Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Women Excluded from Germany's Opinion Pages

German newspapers are full of clever commentaries, artful rhetoric and ideas. But an evaluation of national papers shows that editorials are almost always written by men. As the business gender quota debate rages on in the country, the female half of the population is being denied an influential platform. Those who care to learn about the situation for women in Germany can turn to the country's highest authority. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has devoted an entire brochure to its clientele. On page 51, in a chapter entitled "Women and Career," it says there are a growing number of women in the media working as game show hosts and presenters. Congratulations chromosome comrades, we did it, one might say. The stage lights are blinking happily, full of expectation, now that the question of female emancipation has nearly been solved. Showing us the way to the spotlight are blonde-highlighted saviors like television personalities Ulla Kock am Brinks, Carmen Nebels and Sonja Zietlows. Onstage they make a good impression, even if it's while engaging in meaningless chatter. The state of journalism, however, is far less promising. "In national newspapers women are not well represented in high-level positions," the ministry writes, soberly stating a fact that has been heavily debated since 350 female journalists wrote an open letter to the editors in chief of the country's leading newspapers in late February. At almost all of the national newspapers, top editors are men, and they decide what goes in the papers. But who writes the newspaper content? The important debate over a potential gender quota in company boardrooms -- as important and correct as it may be -- shows that leadership power alone isn't enough. The power of opinion is also necessary. Thus, an experiment. SPIEGEL ONLINE surveyed editorialists' genders at eight leading German newspapers over three weeks, from the end of February to the middle of March. The result? Women have neither power nor an opinion platform. Only about 18 percent of all editorials were written by women (see sidebar). That rate was saved by one paper, the independent, left-leaning Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung, known as the taz, which is also headed by a woman. Without that paper and its numerous female editorialists, the biggest German newspapers only offer a women's point of view a measly 14 percent of the time. A Different Perspective Hardly anyone would dispute that there is value in the fact that men and women are different, or that they have differing ways of communicating and thinking. At least not those, who in the context of the gender quota debate, assert that women, unlike men, don't push themselves to the forefront often enough. Women are more likely to take a gentler tone. There are whole seminars that tackle the topic of how women can be more masculine, always on top, always giving it their all. But a gentler tone can also be clever, pointed , competent, enriching and worth reading. It's just that there are so few such voices. Women journalists who have little to say should start at the conservative paper Die Welt, if not the center-right Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, also known as the FAZ. These papers mainly employ women who prefer to be reserved, working behind the scenes with a sense that when it's important, giving way to male colleagues is the appropriate choice. For these three weeks, women wrote only two of the 39 editorials that appeared on the front page of the FAZ. That translates into a rate of 5 percent and put the paper in last place in terms of gender diversity. The "intelligent minds" the paper boasts about almost always belong to men. Die Welt has a similar rate at 8 percent. The mass-circulation daily Bild also seems to share the opinion that men are opinion-makers. It allowed women to write just two editorials in that period, which translates to a rate of 10 percent. The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung has a rate of 13 percent, which is still far below average. Berlin daily Der Tagespiegel allows one out of every four editorials to be written by a woman, which is about the same percentage as the left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau. Dismissing Half of the Population At the taz, the only paper in the survey that is led by a woman, and a place where things have always been a little different, there is actual equality. What a sensation! Drum roll, please, for 52 percent of commentaries competently written by females about privacy, elections, bankruptcies and civil wars (instead of handbags, wrinkle creams and child care, which are considered their usual domains). At SPIEGEL ONLINE there are no regular editorials, but with one exception, almost all the commentaries written during this period were from men. So what now? Shut up and continue plugging away? Absolutely not! Something must change. Not out of empathy, kindness, fairness, or a guilty conscience, but because it's bad journalism. High-quality national media cannot afford to dismiss 50 percent of its potential target group. When men alone are allowed to explain the world, they address only men. Men form about 63 percent of the FAZ readership and 62 percent of Die Welt readers. Newspapers that let female editorialists have their say, and not just once a year when commentaries are dominated by the gender debate, have a higher female readership. It is vital to understand that not only have women been allowed to vote in Germany for the last 94 years, but that they are also interested in politics and even the economy. Women don't just need newspapers to carry home cut flowers from the weekly market. Recognizing Women's Potential is Necessary, Not Nice Skeptics should note that newspaper researchers have long since found that for women the topic is not the deciding factor for which articles they choose to read. Yes, they read the sports pages, even about soccer. What is crucial is the treatment of the article. More context, more feeling, more personality, more relevance, more balance. Not just numbers, but also their meaning. Not just quotations, but also their context. Not just a theory, but an antithesis. The success story of the centrist weekly paper Die Zeit shows how gender equality pays off. On the front page articles about children, church and cooking take their place alongside stories about war. Of the eight editorials that appeared during the evaluation period, three were from women. Half of the readership is female. The proportion of women in newsrooms is far greater than at leadership levels. The gender quota debate shows how flexible the numbers are. Editors in chief have made attempts to push women from the dusty corners of the masthead into the spotlight of statistics. But it's not just about position, it's also about influence. The editorials are the main stage of print media, and women should be there! This is an appeal to willing women writers and their superiors. Male communication is often more clear, because subtexts leave little room for big egos or self-doubt. Women regularly fall into the trap of justifying themselves. Male writers often express a viewpoint as if they were sun kings representing the majority viewpoint. Female writers argue, ponder, think out loud and in the end they are accused of having no opinion at all. Otherwise, why so many words? If editors in chief complain that they cannot find willing and able female colleagues to write editorials, perhaps they should consider whether they are just too busy looking for those who are like-minded.

Kids speak their minds about race


There are no two opinions that the Afghans were lured or forced to become refugees in Pakistan and Iran for political reasons only to give a bad name for the then Afghanistan nationalist Government that had overthrown monarchy in their country. Senior most Pakistani administration officials paid secret visits to neighbouring districts and areas of Afghanistan and provided incentives to Afghan elders to become refugees so that propaganda campaign is launched the world over under the leadership of the United States. Thus the Afghan refugees are not genuine refugees and they were facing no threat to their life and property from the Government forces at the initial period of what the Afghans claimed ‘Saur Revolution’ However, some of the young Afghans were recruited as mercenaries or as guerrillas to fight the Kabul Government backed by Moscow and its allies. It started the civil war and the war is not only continuing to this date, it had clearly spilled over on Pakistani territory. The Taliban are off shoot of the Afghan civil war and they are fighting the security forces of Pakistan. Pakistan suffered the most at the hands of Afghans and their militant allies in the Pakistani establishment. It was the security establishment of Pakistan that never allowed the Afghans to be confined to refugee camps for military reasons. They were deliberately allowed to mix up with the local population under the cover so that they should operate inside Afghanistan and carry out covert operations. Now the Afghans have become a monster for Pakistan. They pose a serious threat to security and stability of Pakistan. No Pakistani will believe that Afghans are loyal to Pakistani State. Now the world community had launched a campaign to accommodate the Afghans in Pakistan and shelve the plan to repatriate them voluntarily or involuntarily. Pakistan Government remained under pressure and it agreed to allow the Afghans to stay back till 2012. Now the period is over and they must go. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, while addressing an international gathering in Australia earlier this year categorically demanding voluntary or involuntary repatriation of all Afghans as they are not acceptable to Pakistan any more. The Prime Minister of Pakistan went to an extent demanding that the Afghans should be shifted in camps inside Afghanistan and they should return to their hometowns when the conditions permit them. In no case, they should stay back in Pakistan from now on. They are an economic burden on the weak Pakistani economy. Why should Pakistan feed millions of illegal Afghan immigrants? Officials of the UN organizations had confirmed that 80 per cent of the voluntarily repatriated Afghans had returned to Pakistan, mainly in Balochistan. They got the money and Ration and returned back on their job. They are economic refugees and facing no threat to their life in Afghanistan. The only solution to this problem is that the Afghans should be confined to the refugee camps first under the supervision of the UNHCR and later on the camps should be shifted inside Afghanistan, far away from the Pakistan borders, with a guarantee that they will not return. The economic cost of Afghan refugees or illegal immigrants is very heavy on Balochistan. They are enjoying free health care from all the major Government hospitals, mainly in Quetta. It amounts to more than a half of the health budget of Balochistan. More than half of the Government hospital beds are occupied by the Afghans. They destroyed the economy, agriculture, range land, forest, destroyed the labour market and chased out the local work force in Balochistan and elsewhere. Finally, they had changed the demography of Balochistan and now it had reached at a delicate balance undermining the legitimate interest of Baloch people as a majority on their own homeland. The Pakistani establishment had deliberately provided CNIC and other papers to Afghans as a tool to keep Baloch people under pressure for political reasons. Now the world community is using its additional pressure to ensure that Balochs should be converted into a minority on their own fatherland by allowing the Afghans to stay back in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan. There is valid reason for Balochs opposing presence of Afghans on Baloch soil. If Pakistan Government permits Afghans to stay back, they should be allowed to settle in the Federal Capital and close to the residence of President and Prime Minister and not in Balochistan.

Pakistan: Women unsafe, even in jails

Justice Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu of the Lahore High Court on Wednesday took serious notice of supply of young prisoner girls for adultery from jails of Punjab in dark of night and of the provision of liquor, heroin and other narcotics to inmates by the corrupt staff of the jails. Justice Sidhu was hearing an appeal against acquittal of former DIG Malik Iqbal and other accused prison officials in the case of the killing of four civil judges in Sialkot Jail shootout incident in 2003. When asked, the Sialkot jail superintendent told the court that supply of inmate girls from jails for unethical activities was done mostly in connivance with lower grade jail officials and high ranking officials were not involved in such practice. “Many cases have surfaced in which the high ups were involved in such activities and also when such case is presented before them they do not take action,” the judge replied. Senior lawyer of criminal case Aftab Bajwa said many cases were pending in the court on this issue. The court was adjourned for Thursday (today). The present appeals were moved by the father of Shahryar Syed, the deceased civil judge, against the 10 years jail sentence each awarded to Raja Mushtaq, Assistant Superintendent and Muhammad Hafeez, Warden of the District jail Sialkot, and acquittal of the others police and jail officers of higher position. The appellant, questioning the decision of Sialkot Anti-terrorism Special Court Judge Mazhar Mustaqeem, sought enhancement in the sentence of the two and punishment to others. The incident took place during an inspection visit of the Sialkot district and sessions judge, who was accompanied by the deceased judge and was killed by the inmates. It may be recalled that nine persons including four civil judges and five prisoners were killed in the said incident when a group of prisoners took the judges hostage to secure their escape and a shootout between the prisoners and the police took place.

Pakistan, US look to salvage ties

Pakistan on Wednesday turned down fresh US demands for early resumption of the stalled NATO supplies, saying that the contentious issue would be decided in the joint session of parliament, which has been convened to revisit the bilateral ties and devise future terms of engagement with the United States. Islamabad also made it clear to Washington that it would not move against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) chief, who has been put by the US on its ‘most wanted terrorists’ list’ along with another senior JuD leader Hafiz Abdur Rehman Makki. The US has also announced a bounty of $10 million on Hafiz Saeed whereas reward for Abdur Rehman Makki is $2 million. US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Thomas Nides, who reached here Wednesday morning on a mission to improve the strained Pakistan-US ties, held meetings with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar soon after his arrival.
The US official was told that Pakistan would not detain Hafiz Saeed as there was no concrete evidence suggesting his involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 or any other act of subversion. “Deputy Secretary Nides was told that such acts by US (bounty on Hafiz Saeed) would further harm the already strained ties and also damage the ongoing efforts for reconciliation between Islamabad and Washington,” said a Pakistani diplomat privy to the crucial Pak-US talks. Earlier, Nides asked for the early reopening of the NATO supply lines, which were blocked by Islamabad soon after the airstrikes on two Pakistani border posts in Mohmand Agency last year in November in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed. The US official said that the United States respected Pakistan’s sovereignty but it also expected that Islamabad would take full cognizance of Washington’s security concerns and try to address them. “The US official was told that since the matter of NATO supplies is now before the parliament so the government couldn’t oblige Washington on this count and they should wait for the outcome of the parliamentary debate on NATO supply lines and other bilateral issues such as drone strikes,” the diplomat said. Meanwhile, in a statement on US bounty on Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said, “Pakistan would prefer to receive concrete evidence to proceed legally rather than engaging in a public discussion on this issue. “He underlined that in a democratic country like Pakistan, where judiciary is independent, evidence against anyone must withstand judicial scrutiny,” said a statement. In his meeting with US Deputy Secretary, Prime Minister Gilani reiterated that new rules of engagements between Pakistan, USA/NATO/ISAF must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan. “The Prime Minister emphasized that the ongoing parliamentary review process offered an unprecedented opportunity to bring transparency and credibility to the rules of engagement with USA, NATO and ISAF,” said an official statement. “Relations with US must be based on mutual respect and mutual interest,” said the prime minister The prime minister further stated that Pakistan would like to build bilateral relations with USA based on mutual respect and mutual interest. The US delegation also called on Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at the Foreign Ministry. The two delegations exchanged views on the whole gamut of bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest. The foreign minister briefed the US side on the parliamentary process underway in regard to new terms of engagement with the United States. Khar underscored that the democratic government of Pakistan wanted the voice and aspirations of the people of Pakistan reflected in the country’s foreign policy. She stressed that the parliamentary process was the key in achieving Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives which included security and economic prosperity of the country. The US official conveyed that Washington fully respected the parliamentary process and reaffirmed the US government’s desire to re-engage with Pakistan. He also appreciated Pakistan’s positive and constructive role in bringing peace and stability in the region. According to statement issued by US embassy after Nides meeting with Khar, the US deputy secretary said, “I’m very pleased to be here at this pivotal time between the United States and Pakistan to engage in discussions about the future of this very, very important relationship.” “I am here to build upon the important conversations that have taken place over the last 10 days – including between President Zardari and Ambassador Grossman in Dushanbe and between President Obama with Prime Minister Gilani in Seoul,” he said. “As President Obama said last week when he met Prime Minister Gilani, we believe that we can achieve a balanced approach in a relationship that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and interests but also represents our concerns about our national security,” he said. He said, “We are committed to the people of Pakistan. And, we recognize how challenging this past year has been. And, I am heartened that we are working through our differences very constructively.” “Being here today proves that a sustained engagement is the most productive way forward, and a hallmark of the way in which mature democracies operate. Too much is at stake for us to turn away from each other, so we must work through all of these challenges,” Nides said.

Afghan refugees: Majority don't get registered out of fear of forceful repatriation

The Express Tribune
Living in Balochistan for the last three decades, a majority of the Afghan refugees have not registered themselves out of fear of forceful repatriation, said Major Farzand Ali, Director Operation Afghan Refugees Organisation Balochistan.
Addressing participants of a workshop in Quetta on Friday, Ali said there is no legislation to deal with the refugees’ issue. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as many as 3.5 million Afghan refugees have registered, while many others have not. The workshop titled ‘Sensitisation and Capacity Building media’ was held at the Quetta Club, where participants discussed the agreement inked between the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR allowing some 1.7 million Afghan refugees to continue living in the country until the end of 2012. Pakistan allowed 150,000 unskilled Afghan refugees to prolong their stay in the country through an agreement with Afghanistan and UNHCR. “A population verification survey under Management and Repatriation Strategy for Afghan Refugees (MRSAR) was recently conducted in the districts of Quetta, Pishin and Qila Abdullah but we are yet to receive any feedback about the basic requirements of Afghan refugees living here,” he said, referring to MRSAR under which the refugees who have invested over Rs5 million in productive businesses would be allowed to continue with their work and may be given work permits for a specific period of time. “The well-off refugees have already obtained National Identity Cards and have settled in urban slums,” he pointed out. He also said there are 150 unfrequented routes along the Pakistan-Afghan borders, where keeping a strict check on cross border movements is impossible. “Many new people enter Pakistan while some go back to Afghanistan,” he added. “For instance, over one million refugees were repatriated in 2004 out of which 80 percent came back due to the law and order situation in their country,” Ali stated. “I have been dealing the Afghan refugees for the past three years and have observed that no one knows the exact figure of unregistered refugees. There is a need of serious legislation to deal with the refugees because despite the lapse of three decades nothing has been done,” he said. Calling for Pakistan to adopt realistic approach towards the issue, Ali said that early repatriation would be difficult as the situation in Afghanistan is not stable. Associate Protection Officer UNHCR, Arbab Mohammad Zahir said the MRSAR is striving to legalise the stay of Afghan refugees so that they can easily earn their livelihood. He agreed that most of the repatriated refugees had returned to Pakistan and said Afghanistan is also working to improve the law and order situation.

Death anniversary of ZA Bhutto marked in KP

The participants at the 33rd death anniversary function of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on Wednesday vowed to follow the principles of their leader and render every sacrifice for the attainment of the rights of people. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter of the PPP organised the main function at a hall opposite the Gulbahar Police Station where the emotionally-charged activists chanted slogans in favour of their party and its leadership. The venue was decorated with tricolour flags, banners and portraits of PPP leaders. However, some supporters and opponents of Federal Minister for Communications Arbab Alamgir Khan marred the event by making hullabaloo. The PPP activists, who had decided not to display the portrait of any minister and office-bearer, objected to the picture of Arbab Alamgir. Both the groups started chanting slogans in favour and against Arbab Alamgir. However, they ended the protest when the senior party leaders intervened. Provincial secretary information Syed Ayub Shah, former district nazim Azam Afridi, district president Israr Nahaqi, Akbar Khan Advocate, Ahmad Faheem, Tahir Abbas and others spoke on the occasion. Syed Ayub Shah said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had formed the PPP to rid the country of capitalists and landlords and give relief to the poor, but the current party leaders have deviated from the basic policy. He said ZA Bhutto had sent five million Pakistanis abroad during his government to strengthen the economy. He said the anti-PPP forces started hatching conspiracies against their leader and the imperialists forces succeeded in removing him but the brave jiyalas did not give up the struggle. He said the four-year performance of the PPP-led government was zero and it had let them down. He said the PPP government did not provide relief to the poor and this would mean there would be no one to drum up support for the party nominees in the next general elections. He said the governors, prime minister and ministers would have to come out of their offices if they wanted to win the elections. Azam Afridi said the services of Bhutto family could not be forgotten as he said made the country an atomic power. He said the current PPP leadership had disappointed them and it would be difficult to save the party if the situation remained the same. Some of the PPP activists who spoke on the occasion opposed any future alliance with the Awami National Party (ANP) and asked the central leadership to pull out of the coalition for the better future of the party and its workers. Wearing tricolour caps, the participants responded to the slogans and vowed to follow the directives of their leaders to foil the conspiracies of the anti- PPP forces bent upon dislodging the government. Terming ZA Bhutto a great philosopher and leader of international stature, they shed light on his life and urged the workers to spread his message. The said the PPP was ruling Pakistan due to the sacrifices rendered by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. Meanwhile, PPP Charsadda chapter president Farah Aslam Khan eulogised the services of ZA Bhutto and said her party leaders rendered unmatched sacrifices for the cause of democracy and did not bow before dictators. She said the rulers ignored the sincere and dedicated party workers after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. MARDAN: PPP activists offered Quran Khwani and Fateha Khwani for the soul of ZA Bhutto on the occasion of his 33rd death anniversary at the residence of provincial council member Syed Abid Ali Shah. The speakers reiterated their commitment to follow the principles of their late leaders in letter and spirit. PPP gatherings were also held in all the districts of the province including Chitral, Nowshera, Swat, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Dera Ismail Khan and Abbottabad.

Günter Grass’s Poem About Israel Provokes Intense Criticism

The German novelist and Nobel laureate Günter Grass has come under intense criticism after publishing a poem saying that Israel, not Iran, was the Mideast’s greatest threat to world peace, Der Spiegel Online reported on Wednesday. In the poem, titled “What Must Be Said” and published in Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung and several other European newspapers on Wednesday, Mr. Grass said he was tired of “Western hypocrisy” for calling for an end to Iran’s nuclear program while tolerating Israel’s own secretive nuclear program, which has been widely discussed but never officially confirmed. “Why do I say only now, aged and with my last drop of ink, that the nuclear power Israel endangers an already fragile world peace? Because that must be said which may already be too late to say tomorrow,” Mr. Grass, 84, wrote, after noting the German government’s recent decision to sell Israel additional submarines with what the poem described as the ability “to send all-destroying warheads where the existence of a single nuclear bomb is unproven.” The poem, which also expressed Mr. Grass’s basic solidarity with Israel, prompted an immediate outcry in a country whose relationship with Israel is complex, defined by many red lines drawn partly by inhibitions and guilt and partly by an acute awareness of the Holocaust, which is taught to every German schoolchild. The Central Council of Jews in Germany called it an “aggressive pamphlet of agitation.” The Israeli Embassy in Berlin issued a statement accusing Mr. Grass of propagating old-fashioned blood libel. “What must be said is that it is a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder,” the statement read. “Earlier, it was Christian children whose blood the Jews allegedly used to make their unleavened bread, but today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state allegedly wants to annihilate.” Denouncing the poem on the front page of another German newspaper, Die Welt, Henryk M. Broder, the author of “A Jew in the New Germany,” called Mr. Grass, “the prototype of the educated anti-Semite who means well toward Jews. He is hounded by guilt and feelings of shame but at the same time driven to reconcile history.” (Mr. Broder’s article also incorrectly stated that the poem would also be published in The New York Times.) The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, a strong ally of Israel, reacted more coolly. “There is artistic freedom in Germany,” a spokesman for Ms. Merkel said, according to a report on the Web site of The Guardian, “and there thankfully also is the freedom of the government not to have to comment on every artistic production.” The poem, which ended with a general wish for coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, isn’t the first time that the left-leaning Mr. Grass, best known as the author of “The Tin Drum,” has come under the kind of moral spotlight he has made a career of turning on Germany’s establishment, which he has long accused of failing to deal fully with the country’s Nazi past. In 2006, he was widely denounced for hypocrisy when he revealed for the first time, in his memoir “Peeling the Onion,” that he had served in the Waffen-SS at the end of World War II, when he was 17. Mr. Grass has said he was drafted into the unit and never fired a weapon. But his admission, coming after decades of urging Germans to come to terms with their Nazi past, raised awkward questions about why he had waited so long.

German Nobel laureate Guenter Grass' new poem: Nuclear Israel is a threat to world peace

Grass publishes a poem criticizing Israel's role in the Israel-Iran conflict; Israel embassy in Germany says poem is 'blood libel.'
Nobel Prize winner Guenter Grass has come under heavy fire on Wednesday just hours after he published an anti-Israel poem. German newspaper Der Spiegel dedicated no less than 10 articles, including analyses and opinion pieces, to Grass’ poem, in which he states that Israel's nuclear program is a threat to world peace. Even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition spoke out against the poem.The poem, entitled “What must be said,” will be published on Wednesday in the Deutsche Zeitung and La Republica. In the poem, Grass writes that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a “big mouth,” and that the intentions of the Iranian nuclear program are not proven. ..................................................................................
The poem drew sharp criticism in Germany, Israel and among Jewish organizations. The Israeli embassy in Germany said that the poem was in line with the 'tradition of blood libel ahead of Passover." Poem on the conflict between Israel and Iran, what must be said Why I am silent, silent about too long, what is obvious and in simulations was practiced, at the end as survivors , we are at best footnotes. It is alleged that on the first strike of the enslaved from bullies and to organized guided cheers could destroy Iranian people, because in the sphere of building a nuclear bomb is suspected. But why do I say to myself, to call that other country by name, in the years since - though secret - a growing nuclear capabilities available but out of control, because no test is available? The general concealment of this fact, which my silence subordinate, I find incriminating lies and coercion, the penalty is in prospect, if he is ignored; the verdict of "antisemitism" is familiar. But now, because in my country, that of innate crimes that are without comparison, sought time to time and will be taken to task, in turn, and purely commercial basis, even if declared with nimble lip as reparation, another U-boat to Israel delivered should be, whose specialty is all-destroying warheads to be able to steer to where the existence of a single atomic bomb is unproven, but wants to be a fear of evidentiary value, I say what needs to be said. But why I kept quiet until now? As I said, my background, which is never subject to tilgendem blemish, forbade this fact as a definite truth to the land of Israel, whom I am connected and want to stay, be expected. Why do I say now only : aged and last ink the nuclear-armed Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace? Because it must be said , what could already be tomorrow's too late - in part because we - as a German burden enough could be suppliers of a crime are the predictable, which is why our complicity by any of the usual excuses would be to pay off. And admittedly, I am silent no more, because I was the hypocrisy of the West 'm tired, is also hoped it might be a lot rid of silence, the cause of the apparent danger call to renounce violence and are also sure that an unfettered and permanent control of Israel's nuclear potential and the Iranian nuclear facilities by an international authority of the governments of both countries will be allowed. Only then is all, the Israelis and Palestinians, more than that, all the people in this region occupied by the delusional enemies living cheek by jowl , and ultimately to help us.

'Jordan experiences massive Arab Spring weekly protests'

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Jordan of crushing pro-reform rallies in the country, saying Jordanian security forces violently breakup peaceful protests and beat and arrest demonstrators. Meanwhile, Amnesty International called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the six political activists that were charged with “insulting” the Jordanian king. Jordanians have, since January 2011, been holding street protests demanding political reforms, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote and an end to corruption. Press TV has conducted an interview with Ali al-Ahmed, director of the IGA, to share his opinion on this issue. The following is a rough transcript of the interview. Press TV: Mr. Ahmed, how do you see the situation in Jordan developing? Al-Ahmed: The situation in Jordan is really extremely under reported because every Friday there is protests in many Jordanian cities and towns calling for the end of corruption and calling even for the regime change and condemning the absolute ruler of Jordan, the king of Jordan and asking him to leave. So there have been dozens arrested, many beaten and cornered. So you are seeing yet another example of how Western media failed to report what is happening in Jordan which it is probably as massive as other Arab Spring countries. Jordan has not been reported on and the fact that it is experiencing the Arab Spring every Friday. Press TV: How strong is the King’s position? How likely will the King be ousted? I mean we saw in several other Arab countries the dictators being ousted. How is the case with Jordan, do you think? Al-Ahmed: Jordan is the ultimate police state and this is not new. This goes back to the previous king. So this is where every breath is counted and if you touch the king you would have committed the greatest crime. But now this has changed and I think the likelihood this king will be toppled is very high, giving the fact that the people in Jordan are protesting and specially those Jordanians, these tribal Jordanians in Tafileh and other cities where they have called for him to leave. I think we are just a few months away from reaching that flash point between the regime and the people because ultimately it is the monarchy and the king himself who is the king of corruption in Jordan and responsible for all the ills of Jordanian society and the massive corruption and high unemployment and the deprivation that the Jordanian people are witnessing today. Press TV: So suppose that flash point will be reached and the king is ousted. What kind of a political structure will be defined in Jordan? Al-Ahmed: Jordan because of its important location I think the West has desperate interest in interfering. I think you are seeing a strong turn in Jordan, people who represent the Jordanian tribes and feel that they are marginalized and also you have the Palestinian origin Jordanians who feel that they need to have their message and their agenda put forth. So you are going to find some trouble between these Islamists and non-Islamist forces. However I think the Jordanian people are going to be able to come through and unite to bring much more populist government than this current absolute monarchy that is now, the Jordanian regime.

Bahrain's government must stop killing its people, and listen to them

When 100,000 or more people take to the streets in protest, governments in most parts of the world would see it as a sign that they need to change course – especially in a country with only about 600,000 citizens. But Bahrain is no ordinary country. Its prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, has been in office for more than 40 years and his nephew, King Hamad, insists there is no opposition as such: "We only have people with different views… and now they are talking with their brothers."
So far, though, there has been no move towards serious dialogue, instead just a campaign of repression that has claimed at least 80 lives and created hundreds of political prisoners. We in the opposition have reiterated time and again our calls for "meaningful dialogue", as President Obama put it. We stand ready to move the country forward towards a democratic future, but the only engagement from the authorities has been violence, not discussion. Rather than address our demands, the government has resorted to peddling lies to discredit our movement internationally – a strategy it has used since day one of this crisis, which shows its complete refusal to reform. Last October we published The Manama Document to show our roadmap to reform. The government has ignored this and we have received no official response. Al-Wefaq is the largest political party in Bahrain and indeed one of the most successful groupings across the Gulf region. Our demands do not extend beyond a genuinely democratic constitutional monarchy. We can envisage a place for the monarchy in the future of Bahrain, but we can no longer accept a future for dictatorship. We call for a democratically elected government, a fully representative parliament with full authority, separation of powers and equality for all under the law. It's dictatorship we want to dismantle, not the state. Last November, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry proved that the government was guilty of "excessive force" in its crackdown against protesters. It showed clearly that the authorities in Bahrain were guilty of killings, torture and other gross rights violations. Since this report, these abuses have continued because no political changes have been made. They are the direct result of an unaccountable political system that grants impunity to all those guilty of crimes against humanity, from top to bottom. Only genuine political reform will end this cycle of violence. While some democratic uprisings over the past year have received support from other countries, the international community has been reluctant to stand with the people of Bahrain. We find ourselves in the crossfire of tensions between Iran and the west, with pro-government Bahrainis accusing Iran of supporting the opposition. Unequivocally and in no uncertain terms, we reject all foreign interference in Bahrain, whether from Iran or Saudi Arabia (which one year ago sent troops into our country to help crush our dreams of freedom). Our demands are national and we model our future society on the democracies of Westminster, Washington and other liberal modern states. This tactic of the regime is to attempt to stir sectarian tensions and turn political issues into religious ones. It is truly disgraceful that our government openly seeks to divide the country on sectarian lines, as a means to retain power. Sunnis and Shia, Muslims and non-Muslims can stand together, with mutual respect and equality under Bahraini law. The divide in Bahrain is not between religious sects. A majority of the country, from all backgrounds including some inside the royal family, stand for democracy and freedom while a small minority who benefit from the status quo stand in the camp of totalitarianism. Sadly, as time passes without a conclusion to the crisis, the government's attempts to pit countryman against countryman are beginning to take effect. Just this weekend, a 22-year-old citizen journalist died after being shot from a civilian car during a peaceful protest. Al-Wefaq is committed to peaceful protest and will always maintain this principle; it has been the strongest characteristic of our revolution. We want to build our future on peace not war, on dialogue not weapons. But in the face of ongoing state brutality and no end to the crisis, extremists on both sides will become emboldened. This is our major fear, but something the government seems perfectly happy to accept as an alternative to reform. It seems there are some sections of the royal family who would rather watch the country burn than relinquish some of its unwarranted power, influence and position. This is why Bahrain needs a solution. The current political stalemate is not in the interests of the people, the west or indeed the country as a whole. For us in al-Wefaq, the solution is a meaningful and genuine dialogue towards a democratic future. We are open to compromise and debate, but the daily violations against the people must stop immediately. We have shown our own commitment to moving the country forward. Now the authorities must lay down their weapons, stop killing people in the streets and show the same commitment. Those in the west who want to see a world of stable democracies should recognise this and push for this logical conclusion. In February and March 2011 we built a miniature democratic society in Pearl Square. For the first time our people felt what it was like to be free, although it was short lived and ended savagely. As one protester interviewed for al-Jazeera's documentary, Shouting in the Dark, said: "We have touched the soul of freedom, we can't go back now."

Bahrain hunger striker's life in danger, daughter says

The human rights activist who entered the 55th day of a hunger strike in Bahrain on Tuesday may not survive the ordeal, his daughter told CNN. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja "is entering a critical phase, where his life is at stake," his daughter, Maryam al-Khawaja said. She said two doctors accompanied her father at all times Monday night, and he was being moved Tuesday to a different prison that has medical equipment he needs. The move is because of fears that he may go into a coma at any time, as his blood sugar and blood pressure have further dropped, she said. On Tuesday, the attending physician at the Correction and Rehabilitation Center recommended that he be transferred to the Public Security Fort for constant medical observation and care, a spokeswoman for the government's Information Affairs Authority said. The Interior Ministry's general inspector said Tuesday that "all policies and procedures of the prison facilities in Bahrain meet international human rights standards and all detainees have consistent and reliable access to professional medical care," according to a statement from Maj. Gen. Tariq H. Al Hasan, a spokesman for the ministry.Al Khawaja's medical condition "is under constant surveillance" and he is provided with daily medical care, al-Hasan said in the statement. On 30 March, he was found to have low blood pressure and was taken to Bahrain Defense Force Hospital, where he was treated and returned to Jau Prison the following day, it said. Records showed that Al Khawaja had lost about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and had a low hemoglobin level, though not critically low. It said he was taking fluids, mineral supplements, glucose and juice on a daily basis. The activist, who was arrested last April for his role in anti-government demonstrations that swept through his country in February and March, has been on a hunger strike for eight weeks to protest his life prison term. In June, al-Khawaja and seven other Shiite opposition activists were found guilty of plotting to overthrow the country's Sunni royal family. They were sentenced to life in prison. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit human rights group started by al-Khawaja and for which his daughter works, has appealed for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds. His life is in danger, Maryam al-Khawaja said, "and getting to a situation where there might be an unrepairable damage to his physical well-being, if he survives." Maryam al-Khawaja said he and 13 other detained leaders had their cases taken Monday to the Court of Cassation, where lawyers requested that they be released pending a court decision. The judge refused the request and announced that the decision will be read on April 23, she said. "We urge the government to take into consideration the deteriorating health condition of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja that cannot wait until the court's decision," she said. "Any damage to the health of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is the responsibility of the Bahraini government." UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt met with officials in Bahrain on Tuesday to discuss progress on reform and human rights issues, the Foreign Office said in a statement. "We hope that the steps taken so far by the Bahraini government will provide the basis for further reform and will help prevent future abuses from being committed," Burt said. "Reports of ongoing violence and street protests in Bahrain make clear this is (a) long-term process and more needs to be done." Rights group Amnesty International called Friday for al-Khawaja's immediate and unconditional release. Phillip Luther, its Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement: "The Bahraini authorities have made pledges that they would release people who were imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression, but the continued imprisonment of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja demonstrates that they are not serious about fulfilling such promises." The rights group considers al-Khawaja a "prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression," and says he began his hunger strike in February to protest his sentence. Last week, the United Nations issued a statement expressing concern about "the health of human rights defenders who are on hunger strikes in protest against their imprisonment for participating in last year's mass demonstrations." The state-run Bahrain News Agency published a statement Tuesday from the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development in response to a critical report by another rights group, Human Rights Watch, that said Bahrain had not lived up to its commitments on reform. The ministry dismissed the criticism as rash, saying that the Human Rights Watch report "had ignored the positive developments in the country and the continuation of the reform process," and that it was committed to the protection of human rights. Demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities in the island state, backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In November of last year, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The independent commission, set up by Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, found that between February and April of last year, 35 people were killed in unrest there. Demonstrators and Bahraini authorities have continued to clash in recent months, with the opposition accusing the government of using heavy-handed tactics.

ICRC chief tours Syria's Daraa, assesses humanitarian needs

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Jakob Kellenberger has toured the southern Syrian province of Daraa to assess the humanitarian needs, ICRC spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh said on Wednesday. Dabbakeh told Xinhua by phone that two truckloads of humanitarian relief aid have accompanied the ICRC chief's mission. Kellenberger flew in Tuesday on a two-day visit aimed at convincing the conflict-stricken country's leaders to give aid workers more access to restive areas across Syria. During his visit, Kellenberger held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, head of the Syrian Red Crescent Abdul- Rahman Attar, Syrian Interior Minister Maj-Gen Mohamad al-Shaar and Health Minister Dr. Wael al-Halki. Foreign Minister Moallem reiterated to Kellenberger Syria's willingness to provide what is necessary for the success of the ICRC mission in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, according to a foreign ministry statement. During his meeting with the interior ministry, Kellenberger expressed his hope that the Syrian government would give the Red Cross mission access to Syrian prisons to help create better conditions for prisoners. Kellenberger indicated that the Syrian authorities had permitted the Red Cross delegation to visit the Damascus Central Prison last June and offered all-out facilitation, expressing hopes that such visits would be repeated with the coordination of the Syrian Red Crescent "in order to ensure the best possible humanitarian conditions for the detainees."

Indian government, army deny 'coup fears' report
India's government and the army furiously denied on Wednesday an "alarmist" front-page newspaper report detailing how troop movements towards the capital in January had spooked the cabinet. The Indian Express claimed the unnotified nocturnal deployments had sparked concern about a possible coup at a time when relations between the head of the 1.13-million-strong army and the government are strained. It said the government had taken measures as a precaution on the night of January 16-17, including asking lookouts to identify the troops involved and ordering police to take measures to slow traffic on the highways into the capital. "These are alarmist reports and should not be taken at face value," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said outside parliament, adding that no one should work to lower the "dignity and respect" of the army chief position. Defence Minister A.K. Antony, speaking at the launch of a nuclear-powered submarine in south India, told reporters the suggestion the government had been worried was "absolutely baseless"."They (the army) will not do anything against Indian democracy. They are true patriots," he declared. The deployments - by a column of mechanised infantry travelling in armoured personnel carriers and a separate column of paratroopers - were "usual, natural activities", he said. Indian Army spokesman Colonel Jagdeep Dahiya told AFP that the story in the respected broadsheet was "baseless and incorrect". "Certain troops' movements which have been reported were part of routine training as per standard operating procedures," he said. The Express cleared its front-page for the story under a dramatic three-line headline stating: "The January night Raisina Hill (the political establishment) was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt." Quoting several unnamed sources, it said that the defence minister and the prime minister were informed and the troops were ordered to halt. They were then sent back to their bases in states neighbouring the capital area. The army explained afterwards that the deployments were to test the capabilities of the infantry to operate in fog and for the paratroopers to link up with their planes. While these reasons were initially "viewed with scepticism", the Express reported, the defence ministry had since come to the conclusion it was "a false alarm caused by some non-adherence to standard operating procedures." The incident was important because it underlined the distrust between the army and the government, the paper stressed in the story which was jointly written by its high-profile editor Shekhar Gupta. "The relationship between the army and political leadership of the country is at an all-time low," the spokesman for the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Ravishankar Prasad, told reporters. "The equilibrium between the civilian leadership and the army must be restored and respected." India's army chief V.K. Singh has had a public falling out with his civilian bosses sparked by his bid to stay in office for an extra year. In January, the same day as the manoeuvres detailed in the Express, he took his case to the Supreme Court, asking unsuccessfully for his birth date as registered in army records to be changed. The general, a widely respected veteran who faces mandatory retirement this May at the age of 62, had claimed his birth date had been wrongly recorded. Since this dispute, he has embarrassed Antony by detailing how he was offered a $2.8 million bribe in 2010 to fix a supply contract, a complaint which was not followed up by the government. And last week, a letter he wrote to the prime minister complaining how India's tank fleet lacks ammunition, its air defences are "97 percent obsolete" and its elite forces need essential weapons was leaked to the media. Uday Bhaskar, a security analyst and former head of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, told AFP that India's military was "one of the most apolitical armies in the world. I don't give any credit to this." The country has very little history of its disciplined army interfering in political affairs. After a 1984 army onslaught against Sikh separatists in northwestern Punjab state, some Sikh soldiers mutinied, leading the government to put in place safeguards against a coup.

Flying cars? A plane you can drive

Flying cars are not just the stuff of sci-fi movies anymore. Massachusetts-based Terrafugia Inc. announced this week that its street-legal prototype, the Transition, completed its first flight last month, bringing the company closer to its goal of selling the flying car within the next year. An announcement on the company’s website said the Transition reached an altitude of 1,400 feet during an eight-minute flight around the Plattsburgh International Airport on March 23. The company says the two-seater Light Sport Aircraft can drive on roads and highways, park in a single-car garage and take to the skies using unleaded gasoline.

Deal Close on Night Raids, U.S. and Afghan Officials Say

KABUL, Afghanistan — After years of insisting that American forces end covert nighttime raids on Afghan homes, President Hamid Karzai’s government was close to completing a deal that would give the Afghan authorities legal oversight of the raids, while allowing American forces to retain a guiding role in conducting them, officials from both countries said Tuesday. The night raids’ deep unpopularity with the Afghan public has long put Mr. Karzai at odds with his American backers, who say the operations are among the most effective tools they have to combat the Taliban. An agreement on the raids, after months of sometimes contentious negotiations, would allow Kabul and Washington to move toward completion of a broader pact that lays out the strategic relationship between the two countries after the official end of the NATO combat mission here in 2014. Afghan and American officials hope to have that broader agreement concluded in time for a NATO summit meeting planned for May in Chicago. The deal that is nearing completion would give Afghan military forces a lead role in all the raids — officials say they already take part in most of them — and would also bring the operations under Afghan legal jurisdiction by requiring a court warrant within 48 hours of a raid in order to continue detention of any suspects, according to American and Afghan officials close to the negotiations. Most of the officials commented on the condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been concluded. At the same time, it would include a series of face-saving compromises to allow American forces to retain the freedom of action that commanders believe is necessary for the operations to remain effective. The raids would still rely heavily on American intelligence, and most would include American or allied forces for the foreseeable future, the officials said. “We are very close to signing” an agreement on the raids, said Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai. He said an agreement could come before the end of the week, and that it would “make sure that all nighttime raids are conducted fully in accordance with the laws of Afghanistan.” As late as Tuesday afternoon, the two sides thought they had reached agreement, and Afghan and American officials were making preparations for a signing ceremony on Wednesday. But the plans were put on hold on Tuesday evening after a last-minute dispute over whether the Afghans or Americans would hold people detained in the raids after a warrant was granted, the officials said. American officials have pushed to retain custody of the detainees for a limited time so they could be interrogated, the officials said. The interrogations are an important source of intelligence that American officials said they were not yet ready to give up. Neither Afghan nor American officials would say how long the Americans wanted to keep the detainees. It also was not clear where American forces would hold them, since the United States agreed last month to hand over its main prison here to Afghan authorities within six months. An agreement on night raids, coming on the heels of the prison deal, would go a long way toward restoring trust that has broken down between the two governments after a string of recent crises, including the killing of Afghan civilians by an American soldier on March 16. That rampage prompted Mr. Karzai to renew his longstanding calls for an end to night raids, which he has argued violate Afghan culture and values. While American officials have insisted that the killings were part of an isolated criminal act under cover of darkness, not a night raid, the distinction is not shared by most Afghans, including Mr. Karzai. He has portrayed it as the latest in a long string of episodes where coalition forces have killed innocent Afghans. But Afghan and American officials said Tuesday that Mr. Karzai understood the importance of preserving the ability of Afghan and American forces to conduct the raids. Coalition forces have come to increasingly rely on them in recent years, as they seek to kill or capture midlevel insurgents and, in the process, separate foot soldiers from the Taliban’s top leadership. Finding a way to continue the raids is also considered essential for the post-2014 plan that is shaping up. The plan, in essence, envisions the United States’ leaving behind a small force that would focus on counterterrorism. For that kind of mission to work, the force would probably need to be able to carry out night raids.

Afghan bomb kills 3 NATO troops, including 2 US

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a park Wednesday in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 people, including two U.S. soldiers, officials said, the latest in a string of attacks as spring fighting season gets under way. Afghan and NATO security forces have frequently been targeted in the surge of violence as militants fight to assert their power and undermine U.S. efforts to try to build up the Afghan military and leave combat responsibility to local forces by the end of 2014. The bomber was riding a motorcycle when he detonated his explosives at the gate of the park in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province, police spokesman Lal Mohammad Ahmad Zai said. It was not clear what was targeted, but he said four of those killed were police officers. Associated Press video footage of the scene of the attack showed what appear to be dead Afghan civilians, police and foreign troops at the explosion site. Body parts were strewn around the gate and on the ground and blood was spattered everywhere. In Kabul, NATO said three of its service members were killed in a bombing Wednesday in northern Afghanistan. It provided no other details about the attack or the nationalities of the three. A senior U.S. defense official confirmed that two of them were Americans who were killed in the Faryab bombing but he had no information on the third slain NATO service member. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information for the record. Germany and Norway, who have troops in the region, said none of their soldiers were involved. Germany commands alliance operations in the area. There are troops of various nationalities serving there, most at a Norwegian base that houses a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Maimahan. The joint international military-civilian units work on development and reconstruction projects. Afghan officials said at least six Afghans, including four police officers, also were killed in the attack. Faryab is relatively calm, but it is considered to be a stronghold of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, an al-Qaida affiliated group that has been most active in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. On March 26, a joint Afghan and coalition force killed the group's leader in Afghanistan Makhdum Nusrat and detained two other insurgents. The coalition said Nusrat had been leading attacks against Afghan and coalition troops in the north for the past eight months and had been plotting the assassination of a member of parliament in Kabul. The IMU was formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan. Later it expanded its goal to seeking an Islamic state across Central Asia. Militants also have stepped up their attacks against international and Afghan troops nationwide in recent weeks. Nine Afghan policemen were killed and 11 abducted across the nation in the past three days. Fighting in Afghanistan usually wanes during the winter months as Taliban fighters take a break because of winter weather, only to surge in the spring. Heavy snow covers many of the mountain passes used by the Taliban and other insurgent fighters to cross mainly into eastern Afghanistan from safe havens in neighboring Pakistan. Anger against foreign forces also has risen following a series of missteps, including the inadvertent burning of copies of the Muslim holy book and other religious materials in February and the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians allegedly by a rogue U.S. soldier. Foreign troops also have found themselves increasingly targeted. There were conflicting accounts on the number of dead in Wednesday's attack, ranging from at least six to at least 10. Zai said four of those killed were police officers and six were civilians, including two women and two children. The director of Maimanah hospital, Abdul Ali Aleem, said six who died and 26 who were wounded in the suicide bombing were brought to his hospital. Abdul Satar Barez, the deputy governor of Faryab, said the suicide attack occurred just before noon. He said it took place at a park and that foreign troops were involved. So far this year, 97 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan, including at least 54 Americans. Germany and Norway, who have troops in the region, said that none of their soldiers were involved. Germany commands alliance operations in the region. Abdul Satar Barez, deputy governor of Faryab, said the attack occurred about 10:30 a.m. near a park in downtown Maimanah.

Shaheed Bhutto, still a source of inspiration
By Farzana Raja The name of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan and founding father of the Pakistan Peoples Party, is and will always remain an icon of struggle for the rights of people. The courageous leader scarified his life to protect the rights of Pakistani nation and to make Pakistan a modern progressive democracy. That is the reason that the great Quaid-e-Awam will live in the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan forever. The enemies of Shaheed Bhutto were actually the enemy of Pakistan and its people as they were aware that the process of progress and development ushered by his democratic government would be unstoppable under his dynamic leadership. The social and economic well being of the people was the focal point of the policies of Shaheed Bhutto. The slogan of ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ is very much reflective of his economic agenda, which is not only quite relevant today but will also remain so in future as well. While marking 33rd “Youm-e-Shahadat” of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, every democracy loving Pakistani rightly owes it to Shaheed Bhutto for living in a democratic Pakistan, free from tyrannical rule of undemocratic and oppressive forces. April 4, 1979 was indeed a black day when the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was committed on the behest of the then dictator Zia ul Haq. The forces of darkness succeeded to eliminate the most popular leader of the people for his ‘crime’ of giving voice to poor people of Pakistan and for his promise to rid the downtrodden masses of the country of the bane of poverty. Shaheed Bhutto wanted to make the defense of the country stronger and for this it was his democratic regime that gave Pakistan its nuclear programme. Besides, to strengthen the economy of the country, various futures oriented projects including Pakistan Steel Mills and Heavy Mechanical Complex were initiated by ZAB government on urgent basis. Shaheed Quaid-e-Awam instilled a new zeal and vigor in the people of Pakistan at a time when their hopes were diminishing and their dreams were getting shattered as a result of various internal and external factors. These were the difficult hours in the history of the country when the courageous people of Pakistan, as a result of follies of their short-sighted rulers, were haplessly facing looming threats to social, political and geographical integrity of the country. In the face of all these challenges, it was the unmatched wisdom of Shaheed leader who dealt with these challenges in most befitting and efficient manner. He prescribed greater national harmony as the only solution to keep the social, political and geographical integrity intact and protected. Shaheed Quaid-e-Awam gave a gift of unanimous Constitution to nation to infuse a sense of national harmony and integrity. Besides, he initiated mega developmental projects including Steel Mills and Kamra Aeronautical Complex aiming to revitalize the ailing economy of the country and to lay down the future economic roadmap of the country. Quaid-e-Awam always exhibited phenomenal love and affection for the poor and downtrodden of the country. This fact is quite evident from the fact that he took numerous revolutionary pro-poor steps in short span of time during his democratic tenure. The main thrust of the policies of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the manifesto of his party was to uplift the lives of socially and economically deprived segments of society. In this connection, he promised to the deprived segments of society of the basic amenities of life. Considering education a key to bring about a real economic revolution, new educational institutes and Polytechnic institutions were established and upgraded by his democratic government. Besides, scholarships for the students were increased aiming to promote higher education among the bright and diligent students of Pakistan. Throughout his democratic regime, Shaheed Quaid-e-Awam strived hard to strengthen institutions, correct the economy and improve the living standard of the people. It's indeed a coincidence that the present democratic government which is the heir of Bhutto’s legacy, is confronting with similar daunting tasks of correcting the ailing economy as well as to develop, strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions. Being the heir of the legacy of Shaheed ZAB, today, the democratic government under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, is focused on to serve poor and destitute of society. The PPP led Federal Government took courageous steps soon after its inception to alleviate the economic troubles and hardships of the masses. This agenda is in the pursuance the guiding principles of Quaid-e-Awam as well as the vision of his great daughter, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. The initiation of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is the part of the same legacy. It is first ever comprehensive social protection net which is expanding by every passing day despite various economic woes of our national economy. The programme has recently extended its life insurance facility to millions of new beneficiary families registered with BISP, which is an unprecedented step in the entire South Asia. Turning the pro-poor and pro-people socio-economic vision of Shaheed Bhutto into reality, BISP has also envisaged Waseela-e-Taleem initiative to provide education to millions of children of poor deserving families. Besides, the programme has already introduced various initiatives including long-term interest free financial assistance, vocational and technical training opportunities to poor beneficiary families and is about to launch health insurance for the poorest of the poor who cannot face any health shock, in addition to monthly cash grants. At the occasion of 33rd ‘Youm-e-Shahadat’ of Shaheed ZAB, the PPP led democratic government and BISP would reinvigorate its policy of serving the masses of Pakistan and to make Pakistan a modern, progressive as well as developed nation as it was dreamt by the Shaheed Qaid-e-Awam.

Pakistan: Meeting the people at the heart of the latest displacement crisis

By Sarah Kakakhel / Save the Children
A large “Welcome to Peshawar” sign greeted me as I got off the motorway from Islamabad. I could not help but think how different the two cities were. The federal capital lies at the foot of the Margalla range, lush green and welcoming, a quiet city with its wide, tree-lined avenues and neatly planted gladiolas. Peshawar, on the other hand, is loud and bustling as the city buzzes with activity. The mountains in the backdrop are barren and steep – protecting the city from the violence that is a common feature on the other side. I was in Peshawar as part of the Save the Children team to assess needs of the Internally Displaced People (IDP). The government of Pakistan has been clamping down on militant groups in the Khyber Agency, part of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), since mid-January. Hundreds of thousands of people are said to have fled or are fleeing. Many may not have a place to stay, food to eat or money to see a doctor if they are sick. Majority of them are now seeking shelter at Jalozai camp or are living in Peshawar with extended families, friends or in rented houses. As I crossed the heart of the city towards the main road that led to the Tehsil Bara in the Khyber Agency, traffic dwindled and it was hard not to miss the significant drop in the number of people wandering the streets. Nevertheless, we continued down the dusty, winding road that would bring us to a small settlement in Cheeni Village.
Kids playing hopscotch nearby eyed me curiously while I knocked on doors looking for houses that IDPs rented. That is how I found Imran (not his real name), who opened his door and let me into his house. To call it a house would be an exaggeration; the doorway was curtained with a used flour bag and the walls were blackened with soot and dirt. Imran’s wife, Salma (not her real name), was washing clothes when I entered. As per Pashtun culture, Imran left while Salma introduced me to her children. “This is my eldest daughter, Naeema (not her real name). I have two daughters and four sons,” she said, as she hurriedly cleared some space on the floor for me to sit. The conditions inside were terrible. A battered, used plastic soda bottle, black on the edges with grime was half-filled with water next to an assortment of battered and chipped utensils. On the floor was a frayed and tattered plastic mat which, I later discovered, served as both Salma and her daughters’ bed. Her two sons, Ismail and Ishaq, were standing by, peering at me inquisitively. The family had left their home in Khyber and were renting this place. “Our house had burned down after a mortar hit it,” Salma said flatly. When I asked her who had attacked their home, she said she did not know. Her two sons went to school but also worked part-time at a private house, washing cars and getting groceries. They earned US $11 a month for their work. This was the family’s main source of income which helped pay the rent. Salma explained that her husband was unable to find a job and they had to rely on support from members of the village and the mosque for basic food supplies. So far they have been living off money earned from selling their cattle when they moved from Khyber. They were already in debt, having borrowed from sympathetic neighbours. Hygiene levels were low in Cheeni village, said Salma. The family has no latrines and the nearest water point is half a kilometre away. The children brought in water once a day when it is rationed to residents. Washing their clothes, Hadia said, was a luxury that they seldom allowed themselves. Naeema had never gone to school as girls were not allowed to go to school in Khyber. Here in Peshawar, the nearest school only educated up to fifth grade and at 14 years old, she feels too old to go to school. Salma said: “I want to get her a sewing machine so she can learn how to sew. She would earn well by sewing clothes for the people in the village. I wish she had an education but it was God’s will. I pray for her future, hoping that she doesn’t go through what I have had to go through in life.” Life seemed pretty bad for Salma and her children before they lost their homes and were displaced from their village, and their current predicament didn’t hold out much hope for a better future. The family dreams of having their own home. “I could deal with all the troubles in the world if only I had my own house,” Salma said. “My constant fear is that the landlord will throw us out one morning and I will have nowhere to go with my children.” It was such a simple wish: To be able to stay with your family in a home without the fear of being evicted. As I left, I wondered if Salma would ever find such security. When would she be able to return to her village, what would await her there, and would peace also return with her?


Polio update: In Khyber Agency, one more case reported from Bara

The Express Tribune
One more polio case has been confirmed from Bara in Khyber Agency, taking the total number reported in the country during the last three months to 15. National Institute of Health (NIH), on Tuesday, confirmed type-1 wild polio virus in an eight-month-old boy, Arif, from Haji Mir Gul Kalay village in Bara tehsil. Arif was struck by polio on March 11 this year. The parents said their child had never been administered polio drops. It is the fifth polio case reported from Khyber Agency this year which is the only region in Asia where both type-1 and type-3 virus still exist, a major concern for national and international health experts. “The new case in Bara clearly reflects that the transmission of the crippling virus has turned into an ugly epidemic in the area and is now threatening hundreds and thousands of children in the neighbouring city of Peshawar,” said an official of the World Health Organisation (WHO). “We are afraid that there will be more polio cases from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Fata in the days ahead,” WHO Senior Coordinator for Polio Eradication Dr Elias Durry told The Express Tribune. A three-day emergency anti-polio vaccination drive was launched in Jalozai camp and nearby villages on Monday to immunise the internally-displaced children from highly-endemic Bara tehsil. The drive was launched following a red alert issued by the WHO last week to prevent transmission of the virus to Peshawar and other surrounding areas. “We have decided to administer polio vaccine to children up to the age of 15 in Jalozai camp as the crippling virus may be transmitted by children,” he said. The drive has been divided into three stages. Children up to the age of 15 residing in the Jalozai camp will be administered polio vaccines. In the nearby districts, children up to the age of five will be immunised against measles and given Vitamin A drops. In the final stage, during the second week of April, the focus will be on the administration of oral polio vaccine to children. The official said the number of cases being reported from Bara is extremely alarming. He said Bara has remained inaccessible to polio teams since 2009 due to militancy and military operations. “We have been unable to immunise over 100,000 children in various parts of Khyber Agency, especially Bara since August 2009,” he said. WHO has also established 24 transit polio check posts on routes leading to Bara, whereas 110 polio teams have been organised to vaccinate children.

Asif Ali Zardari to be accompanied by a 40-member delegation on his Ajmer visit
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will be accompanied by a 40-member delegation when he arrives here on a "private visit" during which he will have lunch with the Prime Minister and pay obeisance at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. There is minister in that delegation which comprises the President's family members, senior officials of the Presidency and a media contingent, official sources said, without naming any particular minister. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will host a lunch which will be preceded by a meeting between the two leaders, they said. "We are still in discussion", they said when asked if Home Minister P Chidambaram will be part of the Prime Minister's delegation since there are reports that Interior Minister Rehman Malik could be accompanying the President. Sources kept insisting that it was a "private visit" of Zardari and India had conveyed that if it was convenient, the Prime Minister would host a lunch for him here. The two leaders had last met in 2009 on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Russia. On the agenda of the meeting, the sources said, "All issues of interest will be raised...The lunch is preceded by a meeting between the Prime Minister and President Zardari," but refused to give any details of matters that are likely to figure. The sources said the Pakistan President will go to Jaipur and from there will head to Ajmer.

Heavy security to be put in place for Zardari's visit

A thick security blanket involving hundreds of policemen besides snipers and commandos would be put in place for the visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari here on April 8. "We are still calculating the number of personnel required. All the required security arrangements would be done," Ajmer SP Rajesh Meena told PTI. Asked about specific details, he said both snipers and commandos besides policemen in plain clothes would be deployed. During President Pratibha Patil's visit to Ajmer Sharif last year, over a thousand security personnel were deployed. Policemen were also roped in from nearby districts and the entire route from the helipad to the shrine was heavily fortified. Zardari is visiting the famous Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti to pay his obeisance. Dargah officials are also looking forward to his visit. "He is coming to our house. We will receive him with love and respect," Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, the great-grandson of the Khwaja Saheb of Ajmer Sharif said. Talking about the high-profile visit of Zardari to the 13th Century shrine, Khan, who is also known as the Sajjadanashin of the dargah, said the Pakistani President would be received by him, dargah committee and Khadim sahib. He said Zardari is likely to be gifted a set of books and a sword as per tradition. Asked at what time Zardari is expected to visit the shrine, famous among both Muslims and Hindus who come to pray for their wishes, Khan said the district administration has not informed them officially. Khan said local administration is yet to call for a meeting to fine tune the arrangements. He also said that two hours prior to Zardari's visit the shrine would be cleared of common devotees. Zardari is expected to be inside the dargah for about half an hour. He will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi over lunch on April 8 before making a private visit to the famous shrine here. This will be the first visit to India by a Pakistani Head of State since 2005, when then President Pervez Musharraf had travelled to New Delhi. Zardari and Singh had last met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Russia in 2009. Though the visit was supposed to be devoid of political or diplomatic content, the officials had not ruled out the possibility of some official meetings as a Pakistani head of state would be visiting India after a long gap.

Asif Ali Zardari takes on detractors on Zulfiqar's death anniversary

Embattled President Asif Ali Zardari used the death anniversary of former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to answer his detractors, saying he was capable of countering any attack launched on his PPP-led government. Addressing a massive gathering at the Bhutto family's stronghold of Garhi Khuda Bux early this morning, Zardari said he had a response to every attack on the PPP and every allegation against him by his critics. In an apparent reference to pressure on the government from the Supreme Court to revive graft cases against him in Switzerland, Zardari said: "The decision made by the people is accepted in history, a judge's verdict is not accepted". He contended that the people were with him. "If I am fighting today, if (Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's lawyer) Aitzaz Ahsan is fighting in the Supreme Court, it is with the backing of the people. "Pakistan is in the hands of the people, who can never be wrong," he said. Senior PPP leader Ahsan is defending Gilani in contempt proceedings initiated by the apex court against the premier for failing to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland. Gilani has said he would rather be jailed than violate the Constitution by approaching Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases. Zardari further contended that Gilani was being "punished" for backing a move to create a new province in southern Punjab. "They are after Gilani not because he is loyal to me - he talks of the Constitution. "He wanted to separate south Punjab from the seat of Lahore and that is his crime, and he is being punished for it," he said. While reiterating the PPP's commitment to the policy of political reconciliation, Zardari called on the opposition to join hands with the government to help Pakistan overcome challenges. "Today, I again urge the opposition, let us work together to steer the country out of internal and external challenges," he said. He said there were some people who wanted to pitch the PPP against the Baloch, Punjabis or Urdu-speaking Sindhis but the party "will not fight against any community". He said, "We will fight for the security and safety of the land if there is any threat to its sovereignty and integrity". In an apparent reference to cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, Zardari said he welcomed new entrants in politics. "We do not have any objection if the new parties take away our leaders or their leaders come to our party," he added. Zardari said the Supreme Court was expected to "correct its mistakes" but unfortunately it had not taken any action against culprits who killed PPP leaders. All those responsible for the death of former premier Benazir Bhutto are now hiding, he said.

Pakistan: Sectarian violence

GILGIT-Baltistan plunged once again into violence on Tuesday. A number of people were killed and injured when a grenade was reportedly lobbed at an Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan) rally in Gilgit. Supporters of the ‘banned’ party were demanding the release of a detained leader. Though curfew was imposed rivals continued to trade fire, while there were reports of the violence spreading to Chilas. Tension had been simmering in the region for the past few days, as sectarian clashes had occurred on Sunday. It seems that Tuesday’s attack was only a trigger and considering the region’s troubled history the situation has the potential to deteriorate much further. The underdeveloped area, otherwise known for its stunning natural beauty and towering peaks, is rarely discussed on the national stage. Communal tensions first emerged in Gilgit-Baltistan during the 1970s, when the princely states were abolished and amalgamated into the Northern Areas. This process, along with the opening of the Karakoram Highway in the mid-1980s, initiated demographic changes as the inhabitants’ traditional way of life began to disappear and ‘settlers’ from other parts of Pakistan started arriving in the area. However, the sectarian conflict in this Shia- and Ismaili-majority region did not reach its current, bloody proportions until the late 1980s when — under Gen Zia’s watch — sectarian and jihadi elements were introduced into the area. Communal relations have nosedived since, with periods of uneasy calm sandwiched between regular cycles of deadly violence similar to what we are seeing now. Though the region has enjoyed a degree of autonomy since 2009, the local administration has failed to establish order, while Islamabad — specifically the security establishment — has let the lava of communal tension flow freely. This is a matter of grave concern, especially considering that Gilgit-Baltistan is located in a strategically sensitive area. As elsewhere in the country, the state bears primary responsibility for keeping the peace and ensuring troublemakers don’t fan the flames of sectarian hatred, especially after the recent Kohistan bus attack in which a number of Gilgiti Shias were killed. The area’s religious leaders must promote tolerance. Yet if the state does not clamp down on violence, radicals from the Shia and Sunni communities will be calling the shots, rendering the clerics irrelevant. That would be a disturbing development and its fallout could inflame communal sentiments elsewhere in the country. The state needs to pay due attention to Gilgit-Baltistan, specifically its law and order situation, and heal the region’s wounds, which have been festering for decades. This is essential for maintaining communal harmony not only in the area, but throughout Pakistan.

Situation remains tense in GB despite curfew

A complete shutter-down strike was being observed in Skardu and adjoining areas on Wednesday following a day of violent incidents in Gilgit-Baltistan claiming at least 14 lives while injuring over 50 others. The unrest has prompted the government to deploy troops and impose a curfew. The government on Wednesday also imposed section 144 in Skardu, and show of arms was forbidden, after five more people, including a police officer, were injured during the day. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has issued orders to suspend communication services until restoration of peace in the area. Educational institutions were closed and attendance in the government offices remained thin, while traffic was also less than normal, as the situation remained volatile despite clamping of curfew. “Control of law and order situation in GB is our priority and the government would utilize all resources to ensure peace in the northern areas,” the interior minister said Wednesday. Malik was talking to Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs, Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, who met with him to discuss security situation in GB. Chief Minister of GB, Syed Mehdi Shah was also present in the meeting. Both the ministers urged holding of dialogue to ensure peace in GB. Malik said federal government was taking all-out measures in collaboration with GB authorities to control law and order situation there. Riots had broken out after unidentified men lobbed a hand grenade at a protest rally of Ahl-i-Sunnat Waljamaat (ASWJ) on Tuesday. The Ahl-i-Sunnat Waljamaat (ASWJ) group, a reincarnation of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, was observing a strike on Tuesday to press the government for the release of its leader. A group of workers of the party reached the Etihad Chowk in Gilgit. When they were trying to force shopkeepers to close their shops, unknown people threw a grenade on them. Dozens of people were injured. Within minutes, firing broke out that lasted for about five hours. It appeared as if the entire city was under attack as firing took place in various localities. Panicked residents holed themselves up in their homes and the streets and markets were rapidly emptied of people. Law-enforcement personnel were unable to control the situation despite resorting to firing till curfew was imposed and troops appeared on the roads.