Tuesday, July 31, 2012
http://news.yahoo.comA study from Ancestry.com has determined that President Obama
Sadaf Mughal launches her music video 'Fanaa' in Lahore.
The Express TribuneThough millions of rupees have been pumped into the polio vaccination campaign, a large portion of the population in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal regions remains averse to the vital drops. Donors have been funding the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) to convince unwilling parents and have also sought help from clerics and religious leaders to vaccinate maximum number of under-fives against the crippling virus. According to the NRDF records, a sum of Rs52,80,000 is spent every month on vaccination across the province. If a family refuses to inoculate its children, a team is rushed to the area to educate the family on the importance of the drops. UNICEF has sanctioned Rs110 million for 14 months to be distributed amongst Ulema, so that they remove negative perception of the vaccine, Dr Janbaz Afridi, the deputy director of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation in K-P, told The Express Tribune. However, the number of refusal cases is not decreasing, he added. Parents remain unmoved and some sections of the population have started using polio vaccination as a bargaining tool to get their problems solved. A jirga, comprising elders of Mamand Khel and Sari Khel sub-clans in Frontier Region Bannu warned that they will boycott the vaccination drive and ban the entry of police officials into the area if the government did not ensure uninterrupted power supply in the district. Fresh concerns Meanwhile, medics warned of a measles outbreak in different parts of South Waziristan if children were not immunised on time. At present measles vaccine is not available at the Vaccine Centre at the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Wana, Dr Azmat Hayat Khan, the agency surgeon, told journalists. He warned that further delay would deteriorate the situation. “I have informed senior officials of the health department about the situation,” he added.
DAILY TIMESThe United States on Monday took aim at Pakistan for using blasphemy law to “restrict religious liberty”. In its first report on religious freedoms since the start of the Arab spring uprisings, the US State Department warned, "In times of transition, the situation of religious minorities in these societies comes to the forefront." The report also said some countries, such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, were using blasphemy laws to “constrain the rights of religious minorities and limit freedom of expression”. "Some members of society who have long been oppressed seek greater freedom and respect for their rights while others fear change. Those differing aspirations can exacerbate existing tensions," it warned. The report which details the situation in 2011 noted that in Egypt, although the Arab country's interim military leaders had made gestures towards greater inclusiveness, sectarian tensions and violence had increased. It denounced "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks". Ambassador at large for religious freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, acknowledged that places such as Egypt were "still in transition" as new governments are installed following uprisings in 2011 against autocratic leaders. "We're looking, as they form new constitutions, it's a wonderful opportunity to include... religious freedom," she told journalists presenting the report. Governments should also hold accountable those carrying out violent attacks against religious minorities, she added. The State Department also signalled "a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government's respect for and protection of religious freedom in China" and noted that religious freedom does not exist in any form in North Korea. "In Burma, long-simmering tensions recently erupted in widespread violence against the marginalised Rohingya community," Johnson Cook added. Myanmar or Burma, China and North Korea are among eight countries designated by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as countries of particular concern for their failure to recognise religious rights. They are accompanied by Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The report also warned that European nations undergoing major demographic shifts have seen "growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered 'the other'". It complains of a "rising number of European countries, including Belgium and France, whose laws restricting dress adversely affected Muslims and others". Cook accused some governments of limiting "the right to wear or not to wear religious attire". "This decision should be a personal choice," she insisted to the journalists. Hillary, who was to comment on the report later Monday, met Egypt's new President, Mohamed Morsi, earlier this month to urge him to respect the rights of all Egyptians. She also held two hours of private talks with Christian leaders to hear their concerns about life under the new Egyptian leadership, much of which is drawn, like Morsi, from the Muslim brotherhood. The report also documents "a global increase in anti-Semitism, manifested in Holocaust denial, glorification and relativism". "The law went into effect on January 1, 2012, reducing the number of recognised religious groups from over 300 to fewer than 32," it noted. Belgium and France have outraged many Muslims with laws against full veils, such as the hijab worn by many women in Saudi Arabia or the Afghan burqa, which went into force last year and in some places are punishable by fines. US President Barack Obama fiercely criticised European moves to ban the veil in a major speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009.
Monday, July 30, 2012
YAHOO NEWSThe Democratic Party is aiming to include support for gay marriage in its party platform this year for the first time in its history, a Democratic source said on Monday. The platform drafting committee unanimously approved language on Sunday endorsing same-sex marriage among the policy positions that will be presented to the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where President Barack Obama will formally accept the party's nomination in early September to run for re-election. The approval was first reported in The Washington Blade, which said the language also rejected the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996 that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman and denies federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples. The Obama administration said last year it would no longer support DOMA. Obama's Republican opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, is a gay-marriage opponent who supports the statute and promises to defend "traditional marriage" if he is elected on November 6. In May, Obama became the first U.S. president to say he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. The largest U.S. civil rights group, the NAACP, has also endorsed gay marriage, saying the fight for gay rights is a civil rights issue. Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, but 30 have banned it. The 15-member Democratic Party platform drafting committee met in Minneapolis during the weekend. A draft will be considered in Detroit on August 10, and it will then go to convention delegates for final approval. Religious conservatives, an important component of the Republican Party base, staunchly oppose gay marriage, but polls show support for the issue rising, especially among younger Americans.
http://statesman.com.pk"Globally more than 350000 women die every year from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Pakistan ranks third in the world with estimated number of maternal deaths after India and Nigeria. The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) mostly caused by Post-Partum hemorrhage (PPH) in Pakistan is 276 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The Post-Partum Hemorrhage means severe bleeding after birth that takes the precious life of many women around the world." It was the crux of a media briefing by health experts. According to Pakistan Demographic Household Survey (PDHS) 380 women in Fata while 275 mothers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa settled districts have lost their lives during the year 2007-08. Mercy Corps, an international organisation working on the project 'Saving mothers in communities' has launched its campaign Maternal and Neonatal Health Community Advocacy Dialogue Forum in Peshawar district. Programme Manager for Mercy Corps Shouaib while briefing the media persons held at a hotel here said that every hour three women die due to maternal causes because 80% deliveries take place in homes in rural communities while 70% deliveries are conducted by unskilled birth attendants. He said that the Post-Partum period is one of the most vulnerable for mothers, yet neither health programmes nor mother-families have recognized this. He added that concerned community efforts were needed to overcome the problem and save mothers from quite preventable complications. He said that most of these deaths occur among women who are outside of the skilled care at labour/delivery or in the immediate Post-Partum care maintaining that different interventions needed to reduce Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) by providing skilled birth attendants and Community Midwives (CMWs) and comprehensive family planning. The programme manager also stressed the need for the careful use of Misoprostol, a drug that has been associated with significant decrease in the rate of acute PPH in home deliveries. The World Health Organization WHO recommends that Misoprostol can be used by trained birth attendants, the expert explained. He said that the provincial DoHs did not have a policy on the use of the Misoprostol for the prevention of PPH; also there is lack of awareness of at the district and community level and the participation of poor and marginalized populations, especially women in decision making policy formulation was not being practised at the moment. The programme manager said that Mercy Corps Pakistan and its implementing partners would work together to reduce MMR caused by PPH by addressing policies and practices in the provinces of Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu &Kasmir , Fata. "The project is being implemented in the districts of Quetta, Gwadar, Kech in Balochistan, Bagh and Bhimber in AJK Lower Dir and Peshawar in KP and Khyber of Fata," he said. The Khwendo Kor will be the implementing partner in Fata and KP, the purpose of the community advocacy dialogue forum (CADF) is to engage key stake holders to muster up their support for overcoming the issue. Dr Saeedur Rehman, project coordinator expressed the hope that Khwendo Kor would work together with other stakeholders to carry out the project and meet the target of reducing the number of MMR in KP and Fata to minimum by April 2013. "I hope that the project will achieve the target set by Mercy Corps of bringing it down to a minimum level. Hopefully we shall have to bring it down to 120 within the stipulated time," he conduced. Dr Abdur Rashid Khattak, Executive District Officer Health (EDOH) district Peshawar and Wilayat Shah, Chief Drugs Inspector Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also attended the briefing in addition to other stakeholders.
Here is a list of pro-women legislation enacted by the present PPP Government which is implementing the vision of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed under the leadership of President and Co-Chairman Asif Zardari. 1. The National Commission on the Status of Women, 2012 2. The Women in Distress and Detention Fund (Amendment) Act, 2011 3. The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 4. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011 5. Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2009 6. The National Commission of Human Rights Act, 2012 7. ‘The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 The above list was compiled by Mr. Munawar Ali Rind. We congratulate Pakistani women as well as our elected representatives on this legislations. However, mere legislation to protect women rights is not enough. The government and its various institutions must also ensure effective implementation of these pro-women laws. The above list is in addition to several other government policies which have directly or indirectly helped women, e.g., Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Benazir Women Support Programme (BWSP) (by the Sindh Government), Waseela-e-Haq Scheme, Benazir Basti Scheme, Land Allotment to the Farmers (an area of 56,186 acres land has been distributed among the 6,100 women allottees under PPP government’s programme of distribution of free of cost land to the farmers.) Here is an overview by UN Women (a United National entity for gender equality and empowerment of women) on progress on pro-women legislation in Pakistan. Pro-women laws take hold in Pakistan Women in Pakistan have faced formidable challenges in their efforts to achieve gender equality and address gender-based violence in their country, with particular problems posed by elements among customary norms and practices. Yet throughout the past few years, breakthroughs in pro-women legislation have shown that both the efforts of Pakistan’s government, and the advocacy of groups working toward women’s empowerment in the country, are taking effect. On International Women’s Day, 8 March, the President of Pakistan signed the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2012 into law, which has afforded the Commission new financial and administrative autonomy, and therefore better scope to investigate women’s rights violations. A year earlier the Prevention of Anti Women Practices Bill became part of national law, explicitly recognizing practices from acid violence and forced marriage to so-called ‘honour killings’ as criminal acts, and affording protection and legal action for victims. Women are also now better protected from sexual harassment in the workplace and from domestic violence, since Acts on these issues were passed in 2010 and 2011 respectively. And to be sure that the laws on sexual harrassment are built structurally into the system, a code of conduct is being monitored by a watch committee formed by the National Commission on the Status of Women in 2010, which is made up of representatives from the government, civil society and UN Women. The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Senate on December 2011, and for the first time gives guidance on how the State should punish offenders and support victims of this violent gender-based crime.
http://www.rt.comRadical Islamists with “British accents” are among the coalition forces looking to topple Bashar Assad, says Jeroen Oerlemans, a photographer who was held hostage in Syria for a week. The UK Foreign Office has launched an investigation. Oerlemans, a famous Dutch photo journalist, and John Cantlie, another photographer from the UK, were captured by a group of between 30 and 100 anti-Assad fighters when crossing the Syrian border from Turkey last week. They were then blindfolded. "One of the black jihadists freaked out and shouted: 'These are journalists and now they will see we are preparing an international jihad in this place.'" Oerlemans told NRC Handelsblatt newspaper. He said that none of the fighters was Syrian. "They all claimed they came from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh and Chechnya and they said there was some vague 'emir' at the head of the group." About 40 per cent of the militants spoke English. In fact, several apparently talked with recognizable regional British accents, from Birmingham and London. The two photographers suspected that a ransom would be demanded for their release and tried to escape. Oerlemans was shot twice in the leg during the failed attempt and Cantlie, who has so far not spoken to any media, was wounded in the arm. The pair’s ordeal ended when the Free Syrian Army, the main anti-Assad force, demanded that their nominal allies hand them over. "They took us with them like a bunch of gangsters," Oerlemans said, "Shooting in the air as we rode out of there.” The Free Syrian Army released the men and the two are now resting in Turkey. They expect to travel home in the coming days. If it is confirmed, Oerleman’s story will add to reports that Syria has become a magnet for radical Islamists, who are there either as mercenaries or because of ideology. "As soon as Assad has fallen, these fighters want to introduce Islamic law, Sharia, in Syria," said Oerlemans.
http://www.dw.deAs Syrian crisis deepens, Turkey is confronted with the risk of a PKK-controlled Kurdish state in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood. Ankara’s fear is not a Greater Kurdistan, but a PKK controlled semi-state, analysts say.Ankara's support for a regime change in Syria has started to backfire, threatening Turkey's own national security, with Syrian Kurdish groups forming a de facto state in the north of Syria. Turkish media reported last week that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), with its alleged Syrian branch the Democratic Union Party (PYD), took control of several provinces on Turkey's border. Several reports published photos of Kurdish flags and posters of the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan flying from buildings in northern Syria towns. "We will not allow the formation of a terrorist structuring near our border," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish media on Sunday. "We reserve every right.... No matter if it is al-Qaeda or PKK we would consider it a matter of national security and take every measure," said Davutoglu. Alarm bells ringing The PKK's growing influence in Syria border has alarmed Turkey, prompting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to convene a security summit with senior government and security officials. Following the meeting, he accused the Syrian regime of allowing the PKK a free hand in the north of the country and warned that Ankara would not hesitate to strike. "Recent developments have come as an unpleasant surprise to Turkish officials," Deniz Zeyrek, foreign policy columnist of the liberal left daily newspaper Radikal, told DW. "When Syrian Kurdish groups distanced themselves from the Assad regime, Turkey welcomed this development. But Ankara did not expect these Kurdish groups would soon unite around the PKK-affiliated political groups," he said. Turkey has been fighting against the PKK since 1984, and the conflict has so far claimed some 45,000 lives. The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and by much of the international community, enjoyed the support of Damascus during the 80's and 90's. Since early 2000, the PKK has been effectively using its bases in the mountainous region of northern Iraq. With its growing influence and strength in Syria's Kurdish populated regions, the PKK is now seen working toward an autonomous administration, or even an independent "Western Kurdistan" in Syrian territories.Autonomy in Turkey The recent developments have also sparked stronger demands by Turkish Kurds from Ankara and further increased tension in Turkey's southeast region. Diyarbakir Major Osman Baydemir, an influential Kurdish politician in Turkey, recently called for a new political and administrative status for Kurd. "The only way ahead is the creation of autonomous Kurdistan regions in Turkey, in Syria and in Iran, just as the one in Iraq," Baydemir said. "For sure there will soon be an autonomous Kurdistan in Syria," he stressed, suggesting the abolition of borders among these entities, the creation of a customs union, and a new political partnership with the regional countries, including Turkey. Syria is home to some 2 million Kurds. In Iraq, the Kurdish population is around 5 million and in Iran, 5.5 million. Turkey has the largest Kurdish population, estimated to be around 15 million. For years, Turkey's Kurds were deprived of their basic political and cultural rights. In the course of its EU membership process, particularly in the last decade, Turkey has expanded political and cultural rights for its Kurdish citizens. But Ankara strictly opposes demands for Kurdish autonomy. Turkish public opinion is highly suspicious of Kurdish movements in the region and see them as a threat to Turkey's territorial integrity. Deployment on the border As concerns grow in Turkey about a PKK-controlled Kurdish state in Syria, the Turkish military has stepped up its deployment on the border. Despite Turkey's moves, analysts do not foresee an immediate military cross-border operation which would further complicate the crisis. Ankara's first option is to use all diplomatic and political channels to isolate the PKK and the affiliated PYD group in Syria. According to some Turkish analysts, the growing concern of Turkish officials is not so much the prospect of a Greater Kurdistan, which they see as unlikely, but the PKK's increasing role and strength in Syria. "Turkish officials are saying that they will not remain silent about a Kurdish administration in Syria under the control of the PKK," columnist Zeyrek said. "But they say that Turkey will establish a dialogue with a possible new Kurdish entity in Syria, resembling the regional government in Iraq." For years Turkey has feared the creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and has tried to prevent Kurdish groups there from forming an autonomous regional government. But soon after the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) was established and gained international acknowledgement after it democratically adopted the Iraqi constitution, the Turkish government changed its policy. Today, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Massud Barzani, is an important political ally for Turkey, not only with his efforts to eliminate the threat by the PKK but also on the Syria crisis. 'Dead-end street' Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will visit Erbil on Wednesday and meet Barzani, where he is expected to ask the Iraqi Kurdish leader to use his influence on Syrian Kurds and persuade them not to cooperate with the PKK. According to Cengiz Candar, a senior foreign policy analyst, Turkey's efforts are like "a journey in a dead-end street." "Turkey is trying to solve its own Kurdish problem, as well the Syrian Kurdish problem, with the help of Massud Barzani. This is mission impossible," Candar wrote in his column in Turkey's Hurriyet daily. "The Turkish state is deceiving itself and public opinion." According to Candar, Kurds will have a "new status" with the formation of a new state in the post-Assad era and there are suggestions that Barzani will come to an implicit agreement with the PKK in order to maintain his influence in the region. "This process of change in Syria is inevitable," Candar said. "And if the Turkish government wants to turn this change into an advantage for itself, it should first take genuine steps to solving its own Kurdish problem."
Didn’t expect this but then, it seems to be the first time it’s come up in Saudi Arabia… Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that a Saudi woman has repudiated Islam, converted to Christianity, and then fled the country (although she may have converted after leaving the country). I cannot recall any earlier, similar cases. Nor was I at all expecting Saudi media to cover the story. Not at all surprising, though, is that the woman’s family is claiming that she was forced to convert and was spirited out of the country by miscreants. Who are now under arrest in the Kingdom. Somewhat surprisingly, the accused – a Saudi and a Lebanese – were granted bail. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out, both for the woman and in Saudi media, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the story disappear, either.A Saudi girl who recently embraced Christianity and fled the country for refuge in Lebanon, told the host of a religious program on an Arabic TV channel that she was tired of performing prayers and fasting during Ramadan. The girl, who said her name was Maryam, said praying and fasting did not bring her any benefits. She also criticized the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a) and claimed that she was raised to hate Judaism and Christianity but fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity. She said she became a Christian after she had a dream one night. In it, she climbed to the skies and heard God telling her that Jesus is His son. She said that she had been living in the Kingdom since she was 17. … Maryam’s father filed a complaint against her two former co-workers, a Saudi and a Lebanese, accusing them of helping his daughter illegally flee the Kingdom and embrace Christianity. The Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) in Al-Khobar accused the men of forcing the girl to convert and arrested them. However, both men were later released on bail while their case has been referred to a court in Al-Khobar. … The Saudi Embassy in Beirut is coordinating with the concerned authorities in the country to convince the girl to return to the Kingdom. It is expected that the Al-Khobar District Court will look into the case, the first of its kind in the Kingdom, soon.