Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Punjab drug reaction kills 2 more; toll at 121

Two more heart patients, after consuming the suspicious medicines, lost their lives Tuesday, pushing the overall death toll to 121 in Punjab.
The string of deaths spurred by the dubious medicines of Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) could not be stemmed, despite all the frenzied efforts by the government of Punjab.
According to sources, Central Drug Laboratory of Karachi declared one of the seven PIC medicines as substandard.
Meanwhile, the investigations under Punjab’s aegis also revealed that some PIC officials are involved in the scam as some deficient medicines were changed without keeping back their records.
Also, the federal government banned the sale of heart medicines manufactured by as many as five pharmaceutical companies.

Obama offers to find woman’s husband a job during Google+ chat


President Obama has pledged not to rest until everyone looking for a job finds one. On Monday, he upped the ante on that promise, volunteering to help a woman find work for her unemployed husband.

Obama was answering questions from so-called ordinary Americans during an online chat that was broadcast on the Google+ Hangout social media site and YouTube when a woman named Jennifer Weddel, of Texas, told him that her husband, an engineer, had been unable to find a position in his chosen field for three years.

Weddel wanted to know Obama’s position on the H1B work visa, which allows employers to sponsor foreigners who offer specialized skills. Obama appeared surprised, asking Weddel what kind of engineer her husband was. He noted that while work for civil engineers might have slowed during the recession, business leaders have told him that there is a shortage of specialized engineers--and therefore, ample job opportunities--in the high-tech field.

“We should get his resume and forward it to the companies telling me they cannot find enough engineers in this field,” Obama suggested

Weddel cut him off to press again on the visa question, before telling Obama that her husband makes semi-conductors.

“If you send me your husband’s resume, I’d be interested in finding out what is happening," Obama said. “That kind of engineer should be able to find something right away. . . . I will follow up on this.”

Obama’s Google+ chat was billed by the White House as his first-ever “virtual interview.” He answered questions submitted through YouTube and from Weddel and four others who had been selected by Google.

The White House said 133,000 questions were submitted following Obama’s State of the Union address last week. Other questions to Obama dealt with foreign aid to Pakistan, small business development and the administration’s use of military drones.

Obama admits to Pakistan drone strikes


Maybe it was one of the worst kept secrets in Washington and Pakistan, but U.S. officials rarely admit publicly to the active use of drones to hunt down Al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan. One reason is out of deference to the Pakistan, whose government relents to the drone flights even while publicly condemning it because the Pakistani populace is so against the strikes.

That being said, the president on Monday casually revealed to his Google+ hangout that "a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA, and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military actions than the one we're already engaging in." (FATA being the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and many Taliban are ensconced).

Afghan women take up boxing

Women are now boxing in Afghanistan, a country that didn't allow women to compete in sports under Taliban rule.

Afghan police: Man kills wife for giving birth to daughter instead of son

Police in the northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz are looking for a man they say strangled his wife after she bore him a third child that was not a son.

Sher Mohammed, 29, married his 22-year-old wife, Storay, four years ago, police said.

The couple had three daughters, the last of whom was born three months ago, said Khanabad district police chief Sufi Habib.

After the youngest daughter was born, Mohammed blamed his wife for not being able to deliver a boy, Habib said.

"Finally on Saturday, the man, with the help of his mother, first beat the woman and then strangled her to death," the police chief said.

Khanabad is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Kunduz city.

Police arrested the mother, Wali Hazrata, and detained her at the Kunduz city jail. But her son fled.

In a jailhouse interview, Hazrata said her son's wife committed suicide out of guilt.

"My son did not commit the crime," Hazrata said. "... But after three daughters, Storay herself felt guilty and committed suicide."

The report comes weeks after Afghan police said they rescued a 15-year-old girl who was locked up in the basement of her in-laws' house, starved, and had her nails pulled out.

The girl, Sahar Gul, was married off to a 30-year-old man last year. Authorities in northern Baghlan province said the girl reportedly was tortured after she refused to submit to prostitution.

Activists say women continue to suffer in parts of Afghanistan despite overall progress since the fall of the Taliban.

In the second quarter of last year, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) registered 1,026 cases of violence against women. In 2010, 2,700 cases were recorded.

In December, gunmen attacked and sprayed an Afghan family with acid in their home after the father rejected a man's bid to marry his teenage daughter.

In another case, a 21-year-old, identified only as Gulnaz for her own protection, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after she reported that her cousin's husband had raped her.

Her plight attracted international attention when it came out that she had agreed to marry her attacker to gain her freedom and legitimize a daughter conceived in the attack. She was eventually freed, following the president's intervention.

Horia Mosadiq, a London-based Afghan researcher for the rights group Amnesty International, said that the abuse inflicted on Storay Mohammed is not an isolated instance.

"Generally the human rights situation, and particularly women's rights, is deteriorating," she told CNN. "I am in constant contact with women's rights groups across the country, and they say they are seeing an increase in violence."

This is in part because the Afghan government does little to implement or enforce the laws that protect women's rights, she said.

She also sees it as a consequence of women across the country gaining greater awareness of their rights, which is leading both to a backlash from men and to more cases of violence being reported.

On top of that, the Afghan government's move toward peace and reconciliation talks with the Taliban has led many people to think that the current oppression of women will simply continue as it is, Mosadiq said.

"We need to make sure that we protect the women -- it's so important that women's rights in Afghanistan are non-negotiable," she said.

The alleged involvement of Storay Mohammed's mother-in-law in her abuse is not unusual, Mosadiq added, as women often play a role in violence against other women within the family, as do husbands, fathers and brothers.

And there is a heavy cultural pressure to bear sons, who are viewed as the breadwinners, she said, with the birth of a daughter seen as a burden rather than something to celebrate.

If the situation of Afghan women is to improve, Mosadiq said, a strong political will is needed at the government level, backed up by strong pressure from the international community.

"Where (the international community) puts so much pressure and focus on a military solution, they should also think about the protection of the Afghan people and Afghan women," she said.

‘Afghans at risk of infection with new HIV strain’

Frequent travels, past displacement and current repatriation of millions of Afghans have put the Afghan population at risk of infection with novel, possibly drug-resistant strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and treatment for such infections may prove challenging for the development of effective vaccines and antiretroviral therapies, a recent study shows.

The study, Patterns of HIV infection among native and refugee Afghans, was aimed at characterising and comparing the HIV epidemics prevailing among the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the native Afghans in Kabul.

It was conducted by the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University (AKU); Department of Microbiology, Dow University of Health Sciences, and Nursing and Midwifery, Aga Khan University Programme, Kabul. It was published in a research journal, AIDS.

According to the study, transmigration of infected populations may result in transmission of new HIV-1 variants into the host population. Besides, intermixing of the pre-existing and newly transmitted HIV variant may give rise to novel circulating recombinant forms and subtypes.

“The intermixing of diverse HIV variants among Afghans may give rise to seeding of infections with rare HIV strains, which may pose a serious challenge for the treatment and control of infection,” the research says.

Referring to previous researchers, the study states that a six per cent prevalence of HIV among Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been observed with drug use being a common high-risk behaviour.

Samples for the research in Pakistan were obtained from patients attending antenatal clinics and free health camps organised by the Infection Control Society in Karachi. After initial screening of 556 samples, 29 HIV positive samples from the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 11 from natives in Kabul were included in the study.

Use of inhaled and injected drugs, having multiple sex partners, homosexuality, contact with sex workers and travel abroad were reported as the high-risk behaviours among Afghan refugees.

The study also reveals associations between the study population of Afghan natives and refugees and identifies high-risk groups in Pakistan and Iran — another country where Afghan refugees are settled in large numbers.

Concentrated epidemics
The latest study is part of a series of research efforts on the prevalence of serious communicable diseases among the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Earlier, the AKU, the DUHS with the University of Karachi collaborated to produce a study, Concentrated epidemics of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C among Afghan refugees. It was published in Journal of Infection in 2010.

The study found a high presence of HIV, hepatitis B and C viruses in Afghan refugees as compared to the general population in Pakistan.

Blood samples were collected from 556 people, including 34.7 per cent aged between 20 and 29 years. About 73.7 per cent of the sample comprised men. Eleven people were found to be HIV-positive, 164 were infected with hepatitis C and 30 with hepatitis B. Twenty people were found to be co-infected with hepatitis C and HIV, 19 had hepatitis C and hepatitis B whereas two individuals carried all three viruses.

Major risk factors associated with these infections were drug abuse, transmigration and unsafe sexual behaviour.

Citing another study comparing the risk behaviours of Afghans and Pakistanis, the report states that Afghans are more likely than Pakistanis to have injected drugs, used opiate, as their first illicit drug, report needle-sharing, or have a drug user in their family.

“Compared to the Pakistanis, Afghans have been reported to have lower awareness of HIV/AIDS. We observed a high prevalence of HIV (5.93pc); very participants, however, admitted to having multiple sex partners or contact with sex workers,” the study states.

A statistical analysis reveals a strong correlation between travel to Afghanistan and infections with all three viruses, says the study, adding that previously Pakistanis, who had travelled abroad and overseas contract workers, especially in the UAE countries, had been identified as a potential source of concentrated HIV epidemics in Pakistan.

Measures required
Another study carried out by the AKU in collaboration with the DUHS recommended a number of measures to control infections among displaced Afghans.

The study, Communicable disease among displaced Afghans: refugee without shelter, published in a research journal, Nature Microbiology, in 2009, stated that although refugees were afflicted by diseases to which non-refugee population was also exposed, the concentration of the refugees, their compromised health and healthcare standards, their low awareness of health-related issues and their vulnerable status meant that refugee populations were reservoirs of infectious disease.

“Screening of communicable diseases and the provision of clean water, sanitation and health care will help to detect, prevent and cure infectious disease. It is equally important to improve the level of literacy and awareness in the refugee communities, with special attention towards women.”

The study found that hasty repatriation protocols, which were negligent of the infection and carrier burden among repatriates, would expose the Afghan population to the risk of communicable diseases, jeopardising the lives of both returning and resident Afghans.

Germany returns two millennia old Afghan sculpture

Germany this week returned an ancient pre-Islamic sculpture looted during Afghanistan's civil war, giving hope to Kabul's cultural mavens that the rest of its stolen treasures will also make their way home.

Eight figures, one missing a torso and others without noses, make up the 30-cm high (12 inches) limestone antiquity from the second century AD, a reminder of Afghanistan's rich classical past as a confluence of cultures on the crossroads of Asia.

Faces turned to their left, they are believed to be audience members watching Buddha on his throne in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, which stretched across part of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry said.

"This is a masterpiece ... I am optimistic that in the future we will get the other artefacts back," said Omara Khan Massoudi, the director of Afghanistan's National Museum, which housed the sculpture before it was stolen.

Afghanistan's embassy in Berlin has been investigating who owned the sculpture since it appeared in Munich a year ago. It was flown to Kabul earlier this week.

As warlords battled for control of Kabul in the early 1990s following the Soviet exit, fighters pillaged around 70 percent of the museum's antiquities, or around 70,000 pieces, selling the choicest artefacts on the black market.

Massoudi, whose museum was also heavily shelled in the war, is working to get them back. "This is our responsibility... According to our laws, they must be returned to Afghanistan," he told Reuters.

Afghanistan's looted treasures have appeared across Europe, the United States and Japan. Kabul might see twenty ivories currently held in the British Museum return sometime this year, Massoudi said.

An agreement with UNESCO, the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and global police Interpol to recover stolen gems is proving successful: he said over 8,000 artefacts have returned since 2007, including a fifth century wooden Buddha. Tens of thousands are still missing however.

Endemic corruption, poverty and insecurity after thirty years of conflict mean even new discoveries do not reach cultural authorities.

Ancient Jewish scrolls, which Massoudi confirmed were recently smuggled out, are currently being kept by private dealers in London.

Most of those that have been recovered and are in Afghanistan are under lock and key until larger spaces are built with the top-notch security systems museums in the West have.

Ten million dollars have been committed, half from the United States, for a new museum with such features and climate control, to be built next door to the old one over the next three to four years.

"It is my dream to have such museums across Afghanistan," Massoudi said.

Afghan Officials Consider Own Talks With Taliban

The New York Times

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January 30, 2012
Afghan Officials Consider Own Talks With Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — Concerned that it is being left out of potential peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, the Afghan government is pushing to open its own direct negotiations with the insurgent group in Saudi Arabia, Afghan officials said on Monday.

The talks would be separate from efforts by the United States to begin negotiations with the Taliban in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, where the Taliban is opening an office, the officials said.

It was not clear whether the effort to start parallel talks would succeed or amount to nothing more than an attempt by President Hamid Karzai to regain momentum after feeling sidelined by the American efforts to help open the Qatar office.

“We don’t know the exact timing, but that is something that is being discussed within the government and with the Taliban,” said a senior Afghan official in Kabul who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the deliberations.

Mr. Karzai’s office in Kabul would not comment on the possibility of talks in Saudi Arabia.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Said Ahmad Omarkhail, said, “The Saudi government is willing to help us in resolving the problems with the Taliban.” Afghanistan had made preparations for talks with Taliban officials in Riyadh, Mr. Omarkhail said, but he made it clear that he had not been told that any meetings were scheduled.

Another Afghan official in Kabul said on Monday that the Taliban preferred Saudi Arabia as a location for talks and that Afghan government officials, including Mr. Karzai, would meet with Taliban representatives there “soon.”

For any talks to be held in Riyadh, the Afghan government would need the agreement of the Saudi government. But senior Western and United States officials doubt the Saudis would want to become involved in open-ended peace talks that have no guarantee of succeeding.

It is also not clear whether the United States would welcome two tracks of talks, especially if it is excluded from one track, though American officials have said often that any negotiations would ultimately have to be “Afghan to Afghan.”

“Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job here,” the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said in Washington on Monday. “Our goal is to get Afghans talking to Afghans to get a process of reconciliation that is among Afghans.”

She declined to discuss the negotiations in detail, but said the question of opening a Taliban office in Qatar was still not decided. The Taliban have yet to say definitively that they intend to engage in any talks. In the past they have insisted that any talks be with the Americans only, and not the Afghan government, which they reject as a “puppet regime.”

However, on Monday a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, did not deny that there was a plan for talks in Saudi Arabia. “Our stand is silence regarding an ongoing peace dialogue at the moment,” he said.

If there are talks, the role of Pakistan, Afghanistan’s neighbor, remains undecided. Afghan and some Taliban officials have told the United States that they do not want Pakistan to have a full seat at the table. For its part, Pakistan’s military would much prefer Saudi mediation in peace talks. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strong ties dating to the 1980s, when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan and Riyadh pumped billions of dollars in aid to Afghan rebel groups based in northern Pakistan, and supported a conservative tilt in Pakistani society whose effects endure.

“Our favorites are the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates,” said Tanveer Ahmed Khan, a retired Pakistani diplomat and political commentator. “When it comes to Qatar, there have always been reservations.”

The Taliban, however, may be less keen on Saudi involvement. One of the insurgents’ early demands to American officials was that negotiations not take place in Saudi Arabia, a former Obama administration official said.

“The Taliban specifically wanted the office” in Doha, the capital of Qatar, “because they didn’t want to be under the thumb of the Pakistanis,” said the official.

Analysts said the push for a Saudi office, which was first reported by the BBC, was being driven by Mr. Karzai, who fears being sidelined in American-led talks.

“This is related to Karzai’s frustration and fears,” said Shamila N. Chaudhary, a senior fellow at the New American Foundation, a nonprofit policy group in Washington. “He thinks the Americans are going to hang him out to dry, and that a deal with the Taliban is going to lead to his ouster.

“His talking about the Saudi angle is just a reminder to everyone that he is still relevant to the process,” Ms. Chaudhary said.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, is scheduled to arrive in Kabul on Wednesday, in a bid to heal relations between the two neighbors that collapsed in acrimony last year after the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mr. Karzai’s main envoy to the Taliban.

For weeks, Afghan officials have been fuming over the American efforts to allow the Taliban to open an office in Qatar. At first they said they preferred that discussions take place in Saudi Arabia or Turkey, but this month, after the Taliban accepted the American initiative, Mr. Karzai reluctantly agreed to Qatar.

Several former Taliban officials said that some Taliban negotiators had already begun meeting with American officials in Qatar, to discuss preliminary trust-building measures, including a possible prisoner transfer. As the preliminary talks have progressed, Afghan officials have said they feared a “secret deal” between the United States and the Taliban.

The Obama administration hopes the negotiation process will unfold in three phases — exploratory, confidence-building and political, according to a former administration official who could not speak for attribution because he was not authorized to discuss the talks. The administration considers that first phase to be now drawing to a close.

The exact details of the Taliban “office” in Doha are still being hammered out — where it would be located, for instance, and what format any talks would take. Qatari security services are expected to have a major role in watching over Taliban negotiators, particularly any who may be released from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

“If the detainee transfer goes ahead, and they are sent over there, then they would be heavily monitored. It would probably be a form of house arrest,” said the former Obama official.

The administration’s goal is to establish the Doha office by the time of a NATO summit meeting scheduled to take place in Chicago this May.

UN survey finds Afghan police still corrupt, but improving


Expanding the Afghan police and army is NATO's key plan to turn over security by the end of 2014.
A U.N. survey has found that more than half of Afghans polled see the national police as corrupt, though their overall reputation is improving.
The survey released Tuesday indicates only 20 percent of those surveyed think police are ready to keep order without international troops. Less than a quarter wanted the NATO military force to leave immediately.
Expanding the Afghan police and army is key to NATO s plans to turn over security by the end of 2014. But problems persist, including corruption and illiteracy.
Still, the percentage of people calling the Afghan police corrupt dropped by seven points from last year in the annual survey.
NATO says trends are moving in the right direction. The survey of more than 7,000 Afghans had a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points.

Pakistan will be 'force multiplier' in China's rise

Pakistan and China are finding new "comfort zones" to consolidate their ties, President Asif Ali Zardari has said, declaring that Islamabad will be a "force multiplier" in China's emergence as the world's largest economy.

The future direction for the two countries will be to look at the world together where they could produce and support new global demand, the Pakistan President said in an interview to the Chinese official media. "China is becoming new Japan. It is becoming the largest economy in the world in future," he said. While it becomes "the world's largest economy, its friends will be part of that rise," Mr Zardari told People's Daily Online in a recent interview carried today.

China is currently the second largest economy after the US.

"Pakistan and China are finding new comfort zones. We can see more collaboration between both. The reason for them to evolve together has become greater. We both need each other.
I find that Pakistan will be the force multiplier for the growth of China," he said.

Peace in Afghanistan critical for Pakistan


Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday that peace in Afghanistan was critical for the peace and security in Pakistan, and said that it does not want any political settlement in Afghanistan that would destabilise Pakistan.

Talking to Afghan Senate delegation on Tuesday afternoon, Gilani reiterated that Pakistan would continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process that would not cause instability in Pakistan.

The prime minister said that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are victims of terrorism and they should get united to fight against the common enemy.

A delegation of Afghan Senators, led by Fazal-e-Hadi Muslimyar, called on the prime minister and emphasised the need of exchange of parliamentary delegations to further strengthen the brotherly relations between the people of the two countries.

The prime minister said that the exchange visits of parliamentarians were essential to enhance bilateral relations, and Pakistan had always made consistent and sincere efforts to improve relations with Afghanistan.

Gilani recalled that Pakistan extended full cooperation to the Afghan team that visited Islamabad with regard to the investigation of Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination.

He further said that Pakistan was committed to complete the construction of Torkham-Jalalabad Road.

Pakistan is offering 2000 fully funded scholarships to the Afghan students and has agreed to enhance the number of scholarships on the request of the leader of the Afghan delegation, the prime minister assured.

Earlier, Chairman Senate Farooq H Naik, while addressing the members of the Afghan delegation, said that Pakistan attached much importance to its relations with Afghanistan because both the countries share a common religion, culture, history and geographical proximity.

Leader of Afghan delegation Fazal-e-Hadi Muslimyar, in his speech, highlighted the commonalities between the people of the two countries spread over the centuries adding that this had brought them together to strive for the common destiny of peace and prosperity.

Polio Immunization Campaign kicked off 5.7m children to be vaccinated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The three days national immunization campaign started here on Monday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas wherein 5.7 million children in KP and nine lakh in FATA would be vaccinated in the first drive this year, an official said.Jan Baz Afridi, Deputy Director, Expended Programme on Immunization (EPI), KP told media the campaign will continue till February 1, 2012. As many as 17,000 teams have been formed to administer the vaccine to all children up to the age of five. The teams would operate across the province and would be supported by paramedics and Lady Health Workers. To reach out every child, volunteers, associated with NGOs have also been engaged in the campaign.The vaccines have already been distributed among the teams. He said the teams have been advised to revisit the concerned children and provide them with fresh dosage of the vaccine to protect children against the cripple disease.He urged parents to cooperate with teams and provide drops to children with an objective to protect them from the fatal virus.”The vaccine is the same that has been used in most of the world to eradicate polio including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia,” he maintained. He said UN agencies, partners, donor governments, private sector and foundations have extended all possible support to ensure that the necessary resources are available for making the country polio free destination.Mr Afridi said the government and development partners are putting all efforts to make Pakistan a polio-free country and sought support of general public and local communities. Polio free Pakistan was the dream of Shaheed Jamhuriyat, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed.The official said the government will get support of parliamentarians, media persons and ulema for success of this campaign. Its main focus is administering anti polio drops to children living in high risk areas. He said polio vaccine used in the country is safe and effective and is produced internationally while World Health Organization (WHO) has approved its quality.

Karachi’s parks are for the people, not the ‘ghairat brigade'

The Express Tribune

Hand holding and sitting close to each other in a park should not be judged, said an official from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. “It is not obscene.”

His remarks come at a time when four non-governmental organisations are suing a television channel for a programme in which a host ran around a park trying to ‘expose’ the ‘immorality’ of the couples sitting there. The ‘witch hunt’ was steamrolled by public indignation that this kind of policing had no place in parks, which serve as a respite for the residents of Karachi, a city that is bursting at its seams.

“If we start going around checking up on people like this, then the first ban would be put on a man and his wife,” said the director general of the city parks, Liaquat Ali Khan, referring to the close contact necessitated by sitting on a motorcycle. He stressed that couples were free to use Karachi’s parks and did not have to declare or justify the status of their relationship to anyone. The security guards have been told not to harass anyone.

The KMC official gave the example of Dubai where there was a mosque but anyone could also go to a night club if they wanted. “If it is a matter of right and wrong, then let the people decide,” he said.

There are 1,500 public parks in Karachi, some of which charge an entry fee. Safari Park, Hill Park and Quaid-e-Azam’s mazaar’s grounds are some of the most popular places for young couples, including those from lower middleclass families who may not have the luxury of their own spaces at home. “Attempts to raise the entry fee at the parks have failed repeatedly,” he said. “Some people who come here only have Rs5 or Rs10 to spare after they pay for their bus fare.”

Last month, 27-year-old AA took his girlfriend GH to a park on his motorcycle. “From the gate all the way to the bench, everyone was staring,” he said. “The security guards, the gardener – even men who were there with their families were staring at us.” He added that going somewhere else was out of the question. While talking to The Express Tribune, he said that he had thought of renting a beach hut for Rs1,000 but it would only create more problems. He said that couples went to restaurants to eat and liked to relax and have a romantic time under the shade of a tree in a park.

“There are no rules which can dictate how someone should behave in a park,” said Sindh High Court Advocate Shaukat Sheikh while talking to The Express Tribune. “The KMC and cantonment boards have made their own code of conduct for some parks but officials claim that they do not dictate the way people are supposed to behave.” According to the advocate, a couple of years ago some people were arrested and penalised for objectionable behaviour.

The additional inspector-general of Karachi, Akhtar Hussain Gorchani, said that he would not defend the conduct of policemen who harassed couples to make money. He added that he was shocked at this sort of behaviour and would prefer the force to focus on catching criminals.

Three more die of PIC drugs, death toll reaches 117

Three more patients died due to PIC medicines in different hospitals of Lahore and toll hits 117.In General Hospital 50-year-old Allah Dita, in Services Hospital 51-year-old Mumtaz Bibi and and in Mayo Hospital 55-year-old Hajrah have lost their live after using spurious medicines of PIC. Death toll of PIC free drugs has reached 117 now.
According to additional secretary health Punjab 779 patients are under treatment in different hospitals affected from reaction of medicines.
It is pertinent to mention here that PIC has provided free medicine to at least 42,000 patients during last 45 days. At least 115 have died, while hundreds are being treated in different hospitals.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pentagon Budget


The $259 billion in budget cuts over the next five years announced by the Pentagon may sound like a lot. But they are mainly a scaling back of previously projected spending — the delights of the Washington budget games.

This year, Pentagon spending will total $531 billion. In 2017, it will rise to $567 billion. Factoring in inflation, that amounts to only a minuscule 1.6 percent real cut. (Both numbers exclude war spending — $115 billion this year.)

After a decade of unrestrained Pentagon spending increases, President Obama deserves credit for putting on the brakes. The cuts are a credible down payment on his pledge to reduce projected defense spending by $487 billion in the next decade. They are not going to be enough. In the likely absence of a bipartisan budget pact, a further automatic across-the-board 10-year cut of nearly $500 billion is to take effect starting next January.

Even if a last-minute deal heads that off, the country needs to find more savings. And there is still plenty of room to cut deeper without jeopardizing national security.

Early in January, President Obama outlined a new, more pragmatic defense strategy. Republicans predictably claimed he was hollowing out the force — but a smarter, more restrained use of force is just what the country needs to secure its vital interests.

Much of the savings will come from cutting the size of the Army and Marine Corps by almost 13 percent and stretching out purchases of planes and ships. At the same time, the military will buy more unpiloted drones, add special operations units, equip submarines to carry more cruise missiles and expand its cyberwarfare capacities.

That makes sense in a world where terrorism and unconventional attacks are a primary threat. Any plan to downsize ground forces must be matched by a credible plan to quickly build them up, if necessary.

The Pentagon also proposes a new round of domestic base closings, a less generous formula for military pay raises after 2015 and higher health insurance premiums for military retirees (families of working-age retirees now pay $500 annually), all of which we strongly support.

Unfortunately, that new thinking has been dragged down by some old-style budgetary inertia. Mr. Obama needs to push the Pentagon to do better. Here are some additional cuts that make sense:

SHRINK THE F-35 PROGRAM The total order of stealth fighters should be reduced to 1,000, from 2,440, saving more than $150 billion. The F-35 was designed as a low-cost, supercapable aircraft. It has become the costliest Pentagon procurement project ever and its performance has been disappointing. The Air Force, Navy and Marines need to cut their losses. Most of the savings would not come until the 2020s. Over $20 billion could be saved this decade by canceling the troubled Marine Corps variant.

CUT THE NUCLEAR BUDGET Mr. Obama has declared his commitment to arms control, but there is no reflection of that in the budget plan. He needs to back it up with significant cuts in the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican, offers a sensible plan to do that, and estimates that it could save $79 billion over the next decade.

GO TO 10 AIRCRAFT CARRIER GROUPS The Pentagon could save $4 billion to $8 billion over a decade by revisiting the president’s unwise decision not to eliminate one of the 11 aircraft carriers with associated ships and aircraft. Ten would provide more than enough surge capacity to support naval air operations anywhere in the world.

We know that it is politically easier to continue programs that outlive their usefulness or outrun their cost estimates — especially when Republican politicians are so eager to promise the Pentagon a blank check. And especially when the defense industry and its lobbyists are spreading so much cash around on Capitol Hill. But the country cannot afford to continue on this way. And there is no strategic argument for doing so. The era of hard choices at the Pentagon has barely begun.

LHC may ask Shahbaz Sharif to explain holding 18 ministries

he Express Tribune‎

The Lahore High Court on Monday directed a petitioner to include Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif among the respondents in a petition against the chief minister for holding portfolios of at least 18 ministries.

As the court heard the case on Monday, Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the petitioner, represented through his lawyer, why he had not arrayed the CM as party in the case. Advocate Noshab A Khan replied that he had not made CM as party since he enjoyed constitutional immunity. Justice Bandial said that the court would decide whether or not the chief minister enjoyed immunity.

The court adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period with directions to the petitioner to amend the petition and make CM as a respondent.

The petitioner has challenged impugned act of the Chief Minister in wake of loss of human lives due to use of unchecked substandard medicines in spite of having around 500 drug inspectors.

The lawyer, while contending his case, referred to Punjab Government Rules of Business 1974 and pointed out that it was beyond comprehension as to why the chief minister had concentrated all powers under him, maintaining portfolios of approximately 18 ministries. He said the tragedies like the one in Punjab Institute of Cardiology, would continue to occur if a full time minister was not appointed for health.

The petitioner further said that according to the rules, the relevant minister is responsible to conduct the business relating to his department in the assembly, whereas the chief minister did not even find time to attend the assembly sessions. He urged the court to declare the impugned act of the chief minister unconstitutional.

Pervaiz holds Shahbaz responsible for PIC deaths

Senior Federal Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has held Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif responsible for the deaths caused by reaction of medicines.

According to a press release, he was talking to a group of party members at his residence here on Sunday. Pervaiz stated that that he was unable to understand that why Shahbaz was still continuing to hold the office and not accepting his fault in the deaths caused by substandard medicines.

He expressed his grave concern over the deaths of cardiac patients and said that real culprits were still at large because the government was backing and providing them a safe passage to get away from the issue.

The PML-Q leader demanded the Punjab government immediately pay compensation to the families who lost their loved ones and also best treatment to those who were affected by the spurious medicines.

Shahbaz responsible for PIC drug deaths

Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmad has held Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif responsible for the deaths of heart patients through PIC drugs.
In a statement here on Sunday, he said the chief minister should accept the responsibility as he himself was looking into affairs of the health ministry. He asked the CM to resign from his office. Raja Riaz expressed concern over substandard medicines being distributed in government hospitals across the province.

LAHORE : Two more die of PIC drugs, death toll reaches 114

Dunya tv reporting:

Two more patients died due to PIC medicines in Services Hospital while YDA has called off strike.
In Services Hospital 60-year old Rahat Jahan and, 75-year-old Haji Yaseen have lost their live today after using spurious medicines of PIC. Death toll of PIC free drugs has reached 114 now.According to additional secretary health Punjab 779 patients are under treatment in different hospitals affected from reaction of medicines.

Hints of nexus between Mansoor Ijaz, PML-N


The offer of security by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to the solitary witness in the memo case, Mansoor Ijaz, is a double-edged sword at the best. On the one hand, the younger Sharif is trying to keep the memo issue alive at a time when it appears to be fizzling out, and on the other, he is strengthening the impression that Mansoor Ijaz is somehow connected to the PML-N leadership.

The younger Sharif’s offer of security is only symbolic because the inquiry commission on the memo issue has so far vested the federal government with responsibility for protecting Ijaz during his visit to Pakistan to testify before the commission. Moreover, the Punjab government would not have jurisdiction over the federally controlled airport upon arrival in Lahore. Even if the Supreme Court allows the Punjab Police to provide security inside the airport as a one-off arrangement, Ijaz and his family and business partners would have to examine the Punjab Police’s poor record in providing security.

It was a Punjab Police guard with fanatical ideological leanings who turned his gun on former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer only last year. There have been several instances where complaints have been voiced of the Punjab Police having sympathisers of extremist groups such as the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba, the anti-Ahmadi Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, and Jaish-e-Muhammad. The Punjab Police also failed to prevent attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

Ijaz’s writings, critical of jihadi groups and extremist ideology, are definitely on the radar screen of various violent groups. He was named and criticised in several rallies and demonstrations of religious groups recently, including at the Difa-e-Pakistan rally in Rawalpindi organised by pro-jihad groups.

Apart from security considerations, Ijaz might also not want to accept Shahbaz Sharif’s offer for political reasons. Already there are many factors that seem to indicate a nexus between the Sharifs and Mansoor Ijaz. It may not be in his interest to appear too closely tied to one political faction in the country even if there have been close political ties in the past or behind the scenes.

When the memo story first broke out, PML-N leader Sartaj Aziz defended Ijaz for playing a positive role during the last PML-N government. Then, it was revealed by the prime minister in a session of parliament that Senator Tariq Azeem, a Musharraf-era minister who is now close to the PML-N, had maintained telephone contact with Ijaz. Senator Azeem acknowledged that he knew Ijaz and that the two had spoken as Ijaz sought his help in hiring a lawyer in Pakistan.

The petitions on the memo issue before the Supreme Court were filed by PML-N supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif and several other party leaders. The Punjab government headed by Mian Shahbaz Sharif was not a party to the case in the Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court obliged the petitioners by creating a judicial commission to hold inquiry into the memo matter, none of them brought any evidence before the commission and did not even record statements before it. Once again, the only evidence the PML-N leaders relied upon was that offered by Ijaz, making him the sole witness in the case.

Ironically, research into Ijaz’s past articles reveals that he has generally been more positively disposed towards Nawaz Sharif and his party than towards the PPP. In an article published on October 5, 1999 in the Christian Science Monitor titled ‘Toward a more constructive US role in South Asia’, he described Nawaz Sharif as the man holding the key to stability in the region.

“Ultimately, however, the key to untangling South Asia’s morass is in Sharif’s hands,” Ijaz wrote in his article, adding, “The only South Asian leader ever to have such a solid parliamentary majority at home, he should leverage it to face down restive Islamists by offering the world Pakistan’s unilateral signature on the CTBT.” In the same 1999 article, Mansoor Ijaz also complained of creeping Islamisation of the Pakistan Army. He wrote, “Pakistan’s Army officer corps, once among the most professional and secular in the world, is now suffering from the creep of impoverished, less-educated Islamists into its senior ranks.”

Although Mansoor Ijaz wrote of Nawaz Sharif’s strength on October 5, only a week later the PML-N leader’s government was toppled in the coup d’etat led by General (r) Musharraf on October 12, raising serious questions about Ijaz’s knowledge and understanding of Pakistan’s politics. Contrary to Ijaz’s assertion, the Pakistan Army that took power under General (r) Pervez Musharraf fought rather than siding with religious extremists.

Two more hospitals in Peshawar on cards

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is considering establishing two more hospitals in Peshawar to reducing massive patient influx into Lady Reading Hospital, said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health minister Zahir Shah on Saturday.

Of them, one will be established on Ring Road and second on Kohat Road, the health minister told members of the Chemists and Druggists Association of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and chief executives of Peshawar-based pharmaceutical companies at Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The minister said around 8,000 patients visited Lady Reading Hospital’s outdoor patient department daily and therefore, the
proposal of the establishment of two more hospitals in the provincial capital for easing patient burden was under consideration.

He said hospitals would also be established at divisional headquarters level to reduce patient influx into Peshawar’s hospitals.

Mr Zahir said the government had resolved the issue of shortage of trained medical staff in provincial health facilities by employing 530 doctors on ad hoc basis and induction of 300 medical specialists.

He said an official committee would be set up for resolving the chemists and druggists association’s grievances about establishment of pharmacies/drugstores in the government-owned hospitals in the province. He said the issue would be resolved through dialogue.

The minister also said the companies producing substandard medicines in the province would be dealt with strictly to prevent a Lahore-like situation in which spurious drugs killed more than 100 heart patients. He said pharmaceutical units producing substandard drugs should be identified for action.

“The key to all problems is in an end to corruption,” he said, seeking the businessmen’s cooperation to the government to block Lahore-like tragedies.

Earlier, SCCI president Afan Aziz drew the minister’s attention towards Lahore deaths and demanded a countrywide crackdown on units manufacturing drugs of poor quality.

“Action against such companies is indispensable,” he said, adding that a comprehensive strategy should be put in place to transfer the drug regulatory role to the provinces and that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should be given representation in the drug
quality control board.

PPP offers funeral prayers for victims of drug fiasco

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) members offered special funeral prayers on Sunday for the 108 victims of contaminated drugs provided by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), while also demanding resignation from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over criminal negligence in the matter.

The Punjab and Lahore chapters of the party offered joint funeral prayers in front of the Lahore Press Club, however, none of the prominent office-bearers, including the party presidents Chaudhry Imtiaz Safdar Warraich and Samina Khalid Ghurki were present on the occasion.

The PPP has disseminated the city into four districts and 25 zones, appointing presidents for all these areas so as to strengthen the party at grass root level. However, presidents of only two districts and four zones along with hardly 50 workers participated in the prayers.

Allama Muhammad Babar Kazmi led the funeral prayers offered for the victims of the drug fiasco in the province.

Later, the party workers chanted slogans against the provincial rulers and demanded the CM’s resignation, condemning him for holding the portfolio of health minister along with 15 other ministries.

PPP Lahore General Secretary Akbar Khan along with other party leaders and office bearers, including Mian Ayub, Usman Saleem Malik, Dr Hasnat Shah, Altaf Qureshi, Shahida Jabeen, Azizur Rehman Chann, Khurram Khosa, Afnan Butt, Ayub Naqvi and Mani Pehalwan participated in the funerals and the protest that was held later.

Talking to Daily Times, the party workers strongly criticised the absence of the party’s heads and expressed concerns about the party’s declining popularity among the masses.

They said that party leaders, especially the zonal presidents, did not seem interested in working for the party or attending its events, rather concentrated on getting personal interests and incentives.

According to party sources, PPP Punjab President Imtiaz Safdar Warraich and General Secretary Samiullah Khan, both were present in the city but did not bother to participate in the prayers.

Separately, Warraich, in a statement, said that the Punjab CM was not paying attention towards the problems of the masses and spent most of his time abroad.

He said that the Punjab government should inform the nation about those responsible for the deaths from spurious drugs, adding that Shahbaz Sharif should also tell the people as to why he was not appointing anyone on the post of health minister in the province.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Three more die of PIC drugs, toll reaches 112

80-year old Muhammad Sharif and two women Saleem Bibi and Farhat Kausar have lost their live in Services Hospital today after using spurious medicines of PIC. Death toll of PIC free drugs has reached 112 now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lahore grieves over heart pill deaths

BBC.COMBy:Orla Guerin

A chorus of grief rose from the narrow backstreets of Lahore, where members of the Hussain family were saying a last goodbye to a much-loved father and grandfather.

Head-scarved women wept and wailed around the body of Ashiq Hussain, which was wrapped in a white sheet and covered with rose petals.

He was the latest victim of the free heart drugs that have cost more than 100 - and doctors are warning the death toll could continue to rise.

In one of the last photos ever taken of Ashiq, the white-haired pensioner was hugging his grandson, and smiling broadly. Relatives say they seldom saw him any other way.

"He was smiling till the day he died," said Nazia Hussain, his granddaughter. "He was always happy and jolly. He never complained once that he was in pain, even in his final days in the hospital."Nazia travelled to Lahore from her home in Birmingham to bury her grandfather, and to seek justice for him - though she doesn't expect to get it.

She fears that the three pharmaceutical company owners who have been arrested will be freed quietly in the future. "They'll get released, and you will never hear of them again," she said. "If you are rich you can do anything here."

The deadly drugs were distributed by the Punjab Institute for Cardiology in Lahore. This well-regarded regional centre is Pakistan's largest heart hospital, and has been a place of healing for many.

But as soon as we arrived in the grounds we were surrounded by sick patients, and bereaved relatives - people like Mukhtar Ahmad, a tall bearded man, clutching a death certificate. He told us he had been robbed of his father and great-uncle.Bleeding

A weary-looking patient called Abdul Rauf was still holding blister packs of the suspect tablets. "No-one contacted me about the drugs," he said. "I only stopped taking them on Tuesday, when I saw ads on TV."About 46,000 needy patients like him received the drugs in December. Within days some were bleeding profusely. Within weeks there were deaths.

Initially doctors suspected dengue fever, not faulty drugs. Patients weren't warned until 11 January.

The head of the hospital admits an earlier response could have saved more lives, but insists staff acted as quickly as possible.

"We did not see this complication before," said Professor Muhammad Azhar, a slight, wiry man wearing green surgical scrubs, and a stethoscope.

"It took us 10 to 15 days to connect it to our medicine," he said.

"The minute we knew, we took action. God forbid it ever happens again we will be much quicker next time."

State-run hospitals like his are compelled to buy the cheapest drugs available. But Professor Azhar stressed that the suspect drugs came from regular suppliers, used for years - without incident.'Hurt by medicines'

"This is one of the most terrible parts of my life," he said, his soft voice becoming softer still."We were trying to help the patients," he said. "Now some have been hurt by our medicines."

Across town in Jinnah hospital, we met some of the casualties. Doctors can only treat their symptoms, as they still don't know exactly what caused their illness.

Shahid Nasim, a gents' tailor, was well enough to sit up in his hospital bed, but not well enough to leave it. He had a prescription for those who produced the contaminated pills.

"They should hang them publicly in the squares," he said forcefully, "like they do in Saudi Arabia. The people who died left children behind. What will happen to them?"Many of the dead were the sole breadwinners for low-income families, according to Professor Javed Akram, CEO of Jinnah Hospital, who is leading a provincial government inquiry into the deaths.Regulatory failure'

He says the policy of buying the cheapest drugs has to stop - a view echoed by the Pakistan Medical Association.

"We shouldn't be going for the lowest price," he said, "we should be going for the safest product. The drugs were purchased at unrealistically low prices. No-one could supply quality medicine at that price."Five Pakistani drug firms are under investigation - none of them have commented on the allegations.

The BBC has learned that one of the firms no longer had a licence to produce drugs. But that's no surprise, says Professor Akram, because there is nowhere to renew a licence at present.

"The regulatory mechanism for drugs was a federal one," he said. "This responsibility was supposed to shift to the provinces, but they haven't established drug regulatory authorities as yet."

Samples of the drugs under suspicion are being analysed at several laboratories in Europe. They may have been contaminated - deliberately or accidentally - with a metallic ingredient, according to Professor Akram.

He says the drug companies aren't the only ones to blame. He points the finger at successive governments which have, he claims, starved Pakistan's ailing health service of funding.

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) highlights another danger here - corruption. It estimates that there may be as many as 600 unregistered drug manufacturers in Punjab province - thanks to payoffs.

"If you have got connections with politicians and support from the administration you can do it," said Dr Izhar Ahmad of the PMA. "A lot of money and kickbacks are involved in this business."For victims like Ashiq Hussain, there may be no justice.
As his body was carried shoulder high through the streets, on a traditional woven bed, there were indications that the inquiry into the deaths may not get far.

Federal and provincial authorities are working in isolation, warned Professor Akram. "There's no joint investigation," he said.

"The authorities are not co-operating with each other. They are contradicting each other."

And there may be risks for patients outside Pakistan.

Two of the pharmaceutical firms under investigation export drugs to other Asian nations, and to Africa.

Shahbaz Sharif responsible for deaths by spurious drugs

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab president Imtiaz Safdar Warraich on Saturday said hundreds of people have died due to spurious medicines in Punjab but the chief minister was worried about security of a US national.

Talking to a private news channel, he said that responsibility of the deaths due to spurious drugs lies with the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif because he also holds the charge of health ministry.

He said that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) came to action as Punjab government did not take any action on the issue.

He said that the chief minister should get actress Sapna and Shahbaz Taseer recovered instead of taking the responsibility of a US national Mansoor Ijaz.

Warraich said that the chief minister was responsible for the security of people of Punjab and not of Mansoor Ijaz.

He blamed the chief minister for converting non-issues into issues.

He said that President Asif Ali Zardari was elected with two-thirds majority but Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was not used to accept a democratic president in the country and it likes military dictators like Gen. Ziaul Haq and Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Death toll from PIC drug reaction reaches 110

More than hundred cardiac patients have died after contaminated drugs intake provided by Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and dozens more are in a critical condition in the hospitals. According to sources, the reports of the samples sent to CDL and NIH laboratories have been received by the government but the provincial authorities didn't confirm about it. Today, three more patients including two women passed away at Services Hospital in Lahore.

PESHAWAR: Anti-polio campaign from Jan 31


A three-day Polio eradication campaign in 36 high risk union councils of Peshawar will start from January 31, while such drive in medium risk union councils will be initiated from February 7.

This was stated by Field Coordinator, National Institute of Research & Development (NRDF), district, Peshawar, Mian Shahab while addressing a press conference here on Friday.

He was flanked by Maulana Jehanzeb Zahid, a local JUI-F activist and member of NRDF and Qari Rafiq Shah.

Kidnappings of foreigners throw spotlight on dangers in Pakistan, hampering aid efforts

The Washington Post

Seven foreigners have been kidnapped in Pakistan in the last six months, four in January alone, highlighting the security threat in the country and hampering aid efforts.

Islamist militants, separatist rebels or regular criminals are suspected in the abductions, with motives ranging from ransom, publicity or concessions from the U.S. or Pakistani governments such as prisoner releases or a halt to army operations.Development workers who have been helping victims of flooding or those affected by military campaigns against militants in the northwest close to Afghanistan have been the primary targets, although two Swiss tourists also have been seized.

Large ransoms have reportedly been paid in the past to secure the freedom of foreign and Pakistani hostages, while the kidnappers have killed others.

On Jan. 5, armed men kidnapped a British man working for the Red Cross in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan, which is home to separatist insurgents and Islamic militants. City police say they believe he is no longer in the city, but otherwise have no information about who is holding him.

Last year, a pair of Swiss tourists were seized in the same province. The man and woman appeared in a video released by their captors, the Pakistani Taliban, who they said had threatened to kill them.

Gunmen bundled two European aid workers — one Italian and one German — into a car in the Pakistani city of Multan in central Punjab province last week. A Kenyan, also working for an international group, disappeared Monday as he drove from the city of Sukkur, in Sindh province.

All three men were working on relief projects following floods in 2010 and 2011 that destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes in Sindh and Punjab provinces, triggering a major international aid effort. While many projects have wound up, others are continuing, employing Pakistanis and foreigners.

In one of the highest-profile cases, a 70-year-old American humanitarian aid worker was kidnapped from his house in the Punjabi city of Lahore in August.

Al-Qaida claimed to be holding the man, Warren Weinstein, and said in a video he would be released if the United States stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Unusually, the video did not contain footage, photos or any other evidence that Weinstein was alive or even in al-Qaida’s custody.

Pakistan has been plagued by militant violence since 2007, and international agencies were already operating under severe security restrictions.

Pakistani employees, who make up the vast majority of international agencies staff, have also been frequently targeted for abduction.

“We are concerned for the people who have been kidnapped and the ability of NGOs to carry out the work,” said Aine Fay, chairman of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents 42 international aid groups in the country. “There are people in need out there. It’s people on the ground that suffer.”

As well as threats from militants, humanitarian workers have complained about harassment from Pakistani intelligence agencies in the wake of the unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. The CIA ran a vaccination campaign in the town where bin Laden was living ahead of the raid to try and get information about him.

The army was infuriated by the raid and whipped up already strong anti-Western sentiment in the country. It continues to subject foreigners in the country to intense scrutiny, the implication being that they maybe spies.

One development worker, who declined to be identified because he didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention his employer in the media, said his colleagues had been told to keep a much lower profile but faced no extra restrictions.

“Everyone is a keeping close eye on it. The big question is whether this is banditry or something more sinister,” he said, referring to concerns that foreigners maybe targeted by criminal gangs, then “sold on” to militants.

Peshawar Airport renamed after Bacha Khan

Peshawar International airport renamed after founder Khudai Khidmatgar Movement Bach Khan.A ceremony was held in executive lounge regarding changing the name of Peshawar International Airport in which senior leadership of ANP was present.
After unanimous resolution passed by KP Assembly, the prime minister gave approval of renaming Peshawar Airport after name of Bacha Khan.

France to withdraw from Afghanistan early, Sarkozy announces

President Nicolas Sarkozy

said Friday that France would pull its forces out of Afghanistan a year earlier than planned, a week after the killing of four French servicemen by a renegade Afghan soldier.

After meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Paris, Sarkozy said France had decided to transfer security in the eastern Kapisa province, where most of the 3,600-strong French contingent is based and the scene of the shooting, to Afghan forces from March of this year.

“The pursuit of the transition and this gradual transfer of combat responsibilities will allow us to plan for a return of all our combat forces by the end of 2013,” Sarkozy said, adding that 1,000 troops would return in 2012.

“President Karzai has assured us that Kapisa province where the French contingent is based will pass under Afghan responsibility from March,” he said.

This decision was made “in agreement with president Karzai and in agreement with our allies, in an organized and reasonable way,” Sarkozy added.

“A few hundred” French troops would stay on after 2013 to train Afghan troops, Sarkozy said.

End to frontline military operations

While the French decision was not an outright retreat, the move effectively brings an end to Paris’ frontline military operations, a decision that could prove a boost to Sarkozy ahead of a presidential election.

Sarkozy said he would encourage NATO to consider transferring all its combat operations to Afghan forces in 2013, instead of the scheduled deadline of end-2014.

French training operations in Afghanistan, suspended after the shooting, would resume on Saturday, the French president added.

Sarkozy said he would speak to U.S President Barack Obama on Saturday..

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the French announcement was part of the “managed effort” to withdraw from Afghanistan.

“This was not precipitous ... this was worked through carefully with NATO, with the Afghans and in consultation with all of us,” she told reporters.

“There were some concerns expressed in NATO countries... as well as in Afghanistan that whatever was done needed to be done in a consultative fashion, needed to be done in a managed fashion,” Nuland said.

“And what we see now is just that, a consulted and managed effort.”

A NATO spokeswoman said only: “We take note of the French statement.”

Karzai is on a five-day European trip to sign long-term strategic partnership agreements aimed at bolstering support for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.

He was next to travel to London to meet Prime Minister David Cameron.
In time for elections

Most French -- 84 percent of them -- want their troops back home by the end of 2012, according to an opinion poll published this week.

Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, tipped to beat Sarkozy in elections in three months, pledged Thursday to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan this year if he becomes president.

After the deaths of the four soldiers, Sarkozy sent Defense Minister Gerard Longuet to Kabul to evaluate ways to improve the security of French troops training the Afghan army.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has ruled out a “hasty” retreat and most analysts believe it will technically be difficult for Paris to drop out of the NATO-led coalition so quickly.

“Announcing a French withdrawal could set off panic among other European countries in Afghanistan,” said military analyst Jean-Dominique Merchet.

Sarkozy warned after the attacks that he may accelerate France’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, prompting NATO’s chief to call on contributing nations to remain committed to the security transition.

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he understood French concerns, but noted that NATO nations had agreed on a 2014 date to withdraw combat forces and transfer security to Afghans.

Longuet said he was told the killer was a Taliban infiltrator in the Afghan army, but Afghan security sources said he opened fire because of a video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents.

The United States, Britain, Germany and Italy are the main contributors to the NATO-led force of some 130,000 troops fighting a 10-year insurgency by hardline Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks.

More than 2,500 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001. The latest killings take the French toll to 82.

Bahrain fired 3,000 employees in 2011

The Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain has dismissed more than 3,000 employees on charges of participating in anti-regime demonstrations over the past year.

The regime has fired Shia and even Sunni employees over months of peaceful protests in the country.

The government has, instead, hired its own military forces and foreign nationals in state offices, with the purpose of reducing the number of Shia employees to less than 50 percent of the total work force.

Al Khalifa regime has recently granted Bahraini nationality to a number of Iraqi Ba'athists and of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein loyalists who had fled their country.

The Bahraini government arrests civilians who participate in peaceful demonstrations and tortures them in different ways every day. Even children have been killed by security forces during protests.

However, the US and Britain continue supporting the Bahraini regime.

The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is stationed in the Bahraini capital and has provided support for the Al Khalifa regime during months of crackdown on peaceful protesters in the Persian Gulf state.

Bahrain has been hit by a wave of anti-regime protests since mid-February 2011.

Dozens of demonstrators have been killed and hundreds wounded in the popular uprising in the Persian Gulf nation.

Bahrain criticised over 'inappropriate' use of tear gas


Amnesty International has called for an investigation into what it says is the misuse of tear gas by Bahraini security forces.

The organisation says that more than a dozen deaths may have resulted from the heavy use of tear gas in residential areas.

Police are struggling to contain a growing wave of protests in the gulf island kingdom.

The most recent death attributed by activists to tear gas was on Wednesday.

Saeed Ali Hasan al-Sakri, 65-years-old, is said by his family to have collapsed after a heavy volley of tear gas was unleashed near their home in a Shia village on Tuesday.

Shia in Bahrain have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni ruling family. Pro-democracy protesters briefly occupied a prominent traffic roundabout in February of last year.

Since being driven out of Pearl Roundabout in mid-March, mainly Shia demonstrators have continued to agitate against the government.

'Police abuses'

An independent panel of human rights experts was appointed by King Hamad after growing international condemnation of human rights abuses.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

The security forces must be instructed on how to use tear gas in line with international policing standards”

End Quote Amnesty International

The report published in November confirmed excessive use of force and systematic torture of prisoners in detention by security forces.

But according to both activists in the country and international human rights organisations little has been done to curb the police.

Eye witnesses have told the BBC of stun grenades and tear gas canisters being fired into houses in violation of international standards that Bahrain has signed up to. Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the deaths, adding: "The security forces must be instructed on how to use tear gas in line with international policing standards."

Amnesty International says that in some cases death seems to have resulted from an adverse reaction because of pre-existing health conditions such as asthma.

Rising death toll

This week, four deaths have been attributed by activists to the actions of the security forces.

That brings the death toll since unrest began last year to at least 50, including four security officers.

In addition to Mr Sakri, activists say that 24 year old Abbas Jaffar al-Shaikh died Wednesday of complications after being hit in the back with birdshot nearly two months ago.

A spokesperson for the government said he was being treated for cancer when he died.

The spokesperson said that Mr Sakri had died after a fall in his bathroom, adding "the Public Prosecutor ordered forensic examination to test blood but no results have been released yet".

Muntadher Saeed Fakhr was said by the Ministry of the Interior to have died in a traffic accident on Wednesday afternoon. Activists say he was deliberately run off the road by police.

The BBC has seen a picture that is said to be of Mr Fakrh handcuffed and bleeding in a police vehicle.Mohamed Ibrahim Yaqoob died in hospital late Wednesday night. The BBC has seen two videos, one that appears to show the 19-year-old being chased and run down by a police vehicle in the village of Sitra.

The second released by the police shows him in custody in a police car, apparently unhurt.

A source told the BBC that Mr Yaqoob was first taken to a police station, and held for two hours before being admitted to hospital. The source says he died of internal bleeding four hours later.

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for the security forces.

On its website it says that Mr Yaqoob died of what it called "natural causes" after being taken to Salmaniya Hospital immediately after informing arresting officers that he suffered from sickle cell anaemia.

But the BBC has seen photographic evidence of cuts and bruises on his body.

The ministry has not yet commented on the call by Amnesty International to investigate deaths said to be related to the use of tear gas by its security forces.

Russia Clashes with Europeans, Arabs Over Syria UN Resolution

European and Arab nations are calling on the U.N. Security Council to back a resolution supporting the Arab League’s plan to end the 10-month-old political crisis in Syria. But, Russia has expressed concerns about the new text.

Following a lengthy closed-door discussion Friday afternoon on a draft resolution proposed by council members Morocco, Britain and France, Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

told reporters that the new text ignores what he called Moscow’s “red lines” where they could not go.

“The red lines included any indications of sanctions, the red lines included any sort of imposition of arms embargo - because we know how in real life arms embargo means you supply arms to illegal groups but you cannot supply weapons to the government - we cannot accept that," he said. "Unfortunately, the draft we saw today did not only ignore our red lines but also added some new elements which we find unacceptable as a matter of principle.”

The Russian envoy said the Arab League plan, which includes the transfer of power from President Bashar al-Assad to a deputy in preparation for multi-party elections, imposes a certain outcome of political dialogue before that dialogue even starts.

“We need to concentrate on establishing political dialogue," he said. "The Arab League may have its ideas about where that political dialogue should go, they are free to express those ideas, but certainly the Security Council cannot be a tool to impose specific solutions on countries, including in this particular situation, Syria.”

He said Moscow does not see the new draft text as one on which they could agree, but said they would be willing to engage in negotiations.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant rejected his colleague's objections, saying the proposed text does not include an arms embargo or sanctions, nor does it call for regime change. He noted that it also includes some language from an earlier Russian proposed draft resolution on the subject. Essentially, Lyall Grant said, the new resolution simply supports the Arab League’s efforts to end the crisis.

“Frankly, the time has come where we should be supporting the Arab League’s efforts," he said. "They took a very strong, binding decision on the Arab League members at the weekend. They have come with a credible plan that involves dialogue, a political transition, and we believe that we should support it.”

Lyall Grant said negotiations on the text would begin Monday and he hoped to have a vote on the measure next week, possibly as early as Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon the Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby and the Prime Minister of Qatar will brief the 15-member Security Council on the League’s month-long monitoring mission in Syria, which was plagued by difficulties.

Syria has rejected the Arab League’s plan of January 22nd, but has said the League’s observer mission may remain in the country for another month.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed during the 10-month-long crackdown on anti-government dissenters. On Friday, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said nearly 400 children have been killed during the crisis.

CM Punjab must resign

By Dr Saif

Around 100 tragic deaths of heart patients due to the medicines supplied at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) have occurred. This is yet another blunder by Chief Minister (CM) Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. For three weeks, he was waiting for more deaths, which is exactly what he did while responding to the dengue epidemic. In March 2011, the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad and the federal government had requested the Punjab government to take necessary steps against an impending dengue outbreak again. NIH is Pakistan's leading scientific research institute, as it plays an important role in diseases, the biological effects of environmental contamination and provision of vaccines. It also has an early warning of disease system. NIH had warned the Punjab government about possible consequences but they paid no heed and as the dengue outbreak took place, Mr Sharif's response was poor. Late fumigation and the lack of a public awareness campaign led to the dengue epidemic in Punjab. Moreover, the most effective way to control dengue virus transmission is a biological method. Dengue fever took around 1,000 lives.

Shahbaz Sharif must resign over the current death casualties due to substandard lifesaving drugs because PIC is the largest cardiac centre in Pakistan. It is the first ISO-certified hospital in the government sector. During his four years' administration, PIC has been put into dubious deals with unauthorised local pharmaceutical companies. According to the Drug Act 1976, the quality control system at the federal and provincial level is supported by the professionally competent drug inspectorates and laboratory services. This is absolutely criminal negligence on the part of the Punjab government — it is another faux pas within 10 months. It is quite incredible that instead of tendering his resignation, Shahbaz Sharif is still trying to fool the nation that substandard lifesaving drugs are of imported brand. In my opinion, such an incompetent chief minister must be removed by a no-confidence motion in the Punjab Assembly without any delay so that the institutions in Punjab are made safe once again and such tragic incidents are averted in the future.

Lahore: Death toll from PIC drug reaction reaches 109

Three more died on Saturday from reaction of spurious drugs, taking the death toll to 109.More than hundred cardiac patients have died after contaminated drugs intake provided by Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and dozens more are in a critical condition in the hospitals.
Today, three more patients including two women passed away at Services Hospital in Lahore.
According to report, around 400 patients have been admitted in different hospitals across the city after reaction from faulty medicines.

In another development,A petition has been filed in the LHC against CM Shahbaz for retaining 18 ministries with him.A petition filed by Advocate Naushab Khan maintained that Punjab Chief Minister is an administrative authority but his act of holding other ministries is unconstitutional.The petitioner also requested the Lahore High Court to take suo motu notice of criminal negligence resulting in deaths of more than hundred cardiac patients due to faulty PIC drug intake.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif should be summoned in the court for written clarification into PIC deaths, the petitioner wrote.

FATA: A welcome change

EDITORIAL: Frontier Post

In a welcome move, party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan has appreciably signalled renunciation of his ANP’s long-held stance of merging the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and acceptance of the tribal people’s inalienable right to decide if to become this province’s part or a separate province of their own. And there is no ambiguity whatsoever about their will. Never ever have the tribal people asked for any such merger. It is only the ANP that has been pressing for it, and that too quite untenably, rather irrationally. Indeed, the very basis of ethnicity and linguistic affinity that the party had been flaunting to advance its case on FATA has now landed it into hot water. This very criterion now the Hazara region’s residents are touting up to be partitioned off from KP and turned into a separate province.The tribal people are, verily, a very wronged people to the point of utter degradation and deprivation. Volitionally and happily, they had thrown their lot with Pakistan, owing full allegiance to the Pakistani State and expecting to be treated as equally as their compatriots in rest of the country. But the snooty officialdom of the Pakistani State had other ideas in its brain. For reasons best known to it, it quarantined them as some kind of a wild people, not amenable to civilised ways and unfit to modernity and progress. For decades, they were kept denied of development, thus depriving them of the means to grow economically and consequently advance socially and politically. The brief break in this long spell of official neglect on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s watch was not much of it as he too latterly lost much of his steam in introducing the tribal people to economic development. As such, for them it has been more or less a colonial dispensation for the most part, with just a change in the complexion of rulers’ faces from the white of the British to the brown of the natives. Even now, there is not much of a change. The fiddling with the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), of which the incumbent hierarchy is making so much, is really no big deal. Of course, the draconian law has been their great tormentor. And sour they are over it. But it is not just tinkering with this law that had been their dying aspiration. It could be of an uninformed officialdom and an ignorant civil society. Their cherished dream goes far beyond. What they actually have been aspiring for is to be the masters of a system where they make their laws in accordance with their particular needs, demands and hopes, formulate programmes, schemes and plans for their economic advancement and social emancipation, and execute their laws and development agendas as do their rest of the compatriots.Nor were they ever hankering for any political parties act’s extension to their region. That indeed was the political parties’ demand. Not theirs. Of course, this restriction had played to the rightist parties’ advantage and to the others’ disadvantage. Despite the restriction, the rightists for their religious garb had a free access to the region’s pulpit to peddle their religiosity, which some blame, perhaps not wrongly, no lesser for the deeply-ingrained conservatism in the area. But had they been sucked into the national mainstream, the tribal people would have forked out into a multiplicity of political hues and stripes like their other compatriots, and in all probability had formed up their own political parties and groups. But since they were denied entry into the mainstream, they have remained captive to their own firebrand rabble-rousers and guests using their pulpit. Their own grandees who make to the parliament could by no stretch be construed political substitutes for them. These eminences all know buy out their memberships and then set out to recoup their investments and make hefty returns on their capital. But the time has certainly come when instead of playing hanky-panky with them, their citizenship of this country as equal, no lesser, compatriots should be recognised in substance and respected in content. A province they should become forthwith at any rate. Once they are a province, an inspiring sense of ownership and a creative sense of responsibility will add up to impel them to chart out their lives anew to move forward politically and give their region a new shape economically and socially, no lesser by exploiting its tremendous natural wealth, particularly its believably immense mineral, oil and gas riches. The army may presently be engaged appreciably in developing the region. But it is no there to stay for ever. Once it is done with its pacification campaign, it will be gone back to its barracks. It is the tribal people who are to stay there for ever, generations after generations. And it is they alone who can give permanence to the region’s rebuilding and reshaping. Let them become a province, with their own elected assembly, elected government, own governor and bureaucracy, and then do the miracle. Yet, appallingly, when there is so much of contentious noise about new provinces, there is not even whimper for a legitimate FATA province. No parliamentary resolution has been tabled for its creation. Will the mindset of our opportunist politicos and snooty officialdom ever change?

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

By:Stephanie Pappas
There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Controversy ahead

The findings combine three hot-button topics.

"They've pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics," said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. "When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it's bound to upset somebody."

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

"The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this," Nosek said, referring to the new study. "It's not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists."

Brains and bias

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured. [Life's Extremes: Democrat vs. Republican]

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as "Family life suffers if mum is working full-time," and "Schools should teach children to obey authority." Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as "I wouldn't mind working with people from other races." (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson's work can't speak to this "underground" racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

"This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A study of averages

Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.

Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.

"We can say definitively men are taller than women on average," he said. "But you can't say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There's plenty of overlap."

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Simple viewpoints

Hodson and Busseri's explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn't conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you'd have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren't possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like "every kid is a genius in his or her own way," might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

"My speculation is that it's not as simple as their model presents it," Nosek said. "I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where 'People I don't know are threats' and 'The world is a dangerous place'. ... Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful."

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group's point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

"There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners," Hodson said. "Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups," rather than thoughts.