Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rap star 50 Cent in Somalia


US rap star 50 Cent visited orphaned schoolchildren in Kenya's biggest slum Thursday.

He visited the slum a day after touring camps in impoverished and war-torn Somalia.
"To meet those kids was so inspiring, they have nothing, yet they are so positive and optimistic," the rapper whose real name is Curtis Jackson, was quoted as saying in a statement released by the UN World Food Programme.
"I want to do my part so they get food and an education. I hope more people will join me to help end this devastating situation," he said.
The heavily tattooed rapper, known for his explicit and often violent lyrics in albums such as "The Massacre," said he was moved by seeing the impact of decades of war and hunger when he visited camps in anarchic southern Somalia on Wednesday.
"What I am seeing is devastating -- these women and children have risked everything to come to this Somalia camp, just to get food," he said. "They need our help."
The rapper made the visit with the WFP aid agency to see the impact of last year s crippling drought in the Horn of Africa region, after he donated money from the sales of a drink he owns.
50 Cent s 2003 debut album, "Get Rich or Die Tryin," sold 12 million copies.

Deaths by PIC drugs: judicial probe from 13th

The judicial commission would be led by Lahore High Court Justice Ijazul Ahsan. Additional Registrar Irfan Saeed has been appointed secretary of the commission.
The Punjab government had moved a writ petition in the Lahore High Court, seeking formation of a commission for an effective inquiry into the killings occurred due to reaction of medicines given by the Pakistan Institute of Cardiology (PIC).
Chief Justice Shaikh Azmat Shaikh appointed Justice Ijazul Ahsan as chief of the commission.

Veena Malik applies for Indian visit visa in Dubai

Pakistani actress Veena Malik has applied for an Indian visa at a processing centre in the emirate, a source revealed yesterday.The model-turned-actress has been embroiled in scandal since she appeared on the December cover of Indian FHM, a monthly men’s magazine, wearing nothing but a tattoo of the initials ISI on her arm – alluding to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence.

Earlier media reports suggested Ms Malik had been denied an Indian visa as a result of the controversy, but a source in Dubai said they had accepted her application “as a reference case”.

Citizens of Pakistan and Afghanistan are generally referred to the Indian missions in the UAE for interviews after they file an application. The source said there was “no time frame” for processing requests from citizens of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“It has been forwarded to the consulate and they will call her for an interview,” he said.

“I visited the consulate to get some papers attested,” Ms Malik confirmed to The National.

The 33-year-old made her Bollywood debut in Gali Gali Mein Chor Hai (there is a thief on every street), which premièred in Dubai last week.

“Whenever visas expire for any country, I would have to apply,” she said. “Like Pakistan, Dubai is my country [sic]. I am a resident of this country and can apply for any visa from here.”

She dismissed reports her visa application had been rejected as baseless. “There is no truth at all. The people of India have always been generous. I have never had any problems, whether for a UK visa or for an India visa,” she said.

The Indian Consulate refused to comment on the issue.

Her publicist said Ms Malik already holds a valid Indian visa.“She has a valid business visa until March,” said Sohail Rashid, Ms Malik’s spokesman and public relations manager.

“She has probably applied for an extension at the Indian consulate.”

He said the actress was spending time in Dubai to mend ties with her family.“Her father was very angry with her. She’s here to clear any misunderstanding,” he said, referring to her father’s public outburst over the FHM photo shoot.

Ms Malik has denied posing nude for the magazine

, insisting her image was photoshopped. She is suing the magazine for US$2 million (Dh7.3m) in damages.

She plans to return to India at the end of this month to continue shooting for her upcoming film, Mumbai 125 Km.

Afghanistan: ‘Into the surge’: Colonel shares story

BY:Nick Lachance

During the 2010 troop surge in Afghanistan, the number of international forces in the southern regions of the country grew from 70 to 100,000. In Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where the heaviest fighting with the Taliban was taking place, the numbers of available soldiers shifted from 15, 000 to almost 60,000 troops.

“What does that allow you to do?” Colonel David Patterson, of the Canadian forces, proposed last Thursday evening at the Laurier Center for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS) at Wilfrid Laurier University. The answer: stay once the Taliban have been driven out of an area, strengthen relationships with local leaders and vastly improve the capability of Afghans to take control of their own security.

Colonel Patterson brings a unique perspective to recent events in Afghanistan.

Having served in Kandahar province from Oct. 2010 to 2011, he was part of a headquarters company assigned to work directly with the newly arrived United States 10th Mountain Division. Part of Regional Command South, they had responsibility over four provinces, Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul. By also being part of a mentoring program, Colonel Patterson ran a UN funded emergency call center, the first of its kind outside of Kandahar city.

A system of “tip lines” already existed across Afghanistan allowed citizens to report on insurgent activity, but this project sought to be something more. Responsible for all of Regional Command South, they fielded thousands of calls each month.

“The challenge for the Afghans was they wanted to make it free. The problem with that is it gets overused,” Patterson explained. “We would get thousands of calls a month, of which 90 per cent of them were harassing against the operators. But if we did get an emergency call we would report to the proper, usually police organization, we could coordinate with the army, but most of the calls went to the police.”

This marks an important watershed for Afghanistan’s transition towards peace. To date, the Afghan National Army has been the first, and only responder to any emergency.

Colonel Patterson explained the desire to create a professional, legitimate Afghan police force, which would take over civil protection from the National Army.

This shift in focus has already proven beneficial. On May 7, 2011, when Kandahar City was attacked by Taliban forces, it was the police, not international troops who handled the threat.

Patterson stressed one of the most important things necessary to move forward was governmental legitimacy.

“There’s a lot of effort being put into institutional organization, setting up things like police… but people don’t see that on a daily basis, but they see the billboards for the call centre,” he added.

However, simply seeing is not believing, a tangible element is necessary for the call centers to have an impact, “The challenge is to make sure something happens when they [Afghan’s] call. A policeman shows up and asks some questions… if nothing happens then people quickly lose faith.”

Reflecting on his time in Afghanistan, Patterson emphasized how positive his work with the Afghan police force had been. He added it was not without its challenges.

“We had a lot of reports of police misconduct [at the call centre], people saying I got shaken down at a checkpoint, so we would pass that on to the Afghan police and their mentors. We were there at the very beginning, and they had a long way to develop, but the intent was to roll these out across all the regions of Afghanistan eventually,” Patterson said.

Afghan president postpones handover of US prison

The Associated Press

The Afghan president has extended by one month the deadline for the transfer of the main American military prison in the country.

Thursday's statement from President Hamid Karzai's office says the United States has until March 9 to transfer authority of the prison to the Afghan government.

It is located outside Bagram Air Base, a main NATO base outside the capital Kabul.

The statement says the delay was due to a lack of cooperation from the U.S. side. There was no comment from the U.S.-led international coalition.

The prison holds 3,000 detainees, including Afghans and foreign insurgents, and was to have been handed over on Feb. 5.

President Karzai: His Overestimated Self-Confidence

For Afghan President, it has turned a dream to embrace his upset Taliban brothers. However, they've so far rejected his calls for brotherhood. The exhausting and insufficiently resourced war against terrorism has badly affected not only Afghanistan but the region and the entire globalized world. At the diplomatic level, government officials have always demonstrated a strong commitment and lasting will to defeat terrorism to rescue the mankind.

The practice, nonetheless, represents a different view. The hope for a terrorism-free world is fading, with terrorists gaining an upper hand in Afghanistan and regional equations and their evil-minded operations being justified by governments.

A handful of fugitive Taliban were sent on a short period exile, defied and then regrouped to carry out their ideologically mandated violence and destruction. It would never be an impossible job to eradicate Talibanism and extremism in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere if there were enough political will and a global consensus.

In Afghanistan, the fabulous Taliban story very easily turned into a horrific reality in absence of a clear strategy to fight them and with a vast local and foreign supports for the radical, dogmatic and fundamentalist ideology. It has now crossed its traditional, tribal hotbeds.

They are today seen operating across the formerly peaceful provinces in Afghanistan. More importantly, the sophisticatedly equipped military powers are retreating in fight against terrorism. To justify a prematurely planned withdrawal to get rid of the wrong policies and practices here, they have growingly painted an insuperable picture of extremist groups.

But the victory against Taliban has never been an unfeasible mission. It only needs enough political determination, reality-based strategies, regional and global consensus and sufficient resourcing. None will ignore the looming danger by conceding to militancy. But the shortsighted plans, personal interests and naïve understating of Talibanism have put Afghanistan and the region on a hazardous direction.

The weakening position of Afghan government under president Karzai in the so-called negotiation process has directly empowered Taliban to hold a higher position and the upper hand in talks. Afghanistan remains the subject of discussions but has never played the ideal role in talks and decision making.

Even, Taliban are insisting to hold direct talks with the US representatives in Qatar and elsewhere but never with Karzai government. Taliban have once more announced they are not going to sit with Afghan government representatives to discuss peace plans because they see, according to them, no real authority in Karzai's administration to handle things.

Reports said on Wednesday a spokesman for the Taliban denied a weekend report that Taliban representatives may meet with officials representing the government of President Hamid Karzai in Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks. Notwithstanding, Karzai says his government leads the negotiations.

Pakistan for Political Solution to Afghan Conflict

Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar

has said the Afghan conflict should be resolved politically for a durable peace in the region.
Khar told a joint press conference with her Russian counterpart in Moscow on Wednesday that Pakistan had a clear policy of extending full help and cooperation to any Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven peace initiative as only that could lead to a lasting solution to the problem.

Khar is visiting the Russian Federation at the invitation of her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov from Feb 7 to 10. She held in-depth talks with Lavrov on expanding and diversifying Pakistan-Russia relations.

On a fence-mending visit to Kabul earlier this month, Khar said Pakistan was not following a hidden agenda in the conflict-torn country, saying Islamabad would lend its weight to the reconciliation program as long as it was spearheaded by Afghans.

New poll shows confidence in Afghan police by 2014

Less than 25 percent of Afghans say the national police are now strong enough to handle security without international forces' help, but three-quarters believe they will be ready by the 2014 NATO handover, according to a U.N. survey released Tuesday.
Support for the NATO military force staying in the country also appeared widespread more than 10 years into the U.S.-led campaign. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said foreign troops should stay for the time being, compared to about a quarter who said they should leave immediately.

Strengthening the Afghan army and police to fend off the Taliban insurgency is key to NATO's plans to turn over security responsibility by the end of 2014. The U.S.-led coalition is sponsoring efforts to expand the national police from about 100,000 two years ago to 157,000 by October.

Training that many police so fast has faced problems, including illiteracy among recruits and complaints of corruption and abuse.

According to the annual Police Perception Survey, about 21 percent of those polled said Afghan police were ready to handle security and crime-fighting on their own now, with a further 54 percent saying they would be strong

enough within two or three years -- roughly coinciding with the NATO handover deadline. The rest said police wouldn't be ready even in three years or gave no opinion.

Three-quarters of respondents said the Afghan National Police are "at least somewhat effective" at fighting insurgents, up five points from the previous year.

NATO and Afghan officials welcomed the results of the poll, sponsored by the U.N.

Development Program and the Afghan Interior Ministry, saying it shows progress is being made.

"The training of Afghan police in the last 12 months has significantly improved," Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi said, adding that it "has produced positive and tangible results."

Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, also said the survey shows trends moving in the right direction.

"It definitely shows there are fields where Afghan security forces continue to need improvement, but ... looking at the continuation of progress over the last years is really encouraging," he said.

Fifty-three percent of Afghans polled in the U.N. survey said the national police are somewhat or very corrupt, down from 60 percent in the same survey last year. And nationwide, about 74 percent of those polled expressed personal confidence in the national police in their area, up 3 percentage points from last year's poll.

Asked when most international troops should leave Afghanistan, 21 percent of respondents said at the end of 2014 as planned, while 23 percent said "once the Taliban has been defeated" and 24 percent once Afghan security forces have been trained to fight the insurgency on their own.

Twenty-four percent wanted an immediate withdrawal and 6 percent favored an indefinite international military presence.

The survey, conducted by an independent research firm, polled more than 7,000 Afghans in October in all 34 of Afghanistan's provinces, although some randomly chosen districts were inaccessible because of the threat from Taliban insurgents. It had a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points.

Also Tuesday, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said in a statement, which provided no other details. The death brings to 33 the number of international troops killed this month in the country.

Afghan Forces Will be Good Enough to Hold Security: US General

Afghan forces will be "good enough" to hold their country's security after the complete withdrawal of security troops, a top US General said on Wednesday.

General Curtis Scaparrotti, Deputy US Commander in Afghanistan said that Afghan forces have a way to go before completely taking over the responsibilities.

He also said that the Afghan National Army and Police forces will be good enough to protect their country from insurgents after complete withdrawal of US and other foreign troops by the end of 2014.

"They're going to be good enough, as we build them, to secure their country and to counter the insurgency that they're dealing with now,"
Mr Scaparrotti said.

The statements come as US Defence Minister Leon Pannetta has urged the international community to stand by Afghanistan after 2014 and build a strong force to be capable of defending the country.

At the same time, the Nato member countries expect a growth in the number of Afghan security forces.

The forces are expected to increase to 352,000 by October this year with 195,000 of army and 157,000 of the National police.

The state of Afghan security forces has been taken seriously into consideration as the foreign combat troops are withdrawing from the country.

The General also said that US forces will take a supporting role.

"As we move forward, I see combat as part of what we're doing. You know the insurgency itself, the fact that the ANSF will be in the lead and we'll be supporting and will still be a combat role there," he added.

As previously planned by US President Barack Obama last year, the United States will shrink it's forces to 62,000 by autumn of 2012.

Previously the Nato member countries including France agreed to withdraw all their combat troops from Afghanistan by mid 2013.

There are around 132,000 foreign soldiers in the country with 90,000 of them US troops.

Currently the second phase of security transition is underway and the security responsibility of 18 areas of Afghanistan will be handed over to Afghan forces, the transition is expected to end by mid 2013.

The US and its western allies emphasise on their supportive and training role as the transition ends.

Nato allies hope to have the Afghan security forces grow to 352,000 by October, including 195,000 in the army and 157,000 in the police.

Lahore: Fake Medicine issue

Putin Warns of Growing ‘Cult of Violence’

New York Times

Vladimir V. Putin

the prime minister of Russia, warned on Wednesday of a growing “cult of violence” around the world and expressed concern that upheavals in the Middle East could spread to his own country.

In an apparent reference to Western governments, Mr. Putin said he was alarmed by what he deemed to be interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, especially Libya and Syria.

“We, of course, condemn all violence, no matter its source,” Mr. Putin said in a meeting with religious leaders in Moscow. “But do not conduct yourself like a bull in a china shop. People need to be allowed to decide their fates independently.”

Unlike some Western leaders, Mr. Putin has viewed the events unfolding across the Middle East warily. His concerns have intensified in recent months because of the emergence of a sizeable protest movement in Russia opposed to his return to the presidency, which he is seeking in the election next month. Mr. Putin has blamed the United States, and in particular Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for instigating the protests against him.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Putin referred to the continued disorder in Libya and warned of the “horrible consequences of interference.”

“In the last decade, unfortunately, a cult of violence has come to the fore in international affairs, and this cannot but cause worry,” he said. “We cannot allow anything like this to come to our country.”

Syria is also on Mr. Putin’s mind. His country faces mounting international pressure to end its support of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and back an Arab League plan to halt the increasingly deadly conflict there. Moscow drew strong condemnation from Western and Arab governments for joining China in vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution last weekend.

In the aftermath of the veto, Russia has been trying to broker a peace process of some kind between Mr. Assad’s government and opposition forces. The foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, met with Mr. Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, and announced on Wednesday that Syria’s vice-president would seek to open talks with opposition forces in the country; he called on Western and Arab leaders to support Russia’s efforts.

“We consider this willingness to be an important factor to be taken into consideration, and hope that all who have some kind of influence over the opposition will urge them to begin such dialogue,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, discussed the Syrian crisis with Turkey’s prime minister on Wednesday, saying Moscow supported continuing talks to end the conflict, including within the Security Council, as long as no country interfered with Syria’s sovereignty.

According to a Kremlin statement, Mr. Medvedev said the latest draft of the Arab League-backed resolution “would not have allowed for an unbiased evaluation of the situation in Syria or have guaranteed that calls for an end to shooting and bloodshed were addressed to both sides in the conflict.”

“The resolution would not have enabled the search for a peaceful resolution to this crisis,” the Kremlin statement said.

Few believe that Russia has enough clout with either Mr. Assad or the Syrian opposition to broker a deal that could halt the violence. But for Mr. Putin, that may not be as important as standing up to the West.

“There is a sense that today the Western bloc, together with our Arab colleagues, have decided to play the role of empire of evil once ascribed to the Soviet Union by Ronald Regan,” said Yevgeny Y. Satanovsky, president of the Institute for Middle East and Israel Studies. “Someone must try to stop them.”

Youths Are Watching, but Less Often on TV


Television is America’s No. 1 pastime, with an average of four hours and 39 minutes consumed by every person every day.

But more and more young people are tuning in elsewhere.

Americans ages 12 to 34 are spending less time in front of TV sets, even as those 35 and older are spending more, according to research that will be released on Thursday by Nielsen, a company that tracks media use.

The divide along a demographic line reveals the effect of Internet videos, social networks, mobile phones and video games — in short, all the alternatives to the television set that are taking up growing slices of the American attention span. Young people are still watching the same shows, but they are streaming them on computers and phones to a greater degree than their parents or grandparents do.

It has long been predicted that these new media would challenge traditional television viewing, but this is the first significant evidence to emerge in research data. If the trends hold, the long-term implications for the media industry are huge, possibly causing billions of dollars in annual advertising spending to shift away from old-fashioned TV.

Gary Carr, a senior vice president for TargetCast TCM, which buys ad time for companies, said that while the dip was “not cause for panic,” it merited concern and careful monitoring. “Young people are always the first group to be doing other things, trying other things,” Mr. Carr said.

Echoing those sentiments, executives at several major media companies said their proprietary research affirmed that there had been a dip in overall youth viewership in recent months, though they said it had not yet led to a meaningful effect on the ratings for individual channels.

The television industry has been expecting — and dreading the day — that TV viewing peaks, and then either plateaus or slowly declines in the face of encroaching Internet and phone use. According to data that Nielsen will release on Thursday, television viewing as a whole is steady, in part because older Americans — particularly those over the age of 65 — are watching more than ever before. Digital video recorders deserve some of the credit for the uptick, since they let people stockpile shows.

But for three straight quarters, there have been declines in viewing among Americans under 35, even when DVR viewership is factored in, according to Nielsen data analyzed by The New York Times.

Adults ages 25 to 34, for instance, watched about four and a half fewer hours of television in the third quarter of 2011 than at the same time in 2010 — the equivalent of about nine minutes a day. Viewers ages 12 to 17 also watched about nine fewer minutes a day. The demographic in between, those ages 18 to 24, watched about six fewer minutes a day.

Pat McDonough, a senior vice president at Nielsen, said this week that the company was watching youth viewing behavior “very closely,” and acknowledged in an interview that she had seen “a little bit” of a drop-off in youth viewership. She cautioned, however, that there had been fluctuations in the past, and noted that traditional television viewership in 2010 was very high. (This is possibly a reflection of economic circumstances, since television viewing tends to grow when the American economy does not.) The shorter National Football League preseason in 2011 may have also influenced year-over-year comparisons, she said.

As behaviors shift, there is likely to be a scramble to identify winners and losers. Viacom, the owner of Nickelodeon, criticized Nielsen last fall after ratings showed that the channel suffered from a sudden drop in children’s viewing.

According to data for the first nine months of 2011, children spent as much time in front of the television set as they did in 2010, and in some cases spent more. But the proportion of live viewing is shrinking while time-shifted viewing is expanding.

Zach Dulli, a director of operations for the National Council for Geographic Education in Washington, has noticed that his children, Max and Huck, like the TV set, but they like laptops and cellphones more. Now that Huck has mastered the finger swipe to turn on an iPad, Mr. Dulli and his wife, Stephanie, prepare “Baby Einstein” for him to watch on the device. Huck is eight months old.

“To us, TV is separate from the other media we use,” Mr. Dulli said. “To my sons, it’s not.”

To a child, television shows on the iPad are still television, but to Nielsen, it’s not: the company counts computer and mobile streams of shows separately, making it difficult for the television industry to get a handle on changing habits.

On Sunday, for the first time, the Super Bowl was broadcast online as well as on television, but the ads were sold separately and the ratings were reported separately. About 2.1 million unique users watched the live stream at some point during the game, while about 111.3 million people watched on television at any given time during the game. NBC says there was some overlap, but that it was hard to know how much. But the network has said that the game was the “most-watched single-game sports event ever online.”

Accordingly, there is a growing sense of urgency within the industry to make online and mobile viewing as measurable as traditional couch-bound viewing. Ad-buying agencies are gradually moving some client money to the Web to reach the 20- and 30-somethings who are becoming harder to reach with traditional television.

“Television still reaches young audiences in a major, major way,” said Billie Gold, the director of programming research for Carat USA, an ad-buying agency.

That said, just before a phone interview on Wednesday, Ms. Gold ran the preliminary numbers for the first few weeks of 2012, and she saw a dip in youth viewing compared with the same period last year. “This is why we’re incorporating more digital and online video” into our advertising plans, she said. “We know it’s a place to replace some of the young audience that is leaving television.”

Just ask Jay Rishel, a system administrator in York, Pa., whose son Cory, 4, has become accustomed to watching television via Roku, a small box that streams shows through the Internet. On Tuesday night, Cory asked his dad if he had watched television via Roku growing up. When his dad said no, Cory then asked, “So you could only watch DVDs?”

“Since it was bedtime, I didn’t try to explain we had four channels available when I was growing up,” Mr. Rishel, 31, said. “I don’t think he knows what a channel even is.”

President Obama shoots marshmallow at White House Science Fair

Obama leads GOP candidates in Virginia

President Barack Obama

edged out Mitt Romney in a hypothetical general election match-up in Virginia, according to a new poll.

It is the first time the president led the former Massachusetts governor in the Super Tuesday state among registered voters in a Quinnipiac survey during this election cycle.Obama captured 47% to Romney's 43%, a wider margin than the two percentage point difference in the December results. But Romney fared better than his GOP rivals in the likely swing state.

Obama led Newt Gingrich 51% to 37%, Rick Santorum 49% to 41% and Ron Paul 47% to 40%.

The Republican White House hopefuls will first face each other on March 6, when Romney is favored to capture the state's 36 Republican delegates. Gingrich and Santorum failed to qualify for the ballot and Romney bested Paul among likely GOP primary voters 68% to 19%.

Sen. John McCain won the state's 2008 GOP primary with 50% of the vote to former Gov. Mike Huckabee's 40.7% and Paul's 4.5%. But then-Sen. Barack Obama went on to win the state in the general election with 52.63% of the vote to McCain's 46.44%.

Wednesday's poll also indicated the Senate battle is still neck and neck with former Democratic governor and Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine capturing 45% support and former Republican governor and Sen. George Allen with 44% among likely voters.

The poll questioned 1,544 registered voters between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6 with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The Republican primary results included 546 likely voters with a sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Bahraini activist goes on hunger strike before anniversary of uprising

A jailed rights activist in Bahrain has gone back on hunger strike before the anniversary of the country's pro-democracy uprising on 14 February, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has said.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was one of 14 prominent figures convicted of leading the protests who took part in an eight-day hunger strike to demand their release. Bahraini authorities said that hunger strike ended last week.

"Al-Khawaja said in a telephone call to his family: 'Freedom or death,' which means he started an open hunger strike until his release," said the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights on its website.

The opposition is trying to put pressure on the government, dominated by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family, before the anniversary of the uprising. The reforms they want include an elected government – the first in the Gulf – and reduced powers for the al-Khalifas.

Bahrain imposed martial law in March last year and asked troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help crush the month-old uprising.

The government said the island's majority Shia Muslims had co-ordinated the protests with Iran for sectarian reasons, an accusation the opposition has denied.

Bahrain Uncovered: Regime Importing Sunni Muslims

By:Anissa Haddadi
Almost a year after pro-reform protests started in Bahrain it is still facing demonstrations and public discontent.

The tiny island kingdom 30 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf has a history of relatively small uprisings and the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia brought activists back to the forefront of the political scene.

One of the main problems however remains the country's division along sectarian lines.

With a Sunni monarchy, relying on a largely Sunni power base, the majority Shia population has for years been disfranchised and left on the margin of the country's political life.

The government has mainly depicted the protests as Shia-led and based on sectarian demands. While opposition groups and activists have repeatedly insisted their main aim is to press for political reforms, the regime has been accused of relying on the divide and rule strategy to keep its power base loyal while ostracising the rest of the population, 70 percent of which is Shia.

In an effort to get beneath the issues, IBTimes UK meets Ali Alaswad, a member of the al-Wefaq opposition and former Bahraini MP Ali Alaswad, to discuss the situation in depth.

The Shia/Sunni Divide: State-led Discrimination?

According to the World Bank, in 2010 Bahrain had a population of 1,261,835. Just under half of the kingdom's population are Bahraini nationals and the rest are foreigners. In the last 10 years the country has seen a rapid population growth and almost doubled in size from 650,000.

Given the island's limited space and natural resources, that increase has put a huge strain on the native population and its workforce.

While historically the Bahraini Shia population has been the most active in pressing for political reforms, sectarian tensions have been increased following the regime's slow pace at implementing promised political reforms.

One of the main accusations laid against the regime is the institutionalisation of discrimination.

Unbalanced Representation

One of the most tangible examples is the gerrymandering of parliamentary electoral districts to secure Sunni representation over the Shia majority.

"One of the main demands of the protesters is to have a fairer and more balanced district representation," Ali Alaswad said.

The Bahraini National Assembly is made up of the Council of Representatives of 40 elected members and of the Consultative Council, which has 40 members who are royally appointed.

As a result of the disproportionate district representation, the 2010 elections saw 22 Sunni parliamentarians elected against 18 Shia.

Political Naturalisation:

The government has also been accused of actively pursuing policies to change the country's demographic balance by granting citizenship to non-Bahrainis - mainly Sunnis originating from Syria, Yemen and Jordan - to reduce the size of the Shia majority.

"It seems that the regime is using foreign nationals to consolidate its power base. By providing them with better living conditions than in their home country it on the other hand expects them to remain loyal," said Alaswad.

The regime has also naturalised many migrant workers from Asia and South Asia, leading to further tensions. With an official unemployment level at 16.5 percent and an unofficial level closer to 30 percent, the regime's policies have increased anger and incomprehension among the public.

"One of the main problems is that with such a high level of unemployment it is difficult to understand why Bahraini nationals, whether Sunni or Shia, are not given the priority when it comes to jobs. Both Shia and Sunni are suffering from the consequences of the political naturalisation," Alaswad said.

Public Sector

Most Shia Bahraini struggle to find employment in the public sector. High-ranked positions within the state-controlled public sector are often out of reach of the Shia, with the Crisis Group, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, noting that the Bahrain defence forces and the interior ministry are particularly affected by discrimination among Shia.

Alaswad said: "I was an engineer in the Ministry of Force. My superior once complimented me on my work, saying I was an outstanding engineer. He said he wanted to promote me but could not. I was a Shia and an active member of the opposition group al-Wefaq, and that did not fit in well with the regime.

"Even Shia who are not actively taking part in opposition groups or movements are discriminated against and that also covers the educational field. Scholarships, for example, are more easily distributed to the Sunni than the Shia," he added.

Economic Problems

The majority of the native population suffers from under-employment and low wages.

"Social justice in Bahrain is non-existent. The majority of the jobless are Shia," Aswad said.

In the absence of effective state-provided insurance and poor local health facilities, the poorest face tough living conditions. And while housing costs have increased, low wages have left many aspiring Bahrainis unable to afford decent accommodation.

With a country so deeply divided, it is no surprise that the uprising is seen through the prism of sectarianism.

Use drones to kill’ the Taliban in Pakistan

The Washington Times

A longtime adviser to U.S. commanders in Afghanistan says now is the time for President Obama to change strategy and target Taliban leaders ensconced in Pakistan, using drones and other tactics employed to kill al Qaeda operatives over the past 10 years.

"We kill them. We use drones to kill them, just like we did al Qaeda," said retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, just back from a two-week tour of the battlefield and consultations with U.S. commanders. "The president has to change the policy and issue a 'finding' that this is a covert operation under the province of the Central Intelligence Agency."

A White House spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.

Gen. Keane pointed out one of the great ironies of the long war in Afghanistan: The main U.S. foe is the Taliban, but senior Taliban leaders have untouchable safe havens in Quetta and Peshawar.

Taliban leaders in Pakistan work out of command centers and conduct conferences, or shuras, with lower-level commanders on tactics for killing NATO troops and bringing down the elected government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"A lot of these guys command from the rear, if you will, telling their guys by orders what to do and what not to do," a U.S. briefer said to visiting officers last year.

Until now, the U.S. has not targeted senior Taliban leaders for fear of alienating Pakistan, whose intelligence service helped put the Taliban in power in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Pakistan will not target them because of tribal loyalties and fears that such action could destabilize the country via a militant uprising.

What Gen. Keane is recommending is a war campaign in which the intelligence community, principally the CIA and the National Security Agency, focus spies, communications intercepts and satellites on Taliban commanders inside Pakistan. Once a commander is located, a Predator drone would be sent to kill him with a Hellfire missile.

"If we don't start targeting the Taliban leadership now ... the risk is much too high in terms of our ability to sustain the successes that we've had. We cannot let that Afghan Taliban leadership that lives in Pakistan continue to preside over this war and recruit and provide resources," Gen. Keane said.

"We've got to get involved in disrupting those functions. We have to target them like we have done al Qaeda. We would not have to conduct on-ground operations, but we have to change their behavior by targeting them."

'A persistent campaign'

He added: "Once you turn all of our intel systems on a priority target, we start to get a considerable amount of information, and the people who run these operations know how best to deal with it.

"We're talking about a persistent campaign that puts the Taliban leadership at risk, which would change their behavior, and as a result of this, they would no longer be able to control operations effectively in Afghanistan.

"For 10 years, we have been unwilling to do this because we have believed this would destabilize Pakistan. The result is, we are destabilizing Afghanistan, and that is really tragic."

One of those who would be targeted presumably is a Taliban leader whom the U.S. once held at the military detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Qayyum Zakir returned to Afghanistan after his release in 2008 and eventually became the underboss for Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

A Predator drone campaign inside Pakistan seems unlikely.

Some Pakistani officials have pressed Washington to stop missile attacks in the tribal areas where al Qaeda and its allies are targeted. The Obama administration is engaged in behind-the-scenes peace talks to persuade the Taliban to join the Afghan government in Kabul.

As a good-faith gesture, it is discussing releasing Taliban leaders at Guantanamo into Afghan custody. Vice President Joseph R. Biden has declared: "Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That's critical."

As for Taliban talks, Gen. Keane said killing the leaders would increase pressure on the Taliban to hold real discussions, not to manipulate the U.S.

"The Taliban has not, in my judgment, in any significant way changed their fundamental goal and objective, which is to take over Afghanistan and return to running that country," he said. "It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have negotiation talks with them. I think we should. But we've got to be clear-eyed about it."

Now is one of the war's most pivotal times. U.S. troops are on a stepped-up schedule to end Taliban control in various villages and turn over security to the Afghan National Army. The bulk of American troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014.

'Show stopper'

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta last week squeezed the timeline by saying U.S. troops would shift to an advisory role in mid-2013 instead of fighting alongside the Afghan army as planned.

Gen. Keane has criticized that schedule as premature. He called it a "show stopper" if U.S. troops exit in 2014 but leave the Taliban leadership untouched in Pakistan.

A former Army vice chief, Gen. Keane is one of the nation's most influential retired four-star generals. He worked in 2006 to persuade the George W. Bush administration to change strategy in Iraq and shift to a troop surge.

He has made four tours of Afghanistan since Mr. Obama ordered a surge of troops in 2009, bringing the American presence to more than 100,000 military personnel.

His latest trip was at the behest of U.S. Central Command. He told The Times that he first wanted to see whether 2011 gains made against the Taliban in its birthplace city of Kandahar and in Helmand province still stood.

"I went back in, and I wanted to verify the Taliban was not able during [the] 2011 fighting season, spring, summer and fall, to take back any of the territory we had taken from them or to regain any control or influence over the population," he said. "The fact of the matter is there is not a single place where they have been able to do that."

The other crucial region is the border area with Pakistan, east of Kabul. The U.S. shifted forces there last year to stop Taliban infiltration.

"The momentum has shifted to our favor," Gen. Keane said, "much as it did in [the] south and southwest — in other words, Kandahar and Helmand province — as result of the surge forces. We are now able to generate the appropriate level of combat forces."

Negative assessments

Gen. Keane's assessment contrasts with a NATO report, widely quoted in the British press, that says the Taliban is poised to retake Kabul.

Much press attention also has focused on a scathing insider's article in the Armed Forces Journal, an independent publication. Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis accuses senior commanders of lying to the American people about purported progress in Afghanistan.

"What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground," wrote Col. Davis, who spent last year in-country as part of a rapid equipping force. "Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level."

He added: "How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what's going on."

Gen. Keane dismisses Col. Davis' assessment.

"He doesn't know what he is talking about," the general said. "It is absolute rubbish. I don't know what his agenda is or where he's coming from.

"We have some of the best guys we've ever had in our military running this thing. This is my fourth assessment. In February of last year, we had already changed the momentum in the south and southwest. I went back in July and looked at it again. We had some of the fiercest fighting we've ever been involved in. And I looked at it again now. We have consolidated those gains."

Gen. Keane said the big worry among officers and civilian officials is Mr. Panetta's accelerated pace for ending the fight for U.S. forces.

"We can't pull our forces out and at the same time degrade the support for the Afghan National Security Forces," he said. "If we do that, that would be a slipshod exercise. It would be detrimental."

Citing Libya example, Russia rejects US-backed ‘friends of Syria’ group

Russia said on Thursday that it took a cautious view of US-backed attempts to forge a “friends of Syria” coalition that may soon meet in Turkey to coordinate humanitarian assistance for the embattled opposition.

The Russian foreign ministry’s chief spokesman said the idea appeared similar to the grouping of like-minded nations that Washington forged in advance of an air campaign on Libya that Russia strongly opposed.

“We take a generally cautious view of formats that we do not believe are legitimate for dealing with specific international disputes,” foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a weekly briefing.

“We have had very a bad experience working in such formats, and take a cautious attitude to various contact groups and groups of friends,” said Lukashevich. “As you remember, we had such unsuccessful experience in Libya.”

He added that Russia remained opposed to any coalitions whose job was to “introduce foreign intervention” in another nation’s internal affairs.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week said she backed the coalition idea as the death toll spirals from Syrian President Bashar alAssad’s domestic crackdown.

Turkey on Wednesday said it planned to hold a meeting “as soon as possible” to forge a common approach between regional players and world powers towards the crisis. A US State Department official said the proposed Turkish meeting was “part and parcel” of efforts to form the “friends of Syria” group.

Germany expels four Syrian embassy members

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Thursday that Germany was expelling four diplomats from the Syrian embassy in Berlin after the arrest of two men suspected of spying on regime opponents.

“After the arrest of two people suspected of spying for Syria, I have decided to expel four members of the Syrian embassy in Berlin,” Westerwelle said in a statement. “The Syrian ambassador has been informed of this decision,” added the minister.

According to diplomatic sources, there were “clear indications” that the four had carried out “acts not in accordance with diplomatic law”.

The diplomats and their families now have three days to leave the country, the sources added.

Further steps against Syrian embassy staff could not be ruled out if it emerged that the Damascus regime was continuing to interfere with opposition figures and Syrian people in Germany, added the sources.

Two men, identified only as 47-year-old German-Lebanese citizen Mahmoud El A. and 34-year-old Syrian national Akram O., were arrested in Berlin on Tuesday.

Westerwelle summoned Syria’s ambassador following the arrests. “The position of the federal government was made unmistakably clear at this meeting that the possible action against the Syrian opposition in Germany will not be tolerated,” the ministry said.

In late December, a Berlin local politician active in the Syrian opposition was attacked by two men in his home in a case the German foreign ministry said it was following closely. The man’s party, the Greens, said it suspected the Syrian secret services were behind the assault. No suspects have been identified in the case.

China meets Syria opposition in Beijing

China said that it had held talks with a key Syrian opposition group this week, amid fierce criticism of its decision to block a UN resolution condemning a bloody crackdown in the Middle East country.

China and Russia drew international ire for blocking the UN Security Council resolution on Saturday, with Washington calling their rejection a “travesty” and another Syrian opposition group saying they had handed President Bashar alAssad’s regime a “licence to kill”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the visit by the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) had “long been scheduled” and was not linked to China’s controversial veto.

NCB representatives told Chinese officials they would like Beijing “to play a bigger role for an early resolution to the Syrian crisis,” Liu said.

But the NCB, one of the main opposition factions in Syria, staunchly opposes foreign military intervention in the conflict – which is in line with China’s long-standing policy of non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs.

The other main opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), is widely regarded as the most inclusive of Syria’s opposition alliances and has previously called for foreign military intervention.

The SNC blasted China and Russia over their double veto and said they had given a “licence for the Syrian regime to kill without being held accountable”.

Liu said Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun met members of the NCB to discuss “the situation” in Syria. He urged both sides of the conflict to “cease all violence … and avoid casualties among civilians”.

Liu reiterated that China was “the friend of all Syrian people” and did not “seek its own interests on the Syrian issue”.

The NCB was in Beijing from February 6 to 9 at the invitation of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, a government-backed foreign policy organisation.

China said Tuesday it was considering sending envoys to the Middle East to help resolve the conflict, after Russia sent its top diplomat Sergei Lavrov to Damascus.

Thirteen countries voted for the UN Security Council resolution, which aimed to give strong backing to the Arab League’s plan to end a deadly government crackdown on protesters. More than 6,000 people have died in nearly a year of upheaval in Syria, as Assad’s hardline regime seeks to snuff out a revolt that began with peaceful protests in March 2011 amid the Arab Spring.

Shabaz Sharif false’ assurance of presence in the House

Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly (PA) Raja Riaz Ahmad moved a privilege motion against Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for his ‘false’ assurance of chief minister’s (CM) presence in the House on Monday.

During the PA session last Wednesday, Sanaullah had assured the legislators of CM’s presence in House, saying he (CM) would personally attend the assembly proceedings on coming Monday to take the House into confidence over the drug issue and Punjab Institute of Cardiology’s (PIC) role in it. He had maintained that Shahbaz Sharif, who held portfolio of the health ministry along with 14 other ministries, would himself conclude the general debate on the PIC issue and brief the House about the causes of the deaths.

However, the CM did not attend the session, for reasons unknown. Eventually, the session was prorogued for indefinite period without concluding the debate on deaths from contaminated medicines. The joint opposition of PPP and PML-Q, during the last session, also staged a walkout from the House protesting CM’s absence from assembly since the last budget session in June 2011. Thereafter, Raja Riaz submitted a privilege motion in the PA Secretariat Notice Branch against Rana Sanaullah, accusing him of “misleading” the House.

ANP ignores Begum Naseem Wali

The Awami National Party (ANP) has announced tickets to its members for Senate elections on the 12 seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while denying candidature to Begum Naseem Wali Khan, wife of former party chief Wali Khan. A party spokesman said that Senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour will enjoy another term on the technocrat seat, while former federal minister Azam Khan Hoti, ANP Sindh President Shahi Syed and former provincial minister Baz Muhammad Khan would be the party’s nominees on general seats. Zahida Khan would contest election on the special seat for women, and Amarjeet would be ANP’s candidate from the minorities. The spokesman said a meeting of the ANP Parliamentary Board held under Senator Afrasiab Khattak discussed and appreciated the services of all the applicants. However, the spokesman avoided to explain why Begum Naseem Wali Khan was ignored while awarding Senate election tickets. Sources told Pakistan Today that Begum Naseem Wali’s request for election ticket was turned down due to her age and health.

LHC seeks reply from Punjab govt in drug reaction case

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday sought reply from the Punjab government over not compensating the victim families of drugs reaction deaths on February 13.
The LHC Justice Umar Atta Bandiyal heard a petition filed by Sughra Bibi, sister of a person who died from spurious medicines reaction, against the Punjab government which has not paid compensation amount to the victim families.
During the hearing, the petitioner appeared before the court and told the justice that the Punjab government had announced to provide Rs 500,000 each as compensation amount to victim families whose dear ones died from spurious medicines but this amount was not provided yet. On this, the court sought reply from the Punjab government on February 13.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 15% children out of schools

15 per cent children are out of schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as 85 per cent children of age 6-16 years are enrolled in public and private sector schools in the province, said Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 launched ere on Wednesday.

The report was launched in a ceremony held here in Peshawar Press Club (PPC), with Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain as chief guest on the occasion.

Those present on the occasion included Director, ASER, Dr. Baila Raza Jameel, Director PITE, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sarwat Jehan and others.

The survey has been conducted by the South Asia Forum for Education Development (SAFED) managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (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 survey said that enrollment for children aged 6-16 years stands at 85 per cent-35 per cent for girls and 65 per cent for boys while percentage for out-of-school children stood at 15 per cent including five per cent dropout rate.

They survey showed that 10.5 per cent children were never enrolled in any education facility. Among the out-of-school children 58.7 per cent have been found be girls.

The survey has found that around 72 per cent children are enrolled in government schools, and 28 per cent children in non-state educational facilities and only one per cent in madrassas in sampled districts.

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011, a citizen-led large-scale household survey in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that assessed learning outcomes of school going (5-16 years) age children in 14 rural districts has found that almost 60 per cent children cannot even read a sentence in Urdu or in their mother tongue.

According to the report, the learning outcomes of the children in arithmetic were also abysmally low pathetic.

The results of the survey show that almost 58 per cent children cannot do two-digit subtraction sums whereas almost 77 per cent of 5-16 years age children cannot do three-digit division sums.

The ASER Survey has been conducted in 14 districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Upper Dir, Swat, Battagram, Swabi, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, Charsadda, Mardan, Peshawar, Attock, Karak, Bannu, Tank and D.I. Khan.

The ASER's specially trained volunteer teams have surveyed 8,274 households in 419 villages and collected detailed information on 3-16 years age group 24,039 children (60% male and 40% female) while, 5-16 years age group children were tested for language and arithmetic competencies.

The survey also collected information on 668 schools - 412 government schools and 256 private schools. The survey also assessed literacy levels of 8,867 mothers. -

Dilip’s house becomes national heritage Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bought it for Rs30m

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has given the status of national heritage to the house of Indian film industry legend Dilip Kumar (Yousaf Khan) after purchasing it from a local person on sum of Rs.30million.Official sources in Khyber Pakthunkhwa Culture Department told APP that the six-room house of the legendary actor at Mohallah Khudadad, Qissa Khwani bazaar, Peshawar was purchased from a local person on sum of Rs.30million and declared it national heritage to pay respect to the celebrated Indian Cinema star of Pakistani soil.”The repair and reconstruction work on the dilapidated house would be completed in few weeks and later be opened for tourists and arts lovers,” he added.Dilip Kumar had left his house in 1942 before migration to India and his relatives later sold it on Rs.5.6million.The Khyber Pakthunkhwa government took this principal decision after Minister for Culture and Information, Mian Iftikahr Hussain along with a high delegation including Provincial Secretary Culture Azmat Hanif Orakzai, director culture Pervez Khan and prominent artist and head of Hunarkada College Islamabad Jamal Shah, has recently visited to the residence of Dilip Kumar.The Minister directed the officials concerned to strike a deal for its purchase in order to preserve it on modern lines for coming generations besides giving it national heritage’s status.Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said work of the legends of Pakistan, no matter wherever they were in the world, would be preserved and their deeds would be converted into documentaries for information and guidance of future generation. He said Pakistan had produced prominent personalities in various fields including film industry that ruled over the heats of millions fans in world over.Dilip Kumar (Yusuf Khan) is the son of Peshawar who has won the hearts of the millions of the movie lovers in Pakistan and Indian.The soil of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa especially of Peshawar is very fertile that had produced great personalities in the field of performing arts like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Badar Munir, Firdous Jamal and Qavi Khan who ruled over hearts of millions of people through their professional skills and work.

Dunya News anchorperson Mubashar Luqman given life threats by Punjab Govt

Senior anchorperson Mubashar Luqman has been given threats by sleuths of Punjab Govt.
Mubashar said that he has been warned of dire consequences for exposing the true face of Punjab Government earlier in his talk with Dunya News. He however expressed determination that neither him nor any staff member of Dunya News would succumb to pressure tactics of the dictatorial rulers of Punjab. He said he would continue to uphold truth as per motto of Dunya News and its management and would continue to raise voice for the rights of the people.
Revealing the extent of threats, Mubashar Luqman had earlier told Dunya News said that anchors and staff have been warned that their whereabouts and addresses had been listed and anything could happen if ruffling truth about Punjab government’s performance was reported further. He said that the callers would even say that they knew the exact addresses of the schools the kids of Dunya News management go to.

Punjab Govt threatens Dunya News for PIC scoop

Punjab Government has started threatening Dunya News management for revealing PIC medicines scandal.

Dunya News broke and highlighted the tragic story about wrong medicines that were being given by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).
As a result of these contaminated drugs, more than 137 poor heart patients have lost lives and an uncounted number is still suffering life-threatening allergies.
However, the Punjab government, instead of putting its house in order, has started threatening Dunya News with dire consequences for projecting the cause of the poor people.
Senior anchors and management of Dunya News have been given direct threats.
Journalists and human rights organisations have expressed great concern and resentment over the dictatorial attitude of the Punjab government, and called such steps as attack on free media. Pervez Shaukat, President Federal Union of Journalist, said that any regime s days get numbered when it embarks on such dictatorial steps. He said the Federal Union of Journalist would stage a protest to condemn the threats and to express solidarity with Dunya News.
Similarly, Lahore Press Club President Sarmad Bashir expressed regret over the Punjab government s attitude, saying the media has its duty to expose wrongdoings of the government. Sarmad said the LPC would stage a protest tomorrow on the call of the Federal Union of Journalist.
Revealing the extent of threats, senior anchoperson Mubashar Luqman said that anchors and staff have been warned that their wherabouts and addresses had been listed and anything could happen if ruffling truth about Punjab goverbnment s performance was reported further. He said that the callers would even say that they knew the exact addresses of the schools the kids of Dunya News management go to.
Mubashar Luqman also said while the news of the threats is being aired, certain cable operators have reported that they have been pressurised by the Punjab government to cut off Dunya News transmissions.
He said that Punjab government has also been trying to cover the news of bird flu virus in the province because some PML-N stalwarts have huge stakes in the poultry industry.It is confirmed separately that Dunya News tranmissions in some areas of Rawalpindi have been cut off.
Meanwhile, Azam Chaudhry, Secretary General Lahore Press Club, said that a fabricated case, invoking section 302, has been registered against Dunya News Chief Executive Mian Amir Mehmood in the Gulberg police station.

Balochistan to the fore


Balochistan has an unfortunate history of denial of rights and repression against those who demand them. It is doubly unfortunate because it has been largely ignored by the political forces as well as the media, barring untoward incidents such as the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti. Daily Times is proud to have consistently led in this regard. Our persistence in reporting and commenting on a critical issue may finally be bearing fruit in bringing the issue into the mainstream political discourse as well as gathering the belated attention of the media. One example of the former is the heated debate in the National Assembly (NA) the other day, related to the killing in Karachi of the wife and daughter of Balochistan MPA Mir Bakhtiyar Domki, which expanded to a discussion of the regime of extra-judicial killings that are the norm in that benighted province. Parliamentarians bemoaned the fact that the committee set up to look into the troubled situation in the province has failed to report. The demand now for a special committee for the same purpose misses the point. Neither the federal nor the provincial Balochistan government are in charge of policy in the province. The ‘kill and dump’ policy is being pursued by the FC, obviously under the orders of the military establishment. The FC has once again sprinkled salt on the wounds of the Baloch by killing protestors against the Domki family murders. No political force has so far been able to prevail upon the military authorities to revisit their policy and desist from what more and more people are characterising as a disastrous course.

In today’s world, it is no longer possible to carry on blithely with this kind of slow genocide without the world taking notice, sooner or later. This is what explains the US Congress’ decision to hold a hearing on the Balochistan situation. While some may see this development as a triumph for the lobbying of exiled Baloch nationalists in the US, it sits uncomfortably with both Islamabad and the Obama administration for their own discrete reasons. Pakistan’s foreign office sees the hearing as an unjustified interference in a purely internal affair of Pakistan, while the US administration, engaged in fence mending with Islamabad after the relations between the two countries went into deep freeze following the Salala attack, views the hearing and its timing as deeply embarrassing in its efforts to woo Pakistan back into a friendlier posture. Our foreign office seems woefully out of touch with the way the world works at present. Interconnectedness has ensured that no major development, let alone one involving a deliberate policy of decapitating the small intelligentsia of a still largely tribal society (albeit evolving haltingly into modernity), can stay off the radar forever. Washington is despatching General James Mattis, the head of the US’s Central Command, to Pakistan for talks with the Pakistani military top brass regarding the new terms of engagement desired by Islamabad and under discussion in Pakistan’s parliament currently. In fact those deliberations resulted in the cancellation of US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman’s visit recently, and has led to General Mattis’ visit being postponed by at least a week. Apart from the general tenor of the relationship going forward, the US and NATO desire a reopening of the supply route for their forces in Afghanistan that stays blocked since the Salala incident. To persuade Islamabad, the US administration is said to be contemplating reversing its initial reluctance to offer an apology for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers at the hands of the US and allied forces in Salala. The US Congress hearing at this precise moment could, in the administration’s view, cause further embarrassment in its relationship-healing thrust. The hearing itself will reveal its contours today, but the contentious issue of some nationalists’ demand for independence for Balochistan, implying the balkanisation of Pakistan, is considered too sensitive even to be commented on by the US State Department.

As an example of Baloch grievances, the issue of its natural resources and control/benefit for the local population has once again been highlighted by the case of the Tethyan copper project at Reko Diq. The Baloch are still smarting from the outcome of an earlier copper project, Saindak, which eventually ended up with a Chinese company with little or no benefit to locals or the province. Historical resentment over the use of Sui gas all over the country while depriving Balochistan of its benefits for many years still simmers despite the partial supply of gas to some urban areas since some years. The constitutional construct of Pakistan makes it very difficult for provinces to claim their just rights over their natural resources. That is an area which, if revisited, could go some way towards mitigating resentment in Balochistan. But the real issue is the attempt by the military to resolve the political/economic conundrum of Balochistan through unfettered force and repression. The times have changed. Force and repression will only reap the whirlwind of greater resistance by the Baloch people, now encouraged by the increasing attention being paid to their issues by local and international opinion.

Songs of peace from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

The Express Tribune Great song,Thanks ”Express Tribune” for reporting this News,Hats Off… Pukhtunks are liberal and secular minded,they need better, modern Education. Pakhtuns are not fanatic Muslims. They are conservative but in tribal sense not in religious sense. All the retrogressive religious influences like Militant Islam, Political Islam, and Terrorist Islam have been injected into Pashtun body-socials from across the Attock.
Pashtuns are broad-minded tolerant people and their social system is founded on secular credentials.Mwaqar

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) is perceived by many as a land which hosts an endless supply of militants, but is once again gaining recognition as a hub for the creative arts. The younger generation of K-P is passionate and concerned about the stereotypes associated with Pakhtuns, which is why musicians like Zeb and Haniya, Sajid and Zeeshan and now Naseer Afridi and Shahab Qamar are using the medium of poetry and music to dismiss preconceived notions.

Telling a tale

Qamar, an engineer in Brisbane, and Afridi, a student in Bahria University, first interacted through Facebook and despite never having been met, managed to release a thought-provoking song on YouTube. The song “Za Pukhtoon Yam”, which translates to “I’m a Pakhtun”, hums promises of change and restoration.

The video begins with a couplet of well-known Pashto poet Ameer Hamza Shinwari which says that, “The enemy brands it as the language of hell, to heaven I will go with Pushto”.

Qamar, the 25-year-old producer, thinks that Pakhtuns are going through a tough phase and labels such as terrorists should only make them work harder for change. “The song reminds us Pakhtuns what our true values are. It asks us to stay put and support each other,” says Qamar. According to the producer, the song sends out a message to everyone outside the Pakhtun community that even Pakhtuns are keen promoters of peace and that they don’t wish to be alienated from the rest of Pakistan. Afridi, who has a small role in Bilal Lashari’s upcoming film Waar, believes that there is a preconceived notion about the Pakhtuns which is untrue. “Everyone likes a joke at a Pathan’s expense. Whether one is buying cheap sunglasses or sending out an SMS joke, a Pathan reference makes everything funnier for some odd reason,” laughs 20-year-old Afridi. “I agree that sometimes these jokes can be hilarious, but at times it hits a sensitive spot.”

Persistance pays off

Naseer and Shahab came to the music scene as a progressive rock band in 2011. Even though their first song “Rise On Your Broken Knees” was not very well received by the listeners, Naseer and Shahab didn’t lose hope and soon came up with the idea of making a Pashto rock song.

Their efforts paid off as the response to “Za Pukhtoon Yam” has been huge with more than 20,000 hits on their official YouTube video. The track managed to strike a chord with non-Pakhtuns as well, which came as a shock to the duo who thought that the song didn’t really have a commercial flavour to it. “The most exciting part is the non-Pakhtuns coming in and expressed their genuine feelings and I think that is our biggest achievement to date,” beams Qamar.

The duo tried to summarise the essence of K-P in their latest song. Afridi, who penned the lyrics explains, “I have tried my best to put the true Pashto identity in a compressed form in these verses. We have had so many peace loving people in our cultural history but sadly we never promote them. People aren’t even aware of the fact that musician Haroon Bacha was threatened by conservative parties that he would be banished from Pakistan if doesn’t stop making music in K-P.”

The duo believes that artists like Ghani Khan, Haroon Bacha and Sardar Ali Takkar are the people who represented the true spirit of Pakhtuns and spread the message of peace and tranquility throughout K-P accordingly.“People like these stalwarts represent us and not terrorists,” Afridi adds.

The message in ‘Za Pukhtoon Yam’

If you hit me with stones

Place a gun to my head

I’ll greet you with a flower in return

I am a Pukhtoon

A hat on my head

Fond of honour

I am the music and dance

I am the tune of love

I am cherished by all

I am a Pukhtoon

I am a couplet of Ghani

Correction: An earlier version of the article said that Qamar belongs to Sydney instead of Brisbane. Also, the word ‘couplet’ was misspelled as ‘couple’. The corrections have been made.

Senators suspect agencies’ role in Domki murders

The senators on Wednesday cautiously pointed the finger towards the intelligence agencies of the country as they condemned the murder of the wife and daughter of Mir Bakhtiar Domki as brutal, inhumane and contrary to Baloch traditions, with two of them arguing whether the debate in the US Congress committee on the Balochistan issue was justified under the prevailing circumstances in the restive province.
Senator Haji Adeel linked the Balochistan situation to that in Palestine and Kashmir and justified the debate in the US Congress Committee on the Balochistan issue under the prevailing circumstances in the province, saying if the world discussed Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq and Syria, why should it not discuss the Balochistan issue when the province was plagued by human rights violations. He said the establishment had taken the same path that had led to the creation of Bangladesh.
However, Senator Haroon Akhtar said: “How dare they (US) have a meeting on the Balochistan issue and talk about an independent Balochistan?” He said some foreign powers were active in Balochistan and added that no intelligence agency or individual could commit this inhumane and shocking crime. He suggested that as the US was reportedly on the brink of disintegration, the Foreign Relations Committee of parliament should hold a meeting and discuss the possible US disintegration.
It was Senator Shahid Bughti who first put the ‘facts’ before the House as he heard from the sole survivor of the incident, the 15-year-old maid, and rejected the ‘conclusion’ that deaths were the result of an enmity. Senator Shahid Bugti demanded that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani clear his position: either the gruesome incident took place on his wish or he was unable to prevent such incidents. He said some government officials tried to twist the facts and labelled the incident an outcome of an enmity. The killers, he said, had used silenced guns. “It is totally wrong that the killings were the outcome of an enmity… killing of women in even the worst kind of Baloch enmity is out of the question, as society gives respect to the females of the rivals,” he said.
Without mentioning names, Bugti said same elements were involved in the killing of the Domki family members which were also involved in kidnappings in Balochistan.

“Just to cover up, they are now giving another colour to the incident and declaring it the result of an enmity,” he added. He said the incident was a message to specific people.
As Bugti announced a walkout from the House against the killings, the treasury and opposition members joined him but the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) members were in a state of ‘to be or not to be’ when Senate Chairman Farooq Naek sensibly adjourned the proceedings for prayers.
Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said if some powers had already decided to separate Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from the rest of the country, they must let (the other people) know and take them into confidence about their plan. “Is there any law in Balochistan? Are these people above the law? Are they out of the judiciary’s reach?” he asked the government.
Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash said such acts of ‘adventurism’ would lead to further hatred (against the State) amongst Baloch people. “The people who are acting as a state-within-a-state are not friends of the country, they are enemies. The regular army lost half of the country, Kashmir, Siachen and Kargil. These people are snakes in the grass but disguised as defenders of the country,” he said.
Senator Abdul Rahim Mandokhel demanded the government rein in all those involved in such incidents. Senator Hasil Bazinjo said the point to ponder was that what message had been sent through this incident. She was not only the wife of Bakhtiar Domki but also the sister of Brahamdagh Bugti.
Senator Prof Ibrahim said the US should not be allowed to exploit the Balochistan issue as a political tool. About the killing, he said that there was not even a slight difference in the unrest in Balochistan under a democratically elected from former president Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Senator Zahid Khan said East Pakistan separated because of neglect and abuse on the part of West Pakistan and the current situation in Balochistan was not too different.
Senator Mushahidullah Khan said elements of ‘revenge’ seemed to be dominating the incident. He asked the government to extend its reconciliation policy to Balochistan just like it did to other political parties to extend its rule.
Leader of the House Syed Nayyar Bukhari condemned the incident and said the Parliamentary Committee on National Security should examine the incident and discuss the forces that wanted to destabilise the country.

Politicians rap PML-N, journalists call nationwide strike

Politicians from across political spectrum have expressed solidarity with Dunya News.
And journalist organisations have called a nationwide strike on Thursday.
Talking to Dunya News, Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan condemned the threats given to Dunya News management by the Punjab government.
Pervez Shaukat, President Federal Union of Journalist, said that any regime’s days get numbered when it embarks on such dictatorial steps. He said the Federal Union of Journalist calls a nationwide protest to condemn the PML-N government’s attitude and to express solidarity with Dunya News.
Lahore Press Club President Sarmad Bashir also expressed regret over the Punjab government’s attitude. He said the media has its duty to expose wrongdoings of the government. Sarmad said the LPC would stage a protest tomorrow on the call of the Federal Union of Journalist.
Meanwhile, PTI chief Imran Khan warned the Punjab government of mending its ways, else his party would stage a rally in support of freedom of expression and media.
Similarly, Ch Pervaiz Elahi, the former CM Punjab and leader of the PML-Q, said that the government should puts its house in order and back off from confrontation with free media. He said the Punjab government should have appointed a health minister if it were to avoid the PIC scam. Harassing mediamen could a no solution to covering failed governance, he added.
Lashkari Raisani, PPP leader, said that it is sad to note that Mian Amir Mehmood, who id former nazim of Lahore and enjoys unblemished reputation, has been implicated in a wrong, fabricated case.
Shazia Marri, another PPP leader, said threats by PML-N government to Dunya News are highly deplorable.

Long history of PML-N’s revenge tactics against media

There is a long history of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-L) revenge tactics against print and electronic media.
Sanctins, arrests and registration of cases against mediamen is trademark of PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.
State machinery, including Income Tax Department, FIA, Police and National Accountability Bureau, was used to suppress the voice of a newspaper when PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was prime minister. But all these revenge tactics failed.
A renowned journalist was also abducted from his house during Nawaz Sharif tenure as PM but once again he failed in his bid against freedom of the press.
PML moved a resolution in the Punjab Assembly against journalists when Shahbaz Sharif was chief minister. The journalist community across the country condemned this resolution and staged countrywide protests forcing PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to take back this resolution.
The revenge tactics of Punjab government under PML-N continues and this time they have targeted Dunya News but they will fail again in their nefarious designs.