Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Clashes erupt after Bahrain Grand Prix exhibit protest

Bahraini security forces have fired stun grenades at protesters outside a cultural exhibition in Manama ahead of Sunday's Formula 1 Grand Prix.

A local journalist told the BBC the demonstrators in Old Manama were shouting "Down, down, F1" and demanding the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

The activist has been on hunger strike in prison for more than two months.

Mr Khawaja's lawyer earlier told the BBC that his client had removed the intravenous drip keeping him alive.

The 52-year-old told his wife on Tuesday afternoon that he was also now refusing anything but water, Mohammed al-Jishi said.

Mr Khawaja believed nothing was being done to resolve his continued detention, and this was the only way to force the issue, he added.Mr Khawaja was convicted by a military court in June of plotting against the state, but human rights groups have said that his trial was "grossly unfair".

They said his conviction was based on a confession he made under duress, and that no evidence was presented showing he had used or advocated violence during protests against King Hamad Al Khalifa.

Bahrain's highest court is due to rule on Mr Khawaja's appeal against his conviction on Monday - a day after the Grand Prix.

Last year's race was cancelled after at least 35 people, including five police, were killed during a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Activists 'arrested'
Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, only decided to go ahead with this weekend's race at the last minute.On Wednesday, opposition supporters held a protest demanding Sunday's Grand Prix also be called off, and calling for the immediate release of Mr Khawaja in Old Manama.

A Bahraini journalist, who asked not to be named for fear of arrest, told the BBC that there were chaotic scenes outside Bab al-Bahrain, which marks the entrance to the main souq.

Veteran activist Nabeel Rajab reportedly stood near Bab al-Bahrain chanting anti-government slogans, while others carried signs reading: "Your silence is killing al-Khawaja".

The journalist warned: "If he dies the streets will explode."

Riot police at first demanded the protesters leave. When they refused, officers fired deafening "sound bombs" into the crowd, sending protesters and bystanders running.

Stun grenades and rubber bullets were also used to disperse the protesters, while helicopters circled overhead and interior ministry officers filmed the clashes, the journalist said.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights meanwhile told AFP news agency the authorities had arrested about 80 pro-democracy activists from villages outside the capital ahead of the Grand Prix.

British mothers are now compelled to work

As their families struggle to make ends meet, several British mothers are being forced to return to work, according to Britain’s employment minister Chris Grayling.

The demise of the traditional housewife looking after her young family was one “very obvious” trend from the current labour market, the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

“I think we are seeing more stay-at-home mums saying, ‘I think I’ll look for a part-time job’,” said Grayling.

Asked if such mothers were returning to work for financial reasons, the minister said: “I suspect so”.

According to figures from Britain’s Office for National Statistics, the number of ‘inactive’ women, meaning who neither have a job nor they want one, has dropped dramatically.

Over the last year, the statistics of those aged between 16 and 64 has fallen by 71,000. But, at the same time, unemployment among women has increased by 82,000, the figures show.

The number of unemployed women in Britain has reached 1.12 million, an unprecedented figure in last 25 years. It means that many mothers who earlier remained stay-at-home mums are now struggling to find decent work due to the embattled job market.

India being swept up by missile delusion

India announced a test of its long-range nuclear-capable Agni V missile. The missile has a range of over 5,000 kilometers, meaning it could reach China. India apparently is hoping to enter the global intercontinental missile club, despite intercontinental missiles normally having a range of over 8,000 km.

India has moved rapidly in developing missile technology. It successfully launched the Agni IV with a range of 3,500 km last year. Indian public opinion has long seen China as its reference point for military development.

It seems India's path for boosting its military strength has not met too many obstacles. India is still poor and lags behind in infrastructure construction, but its society is highly supportive of developing nuclear power and the West chooses to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties. The West remains silent on the fact that India's military spending increased by 17 percent in 2012 and the country has again become the largest weapons importer in the world.

India should not overestimate its strength. Even if it has missiles that could reach most parts of China, that does not mean it will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China. India should be clear that China's nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China.

India should also not overstate the value of its Western allies and the profits it could gain from participating in a containment of China. If it equates long range strategic missiles with deterrence of China, and stirs up further hostility, it could be sorely mistaken.

China and India should develop as friendly a relationship as possible. Even if this cannot be achieved, the two should at least tolerate each other and learn to coexist.

Their status as newly emerging countries shows the two should cooperate on the international stage. It would be unwise for China and India to seek a balance of power by developing missiles.

The geopolitics of Asia will become more dependent on the nature of Sino-Indian relations. The peace and stability of the region are crucial to both countries. China and India should both take responsibility for maintaining this peace and stability and be wary of external intervention.

China understands the Indian desire to catch up with China. China, as the most appropriate strategic target for India, is willing to take India as a peaceful competitor.

Due to historical reasons, China and India are sensitive toward each other. But objectively speaking, China does not spend much time guarding against India, while India focuses a lot of attention on China.

China hopes India will remain calm, as this would be beneficial to both giants.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people

Pakistan's first Oscar belongs to a monumental campaign that is changing the legal, social and political fate of survivors of acid-related violence. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's documentary Saving Face brought Pakistan's acid-violence problem to the world stage. Today she is bringing the film's message to towns and villages in Pakistan through an educational-awareness campaign. Her film not only gave her subjects sympathy and understanding but, more important, gave them dignity. The "victims" in Saving Face are some of the strongest, most impressive women you will ever come across. She showed us their scars, and we saw their true beauty.
Obaid-Chinoy, 33, is also shaping the dialogue on Pakistan. Saving Face depicts a Pakistan that is changing — one where ordinary people can stand up and make a difference and where marginalized communities can seek justice. New legislation spearheaded by female parliamentarians will impose stricter sentencing on perpetrators of acid-related violence. This is a huge step forward.
Giving voice to those who cannot be heard, Obaid-Chinoy has made over a dozen award-winning films in more than 10 countries. She celebrates the strength and resilience of those fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds — and winning.
I dare anyone to watch this film and not be moved to tears and inspired into action.

Porsche squad withdraws from Bahrain F1 for security concerns

Porsche Supercup Squad MRS has withdrawn from this weekend’s opening rounds of Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix 2012, blaming “ongoing unrest” and “security situation” in the sheikdom.

“It is the first time in our team history that we have to cancel a race of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup,” Porsche team leader Karsten Molitor announced in a statement issued on Wednesday, reported, a motorsport information website.

“In the end, we have the responsibility for our employees. The race in Bahrain is for us one of the season’s highlights, therefore it was not easy to come to a decision.” he added.

Bahrainis have vowed to stage "Days of Rage" during the motor race, Bahrain's most high-profile international event, which is scheduled to be held from April 20 to 22.

Anti-regime demonstrators condemn the race, which is going to get underway, despite the government’s ongoing violent suppression campaign against the protesters.

Also on Wednesday, Saudi-backed Bahraini forces fired stun grenades at demonstrators in the capital city of Manama. The public were demanding that the competition be called off, protesting the crackdown on popular demonstrators.

They also called for the immediate release of jailed human rights campaigner Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and the political activists held by the government.

Wednesday marked the 70th day without food for al-Khawaja, who has been jailed for life for "plotting to overthrow the government."

According to Amnesty International, his conviction was based on a confession he made under duress. The Amnesty says no evidence was presented showing that he had used or advocated violence during the anti-regime popular revolution, which started in mid-February 2011.

Khawaja's wife has censured F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone -- the primary authority of the racing -- for ignoring her husband's plight by refusing to advise the cancellation of the race.

Scores of people have been killed and many others injured in the regime-led attacks on the protesters.

The demonstrators hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the deaths.

Obama vs. Romney: Close, nasty and unpredictable

The 2012 presidential election is more than six months away, but here is what we know so far: It is going to be close, it is going to be nasty, and the outcome could turn on a series of unpredictable events.

Democratic President Barack Obama is a slight favorite now, but as tightening poll numbers suggest, his lead over Republican Mitt Romney is tenuous.

A tepid economic recovery, voter pessimism about the future and a job approval rating largely stuck in the danger zone below 50 percent mean Obama could have a hard time matching his performance in 2008, when enthusiasm for his promise of change propelled him to victory over Republican Senator John McCain with 53 percent of the vote.

Such factors, along with a motivated Republican Party determined to oust Obama, mean that despite a bruising Republican primary fight that dented Romney's popularity - particularly among women - the Republican has plenty of reason for hope in the November 6 election.

Political analysts see a fall election fight that looks more like the nail-biters won by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 than Obama's relative blowout victory in 2008.

Three-quarters of American voters still think the economy - the top election issue by far in most polls - is in a recession, a recent ABC/Washington Post survey found, and more voters trust Romney to deal with the economy than Obama.

Polls also routinely indicate that more than six of every 10 voters think the nation is on the wrong track, a critical and closely watched measure of the collective American psyche.

"Most Americans think they are worse off now than they were four years ago, and that's not what an incumbent president wants to see," Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown said.

He compared Obama's burden in defending his economic leadership with former President George W. Bush's 2004 struggle to defend the Iraq war. Bush narrowly won re-election that year over Democrat John Kerry in a race dominated by debate over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"This race looks a lot more like 2004 than 2008," Brown said. "The economy is Barack Obama's Iraq war. The 2004 election was a referendum on the Iraq war, and 2012 is going to be a referendum on the economy."


Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has seen a slight improvement in his poll ratings since Republican rival Rick Santorum suspended his campaign last week and cleared Romney's path to the party's nomination.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week showed Obama's lead had shrunk to 4 points from an 11-point advantage in early March. A new CBS News/New York Times poll has the race in a dead heat, with Obama and Romney each at 46 percent.

Gallup's daily tracking poll on Monday gave Romney a 2-point edge over Obama, who had led by four points in late March.

A presidential candidate's standing in April, however, is not always a sign of things to come.

An April 1992 Gallup poll gave President George H.W. Bush a 15-point lead over the eventual winner, Democrat Bill Clinton. In April 1980, President Jimmy Carter led Republican Ronald Reagan by 8 percentage points. Reagan ultimately won by 10.

Complicating the outlook is looming uncertainty about the pace of the economic recovery, highlighted by a disappointing March jobs report and high gas prices.

Those factors, as well as economic instability in Europe that could spill over to the United States, and the potential for a foreign crisis just before the election, cloud Obama's path to victory in November.

"Obama has better personal ratings than Romney for now, but that may not matter if the economy is in bad shape, if North Korea engages in provocative actions, if Iran is enriching uranium and there is a possibility of war in the Middle East - all of those don't bode well for an incumbent," Democratic pollster Doug Schoen said.

An Israeli military strike aimed at disrupting Iran's nuclear weapons program would be the type of crisis that can shift an election in unpredictable ways - much as the Wall Street crisis in September 2008 helped power Obama into office.

"Iran could be a real wild card. All bets are off if that happens. You don't know how Obama's reaction would be viewed; it could work for or against him," said Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Minnesota.

"In many ways, neither campaign is really in charge of their own fate. A lot of things can go wrong for both Obama and Romney," he said.

Romney must still work to shore up his support among conservatives who mistrust him for some of the stances he took as governor of liberal Massachusetts, including his backing of a state healthcare overhaul that became a precursor to Obama's federal plan.

But recent polls show the burning desire of conservatives to kick Obama out of the White House is rallying Republicans.


In the end, the election is likely to be decided by a relatively small bloc of undecided, independent voters in fewer than a dozen battleground states.

A recent poll of those swing voters by Third Way, a centrist think tank, found they viewed Obama as more likable but thought Romney's center-right views were closer to their own.

"The middle really and truly is up for grabs," said Lanae Erickson, deputy social policy and politics director at Third Way. She noted independents went for Democrats in 2008 and switched to Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections.

"They are looking for something and they really haven't found it yet," Erickson said. "We have a lot of people who are really swinging around, and the ones who have made up their minds are split."

The combination of Romney's weaknesses and Obama's vulnerabilities also make it likely each camp will spend heavily on negative advertising designed to tear down its opponent.

Analysts say that between the campaigns and the independent "Super PACs" that support them, spending in the presidential race is likely to total well over $1.5 billion.

Both sides have begun the onslaught, with Obama and his Democratic allies portraying Romney as wealthy and out of touch with typical Americans, while Romney attacks Obama as a big-government liberal.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres said it was crucial to Obama's hopes for victory to keep the election from becoming a referendum on his performance.

"Barack Obama could not win a referendum on his record today," Ayres said. Democrats "have decided their only route to re-election is to so thoroughly trash Mitt Romney as to make him an unacceptable alternative."

Romney is familiar with that tactic: His most significant victories in the state-by-state primary process came after his campaign and a pro-Romney PAC put out a barrage of ads attacking Romney's rivals.

On the economy, Obama argues that his policies prevented broad chaos, steadied the nation's banking and financial system and rescued Detroit's auto industry.

Romney focuses on the slow recovery, growing budget deficits and what he says is an explosion in government regulation and overreach, climaxed by the unpopular healthcare overhaul.

In the end, analysts say, the election could turn less on economic indicators and more on how optimistic voters feel about the future.

"What will matter in November is whether people think their lives will be better off with four years of Mitt Romney or four more years of Barack Obama," Brown said. "Right now, it's a jump ball."

Abductions in Balochistan: Police remain clueless about Hindu kidnapping, 2 months on

The Express Tribune

In spite of a lapse of two months, law enforcement agencies remain clueless about the whereabouts of Dr Rajish Kumar, a member of the Hindu community kidnapped in broad daylight from Quetta on February 13.
Dr Kumar is the son of Dr Nand Lal, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)’s Quetta chapter as well as of the Pak-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy.
Sources close to the relatives of Kumar said the kidnappers have established contact with the family and demanded Rs20 million in ransom for his release.
Meanwhile, police appear to have made no progress on the case and remain unwilling to talk about it. In spite of several attempts made by The Express Tribune, senior police officials remained unavailable for comment.
“The DIG Operations is busy and I will ask him if he is willing to comment on this issue and then let you know,” a police official said. He did not follow up with a response.
According to HRCP’s Balochistan chapter, as many as 34 members of the Hindu community, most of whom are traders, have been kidnapped across different parts of Balochistan so far since 2011. “A few are still in the captivity of kidnappers while all others were released after paying a huge chunk of money as ransom,” Tahir Hussain, Balochistan HRCP Vice Chairman told The Express Tribune.
Another Hindu trader, Ganga Ram, was kidnapped from Lasbela a week ago but police are yet to trace his whereabouts.
HRCP urged the government to take appropriate steps to stop the kidnapping of Hindu traders, saying that the community had specifically been made a target.
Meanwhile, Basant Lal Gulshan, provincial minister for human rights and minorities affairs, said two of his workers who were kidnapped in March had been released without paying ransom.
“Vinod Kumar and Sono Kumar were kidnapped in Marach and released after 15 days. Their safe recovery took place with the help of tribal notables and law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Ironically, Basant said they were not recovered but voluntarily released by their captors. “Most of the (recovered) Hindus paid ransom but these two were released without payment.”
According to a former senior police officer of Balochistan, there is a lack of high-ranking police officials in the province which is contributing to the deteriorating law and order situation.
“Grade 17 to 18 police officers are serving on grade 20 posts. There is no senior officer,” he said. “Senior officials are needed to control the crime (rate).”

Shahbaz responsible for power outages in Punjab

Pakistan Muslim League senior central leader and Senior Federal Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi said on Wednesday that so-called “Khadam-e-Aala” was responsible for electricity load shedding in Punjab.
Speaking as the chief guest at the oath taking ceremony of newly elected office-bearers of All Pakistan Pottery Manufacturers Association in Gujrat on Wednesday, Ch Parvez Elahi said by opposing the Shujaat Formula in the Energy Conference, Shahbaz Sharif showed insincerity with the people of Punjab.
He added that if Shujaat Formula had been implemented, electricity load shedding would be eliminated from the country immediately. He said if Punjab was the elder brother, it should make its contribution and pay the money for ending the electricity load shedding. Continuing, he charged that the rulers of Punjab were not shouldering their responsibilities and instead inciting the people against the federation.
He said they were holding demonstrations against electricity load shedding but not ready to implement the Shujaat Formula presented for elimination of this menace from the country. He said further that the Punjab Government had totally flopped. He said in our tenure, doctors were returning to Pakistan from the USA and Saudi Arabia and in their tenure now, doctors were out there on roads on strike and protesting and there was no one to look after the patients and provide treatment even in the emergency cases.
He said we had given free medicines for the patients in the emergencies of the hospitals and they had also snatched that facility also from the patients. Throwing a challenge, Ch Parvez Elahi said that Shahbaz Sharif should compare his four years rule with our tenure and the difference would be very clear and visible.
He said the present government of Punjab instead of carrying forward welfare projects launched during our tenure, closed down all such projects aiming at welfare of the people. He said instead of criticising us, they should first do the welfare works like us, which the people were still remembering.
Recalling the various welfare works launched and started for the welfare of the people during their tenure, Ch Parvez Elahi said that we had provided 1122 Emergency Service, established Cardiology Hospital at a cost of Rs 3 billion in Wazirabad and we were generating 12 thousand employment opportunities every year and now people in Punjab were committing suicides due to persisting and mounting unemployment.
He said crime rate in the province increased by 33 per cent, which was an ample proof of failure of their government. All Pakistan Pottery Manufacturers Association Patron-in-Chief Zaheer Butt, newly-elected President Azam Rehmani, Senior Vice-President Haji Zahid, Secretary General Shakeel Ahmad Butt, Ch Qamaruzzaman, Mian Imran Masood and Ch Ejaz Warraich also addressed the gathering on the occasion.
Afterwards, pottery makers body Patron-in-Chief Zaheer Butt presented shields as a memento to Ch Parvez Elahi and Mian Imran Masood.

IMRAN KHAN : Newcomers on top slots create fissures in PTI

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is facing imminent threat of new divisions, as the newcomers (traditional political lot) get 90 percent share in the regional steering committees of Punjab, leaving the old and founding cadre of the party with the only option of to launch a new platform, TheNation has learnt.
Sources in the PTI privy to the discussions in the angry old guard party cadre against the major share to the newcomers in regional steering committees of Punjab told this scribe on Tuesday that party chief Imran Khan

in the circle of his ‘chosen few’ putting in the frontline those practicing politicians who have only joined the party sometime back after the successful October 30 moot, while the role of party’s founding cadre was being marginalised and the newcomers have taken the front seat without any sacrifice.

They quote some of the PTI’s old guard as saying that they would launch a ‘new platform’ if Imran Khan continued the practice of sidelining the old members and putting the traditional political lot in the front row who were known for changing political loyalties according to their convenience.
Close aides of PTI chief meanwhile informed this scribe that party’s top brass held at least four meetings in the last two days to sort out the matter and hoped that the issue would be resolved soon with the inclusion of more members in the regional steering committees of Punjab from party’s old guard.
However, some disgruntled members of PTI founding cadre were of the view that it seems Imran Khan is losing grip over the party and the newcomers (traditional political lot) were steering the party who wanted to plant their ‘yes men’ at all levels in the party in a bid to steal the intra-party poll expected to held in June after the completion of membership drive.
They added that regional steering committees were formed to give equal share and opportunities to the new and old in the membership drive keeping in view the upcoming intra-party polls and to make this plan successful, Punjab has been divided into four zones of Central Punjab, West Punjab, North Punjab and South Punjab comprising 18, 17, 13 and 19 members respectively.
The Central Punjab regional steering committee out of its total 18 members, has 15 members from the newcomers (traditional political lot), which include Mian Naeem Javed, Hammad Azhar, Kamil Omer, Zaheer Abbas Khokhar, Omer Dar, Hamid Miraj, Shoib Siddiqui, SA Hameed, Mansoor Sarwar Khan, Mian Afzal Hayat, Ejaz Sehole, Chaudhry Yaqoob, Akhtar Husain Bhatti, Shaukat Ranjha and Aleem Khan, while only three members of the old guard including Umer Sarfaraz Cheema, Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed and Bukhtiyar Kasuri get place in the committee.
The West Punjab regional steering committee out of its total 17 members, has taken onboard 14 members from the new entrants, which include Rai Aziz Ullah, Ali Hasnain Naqvi, Faiz Ullah Kmoka, Zulfikar Shah, Prof Rouf Doula, Chaudhry Ashfaq, Dr Asad Muazzam, Dr Abdul Hanan, Haider Bari, Shahbaz Kasana, Mian Ashfaq, Nauraiz Shakoor, Amjad Joyia, and Rao Qaiser Ali Khan, while three members including Tariq Chaudhry, Janbaz Sahib and Atta Ullah Niazi were taken from the old leaders.
The North Punjab Steering Committee out of its total 13 members, has 12 members of the newcomer group, which include Malik Sohail Khan, Mohammad Sadiq Khan, Inam Ullah Niazi, Sardar Ghulam Abbas, Col (r) Mohammad Taj, Ejaz Minhas, Haroon Piracha, Hina Manzoor, Sadia Abbasi, Ehsan Tiwana, Asghar Kalyar and Chaudhary Asghar, while only one member, Sadaqat Abbasi belongs to party’s old guard.
The South Punjab Steering Committee out of its total 19 members, has taken onboard 15 members of the new entrants, which include Sikander Bosan, Jamal Leghari, Rafeeq Haider Leghari, Khalid Khakwani, Husnain Jhanian Gardezi, Awais Gardezi, Noor Bhaba, Jehenzeb Khichi, Shaukat Dawood, Mureed Husnain Qureshi, Shaukat Lalika, Ibraheem Khan, Nawab Aman Ullah, Saeed Chaudhry and Mazhar Khan Lakhwera, while only four members taken from the old leaders including Ejaz Chaudhry, Mian Sajid Pervez, Shirin Mazari and Mujeeb Ahmed Khan.

President Zardari phones Karzai

President Asif Ali Zardari telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday evening and condemned the Sunday militant attacks on Parliament building, embassies in Kabul and also in other parts of the country.

President Zardari said that peace in Afghanistan was critical for peace in Pakistan and that Pakistan will support all Afghan led peace initiatives.

He said that the people and government of Pakistan will continue to stand by their Afghan brethren and such attacks will not deter us from pursuing our common objective to defeat militancy and militants.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked President Zardari for his gesture.

Pakistan's army chief urges less spending on defence

Pakistan's powerful army chief Wednesday said he would like to see the country spend less on defence, arguing that national security depended on development as much as on protecting borders.
Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, said "peaceful coexistence" with arch-rivals India was vital to both countries and the welfare of the people should be a priority.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought several wars since independence in 1947 and both spend heavily on their military while millions of their people languish in poverty.
"Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people," he told reporters.
The general was speaking at Skardu airport in northern Pakistan after visiting the remote Gayari army base in disputed Kashmir, which was hit by a massive avalanche on April 7.
Rescuers are still searching for nearly 140 people buried by the mass of snow and rock at the camp, which lies around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) above sea level.
Pakistan and India invest significant resources in maintaining a military presence on the Siachen Glacier -- dubbed "the world's highest battleground" -- and the tragedy has sparked lively debate about the human and financial cost of defending an uninhabitable patch of snow and rock.
Kayani said soldiers would do their duty come what may, but defending borders should not be the country's sole priority.
"We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development," he said.
"Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe."
He said national security should be a comprehensive concept.
"And therefore we would like to spend less on defence, definitely," he said.
"Any country should do the same -- more focus should be on the welfare of the people."
Pakistan has spent more than half its history since independence under military rule and Kayani is widely regarded as the most powerful man in the country.
He said the decades of enmity between India and Pakistan should be resolved through negotiation and stressed the urgency of halting the damage to the environment caused by troop deployment on the Siachen Glacier.
"Ultimately it's going to affect the River Indus adversely and we understand water is important and water management is very important," he said.
Kashmir has been the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan and the nuclear-armed rivals fought over Siachen in 1987, though guns on the glacier have largely fallen silent since a peace process began in 2004.

Salman Khan among 100 Most Influential People in the World

Time magazine released its annual list of the 100 "Most Influential People in the World" on Wednesday.Among them: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Warren Buffett, Catherine and Pippa Middleton, Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin and Matt Lauer.
The magazine said it picked people "who inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world." And not always for the better. Salman Khan is one of them on the list.
Like a lot of great innovators, Salman Khan didn't set out to change the world. He was just trying to help his teenage cousin with her algebra from across the country. But from a closet turned office in his Silicon Valley apartment, Sal, 35, has produced an amazing library of online lectures on math, science and a host of other subjects. In the process, he has turned the classroom — and the world of education — on its head.
The aspiration of is to give every kid a chance at a free, world-class education. The site has over 3,000 short lessons that allow kids to learn at their own pace. Practice exercises send students back to the pertinent video when they're having trouble. And there's a detailed dashboard for teachers who use Khan Academy in their classrooms.
Early pilot programs in California classrooms show terrific promise. I've used Khan Academy with my kids, and I'm amazed at the breadth of Sal's subject expertise and his ability to make complicated topics understandable.
Sal Khan is a true education pioneer. He started by posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be incalculable.

Read more:,28804,2111975_2111976_2111942,00.html #ixzz1sPxwzdG8

French presidential campaign heats up

Unemployment soars in Paris' banlieues

Suu Kyi set for first trip abroad in 24 years

Myanmar pro-democracy icon set to visit Norway and UK in June in first trip outside country since her detention in 1989.

Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is set to travel outside the country for the first time in 24 years.

The party of the newly elected member of parliament said on Wednesday that Suu Kyi had accepted invitations to visit Norway and Britain in June.

Officials in Myanmar told the AFP news agency that Suu Kyi had applied to travel but had not yet been granted a passport.

Suu Kyi was invited to visit Britain during a meeting with David Cameron, the British prime minister, in Yangon last week.

"Two years ago I would have said thank you for the invitation, but sorry," she said of Friday's offer by the British leader.

The fact that she would consider the offer, rather than reject it outright, showed "great progress" had been achieved in Myanmar she said.

The city of Oxford, where she attended university in the 1970s, will be on the agenda for the Britain visit, Nyan Win, spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party told the Reuters news agency.

He said the exact route and dates for Suu Kyi's first travels outside the southeast Asian nation in more than two decades had not yet been set.

The 66-year-old Suu Kyi, first detained in 1989, spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention.

Following her November 2010 release, Suu Kyi refused to leave the country during the brief periods when she was not held by authorities, for fear of not being allowed to return.

Suu Kyi's expected travel caps months of change in Myanmar, following a series of reforms under President Thein Sein, a former general, including a historic by-election on April 1 that won Suu Kyi one of her party's 43 seats in a year-old parliament.

After five decades of military rule, Thein Sein's reforms included the release of political prisoners, more media freedom, dialogue with ethnic armed groups and an exchange rate unification seen as crucial to fixing the economy.

Saudi Arabia turns deaf ear to Olympic women

This is not just about including Saudi women in the London 2012. It’s much more far-reaching and serious than that. It is an issue of silence and concurrence from the international community regarding a nation’s outright breach of international agreements and conventions.
Last Friday Sheikh Al Fowzan, ironically a member of the Saudi human rights commission, stated ↑ that the thought that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) might be implemented in Saudi Arabia makes him shiver in fear and worry. This was during the last day of a three-day conference that took place in Qaseem, a region north of Riyadh. The conference was entitled, 'Women in the Prophet’s tradition and the modern woman: Saudi Arabia a model', and had fifteen countries participating. The assembled company came to the conclusion that Saudi Arabia should withdraw from the CEDAW agreement that it signed in 2000 - a development probably due to the religious establishment’s feeling that the government might cave in to increasing international pressure to allow Saudi women to participate in the upcoming London 2012 Olympics.

Those within Saudi who oppose the inclusion of women reason that although there is nothing in Islam that prohibits women from physical activity or even competitive sports, the future implications and consequences might be unIslamic. A paranoia has overtaken Saudi conservatives as if once a woman officially represents the country, all Saudi women at a stroke will be forced to take part and Muslim women will be parading around in swimsuits and volleyball outfits.

They turn a deaf ear to anyone who argues that it clearly states in the Quran in the second chapter ayah 256 that there is no compulsion in religion. This is a nation of about nineteen million Saudis and it is unequivocally unIslamic to force only one narrow puritanical interpretation of texts on all.

Saudi Arabia still has not officially conceded to allowing women to represent them at the Olympics. However on April 4, Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, head of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare, did leave the door open for private citizens to take part by saying ↑ , "Female Saudi participation will be according to the wishes of students and others living abroad. All we are doing is to ensure that participation is in the proper framework and in conformity with sharia.” This approach was the same that the country took when Dalma Malhas, a Saudi female equestrian, won the bronze at the 2010 Youth Olympics. Straddling the fence, the sports ministry was able to muddle through by only unofficially following the International Olympics Committee (IOC) regulations while still saving face in front of the Saudi religious ultra conservative establishment.

The Olympic charter's 'fundamental principles' state that, "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement." That is why in 1999 Afghanistan was banned ↑ from inclusion in the Olympics partly because of discrimination against women under Taliban rule.

South Africa also was banned ↑ from 1964 to 1992 because of the apartheid government. One of the main aims of the 21 year long ban was to pressure South Africa to open its national sports clubs and training sites to all races.

Yet despite the fact that Saudi discriminates against women in all eventualities, from banning them from driving their own cars to not protecting them from childhood marriages by setting a legal age, never mind the fact that there is no physical education in the public sector, there still remains within the international community doubts on the severity of the situation.

A 2001 study ↑ of approximately 5000 residents of Saudi found that being female and Saudi are risk factors for obesity. Another study ↑ conducted in 2005 of over 17000 Saudis found that females are significantly more obese with a prevalence of 44% compared to 26.4% of males.

The results of these two studies are only natural considering the fact that public schools across the kingdom only allow physical education for boys, and that the 'youth' in the General Presidency of Youth Welfare means only male youth. The options for physical activity for girls and women in Saudi Arabia are limited, expensive and hard to access.

The issue of Saudi women participating is not so much an issue of currently qualified Saudi women being banned. With systemic governmental discrimination, there is no place in Saudi where women's sports could truly thrive. Even private associations such as the Jeddah United Sports Company ↑ , cofounded by Lina Al-Maeena, are having difficulties. "At this point, we are trying to make it on a national level, integrate into public schools and then maybe compete on a regional level before we even think of the Olympics," Al-Maeena, who is also captain of the Saudi women's basketball team, told CNN ↑ . However it is unlikely that any of Al Maeena’s aspirations for Saudi women’s sports are going to be realized in the foreseeable future.

If the IOC is going to look the other way regarding gender discrimination in Saudi sports, how can we ever expect Saudi Arabia to respect any of the other international agreements it has signed? This is not just about including Saudi women in the London 2012. It’s much more far-reaching and serious than that. It is an issue of silence and concurrence from the international community regarding a nation’s outright breach of international agreements and conventions. As Saudi cleric al-Najimi sees it ↑ ; Saudis should just stand their ground against the IOC, as we did with the World Trade Organization. He says that we refused the conditions that did not fit with Saudi culture and in the end, after 15 years of back and forth, we were admitted to the WTO ↑ on our own terms. He called the whole issue a matter of western dictatorship.

Bahraini Crown Prince confronted by protesters in Sanabis

Bahraini Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad has been confronted by a group of anti-government protesters during his visit to the Manama suburb of Sanabis.

Scores of protesters holding banners picturing the victims of the Manama crackdown on demonstrations gathered outside a mosque in Sanabis on Wednesday after Sheikh Salman arrived there to attend a funeral ceremony.

They also shouted "Down with Al Khalifa". There were no reports of violence.

Bahrainis have been holding protest rallies across the country since last year, demanding freedom and the fall of the ruling regime. They also want the release of all political prisoners, including opposition leader Hassan Mushaima and prominent human rights activists Andulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for more than two months.

Scores of people have also been killed and many others have been injured in the Saudi-backed crackdown on peaceful protesters in Bahrain.

Bahraini demonstrators hold King Hamad Al Khalifa responsible for the killings during the popular uprising in the country.

Bahrain arrests 80 protest leaders ahead of F1 Grand Prix

The Bahraini government has arrested at least 80 protest leaders as the country prepares for its most high-profile international event, the Formula One Grand Prix.

The making of Afghan bread

Syria's al-Assad gaining strength under U.N. moves, experts say

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is strengthening his grip on the country during the relative decrease in violence brought on by U.N. demands, according to several experts.
Although the goal of countries in supporting the cease-fire was to halt the killings and pave the way for peaceful reforms, the reality is just the opposite, the analysts argue.

Five days after the cease-fire was supposed to begin, dozens of Syrians are still being killed daily, according to opposition activists. Syria continues to blame the violence on "armed terrorist groups" and says its law enforcement officers and civilians are being killed.The violence may be lower than it was through much of the brutal 13-month crackdown on protests, but troops still are stepping in to halt some demonstrations, the analysts said.
Rather than taking a step toward peace and allowing greater freedom, al-Assad is using this time to send the message to the United Nations that his forces are needed in the streets to prevent mass chaos, the analysts suggested.
"He wants U.N. blessing to grind down and destroy the opposition," said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "And the way this is being implemented, he's well on his way to achieving that."Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East policy during the administration of President George W. Bush, said al-Assad decided to "make believe" he's "going along with the deal" and reducing violence, while actually keeping the pressure on within the country "so the opposition knows they're not going to be permitted to win."
Several analysts said the United Nations is, yet again, demonstrating its lack of effectiveness.
"I don't think the Security Council is going to prove useful," Abrams said.
Some took a more optimistic tone, however. George Lopez, who chairs the Peace Studies program at the University of Notre Dame, said the U.N. monitoring team that has gone to Syria could take steps to decrease the killings. And other international institutions can take advantage of this time to achieve progress in the effort as well, he argues.
The central problem, according to several experts, is that the United Nations is focusing on diplomatic efforts rather than on ousting al-Assad, who has demonstrated his commitment to using regime forces despite all sorts of international calls.
But forcing al-Assad's departure simply isn't a choice, Abrams said. And some steps that could cripple Syria's economy may not be either, he said. "You could ground aircraft. You could say that there should be no commercial air traffic to or from Syria, which would be a real blow to their economy, to their business community."
But U.N. options are limited by what two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council have to say.
"The real answer is it all depends on what Russia and China will permit," said Abrams, now senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The two countries, which have trade deals with the regime, previously rejected a U.N. resolution on Syria.
Analysis: U.N. observers won't change endgame
Some of the steps taken during the uprising in Libya, which involved support for implementing a no-fly zone over the country, simply won't happen, Abrams said.
The late ousted strongman Moammar Gadhafi in Libya "was unique" and without alliances within the Security Council, Abrams said. But Russia views Syria under al-Assad as its "last ally in the Middle East," he argued. "They're not going to let them go."
If Kofi Annan, envoy to Syria for both the Arab League and the United Nations, were to announce that his mission and the six-point cease-fire plan had failed due to Syrian actions, "that would put enormous pressure on the Security Council," Abrams said. But as long as Annan pushes for the continuation of his diplomatic efforts, "then that's an enormous benefit for the Russians to keep this diplomatic scaffolding in place."
It also allows Syria to keep cracking down on the opposition, he argued.
Tabler said al-Assad is "only partially and very selectively implementing" the six-point agreement that was supposed to end violence. "It's pretty clear ... that it isn't working on getting Assad to pull back forces from populated areas or stopping the violence," he said.
"So by implementing it this way it's just making it easier for Assad to hold on."
Tabler said he sees some analogies to earlier stages of the Bosnian conflict. But the United Nations sent a 2,000-member monitoring mission to Kosovo, while it is sending only 250 monitors to Syria, which is 10 times larger, he said.
Lopez, however, said the "monitoring presence is not futile. Rather, their documentation and related work, especially in making consistent demands of all fighting parties to end particular actions, can decrease the killing."
The United Nations and individual member states "must take every opportunity to push Assad to respond to every request, every demand, and every pressure to cooperate with each provision of the Annan plan," and there should be "a global call for International Criminal Court indictments of police and armed forces commanders," Lopez wrote in a column..
The presence of U.N. observers in Syria "might reawaken the Arab League and embolden them anew to narrow the military and political space available to Assad," and the leader might see his military forces dwindle further because more may desert or defect, he said.
Lopez also believes Russia may be losing some of its patience with al-Assad. "Chaos is a condition Assad believes will favor his claim that he is fighting terrorists and that only his survival provides hope for the future. But Russia fears such chaos and its regional implications, and this may make them open to different strategies with Syria."
But for now, the analysts don't see evidence that long-term peace efforts are moving forward.
The way the United Nations and world powers seem to be handling the situation at this point, Tabler said, indicates that "we're not trying to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people. What we're doing is trying to keep the Assad regime in power."

NATO ministers to discuss Afghan strategy in Brussels

NATO ministers will discuss strategy for the military withdrawal from Afghanistan at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, even as violence inside the country mounts and more allies prepare to head for the exits.
The meeting, at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, will prepare the ground for a NATO summit in Chicago next month which will detail pullback plans, and outline funding and measures to try to ensure Afghanistan does not collapse into civil war.
Ministers will also discuss ways to maintain defence capabilities while their budgets are under pressure. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also expected to attend on the meeting Thursday and discuss NATO’s missile defence system – which Russia sees as a threat.
The series of high-level meetings comes at a crucial time for the North Atlantic alliance.
NATO is in the process of handing over responsibility for security in several Afghan provinces to the commanders of the Afghan troops. Half of the territory is already under Afghan command. The handover is supposed to be completed by the middle of 2013.
“We’re at a pivotal point for the alliance,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta told reporters in Washington before leaving for Brussels. “We’ll also be working to ensure that NATO itself has the right military capabilities that will be needed for the future.”
NATO is training up to 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police. This number is supposed to decline after 2014 – presumably to a force of some 235,000. This week’s “jumbo” meeting of foreign and defense ministers in Brussels will grapple with who will pay for this large security force in the future.
NATO Secretary General Angers Fogh Rasmussen, who visited Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week, said he assumed that those ISAF nations providing troops would carry the costs.
Other items for discussion include plans for a missile defence system in Europe, and for improving the pooling and sharing of equipment among the European members as military budgets across the continent are being pared down.

Pakistan to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan

Pakistan looks set to reopen two key NATO

supply routes to Afghanistan, following the unanimous approval last week of a proposal in Parliament for new bilateral relations with the United States.
The decision was made at a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The meeting was attended by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, other service chiefs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and key federal ministers.
In his address at the meeting, Gilani said Pakistan’s ‘fundamental policy parameters’ would include a ‘roadmap for re-engagement with the United States’ and ‘negotiation of new terms and conditions for resumption of the Ground Lines of Communication’ and joint counter-terrorism cooperation.
Pakistan’s Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) also approved a roadmap, paving the way for normalisation of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the US.
The parliament opposed supply of arms to NATO troops through Pakistani air space or land route and called for an immediate cessation of American drone strikes on Pakistani soil.
Pakistan processed about 200 to 250 NATO containers daily before the two routes were closed in response to deteriorating ties with the US. NATO has alternative routes by airlift and through Central Asia, though the costs are considerably higher.
However NATO has already been using Pakistan’s airspace for supplies to its troops in Afghanistan, which Pakistan said it had allowed on humanitarian grounds in February as a first trust-building measure.

Afghan official: Army on track for handover

Afghanistan is on track to build up its army so it can take the lead along with other local forces in securing the country by the end of 2013, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said that the Afghan Army had already reached its target number of 195,000 troops, which will be part of a 352,000-strong Afghan National Security Force, including police and other security forces, by the end of this year.
"I am announcing now that the Afghan National Army has completed the number of 195,000," Azimi said. He said the government agreed with the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan that 352,000 should be the target number for the end of 2012.
Afghan security forces now number about 330,000. They are expected to take over much of the fighting as the U.S. draws down an additional 23,000 troops to reach 68,000 by the end of September. U.S. troop levels were at a high of about 100,000 last year.
The Afghan army and police are now in charge of security for areas home to half the nation's population, with NATO forces in a support role. The coalition hopes to keep handing over control until Afghan forces are fully in charge by the end of 2013, with foreign troops supporting and mentoring. All foreign combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.
The U.S. may retain a small number of forces past that date to help train and mentor the Afghan army and help with counterterrorism efforts.

US, NATO ready plan to hand off Afghanistan combat

The United States and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year as President Barack Obama and fellow leaders try to show that the unpopular war is ending.
NATO allies insisted they are not pulling the plug early on the Afghanistan war as top military and diplomatic officials from the U.S. and NATO allies met Wednesday. The allies are finalizing a plan to shift primary responsibility for combat to Afghan forces and firming up a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and fledgling military after 2014.
That year is the deadline to the NATO-led war to end, although it is clear that many nations will have long since stopped any active front-line combat and some will have pulled out completely.
At the same time, the nations that have prosecuted a 10-year war against a Taliban-led insurgency are reassuring nervous Afghans they will not be left to fend for themselves.
"There is no change whatsoever in the timeline," NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted Wednesday.
The messages aimed at different audiences are both challenged by current events in Afghanistan, where insurgents staged an impressive, coordinated attack last weekend that struck at the heart of the U.S.-backed government and international enclave in Kabul. Meanwhile, Taliban leaders are boycotting peace talks the U.S. sees as the key to a safe exit.
Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance expects a bill of about $4 billion annually to sustain the Afghan fighting forces after international troops leave, which he called a "good deal" since it is cheaper than the cost of war.
But it is not clear that several European governments have the budget or the will to keep paying. A major NATO summit in Chicago next month is expected to include a broad commitment to long-term support for the Afghan forces but no specific pledges.
The United States expects to pay much of the cost but U.S. officials say Washington cannot foot the bill alone. The United States wants nations outside NATO, such as China and Russia, to chip in, arguing that everyone has a stake in ensuring Afghanistan does not slide into chaos.
The United States acknowledges that despite progress the U.S. is not meeting its goal of drawing $1.3 billion annually from other nations to fund the Afghan armed forces.
This week's sessions are meant to stitch together U.S. and NATO agreements on the pace of U.S. and allied combat withdrawal next year. U.S. and Afghan officials have already said they expect a shift to an Afghan military lead in combat operations by the middle of 2013, although the U.S. stresses that it will still have a large number of forces in Afghanistan as backup.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Wednesday that the Afghans are on track to take the lead in securing the country by the end of 2013. Azimi said the Afghan Army has already reached its target number of 195,000 troops. Including police and other forces, Afghan security forces now number about 330,000.
The combat shift parallels the withdrawal in Iraq, where U.S. forces pulled back from lead roles but remained in harm's way for months before a scheduled end to the war. U.S. military leaders have not submitted final proposals for how to ease nearly 70,000 troops into the back seat next year but are working against a firm deadline to end the current combat mission by 2015.
The two-day gathering is intended to clear any obstacles ahead of the conference of NATO leaders in Chicago on May 20-21. Ministers also will address the international bill for sustaining the Afghan army and police after NATO's planned withdrawal at the end of 2014 — one of the top items on the summit agenda.
The stated goal of U.S. involvement is to deter the al-Qaida terror network from again using Afghanistan as a base, but the day-to-day fighting is against some 25,000 Taliban and other mostly home-grown insurgents.
Obama also hopes to showcase a long-term security pact with Afghanistan in Chicago. U.S. and Afghan officials said they would like to sign the agreement ahead of the summit, with more specific military agreements to follow.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai raised another condition Tuesday for that long-awaited deal. He said the accord must spell out the yearly U.S. commitment to pay billions of dollars for the cash-strapped Afghan security forces.
The demand threatens to further delay the key bilateral pact and suggests that Karzai is worried that the U.S. commitment to his country is wavering.
Coalition forces, whose numbers reached a peak of over 140,000 troops last year, have already started a drawdown. The U.S., which had about 100,000 service members in Afghanistan, has begun a withdrawal which will remove about a third of them by September.
Other major contributors to the coalition — including Canada, the Netherlands and France — have already pulled their forces out of combat or accelerated their withdrawals. Australia on Tuesday became the latest to announce withdrawal plans.
Nearly 3,000 NATO troops have died since the U.S. invaded in 2001 to evict the then-ruling Taliban, about two-thirds of them Americans.
In the U.S., 6 out of 10 of those surveyed saw the war as not worth its costs, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month. Opposition to the war is bipartisan, the poll showed.

With Eye on Past, Karzai Lays Out Vision for an Independent Afghanistan


In a sweeping speech on Tuesday that touched on some of the heroes of Afghanistan’s past 150 years, President Hamid Karzai laid out a vision of a modern, independent Afghanistan that could outlast security upheaval and foreign entanglement. And he made an emotional defense of his outreach to the Taliban, urging the insurgents again to lay down their weapons, if only to hasten the withdrawal of American forces.

Speaking at an event to celebrate the time of King Amanullah, a reformist ruler in the 1920s, Mr. Karzai appeared to be trying to set himself up as a similar leader who is intent on guiding his country to independence from foreign domination, be it Britain in the past, or the United States today, and as part of a leadership tradition that embraced education and modernization.

Coming at a time of perhaps the greatest uncertainty in recent years — with vital strategic talks with the West under way, another fighting season begun and deep public disillusionment with his administration’s corruption — his speech offered a window into what seemed a deeply personal longing for a united Afghanistan that looked to the future, even as he invoked the past.

“There are many similarities between today and the time of Amanullah Khan,” Mr. Karzai said. “Then, as well, they wanted development on the one hand, while on the other struggling for independence from the British oppression and still trying to protect the value of freedom.”

Today, he said, young Afghans are intent on making their own future. “This is a steady wheel that is progressively moving toward more development, and it will not turn back,” he said. “This is a young man’s engine with a power that does not know cold or any other obstacles.”

His speech was most passionate when he turned to the Taliban’s recent attacks on the capital, clearly showing conflicted feelings about an insurgent movement rooted in his native southern homeland and his own Pashtun ethnicity.

He deplored the loss of life — for both the attackers who died fighting as well as the members of the Afghan security forces who died trying to protect civilians. And he took an almost fatherly tone about each side, even as he lamented how the Taliban had upended people’s lives.

“Thirty-five young people who came to Afghanistan in the name of suicide bombers were apparently Afghans; some could have been foreigners, and all were probably Muslims,” he said. “All were young, and instead of educating themselves and becoming mullahs, becoming a teacher or a doctor or an agriculturalist, he committed suicide. He didn’t do anything for himself or for his family or for his country or religion. And he also caused the death of other Muslims.”

As for the security force members, Mr. Karzai lauded their sacrifice.

“Police, soldiers from our Ministries of Defense and Interior and N.D.S.” — the National Directorate of Security — “who went and sacrificed themselves, they bravely protected their country,” he said. “And there were other victims, the thousands of children who were deprived of going to school that day and thousands of families who were heartsick.”

Still, he defended his outreach to the Taliban and his frequent description of them as “brothers.” Such references have infuriated many Afghans, not least those who lost family members fighting them and felt their lives had been destroyed by the group’s restrictions on education.

“Some people become angry at me in the media when I call the Talib ‘my brother,’ ” he said. “They say: Why do I call them brothers? But I am not quitting this, and I will call them brothers again even if it is criticized.”

Then he appealed to them as Afghans to stop their fighting, arguing that although they claim to want NATO troops to leave the country, their attacks give the alliance an excuse to stay. “Again, you have worked to help foreigners stay here,” he said.

More worrisome to some listeners was that after first suggesting the Taliban were responsible for Sunday’s mayhem, he appeared to back away from that, addressing the Taliban about the attack “if you have done it or not.” That raised questions about whether he was striking an apologist note, perhaps seeking to blame some other group.

These alternating embraces and reproaches of the Taliban may also reflect the conflicting views of his inner circle of advisers, which includes former mujahedeen commanders from northern Afghanistan who have little affection for the Taliban, some supporters of the West and some close to Pakistan, or with ties to former Taliban commanders.

And at root, this is one of Mr. Karzai’s quandaries, whether to embrace the movement of Afghan youth who long for an outward-looking future or to hew to the country’s often warring past.

In that, and on other issues, he has often seemed to want things both ways. Throughout his speech, when it came to the United States he expressed a desire to be free of foreigners telling the government what to do, but also a wish for continued aid.

“On the one hand, we want the foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. On the other, we want to have close relations with the world,” he said.

Near the end of his speech he added that he wanted Americans to save money by sending their troops home, but that out of the money they save, “they should leave some amount for us.”

Pakistan: Social terrorism | Religious vendetta against Ahmadis - University of Sargodha joins the fray

“Nobody sits with us. Nobody is willing to talk to us. Most importantly, people enter the lecture session and use abusive language against our religious clerics which is why we have stopped attending classes.”

Religious persecution of people from Ahmadiyya community is not a new development in Pakistan. Ahmadis have long been marginalised from the time when they were declared non-Muslims in the amendment introduced in 1973’s Constitution. Since then, they have been facing the wrath of many Muslims who have fundamental views and refuse to trade, dine and even sit with them.

Whether it is about banning a certain juice brand, expelling Ahmadi students from universities or failure to recognise the only Pakistani Nobel Laureate, the hatred fuelled by religious clerics knows no boundaries.

Academic institutions remain an arena of conflicting views, hence often turning into another platform for religious fundamentalists to brainwash impressionable minds.

The University of Sargodha, which is in close proximity to Rabwah, is one of a very few universities which houses and educates students from Ahmadiyya community. The university has reportedly been a congenial institute where administration and management support students from different beliefs and schools of thought. However, ubiquity of miscreants, who use religion for their political interests, has contaminated the otherwise pleasant environment.

“I received a text message from my best friend, a week back, which said we should stop being friends because you are an Ahmadi and my allegiance with you is not considered appropriate within the parameters of my religion,” said a student of University of Sargodha.

“A couple of days ago, during a laboratory session, some students disrupted the lecture and started preaching how Ahmadis are non-Muslims and are wajib-ul-qatal (eligible to be killed),” said another student on condition of anonymity.

According to a student, the so-called religious sermon took place in the presence of a teacher, which signified his involvement in the ‘brainwashing’ and ‘hate speech campaign’ against the Ahmadiyya community.

Brochures and booklets, entailing details of how Ahmadis should be prosecuted, are also being circulated amongst the students. So far, Ahmadi students have not been threatened, however, students report that they are constantly being followed and other students have boycotted them completely.

“Nobody sits with us. Nobody is willing to talk to us. Most importantly, people enter the lecture session and use abusive language against our religious clerics which is why we have stopped attending classes,” added another student.

“We miss lectures and when we go back, asking for notes and presentation slides, nobody provides us with the material.”

According to the account of events narrated by various students, the religious repression is only prevalent in the Department of Pharmacy.

The Dean of the department, Prof Dr Muhammad Zahoor-ul-Hassan Dogar said, “I am not aware of any such events, however, I must say that a couple of such incidents took place a year and a half ago in our Medical College. I looked into the matter personally and punished the students responsible for such horrendous propaganda against the students of our university.”

“I understand that it is difficult for students from Ahmadiyya community to trust any of us because of the reasons that we all know, however, unless these students report such incidents, we will not be able to take action against the culprits,” he added.

Most of the students are of the view that since the majority of the other students were treating them as social outcasts, reporting this incident, to appropriate authorities, will further infuriate the perpetrators.

“I do not feel safe living in the dorm anymore so I now travel from Rabwah to Sargodha every day. I tried to inform a couple of officials, however, I was hesitant because the issue is still hot and I do not want to invite more enemies,” said a female student.

Muhammad Akram Tufani, representative of Students Tahaffuz Khatam-e-Nabuwat, on being asked about the primary reason which instigated this campaign against Ahmadi students, said, “Ahmadis call themselves Muslims and that is unacceptable for us.”

“They think they are better off than us religiously and they preach other students about their religion. We will not have them preach their religion to Muslim students,” added Tufani.

However, Dogar said that Tufani has no connection with the students of the university and reassured that he cannot influence them in any way.

Students belonging to Ahmadiyya community said that this campaign was initiated on false accusations. Students and certain faction of teachers have been saying that a religious leader from Ahmadiyya community came to discuss our religion with other students; however, this is completely untrue.

Living by the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which emphasised primarily on coexistence, all the citizens of Pakistan are entitled to live according to their own religious beliefs. Spreading hatred and creating religious divergence have never benefited us as a nation and will continue to hamper our growth.

The religious vendetta against different minorities is an open question mark to our psychological growth. Unless we curb our hostilities toward other people and provide them with equal opportunities to live, we will not be able to succeed as a nation or even as an individual.

Students, who are responsible to build the foundation of the country, should not be targeted. Mixing education with religious politics can have disastrous effects, which is why it is best to keep our prejudices aside and exist together without sidelining people who perhaps have much to offer to us as a nation.

Intrigues to Incriminate Ahmadis in State Rebellion

It would not be inappropriate to commemorate the sacrifices that the Ahmadiyya community has offered in its commitment for peace and promoting unity in Pakistan and elsewhere. Ahmadis – who have greatly developed the instinct of being peace loving, law abiding, respectful of every nation they dwell in, affectionate and welcoming to every religious communities they live with, watchful of always defending the integrity of Pakistan & Islam throughout the world, are in fact regarded as traitors, infidels and non-Muslim in their homeland – Pakistan.

Right from the outset, Ahmadiyyat has produced men of the calibre of Mirza Bashirud Din Ahmad and Sir Zafarullah Khan. When it comes to finances and civil services we find the deeply intellectual Mirza Muzaffar Ahmad and in relation to the field of science we all are familiar with the only Pakistani Nobel laureate Abdus Salam. For rendering sacrifices in the armed forces Ahmadis feature on an endless list with names like Akhtar Hussain Malik, Iftikhar Janjua, Abdul Ali Malik, Munirud Din and many more. Recently, an Ahmadi Major Afzal Mahmood sacrificed his life for the nation in Bajur agency. In the field of arts they are also prominent, giving us eminent names such as Obaidulla Aleem, Saira Waseem and Qalandar Momand.

It is also a remarkable datum that we cannot find a single Ahmadi who has ever worked against the state or was involved in terrorism directly or indirectly.

Despite Ahmadiyya’s clear stance in being loyal to the country and their great role in building the nation, some elements in Pakistan are continuously trying to besmirch them through malicious intrigues. Today is the 14th of April and exactly 13 years ago an Ahmadi Computer Professional – Mirza Ghulam Qadir, aged 37, was kidnapped from his farm situated at the outskirts of Chenab Nagar – then Rabwah. The upcoming lines are a summary of the reports published in newspapers from 14th to 20th April 1999.

Kidnapers drove him and his car towards the nearby town of Chiniot. Qadir struggled to try to get out of the car but he was forced to stay in, he was gagged and even stabbed. They were caught in a traffic muddle on the river bridge when Qadir finally succeeded in getting out of the car but they opened fire and shot him multiple times, leaving Qadir’s car and hurriedly making good their escape in their own car. Qadir was rushed to the hospital but couldn’t survive his excessive loss of blood and sadly passed away. In the meantime, police parties pursued the outlaws. Finding themselves besieged, these outlaws left the car and took shelter in a school and subsequently in a mosque. This siege lasted for 4 to 5 hours until the forces were assisted by the elite commandos from Lahore. Finally in the shoot-out, all four were killed. The arms and ammunitions recovered from their car included sophisticated weapons like one rocket launcher, five shells, 22 bombs, six time bombs, two LMGs, two pistols one mouser and an AK-47 assault rifle. Some women’s clothing, black in colour, normally used during Muharram, were also recovered from the car.

All newspapers except a few eulogized the action of our police forces. Few raised a question as to why they were killed and not arrested. Perhaps they were killed to erase evidence of their crime. It is also noteworthy that the provincial chief under whom this incident happened (Qadir’s assassination) was the same provincial chief under which in 2010, some terrorists were captured with sophisticated weapons by Chiniot Police at the Chiniot Railway Station and astonishingly released soon after. Same CM, same district, same police, same high targets. Previously they were killed in the presence of elite commandos, this time they were calmly arrested by ordinary police force. It is very strange, absurd and void of logic. The assassins of Qadir could easily have been arrested.

Many advocated that it was merely a simple case of kidnapping for ransom but this notion is foolish. If it was just a simple kidnap attempt, the assailants would have moved away from Rabwah towards Lalian, rather than crossing through Rabwah to the more populated city of Chiniot. In addition to this the involvement of the top brass of the Lashkar Jhangvi, the imminence of Muharram, the sizable weapons’ inventory and the status of their captive all point towards a horrible and malicious plan. The artillery mentioned above was simply too much to kill/kidnap an unarmed person. Moreover the Daily Khabrain, April 16, 1999 reported,

“… The police confirmed that these terrorists had very dangerous plans to undertake extensive bloodletting and destruction during Muharram.”

This all leads one to assume that the purpose of this abduction was to deceitfully implicate the Ahmadiyya Community in sectarian violence, to put the entire blame on Ahmadis and turn the Shia community and the State machinery against them.

Had they succeeded in their effort they would easily get Qadir arrested at some police post with heavy weaponry in his car or set him and his car on fire with the hefty ammo inside. This would have demonstrated to the people of Pakistan that Ahmadis are intricately involved in Shia killings and are responsible for supplying arms to hired executioners.

Now, the recent incident with Abdul Qudoos is another example of an attempt to falsely implicate the Ahmadiyya community in a murder that it did not commit. Qudoos said,

“They pitilessly tortured me and kept on trying to compel me to name anyone among the high administration in Rabwah to be responsible for the murder, but they could not force me to utter a single word. I forbore every pain for truth.”

Why these continuous enforced attempts and machinations to drag this peaceful community into the hostile arena of disrespecting law and of terrorism? Why are we continuously trying to test the patience of Ahmadis?

I know the assassins of Qadir are dead since long, but we have living culprits of May masacre and murderers of Abdul Qudoos. Lets investigate and unveil the hidden hand behind these attempts and articulate it boldly to the people of Pakistan.

The countrywide hate campaigns and discrimination towards Ahmadis have also this covert intent to break the forbearance of Ahmadis and to compel them to come out on the streets to retaliate. This point was indeed in the mind of the US Ambassador who especially came to Rabwah to meet Mirza Tahir Ahmad before the application of ordinance XX. He asked;

“Well, you know, everybody is crying for your head and the Govt. can succumb to the pressure and take certain measures. In such case what will be the reaction of the Ahmadiyya Movement?”

Mirza Tahir Ahmed replied,

“We are a peaceful community. We will behave in the best traditions according to our past experience.”

These simple though sturdy words have been the maxim for Ahmadis. The biggest agony that Pakistani Ahmadis faced was the migration of Mirza Tahir Ahmed, even then they remained patient. If I only mention the May 28 incident which claimed 86 lives, it would be unfair to the long spam of almost exactly 28 years of severe maltreatments they faced after the proclamation of Ordinance XX (Apr 26, 1984). Ahmadis have resolutely determined to abide by the law. How many more attempts do we need to deplete their resolve? Isn’t it better to stop for a while and put an end to harassing the ones who believe in Love for All Hatred for None and who, despite these severe atrocities, are still helpless in defining their love for Pakistan?


The President had announced that the new national Seraiki Province will be established before the next general elections. It is a welcome decision and the people had been demanding Seraiki Province for the past many decades for the simple reason that the Punjab had not treated the Seraiki people and Seraiki territories well and in a just manner. The area is backward as the rulers from Punjab diverted all the resources for development of Central Punjab ignoring all the backward regions mainly the Seraiki area. Seraiki People deserved a separate province long ago as they are totally different from rest of Punjab, mainly from central and Northern Punjab. Rather the area and people more close to Sindh and Balochistan that the Central Punjab or Northern Punjab. The PPP as the party of the Federation took a right decision in coming to the right expectations of the Seraiki people creating a province according to their legitimate aspiration. By taking this decision, the PPP proved to be a party of all people, the Federation of Pakistan, and not confined to any single region. It is presumed that the PPP will regain a second term to the disappointment of the reactionary people who are opposed the progressive policies of the PPP and mainly granting autonomy to the provinces by unanimously approving the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Punjab Province and its rulers failed to come to the right expectations of the people from smaller provinces as they used Pakistan’s resources for development of Lahore and its surroundings for the past six decades ignoring backward regions even within the Punjab Province sparing Balochistan, Sindh and parts of KPK. We hope that the right-minded people of Central Punjab will also extend unqualified support to the decision of the President of Pakistan who is also co-Chairman of the PPP, in creating new Seraiki Province before the next general elections. Hopefully, the President of Pakistan and his colleagues in the coalition Government will support the PPP in creating the new province for Seraiki people. After the next general elections, a provincial Government will be formed with Multan as its capital attracting the attention of all people of the province. Hopefully, it will be a unanimous decision to make Multan as the new capital of the new Seraiki Province.
The people of Sindh, Balochistan and KPK had been supporting this demand from day one. Late Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo was the first politician in Pakistan who created separate Seraiki Province unit within his Pakistan National Party and now the PPP formed the party unit based on Seraiki Province 30 years after the decision of Mr. Bizenjo’s decision. In any case, it is welcome decision and it enjoys support of the broad masses from Punjab Sindh, Balochistan and KPK, barring vested interests. It is hoped that all the political leaders and parties will support this decision. The Seraiki People should prepare to share the assets and liabilities with the Punjab Government in Lahore so that it should be a viable province from day one. The Punjabis should generously divide the assets of Punjab and allocate more resources for its speedy development as the region of Seraiki people had been discriminated and exploited brutally. From now on, they should not be treated as the second class citizens of Pakistan and the Punjab. They should be considered as equal partners in the Pakistani Federation.
Above all, the status of Punjab as the dominating province of Pakistan will end with the creation of new Seraiki Province. It will be at par with the Seraiki Province with a sizable population balancing the power and influence of the Punjab. The smaller provinces will have some relief that the Punjab may not be able to use its brute majority in imposing undemocratic and unjust decisions on other provinces.


A man belonging to Christian community was shot dead in Quetta on Tuesday while two labourers were kidnapped from Dhadar in Bolan district.
According to police, Hyrak Maseh was on his way to home when unidentified armed men opened fire at him on Samungli road. Consequently, he sustained serious wounds and succumbed to his injuries before reaching hospital. The assailants fled from the scene after committing the crime.
Police said the victim belonged to Christian community and investigation into the killing is underway.
Police handed over body to heirs after completing legal formalities.
Separately, police arrested an accused person from Sabzal Road of Quetta and seized six electronic fuses allegedly used in subversive acts. The accused man is being questioned.
In another incident, unknown armed men kidnapped two labourers from Dadhar area at gunpoint near a crushing plant. The kidnappers moved the labourers towards unspecified location.
Local administer after being informed about the incident registered a case and started search operation in the area to trace the kidnappers.