Thursday, August 18, 2011

Saudi Arabia vs. the Arab Spring

Saudi Arabia is widely perceived as leading the counterrevolution against the Arab Spring uprisings. In reality, the Kingdom’s response is centered, as its foreign and domestic policy has long been, on stability. The Saudis don’t want anti-Saudi forces, including such enemies as Iran and Al Qaeda, to increase their influence in the Middle East.

Some of the older Saudi leaders have seen this movie before. The nationalist revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s, inspired and galvanized by Gamel Nasser’s Egypt, nearly toppled the House of Saud. Nonetheless, today’s Saudi princes appear to recognize that something has genuinely changed in the Middle East: The younger generation of Arabs is no longer prepared to accept unaccountable, corrupt and brutal governments.

Saudi Arabia, a self-proclaimed bulwark of Islamic conservatism, where popular democracy has never been considered a legitimate form of rule, has been more aggressive in some arenas than in others. Domestically, the royal family struck quickly, adopting a ban on public demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience. The Kingdom’s traditional interpretation of Islam construes political legitimacy in terms of a ruler’s proper application of Islamic law. In return, his subjects owe him obedience within the constraints of Sharia religious law.

Dissent, should it arise, must always take the form of well-intentioned advice given to the ruler in a private setting. Public demonstrations of dissent are regarded as contrary to Islam, because they foster divisiveness and lead to civil strife. The highest council of Saudi religious scholars recently declared demonstrations to be categorically un-Islamic. Confronted with the possibility of mass demonstrations on March 11 - the so-called Day of Rage on a Facebook page - the Saudi rulers enforced that ruling by deploying massive numbers of security forces in the streets.

They also played the Shia card, an effective trump in Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia. The rulers argued that public protests throughout the region were being orchestrated by Shia Iran, and were anti-Sunni and sectarian. The threat of chaos, evident now in Libya, Syria and Yemen, also weighed in the royal family’s favor. The House of Saud has a long historical claim on rule in Arabia, and its promise of stability remains key to its durability.

A massive government subsidy package also accounted for domestic calm. Abruptly, some $130 billion was added to spending projections over the next five years. Salaries for all public servants, a majority of the national work force, were raised, as was the total number of public-sector jobs. King Abdullah pledged large numbers of new housing units, an important gesture in a country where young people, especially young married couples, cannot easily access the housing market.

In neighboring Bahrain, the Saudis also moved quickly to bolster the Sunni-minority regime against a rising tide of protest led by the island kingdom’s Shia majority. Saudi troops marched into Bahrain under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Saudi rulers issued clear instructions to adopt an iron-fisted policy with the demonstrators, again arguing that Iran’s nefarious hand was at play in subverting the country.

No doubt, the Saudis believe that a Shia-led Bahrain would lead to Iranian dominance at their very doorstep. Here, too, the Kingdom employed its policy of largesse through the GCC, promising Bahrain $10 billion over the next decade. Other large-scale financial commitments were made to Oman and Jordan, both Saudi allies that have managed to silence early whispers of mass protest.

Farther away, in Libya and Syria, the Saudis have said little, perhaps to avoid picking the losing side in uncertain circumstances. The Kingdom has no love for Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, who tried to assassinate King Abdullah and has waged a concerted anti-Saudi propaganda campaign for at least a decade. The Saudis would surely like to see Qaddafi deposed, but they have no real stake in the Libyan uprising’s outcome.

Closer to home, the Kingdom despises Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his alliance with Iran and duplicity in Lebanon. But his fall would present the Saudis with the risk of a country led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Even worse is the prospect of Syria falling into chaos, dragging Lebanon - and maybe the broader region - with it.

The Assad regime’s use of excessive force, especially the deliberate killing of thousands of mainly Sunni civilians, has nonetheless recently spurred a tougher stance. King Abdullah has called the killings unacceptable, and has withdrawn his ambassador from Damascus. The actual policy implications, however, remain to be determined.

Neighboring Yemen is a much more immediate threat. The opposition is hopelessly divided, and the tribal and military leadership is utterly compromised. Ominously, the south is being taken over by hardcore Islamists, some allied with Al Qaeda. Throwing money around won’t work in Yemen, which is too large and complex to be pacified. In fact, the country is on the verge of total collapse.

Today, the Saudis see 24 million Yemenis - hungry, heavily armed and envious of Saudi wealth - looking across the border. If civil war erupts, the Saudis will not be able to stop the waves of refugees. But the Kingdom remains paralyzed, still wavering on whether to allow President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is convalescing in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in a bomb attack, to return to Sana’a to resume his rule.

For all of their wealth and planning, the Saudis remain vulnerable to the turmoil surrounding them. Great change is coming to the Middle East. It is far from clear that a Saudi policy of stability at all costs will strengthen the regime.

The writer is a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University.

By Bernard Haykel

U.S. calls for Syrian leader al-Assad to step down

President Barack Obama called Thursday for Syrian leader

Bashar al-Assad to step down -- significantly ratcheting up international pressure against a regime that has been criticized for its harsh crackdown against anti-government protesters in recent months.

"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way," Obama said in a written statement. "We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."
U.S. authorities also imposed new economic sanctions against Damascus, freezing Syrian government assets in the United States, barring Americans from making new investments in Syria and prohibiting any U.S. transactions relating to Syrian petroleum products, among other things.
Obama administration officials previously said al-Assad has "lost legitimacy" and that Syria "would be better off" without him. Until now, however, U.S. authorities had resisted calling explicitly for his ouster.
The public call for al-Assad's to step down -- long awaited in many quarters -- was closely coordinated with European, Turkish and Arab allies. It came one day after al-Assad told the head of the United Nations that military and police operations against anti-government protesters have stopped, according to a statement released by the U.N. secretary-general's office.
"These are very strong measures," said Andrew J. Tabler, Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "These are also unprecedented. We've never targeted Syria energy before. It is the regime's Achilles heel."
Tabler -- also the author of "In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria" -- said no one expects al-Assad "to tip over tomorrow" but he said "these are devastating blows."
He said 90 percent of Syria's oil sales go to European Union countries and the EU is meeting on Friday to do the same thing that the United States has done.
The leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom joined Obama Thursday in calling on al-Assad to step down.
"Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country," British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.
"We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States "will take steps to mitigate any unintended effects of the (new) sanctions on the Syrian people."
"These actions strike at the heart of the regime, by banning American imports of Syrian petroleum and petroleum products, and prohibiting Americans from dealing in these products."
Clinton also said the United States expects that other countries "will amplify the steps we are taking."
A leading Republican joined Obama in calling for al-Assad to step down. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called Syria "a proxy for Iran, a supporter of terror, and a threat to United States interests and our allies in the region. "
He cited "recent atrocities and Assad's brutalization" of fellow Syrians as "extremely alarming and reflect a long history of anti-American hostility."
U.S. officials, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, have said they expect similar calls for al-Assad to step down in coming days from other leaders.
Senior U.S. officials, diplomats and members of the Syrian opposition have argued that the next several weeks will be critical in terms of isolating al-Assad, strengthening sanctions against the regime, and bolstering domestic opponents of the regime.
The campaign against al-Assad, involving intense diplomatic outreach by Clinton and Obama himself, has been based on the one the United States used in Libya, where the Obama administration built international consensus for the NATO mission to protect civilians.
While there has been little talk of military intervention in Syria, Clinton and Obama have been working with European, Turkish and Saudi leaders to coordinate tougher diplomatic and economic action against al-Assad.
On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council will hold consultations on Syria, when they will be briefed by the organization's High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Officials said Pillay is expected to give a sober assessment of the situation on the ground in Syria.
France and other European countries are continuing to push for a Security Council resolution condemning the al-Assad regime, but they are still facing stiff resistance from Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa. The United States is pushing for special session on Syria at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, as early as next week.
Diplomats say they hope Pillay's briefing Thursday will generate momentum for further action, including widespread calls for al-Assad to step down over the coming days, and build consensus toward the Security Council resolution, which could serve as a pretext for further action.

Pakistani Rupee hits rock-bottom

The rupee on Thursday fell to a record low because of negative sentiment surrounding the country's economic outlook, and strong dollar demand for oil import payments amid soft inflows.

Dealers said they expect the local unit to stay under pressure for now, as dollar payments are typically higher in July and August because of stronger oil demand and debt payments
The rupee closed at 86.80/85 to the dollar -- its weakest ever closing -- down from 86.64/70 on Wednesday.

The previous weakest close by the rupee was 86.75/80 on August 1.

"The rupee hit a record low of 86.85 today, and the main reason for the rupee being under pressure is because it's sentiment driven," said a dealer at a foreign bank.

Stalled payments from a bailout programme by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also negatively impacting the rupee.

The IMF has criticised the government for its patchy implementation of fiscal reforms, and has held back the sixth tranche of an $11 billion loan programme since August last year.
IMF and Pakistan officials were due to meet last month, but the meeting has been delayed and no new date has been announced.

Dealers said increased remittances from Pakistanis working abroad had supported the rupee and shielding the currency from a sharp fall in recent weeks, but the increased dollar demand over the last week pushed the rupee lower.

According to official data, remittances rose 38.57 percent to $1.1 billion in the first month of 2011/12 fiscal year, compared with $791.18 million in the same period last year.

In the currency market, stocks fell more than 1.2 percent because of the deteriorating security situation in the country's financial hub.

In the money market, overnight rates rose to 13.40 percent, compared with the previous day's close of between 10.75 percent and 11.0 percent amid tight liquidity in the interbank market.

Libyans demand new constitution

Demonstrators in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi gather to demand a new draft constitution and a united army.

Obama to issue new proposals on job creation, debt reduction

The Washington Post

President Obama has decided to press Congress for a new round of stimulus spending and tax cuts as he seeks to address the great domestic policy quandary of his tenure: how to spur job growth in an age of austerity.

Obama will lay out a series of ideas in a major address right after Labor Day, when he and a largely antagonistic Congress will return from vacation, the White House said Wednesday. The president is thinking about proposing tax cuts for companies that hire workers, new spending for roads and construction, and other measures that would target the long-term unemployed, according to administration officials and other people familiar with the matter. Some ideas, such as providing mortgage relief for struggling homeowners, could come through executive action.

Obama also plans to announce a major push for new deficit reduction, urging the special congressional committee formed in the debt-ceiling deal this month to identify even more savings than the $1.5 trillion it has been tasked with finding.

In packaging the two, he will make the case that short-term spending can lead to long-term savings.

“We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both,” Obama said Wednesday in this farming town in northwestern Illinois, population 671, the last stop of his three-day bus tour through the rural Midwest.

He did not reveal details. But his remarks and additional comments from advisers and others familiar with the White House’s planning suggest that he will pressure Republican lawmakers this fall to back off their objections to additional spending in the short term. Many Democrats have expressed frustration that the White House allowed Republicans during the debt-ceiling negotiations to focus solely on deficit reduction while not pushing harder for steps that would energize the economy.

“When Congress gets back in September, my basic argument to them is this: We should not have to choose between getting our fiscal house in order and jobs and growth,” Obama said in an earlier stop Wednesday in Atkinson, Ill.

The president’s decision to lay out a jobs plan — announced on the final day of his bus tour — follows months of criticism from lawmakers in both parties that the White House has not addressed the country’s stubbornly high unemployment rate.

The issue is consistently a top concern for voters, and with 15 months to go before Obama stands for reelection, polls show deep disappointment in his handling of the economy.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday showed that just 26 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the economy. More than a third, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey last month, said he has made economic matters worse.

Deficit reduction

Compounding the White House’s challenge is the fact that many voters, particularly independents, who have been turning their backs on the president in recent surveys, want to see serious deficit reduction — a goal that might seem at odds with any program to boost spending.

Republican lawmakers signaled Wednesday that they are unlikely to embrace any new spending.
“We must put an end to the policy uncertainty constantly being driven by this administration,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) wrote in a memo to colleagues. “That means stopping the discussions of new stimulus spending with money that we simply do not have.”

The question hanging over Obama’s economic speech next month is how far he will go beyond the ideas he has already proposed, including the renewal of a payroll tax cut and the passage of three free-trade bills.
White House officials have largely reached a consensus that the president should propose more steps to help the economy, but that the American public doesn’t have an appetite for heavy federal spending and that Congress is unlikely to a pass anything new of significant ambition.

At a corn seed factory on Wednesday in Atkinson, Obama touched on an idea that could be under consideration: an overhaul of unemployment insurance that would make the program more flexible, pay for job training and pay companies to hire jobless workers. The federal government in the past has tried, with mixed success, to spur hiring through a special tax cut.

A wide range of independent economists agree that the best prescription for the ailing recovery is pairing efforts to boost the economy now, which would include spending increases and tax cuts, with efforts to tame the national debt over the coming decade, through spending cuts and tax increases when the economy is in better shape.

White House allies, many of whom have pushed Obama in recent weeks to focus on job creation, said Wednesday that the president faces a stiff political test in explaining to voters the merits of short-term spending and long-term reduction of the federal deficit.

“That’s not that easy from a public relations perspective, but the imperative is to change the debate to job creation,” said John Podesta, president of the liberal Center for American Progress.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), one of six Democrats on the newly formed “supercommittee” that will try to find ways to cut the debt, said Obama will have to “clearly articulate why those twin goals work together and why they do not work at cross purposes.”

He added: “The good news is that the American people seem to be in the same place that the right policy would dictate. Clearly they want to focus on jobs and the economy, but they also recognize the need to develop a long-term plan to reduce the deficit.”

Obama faces pressure from his own base. On Wednesday, a leading member of the Congressional Black Caucus lashed out at him for not visiting any black communities during his bus trip. The comments from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), coming at a caucus jobs event in Detroit, illustrated the brewing tensions between African American political leaders and the first black president over black unemployment, which now tops 16 percent.

“We’re getting tired,” Waters said, according to a video taken at the public forum and published by the Web site “We want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he’s prepared to lead on. . . . But our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is.”

Obama’s challenges

Obama’s performance during the bus tour illustrated the multiple challenges he faces — and the multiple messages he’s seeking to deliver.

At times, he struck the pose of an above-it-all leader urging Washington to compromise on a “balanced” agreement to cut the nation’s debt. Other times, he was a partisan infighter attacking the 2012 Republican presidential candidates and Congress. At times, he adopted the role of an everyman coming to the heartland to hear what locals had to say.

“You’ll hear a lot of folks . . . say that government is broken. Well, government and politics are two different things,” Obama said in Cannon Falls, Minn., on the first day. “Government is Social Security. Government are teachers in the classroom. Government are our firefighters and our police officers.”

The next day, at a rural economic forum in northeastern Iowa, he expressed a more limited view of Washington.

“America is going to come back from this recession stronger than before,” he said. “I’m also convinced that comeback isn’t going to be driven by Washington.”

In the end, he said later in the day, “it’s not either-or.”

Christine O'Donnell storms out of Piers Morgan CNN interview

Former Delaware US Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell stormed off the set of "Piers Morgan Tonight" last night, in objection to the CNN host's "rude" questions.

Beer Ice Cream

In the summer, few things bring more joy than beer and ice cream. It seems like destiny that the two should hook up.

A group of buddies in Atlanta discovered their calling by accident when someone spilled a bottle of beer next to an ice cream maker. They decided to pour a bottle of beer into the ice cream maker, and presto--a company was born.

That company is now Frozen Pints, offering six flavors of beer ice cream: Peach Lambic, Honey IPA, Brown Ale Chip, Cinnamon Espresso Stout, Vanilla Bock and Malted Milk Chocolate Stout. According to the website, they use the "finest craft beers and freshest local ingredients to bring you flavor combinations you've never experienced before."

Though don't expect a good buzz from the frozen treat. "You will be pleased (saddened?) to hear that you'd have difficulty getting tipsy - it'd take multiple pints to equal a standard beer," the FAQ reads.

Frozen Pints has been making its debut at Atlanta-based beer events, and is looking to establish a retail presence soon. Is Beer & Jerry's on its way?

Riot sentences stir backlash in UK

KARACHI BLEEDS: Arrest target killers or go home, warns CCPO Khi

CCPO Karachi Saud Mirza

has warned police officials to arrest target killers or go home, Geo News reported.

Chairing a high-level meeting at central police office, CCPO Saud Mirza said target killers are roaming freely in the city while police force is doing nothing.

DIGs and SPs participated in the meeting. The meeting reviewed deteriorating situation in Karachi. CCPO said no action has been taken against the target killers and other miscreants whose list and action orders against them was issued.

Mirza said out of 100 arrested target killers 96 were arrested by CID. He further said time has come to work without any kind of pressure.

He directed the officials to remove SSP or SHO if they are reluctant to work.

Syria's Assad says military operations 'stopped'


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

has told UN chief Ban Ki-moon that military operations against protesters have "stopped", a UN spokesman said.

He was responding to a demand from Mr Ban during a phone call that "all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately," the UN's Farhan Haq said in a statement.

Mr Assad is under international pressure to end his violent crackdown.

Activists say more than 20 people were killed on Wednesday alone.

Nearly 2,000 people are believed to have been killed and tens of thousands have been arrested since the crackdown began in March.

In the latest assault, Syrian forces fired on parts of the port city of Latakia, killing dozens and driving some 5,000 Palestinian refugees from their camps.

'Excessive force'

"The secretary general expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria," the UN statement said.

Mr Ban "emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped," it added.

The UN chief called on Damascus to introduce "credible" reforms and offer full co-operation to a UN human rights investigation into the crackdown.

The UN said Mr Assad listed the reforms he planned to take, which included constitutional change and elections, while also agreeing to receive a UN humanitarian mission.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says the Syrian authorities have staged highly-publicised troop withdrawals from three trouble-spots in the past couple of weeks - first the central city of Hama, then Deir al-Zour in the east, and now the Ramel district of Latakia on the western coast.

But troops and tanks were pulled out only after they had done the job of restoring control by force, and there are many other instruments of security left behind to maintain the government's grip, he says.

At this stage in the uprising, our correspondent adds, it is clear that if the regime really were to stand down all its many instruments of control - there are believed to be at least 17 different security organisations - large parts of the country would slide out of its grasp.

The UN Security Council is due to hold a special session on Syria later on Thursday.

President Bashar Assad came to power in 2000 following the death of his father, Hafez.

He has responded to the challenge to his power with a combination of force and the promise of reforms, but has been unable to quell the revolt.

Given what has been happening on the ground, neither Mr Assad's critics abroad nor the activists in Syria give much credence to the regime's ability to reform itself from within, our correspondent says.

The unrest began following the toppling of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak early this year.

Violence intensifies in Karachi; 20 killed overnight

There was no rest in violence in the city as 20 more people were killed since Wednesday mid-night, DawnNews reported.

Sixteen bodies have been found in different parts of the metropolis while one man was gunned down in the Baldia Town.

Four bodies were recovered from the Shershah area, three each from Baldia Town, Kakri Ground and the Garden area.

Two bodies were found in Maripur while one from the Mangoper area.

One body recovered from the Baldia Town was of a fire extinguisher Liaquat Azhar who was kidnapped yesterday by unknown men. All the bodies bore marks of torture and gun shots.

The hike in violence started after a former lawmaker of the Pakistan People’s Party was killed in the Lyari area on Wednesday. Three other people were also killed in the firing incident.

Bomb attacks and firing incidents have resulted in deaths of 37 people in last 24 hours in the city.

Province status for Fata, FRs demanded

Conditionally welcoming the Fata reforms announced by the federal government, the Khyber Union, a Khyber Agency-based social and political organisation, has demanded that tribal agencies and Frontier Regions (FRs) should be made a separate province and all anti-human rights clauses in the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) be nullified.

Addressing an Iftar party at a hotel on Wednesday, Haris Khan, the Khyber Union president, said in order to bring tribal areas into mainstream of the society, basic amendments were needed in the century-old draconian law of FCR as it had deprived people of their fundamental rights.

“The extension of Political Parties Act to Fata was not the demand of tribal people, rather it is the desire of the political parties to merely increase their vote bank,” Haris Khan argued.

Referring to the unlimited powers enjoyed by political agents, he cautioned that no amendments would work until the executive was separated from the judiciary. He said the recently introduced amendments to the FCR were not supposed to change tribal life in a major way. However, he added that these small changes could prove a step forward for bringing major reforms in Fata.

The gathering was also addressed by the Khyber Union General Secretary Saleem Khan, Press Secretary Haji Bismillah Khan and former agency councillor Suhbat Khan Afridi.

Taliban Cashing In as Pakistan's Karachi Is Torn Apart by Violence

The worst violence to hit Karachi in more than a decade is helping the Taliban to raise cash and allowing their fighters to rest in Pakistan’s largest city, The Times of London reported Thursday.
More than 300 people were murdered in Karachi last month, the majority simply because of the language they spoke. The chaos is allowing the nexus between extremist Islamist groups and criminal gangs to thrive like never before, security officials told the newspaper.
Extortion, drug, land and weapon mafias are bankrolling the insurgents, while fighters and commanders use the city to rest and gain medical treatment, according to political parties. The worst tension in recent weeks has been between the Urdu-speaking majority and Pashto-speaking migrants from the tribal regions of Pakistan.
The Pakistani government refuses to publish census data on the numbers of Pashtuns living in Karachi, but estimates range from three million to five million. Most live in illegal colonies that ring the northern outskirts of the city. The violence has created no-go areas in which Taliban fighters and commanders can operate with almost total impunity.
Overlooking Orangi Town, South Asia’s largest slum, is the notorious district of Katti Pahari, where a road has been blasted through the mountain. The intention was to create a barrier between an overwhelmingly Pashtun district and another dominated by Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking Pakistanis originating from India who make up the biggest group of the city’s 20 million population. Instead, it has become a bottleneck and shooting alley.
It was from Katti Pahari that the worst of the recent violence was unleashed in a four-day assault on the district of Malir. Naushad Asim, whose brother Mohammed, a factory worker, was murdered during it, said, “It was just after sunset when my brother went out to fix his car. He was attacked by men who were wearing beards and long hair and had camouflage jackets. They looked like Afghans.”
The bodies of gang members and political activists are dumped in sacks with their hands and feet tied -- but civilians are left where they fall, the ambulance drivers, whose job it is to clear the corpses, said.
Mohammed Raza Haroon, a leading figure in the MQM, a party that draws most of its support from the Mohajir community, denied that it was orchestrating violent retaliations. “If the MQM did not appeal for peace this city would be on fire,” he said. Although careful to avoid making overt ethnic claims, he said that its opponent, the Awami National Party (ANP), was giving shelter and support to the Taliban.
Shahi Syed, president of the ANP, an overwhelmingly Pashto-speaking organization, denied this as a smear and graphically abused the Taliban by way of proof.
Although there is no chance of the Taliban seizing the whole of Karachi, it is acting with ever greater impunity within pockets that it controls in collusion with criminal gangs. All sides agree that the insurgents and criminals are exploiting the space left by an administration and police force hamstrung by political and ethnic conflict.
“This place is going to turn into Beirut,” Syed said. “It’s dividing on ethnic grounds. We are in a dangerous position.”

US firm slammed over Afghan police training
Audit finds contractor DynCorps failed to provide nearly 60 per cent of the instructors needed to train Afghan police.

A US-based military contractor has failed to provide nearly 60 per cent of the instructors needed to train Afghan police under a contract with the US government, according to an audit issued on Monday.

The audit focused on the transfer of the Afghan police training programme from the US State Department to the US Defence department.

The investigation, carried out jointly by both departments, criticised both institutions for a lack of co-ordination in regards to police training in Afghanistan, which is a priority for the US-led NATO coalition as it prepares to transfer security to Afghan forces.

Under a $1bn, two-year contract signed between the Defence Department and DynCorps International in December 2010, the firm was required to have instructors in place within a 120-day deadline.

Defence officials "reported that the incoming contractor did not have 428 of the 728 required personnel in place within the 120-day transition period," said the audit.

The most notable discrepancy was in the number of police mentors that DynCorps was supposed to provide to the Afghan forces.

The audit said that 213 of the 377 required "Fielded Police Mentors" were not in their positions during the transition period.

It said the shortage "placed the overall mission at risk by not providing the mentoring essential for developing the Afghan government and police force."

Police mentors
A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of interior declined to comment on the matter, saying he needed time to study nuances of the report.

But a former deputy minister of interior, aware of previous deals with contractors, said he was not surprised by the findings.

"We have repeatedly stressed that we need to train our trainers and Afghanise the process," General Hadi Khaled told Al jazeera.

"This system right now is not sustainable. They pay lots of money for brief contracts, without actually listening to the needs of the Afghan police."

The audit criticised both the US state and defence departments for a lack of co-ordination on training programmes and for failing to create a clear plan to oversee and monitor the transition from one contractor to another.

State and defence "officials relied on independently developed contractor plans, some of which were not feasible and did not address inherently governmental tasks," it said.

One example of such lack of co-ordination was in the training weapons transfered from one contractor to the next.

The audit said "39 days into the transition, Department of State officials announced that some of the weapons the outgoing contractor used could not transfer to the new Department of Defence contractor because the weapons were purchased with Department of State funds".

An understanding was reached in regards to the transfer of weapons only 67 days into the transition period.

The two departments also failed to develop a security clearance process for the personnel that transferred from the previous contractor to the new.

"Not until … 95 days into the transition, did DoD [Department of Defence] and DoS [Department of State] officials develop a strategy to mitigate this issue," the audit said.

Sustainability in question
The report comes amid a major increase in efforts to train and expand Afghan security forces, paving the way for the eventual exit of NATO-led coalition troops.

The NATO mission aims to train a 134,000-strong police force by October as it prepares the Afghan forces to take over security responsibility by 2014.

But many, like General Khaled, raise questions about the quality of the trainers flown into the country and the system put in place.

Contractors such as DynCorps bring in trainers who are not professional police officers, but rather former army or private guards, he said.

"The trainers are not professional, they have turned the police into a fighting force such as the army and NATO. The police are supposed to be following the judiciary, as a preventive force," he said.

Problems of co-ordination, both within US entities as well as with other NATO member nations, has often been cited as one of the reasons for the Afghan police being less prepared than the Afghan army as transition looms.

"A GOA [US Government Accountability Office] official testified that DoD and DOS had a history of being unable to effectively collaborate and co-ordinate on previous Afghan National Security Forces projects," the audit said.

"[An] official stated that despite a prior 2005 audit recommendation for DoD and DOS to develop a co-ordinated and detailed plan to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces, the agencies developed no such plan."

Indian movies leaving no bad effects on young minds


There were no bad affects of Indian movies which were being screened in Pakistani cinemas. Our new generation is very conscious, informative then how the Indian movies can affect our new generation.

This was stated by famous poet, columnist and top rated ace playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed in a talk with The Nation. A good number of famous drama serials are on his credit. These days his drama ‘Tum Ho Kay Chup” is being aired from a private TV channel, which is very popular among the viewers.
Asghar justified his statement by saying that Indian movies were being seen in every home of Pakistan on cable. These were also seen on DVDs in every home. No film is good or bad, it has to be screened. Our new generation have a vast vision and wisdom, how they can take bad affects from the Indian movies. It was not true that Indian movies were spreading bad affects in Pakistan. Every thing is not bad as we are facing a global competition. Indian society was far ahead from us and we should see them with open mind. He said we would have to change our mindset and should not close eyes like a cat. Rather we should face the world that how they were progressing, Asghar stressed.

He said it was the right of the peoples to earn their livelihood and also the right of the cinema owners to earn even if Indian movies are screened. Very few films are being made in Pakistan and in this situation we should not be afraid if cinema owners are screening Indian movies.

I have so many offers from the Indian side. Director Anees Bazmi, Anil Kapoor’s company and Javed Akhtar have asked me so many times to come to India and work with them. Now I have to see that how I can work with them. Boundaries are for the human beings and there were no boundaries for the film, music and literature, Asghar maintained.
Asghar said when we write a book, it means we have written the book for the whole world. Like book, film is also for the whole world and the whole world see the movies.
He said drama was passing through a difficult phase these days, but with the passage of time every thing will be settled. He said Pakistan was facing so many problems and we should select the social issues for dramas.

About the Pakistan film industry Asghar said there was no film industry ever in Pakistan, there was also not good producers and good directors, there was no tradition of film and also there were no good studios and loboratories in Pakistan. Due to non existence of TV, their films had done business, Asghar said.

Now we should not expect any good from the old Pakistani film makers. They should voluntarily leave this work due to whom, the Pakistani film industry has been ruined, Asghar justified.
Now the new talented and educated youth should come forward. Those who were taking education of films, theatre and TV from the universities and other institutions. I am also teaching film, theatre and TV at a private university as the head of the department, he revealed.
He said my students assisted Shoaib Mansoor in making of his blockbuster film ‘Bol’. They were able to do work, so they did work with Shoaib Mansoor. So things are growing gradually and the revolution would come one day and the educated youth would take the command of the film industry.

Asghar said the real thing was education and for making a good film someone should be educated. While the present lot of the film makers do not want to take awareness. The financer who finances a film wants back his money and he has no trust on the present directors. He asked why the financer had run away from Pakistan film industry, because he knows that present lot can not recover his money. Shoaib Mansoor knows the work, he knows how to make a film that was the reason the financers were coming to him. The financer would give his money to that man who is wise and knows the work.
Good dramas were being produced from Karachi and Lahore as the young guys, who were making dramas were very genius. Haseeb Hassan, Babar Javed and others are doing very good dramas. He said when we do not study, how can we produce and direct drama.
‘Hawaian’, ‘Chand Grehan’, ‘Nijat’, ‘Ghulam Gardish’, ‘Doorian’ ‘Khuda Zameen Se Gaya Nahin’ and Piyaas were his most hit serials.