushing hand-held wooden carts, jostle for space with brightly painted vans and a few video and CD shops are an added surprise. The local parchoon (grocery) shops with dandasa (bark used to clean teeth), spices and dry fruits in open gunny bags vie for a place between the tandoor wala, chicken shop and the chai wala with a string of kettles in different colours hanging for dear life.

One cannot help but marvel at the resilience of the people of Swat. The Green Chowk in Mingora, once dubbed Khooni Chowk, and where among many a young artist Shabana, who used to earn a living by singing and dancing was shot in the head, was like any other square – abuzz with people.“But you won’t see as many women on the road,” points out Falaknaz Asfandyar, whose husband Asfandyar Amirzeb, grandson of the waali (ruler) of Swat (a princely state till 1969 when it merged with Pakistan), was killed in a bomb attack. “Even we don’t venture out to the bazaar,” she said. She comes to Swat every summer with her children and continues “so that they never forget their roots” but her youngest, 10-year old Khadija, and her two older siblings remain housebound. In the good old days, before the Taliban came, the Asfandyar family would play host all summer to guests from other parts of the country. “That is all in the past.”

Now when friends ask her if it’s safe to visit, she says she really can’t give them a clear response.

“It probably is safe now, with the militants having fled, but don’t forget they have only fled and not been caught, not the top leadership,” points out Asfandyar adding that perhaps the fear remains in the minds of the people.

But time seems to have stood in good stead for the children of Swat who survived both the physical and mental trauma of insurgency, followed by military operation and then the floods.

Cricket, volleyball, jumping in the ice-cold water of a canal, fishing or floating lazily with the help of black giant tyres in the swift River Swat are some of the sights that one encounters.

The security situation may have improved, however, with road network and telecommunication being hardest hit by the militancy and then the floods, and gas and electricity in short supply, few tourists will be willing to head to the valley.The road to Malam Jabba, a popular ski resort, is in a shambles and the only hotel run by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, was bombed by the army in a bid to weed out the militants occupying it.

“For almost five years the infrastructure remained in a state of disrepair and thus the condition of roads,” acknowledged a van driver.

“No doubt road network, telecommunication, proper supply of gas and electricity are essential for any tourism destination, but most of the roads are under construction and they will be ready by next summer,” explains Aftab Rana, tourism development consultant with United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Firms Project.

The USAID is supporting the Provincial Relief and Rehabilitation Settlement Authority of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province prop up the tourism industry in Swat.

Rana also said that the damage due to flood was so huge that it cannot be “restored in just few months; it needs lot of funds and a lot of efforts,” he said.

9 troops die in two days in Afghanistan

Insurgent attacks have killed nine NATO service members in the past two days in Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition is mourning the deaths of 30 American troops and eight Afghans in a helicopter crash last week, military officials said Friday.
The Aug. 6 crash was the single deadliest loss for U.S. forces in the nearly decade-long war.
The crash victims' remains were flown to a mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The Pentagon said Friday that the military's medical examiner's office had positively identified all 30 U.S. troops and two of the eight Afghans, as well as the U.S. military dog that died in the crash. Identification work continues on the other six Afghans, the Pentagon said.
The identification team comprised 10 forensic pathologists, two forensic anthropologists, six odontologists (forensic dentists) and dentists, three FBI fingerprint experts, three forensic investigators, two tissue technicians and a three-person DNA team. To make the identifications, medical examiners used forensic techniques, including fingerprints, dental examination, radiology and DNA matching — techniques that were not available in Afghanistan.
The coalition has said that the chopper was apparently shot down in Wardak province by a rocket-propelled grenade, but is investigating whether other causes contributed to the crash. The victims were: 17 members of the elite Navy SEALs, five Naval Special Warfare personnel who support the SEALs, three Air Force Special Operations personnel, an Army helicopter crew of five, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter.
The crash comes amid fears that the country is far from stable even though U.S. and NATO forces have begun to leave Afghanistan. U.S. military officials have tried to counter those fears, saying that while the downing of the Chinook helicopter was a tragic setback, one crash will not determine the course of the war. Still, it was a psychological victory for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the crash and is relentlessly pursuing its campaign of intimidation and violence.
Eight of the nine NATO service members who died on Thursday and Friday were killed by roadside bombs, the insurgents' weapon of choice.
Two died Friday in separate blasts in the south, the coalition said. Their nationalities have not been disclosed.
On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. troops in the south, American military officials said.
Also on Thursday, a roadside blast killed a French soldier 4 miles (7 kilometers) south of Tagab in Kapisa province in the east, the French Defense Ministry said in a statement. Four other French soldiers were wounded in the attack.
Another NATO service member died Thursday in an insurgent attack in the south, according to the U.S.-led coalition.
NATO did not disclose any further information about the deaths.
So far this year, 378 American and other NATO service members have died in the war in Afghanistan.

Tahrir protesters call for civil state, end to military rule

A few hundred protesters gathered Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, calling for a civil state and an end to military rule.
The rally began after iftar, the evening meal that marks the breaking of the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and was organized by Egyptian activists, political groups and a few of the country's Sufi orders.
It was a protest meant not only to highlight the importance of unity, but also to contrast the message of a massive demonstration that took place in the same location in late July -- one that had brought out tens of thousands of Islamists demanding the implementation of Islamic law in Egypt.
During Friday's rally, many participants chanted slogans such as, "No terrorism, no sectarianism, Egypt is a civil state," "Peaceful, peaceful", and "Down with military rule."
Egyptian Sufi leader Alaa Eddin Abu el-Azayem, who addressed the crowd later in the evening, told his audience, "An Egyptian civil state is the only choice for Egypt." Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam.
Brief clashes broke out earlier between protesters and security forces -- at one point both sides were throwing rocks and bottles at one another. Calm was restored a few moments later.
Last Friday, a non-violent protest in Tahrir Square quickly turned chaotic, as the demonstrators were chased by military through surrounding streets.

Nawaz Sharif's Unacceptable conduct

The matter couldn’t be dismissed as innocuous or small as it involved a serious breach of rules of transacting the official business. Mian Nawaz Sharif

may be the autocratic supremo of his faction of the Muslim League. His faction, the PML (N), may be in rule in the province of Punjab. But he had had no right whatsoever to take an official meeting on the Murree development projects, as he did the other day. That prerogative exclusively rests with his younger sibling, Shahbaz Sharif, who is heading the provincial administration. It is he who is the chief minister of Punjab. And it is he who alone can call officials’ meetings and transact official businesses. Nawaz has no locus standi at all to directly intervene in official matters. The province, after all, is his no personal real estate; nor his family’s. It has to be run and ruled in accordance with the stipulations of the constitution and in line with the laid down rules of conducting the official business. Can he or any of his acolytes tell what constitutional provision entitles him to interfere in official matters when he occupies no official position in the official hierarchy of Punjab? Or can they even pinpoint the rule that permitted him to call the official meeting to review the progress on the Murree projects? If he was not satisfied with the work on the projects, he could have conveyed his dismay to his younger brother who could have acted remedially. His direct intervention is an unacceptable indefensible gross misconduct out-and-out. Indeed, with this implausible behaviour he has not just undermined the official position of Shahbaz, who actually holds the official position of the province’s chief minister, by virtue of which the provincial officialdom is accountable to him alone, not to Nawaz. Yet more revealingly, he has demonstrated how spurious and specious are his much-touted professions of commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law, with which he is regaling the nation’s ears ad nauseam for so long. Not that very many have been taking his pious vows any seriously. It is only his own loyalists and sidekicks, together with a section of palmed-off media, who are building him up as a reinvented man. On the street, his professions are falling on deaf ears. His past is too blemished for his vows of piety to carry conviction any easily.He, after all, is no Sonia Gandhi. She is palpably a very powerful figure in the party and a very decisive influence on the government policies. But she maintains all the niceties, proprieties and decorums meticulously. In the party, she goes through the laid down consultative mills for evolving the party lines on issues. Never ever she presides over cabinet meetings or calls the officials for a dressing down. She heads the coordination committee of the leaders of the coalition partners of the government that her party leads. The committee hammers out broad guidelines for the government, and then leaves it to Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, to work those into policies, plans and programmes. No leader interferes with his functioning. And even as Singh may be under Sonia’s thumb, she too refrains from meddling with the government’s working. But then Nawaz is a different breed. He is no real but fake. He poses to be a democrat, but is an autocrat temperamentally and practically. He runs his faction as his personal fiefdom and only an incorrigible idolater would testify that the party election he held recently were not a ruse and if were not mere nominations under the cloak of elections. And the political grandees from across the spectrum he had assembled in his wilderness in London under the banner of All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) are still smarting from the wounds he inflicted on them by ditching them shabbily at the eleventh hour.The conclave had unanimously decided not to participate in the election under the dictator, Pervez Musharraf. He threw his hat in the electoral ring unabashedly, leaving them licking their wounds. And the pundits say the real test of his loud avowals of independence of judiciary will come if and when verdicts come out from the judicial floors on the cases pending there against him and his family members. In any case, all that is between him and the people. But spare he must the official businesses from his atrocious unlawful interventions.