Sunday, February 5, 2012

Assad supporters celebrate

Supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad take to the streets to thank Russia and China for U.N. resolution veto.

U.S. "disgusted" as Russia, China veto UN Syria resolution

Afghan history, without the wars

The Washington Post

In a country where the recent past has unfolded like a war epic, officials think they have found a way to teach Afghan history without widening the fractures between long-quarreling ethnic and political groups: leave out the past four decades.

A series of government-issued textbooks funded by the United States and several foreign aid organizations do just that, pausing history in 1973. There is no mention of the Soviet war, the mujaheddin, the Taliban or the U.S. military presence. In their efforts to promote a single national identity, Afghan leaders have deemed their own history too controversial.

“Our recent history tears us apart. We’ve created a curriculum based on the older history that brings us together, with figures universally recognized as being great,” said Farooq Wardak, Afghanistan’s education minister. “These are the first books in decades that are depoliticized and de-ethnicized.”

High school students across the country are expected to receive the textbooks in time for the school year this spring. The books are the only ones approved for use in public classrooms as part of the new “depoliticized curriculum.” Elementary and middle school textbooks, which also conclude history lessons in the early 1970s, have been distributed over the past several years.

As Western leaders look to wind down their part in the war, the inability of Afghans to agree on a basic historical record casts doubt on a much more complex exercise that is critical to the country’s future: the creation of a government that would unite Afghanistan’s disparate groups.

But Afghan officials insist that the new textbooks will be one of the government’s best state-building tools, offering a fresh perspective to a generation raised in the middle of a war but unencumbered by the biases of the past four decades. During much of that time, warring political and ethnic groups used their own course materials, imbued with their own ideologies and peppered with their own heroes and villains.

“That’s how we got our extremist ideas,” said Attaullah Wahidyar, director of publication and information for the Education Ministry. “Now, we’ve learned our lesson.”

Foreign powers only deepened divisions, distributing books to further their own political agendas and bringing the “New Great Game” in Central Asia into Afghan classrooms.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union printed books that stressed communism’s virtues and the importance of Marxist theory. During the last years of the Cold War, the United States spent millions on Afghan textbooks filled with violent images and talk of jihad, part of a covert effort to incite resistance to the Soviet occupation. During the Taliban’s reign in the 1990s, conservative Islamic texts were imported from Pakistan. In western Afghanistan, Iranian textbooks that openly praised Tehran-backed militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas were for years distributed in public schools.

‘A sensitive history’

When educators, scholars and politicians gathered to overhaul the curriculum, beginning in 2002, they were intent on undoing the politics of Afghan historiography. But they could not agree on how to address the country’s descent into civil war or its various insurgent groups. Even the mention of key figures — the Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud or the Taliban’s Mohammad Omar — would spark fierce loyalty or hostility, officials said, paralyzing any history lesson.

Educators suggested that the only solution would be to omit the period after King Mohammed Zahir Shah, whose ouster in 1973 ushered in an era of chronic political instability. Among those charged with crafting the new curriculum, there was near-universal agreement.

“We aren’t mature enough to come up with a way to teach such a sensitive history,” Wahidyar said.

Foreign donors reviewed the books to ensure there was no religious content and that materials were well designed, but they made no suggestions related to the omission of recent history, Afghan officials said.

The high school textbooks were funded by the U.S. military’s foreign aid arm, the Commander’s Emergency Response Program.

U.S. military cultural advisers “reviewed the social studies textbooks, grades 10-12, for ‘inappropriate’ material, such as inciting violence or religious discrimination. Content of these textbooks, such as events or dates, are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education,” said David Lakin, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. “There were no discussions between [U.S. military] officials and the Ministry of Education on the teaching of Afghan history.”

Despite the broad consensus, some Afghan scholars and educators have pushed back, claiming the new textbooks mark an abdication of the ministry’s academic responsibility.

“This will be the biggest treason against the people of Afghanistan. . . . It will be a hindrance to all of our spiritual and material gains over the last four decades,” said Mir Ahmad Kamawal, a history professor at Kabul University. “All these young people will be deprived of knowing what happened during this period.”


Afghan education officials have begun crisscrossing the country, trying to persuade 8.2 million students and their families that a fair curriculum will emanate from Kabul.

The new history lessons will be taught even in villages still controlled by insurgents. Officials say that if they detailed the atrocities committed during five years of Taliban rule, the textbooks would almost certainly be disputed and discarded.

“We’re talking about community-building through education, and that includes the insurgency,” said Wardak, the education minister. “This curriculum needs to appeal to all Afghans.”

Wardak recently spoke to groups of teachers and students in eastern Afghanistan, explaining that they should come to expect uniformity and accuracy in new public school lessons. If sources of tension can be avoided, he said, the Education Ministry might stand a better chance of recruiting the more than 4 million children currently out of school.

“The curriculum is a national one, based on Islamic principles. It’s not just for Pashtuns or Tajiks or Hazaras,” he said in front of a packed meeting hall in Nangahar province. “The curriculum will bring us all under one roof. It will encourage brotherhood and unity.”

Then he toured schools, hospitals and mosques. In one public building, portraits of Afghan leaders over the past 200 years lined the wall. Wardak pointed to a photo of Mohammed Daoud Khan, who assumed power in 1973.“That’s where the division started,” he said, “and that’s where our history books end.”

Special correspondent Sayed Salahuddin contributed to this report.

Saudi government sued over female driving ban

Two Saudi female activists have filed law suits against the government for refusing to issue them driver’s licences and banning them from driving a car, they said on Saturday. Manal al-Sherif, the icon of an Internet campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a ban on driving, and human rights activist Samar Badawi filed their suits against the interior ministry. Sherif, who was arrested in May 2011 and detained for 10 days after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving, said she decided to file the lawsuit after having been denied a driver’s licence.

“There is no actual law that states woman can’t drive” in Saudi Arabia and therefore “no justification for preventing them from issuing a licence,” said Sherif, one of the activists behind a “My Right, My Dignity” campaign aimed at ending discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia. Badawi said the grievance board at the interior ministry had informed
her to “follow-up in a week” to confirm a court appointment for her lawsuit. Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not allowed to drive. However, they sit behind the wheel in desert regions away from the capital. Women in the kingdom who have the financial means hire drivers while others must depend on the goodwill of male relatives. They also have to be veiled in public and cannot travel unless accompanied by their husbands or a close male relative

Ten most educated countries of the world

According to Education at a Glance 2011, a recently published report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while education has improved across the board, it has not improved evenly, with some countries enjoying much greater rates of educational attainment than others. Based on the report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 developed countries with the most educated populations.
The countries with the most highly educated citizens are also some of the wealthiest in the world. The United States, Japan and Canada are on our list and also have among the largest GDPs. Norway and Australia, also featured, have the second and sixth-highest GDPs per capita, respectively. All these countries aggressively invest in education.
The countries that invest the most in education have the most-educated people. All of the best-educated countries, except for the UK, fall within the top 15 OECD countries for greatest spending on tertiary — that is, college or college-equivalent — spending as a percentage of GDP. The U.S. spends the second most and Canada spends the fourth most.
Interestingly, public expenditure on educational institutions relative to private spending by these countries is small compared with other countries in the OECD. While the majority of education is still funded with public money, eight of the countries on our list rely the least on public funding as a percentage of total education spending.
The countries included here have had educated populations for a long time. While they have steadily increased the percentages of their populations with postsecondary educations, the increases are modest compared to developing countries. The U.S., Canada and Japan have had tertiary educational attainment above 30% since at least 1997. Poland, a recently developed country that is not on our list, had a tertiary educational rate of 10% in 1997. As of 2009, that rate had grown to 21%.

These are the 10 most educated countries in the world.

10. Finland
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 1.8% (3rd lowest)
> GDP per capita: $36,585 (14th highest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 3.15% (10th lowest)

Finland is a small country relative to the other OECD members. The share of its adult population with some sort of postsecondary education, however, is rather large. This select group is reaching the end of its expansion. From 1999 to 2009, the number of college-educated adults increased only 1.8% annually — the third-smallest amount among all OECD countries. Finland is also one of only two countries, the other being Korea, in which the fields of social sciences, business and law are not the most popular among students. In Finland, new entrants are most likely to study engineering, manufacturing and construction.

9. Australia
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 3.3% (11th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $40,719 (6th highest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 14.63% (3rd highest)

Australia’s population grew 14.63% between 2000 and 2009. This is the third-largest increase among OECD countries. Its tertiary-educated adult population is increasing at the much less impressive annual rate of 3.3%. Australia also spends the sixth-least amount in public funds on education as a percentage of all expenditures. The country also draws large numbers of international students.
8. United Kingdom
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 4.0% (9th highest)
> GDP per capita: $35,504 (16th highest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 3.47% (13th lowest)

Unlike most of the countries with the highest percentage of educated adults, the UK’s educated group increased measurably — more than 4% between 1999 and 2009. Its entire population only grew 3.5% between 2000 and 2009. One aspect that the UK does share with a number of other countries on this list is relatively low public expenditure on education institutions as a percentage of all educational spending. As of 2008, 69.5% of spending came from public sources — the fourth-smallest amount among OECD countries.
7. Norway
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 37%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): N/A
> GDP per capita: $56,617 (2nd highest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 7.52% (14th highest)

Norway has the third-greatest expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP, at 7.3%. Roughly 23% of that is spent on tertiary education. In Norway, more than 60% of all tertiary graduates were in a bachelor’s program, well more than the U.S., which is close to the OECD average of 45%. The country is one of the wealthiest in the world. GDP per capita is $56,617, second only to Luxembourg in the OECD.
6. South Korea
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 39%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 5.3% (5th highest)
> GDP per capita: $29,101 (13th lowest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 3.70% (14th lowest)
Korea is another standout country for its recent increase in the percentage of its population that has a tertiary education. Graduates increased 5.3% between 1999 and 2009, the fifth-highest among OECD countries. Like the UK, this rate is greater than the country’s recent population growth. Korea is also one of only two countries — the other being Finland — in which the most popular fields of study are not social sciences, business and law. In Korea, new students choose to study education, humanities and arts at the greatest rates. Only 59.6% of expenditures on educational institutions come from public funds — the second-lowest rate.
5. New Zealand
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 40%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 3.5% (14th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $29,871 (14th lowest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 11.88% (8th largest)

New Zealand is not a particularly wealthy country. GDP per capita is less than $30,000, and is the 14th lowest in the OECD. However, 40% of the population engages in tertiary education, the fifth-highest rate in the world. The country actually has a rapidly growing population, increasing 11.88% between 2000 and 2009. This was the eighth-largest increase in the OECD. Part of the reason for the high rate of tertiary graduates is the high output from secondary schools. More than 90% of residents graduate from secondary school.
4. United States
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 41%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 1.4% (the lowest)
> GDP per capita: $46,588 (4th highest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 8.68% (12th highest)

The U.S. experienced a fairly large growth in population from 2000 to 2009. During the period, the population increased 8.68% — the 12th highest among OECD countries. Meanwhile, the rate at which the share of the population with a tertiary education is growing has slowed to an annual rate of 1.4% — the lowest among the 34 OECD countries. Just 71% of funding for educational institutions in the country comes from public funds, placing the U.S. sixth-lowest in this measure. Among OECD countries, the largest share of adults with a tertiary education live in the United States — 25.8%.
3. Japan
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 44%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 3.2% (10th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $33,751 (17th lowest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 0.46% (6th lowest)

In Japan, 44% of the adult population has some form of tertiary education. The U.S. by comparison has a rate of 41%. Japan’s population increased just 0.46% between 2000 and 2009, the sixth-slowest growth rate in the OECD, and the slowest among our list of 10. Japan is tied with Finland for the third-highest upper-secondary graduation rate in the world, at 95%. It has the third-highest tertiary graduation rate in the world, but only spends the equivalent of 1.5% of GDP on tertiary education — the 17th lowest rate in the OECD.
2. Israel
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 45%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): N/A
> GDP per capita: $28,596 (12th lowest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 19.02% (the highest)

Although there is no data on the percentage of Israeli citizens with postsecondary education dating back to 1999, the numbers going back to 2002 show that growth is slowing dramatically compared to other countries. In fact, in 2006, 46% of adults ages 25 to 64 had a tertiary education. In 2007 this number fell to 44%. Only 78% of funds spent on educational institutions in Israel are public funds. The country is also only one of three — the other two being Ireland and Sweden — where expenditure on educational institutions as a proportion of GDP decreased from 2000 to 2008. Israel also had the largest increase in overall population, approximately 19% from 2000 to 2009.
1. Canada
> Pct. population with postsecondary education: 50%
> Avg. annual growth rate (1999 – 2009): 2.3% (5th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $39,070 (10th highest)
> Pop. change (2000 – 2009): 9.89% (10th highest)

In Canada, 50% of the adult population has completed tertiary education, easily the highest rate in the OECD. Each year, public and private expenditure on education amount to 2.5% of GDP, the fourth-highest rate in the world. Tertiary education spending accounts for 41% of total education spending in the country. In the U.S., the proportion is closer to 37%. In Israel, the rate is 22%. In Canada, nearly 25% of students have an immigrant background.

Pakistani troops aid Bahrain's crackdown

Foundation linked to the Pakistani army has been providing Bahrain thousands of soldiers for its crackdown on protests.

In March, as a government crackdown on pro-democracy protestors intensified in Bahrain, curious advertisements started appearing in Pakistani media.

"Urgent requirement - manpower for Bahrain National Guard," said one.
The Fauji Foundation did not respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment.

"Pakistanis, particularly Baluchs, make up a large part of the Bahraini force," said Fahad Desmukh, a former resident of Bahrain who now lives in Pakistan.

"They are extremely visible on the streets - so visible that the protestors were recently responding to the police in Urdu, knowing they did not speak Arabic." [Watch the video of protesters chanting 'police are crazy' in Urdu here.]

A small country of roughly 800,000 people (including about 235,000 non-nationals), Bahrain has a Defence Force of about 12,000 and a National Guard of 1,200, according to the US State Department.

The National Guard, which is in the foreront of the crackdown, seems to have been more than doubled by the recent recruitments of mostly Baluch servicemen.

"What it shows is that the Bahraini government has little trust in its own citizens to conduct security operations," Michael Stephens, a Qatar-based Bahrain specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, told Al Jazeera.

"So they rely on foreign recruits to unquestioningly carry out orders of violently suppressing protests."

While Arab nations have a long history of leaning on Pakistan for military expertise as well as foot soldiers, the recent increase in recruitments come at a tricky time. Pakistan has struggled to quell widespread ethnic violence and a robust insurgency on its own streets.

In the region, too, the country faces tremendous challenges.

"It has certainly put Pakistan in a very awkward position, where it has to balance its relationship with Iran on the one side and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on the other," Stephens said.

Iran, a leading Shia country, has repeatedly denounced the Bahraini government's crackdown on the Shia - while Saudi Arabia has remained Bahrain's closest ally.

Inside Bahrain, the recruitments have brought dangers to the South Asian diaspora, where ill-feeling towards Pakistanis has increased, reportedly because they are seen as the main vehicle in the crackdown.

The influx of Sunni mercenaries has also increased fears that the government might be naturalising the new recruits in its efforts to change the country's Shia-majority demographic.

"For service in Bahrain National Guard, the following categories of people with previous army and police experience are urgently needed," said another, with "previous experience" and "urgent need" underscored.

The categories included: former army drill instructors, anti-riot instructors, retired military police, and former army cooks.

In the following two months, on the back of visits to Islamabad by senior Saudi and Bahraini officials, sources say at least 2,500 former servicemen were recruited by Bahrainis and brought to Manama, increasing the size of their national guard and riot police by as much as 50 per cent.

"We know that continued airplanes are coming to Bahrain and bringing soldiers from Pakistan," Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

"We do not know the exact number, but we know that it is much more than 1,500 or 2,000 people."

Recruited into the special forces, the national guard, and the riot police, the Pakistani citizens are tasked with suppressing Shia protesters that are reportedly demanding equal rights after years of alleged oppression at the hands of the royal family, part of Bahrain's Sunni minority.

"Our own Shia cannot join the security forces, but the government recruits from abroad," said Rajab.

On the ground in Pakistan, the recruitments were handled by the Fauji Foundation, one of the largest conglomerates in the country with close ties to the Pakistani military. In addition to the Overseas Employment Services, which is tasked with providing job opportunities for retired military personnel, the foundation owns large cereal and gas companies, sugar mills, security firms, as well as hospitals and universities.
The Fauji Foundation did not respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment.

"Pakistanis, particularly Baluchs, make up a large part of the Bahraini force," said Fahad Desmukh, a former resident of Bahrain who now lives in Pakistan.

"They are extremely visible on the streets - so visible that the protestors were recently responding to the police in Urdu, knowing they did not speak Arabic." [Watch the video of protesters chanting 'police are crazy' in Urdu here.]

A small country of roughly 800,000 people (including about 235,000 non-nationals), Bahrain has a Defence Force of about 12,000 and a National Guard of 1,200, according to the US State Department.

The National Guard, which is in the foreront of the crackdown, seems to have been more than doubled by the recent recruitments of mostly Baluch servicemen.

"What it shows is that the Bahraini government has little trust in its own citizens to conduct security operations," Michael Stephens, a Qatar-based Bahrain specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, told Al Jazeera.

"So they rely on foreign recruits to unquestioningly carry out orders of violently suppressing protests."

While Arab nations have a long history of leaning on Pakistan for military expertise as well as foot soldiers, the recent increase in recruitments come at a tricky time. Pakistan has struggled to quell widespread ethnic violence and a robust insurgency on its own streets.

In the region, too, the country faces tremendous challenges.

"It has certainly put Pakistan in a very awkward position, where it has to balance its relationship with Iran on the one side and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on the other," Stephens said.

Iran, a leading Shia country, has repeatedly denounced the Bahraini government's crackdown on the Shia - while Saudi Arabia has remained Bahrain's closest ally.

Inside Bahrain, the recruitments have brought dangers to the South Asian diaspora, where ill-feeling towards Pakistanis has increased, reportedly because they are seen as the main vehicle in the crackdown.

The influx of Sunni mercenaries has also increased fears that the government might be naturalising the new recruits in its efforts to change the country's Shia-majority demographic.

Importing expertise

Video footage of Bahraini protesters chanting: 'Our police are Pakistani'. Al Jazeera cannot be held responsible for content hosted on third party sites [YouTube]

"In the 1970s and 80s, many Arab countries flushed with oil money bought state of the art equipment, but [the] local population lacked technical skills," said Hamid Hussain, a long time analyst and historian of the Pakistani military.

"A number of Pakistan army and air force personnel were deputed to several countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. "

The recruitments varied from a dozen advisors to thousands of trainers and operators of complicated equipment.

The most prominent cases of such partnership was in 1970, when then Brigadier Zia ul Haq helped the Jordanian forces suppress Palestinians in what became known as "Black September".

Zia ul Haq, in one of the interesting paradoxes of the Pakistani military, later became a feared dictator who introduced a swift process of "Islamisation".

Pakistan's security relationship with Saudi Arabia, in particular, has put it at odds with Iran, its neighbour to the west. The two nations have been stuck in a Shia-Sunni rivalry for decades and have battled proxy wars across the region.

During the 1991 Gulf war, much to Saudi Arabia's apparent dismay, Pakistan turned down their request for preemptive help, in case Saddam Hussain launched attacks.

Reviving the relationship since has taken a long time, but when the uprising in Bahrain brought fears of unrest knocking on Saudi doors, the chairman of the Saudi National Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, made two quiet trips to Pakistan to seek their support in case protests erupted at home.

"Potential need for foreign troops in case protests spiral out of control has forced Saudis to work with current Pakistani civilian government for whom they have nothing but utter contempt," said Hussain.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani told Prince Bandar that his country supported the Saudi stance in the Gulf and the Middle East and would stand by Riyadh for regional peace, according to Pakistani media.
"The president and prime minister of Pakistan, faced with grim economic situation of the country and army brass uncertain about continued US funding, are delighted at the potential of a cash windfall from Saudi patrons," said Hussain.

Also on Prince Bandar's agenda was gaining Pakistan's support for the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force that deployed to Bahrain for helping the Kingdom.

The trip was followed by visits from the Bahraini foreign minister and the commander of their national guard.

Then, recruitment adverts appeared in Pakistani media.

Baluchistan, where most of the recruits come from, is a province of six million in Pakistan's southwest. For decades, an armed movement for self-determination there has been met with a severe government crackdown.

Baluch nationalist fighters expressed their dismay at the recruitment long before the recent escalation.

"We call upon the Baluch nation not to become part of any tyrant or oppressive army, at a time when the Baluch nation is living in a state of war … and are struggling against the tyrants ourselves," Basham Baluch, a spokesman for Baluch Liberation Front said in a 2009 statement.

"Instead of turning the young Baluch into hired killers, they should join the national armies [Baluch Liberation Front, Baluchistan Liberation Army] to make the independence of their homeland a reality.

"We do not want the Baluch people to be used and turned into mercenaries."

The backlash

Bahrain is home to a large population of foreign labourers. The majority of the work forces there comprises South Asian migrants, particularly Pakistanis.

"Our country has a history of appreciation for the help Pakistanis have provided in development. But more recently we have seen crimes directed at Pakistanis, and that is worrying," said Rajab, the human rights activist.

He points to the fact that thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds of houses have been looted by government forces. Since Pakistanis make up at least 30 per cent of the security forces, he says, when people think of the crackdown they think of Pakistanis.

"The poor Pakistani labourer who has nothing do with security forces suffers from all this."

Human rights activists and analysts also fear that the government is swiftly increasing the rate of naturalisation for Sunni immigrants in recent months in order to tip the ethnic balance of the country.

With a clear Shia majority, the country has been ruled by a royal family from the Sunni minority.

"What needs to be closely watched is the number of these recruits who will be naturalised in the coming months and years ahead," said RUSI's Stephens.

"Many will not return home to Pakistan, and recent statistics show that South Asians make up a big majority of the foreign citizens naturalised in Bahrain."

While many believe Pakistan is providing workers and soldiers to Bahrain in return for much needed economic aid, activists such as Rajab remain perplexed by the decision.

"What I wonder is how the Pakistani government allows this many people to be brought here and used as mercenaries," said Rajab.

"We know that many of these recruits are poor, uneducated, and are just looking for a job. They don't know what they are signing up for. But the Pakistan government certainly knows, so why are they allowing this?"

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

This is their story and Al Jazeera is their witness - the only TV journalists who remained to follow their journey of hope to the carnage that followed.

This is the Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world.

Editor's note: This documentary recently won the Foreign Press Association Documentary of the Year award in London.

Bahrain protesters rally ahead of anniversary

Al Jazeera

Thousands of Bahrainis have begun a week-long rally in a Shia village, 10 days ahead of the first anniversary of the start of pro-democracy protest which was brutally crushed, activists have said.

"The large number of people who participated yesterday [Saturday] wanted to deliver a message to the government that people are determined to keep up the demands that they made on February 14 last year," Matar Matar, a leading Shia opposition activist, told the AFP news agency on Sunday.

"They will use any venue available," he added.

Mostly-Shia protesters occupied Manama's Pearl Square for about a month last year until they were driven out in a heavy-handed mid-March crackdown.

The "steadfast" rally began in the afternoon in al-Muqsha village, about 7km west of Manama, the capital, and continued until 11:00 pm (2000 GMT).

It will reconvene at the same time on Sunday, according to Matar, a former MP.

Sheikh Ali Salman, a Shia cleric and leader of al-Wefaq, the main Shia opposition grouping, urged demonstrators to rename the rally spot in the village as "Freedom Square," insisting that people have decided that "there will be no return to pre-February 14".

"It is impossible that Bahrain remains without equality between its people," he said, according to the al-Wefaq Facebook page.

Although al-Wefaq said that the protest would last a week, the interior ministry announced on Friday that the demonstration had been authorised for two days only.

Matar said that his party informed the interior ministry that it intends to hold a seven-day rally, after it did not get authorisation to organise an open-ended demonstration.

During the month-long protest last year, the Shia-led opposition demanded significant constitutional changes that would reduce the power of the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling dynasty, including through having an elected prime minister.

Tensions have remained high in Bahrain since the initial deadly crackdown, and sporadic violence has risen in recent weeks as the first anniversary approaches of the launch of the protests.

Cairo street battles enter fourth day

Russia, China use double veto to block UN draft on Syria

Russia and China on Saturday joined hands in vetoing an Arab-European draft resolution which backs an Arab League plan to promote a regime change in Syria.

It was the second time since October 2011 that Russia and China used double veto to block a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, which they deemed not the best choice to promote peace in the Middle East country.

The unadopted draft resolution meant to say that the Security Council "fully supports" the January 22 Arab League plan to ask Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, one of the major stumbling blocks in pre-vote consultations which Russia strongly opposed.

The draft also urged efforts to "facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system ... including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition."

At the unusual weekend council meeting, 13 council members voted in favor of the draft resolution. But, in order to be adopted, a UN draft needs nine votes in favor and no veto by any of the five permanent members of the 15-nation council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.


Russia and China, two veto-wielding council members who have both been closely following the situation in Syria, used the double veto on the ground that more consultations were needed to achieve a proper settlement of the Syrian issue.

They argued that the co-sponsors, including Arab states and the United States, Britain and France, failed to take into account the reasonable concerns of Russia, which insisted that the draft resolution, tabled by Morocco, be amended.

Hours before the council entered into the scheduled meeting on Saturday morning, with Western powers pushing for a council vote on the draft, Russia circulated an amended resolution which, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "aims to fix two basic problems."

There were "(first,) the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and second, measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also armed groups," Lavrov said at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, adding that these two issues are "of crucial importance" from the view of Russia.

The co-sponsors of the resolution, however, did not taken into account these concerns.

"The draft resolution that was put to a vote did not adequately reflect the real state of affairs in Syria and has sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties," Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after the vote.

Churkin said that Russia will continue to work for a solution to the crisis in Syria because "bloodshed and violence in Syria has to be ended immediately."

According to Churkin, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has instructed Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov, the director of the service for external intelligence of Russia, to travel to Syria on Feb. 7 to meet with Syrian President Bashar al- Assad.

"We believe that intensive efforts of the international community with a view to putting an immediate end to the violence and having a successful beginning and conclusion of an exclusively Syrian political process and withdrawal of the country from this crisis will be continued," said Churkin.

For his part, Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, regretted that the Russian amendments were ignored.

"China supports the revision proposals raised by Russia, and has taken note that Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei Lavrov) will visit Syria next week," Li told the council. "The request for continued consultation on the draft by some council members is reasonable."

"It is regrettable that these reasonable concerns are not taken into account," he said. "To push through a vote when parties are still seriously divided over the issue will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue."

"In this context, China voted against the draft resolution," Li said.


UN Secretary-General voiced his deep regrets over the council's failure to adopt the draft resolution.

"The secretary-general deeply regrets that the Security Council has been unable to agree on a resolution supported by the League of Arab States to bring an early end to the violence and the killing in Syria," said a statement released here by Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Morocco's UN envoy, Mohammed Loulichiki, voiced his "deep regret and disappointment," saying that he was "extremely frustrated" by the failure of the resolution.

Furthermore, the United States and France responded to the double veto with fury.

"The United States is disgusted that a couple of members of this Council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose here -- addressing an ever-deepening crisis in Syria and a growing threat to regional peace and security," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said it was "a sad day for the Security Council." France, together with other Western powers, pushed for an early council vote despite strong Russian calls for more consultations to amend the draft.

Syria, which has all along voiced strong opposition to any foreign intervention in its internal affairs, on Saturday reiterated that Damascus prefers to see a political settlement within Syrians themselves and the Arab family.

"Given our firm belief in the Pan-Arab role, we had hoped that the examination of the question of Syria first exclusively in the Syrian household and then in the larger, supporting Arab structure, " Syria's permanent representative to the UN Bashar Jafaari told the Security Council.

"But the rush by some parties to invite international intervention, which we know in advance the objectives of its dealing with Arab issues, first and foremost the question of Palestine and the Israeli occupation of Arab territories is a cause for concern,"he added.

Fake Medicine issue: A game with Human Beings

Balochi Revolutionary Song

US Special Forces to Stay in Afghanistan Beyond 2014

As the United States is planning to wind down it's combat troops a year later than scheduled, senior Pentagon military officials have said that, US Special Operation Forces will remain in Afghanistan after the Nato led mission ends in 2014.

US Special Operation Forces who hunted top al-Qaeda leaders and other insurgent leaders will help in counterinsurgency and training of Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

If the plan is approved by US President Barack Obama, it would be the most significant evolution in the US military campaign since 32,000 surge troops were sent to Afghanistan.

While some US forces are preparing to withdraw, thousands of the US Special Operation Forces will remain on the ground and the number may increase.

This comes as the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker on Saturday said that US combat role in Afghanistan will not end by the end of 2014.

The US will stick on the Lisbon timetable where a gradual handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces was decided, he added.

Meanwhile, US Defence Minister, Leon Panetta, said that US hopes to end it's combat role in the middle of the next year.

There are around 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan with more than 90,000 of them US soldiers fighting insurgents in the country.

The United States is the top contributor in Afghanistan in terms of troops and financial aid. The country is spending around $12m in the training of Afghan Security forces

U.S. Plans Shift to Elite Units as It Winds Down in Afghanistan


The United States’ plan to wind down its combat role in Afghanistan a year earlier than expected relies on shifting responsibility to Special Operations forces that hunt insurgent leaders and train local troops, according to senior Pentagon officials and military officers. These forces could remain in the country well after the NATO mission ends in late 2014.

The plan, if approved by President Obama, would amount to the most significant evolution in the military campaign since Mr. Obama sent in 32,000 more troops to wage an intensive and costly counterinsurgency effort.

Under the emerging plan, American conventional forces, focused on policing large parts of Afghanistan, will be the first to leave, while thousands of American Special Operations forces remain, making up an increasing percentage of the troops on the ground; their number may even grow.

The evolving strategy is far different from the withdrawal plan for Iraq, where almost all American forces, conventional or otherwise, have left. Iraq has devolved into sectarian violence ever since the withdrawal in December, which threatens to undo the political and security gains there.

Pentagon officials and military planners say the new plan for Afghanistan is not a direct response to the deteriorating conditions in Iraq. Even so, the shift could give Mr. Obama a political shield against attacks from his Republican rivals in the presidential race who have already begun criticizing him for moving too swiftly to extract troops from Afghanistan.

Unlike in Iraq, where domestic political pressure gave Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki reason to resist a continued American military presence into 2012, in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai and his senior aides have expressed an initial willingness to continue a partnership with the United States that includes counterterrorism missions and training.

Senior American officials have also expressed a desire to keep some training and counterterrorism troops in Afghanistan past 2014. The transition plan for the next three years in Afghanistan could be a model for such a continued military relationship.

The new focus builds on a desire to use the nation’s most elite troops to counter any residual terrorist threat over the coming months as well as to devote the military’s best trainers to the difficult task of preparing Afghan security forces to take over responsibilities in their country.

The plan would put a particularly heavy focus on Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. They would be in charge of training a variety of Afghan security forces. At the same time, the elite commando teams within Special Operations forces would continue their raids to hunt down, capture or kill insurgent commanders and terrorist leaders and keep pressure on cells of fighters to prevent them from mounting attacks.

Created by President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, the Green Berets have as one of their core missions what is called “foreign internal defense” — using combat, mentoring, language and cross-cultural skills to train local forces in rugged environments, as they are today in missions conducted quietly in dozens of nations around the world.

Just as significant would be what the American military’s conventional forces stop doing.

Americans would no longer be carrying out large numbers of patrols to clear vast areas of Afghanistan of insurgents, or holding villages and towns vulnerable to militant attacks while local forces and government agencies rebuilt the local economy and empowered local governments.

Those tasks would fall to Afghan forces, with Special Forces soldiers remaining in the field to guide them. This shift has already begun to take place.

The defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, surprised NATO allies last week when he announced that American forces would step back from a leading role in combat missions by mid-2013, turning over security responsibilities to Afghan forces a year earlier than expected. The description of the shift to a Special Operations mission in Afghanistan by senior officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the final plans have not been approved, go a long way toward explaining what Mr. Panetta sketched out for the allies.

White House officials confirmed in broad terms the shift to a Special Operations mission, and said a formal announcement on the future of the mission was expected at the May summit meeting of NATO leaders in Chicago.

“The president said in June that when the drawdown of surge forces is complete in September, U.S. troops will continue coming home at a steady pace and our mission will shift from combat to support as the Afghans take the lead,” said Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman.

The United States has about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them expected to leave by this fall. No schedule has been set for the pace of withdrawal for the 68,000 American troops who will remain, although some administration officials are advocating for Mr. Obama to order another reduction by the summer of 2013.

The planning for a transition of the Afghanistan mission is a central effort among the Pentagon’s civilian planners and the military’s Joint Staff, as well as among officers at the United States Central and Special Operations Commands.

Senior Pentagon officials involved in the planning acknowledge that a military effort with a smaller force and a more focused mission could be easier to explain to Americans who have tired of the large counterinsurgency campaigns of Iraq and, previously, Afghanistan.

To be sure, some American conventional units would be called on to handle logistics and other support services — transportation, medical care, security — to enable the Special Operations missions to continue.

But that would require a far smaller American presence to help the Afghans protect recent security gains while minimizing American expenses and casualties.

The plan first calls for creating a two-star command position overseeing the entire Special Operations effort in Afghanistan. Next, the three-star corps headquarters that currently commands the day-to-day operations of the war — and is held by an Army officer from the conventional force — would be handed over to a Special Operations officer.

Officials said that no final decisions had been made on the timing of the transition, although it is likely to begin late this year as the rest of the surge forces are withdrawn. There has also been no decision on the number of troops to be committed to the mission as it evolves in 2013 and into 2014, officials said.

Officials noted the progress in creating new “Afghan Strike Force” units to carry out commando-type raids, and they said that the effort to create an Afghan National Army — which had been focused on building as large a force as possible — would shift to emphasize quality and capability.

Officials conceded that the Afghan National Police program remained a huge disappointment, but said that a great value in American investment had been organizing local Afghan police units, drawn from the villages they are assigned to protect.

Afghan, Iran Presidents to visit Pakistan on Feb 16

Islamabad will be hosting trilateral summit of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran this month, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are visiting Pakistan from February 16 to 17.
The two foreign dignitaries will attend the trilateral summit along with President Asif Ali Zardari, BNA reported.
The trilateral summit is aimed at bolstering regional peace, stability and the Afghan-led conciliation process.The summit is being held at a time when the Taliban are opening their office in Qatar for talks with the US.Western diplomats see the move as an effort to counter the Washington s talks with the Taliban in Doha and pave way for an alternative route to peace negotiations.

'Seven dead' in attack on Kandahar police building

Seven people were killed Sunday in a suicide car bomb attack on police headquarters in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a bastion of Taliban militancy, the interior ministry said.

Three policemen and four civilians died in the blast in the car park, the ministry said in a statement, while nine other people were injured.

Kandahar is the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the birthplace of the Taliban, who have been waging a bloody insurgency since being ousted from power by the US-led invasion in late 2001 that followed the 9/11 attacks.

"At around noon today (0730 GMT), a suicide car bomber detonated his explosive-packed car in district one of Kandahar that killed seven, including three police and four civilians and wounded nine others", the ministry statement said.

Kandahar governor Tooryalai Weesa also said there were seven deaths, but said five of those were police and gave a wounded toll of 19, including 13 women and children.

Blood-splattered items from nearby market stalls lay scattered on the ground after the attack, which destroyed four police cars and damaged nearby buildings, according to an AFP correspondent.

Militants frequently target Afghan police and military, who are due to assume responsibility for the country's security from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops by the end of 2014.

NATO defence ministers on Thursday voiced hope that Afghan forces would take the lead by the end of next year, with foreign troops moving to a backup role until their combat mission ends.

Seven Afghan civilians were killed on January 19 when a suicide attacker targeting ISAF vehicles blew up his car at Kandahar airport -- an attack claimed by the Taliban.

A UN report on Saturday said civilian deaths in Afghanistan reached a record high in 2011 -- the fifth straight year the death toll has gone up.

A total of 3,021 civilians died -- mostly at the hands of insurgents -- up eight percent from 2,790 in 2010, the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

The record loss of life was blamed mainly on changes in the insurgents' tactics, which saw an increased use of home-made bombs and deadlier suicide attacks.

Taliban negotiators have begun holding preliminary talks with US officials in Qatar on plans for peace negotiations aimed at ending the decade-long Afghan war.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to discuss Afghan peace efforts with the Qatari leadership when he travels to the Gulf state for a visit on Monday.

Pakistani Kids under five 44% stunted and 32% underweight

Pakistan has a very high rate of child malnutrition as 44 per cent of children under five are stunted and 32 per cent are underweight, National Nutrition Survey 2011 revealed.

According to survey, maternal malnutrition is also a significant problem as 15 per cent of women of reproductive age have chronic energy deficiency. Women and children also suffer from some of the world’s highest levels of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The levels of malnutrition and its impact on growth and height in Pakistan remain serious. Underweight is weight for age, whereas stunting is height for age and is a reflection of chronic malnutrition.” “Nutrition emergency” is 15 per cent wasting and the level of wasting in young children (less than 1 year) in Pakistan is 25 per cent. There are no significant differences between malnutrition levels for girls and boys.

“There is broad consensus globally on the “Scaling Up Nutrition” (SUN) framework that calls for focus on the first 1000 days of life, from conception to the first 24 months of a child’s life, because that when most of the damage to cognitive ability and growth occurs and much of that damage is irreversible,” it said, adding that the SUN framework outlines a set of well-proven “direct nutrition interventions” as well as broader multi-sectoral approach. Action on both is urgent.

It further said, improving nutrition contributes to productivity, economic development, and poverty reduction by improving physical work capacity, cognitive development, school performance, and health by reducing disease and mortality. The economic costs of malnutrition are very high – an estimated 2-3 per cent of GDP is every year in Pakistan on account of vitamins and mineral deficiencies alone.

“At the same time, investments in nutrition have been very low. The lack of improvement in nutrition indicators is not surprising given that very few of the interventions that are known to reduce malnutrition have been implemented in Pakistan. This reflects a low level of awareness and prioritization,” it added.

Pakistan's terrorist organisations....BANNED or NOT


Banned terrorist organisations are freely operating all over Pakistan without risking the ire of the law enforcement agencies. Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was banned but changed its name to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) was banned but changed its name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and now both these terrorist outfits are carrying on with their activities with impunity. Even if a banned organisation does not change its name, like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) that still operates under its own name, their activities are not stopped. Interior Minister Rehman Malik blames a delay in the approval of an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act for banned organisations’ holding rallies across the country. Apparently the amendment bill is still with the Senate Standing Committee despite the passage of two years. Mr Malik also said that if a banned organisation holds a rally in the capital, the SHO of the concerned police station would be suspended. Now that is a ludicrous idea to say the least. How can an SHO be responsible when the entire state apparatus is either helpless in front of the banned outfits or in cahoots with them?

In most cases, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government blames the Punjab government for having a soft spot for terrorist outfits, especially the JuD and LeJ. Granted that the Punjab government must be held accountable for allowing these organisations and other extremist groups to hold public rallies full of hate speech all over Punjab, but these organisations have also held rallies in Karachi and plan on doing so again. The PPP has a majority government in Sindh, so why is it not stopping them either? The PPP also has to look at itself instead of scoring political points by blaming the Punjab government alone. According to a report by BBC Urdu, intelligence agencies have been tracking new bank accounts by jihadi groups under new names in order to receive funds from within Pakistan and outside the country. These secret accounts must be exposed and shut down immediately. While the political forces as a whole are not doing much to stop the activities of banned outfits, we must not forget that all these organisations were created and nurtured by our military. To date they either have the covert or overt support of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies. When the most powerful institution in the country is behind them, it would definitely be a humongous task to stop their nefarious activities. Thus, it is necessary to pass the amendment bill pending in parliament so that a strong Anti-Terrorism Act can tackle this issue. *

Yousaf Raza Gilani’s fate

While in Lahore the other day to inaugurate the first Business Express train and abolishing the tollgate at the old Ravi bridge, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani reiterated certain themes he has been emphasising in recent days. Without explicating his charge in detail, the PM once again hinted at a conspiracy afoot to somehow abort the upcoming Senate elections in March, elections that seem set to give the PPP-led coalition a safe majority in the upper house. Dismissing such efforts, the PM once again categorically stated that the Senate elections would go ahead as per schedule, and all those interested in early elections should talk to the government after the Budget. On the contempt case against him in the Supreme Court (SC), the PM repeated his respect for the courts and said he would wholeheartedly accept whatever decision the court handed down.

In case anyone is inclined to treat the talk of a conspiracy as self-serving, it would be useful to reflect on two new writs moved in the SC against the by-elections scheduled for February 25 and the Senate elections expected on March 2. The former petition is a follow up by Imran Khan’s PTI asking the SC to stop the Election Commission from holding the by-elections on the basis of flawed voters’ lists. The latter, however, moved by a television anchor, pleads for cancellation of the Senate elections on the grounds that about 70 parliamentarians are currently charged with possessing fake degrees, on the basis of which they were elected, and are involved in proceedings to determine their fate as elected representatives. Further, the second petition argues that 29 MNAs and MPAs had been elected in by-elections based on flawed voters’ lists. Thus some 100 parliamentarians, according to the petitioner, are not eligible to vote in the Senate elections and were they to be allowed to do so, an unrepresentative, invalidly elected upper house would be the result. Now one may not be enamoured of conspiracy theories, but the timing of these petitions does give rise to suspicions and speculations about what is going on.

While the fate of these petitions remains to be determined by the court, a significant date, February 13, is looming. That is the day the PM has been summoned before the seven-member bench of the SC hearing the contempt case against the PM for not obeying the court’s order in the NRO judgment to write a letter to the Swiss judicial authorities asking them to reopen the Cotecna case against President Asif Ali Zardari. Neither the PM nor his redoubtable counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, got much purchase at the last hearing from the bench on the argument that Article 248 debars the PM from following the court’s order as it provides immunity to a sitting president from any criminal proceedings. The honourable bench has not addressed that question in its February 3 order, which concludes that prima facie a case of contempt lies against the PM and charges accordingly will be framed at the February 13 hearing in the PM’s presence. Legal experts are debating the possible scenarios that may emerge on February 13, including the worst-case possibility that the PM may be convicted, sentenced, and disqualified. Were this to come to pass, legal remedies may lie with the PM, but even if those are not conceded by the court, the worst-case scenario sees the PM being affected, but not necessarily the government as a whole. As long as the sitting government enjoys a majority in parliament, the chief executive, if disqualified, can be replaced by another member of the PPP. That would, again in the worst-case scenario, leave the political situation unaffected materially, and the PPP and its allies could still soldier on till the general elections. Of course the effect of any such outcome on the politics of the country is another matter, to which one can only return if and when it presents itself.

PIC tragedy: Death toll to 135 ,Three more fall prey to drug reaction

Three more people died in Lahore on Sunday after consuming contaminated medicines provided by the PIC, increasing the death toll to 135.
The medicine – IsoTab – was recently found to have a large amount of anti-malarial causing more and more heart patients deaths.
Moreover, the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) claimed that it did not let new Medical Superintendent of Punjab Institute of Cardiology Dr Muhammad Javed to take charge of his office in PIC.
The young doctors said that the Punjab government had assured them of not taking action against any doctor until the findings of the judicial inquiry fixed the responsibility of deaths on a doctor from the PIC.
Reportedly, on Saturday, Dr Javed, came to the PIC to take charge as the new MS but had no choice but to leave.
“We didn’t misbehave with Dr Javed. We just told him that he should go back to the health secretary’s office and inform him that the YDA did not let him assume charge of his new responsibilities,” said a spokesman of YDA.

Conspiracies being made against Seraiki Province

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that the status of Bahawalpur as a state cannot be restored and that there are conspiracies being hatched against Seraiki province, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad, the prime minister said that demand for a Seraiki province has been there for a long time. He said that restoration of Bahawalpur as a state is not possible, however, Bahawalpur must be made a part of the new province.

Speaking on the 20th Amendment, he said that negotiations are under way but the government wants to pass it unanimously like it has done so with other amendments in the past.

Prime Minister Gilani said that not a single elected government of Pakistan has completed its tenure and the completion of the Parliament’s tenure is in the favour of the nation and the state.

FC personnel gun down two, injure four in Sibi protest

Two people were killed and four others, including a TV channel cameraman, received bullet injuries when security forces opened fire on locals protesting the killing of Baloch women in Karachi in the Bakhtiarabad area of Sibi district on Saturday. The Balochistan chief minister ordered a judicial inquiry into the killing of two civilians and four others at the hand of Frontier Corps Balochistan personnel.

Per reports, around 300 locals, mostly from the Domki tribe, blocked the National Highway near Bakhtiarabad in Sibi in response to a wheel jam strike called by the Baloch Republican Party (BRP).

Meanwhile, a Sibi-bound convoy of Frontier Corps Balochistan coming from Dera Murad Jamali was stopped by the demonstrators. The FC personnel asked the protesters to let them pass but the demonstrators started chanting slogans instead, condemning the killing of the granddaughter of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. After an exchange of harsh words between FC personnel and the protesters, the security personnel opened fire on the people, killing two people instantly while four others were injured.

A report said that the Frontier Corps personnel were insisting for opening the road for vehicular traffic, but when the protesters refused, they resorted to firing. The protesters claimed that it was direct firing that caused the death of two civilians and injuries, however, a Frontier Corps official in Quetta said the personnel opened fire in the air to disperse the crowd, which was getting violent.

The deceased were identified as Bando Khan Domki and Miandad Khan Domki, while two of the injured were identified as Ahmad Khan Domki and Afzal Ahmad, a cameraman of a private TV channel.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani took a serious notice of the killing and ordered a judicial commission for probing into the incident. A late-night government handout said the chief minister ordered the constitution of a judicial commission under the chairmanship of a high court judge with a district and sessions judge as a member for ascertaining the facts.

BLA reLeAses photographs of 3 FC personnel in their custody: Meanwhile, the banned Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has released the photographs of three personnel of Frontier Corps Balochistan and weapons and ammunition along with communication equipments, claiming that the personnel were captured by the BLA after killing 35 FC men and injuring scores of others in the February 1 gun battle in Margut area. However, FC officials confirmed the report, saying these three personnel were abducted by terrorists after the Margut attack.

Meerak Baloch, the spokesman for the BLA on Saturday sent to the newspapers offices three photographs showing three handcuffed FC personnel along with weapons, ammunition and communication gadgets.

A spokesman for the FC confirmed the report, saying during the clashes between the FC and the terrorists in Margut on February 1, three of their soldiers went missing who were later known to have been kidnapped by the terrorists of the banned organisation.

On presidential immunity

Yet, another summon to PM has been issued to the PM the by SC on 13 February, to explain his position for not writing letter to Swiss courts to re-open graft cases against President of Pakistan.
Earlier, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani appeared in the court on 19th January 2012, to explain why he should not be charged with contempt for failing to reopen old corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
He categorically stated that “We respect the courts…my intention is to respect the constitution and my associates also respect the constitution.” and he emphasised that “I decided to appear before the court immediately after getting the notice”.
The constitution assigns the Supreme Court the responsibility of maintaining harmony and balance between the three pillars of the state, namely the legislature, executive and the judiciary. The idea is to ensure that the state organs perform their respective functions within the stipulated limits and constraints. As a guardian of the constitution, the court is required to “preserve, protect and defend” this document.
But it is very sad that the current judiciary under the lordship of Iftikhtar Chaudhry has failed to do so. The number of NRO beneficiaries is 8041. So far, only one person, the president of Pakistan, has been targeted and the remaining 8040 people seem to be exempted from accountability. Is this not against national interests?
As far as the president is concerned, Swiss cases are no more an issue as former Swiss Attorney General Daniel Zappeli clarified that the “Swiss courts cannot reopen the cases against President Zardari due to the immunity he enjoys as president.” The furore must die down as the international law also provides immunity to President Zardari. We have practical examples of France and Sudan regarding this.
The French courts do not take action against Sarkozy for his alleged involvement in the submarine scandal, allegedly done while he was not the president and the Sudanese president is not being arrested due to his sovereign immunity anywhere in the world despite an International Criminal Court warrant against him. President Zardari is the lawfully elected president and is as such immune from any legal action under Article 248 of the constitution. The judiciary is bound to follow the constitution of Pakistan because clashes between institutions cannot be digested by our country, against the backdrop of a faltering economy, widespread poverty and the bloody war with Islamist militant groups