Friday, April 27, 2012

More arrests in weekly Occupy Wall Street march

More Occupy Wall Street protesters are arrested as they take part in a weekly march to the New York Stock Exchange

The road to a stable Afghanistan is through...the Pakistani countryside?

By:Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Since NATO's Lisbon summit in November 2010, debate has raged over the decision to draw-down troops from Afghanistan by 2014. And in less than a month, NATO is to hold its 25th heads of state summit in Chicago on 20th May. Unsurprisingly, among the summit's major themes will be the seemingly intractable Afghan question, controversy over which has continued with increasingly ferocious attacks by militants - the synchronised 18-hour assault on Kabul on April 16 being an outstanding example - along with persistently strained U.S.-Pakistani relations since NATO airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. But rather than endlessly debating troop numbers - whose link to stability is at the least exceedingly unclear - NATO allies would be better off focusing on how to maximise the impact of programs which pave the way for long-term stability by dramatically re-shifting the focus of aid funding from security to development. The full transition of responsibility for Afghanistan's security from NATO to Afghan forces poses deep questions about the efficacy of international intervention and traditional military approaches. For some critics calling for a faster transition to Afghan control, NATO's presence is the problem. Two years ago, NATO Afghan war veteran Lt. Col. Thomas Brouns warned presciently that "the possibility of strategic defeat looms" as "violent incidents" increase in direct proportion to the troop surge. The war is "a losing battle in winning the hearts and minds of nearly 30 million Afghans." Others argue that a quick NATO withdrawal could be a grave mistake, precipitating a downwards spiral into endless civil war - a view expounded last year by the German military, the RAF, and a British government review ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron. Even the Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak warned of the potentially catastrophic ramifications of a more abrupt withdrawal - no doubt fearing a Taliban come-back in the wake of the vacuum left behind by NATO's departure. Amidst all the controversy about NATO in Afghanistan, the curious assumption is that the country's stability is somehow purely correlated with troop numbers, rather than underlying socio-economic conditions and political accountability. Indeed, commentators have overlooked the single component of international intervention which has had resounding success - development aid, through Afghanistan's National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Under the programme, the Afghan government disburses grants to village-level elected organisa­tions, Community Development Councils (CDCs), which in turn identify local priorities and implement small-scale development projects. The NSP has reached out to 24,000 villages, mobilising nearly 70 percent of rural communities across all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces - including enrolling over 100,000 women into new local CDCs. An independent evaluation by academics from Harvard, MIT and the New School found that the NSP had led to "significant improvement in villagers' economic wellbeing" and "their attitudes towards the government" - "reducing the number of people willing to join the insurgents" leading to "an improved security situation in the long run." Yet the evaluation report also observes that development mitigates militancy only in regions facing "moderate violence" - but not where there are "high levels of initial violence." Here, the impact of the war is palpable - 2011 saw a record number of 3,021 Afghan civilian deaths. And a UN assessment for that year found the average monthly number of "security incidents" - such as gun battles and roadside bombings - was 39 per cent higher than the preceding year. So if the exit strategy is the right one, it's still not enough. From June 2002 to September 2010, the United States - though the largest NSP donor - has given $528 million to the programme (as well as another $225 million from FY 2010 funds, with Congress appropriating a further $800 million or so). This is a tiny fraction in the total of about $18.8 billion in foreign assistance over the last decade, and much more needs to be done. Over two-thirds of Afghans still live in dire poverty; only 23 per cent have access to safe drinking water; and just 24 percent above the age of 15 can read and write, according to the UN High Commission for Human Rights. Thus, a recent report by the Center for a New American Security urges that the US government "not only continue its [NSP's] funding but should also help expand the program across Afghanistan. Only through steadfast support of the NSP and similarly structured enterprises can hard-won military gains be consolidated into an enduring, Afghan-led peace." Yet the NSP is a virtual carbon copy of a longstanding development model being implemented just across the border in rural Pakistan, including the Taliban's strongholds in the northwest frontier province: the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN). As Pakistan's largest NGO, the RSPN has run quietly for nearly thirty years, with a staggering success rate - having mobilised over 4 million Pakistani households through local community organisations, provided skills training to nearly 3 million, and reached approximately 30 million people. The RSPN's model - replicated so successfully in Afghanistan under the NSP - is distinguished by its unique participatory approach, based on partnership with communities. The programme began in the early 1980s through the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), in the Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan regions. Under the leadership of Nobel Prize nominee Shoaib Sultan Khan, the AKRSP model was replicated by establishing a further ten autonomous Rural Support Programmes (RSP) across three quarters of the country's districts - which together form the umbrella that is the RSPN. The secret of the RSPN's success is deceptively simple. The poor are mobilised to establish local community organisations where citizens are involved in every aspect of decision-making - designing and selecting projects, managing them, and monitoring expenditures - in projects which have immediate, tangible impact. The programme thus empowers villagers to see themselves as citizens with the skills, tools and acumen to work together in managing disbursement of government funds to lift themselves out of poverty. In the northwest province of Chitral, for instance, local micro-scale hydro-electricity projects now supply power to over half of the population. Elsewhere, RSPN has empowered locals to establish 1,449 community schools, whose pupils out-perform their peers from government schools, and enrolled 681,000 women in community activism - the largest outreach to poor rural women of any Pakistani organisation. That is why the RSPN's work is so critical to the future of the country - for a strong, representative Pakistani state to emerge, it must be grounded in strong local civil society institutions capable of holding it to account and engaging with it constructively. But like the NSP, the RSPN receives only a fraction of the overall U.S.-U.K. aid budget to Pakistan. The ongoing debate about troop numbers and drone strikes - while important - has served to distract attention from the critical role of development aid in building resilience to radicalisation. Thus, across the region, the obsession with traditional security solutions has arguably been its own worst enemy. As the countdown to withdrawal continues, the international community must strengthen and expand these proven development models. Otherwise, the quagmire will become an abyss.

Obama ad: Would Romney have killed bin Laden?
Would Mitt Romney have ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden? President Barack Obama's re-election campaign released a new video on Friday that strongly implies that he would not have, using the presumptive Republican nominee's own words against him. Ever since Vice President Joe Biden boiled down Obama's 2012 slogan to "bin Laden is dead, GM is alive," it has been clear that the embattled incumbent would not hesitate to use the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL strike as a political weapon. Fighting over the political use of bin Laden is hardly new—as Obama's 2008 presidential campaign could tell you, since they complained about then-rival Hillary Clinton doing just that. Clinton's camp ran an ad that used Osama bin Laden and implied that Obama (the ad didn't use his name) didn't have the foreign policy chops to be president.The video, taken from footage shot for Obama's 17-minute campaign commercial "The Road We've Traveled," opens with the message "The Commander-in-Chief gets one chance to make the right decision" and turns to former President Bill Clinton for validation. "That's one thing George Bush said that was right: The president is the decider in chief. Nobody can make that decision for you." "Look, he knew what would happen," says Clinton. "Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there and it hadn't been bin Laden. Suppose they had been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him, but he reasoned 'I cannot in good conscience do nothing.' He took the harder and the more honorable path and the one that produced in my opinion the best result," he says, amid images including a photograph of New York City firefighters cheering the news of bin Laden's death. "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?" asks the on-screen text. The video recalls Romney's contention, in an April 2007 interview with the Associated Press, that Americans will not be markedly safer if bin Laden were killed and that "it's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." (Days later, in a May 3, 2007, debate, Romney was asked about his words and responded, "We'll move everything to get him. ... This is a global effort we're going to have to lead to overcome this jihadist effort. It's more than Osama bin Laden. But he is going to pay, and he will die.") It also cites a Reuters report referring to an August 2007 Republican candidates debate: "Mitt Romney criticized Barack Obama for vowing to strike al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary." (That's probably safer than directing viewers to the transcript of the debate: Romney criticized Obama for openly discussing the possibility of striking inside Pakistan, not for entertaining the idea. When moderator George Stephanopoulos asks whether it's fair to summarize his position as "keep this option on the table, but it is foolish to talk about it in public," Romney doesn't disagree.)The Obama campaign video wraps up with Clinton saying: "He had to decide and that's what you hire a president to do. You hire the president to make the calls when no one else can do it." Romney has taken pains to praise Obama for the raid. On Friday, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul bristled at the video. "It's now sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to try to distract voters' attention from the failures of his administration. With 23 million Americans struggling for work, our national debt soaring, and household budgets being squeezed like never before, Mitt Romney is focused on strengthening America at home and abroad," she said. The Obama video came one day after Vice President Biden, in a speech assailing Romney on foreign policy, declared: "On this gut issue, we know what President Obama did. We can't say for certain what Gov. Romney would have done."

President Obama, Michelle Obama Receive Highest Award In Homeless Veteran Advocacy
For their determination to put an end to veterans living on the streets, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will receive the highest honor given to homeless advocates. The Obamas were chosen to get this year’s Jerald Washington Memorial Founders' Award, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), and Barack Obama is the first person -- in history -- to receive the award more than once.

Barack Obama is tackling the issue with his “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” an initiative that aims to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015. He's working to meet this goal by mainstreaming housing, health, education and human service programs. On any given night last January, 67,495 homeless veterans were sleeping on the streets, a 56 percent decline since the president took office, according to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress. "Under the leadership of President Obama, we are witnessing unprecedented national unity in the campaign to end and prevent veteran homelessness," Patrick Ryan, Chairman of the NCHV Board of Directors, said in a press release. "The progress we have seen from the federal agencies, the Congress, the community partners NCHV represents, and the American people in just the last three years give rise to the expectation that this campaign will succeed." Michelle Obama has been doing her part to address the range of issues veteran face, including homelessness, with the one-year-old initiative, Joining Forces, which she founded with Jill Biden. “Our goal was as ambitious as it was simple. We wanted to get every single American to ask themselves one simple question,” Michelle Obama said in an exclusive video for HuffPost Impact. “What can I do to give back to these families that have given us so much?”To date, Joining Forces has helped employ 50,000 military spouses and veterans, encouraged schools to improve the experience of military children and connected veterans with community health centers in areas where the VA doesn’t have a prominent presence. "In most cases, access to affordable housing, employment at a livable wage, and health services greatly reduce a family's risk of becoming homeless,” NCHV President and CEO John Driscoll said in the release. “Joining Forces is helping communities learn how to anticipate the need for and provide these critical supports."

Obama Attacks Colleges Targeting Veterans’ Benefits

voa news
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to help protect active-duty troops and veterans from fraudulent and misleading college recruiting practices that target their federal education benefits. The president signed the order Friday after he and first lady Michelle Obama spoke to troops at Fort Stewart army post in the southern state of Georgia. Mr. Obama said some colleges were trying to “swindle and hoodwink” military families and that his administration was “putting an end to it.” The order limits recruiters' access to military facilities and requires schools to provide more information to current and former troops before signing them up for programs. It targets for-profit colleges and universities that market heavily to military families for their education loan money provided by the government under what is known as the “GI Bill.” First Lady Obama told troops that “America does have [their] backs” (supports them). She said the government wanted to serve soldiers and their families just as they have served their country. The trip to Georgia comes about a week before Mr. Obama's first official re-election campaign rallies in Virginia and Ohio. The president lost the state of Georgia to Republican candidate John McCain in the 2008 election.

What next for Pakistan's convicted Prime Minister?

Far from clarifying matters, the Pakistani Supreme Court's guilty verdict against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has added several layers of uncertainty about the fate of Pakistan's civilian government and its longest serving prime minister.
Moments after Gilani was found guilty of contempt for his refusal to revive old corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, politicians and political analysts on dozens of Pakistan's 24-hour news networks offered a dizzying array of contrasting views on what the ruling meant. "It plunges the country into political and legal crisis," said Najam Sethi, editor of the English language political weekly, The Friday Times."In practical and legal terms it does not mean much," said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the head of an Islamabad based political think tank. "A lot of people were under the impression that the prime minister would be disqualified, but he is not."For now, Gilani remains Pakistan's prime minister and the new debate raging here is whether his conviction justifies a disqualification and his removal from the post. Within hours of the verdict Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, held a press conference and cited Pakistan's constitution, which says a member of parliament can only be disqualified after a conviction and a prison sentence of at least two years. The Supreme Court did not sentence Gilani to time behind bars but delivered a symbolic sentence by keeping him in custody for the duration of the hearing which lasted only several minutes. Therefore, "there is no automatic immediate disqualification," Ahsan said. "The prime minister is not disqualified." Gilani's eligibility to remain Pakistan's prime minister will be decided by the speaker of parliament, and possibly the election commission, in a process that could take months. But Gilani's political enemies are already calling for him to step down and no one's screaming louder than Nawaz Sharif, a former premier who would love nothing more than to reclaim the post following next year's parliamentary elections. "I think that after the conviction the PM should immediately step down from his post," Sharif told a reporters in a live news conference following Thursday's verdict. "This is a convicted prime minister. He has been found guilty, he has been sentenced by the Supreme Court." Sethi said Sharif could decide to take the drastic measure of quitting parliament in protest if the prime minister refuses to resign, a move that would place the legitimacy of parliament in jeopardy and fuel a fresh political crisis.The contempt case against Gilani stemmed from his refusal to ask Swiss authorities to reopen old corruption charges against President Zardari. The charges date back to the 1990s when Zardari allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars while his wife, Benazir Bhutto, served as prime minister. Mehboob said the verdict failed to answer central questions about Zardari. "It has diverted attention from the real issue," he said. "The real issue is if our president is guilty of amassing illegitimate wealth and money laundering. We have failed to arrive at any conclusion and we're still perceived as a nation that doesn't abide by the rule of law." Even so, Mehboob said the political drama is likely to continue, taking up precious time and resources in a country that is facing a myriad of crises including widespread poverty, a broken economy and the bloody fight against Islamist militants. "This is just a waste of the nation's time," said businessman Abdul Rauf. "It's just very disappointing."

Where does the world go from here?

Developed Western capitalist countries’ reflections on capitalism The world remains undeniably dominated by capitalism, but unlike before, people are increasingly worried about the future of capitalism, which is severely ill. Capitalists have become their own worst enemies, according to an article titled “How to Save Capitalism” published in Time magazine on Jan. 30. Many people want to find another way of development. Young Westerners are not as afraid of communism as the older generation, and are more willing to consider it as a way out. Many of them have an interest in the China model. Certain Western people believe that the future of capitalism is the future of the world. Over the past few centuries, capitalism has been advocating getting rich by all means, including even the use of force. What will capitalism continue to bring to the world? How long can the earth withstand environmental damages and the ravages of war? U.S. columnist Paul B. Farrell wrote in an article published on Jan. 10 that we must focus on solving the real big problems facing mankind: Not the killing of, but the survival of, 10 billion people by 2050. “Forget the military war machine. Yes, forget all the threats, war games, fear mongering, big macho egos and all the special interests that get rich from maintaining a 600-billion-U.S.-dollar war machine… We must and we will soon wake up and focus on the survival of human civilization, working together — yes, China and America as partners — figuring out how to feed 10 billion people on a planet of limited resources,” Farrell said. The survival of mankind requires both material and spiritual resources. How should human beings get along with each other? How should we treat the earth where we were born? Over the past thousands of years, many far-sighted sages, religious leaders, thinkers, philosophers, and politicians have given their thought-provoking answers to the two questions. More than 80 years ago, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi said that there were seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice. The seven sins still apply in today’s society.

Prime Minister Gillani gets convicted

by:Farhad Jarral
Let Us Build Pakistan
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has just convicted an elected Prime Minister for following an explicit Constitutional clause (Article 248 (2)) – on the basis of an Ordinance passed by a military dictator, General Musharaf (Contempt of Court Ordinance 2004) – who in turn was empowered to subvert the Constitution by this very same Judiciary! However, if one is expecting any balance or nuance from Pakistan’s media on this landmark decision, one is sorely mistaken. The media’s role in being a cheer leader of right-wing, Islamist politicians and populist judges is an unfortunate departure from its often stated role of being a “fair and balanced” presenter of the news and of informing the public. In the last few years, the media, for the most part, has gone out of its way in presenting, supporting and empowering an obscurantist and conspiratorial mindset that is low on facts and high on sanctimonious piety and selective morality. To understand the “dynamics” of the symbiotic relationship between the media and the judiciary, one needs to look no further than the following exchange that took place between the dignified Information Minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira and prominent news anchor, Kamran Khan. It is a sad reflection of how the media distorts facts and is very reluctant to allow gentlemen like Kaira to argue a case on its merits, as opposed to moral grandstanding.At this point in time, one must also reflect on the role of Pakistan’s Jejune “liberals” who were an essential part of the Lawyer’s Movement, long after it had lost its legitimacy post-2008 elections. This was when all judges were released by the newly elected Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gillani and over 96% of them restored. The current Junta in the judiciary that often evokes dictator-inserted clauses to continuously undermine the legislature and the executive has been hugely supported by the Jejune “liberals” of Pakistan – an exclusivist cabal who assume the moral high ground by discarding with uncomfortable facts as it relates to them. By distorting history and constructing a narrative based on half-truths and distortions, this elite cabal of Jejune “liberals” spare no opportunity to bash the PPP in general and Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in particular. While one must acknowledge their mistakes, inflating their role in the current problems facing Pakistan is both an intellectual fallacy as well as deflecting the role of Pakistan’s Jejune “Liberals”. By their willful and continuing support to this judiciary, Pakistan’s Jejune “liberals” stand forever exposed as opportunists who share an equal blame in the current constitutional crisis. In their published articles and media space, these Jejune “liberals” of Pakistan have portrayed this judiciary as anti-military dictatorship. After today’s verdict (on dictator-inserted clauses), their misrepresentation of this judiciary comes across as a cruel joke to the public. However, one should not comment any further as Pakistan’s Jejune “liberals” are deeply intolerant of criticism and one cannot afford the witch hunts and intimidation that ensues after they are criticized. Today’ verdict against the Prime Minister was based on THOSE parts of the Constitution which were mangled by military dictators, General Zia and General Musharaf while the Prime Minister did not want to violate THAT part of the Constitution that is derived from the Geneva Convention. Pakistan’s Jejune “liberals” who never tire of inflating and misrepresenting ZAB’s role in creating religious intolerance need some honest self-reflection given their own support for this judiciary and its continued usage of Article 63 – a constitutional clause that was mangled by General Zia ul Haq; whose coup and martial law was supported by the judiciary then; as was General Musharaf by the current judiciary. Article 63, as it stands, is the Islamist manifesto of Jamaat Islami and the pillar used by this judiciary for its often controversial decisions.

Are Washington and Wall St. afraid of a French Socialist leader?

Hollande looks to far right as he forges runoff strategy

Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande
has turned heads in France by choosing to directly address the nearly 6 million voters who cast a ballot for the far right in the first round.In the wake of the first round of France’s presidential election, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande is on a mission to protect his momentum and ride it all the way to the Elysee Presidential Palace. The opposition challenger won the first round on April 22, but with a much slimmer margin than was first thought, and under the shadow of an unprecedented electoral surge for the far-right National Front.
After taking 28.63% of Sunday’s votes to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s 27.18% tally, Hollande has not missed a campaign beat, plunging back into a full schedule of rallies and television appearances. And to some observers’ surprise, he has rushed to address people who cast ballots for the far right. National Front candidate Marine Le Pen gathered 17.9% of first round votes, a historic high for her anti-immigration party.Speaking after results confirmed his status as the election’s frontrunner, Hollande said the far right’s extraordinary score demanded attention and a deeper understanding of the “anger” expressed by many French. Instead of feeling proud, Hollande said the French under Sarkozy had often felt “lowered” and “belittled”. The Socialist hopeful delivered a much clearer appeal in a front page interview published Tuesday in the left-leaning Liberation daily. "There is a part of Le Pen electorate that comes from the left… who are against privilege, against globalisation, against a Europe that doesn’t work. It’s up to me to convince them that it is the left that will defend them,” Hollande said. While he reserved no compliments for Le Pen herself or her anti-immigration programme, Hollande’s interview drooled empathy for a “suffering electorate, made up of low-paid workers, manual staff and workers who feel like they’ve been abandoned,” and who turned toward the National Front. “He wants to be the president of all the French and is projecting himself in that possibility,” said Michel Wieviorka, a French sociologist, supporter of Hollande and author of the book For the Next Left (Pour la prochaine gauche, Robert Laffont), “He should easily win the runoff, but to do so needs to pick up a fraction of Marine Le Pen’s first round votes.” Hollande’s own camp has consistently bashed Nicolas Sarkozy for trying to appeal to the far right with the objective siphoning National Front votes. Marine Le Pen’s nearly 18% support may be irresistible fruit for Hollande, but the Socialist candidate could be playing with fire. Game of percentages According to Sylvain Crepon, a professor at Paris 10 University and an expert on the far right in France, Le Pen will likely tell her supporters to abstain in the second round, but it is uncertain if they will follow her instructions. “About half of Le Pen’s followers, consider themselves right-wingers above all and will tend to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy to prevent a Socialist presidency,” Crepon explained. “Marine Le Pen has an interest in seeing Nicolas Sarkozy defeated. Her goal is to see the right in France implode and recover some of its members around the FN,” he added.According to different opinion polls this week, 45% to 60% of people who voted for Le Pen will transfer their vote to Sarkozy in the runoff, while only 18% to 26% said they would throw their weight behind Hollande. Those forecasts seemed to give Hollande the numbers he needs to be crowned the winner on May 6, but Alexandre Dezé, a professor of Political Science at Montpellier University and author of the book National Front: The Conquest of Power? (FN : La conquête du pouvoir ?, Armand Colin editions) warned that opinion polls were untrustworthy and prone to change. For Dezé, Sarkozy was better prepared and more willing to charm National Front’s electorate. “Sarkozy will come out strong, we have already seen him employ elements of [former FN candidate] Jean-Marie Le Pen’s key campaign speech in 2002,” Dezé said. “He is appealing to the poor and disenfranchised, calling for a “real” May 1 Worker’s Day rally, showing hostility to the media. It is really a complete and worrying revival of the National Front’s rhetoric,” the Montpellier professor added. Disappointing the Left While some analysts calculated Hollande’s chances of picking up some of Marine Le Pen’s sympathisers for the May 6 presidential duel, others challenged the overall wisdom of such a strategy. And it seemed Hollande was well aware of the danger of pushing away his natural allies on the left by trying to appeal to the far right. “The mistake I will not make is, in reaching out to others, to forget our own,” Hollande told Liberation. “I am a socialist, I am the voice of the left, but I am addressing all the French because I want to be the president of unity.” According to Wieviorka, there is little chance Hollande will spoil support within his own ranks. “Hollande will tell FN voters that he understands their message, and will ask them to trust him to solve their problems. But he is not going to change his own message.” An April 22 survey by the French polling firm Ipsos revealed that while the demographics of the National Front’s electorate may be shifting slightly, the issues close to its heart remain unchanged. Sixty-one percent of people who voted for Marine Le Pen on Sunday told pollsters that immigration was their top concern, while 44% of them said crime was the country’s most pressing problem. The French sociologist also wondered how much Hollande or Sarkozy could really do in less than two weeks to win over voters. “Hollande has his votes on the left secured… I think people have already made their choice.”

Study finds early signs of malaria drug resistance in Africa

Africa’s deadliest malaria parasite has shown resistance in lab tests to one of the most powerful drugs on the market — a warning of possible resistance to follow in patients, scientists said Friday. Researchers in London found resistance to artemether in test tube analysis of blood from 11 of 28 patients who had fallen ill after travelling in countries mainly in sub-Saharan Africa — what they said was a “statistically significant” result. Artemether is one of the most effective drugs in the artemisinin group most commonly used in malaria cocktails known as ACTs. “Resistance in a test tube usually leads to resistance at some stage down the line in patients,” study leader Sanjeev Krishna told AFP of the findings published in BioMed Central publishers’ Malaria Journal. “The question is how far down the line.” The study did not look at the patients’ actual response to drugs, and “what that might mean in terms of treatment failure, we have yet to assess. We don’t know.” A statement said the resistance was caused by genetic mutations in a parasite transmitted by infected mosquitoes, and meant that “the best weapons against malaria could become obsolete.” The laboratory tests on the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which causes the deadliest form of malaria and is responsible for 90 percent of deaths, showed artemether’s effectiveness reduced by about half in the infected samples. “This study confirms our fears of how the parasite is mutating to develop resistance,” said Krishna, adding the genetic changes “occurred relatively recently”. “Drug resistance could eventually become a devastating problem in Africa, and not just in east Asia where most of the world is watching for resistance.” Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 90 percent of people killed by malaria every year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday it was optimistic drug-resistant malaria that has emerged along Thailand’s borders with Cambodia and Myanmar could be contained within the region. While global campaigning and wide distributions of mosquito nets have helped curb malaria, it is still regarded as the worst parasitic disease in the world. The WHO says 655,000 people died of malaria in 2010, making it the world’s fifth biggest killer in low-income countries. “What we should be doing is to use the drugs we have as effectively as we can, to make sure they are working and to stop using combinations that are not working,” said Krishna. And the focus should be on monitoring and further research. “We must be very alert to the risk of there being increased treatment failures,” the scientist warned. “We need to know more, we need to know it fairly quickly.”

Pak, Afghan, US resume contact to facilitate endgame

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US on Friday agreed to explore ways to arrange safe passage for Taliban militants wanting to join the Afghan reconciliation process as the three countries resumed contacts to facilitate the endgame in the war-torn nation. Senior officials of the three countries decided to form two new sub-groups to push the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. One sub-group, comprising officials from permanent missions at the United Nations, will coordinate activities at the world body while the second will examine the issue of safe passage for Afghan Taliban militants who give up violence. Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin, who led the Afghan team at the meeting of the "Core Group" of the three countries, said Kabul expected Islamabad to facilitate contacts with the Taliban. Safe passage for militants taking part in talks will have a cascading effect and encourage other rebels to join the peace process, he said. "We need to be able to find those who are willing to talk wherever they are... We need to provide safe passage and an environment where they feel safe and confident that they can engage in peace talks without any consequence," said Ludin. The American team at the talks was led by Special Representative Marc Grossman while Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani headed the Pakistani side. The Core Group of the three countries met in Islamabad for the first time since September last year as part of efforts to revive stalled talks with the Taliban and to resume cooperation for the endgame in Afghanistan. "We really welcome this initiative of the safe passage, which will mean our experts can meet and take this process further," Ludin said. Foreign Secretary Jillani said the formation of the sub-group to examine safe passage was an "important" development. Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan stalled after the assassination last year of Afghan High Peace Council chief Burhanuddin Rabbani, which officials in Kabul had blamed on elements based on Pakistani soil. Relations between Islamabad and Washington hit a low after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year. The US has been keen to rope in Pakistan's support for the Afghan peace process ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan by 2014. Pakistan wants a larger role in Afghanistan to reduce what it perceives as India's growing influence. During their interaction with the media, Grossman, Ludin and Jillani expressed the hope that the three countries would continue close cooperation in the Afghan peace process. They agreed to work collectively on the basis of mutual respect and interest. Jillani said Pakistan has reiterated its support for an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process." He said, "Peace and stability in Afghanistan is the core national objective of Pakistan." Grossman said the US will only open the doors of dialogue to those Taliban elements that have been cleared by the Afghan government. Ludin said Afghanistan wants to engage in direct talks with the Taliban and other groups to achieve the objective of reconciliation. The Core Group also discussed issues like improved border management and illicit drug trafficking. The three sides exchanged views on several bilateral and regional economic projects.

Bahrainis march near capital to demand Khawaja's release

Bahraini protesters have held an anti-regime rally near the capital, Manama, to demand the release of prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Witnesses say hundreds of Bahrainis took part in the protest rally dubbed 'Friday of Khawaja's Victory' in Ma’ameer village. Some reports suggest that Saudi-backed regime forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters. The rally comes as mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for nearly three months, and authorities refuse to allow his family to contact him. Khawaja's wife Khadija al-Mousawi says she was not allowed to see or phone her husband since Monday and that she has about his information on his health. "They say he is in good health, but if that's true, then why won't they let me speak to him, why won't they let me see him?" Mousawi told AFP on Thursday She added that she was also prevented from visiting her daughter, Zainab, who was arrested on Saturday night, one day before the F1 race, for holding a peaceful sit-in demanding the release of her father. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who holds dual Danish and Bahraini citizenship, was given a life sentence in June 2011 over accusations of inciting protests against the Manama regime. He went on hunger strike early in February to protest against the life sentence he received. Amnesty International, however, considers Khawaja a “prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression” and has called for his immediate release. Despite national and international calls for Khawaja's release, Manama has so far refused to drop charges against him. Bahrain’s Court of Cassation is due to rule on Khawaja's appeal against his conviction next week.

After the Arab spring, the sexual revolution?

Mona Eltahawy's 'Arab men hate women' article sparks demand for a sea change in engagement between the sexes
An explosive call for a sexual revolution across the Arab world in which the author argues that Arab men "hate" Arab women has provoked a fierce debate about the subjugation of women in countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Women are deeply divided over the article entitled "Why do they hate us?" by prominent American-Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy, which fulminates against "the pulsating heart of misogyny in the Middle East" and builds to an early crescendo by stating: "We have no freedoms because they hate us … Yes: They hate us. It must be said." Eltahawy is not alone in stressing that a revolution has come and gone, but done little for Arab women. There are only eight women in Egypt's new 500-seat parliament – and not one female presidential candidate. Domestic violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are still part of the status quo across a region covering more than 20 countries and 350 million people. "Even after these 'revolutions,' all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian's blessing – or divorce either," Eltahawy argues in Foreign Policy. "An entire political and economic system -- one that treats half of humanity like animals -- must be destroyed along with the other more obvious tyrannies choking off the region from its future. Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun." Eltahawy draws on anecdotal and empirical evidence for her tirade: 90% of women who have ever been married in Egypt "have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty"; not one Arab country is in the top 100 nations as ranked by gender equality; Saudi women have been prosecuted for daring to drive a car. Eltahawy nails the paradox that it is women who must cover up – because of the sexual impulses of Arab men. But plenty of women across the Arab world have taken objection to Eltahawy's blanket condemnation of men. "I agree with most of what she said but I think that the one thing that she might be reluctant to admit is that it's not about men hating women, it's about monotheistic religions hating women," says Joumana Haddad, a Lebanese author and journalist. "They continually reinforce patriarchal standards and patterns that have existed long before. There is no harmony possible between monotheism and women's rights. The teachings deny women their dignity and rights." Dalia Abd El-Hameed, a researcher on health issues at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, added: "It is oversimplistic to say Arab men hate Arab women; it presents us as needing to be saved. I don't want to be saved because I am not a victim. We can't put all Egyptian women in one category, let alone Arab women. My problems are not the same as a rural woman from Upper Egypt." Sarah Naguib, a political activist in Egypt, said: "I honestly think it's almost offensive to be asked if Arab men hate Arab women. That's like saying all Muslims are terrorists and all Jews are evil and the American dream still lives on." Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian lecturer nominated last year for the Nobel peace prize, said: "It seems to me that this article inaccurately lumps all men together; from a purely personal prespective, if today I'm seen as a blogger who defends the rights of women as well as of other groups, it's because I have a father who is more feminist than I am myself!" Mhenni notes that in Tunisia men and women are working together to defend freedoms and rights of women. "The examples cited by Mona are real enough, but to speak of hatred as the reason behind discrimination between men and women is exaggerated, uncalled-for even. You have to look at all the historical, social and political factors which are behind all this. Arab regimes have always limited our horizons, undermined our educational systems, and restricted access to culture. It has been a strategy to manipulate the crowd and send it in a certain direction." In Beirut, Haddad points out that just as not all men are culpable, some women are. "Many women support such negative notions of feminity: endorsing the alpha male, reinforcing the patriarchal system, obedience, submission, financial dependence. There are many women who do not believe in women playing a role in business or demanding their political rights. According to much of the religious teachings it's impossible." Although that may be true, there is no doubt that even Lebanese law militates against women in places. "There is no law that protects women from domestic violence," notes Lebanese MP Sethrida Geagea. "A husband can violate his wife and even rape her and there is nothing to protect her. Two months ago we passed a draft law that banned so-called honour killings. Before then, if a father or brother thought a woman from his family was seeing another man he could kill her and would spend no more than two months in jail. "That has now changed but real change in attitudes will take a lot longer." Others say that women are only one of many oppressed groups. In an article on Comment is Free this week, Nesrine Malik argued: "Yes, in Saudi Arabia women cannot drive, but men cannot elect their government; instead they are ruled over by a religiously opportunistic dynasty. In Egypt, it's true that women were subjected to virginity tests, but men were sodomised. In Sudan women are lashed for wearing trousers, but ethnic minorities are also marginalised and under assault. We must not belittle the issues women face, or relegate them to second place, but we must place them in a wider context where wholesale reform is needed. One cannot reduce a much more universal and complicated problem merely to gender." Laila Marrakchi, a Moroccan film-maker, takes issue with the word "hate", arguing that many Arab men are repressed too. "It's not hatred, it's fear of women – which in turn brings the hatred. There is so much frustration among men in the Arab world, it begins with sexual frustration, and the frustration of not being able to speak out, and not having political freedom." Tunisia may historically have enjoyed the most liberal attitudes towards women's rights, but some fear that may be changing, despite last year's revolution. Saloua Karoui Ounalli, a lecturer in American and English Literature at Tunis University, said: "Things have changed in just a few months. I can't wear miniskirts at work now, on the campus, for fear that someone will attack me. I only wear trousers now. This change in environment began a couple of years back, when the number of women wearing the veil started to increase." She says a sexual revolution is desperately needed. "But right now is not the best timing. First you need a cultural revolution to train people to think with a critical frame of mind, to take into account the plurality of cultures in the world. So that they can see Arab culture as just one among thousands of cultures; it isn't necessarily the best one and doesn't necessarily possess the truth. A sexual revolution would be a waste of time until you have first taught people to evaluate their own culture with some detachment from the sacred." Moroccan journalist Nadia Lamlili says the Arab world does not need a sexual revolution so much as a cultural revolution in the way people are brought up and the way the sexes are segregated. "It seems to me that the problems facing Arab women derive more from a lack of understanding between the sexes, which is above all due to the two sexes not being allowed to mix, and of the morbid desire on the part of the Arab regimes to keep society divided: men to one side, women to the other," she says. "By separating the sexes, the Arab regimes want to manage sexual temptation. But it doesn't take away the temptation. In fact it exasperates and amplifies the temptation, and ends up with violence in dealings between men and women. "The problem with our societies is that the women are in love with their sons instead of their husbands, and the men are in love with their mothers instead of with their wives," she adds. "Men and women don't understand one another due to the fact that their dealings are not at all clear, as they don't spend enough time together or don't engage with each other enough."

Bahrain Clashes Erupt After Funeral March

Protesters have hurled petrol bombs at a police station in Bahrain and riot police have responded with teargas and stun grenades. The violence flared after a funeral march for a man killed in clashes during the Gulf Arab state's Formula One race last week. Thousands of mourners visited the grave of Salah Abbas Habib, 36, who was found dead on Saturday after disappearing during fighting between protesters and police. Petrol bombs set the police station's wall alight in the Manama neighbourhood of al Bilad al Qadeem. The clashes then spilled onto a main road, holding up traffic for up to an hour. Bahrain has been in turmoil since a pro-democracy uprising erupted last year after successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.Mr Habib was buried by his family in Shakhura village on Monday. The main opposition party Wefaq says Mr Habib's body showed signs of torture, including multiple fractures and birdshot pellets apparently fired at close range. The interior ministry has said it will establish what happened to Mr Habib. Wefaq says his death takes to 81 the number of people killed since the protests began. That figure includes 35 who died during the initial uprising and more than two months of martial law, among them five security personnel. The government disputes the cause of death in many cases and says the protesters are hooligans who are trying to kill police. It says a homemade bomb wounded four policemen this week, and that seven policemen were wounded earlier this month. The protests escalated before last week's Grand Prix, drawing criticism of Bahrain from some governments, rights groups and media watchdogs

Nawaz Sharif asked to apologise for anti-judiciary attitude

Daily Times
Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday asked Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif to apologise to the nation over his attitude towards courts during his tenure as prime minister. Talking to reporters at the opening ceremony of the Intellectual Property Day Celebrations, the minister said his party respected courts and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had proved it by appearing in the apex court. Malik said, “The nation knows what Nawaz Sharif did with Sajjad Ali Shah. I admire the prime minister who has faced the recent situation like a brave man and he will be remembered in history as a brave man.” The interior minister said he had issued clear directions to authorities concerned not to permit anyone to chant slogans at the Supreme Court premises, regardless of the decision, as the PPP believed in respect of judiciary. Malik said the prime minister had acted according to a legal interpretation that had been made by the government’s experts on the matter. The prime minister had the right to continue in his office because the option of an appeal against the verdict was still available, he added. app

Role of military in foreign policy receding, says Khar

Pakistan’s military has less sway over it’s foreign policy, and a new power equation is emerging, said the foreign minister. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said new dynamics were now taking hold in the country. “I want you to also understand that things have changed in Pakistan,” she told Reuters in an interview. “I think this overbearance of the role of the military in the foreign policy of Pakistan is something which will recede as time passes.” “I think all institutions in Pakistan are realising that there is a place and role for every institution,” said the foreign minister. “And it is best to serve Pakistan’s interests that each of the institutions remains within the boundaries of the roles which are constitutionally defined. It’s a new sort of equilibrium.” Khar, one of a number of rising women politicians in Pakistan, started her political career with a party affiliated with former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, and eventually rose to junior finance minister. She later switched to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The foreign minister said the current government’s staying power in a country prone to coups had given it sway and room to manoeuvre, on issues ranging from ties with the United States to trade with India. “As far as the new equilibrium … you have consistent four years of democracy, it’s the longest term a democratic government has had in Pakistan,” said Khar, who is from a political family in southern Punjab. Khar pointed to the reaction to a Nato cross-border raid in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. A Pakistani parliamentary committee reviewed ties with Washington and demanded a halt to US drone aircraft strikes. “It is not the first time that foreign policy has been discussed in parliament,” said Khar, in her modest Islamabad office. “But is it not the first time that relations with the United States and other important countries were put on hold until the parliament gave a green signal?” Khar also said the government’s approach to India suggested Pakistan’s democracy was becoming more robust and the military’s grip on policy had loosened. In the face of some domestic opposition, the Islamabad government last November vowed to grant India most favoured nation status, which will end restrictions that require most products to move via a third country. The move was hailed by India and the two countries are now focused on resolving economic issues before moving on to more intractable problems such as the disputed Kashmir. “Don’t underestimate the importance of what this government did with trade with India. Since 1965 there was no political or military government that could open up trade with India. And it was considered a no-go area,” said Khar. “And that to me shows, one the maturity of democracy, the maturity of views, and the maturity of the decision-making exercise in Pakistan.”


A Supreme Court Bench found the Prime Minister of Pakistan guilty for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities requesting to reopen the cases against the President of Pakistan before a Swiss Magistrate. The Prime Minister claimed that the President of Pakistan is enjoying immunity against any legal proceedings not only in Pakistan but also the world over. The Supreme Court Bench did not agree with this contention and found the Prime Minister guilty of contempt of court. He was given the sentence till rising of the court. The first reaction came from the Attorney General of Pakistan who claimed that the conviction was illegal and unconstitutional and there is no law of contempt of court. There is a strong opinion among various sections of the society that the Supreme Court verdict had created a serious situation which may drift away from the normal course in destabilizing the country and its political and constitutional order. Ordinary people and mainly supporters of the PPP will consider it a serious move to dislodge the elected Government of PPP using the superior judiciary. Their contention is substantiated with the judicial activism for the past many years targeting the PPP and its Government sparing all others. The verdict among tens of millions of Pakistanis is unpopular and biased regardless of its legal and constitutional status. To them, it had brought the prestige of the Superior judiciary to the lowest level. In Balochistan, the belief is very strong that the superior courts and superior judiciary had always remained part and parcel of the Pakistani establishment serving the interests of the Establishment and not the people for the past many decades. The people of Balochistan had never enjoyed any relief from Government action and the superior judiciary remained unconcerned or endorsed the actions against the people. The fresh Supreme Court verdict is in line with the same old pro-establishment policies which is said to be an attempt to put more and more pressure on the PPP-led Coalition Government for political reasons. Relatives of missing persons in Balochistan had picked up more than 400 bullet riddled and mutilated bodies from the public places and the Supreme Court had not picked up a single case to protect life of Pakistani citizens from the hands of State functionaries, one of the relatives remarked. The prime constitutional right of any citizen of Pakistan is protection of his life from the hands of more powerful people or functionaries and the Supreme Court had failed to protect this prime right of hundreds of people in Balochistan. They argued that the Supreme Court had picked up PPP-specific cases for hearing for political reasons and using the forum to demolish the image of chosen representatives of the people not through the court verdict but as a result of remarks passed during the regular proceedings. The corporate media, another strong wing of the Establishment, had highlighted the court remarks against the Government off and on with a political motive, some observers reached by telephone said. In any case, the establishment had been disappointed as it failed to dislodge the representative democracy in the present political climate and surrounding security environment around Pakistan and the Prime Minister will retain power by filing an appeal against the Supreme Court verdict. It also failed to mobilized mass public opinion against the Government using its usual proxies in politics—the Tehrik-i-Insaf, the DCP and other religious and fascist outfits. Finally, the US presence in the region had brought a qualitative change in the security and political environment in the whole region. Earlier, leaders used to play a role in seeking concessions from the US and its controlled international donor and finance institutions. Now the US is itself present in the region and it will take decision on the spot making all political leaders irrelevant. It seems that the dispute with the United States can be settled only through give and take and not through unilateral generous military and economic aid. The Jihadi elements and their allies in the establishments are incapable to influence to secure US aid for Pakistan taking the country out of the present economic mess.

After conviction: Gilani challenges Sharif to bring no confidence motion

The Express Tribune
After members of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) walked out of the National Assembly session in protest, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani challenged Nawaz Sharif to bring a no confidence motion if “he thinks he can dissolve the government.” Speaking during the session held a day after the Supreme Court of Pakistan convicted him of contempt of court, Gilani said that he “does not have an ego problem” like members of PML-N. The prime minister said that the opposition and PML-N should “respect the mandate of the people if they believe in democracy.” Gilani also expressed disappointment over leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar’s reaction. “Chaudhry Nisar spoke to me a day before the hearing of the verdict in the contempt case against me and wished me luck. Today, he says that he won’t let me enter the House. Am I not an elected prime minister of this country?” The prime minister said that no one has ever accommodated the opposition as much as his government did. “For the first time in Pakistan, the opposition received funds,” he said. “We are not talking about millions, we are talking in terms of billions of rupees.” He said that he did this only to strengthen democracy in the country and that he believed in working with all representatives of the Parliament. Speaking on the Supreme Court’s conviction, he said, “Ever since the case started, did anyone in this House disagree to presidential immunity? No one did. During 1956, 1962 and 1973, when the dictators can enjoyed immunity, why not the elected heads of the state?” He said that throughout the world, heads of the state including the president, the prime minister and the foreign minister enjoy immunity and questioned, “Have I made these laws?” Gilani said that he was convicted merely for protecting the Constitution of the country and that if that is his crime, then he is happy of doing so. “Many media reports said that I looked happy after the verdict was announced … Yes I was happy, because I protected the Constitution of this country.” The prime minister said that no one but the speaker of the House can “disqualify him and send him home.” Gilani said that he respected the supremacy of the Parliament and that the decision of disqualifying him was upon the custodian of the House – Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza. “If you disqualify me today, I will be honoured. It wouldn’t matter to me only because I was convicted to guard the Constitution.” Addressing the speaker, he said, “Today it’s me, tomorrow, there might be someone else. But I don’t want a situation where I am ousted and people wind up the whole system including this House. There shouldn’t be a situation where I am disqualified and then they say that they haven’t made the voters list and then a technocrat government comes in place. Such a step will not be accepted.” Gilani said that those who think that a reconciliation government is wrong then they can “continue doing so”. Contempt verdict sent to NA speaker, ECP Express News reported that the copy of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the contempt case against Gilani was sent to Dr Mirza and the Election Commission of Pakistan. On Thursday, a seven-member bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk had found Gilani guilty of contempt for disobeying the court’s orders to write a letter to Swiss authorities in order to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. According to the law, the speaker has to take a decision within 30 days on if the prime minister is disqualified from being a member of the assembly in light of the sentence awarded to him. In case the speaker and chairman senate say that they will not take the decision in this regard, the case will be referred to the ECP.

Only parliament can send me home: Gilani

The PM came down heavy on the opposition, daring it to bring no-trust against him. While addressing the National Assembly after his conviction he made it clear only the House could send him home. PM Gilani said that it was necessary for him to take vote of confidence after being found guilty of contempt of court. He said nobody can disqualify him except the Speaker of the National Assembly‚ through the prescribed procedure in the Constitution. Speaking in the National Assembly on Friday, he said if parliament declared him disqualified he would accept that decision. He said the parliament is supreme and all decisions will be taken in it, adding that all institutions derive strength from the parliament. Referring to the remarks of the leader of the opposition in National Assembly yesterday‚ the Prime Minister said no one can stop him to attend the session of the house. He said he cannot be removed through conspiracies. He said the victory of a PPP candidate in Multan yesterday clearly shows that public still supports them. Prime Minister Gilani said he was not sentenced by the Supreme Court on the charges of corruption or any crime. His crime is that he protected the Constitution of Pakistan. He said Pakistan People’s Party is the creator of the 1973 constitution. We restored it and we will protect it. We will never work against the constitution. Referring to the yesterday s judgment of the Supreme Court‚ Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani said Law Minister and his counsel have clarified all the questions regarding the judgment. He said we will file an appeal against judgment. He said all the Presidents enjoy immunity under the Vienna Convention. This is an international law which is applicable throughout the world.