Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Balochistan: Pakistan's other war


In the rugged mountains of southwest Pakistan lies the country's largest province of Balochistan. Far from the bustling cities of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, this remote region has been the battleground for a 60-year-long insurgency by the Baloch ethnic minority.The ongoing conflict is often called Pakistan's dirty war, because of the rising numbers of people who have disappeared or have been killed on both sides.

But the uprising against Pakistan's government has received little attention worldwide, in part because most eyes have been focused on the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in other areas of Pakistan.

Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan remains notorious for cross-border smuggling and has more recently been infiltrated by former members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. Few outsiders gain access or permission to travel in the region.

Al Jazeera's Ahmad Zaidan travelled to Balochistan to meet with key Balochi politicians who explain the history and current circumstances of the region and to get an exclusive interview with the leader of the Balochistan rebel movement seeking secession from Pakistan.

This film offers a glimpse into a region which, in 2010, had the highest number of militant, insurgent and sectarian attacks of any province in Pakistan. It is a region torn apart with separatist organisations attacking the state, sectarian and ethnic attacks, and crime, including kidnapping for ransom.

Argentina to take Falklands case to UN

Buenos Aires plans protest as President Kirchner accuses UK of "militarising the south Atlantic" in islands dispute.

Argentina plans to present a formal complaint in the United Nations over Britain's "militarisation" of the situation in the Falkland Islands, known as Las Malvinas in Argentina.

"We will present a complaint to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, as this militarisation poses a grave danger to international security," President Cristina Kirchner told a group of politicians and Argentine veterans of the 1982 Falklands war on Tuesday.

Referring to the British navy's deployment of a state-of-the-art warship to the region last week, Kirchner said that the UK was "once again in the process of militarising the south Atlantic".

"We cannot interpret in any other way the deployment of an ultra-modern destroyer accompanying the heir to the throne, who we would prefer to see in civilian attire," she added, referring to Prince William, second in line to the British throne, who is currently serving as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot on the islands.

Hundreds of protesters rallied near the government palace where Kirchner was speaking, waving Argentine flags and shouting: "Malvinas! They belong to us!"

Israeli President Peres sends message of peace to Iranians

President Shimon Peres sent a message of peace to Iranians from the podium of Israel’s parliament on Wednesday, saying there was no need for the two peoples to be foes.

“We were not born enemies and there is no need for us to live as enemies,” Peres said in a speech marking the 63rd anniversary of the Knesset’s founding.

“Do not allow the flags of hostility to cast a dark shadow on your historic heritage,” he said. “Your people are a sensitive people who aspire for friendship and peace, and not for conflict and wars.”

In a televised address on Friday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Israel as “a cancerous tumor that must be cut out, and God willing it will be.”

“From now on we will support any group that will fight the Zionist regime,” said the all-powerful Iranian leader.

Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by comments made by officials in the Jewish state, about the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran.

Israel and much of the international community believe that Iran’s nuclear program masks a covert weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.

Widely believed to be the Middle East’s only albeit undeclared nuclear power, Israel has supported tough sanctions against Iran but also insists on retaining the military option to halt its nuclear activities.

Before the 1979 Islamic revolution which brought the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power, Israel and the shah’s Iran had warm relations.

Violence in Bahrain escalates ahead of February 14 anniversary

The funeral march for Mohammed Yaacoub had barely ended last week when police and protesters faced off in the town of Sitra, an impoverished district of Bahrain that has borne the brunt of a year of unrest.

Teenagers using scarves to mask their faces went on a rampage wielding iron bars and petrol bombs, and riot police in their prim blue uniforms and white helmets fired off teargas rounds and stormed down alleyways in their trademark jeeps.

"People have no alternative -- all we have is tires to burn and Molotovs to throw," one activist said. "As long as the government is not ready to respond, anything is possible."

The Bahrain government's security tactics and offer of concessions appear to have failed in calming the streets; if anything the conflict with opposition activists pushing for democratic reforms has become more violent in recent weeks.

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to Bahrain's streets last February and March, occupying a central roundabout in Manama, following revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

As talks on political reforms stalled and some demands shifted to ditching the ruling Al Khalifa family, hardliners in the government brought in Saudi troops and imposed martial law in a bid to quash a movement that was feared to be large enough to pose a real threat to the existing order.

By the time martial law was lifted in June, 35 people had died, including four in police custody and several security personnel.

But the tensions have not gone away. Police continue to clash with disaffected youth in underdeveloped neighborhoods populated by the island state's majority Shi'ite Muslim population, who complain of political and economic marginalization by the ruling elite of Al Khalifa and allied families.

Activists say at least 25 people have died since June, in some cases after exposure to teargas or in incidents as police in cars storm down alleyways in pursuit of teenagers.

At least ten of these deaths occurred in the last two months, after a commission of international legal scholars charged with investigating claims of widespread rights abuses during the period of martial law at the end of November delivered a damning report revealing torture of detainees and flawed military trials.

Now both government and opposition are preparing for a tense month as the February 14 anniversary of the first pro-democracy protests approaches.

The stakes could not be higher. Sunni-ruled states in the Gulf fear reforms making Bahrain the first real Gulf democracy would raise the bar in their own countries. Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite minority is already involved in similar clashes with security forces.

They also fear that a Bahrain with empowered Shi'ites would naturally develop closer ties with Iran. The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Manama, shares concerns about Iranian influence and see Bahrain as a key ally in their stand-off with Tehran over its nuclear energy program.


The government says it is dealing with hooligans whose violent behavior would not be tolerated in any country.

It says the protesters' own political leaders have failed them by rejecting offers of dialogue over the year and making unrealistic demands such as that the government stand down over the rights report.

"We definitely see an escalation from the radical elements of the protesters. We see their use of homemade weapons that have hurt our policemen in a bad way," said Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the Information Affairs Authority and former ambassador to London.

"The door is still open... but don't give me preconditions and don't give me that the government has to resign."

The interior ministry says it wants legislation meting out 15-year sentences to those who attack police -- a police car was destroyed in a petrol bomb attack last week, though no policeman has died in the clashes since March.

Columnists in pro-government papers go further, accusing opposition leaders and Shi'ite clerics of coordinating with Shi'ite state Iran to inflame the streets -- familiar charges that make the opposition roll their eyes.

"We've been hearing this rhetoric for many years. Whenever there's a movement with political demands they play this song," said Farida Ismail, a senior member of the Waad party.

Media have also pointed to the rhetoric of the most influential cleric in Bahrain, Sheikh Issa Qassim, who recently called on worshippers to "crush" those who aggress against women -- a response to reports of mistreatment of women protesters.

Qassim's phrase -- "Ishaquh!" (Crush them) -- has appeared as graffiti in Shi'ite districts all over the country.

Pro-government groups, including many Sunnis, fear that Shi'ite clerics and Islamist politicians will dominate the country, as in Iraq, if the government makes any compromises.


Broadly speaking, protest organizers fall into three groups: the opposition parties led by Shi'ite Islamist party Wefaq who try to coordinate their activities with the government, street activists calling themselves the 'February 14 Youth Coalition' and individuals such as leading rights activist Nabeel Rajab whose marches usually end in teargas.

February 14 is a shadowy group that issues statements in the name of disaffected youth. The authorities have not identified any leaders, but as one activist at a Rajab protest in Manama's old city said with a smirk last week: "We're all February 14."

Their rhetoric has become more radical.

February 14 Youth issued a "charter" this week saying the government had gone too far in its crackdown. "The aim of this revolution has become to bring down the regime and decide our own fate after it became clear that trying to live with it and reform it has become impossible," it said.

One Western diplomat suggested protesters bore more responsibility for the recent escalation and pinned hopes on King Hamad and the Crown Prince's promises of reform, though analysts say hardliners in government have the upper hand.

"February 14 are using increasingly lethal tactics with police, they are spoiling for a fight," the diplomat said, estimating that police tactics had improved since the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission on Inquiry (BICI) report.

One of the government's responses was to hire John Timoney, a former Miami police chief with a record of handling urban protest, to help reform law enforcement procedures.

The diplomat felt that was leading to an improvement, though Timoney's hiring was met with derision by many: "The fact that they brought in someone with his experience speaks to a level of seriousness... Police have been told to use a hands-off approach. In their view, tear gas is the least bad option. That said, it's indiscriminate."


Researchers and activists on the ground say these views do not reflect the reality on the ground.

Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, says his team of 20 researchers have documented 60 deaths since February 14 and that the hardline approach used by police has stiffened in the past two months.

He said that rather than take youths to police stations, a pattern has developed of beating them on the spot or holding them for short periods in informal detention centers where they are beaten up before release. He cited three such buildings.

"We had more than 100 testimonies concerning people taken to those three places since the end of November," he said.

What feeds protesters' anger further is their conviction that Pakistanis and Arab nationals have been hired by the police to man the front lines under Bahraini officers.

At least three people have died in suspicious circumstances over the past month in apparent police custody.

One case was that of Mohammed Yaacoub, a 19-year-old from Sitra who died in police custody last month from what they said were complications resulting from sickle cell disease.

One resident, who gave her name as Umm Fadhel, told Reuters she witnessed riot police stamping on him and beating him with batons. Activists say his body showed bruising, abrasions and a cut, but there were no obvious signs of abuse.

The lawyer of one teenager from Sitra said he was molested outside the police station. "He told the prosecutor that riot police tried to sexually abuse him but the Bahraini officer in charge stopped him," said Fatima al-Khudair. The youth remains in detention on charges of taking part in an illegal gathering.

The brother of a teenager from Dimistan said he was struck by a police car at high speed after clashes last week, but they took him to a private clinic for fear of arrest or mistreatment in a government-run hospital.

The government says it has begun prosecution so far of 48 officers over death and injuries through torture and mistreatment and that the public should be patient.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz defended policing and said Yaacoub's case was under investigation.

"There is an investigation... We are confident that the ministry of interior has engaged with the best people," he said. "There are many untruths of what is happening but if there are any ethical or unethical conduct by police force by all means we ask them to bring it forward."

Vladimir Putin warns against Syria meddling

Russia on Wednesday warned against outside interference in Syria, as Britain and France expressed strong doubt Damascus would live up to promises to end its violent repression of dissidents.

Meanwhile, UN rights chief Navi Pillay called for urgent action to protect Syrian civilians caught in 11 months of civil strife while the European Union made contingency plans in case it needed to evacuate its citizens from Syria.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned the West against behaving "like a bull in a china shop," saying Syrians themselves should be allowed to decide their own fate.

"Of course we condemn violence from whichever side it comes, but we must not behave like a bull in a china shop. We need to allow people to decide their own fate independently," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Moscow sparked Western anger last week by joining Beijing in using its veto at the Security Council to block UN action against the Damascus regime following its latest military offensive on protestors in the city of Homs.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Wednesday pointedly sidestepped a question from a reporter who asked him whether Russia had asked Bashar al-Assad to go in his talks with the Syrian president the day before.

He too said the Syrian people themselves must decide their fate, while calling for Syrian opposition forces to enter into negotiations with Assad's government to reach a solution to the conflict acceptable to all.

Turkey has offered to hold an international conference "as soon as possible" with regional players and world powers to solve the crisis, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The conference could take place in Turkey or in another country but it must certainly be "in the region" and "as soon as possible", Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised interview.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe dismissed promises made to Lavrov by Assad to end the bloodshed, terming them "manipulation".

"I absolutely do not believe in the commitments made by the Syrian regime," he told a radio program jointly run by AFP. "This is a manipulation which we are not going to fall for."

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron also dismissed Assad's promises.

"I think we have very little confidence in that," Cameron told parliament.

Britain will now press for stronger EU sanctions and will increase support for opposition groups inside and outside the country, Cameron said.

Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium have all recalled their ambassadors to Syria for consultations, while Germany decided to leave the vacant post empty for now.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Wednesday summoned the Syrian envoy to convey his "grave concerns" about the worsening crisis, his spokeswoman said.

In Geneva, Pillay, the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the Syrian army's continuing shelling of the city of Homs, a centre of protest in the country.

"I am appalled by the Syrian government's wilful assault on Homs, and its use of artillery and other heavy weaponry in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas in the city," she said in a statement.

"The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have fuelled the Syrian government's readiness to massacre its own people in an effort to crush dissent," she added.

And she stressed the "extreme urgency for the international community to cut through the politics and take effective action to protect the Syrian population" more than 6,000 of whom have died since the start of the upheaval that began with protests in March 2011 amid the Arab Spring.

European Union officials in Brussels said they were making contingency plans in case EU citizens had to be rapidly evacuated from Syria, while mulling a ban on flights in and out of that country.

"We're trying to make things change," a senior EU official said on condition of anonymity, voicing concern that the violence could last a long time. "We're facing a wall, and we have to find a way of climbing over that wall and moving ahead."

The 27-state bloc is also discussing whether to ban the import of phosphates from Syria, freeze the assets of the Syrian central bank and suspend trade in gold and other gems in order to dry up the regime's funds, diplomats said.

Gulf foreign ministers said they would meet Sunday in Cairo, rather than Saturday in Riyadh, to discuss the crisis, a Gulf Cooperation Council official said on Wednesday.

Hayat Sherpao’s death anniversary today

The PPP-Sherpao on Tuesday completed all arrangements for peaceful observance of the 37th death anniversary of then NWFP former Governor,

Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao with great respect and reverence on Wednesday.Khyber Pakthunkhwa President PPP-Sherpao, Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao MPA told APP that all arrangements have been completed to observe the death anniversary of Shaheed e Watan with great reverence and respect.Chairman PPP-S and former Interior Minister, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and others party leaders will address a big public gathering at village Sherpao in Charsadda district on Wednesday.”The sweet memories of the charismatic leader, Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao who attained the distinction of the co founders of PPP, Shaheed Watan and Lion of Sarhad, still are alive in the hearts and minds of people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata who remember him as their only savior for socio-economic emancipation and peace,” he argued. The people of the province and tribal regions are all set to observe the death anniversary of their beloved leader, who was assassinated on February 16, 1975 in a bomb explosion on the campus of University of Peshawar that left the entire nation in an endless mourning and deep shock.Sherpao said Pakhtuns strongly believes that he was martyred under a well though out plan to keep the land of Pukhtuns backward, illiterate and deprived of their rights.”Hayat Sherpao alive today, the destiny of the Pakhtun nation would have definitely been changed as he was earnestly working for social economic uplift of people and Pakthun who had special attachment with them,” he said. He said he always raised voices for Pakthun rights and poor segments of the society and it is a day to make a pledge to carry forward his mission to next generation and termed his thoughts were beacon light for people and politicians.Hayat Sherpao was born in 1943 at the residence of Khan Bahadar Ghulam Haider Khan Sherpao, who was a leader of Pakistan Movement. A Muhammadzai by tribe, he was one of the co-founders of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed had made him the party head in then North-West Frontier Province when he formed the PPP in 1967. He became Governor of NWFP now called Khyber Pakthunkhwa shortly after Bhutto had become President of Pakistan.He also remained a Federal Minister in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s cabinet and a Senior Minister in NWFP cabinet.

Pakistan wants to foster strong ties with Russia

Addressing a joint news conference in Moscow after a meeting with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that Pakistan wants to foster strong relations with Russia in different fields.
She said there is an intensive collaborative road map for cooperation and inter actions between the two countries. She said we are looking forward for the energy group to be meeting within the first half of this year.
The Foreign Minister described her meeting as very good and said it would give way to have clarity in the inter actions and institutional framework that we have been able to develop. Hina said that Pakistan takes pride in developing good relations with Russian.
She said Pakistan has been working to find solution to Afghanistan s problems having Afghan owned‚ Afghan led dialogue and what the Afghan people decide.
The Foreign Minister said Pakistan will welcome Russian investment in the Pakistan Steel Mills.

Remembering Ajmal Khattak: Story of a legend

Frontier Post

Ajmal Khattak was born in the house of Hikmat Khan Khattak on 15th September 1925 at Akora Khattak. His family traced back to Kushkhal Khan Khattak in 10th generation. Ajmal Khattak was the only son of Hikmat Khan. Beside Ajmal he had four daughters. In 1936, Ajmal Khattak was just eleven when his father was died. After the death of his father his family faces livelihood problems. In such a critical situation his mother and sisters worked by carving the decoration designs and sewing cloths. They worked hard to earn money and educated Ajmal Khattak.Ajmal Khattak was naturally talented. He received his early education from the village mosque. He studied Gulistan, Bostan, Khulasa and Munya from Mulana Abdul Qayyum. He learnt Holy Quran with translation, Bukhari Sharief, Mashqat, Mukhtasar-ul-Maghani from Maulana Abdul Haq Sahib, Maulana Qazi Aminul Haq and his uncle Maulana Mohammad Umer Sahib. He was admitted in class 2 in Akora Khattak Middle School. When Ajmal passed 4th, his relatives wished that he should stop his education and start helping his mother and sisters in earning money for livelihood. His brilliance in education played an important role in continuing his education. He passed 4th with outstanding marks. A scholarship of Rs. 2 was given to him. His mother stressed on continuing his education. He got first position in the province in class 8th and his scholarship rose to Rs. 8/. That scholarship was not only enough for his education but for his home expenses as well. That’s why he continues his education. After completion his education at Akora Khattak, he took admission in Govt. High School Peshawar in 1942. In that school he was the class mate of famous Indian actor Raj Kapur. Beside brilliance in study he was fond of games as well. He was all rounder in badminton, volleyball and particularly the champion of football. After completion of his early education, Ajmal couldn’t continue his further education due to one or other reason. One of the reasons was his involvement in politics and the other was the beginning of World War II. The most important one is the family poorness and his involvement in politics. During his service as a teacher he got master degrees in Persian, Pashto, and Urdu. In the absence of his father and the only male member of the family, Ajmal Khattak starts his career as a teacher in 1943 when he was just 18. First he was appointed as a teacher at Katozai School Charsadda. Later on he was transferred to Ziarat Kaka Sahib. From 1946-47 he worked as a teacher in different schools like Badrashi, Pirpai, Akora and Pabbi. In 1952, Ajmal Khattak married his cousin Jamshed Begum when he was just 27. From Jamshed Begum, Ajmal Khattak had three sons and two daughters. Ajmal Khattak versatility not confined to a specific field. He was a versatile in every field of life whether it was teaching, politics or literature. Journalism was another field in which he also got fame. He is known to be a brilliant journalist. After the creation of Pakistan, he was suspended from teaching by the government due to his involvement in politics. He was introduced to Radio Pakistan by Samandar Khan Samndar, the famous Pashto writer and poet on 1st April 1948. He started working in radio Pakistan as a script writer till 1953. After that he started his journalistic career. In this context he along with Pir Muhammad Salik started a monthly journal Addal which play a key role in his journalistic life. He worked in the Urdu daily newspaper, Jhang. He became an editor of Urdu daily newspaper Anjam in 1956, which is called now-a-days Mashriq Peshawar. He remains editor of Urdu daily Bang-e- Harram and Shahbaz. Political Life Ajmal Kahttak starts his political career as a Khudai Khidmatgar, when he was in class 9th at Govt. High School Peshawar. He became a formal member of that movement at the age of 17. He was greatly impressed by Baacha Khan. In his early childhood when Baacha Khan visited Nowshehra, he placed his hand on his head and told him that; ‘I am struggling for you.’ Ajmal Khattak also met Subash Chandar Bose. Those two personalities played key role in his political life. During his stay in radio Pakistan he wrote many revolutionary poems. A poem title ‘Bedar Nojawan ka Geet’ in Urdu was the famous one. In March 1952, in an inauguration ceremony of the Akbar Memorial College Mardan (presently Government Postgraduate College Mardan), Ajmal Khattak sang the same poem in front of the then Chief Minister of NWFP, Qayyum Khan and his Cabinet, who was the Chief Guest of the inauguration ceremony. Trans. “Don’t show me the lavish picture of life because I want to serve my nation at all cost.”Resultantly, the gathering came to an end in hurry and he was arrested after a few days of the ceremony and was send to jail for 18 months without any interrogation. To aware Pakhtuns, he established a league with the name ‘Pakhtun League’. On this the then Muslim league government of Pakistan arrested him again in April 1953. He was imprisoned in Pabbi and Nowshera jails. He was in and out from jail till 1964. Ajmal Khattak participated in 1970 elections as a NAP-Wali candidate from NA-IV Peshawar but lost his seat to Maulana Abdul Haq of JUI. After Liaqat Bagh massacre, he fled to Afghanistan and stayed there for 16 years. After consultation with party leaders in order to avoid arrest and possible torture he ended his exile life. In his 16 years exile period he kept himself aloof from Pakistan politics. His exile life in Afghanistan ended on 27th January 1989 when he came back to Pakistan. One year after his exile period he became the member of National Assembly from NA-IV (Peshawar-Nowshehra). On 19th January 1991 Ajmal Khattak became the Central President of ANP replacing Wali Khan. In 1993 elections Ajmal Khattak lost his seat to PPP candidate Major Gen (R) Naseer Ullah Khan Baber but elected as a Senator in March 1993. In Senate, he remained a member of the Senate standing committee of Foreign affairs, Kashmir affair and Northern Areas, Interior, Narcotics Control, State and Frontier Regions, Information and Broadcasting. He was also a member of the Functional committee of the Senate on Government assurances. He was elected Central President of ANP for the second term in 1994 till 1997. His (Ajmal Khattak) two terms as President of the Awami National Party were noted primarily for the close alliance with former opponents, the Muslim League, after the alliance collapsed in January 1998 over the renaming of NWFP to Pakthunkhwa and Khattak role in leading the Awami National Party briefly into joining an alliance known as Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM). On 3rd October 1998, he was elected as General Secretary of the PONM. The decision to join PONM was made despite strong pressure from party critics who preferred the ANP to ally themselves with a party like the Peoples Party. Eventually, Khattak succumbed to party pressure and the Awami National Party left PONM joining the Grand Democratic Alliance which included the PPP. In 1999, he met General Pervez Musharaf. In the meeting he discussed the country situation both internal and external. He advised Musharraf that through dialogue and his personal service he could bring out the country of such a critical situation. After meeting with Musharraf, Ajmal Khattak met with Khan Abdul Wali Khan, the part’s Rehbar-e-Tehreek next day. Begum Naseem and Asfandyar Wali Khan were also present. He told them in detail that Musharaf wants to change the entire system of the country. He narrated him all the detail of General Pervez Musharaf meeting. Khan Abdul Wali Khan replied that; ‘I also wanted so which was adopted by the General Musharaf.’ As a consequence, he received a show cause notice from the central President of ANP, Asfandyar Wali Khan, on 17th May 2000, in which he demanded from Ajmal Khattak to clarify his position that why did he meet with General Musharaf without the prior approval of the party? In reply to show cause notice, Ajmal Khattak sang his emotional poem which he sang earlier in front of Qayyum Khan. He narrated that poem in a gathering of Urdu Science Board Peshawar, in his Presidential address. As a result his party membership was suspended. On 20th May, 2000, he was expelled from party after the approval of central committee on 22nd May, 2000. After separation from ANP he laid the foundation of Pakistan National Awami Party (PNAP) on 23rd and 24th November 2000 in the Hujra of Arbab Muhammad Ayub Jan at Nasirpur. Ajmal Khattak was elected its President. He revived PNAP after separating from ANP for the achievement of Pakhyuns rights. In 2002 elections PNAP couldn’t secure a single seat while ANP secured 10. At that time he was near to retire from active politics and live at his native village Akora Khattak. On the request of Wali Khan he remerge PNAP into ANP. Literal AchievementsAjmal Khattak has natural inclination towards fact. One day he visits to the tomb of his great grandfather Khuskhal Khan Khattak. He saw that the tomb of that legend was in miserable condition. He felt that and concluded that in a few verses. Trans: “The grave of my grandfather Khushkhal Khan Khattak has lost its original shape. His grandsons were too rich but they never knew about their grandfather tomb which was in miserable condition.”On the death of his father Hikmat Khan, Ajmal Khattak wrote some emotional verses. In 1937 he narrates that poem in a Mushaira on the tomb of Khushkhal Khan. The starting lines of the pomes areTrans: “O, People, in the ashes I see the pearl/diamond of Badkhshan (province of Afghanistan) this is why, here I see the gathering of Poets of NWFP.”After that Mushaira, Ajmal Kahttak became a renowned poet and participation in poetic gathering became his routine. He is not only a good prose writer but he is a nice revolutionary poet as well. He wrote fourteen books nine of them were Pashto poetry. One Urdu Ghazliyat, two of them were Pashto prose, one drama type and one is his autobiography. Those are Da Ghairat Chegha, Batoor, Da Wakht Chegha, Guloona Takaloona, Gul Parhar, Jond au Khwand, Da Za Pagal Wom, Zond au Fun, Jalawatan ki Shairi,Sray Ghunchay, Qisa zama da Adabi Zond and etc. The collection Da Ghairat Chegha was banned in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. His first poem was published in 1944 in Pashto magazine “Pakhtun” started by Baacha Khan. The legendry poet, politician and pakhtun leader died on 7th February 2010 night 8:30 PM at his home. His funeral prayer was asked on 8th February in his home town Akora Khattak and buried there.

Lahore : 50% children across Punjab province unable to read

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 has revealed that approximately 50 percent children across Punjab cannot read a sentence in Urdu or in their mother tongue, while at least 66 percent children cannot read a sentence of grade two level English.

The report was revealed during a ceremony held at the Children’s Library Complex on Tuesday. Idara Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA) Programme Director Baela Raza Jamil, Adviser to Chief Minister Begum Zakia Shahnawaz, former finance minister Syed Babar Ali, Justice Nasira Iqbal, Punjab Schools Secretary Aslam Kamboh, Standing Committee for Education Chairman Chaudhry Javed Ahmed, Literacy Secretary Pervaiz Malik, EDOs of various districts and a large number of educationists were present on the occasion.

The survey was conducted by the South Asia Forum for Education Development (SAFED) and managed by ITA in collaboration with the Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), Department for International Development (DFID), National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and Oxfam/Novib.

The ASER survey was conducted in 28 districts across Punjab. Specially trained volunteer teams surveyed 16,618 households in 839 villages and collected detailed information about 44,586 children (56% male and 44% female) belonging to the age group of 3-16 years. Children aged between 5-16 were tested for language and arithmetic competencies. The survey also collected information on 1,379 schools - 835 government and 544 private - while also assessing literacy level of 16,050 mothers.

Test results showed that only 51.4 percent children were able to read a sentence in Urdu or their mother tongue, while 15.6 percent were unable to read letters and were categorised as beginners. The English reading and comprehension test reported that 33.5 percent children could read sentences, 20.4 percent could read words, while 19.1 percent children were unable to recognise alphabets and were categorised as beginners.

The arithmetic learning level of children going to private schools was reported to be slightly better but far from being satisfactory. Of 1,379 schools assessed – 835 government and 544 private – the ASER survey identified that overall, the students’ attendance in government schools stood at 84.7 percent according to the attendance registers and 80.9 percent according to the headcount on the day of school visit. In private schools, these percentages stood at 89.2 percent and 86.6 percent, respectively. The teachers’ attendance level in government and private schools was recorded at 85.4 percent and 89.6 percent, respectively.

Balochistan: the ISI and the media

Daily Times

By:Dr Qaisar Rashid

Gradually, the relationship between the media and the ISI turned symbiotic and some quarters of the media took upon themselves the job of defending publicly every act of the ISI

Perhaps the world would have been a better place to dwell in if military solutions to political issues had been successful. In that case, there would have been no need of long-drawn political dialogues and negotiations since they consume time. If the Pakistan Army had solved the Bangladesh problem, its standing on Balochistan would have been valued.

The Arab Spring put a point across effectively that no arm of the state can muffle the voice of the people by coercion — even if the voices were of dissent. The fall of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was big news for Pakistan, as his era kept on inspiring the military commanders in Pakistan to take over the civil setup and introduce a controlled parliament. General Pervez Musharraf aped Hosni Mubarak in the political sphere by installing a puppet parliament — though Musharraf also tried to replicate the Turkish model in the social sphere. Anyway, having been ravaged by the Arab Spring, no Arab country is now ready to support — whether politically or economically — a military takeover in Pakistan. Democracy reigns supreme!

A question that irks many Pakistanis is: if a bicycle is stolen from the streets of Bhai Pheru, the news of the theft is broadcast on the national electronic media as breaking news; TV talk shows invite experts to speak on the cause and effect of the theft; judicial activism is called for; national interests are felt threatened; rumours of the tumbling of the government consequently may make the rounds; so why is the media (both print and electronic) silent on the situation in Balochistan?

The decade of the Afghan war (1979-89) might have yielded numerous fruit to Pakistan but it infused one major factor into the socio-political sphere of Pakistan: the overwhelming role of Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI. The post-1991 era witnessed the ISI poking its nose into every socio-political affair. The role of the ISI during the Afghan war might have made Pakistanis revere it but its role in the post-1991 era has instilled fear in the hearts of Pakistanis. The legal option of ‘preventive detention’ has been successfully — and disgracefully — exploited by the intelligence agencies, including the ISI.

It was not only the socio-political domain that was swept by the ‘ISI-wave’ but also the media. Reporters of several dailies had to rely on the ISI for obtaining new information. The fear of the ISI also helped intensify that reliance. Some, if not many, reporters and editors could not afford infuriating the ISI by publishing news disapproved by it. Gradually, the relationship between the media and the ISI turned symbiotic and some quarters of the media took upon themselves the job of defending publicly every act of the ISI. Some critics think that the flow of funds from the ISI bags to the pockets of certain media people also played its due role. The term ‘lifafa’ (envelope) journalism was also coined. Perceivably, to be on the payroll of an intelligence agency such as the ISI may be a big achievement as the consequent status offers a guarantee of protection, career advancement, economic prosperity and whatnot to the beneficiary. Then why die for a cause such as Balochistan: avoid speaking and writing on such issues and live a long, happy and prosperous life.

Later on, the symbiotic relationship also infested the electronic media. Perceivably, the popularity rating of several reporters, editors and anchorpersons now depend on the information supplied by the intelligence agencies, especially the ISI. The beneficiaries reciprocate by defending all acts of the ISI. One can surmise that the carrot-and-stick policy of the ISI is controlling the media. Against that background, do the Baloch now understand why the issues related to them are not highlighted in (some sections of) the (print and electronic) media?

Another problem is that neither any national daily (Urdu or English) nor any national electronic channel has its head office in Quetta. Consequently, the voice of the Baloch cannot be heard across Pakistan. Otherwise, Pakistanis generally are not so callous as to not pay any heed to the voice of the Baloch.

The word ‘controlled’ is the bane of Pakistan. Certainly, if someone is not ready to be ‘controlled’, he or she can be ‘silenced’. Nevertheless, if journalists and writers are fearful of being ‘silenced’ in case they write and speak the truth, Pakistan cannot be changed. The truth is that the media is compromised on the issue of Balochistan owing to the ISI factor. By the way, what is the worth of this compromised media: just to sell biscuits and burgers? A street hawker can do that and in a better way.

Criticising the role of the ISI does not mean ISI-bashing as propagated by retired army generals appearing as defence analysts on various national TV talk shows. Instead, the point is the job of an intelligence agency — and there are several around, including the ISI — cannot be to construct a ‘controlled Pakistan’; if such is the case, that role should be condemned and resisted by all. In a country where the general trend in the media is to be a chamcha (bootlicker) of the security forces and intelligence agencies, what issue including that of the missing persons can be raised and decided? The sickness called ‘chamchaism’ has frustrated the dream of an independent media.

The obverse side of the argument is that if you exorcise the fear of the intelligence agencies from the heart of the media people, see how the media makes its presence felt in every nook and corner of Balochistan. The media, which is doctored by the intelligence agencies, cannot be considered independent. A Pakistan where a Pakistani has to be scared of the ISI or other intelligence agencies is not worth living in. The grievances piled up in Balochistan have attained a size and importance higher than that of the ISI. Secondly, the life and honour of one Baloch is preferable to the life and honour of the whole of the ISI.

Balochistan killings echo in NA

Daily Times

The fast-deteriorating security situation in Balochistan figured prominently in the Lower House of parliament when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government came under fire for its failure in controlling the killing spree with increasing recoveries of mutilated bodies in various parts of the scarcely populated province.

Although being a private member day, the session took up the business, but the Balochistan situation strongly resounded in the House as lawmakers spoke across party lines. The Balochistan issue triggered points of order when some members spoke on the killing of wife and daughter of MPA Mir Bakhtiyar Domki in Karachi, demanding arrest of their killers.

The members also called for a special committee to inspect the worsening law and order in Balochistan and urged the government to take the House on board on the issue. The lawmakers also suggested that parliamentary committees should be formed on Karachi and Balochistan to inform the House about their observations.

Balochistan MNA Humayun Aziz Kurd said that secrete agencies were behind the unrest in the province and called for putting an end to injustices being committed by these agencies.

PML-N MNA Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch deplored that despite the lapse of several months, the committee formed by the House could not submit its report. “It seems these committees are simply a joke with Balochistan’s people” and called for a detailed debate on the Balochistan situation.

JUI-F legislator Asiya Nasir called for a political solution to the Balochistan issue, saying the use of force had not served the purpose in the past and would not do so in the future also.

Dr Zille Huma also stressed on submitting committee reports to the House as it was already too late.

MQM’s Asif Hasnain also castigated the government for its non-serious approach on Balochistan issue and feared that a Bangladesh-like situation could emerge in the violence-hit province if correct measures were not adopted. Dr Lal Chand, Nawab Yusuf Talpur, Akhunzada Chattan and Abdul Ghani Talpur also spoke on the issue.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik repeated his words, saying that the government had taken cognisance of the killings of the Domki women and the Sindh additional inspector general had been tasked to probe the incident. “The apex court has also taken notice of the issue and directed the authorities concerned to arrest the culprits,” he said. The minister also condemned the murder of a Sindh University professor and said that those involved in the criminal act would be brought to justice.

The proceedings were also marked with the walkout by PML-Q legislator Prince Mohiyuddin against remarks of the interior minister about the involvement of people of Chitral in violence in Karachi. Taking up business, the House disposed of various items on the order of the day.

The House unanimously passed the Medical and Dental Council (Amendment) Bill, 2009 to further amend the Medical and Dental Council Ordinance 1962.

Swat Museum to be rebuilt with Rs221m fund

The News

Khyber Pakhtun-khwa Minister for Sports, Tourism and Museums Syed Aqil Shah on Tuesday said the provincial government would spend Rs221 million with the support of Italy to restore and build the Swat Museum on the Saidu Sharif Road in Mingora.

Laying the foundation stone for the museum, he said the Swat Museum would be rebuilt by the Italian archaeologists and the reconstruction would promote the culture of Swat. He added the provincial government was about to start work on the Malam Jabba Hotel, Kalam Road, Mahodand and Gulf ground in the area.

Speaking on the occasion, representative of the Italian government, Katrina Ronchi said Swat belonged to a fertile civilization as the area encompassed a rich history. She added the Italian government would help Pakistan unearth its archaeological treasures.

She said the museum suffered losses during militancy in Swat and owing to the interest of the Pakistan government in rebuilding the Museum, Italy developed a comprehensive project to restore the treasure house. She added that the Italian archaeologists would also be starting excavation in Swat valley.

PVDP launches project for psychological growth of displaced children


Pakistan Village Development Programme (PVDP) in collaboration with UNICEF funded Child Protection Project has launched activities for psychological and physical growth of in and out camp IDPs of Kurram Agency.

The project is extended to both those who are residing in the IDPs camp of Sadda, Kurram Agency and those who are living in rented houses or along with their relatives.

According to estimates 4000 IDPs are living outside the camp and 3000 are in the camp.

In this connection, 12 Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) have been established in different parts of Durrani IDPs camp and special training programme has been started for provision of sports, drawing, games and education facilities to the children living outside the camp.

Furthermore, basic health facilities have also been provided to both children and women, which include the provision of first-aid and treatment of common diseases. However, in case of unusual disease, the patients are referred to local hospitals and for this purpose they are also provided transport facility.

According to Team Leader, PVDP, Mohammad Imran, the purpose of providing training to displaced children is to remove the fear of wars destruction from the minds of children and provide them pleasant environment so after the return of normalcy they could restart a new life in their houses.

He said that they have registered those children which were used to stand in long queues to get relief goods for their parents.

Beside, this, he said the children selling naswar and cigarettes on the streets and roads of Sadda have also been enrolled in the training camps to give them guidance regarding future.Similarly, he said that orphans and destitute children are given special attention.

He said that all necessary goods and other facilities are supplied to the camps.APP

Aitzaz wants new judges in larger bench

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the counsel for Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said it is not appropriate for the judges who ordered to indict the PM to sit in the larger bench.

He was talking to the reporters after filing appeal against the Supreme Court’s summon to PM Gilani to appear on February 13 in contempt of court case.

Aitzaz said he based the appeal on precedents set by top courts in Australia, Britain, France, India and the United States.

"I have filed an appeal today. I have quoted more than 50 national and international cases and given specific reasons against the Supreme Court order," Ahsan told reporters.

The counsel called for an early hearing of the appeal. "It depends on the court to stay the proceedings and decide against summoning the prime minister on February 13," he said.

Replying to a question, he said he would appear even if the Chief Justice is included in the larger bench. 'I have not appeared before him for the last four years.'

A seven-member larger bench issued the verdict finding enough matter to indict the premier. Now a nine-member bench would hear the appeal against the order.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa minister speaks about women's business activities

"It was quite challenging task to organise women business promotional activities in the province, women intentionally were kept away from such activities and confined to their houses", said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Minister for Information, and Culture, Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

In a bid to exhibit and promote women entrepreneurs' handicraft and skilled work, a two-day Grande Trade Festival-2012 under the auspices of Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WCCI), Peshawar in collaboration with Directorate of Culture, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was started on Tuesday.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain was chief guest at opening ceremony of the exhibition.

Beside WCCI president, Sajida Zulfiqar, Secretary Culture, Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Ms Fitarat Ilayas Bilour, and representatives of relevant stakeholders were present on the occasion.

Iftikhar said that government wants equal rights and opportunities for women in the society, adding that the promotion of female education was its top priority.

He stressed that women had much contribution in economic development by taking parts in different field of life.

"We can't ignore their contribution in economic uplift the country", he maintained.

Mian Iftikhar said the gender base equality would prove economic development and property, adding that women are part and parcel by leading role in various characteristic abilities and skilled.

He expressed the hope that the business promotional events would helpful for regaining economic activities in the province.

"We are peaceful people and believe on non-violence ideology," he explained and said that aggressive forces will not be succeeded in their hidden agenda.

While talking to reporters, Mian Iftikhar said that the basic purpose of the business development activity was to provide an opportunity to women entrepreneurs to showcase their skilled work.

The government had launched different scheme, like Hunarmad, Bacha Khan Akpal Rozar and special initiatives for promotional of technical education in the province, he explained.

He said that the exhibition would also helpful for introduction of recently launched Hunarmand Scheme, wherein special quota has been allocated for women entrepreneurs.

Mian Iftikhar said the government would extend every possible support for organising such business development activities in the province.

WCCI president, Sajida Zulfiqar while delivering her welcome said that the basic purpose was to organise exhibition to promote and showcase skilled work of female entrepreneurs.

She added that such business development activities have pivotal role to promote and access women businessmen products at national and international.

Sajida observed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa women have much potential to compete at national and international through their skilled work.

There was mere need to provide better opportunity to showcase their products in the market, she maintained.

Appreciating the launching of Hunarmand Scheme, she demanded of the government to increase its quota for women entrepreneurs.

More than 30 stalls were put on displayed in the trade fair, including handmade stuff embroidery outfits, jewellery, bed sheets, women shall, and other variety of female collection of clothes.

The Bank of Khyber had set-up an information desk for guidance of visitors regarding Bacha Akpal Rozar Scheme and recently launched Hunarmand Scheme.

A polio awareness stall was also set-up in the exhibition.

US Congressional hearing on Balochistan today

The Express Tribune

The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs is set to convene a congressional hearing on Wednesday (February 8), for an exclusive discussion for the first-time ever on Balochistan.

The event which will be closely monitored by Islamabad will be chaired by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who recently co-authored an article with Congressman Louie Gohmert expressing support for an independent Balochistan.

Interestingly, the testimony of Georgetown assistant professor C Christine Fair, who is a member of the three-member panel of witnesses, was uploaded on the internet on Tuesday. In her testimony, Fair has highlighted the government of Pakistan’s ‘extractive policies’ over the decades to keep an ‘ironclad control over the state’.

The professor has gone on to emphasise the ongoing human rights violations in Balochistan and the government’s decision to ‘pursue military action, involving the forced disappearances of youths with no criminal records and the elimination of Baloch tribal leaders’. In her testimony, Fair will also seek to poke holes in the Pakistani state’s argument that military and paramilitary action is justified because Baloch tribal leaders are irreconcilable to the state with research that found that any conciliatory move by government led to a decline in militant attacks.

Fair, who will present a number of recommendations, will not ‘entertain’ any proposal for an independent Balochistan, saying that ‘given the ethnic diversity of the province, its complicated history, and the existing geographic constraints, an independent Balochistan is untenable’.

However, the professor has mentioned the implementation of certain government programmes such as the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan to help the province within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, adding that ‘the US with its partners can use select instruments of its national powers to encourage Pakistan to do the right thing’.

The two other members of the panel include defence analyst Ralph Peters and Pakistan Director of the Human Rights Watch Ali Dayan Hasan.