Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Turkey, the US, and Pakistan bargain on Afghanistan

As of May 15, Pakistan was not on the list of countries that would participate in the NATO Summit on May 20-21 in Chicago: As of May 16, it is. Coincidentally the invitation was made just hours after Pakistan has reopened the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan through its Afghan border. Islamabad had been restricting the routes since November 2011, after U.S. drone attacks killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, and has been demanding an official apology before relations could return to normal. U.S. officials had expressed their regrets and said that it was a mistake, but that was not enough for the Pakistani government, which has been under serious pressure from the opposition. Finally, Pakistan stopped insisting on more from the U.S., and voila, they got the invitation, as Afghanistan’s most influential neighbor. U.S. military activity in Pakistan related to the NATO operation in Afghanistan, not necessarily under the authorization or even with the knowledge of Pakistani authorities, has been a problem between the two countries for some time. Osama bin Laden, the former leader of al-Qaeda, was killed in a U.S. commando operation in Pakistan, in a house only 60 kilometers away from Islamabad, on May 1, 2011. Pakistan’s mountainous border with Afghanistan is highly porous when it comes to the movements of the militants of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other radical Islamist groups. Pakistan’s notorious intelligence service, the ISI, which is under the control of the country’s political power-focused army, has been accused widely of ignoring, if not supporting, such groups. Pakistan is a nuclear power with missile technology and it is a matter for concern among NATO circles that one day radical Islamist groups might somehow acquire such capabilities. The possibility of non-state actors coming into possession of nuclear warheads or missiles or both is among the concerns behind NATO’s missile shield project, which is to be leveled-up at the Chicago Summit. Turkey, hosting the early warning radar portion of the shield, has been involved in the diplomacy behind including Pakistan in the picture, in order to help the country be a part of the centripetal forces, instead of the centrifugal ones. Turkey’s statement of its intention to remain in Afghanistan, if the Afghans want it to, even after NATO starts to leave the country, could also be seen as part of this effort. It is important to have a working political and economic system in Pakistan for the good of the Asian sub-continent, and actually for the good of an even greater area, including the Middle East. Speaking of the Middle East, the Israeli defense minister’s visit to Washington, D.C. to see his American counterpart there at such a time can be isolated neither from the approaching NATO Summit nor from the Baghdad talks planned for May 23 (right after Chicago) to discuss the nuclear program of Iran, another important neighbor of Afghanistan. Russia is holding its appetite for a possible bilateral summit with the U.S. until after the presidential elections in November of this year. The picture is getting complicated, and it is hard to simply call it realpolitik revisited, or just another act in the great play that has been on the stage since the nineteenth century.

“Blasphemy law not to be used against minorities”: Zardari

President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday said the government while vigorously promoting interfaith harmony was determined not to let anyone misuse the blasphemy law against minorities and other vulnerable sections of the society. The President was talking to Father Robert McCulloch, Procurator General from the Vatican, who called on him here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. He highlighted the contributions of the minorities in Pakistan and informed him of the constitutional protection to their fundamental rights. The President further added that the government had taken important measures to ensure protection of the minorities.

Pakistan preparing to reopen NATO supply

NATO commander pointed to indications that Pakistan is preparing to open NATO supply lines.The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan pointed to indications today that Pakistan is preparing to open cross-border NATO supply lines into Afghanistan.Speaking by video teleconference, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told the sixth annual 2012 Joint Warfighting Conference he would welcome the move as well as improved relations with Pakistan for the stability of the region.“There have been in the last several days, some very important signals coming out of Islamabad that there is a consideration to re-open the ground lines of communication, and we, frankly, would welcome that, we would applaud that decision,” Allen said. “It would, in fact, be helpful to us if the ground lines of communication were opened, not just because of what could flow into Afghanistan but what could flow out of Afghanistan.”Relations between ISAF and Pakistan have been strained since a November 26 engagement near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border left 24 Pakistani soldiers martyred. Pakistan closed ISAF ground supply lines into Afghanistan in response. Allen noted the closing of the routes has not affected the ISAF mission.“I will tell you the effect of the closure of that route on the campaign has not slowed us at all,” he said. “The air bridge into Afghanistan and the flow of materiel across the Northern Distribution Network were modulated in a way that continued to support the campaign in every operational respect.”

SECULAR PAKISTAN: Building Jinnah’s Pakistan

THE movement for independence from the British was fought by Jinnah and leaders of the Indian National congress and the Muslim League. Jinnah echoed the secular sentiments of Dr Ambedkar when on Aug 11, 1947, he spoke of equality among citizens and the right of freedom of expression and worship to all citizens of Pakistan. He believed that religion was not the business of the state and said this authoritatively. He did not want the state to legislate on religion which he believed was personal to each individual. Did the path we were supposed to take come to an end on Sept 11, 1948? Have we drifted since then experimenting with different ideologies and forms of government? Countries around us have progressed much beyond us. Do our problems lie in our geostrategic location with big powers breathing down on us. Have aspirations and ambitious plans beyond our frontiers been the cause of our problems or have we embroiled ourselves by looking beyond our borders. We need an inward looking-government considering only our internal development and national interest. Did authoritarian regimes for 30 years block our progress towards political consciousness, pragmatic policies and democratic maturity on account of shortsighted leadership. The answer is yes — yes but we only have ourselves to blame because the people of Pakistan as the ‘ultimate sovereign’ and the media did not assert enough. We are a nation with an abundance of resources, a vibrant population of over 180 million with 50 per cent being under the age of 30. The otherwise hardworking and intelligent Pakistani population needs to be channeled in the right direction to achieve maximum benefit from the available talent. Civil society needs to be vibrant and in conjunction with the media, efforts need to be made to mould public opinion in the right direction. Pakistan needs to send right messages to the US, EU and all our neighbours. Let us stop being dependent on any nation, regain our pride, adopt pragmatic and sensible national policies, control our population, enhance education and literacy, promote honesty and hard work and we are bound to succeed. Our goal should be Jinnah’s Pakistan which will have no place for corruption, parochialism, sectarianism, extremism, etc. We need to emphasise the benefits of education, literacy, tolerance, equality, justice and fair play to everyone but while doing so, we must endeavour to promote honesty and adherence to the rule of law at all levels. Even President Obama has decided to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end, stop the large amounts of money being spent on this war and use these funds for internal development, growth and larger benefit of the American people. What is the problem which prevents us from utilising our resources for education, health and internal development? LIAQUAT H. MERCHANT Karachi

Barack Obama teases David Beckham over underwear

France: New Socialist cabinet takes power in France

France unveiled President Francois Hollande's new government on Wednesday, with exactly half of the posts going to women – a promise the new head of state had made during his campaign. Not counting the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was appointed on Tuesday, the cabinet consists of 34 members, two more than the outgoing cabinet that served under conservative Nicolas Sarkozy. There was some concern over the news that Martine Aubry, Hollande’s former party rival and one of the Socialist Party’s most experienced women, would not join the cabinet after she was declined the prime ministerial position. There was also some criticism over the top-level posts being given to men, despite the cabinet being France’s first to reach gender parity. Former prime minister Laurent Fabius, 65, who campaigned against the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005, was handed the role of foreign affairs minister, sparking concern among some Europhiles. Pierre Rousselin, senior editor at French conservative daily Le Figaro, told FRANCE 24 that while the French might find him a “strange choice and a potential problem for Europe,” he may also turn out to be an advantage by gaining support from the majority of French people who voted “no” in the bitterly divisive 2005 referendum. There was also some surprise over the appointment of Pierre Moscovici, 54, as finance minister. Moscovici was very close to Dominique Strauss-Kahn before becoming Hollande’s campaign manager. His post was expected to go to Hollande’s long term ally, Michel Sapin, who was instead named as labour minister. Jean-Yves Le Drian, a 64-year-old local politician from Brittany, was named defence minister, while Manuel Valls, a free-market moderniser and a moderate within the Socialist Party, was named interior minister. Arnaud Montebourg, a 49-year-old from the left wing of the Socialist party, was put in charge of growth and industry. Women in power Christiane Taubira, from French Guiana, was named justice minister, making her the highest-ranking woman in the new cabinet. Outspoken and charismatic, the 60-year-old lawmaker authored a French law in 2001 making slavery a crime against humanity. She was the first black woman to run for president in 2002. Other women who received cabinet posts include Marisol Touraine, minister for health and social affairs; housing minister Cecile Duflot, who is also the leader of the Green party; and several women who helped run Hollande’s presidential campaign, including Aurelie Filipetti, as culture minister, and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
, in charge of women's rights, one of two new cabinet posts. She will also act as government spokesperson. Anne-Cécile Mailfert, a gender equality activist from women’s rights group Osez le Féminisme (Dare to be feminist), told FRANCE 24 that she felt that there was a “clear divide” between women and men on the cabinet, with women receiving less important roles, save for minister of justice. “This is a little bit disappointing,” she said, though recognising the numerical parity as a “positive example” for society. The first cabinet session will take place on Thursday at 13.00pm Paris time.

HIV may afflict almost half Asia-Pacific transgenders: UN

Nearly half of transgender people in the Asia-Pacific region could have HIV as poor healthcare and high-risk lifestyles push infection rates to "critical levels", a UN report said Thursday. The region's estimated 9-9.5 million transgender population is "bearing the brunt of the HIV epidemic", the UN Development Programme study said, adding that figures suggest 49 percent of the community could be infected. The figure is drawn from anecdotal evidence of infection rates among trans-women -- men who become women -- taken from the "scattered and often small-scale research" available across the region, the UNDP said. Report author Sam Winter, of Hong Kong University, urged governments to take note of the "burning need to address a very human crisis", pointing out many transgender people end up working as prostitutes and having unsafe sex. "Social exclusion, poverty and HIV infection contribute to what we call a 'stigma sickness slope' -- a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse," he said in the "Lost in Transition" study. Transgender people also routinely suffer violence and prejudice while being offered narrow economic opportunities and scant psychological support, the report found. Billed as the region's most comprehensive study, the report collates information from the last 12 years, painting a picture of hardship for many transgender people, who lack basic healthcare and emotional help. It recorded cases of "backyard" sex change surgery including castration and the widespread use of unsafe industrial silicone for breast implants among those who cannot afford quality healthcare. Often transgender people leave home at a young age in response to family disapproval, drop out off school because of bullying and struggle to find work, which pushes them into prostitution, it said. But the study also highlighted positive developments, noting an increasingly confident transgender identity has taken root. It also detected greater will from the community to engage with mainstream services and policy discussions. "The creation of advocacy networks, community-based organisations and non-government organisations devoted to empowering our communities is a source of joy," according to Thai transgender activist Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya.

A real slap in the face of political orphans

by Dr. Saif
On April 26, 2012, on one hand the Supreme League Court had given a verdict against an elected Premier, while on the other people supported the candidate of PPP in South Punjab in by-elections in Multan PP-194. On May 12, 2012, in Kamoo Shaheed, Pakistan Peoples Party(PPP) held the largest public procession in the country by any political party in last four years. It was a real tsunami for real revolution. Independent observers believe the PPP rally in Ghotki was attended by two million people people. Previously, on October, 18, 2007, it was also Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which had gathered about 3.5 millions Pakistanis of all ethnicities and faiths to wellcome Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, to support democracy in Pakistan and to oust a military dictator from the country. It was largest ever public gathering in the history of Pakistan. The number of people was record high and we saw that in general elections in 2008, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) emerged as victorious. Yet, again, people have expressed their solidarity with PPP in Kamoo Shaheed on may 12, 2012. I appreciate Mr. Abdul Nishapuri’s analysis of the PPP rally at Kamoo Shaheed (border of Sindh and south Punjab also called Siraikistan): “Millions of Pakistanis (estimated to be two millions) belonging to Sindh, Sarikistan, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and other areas of Pakistan gathered in this area to express their support for democracy, in particular for the Pakistan Peoples Party and its leaders President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.” But question arises why two millions people came out in the favour of PM and current PPP government? I am not going to exaggerate but fact is that current PPP government has resolved so many issues of our country. During the general elections campaign PPP chairperson Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was murdered in cold blood by the very forces which did not want to see democracy take root in the country. And then a new government was formed. However, now it is being targeted by an increasingly hostile media, judiciary and army (the Teen Jeem trio). The frequent suo motu notices taken by the Supreme Court were putting the government in a very vulnerable situation where it constantly has to fight for its survival. Who restored the judiciary? Who settled the long- standing disagreements over the National Finance Commission? Who guaranteed provincial autonomy through the 18th Amendment? Who passed the 19th Amendment and 20th amendment? While some people say that these do not affect the common man in any tangible way, the effects of passing such legislation is going to be positive for the country — though they may take effect in the long run. PPP government has facilitated people and thousands of jobs have been created during its current tenure and people are very very happy with this current government. People of Pakistan believe that this is the peoples government, this is the reason why they have displayed show of power and people have announced their verdict on 12th may. Prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did not write letter to Swiss authrities to re-open graft cases against President of Pakistan, because President enjoys national and international immunity under the law under the constitution of Pakistan. So, he got convicted to uphlod constitution. Moreover, it is not written in the detailed verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) that the Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani is to step down or be removed from office or disqualified. Only the political orphans demand his resignation. In fact, they are devoid of wisdom and they lack the wit to interpret SC detailed verdict, or get the message from the two millions people’s rally and both Houses’ resolution in the favour of PM. Political orphans should develop moral courage to face the realities instead of pushing whole nation in trouble by highlighting their self-manufactured issues.

Feasibility of Gwadar Port

While the government of Pakistan has invested billions of rupees in constructing Gwadar Port for the development of Balochistan province over a long period of time, it has failed to evoke the widely-anticipated response from the "users of the facility". As such, it was only natural that questions about the feasibility of this important project would be asked at some stage. According to reliable reports, in a recent meeting to review the progress on the project, the Planning Commission assured the Balochistan government of its full support for making the Gwadar port fully functional and completing the necessary road network to link it with other parts of the country, but asked the provincial government to review the port's feasibility, keeping in view its economic viability. The Deputy Chairman Planning Commission is reported to have remarked that "most development projects in the country have been launched without properly preparing a feasibility report" and it was imperative to ensure that Gwadar port was a viable project instead of making ambitious claims and proposals. He also asked officials of the Gwadar Port Authority to explain why the Singapore Port Authority, which had been awarded contract for port operations by the Musharraf government, for 40 years, was not working at the project. The security situation and other matters related to the project were also discussed in that meeting. Chief Minister of Balochistan is reported to have complained about the non-implementation of the Balochistan package and the failure of the Federal government to issue the notification for appointing the Balochistan Chief Minister as the Chairman of the Gwadar Port Authority. Although, the above episode about the feasibility of Gwadar Port may appear to be rather insignificant or uncalled for, especially at a time when the project is almost complete, it is very pregnant for a number of reasons. To put it rather mildly, the remarks of the Deputy Chairman have simply strengthened the prevailing perception that political considerations rather than economic imperatives greatly determine the choice of certain important and highly expensive projects in the country and the Planning Commission is an almost irrelevant entity in such cases. Such a situation is of course against the long-term economic interest of the country, because the country's scarce resources are largely frittered away and not used in an optimal fashion. The harmful effects of such poor economic management could be visualised from the fact that the Gwadar Port was not an isolated case, but a number of other projects have also been thrust upon the nation on non-economic grounds. Add to this other entirely politically motivated projects like Sasti Roti, green cabs and houses and rampant corruption in the system to estimate the extent of wastage of resources and their sub-optimal utilization in aggregate terms. Some of the projects were so badly planned and carelessly executed to please certain circles that the country is now known as a graveyard of projects. It is really mind-boggling that while this was happening, the Planning Commission looked the other way or was a silent spectator all along and did not bother to raise questions about the justification of its existence. There is absolutely no doubt that the situation has to change drastically, if economic development and welfare of ordinary people are the real goals. For this, feasibility of all the competing projects have to be prepared and compared purely on professional grounds and only those projects have to be selected for completion which promise the highest yields for the country's economy and are within our means. Gwadar Port may not pass such a test but we are happy that somebody in the Planning Commission has finally spoken his mind, probably with a view to optimising the potential of a country's resources, reversing the old order and placing the economy on a sound footing. Ill-conceived projects, and therefore injudicious spending, are always an abstraction.

US to pay additional $365m a year for NATO supply

The cost of the US-led war effort in Afghanistan is about to rise by $365 million annually under an agreement that would reopen a key NATO supply route through Pakistan that s been closed for nearly six months, an American magazine has reported. The accord, which the Pakistani government announced late Tuesday, would revive the transport of vital supplies of food and equipment from Pakistani ports overland to land-locked Afghanistan. In return, the US-led coalition will pay Pakistan a still-to-be-fixed fee of $1,500 to $1,800 for each truck carrying supplies, a tab that officials familiar with negotiations estimated would run nearly $1 million a day. The officials requested anonymity because they weren t authorized to reveal details of the agreement. In return, the US is asking Pakistan to provide security for the supplies, which are trucked through the country by private local transport companies, and much speedier clearance of customs and checkpoints. The NATO traffic in and out of Afghanistan through Pakistan is anticipated to be as many as 600 trucks a day between now and the end of next year. In a major climb-down, Pakistan dropped its demand that Washington apologize for the deaths due to the November raids. There was also no agreement to end controversial strikes by American drone aircraft against suspected militants in Pakistan s tribal area, as demanded by a cross-party resolution of Pakistan s Parliament.

Veena Malik on controversies, “If I sneeze tomorrow, it’s going to be breaking news.”

Veena Malik
is synonymous to “controversy”, “publicity” and “scandal” but there is much more to this well-known Pakistani artist who made her foray into Bollywood with the much hyped item song ‘Channo’ from Gali Gali Main Shor Hai this year. Veena was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and worked as an actress and comedian for the last twelve years in her home country. She has appeared in about nine Pakistani films and many more TV shows but her breakthrough came after the actress was offered to take part in India’s reality TV show Bigg Boss in 2010. Malik is often involved in controversies and a recent nude FHM India magazine cover made headlines worldwide as the initials of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency were written on her upper arm. In an interview with BollySpice reporter Sunny Malik, the actress talked about Bigg Boss, movies, friends and much more. How has the trip to London been so far? It has been busy and hectic. That was not the idea. I wanted to just roam around and shop a little bit. I love the culture and heritage of London. It has been a bit chilly and I don’t like that kind of weather. I ended up giving so many interviews that it has ended up somewhat like a PR tour. It’s okay and going great but I am overwhelmed with the response I have got from the UK media. It was amazing.You were known in Pakistan but got worldwide fame after going to India in 2010. How did it come about? I got an offer from India and no one would have refused such a huge offer as undoubtedly, Bigg Boss is the biggest reality show in India. I did not really know what the show was all about. I was so busy working that I did not know what these Indian reality shows are all about. But I shared the news with my younger sister, as she is very fond of Indian reality shows, she told me not to miss this opportunity. I watched a bit of it on YouTube and they sent me a contract and after speaking with them for about two to three months, they made me realise that I should go for it. Probably, why I took up this opportunity was because the idea is amazing. You are in this house with fourteen different strangers and you are completely disconnected with the outer world. For me, that was thrilling and nice.Did it hurt you that the criticism was coming from your home country? Even after the FHM issue, Veena Malik was on one side and Pakistan on the other.
I don’t understand a few things. People are always looking at the negative side of things. People have criticised me a lot but at the same time there has been a large group of people in Pakistan who has been supporting me. Girls, boys, bloggers, media groups have been a big support. I have read things like “She is the liberal face of Pakistan”, “She is a Hero” etc. I have fans in Pakistan, especially girls, who keep tweeting me not to change as they look at me as an inspiration. But yes, I had criticism from Pakistan. But people have to understand that there people are either conservative or liberal in Pakistan. I have been living a liberal lifestyle and yes, there are conservatives but they are everywhere in the world. Even in India, people react to things, in the UK, US and everywhere. I don’t mind the criticism but they should be appreciating the things I have done for the country. I promoted my language on the show and I still remember that people there ended up speaking Urdu (laughs). I at least deserve that credit. I was angry and upset but at the same time, I can’t say that I don’t love them because I do.How does it feel now that you and Ali Zafar are promoting Pakistan in a positive way in India and worldwide? I don’t know about the work that Ali Zafar is doing as he is just doing films. If you ask me, I would never compare my work with Ali Zafar. He is only doing films for himself and nothing else. The first thing I did in India was sponsor a girl child and at the same time, I have been part in so many other various activities in India like PETA. I am also appearing on various talk shows as I believe that love and harmony should be there between these two countries. They should move on about the things that happened in the past. But India has been amazing to me. I am getting so many offers that three films have been completed and two films are on being shot. Three more films will start by the end of this year. The biggest reality shows are being offered to me and at the same time I am a part of the Fashion industry. You were recently seen in an item song. Do you think doing item songs is important ? I don’t know if it is important or not. The leading Bollywood actors are doing them. I received an offer and I said okay. I have a great love for item numbers. I like these raunchy, sexy beautiful item numbers. I will be seen doing more item numbers as I have a great love for them. The spice of Bollywood films is item numbers. Whom would you call your friend from the Indian film industry? Recently, I have been very busy and initially I used to be a different person. I used to have a shell around me because I am a private person. I don’t easily allow people to penetrate and get to know me. It is very difficult for me to make friends. I have a working relationship with so many people. We have a good understanding but when it comes to personal friendship, I do not have any friends in India. I have many friends because of my work. When my work is over, the friendship is over. (laughs) You are called controversies’ child. What is it with you and all these controversies? I don’t know. If I sneeze tomorrow, it’s going to be breaking news. Which are your upcoming films? I have three different films coming up and all of them are different. I have chosen to be part of female centric films. I don’t want to be part of a film where I am doing two songs and four scenes. One is Mumbai 125 km which will release soon; I am not sure about the release date yet. This film will be released in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telegu. It’s a 3D horror thriller where I am playing the leading role but there are three other characters in the film. The entire story revolves around my character. I have done a lot of action sequences in the film. Are you choosy about what films you want to be part of? Yes, but only films even the shows I do. I have been very selective. It’s not like I will do anything that comes my way. Even if it’s the biggest banner and tomorrow they come to me with two songs and four scenes, I will never go for that. My second film is Zindagi 50/50, a serious social drama where I am playing a sex worker. It’s a very beautiful film and my role is not imaginary. It’s based on a real person who exists in Mumbai. I am also making sure that every film I am signing, I play a different character from the other. My third movie is Daal Main Kuch Kaala Hai which is a comedy. I will star another film soon called Rajni Ki Lag Gayi and another one called Supermodel. I have a few other films but I haven’t signed the contract yet.

Saudi monarchy against democratic reform in Bahrain

Security forces attacked the protesters in several villages on Tuesday night. They fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters in the villages of Sitra and Dair. They also arrested several youngsters in Dar Kulaib. The latest developments come as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is set to discuss Bahrain’s rights record in the upcoming session of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in Geneva. We have conducted an interview with Hisham Jaber, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, to hear his opinion on this issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview. Q: Let us start with the regime’s crackdown on the villages and cities in Bahrain. How far are the Al Khalifa willing to go to quell the protest and how long will the Saudis be involved in the persecuting of peaceful demonstrators? Jaber: First of all we have to remember that Bahrain revolution has more than one year all almost 14-15 months and has been always peaceful and many observers were surprised that how can this kind of revolution stay peaceful that long specially on the other side violence has been used within 15 months against protesters. Talking about the regime in Bahrain, I am personally confident that the king of Bahrain want deeply inside have a solution for the crisis in his country and want a real reform but he is first king Hamad by inside objection represented by the right wing, the extremist prime minister or other members of the family who do not want any reform because they [fear] for their interest and their power. On [one hand] an external pressure against any reform in Bahrain made by Saudi Arabia, everybody knows that any democracy or human rights or equality or freedom in Bahrain will move quickly to Saudi Arabia and as everybody knows that democracy is contagious. On the other hand we have United States of America who did not take any final decision concerning Bahrain yet because Bahrain represents for America a military important platform like aircraft carrier and Bahrain asked the Fifth American Fleet and America is very concerned about its interest in Bahrain because to Bahrain the American operation can go easily and on the whole region. So the Americans want to be sure that any reform in Bahrain will not threaten their interest. I think now the problem will be much more complicated in Bahrain if the king or his government will not find a quick solution and make a quick election and respect the democracy also because this peaceful revolution cannot stay like this without violence because the people cannot stay receiving arms from the security forces and from the Saudi forces who came to Bahrain and as we see the human rights organization start now to look after Bahrain and to see there is a human rights violation in Bahrain. This is [on the] one hand. On the other hand when Saudi Arabia came with the idea to form a union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, in my opinion is very dangerous and it is not feasible, it is not logical and it will really complicate the problem in state of solving this problem.

Bahrain activist says charge over tweets 'vindictive'

Prominent Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab
told a court on Wednesday that a charge that he tweeted insults against the government was "vindictive," as dozens of lawyers turned up to defend him. "The charge against me is vindictive and is due to my rights activism," Rajab told a judge at Manama's Minor Criminal Court, insisting the decision to arrest and try him was political, according to witnesses. "I only practiced my right to free expression. I did not commit a crime. The decision to arrest me and put me on trial was a political decision," he said. More than 50 lawyers, both men and women, gathered at the court to defend Rajab, who has been leading protests following a brutal crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in March 2011. The judge adjourned the trial to Sunday, and ordered Rajab to stay behind bars. Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was detained on May 5 for "insulting a statutory body via Twitter". He also faces a trial for taking part in a Manama demonstration three months ago. The activist has insisted on demonstrating inside Manama, unlike the main Shiite opposition which now stages its protests in Shiite villages, after last year's clampdown on protesters who occupied the capital's Pearl Square for a month. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Bahraini authorities to drop charges against Rajab. "The charges against Nabeel Rajab are nothing more than attempts to silence one of the Bahraini government's most prominent critics," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based watchdog. "Authorities should immediately drop these charges and release him," he said in a statement. Despite being a veteran critic of authorities in the Gulf kingdom, Rajab has been spared imprisonment in the wide wave of arrests that targeted activists after security forces quelled the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, possibly for his international exposure and links with rights groups. Another activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is the former head of the BCHR, has been on a hunger strike in prison since February 8. He faces a life sentence among other leading opposition activists. Bahrain has repeatedly come under pressure from rights groups as well as Western governments to release Khawaja, who was arrested in April last year. London-based rights group Amnesty International says 60 people have been killed since the uprising began in mid-February 2011.

UN must take action on Bahrain

The UN Human Rights Council will discuss Bahrain's human rights record in its upcoming Universal Periodic Review on May 21st in Geneva. Press TV has interviewed Paul Wolf, human rights and international lawyer from Washington about the authority of the UN Human Rights Council and how the UN can help resolve the Bahrain crisis. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview. Press TV: From a legal point of view how significant is any UPR review (Universal Periodic Review) of Bahrain? And looking at the past as well, another Press TV guest has pointed out that Bahrain's review in the past has always been positive because of US pressure - How much of an influence will that as well have on the proceedings? Wolf: Of course the UN does not really have much enforcement authority. The only enforcement the UN can do is really through the Security Council or occasionally UN member states can organize some things like that, but essentially the Human rights Council, it has a moral authority and the credibility is what it brings to bear not its ability to enforce any kind of a legal judgment. I think that is actually a good role for the UN. I think the UN is playing a positive in Syria and I think it also can in Bahrain by being a referee and facilitating negotiations. I think that other states such as the US and Saudi Arabia are trying to support a very unpopular rule in Bahrain and it's really interfering in the internal affairs because Bahrain is a people it's a country - it's not the al-Khalifa government. So for foreign countries to be seen supporting this very unpopular government is interference and the correct thing to do is to involve a fairly neutral group such as the UN and really I would like to see the UN doing something more like what it's doing in Syria where it's trying to enforce a ceasefire by using observers. But at least if we have the Human rights Council trying to keep that aspect of the situation under control in Bahrain, I think that's very positive. Press TV: In the case that the UPR does review Bahrain in an unbiased manner and finds that it is guilty of human rights violations, what can the Council in fact actually do then? Wolf: No, the Council can't do anything. The UN is often criticized because it doesn't have any ability to enforce its decisions and what we normally see is a situation deteriorates to the point where they have to step in. So, that is obviously a disaster whenever it does occur. So what we would like see - we like to see observers come and look at things like human rights violation and then try to get a dialogue going in terms of not just stopping the human rights violations, but also a ceasefire between the parties. I think that is the solution in all of these countries including Bahrain, is actually a ceasefire. So in answer to your question the UN really doesn't have the authority - the Human Rights Council particularly - to do anything. It simply has its credibility and its moral authority and hopefully people will respect the UN and the UN will be able to play that role. Press TV: You are a human rights and law expert. From your point of view what can be done in a legal sense to hold the Bahraini monarchy accountable? Wolf: I should have checked, but presuming that Bahrain is a member of the International Criminal Court, you know, anyone that commits war crimes can be held in the International Criminal Court. Most countries are members, the US is not. The ICC will try to exercise universal jurisdiction. That means if someone who committed war crimes in Bahrain goes into one of those member countries like England or Germany or Belgium where they believe in the ICC and will bring in those kinds of case. But it's difficult really because Bahrain is a sovereign government, so the officials of the Bahraini government have sovereignty and it's a principle of international law really that you can't put another nation's citizens on trial so we have very limited ways we can do that and the main one is through the International Criminal Court. But I think if you follow the ICC, they're having difficulty even bringing the most obvious cases, the biggest human rights cases and cases that are really old and well-recognized so I think enforcement is difficult to be honest with you.

Oil extraction in N. Afghanistan to begin in 5 months

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines has announced that oil extraction from the northern Amu Darya Basin will begin during the next five months, Press TV reports. Ministry officials noted that an estimated daily amount of 5,000 barrels of crude will be extracted from the basin in the initial phase of the plan. The figure will increase to 45,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the later phases of development. Amu Darya Basin is situated in Faryab and Sar-e Pol provinces in northern Afghanistan and, based on Afghan government’s estimate, contains about 87 million barrels of crude oil. The Afghan government has signed a contract with China National Petroleum Corporation for oil extraction from Amu Darya Basin and the company has taken preliminary measures in this regard. The Afghan government has also signed a deal with a Dubai-based Canadian company to start oil exploration in other areas in the northern part of the country. Despite reports on the abundance of natural resources in Afghanistan, many experts still believe that it is too early to talk about the exact value of those reserves.

G8 and NATO-athon, with Pakistan at the table

It's the diplomatic equivalent of hosting both the World Cup and the World Series in the same country on the same weekend. On Saturday President Obama welcomes the leaders of the world's most powerful countries to the G8 conference at his country retreat at Camp David in Maryland. And the next day he hosts some two dozen NATO heads of state in Chicago. The challenges of this Diplopaloozaa include some complicated logistics: How do you get eight world leaders and their delegations comfortably situated in the rustic wood chalets that make up Camp David, and which has never hosted this many heads of state before? And the challenges, of course, also involve trying to resolve some very knotty problems: -- In a time of contracting budgets, what kinds of commitments are plausible for NATO countries to make to Afghanistan after the alliance withdraws all its combat troops from the country in 2014?What to do about the civil war in Syria? In a significant and symbolic development, Pakistan's President Asif Zardari has accepted NATO's offer to attend the Chicago summit, according to Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Sherry Rehman. Given that the summit's principal focus will be the future of Afghanistan, a discussion without the participation of Pakistan would have been a bit like trying to stage "Hamlet" without Hamlet appearing on stage. Right now Pakistan is blocking the transit of critical NATO supplies over Pakistani roads to Afghanistan. Still, the vital air corridor across Pakistani airspace into Afghanistan remains open. Pakistan closed the ground routes in protest after NATO forces killed about two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November at a post on the Afghan-Pakistan border, in what NATO has termed an accident. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday raised the possibility of reopening those ground supply routes to Afghanistan, saying their closure was "important to make a point. Pakistan has made a point and now we can move on." In addition to an agreement on reopening the supply routes, the Obama administration hopes to obtain greater Pakistani involvement in peace talks with the Taliban. A senior administration official says that there is evidence that the "reconciliation" process with the Taliban -- which the United States has been quietly moving forward with for many months -- has split the Taliban movement; some elements of the Taliban are interested in reconciliation, while others are "very upset" about this idea. The assassination on Sunday of Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister who was negotiating between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents -- an attack that has been claimed by a breakaway Taliban faction -- would seem to underline this point. A key issue that will be discussed in Chicago is who will pay for the Afghan army and police after the NATO drawdown. The expected end strength of the Afghan national security forces will be around 350,000 by 2015, although that is expected to fall to 230,000 by 2017. The costs to pay for this are estimated to run around $4 billion a year after 2014, and the Afghan government can pay only a small fraction of it. Although the Obama administration "won't be passing the hat," U.S. officials expect that some NATO countries will announce in Chicago commitments to pay for the Afghan army and police post-2014. At the Camp David meeting one of the most complex problems that will be discussed is what to do about the conflict in Syria. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan reached an agreement with Syrian President Bashir Assad in April that Assad would observe a ceasefire and pull back his soldiers from urban areas where Assad's forces have killed thousands. The senior administration official says, "We have been very skeptical about the Annan plan. We have not seen Assad fulfill any part of the deal." At Camp David, the administration plans to discuss measures about how to hold Assad accountable for his violations of the ceasefire and the human rights of his people. It will be a long weekend for President Obama and his team. There appear to be no good options in Syria and, like most Americans, NATO countries have grown very weary of the long war in Afghanistan.

Ready or not, Afghan security transfer accelerating

NATO forces are here until 2014,
but each day the demands on them lessen as Afghan forces take on more responsibility. Earlier this week, the latest tranche of the security transfer process was announced. A third swathe of Afghanistan will see Afghan national forces take the lead on security, with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) scaled back into to a supporting role only. Most taxpayers funding the decade of war in Afghanistan won't have heard of many of the regions affected, but this tranche is particularly significant because three quarters of the country will now be under the control of Afghan security forces. On Sunday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said once the move is implemented, "transition will have begun in every one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, including every provincial capital."But some of the areas involved in this latest handover are surprising. The most striking is Kandahar City, the former Taliban stronghold that has embodied the brutal struggle of the Afghan conflict for ISAF forces, as progress has been neither universal nor permanent. There are other small surprises: Half the districts in Nurestan -- a huge mountainous region that straddles the border with Pakistan and has become as close to an insurgent safe haven as Afghanistan has -- were handed over, as were a third of the districts in Paktika, another border enclave for insurgents. Uruzgan, a volatile region in the center of the country where Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said progress has been so pronounced her soldiers can start to come home early, was also handed over. Afghan officials are in favor of an early transition while there are enough ISAF troops around to step in if the insurgency proves a match for the Afghan military. It's probable they will, as the Taliban have given the NATO-led military machine a run for its money. Meanwhile, the fight for localized power may overcome any sentiments of nationalism that would enable Afghan soldiers to be comparatively welcome in villages and towns across the country. The risk here is front-loaded, which is as much a reflection of the pressing ISAF timetable as it is of progress in security. Within a few months -- when this third tranche has passed -- only a quarter of Afghans will have security provided by ISAF. The timetable for withdrawal, although pinned to the distant marker of the end of 2014, is speeding up as the calls for an end to this costly and unpopular war get louder, from Canberra to Washington. The key fact for the months ahead, and for the NATO summit in Chicago later this month, is that the United States predicts its forces will be in a non-combat role by mid-2013. That means they'll be off the battlefield about 18 months earlier than the end of the NATO mission. This is a big deal for one simple reason: ISAF anticipates at the end of this year having about 68,000 American troops to play with, and thousands more allies. Next year the numbers will come down further -- at a "steady pace" for the Americans, as President Obama promised. But being in a non-combat role is, you might argue, something you don't need 68,000-plus soldiers for. There are units out there now who already believe much of their job involves packing up and handing over, that their fight is pretty much over already. The real question still to be answered though is how much does -- or can -- the Taliban want to push ISAF and the Afghan forces this summer? Do they have the unified command or muscle, or have talks about peace talks shattered their unity of purpose? For now we just don't know. However, the weekend assassination of a senior Afghan official involved in setting up peace talks with the Taliban, as well as the deaths of two ISAF troops in an IED attack, suggests the security situation remains far from stable. United Nations figures on security incidents judged 2011 the most violent year on record, and ISAF's own count of violence -- attacks against them or their partners -- showed that while incidents dropped nationwide, they rose to record levels in the key areas of the south and east. It remains unclear whether this summer will be as violent, or, if the Taliban continues its campaign of roadside bombs, assassinations and high-profile attacks on NATO targets in Kabul, whether Afghans will feel safer regardless of what the numbers say. There have also been some curious casualty figures among international forces in the first three months of this year. According to the U.S. Army and ISAF, insurgents did not cause almost two thirds of American deaths from January to March. They were a result of accidents such as helicopter crashes, natural causes, or the new scourge of the campaign: "Green on blue shootings," when men in Afghan uniform shoot ISAF personnel.

Afghans hurt by Pakistan blockade

Pakistan's president says he will go to Chicago for a NATO summit on Afghanistan, which is an indication that Pakistan may be willing to reopen the coalition's supply routes into Afghanistan.Pakistan blocked the routes in November in protest over a US air raid that killed 24 Pakistani troops.The closures, a consequence of a major dispute between Pakistan and the US, have also affected Afghan citizens' lives for the worse. Jennifer Glass reports from Kabul, where the blockade has prevented some schools from receiving much needed supplies.

Pakistan backs quick deal on NATO supplies

Pakistan said Wednesday it had ordered officials to finalise an agreement as quickly as possible on lifting a six-month blockade on overland NATO supplies into war-torn Afghanistan. Islamabad has stopped short of announcing when the transit lines will reopen, but has signalled President Asif Ali Zardari will attend key talks on Afghanistan in Chicago on May 20-21, after a last-minute invitation from NATO. The country shut its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies on November 26 after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. As a result, Pakistani-US relations -- already frayed by the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden -- plunged into their worst crisis since Islamabad joined the United States in the war on Al-Qaeda after 9/11.
Now Pakistani and US officials are locked in talks to finalise a deal on again allowing thousands of trucks and oil tankers to carry non-lethal supplies from the southern port city of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan. Asked if there was any deadline for the talks, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said: "There is no deadline. All departments have been asked to conclude their negotiations in the quickest possible time." The cabinet on Wednesday welcomed NATO's invitation to Zardari, clearing the way for him to travel to the May 20-21 summit, and it is thought unlikely he would be willing to risk the wrath of Western leaders if the supply lines have not been restored. By going to Chicago, Pakistan hopes to ease its international isolation and boost its leverage over the future of Afghanistan, as Western countries pull out their combat forces by 2014. But Islamabad has essentially been forced to climb down on demands for an American apology for the air strikes and an end to drone strikes targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda on its soil. Sources familiar with the talks say transit fees for the vehicles are the main sticking point and the border will probably reopen by early next week. Islamabad is looking to more than double the payments, which could earn the country up to $1 million a day. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani advised against "emotional decisions, which do not augur well for us in the long run". He told the cabinet that relations with NATO and the United States were at "a delicate phase where we need to take critical decisions" for Pakistan's "strategic importance" in the region and in its national interest. Analysts say Pakistan had no choice but capitulate to international pressure to reopen the border, with US cash needed to help boost its meagre state coffers as the government prepares to seek re-election. The State Department said "considerable progress" had been made on ending the blockade. "We will continue to work on this throughout the week. Obviously, it'll be a wonderful signal if we can get it done by the time of the summit," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. But the Pakistani government is likely to face an angry backlash over the U-turn from opposition, right-wing and religious parties keen to exploit rampant anti-American sentiment in an election year. Nor is lifting the blockade likely to solve other problems in the relationship between Pakistan and the United States. American officials remain deeply distrustful of Pakistan, whose territory is used by Taliban and other Afghan insurgents who have been fighting US troops for more than a decade. Pakistan is still smarting from the American raid that killed bin Laden last year and deeply resents American calls to do more to clamp down on militant safe havens. The United States has made increasing use of other routes into Afghanistan and the Pakistan supply routes now constitute as little as 25 percent of what NATO needs to sustain itself. The United States has guaranteed payment of at least $1.1 billion should the borders reopen as compensation for fighting militants, although Pakistan believes it is owed far more, one source said.

Shahbaz instigating masses against federation

Punjab Assembly opposition leader Raja Riaz Ahmed has asked Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to prove his promises made at the second Energy Summit held on April 9th. Talking to APP, he said the Shahbaz-led Punjab government, instead of fulfilling its promises of working for electricity generation and conservation, is instigating industrialists and other communities on the power issue in an attempt to weaken the federation of Pakistan. Riaz reminded the chief minister about his commitment of ensuring two public-holidays in a week as well as closing markets and shopping malls at 8 pm daily to support the federal government’s efforts for energy conservation. Contrary to his promises at the Summit, he added, the Punjab CM was yet to implement this decision. He asserted that instead of taking the energy issue seriously, Shahbaz Sharif is now resorting to instigating the masses against the federation, while encouraging and patronising the mobs and street protests against power outages. “Shahbaz Sharif is doing this to conceal his mismanagement by blaming the federal government for various issues,” he said. To a question, Riaz said it was also decided in the summit that the provincial governments will initiate small power projects of up to 50 megawatt capacity, but the PML-N led government in Punjab did not implement the decision. He said Sharif has spent public money on projects such as for distributing laptops to students and the Yellow Cab Scheme, that do not benefited the masses but heavily obliged all his cronies. All the PML-N initiatives are meant to gain cheap political mileage and a preparation for the next general election, while, shelving public issues like the energy crisis, he added. The opposition leader observed that the CM’s attitude reflects that the PML-N has no political will to pull the country out of the energy crisis as well as to ensure the provision of relief to the masses. The PML-N leadership is striving only to multiply its own assets, he said. Raja Riaz said despite the fact that Prime Minister Gilani had emphasised upon the provinces to play their due role in the efforts for power generation, the Punjab government was ignoring its commitment to help the federal government overcome the power shortage. To another question, the opposition leader said President Zardari had also issued strict directives to the authorities concerned for taking effective measures to enhance hydel-power generation as well as exploring and utilising all other alternative energy means available in the country. Riaz said that federal government was committed to energy security for the people of Pakistan and its strategy was to ensure sustainable supply of power at competitive prices to all sectors. He quoted the prime minister as saying at the Energy Summit, that the federal government’s strategy involves exploitation of hydropower to reduce the cost of inputs; developing coal reserves for power generation and also converting plants from oil to coal in the interim, developing and encouraging use of renewable energy resources, increasing emphasis on nuclear energy resources; accelerating exploration and production of oil and gas reserves including off-shore drilling; targeted subsidies for the lowest slab users; encouraging use of LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) and import of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) to meet gas requirement; recognising the role of provinces in power generation, and energy efficiency and conservation. Riaz said since its inception, the PPP-led federal government has been taking comprehensive measures to bridge the electricity demand and supply gap, citing that investment in the energy sector was not significant before 2008, while the previous regime had not made any effort to cap hydel and coal potential and not a single megawatt of electricity had been added to the national grid. He said the present government has the credit of generating an additional 4000 MW of electricity.

Sectarian violence: Hazara community under attack in Quetta

The Express Tribune
After an interval of a few weeks, sectarian targeted killings resumed in Quetta on Tuesday morning as two brothers belonging to the Hazara community were gunned down outside the regional passport office near Joint Road. According to a senior police officer, Mohammad Tahir and Mohmmad Qadir had come to the post office to get their passports made and were attacked outside the main gate of the office at 7.15 am. The assailants were on a motorcycle and fled the scene after opening fire at the two brothers. “Both men died on the spot and another man of the Hazara community received bullet wounds,” police said. The bodies and injured were taken to Sandeman hospital where stringent security measures were adopted to thwart another attempted attack. The injured, identified as Manzoor Ali, was referred to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for security reasons, sources in the hospital said. “It was sectarian target shooting,” another senior investigating officer said. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the assault. It is pertinent to mention here that around 28 people of Hazara community have been killed in the recent spate of target killings this year. Some police officers investigating sectarian killings, such as SSP Crime Investigation Department Shahnawaz Khan and sub-inspector Sayed Jamal Shah were also gunned down in Quetta in the recent past. On the other hand, some religious scholars of Sunni sect were also victims of targeted attacks in the provincial capital and religious parties believe that some elements are trying to instigate sectarian violence in Balochistan.

ANP to support govt on Nato supply resumption

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Wednesday said his party (Awami National Party) would support whatever decisions the federal government takes regarding the resumption of Nato supplies. Speaking to media representatives here, the provincial minister said the decision taken by the federal government with regard to Nato supplies would be in the best interest of the country, however, he hoped that the recommencement of the supplies would come with certain conditions. “Those who granted permission for Nato supplies through Pakistan are now making hue and cry,” he added. Replying to a question regarding the fresh wave of terror attacks, the minister said it was a temporary situation and hoped that the government would soon overcome the crisis. The minister categorically said that stern action would be taken against “terrorists no matter wherever they are”. The security forces have successfully carried out operations against terrorists in different parts of the province, he said, adding that actions against militants would continue.

Thar coal exploration

First Australians, then Japan last year, followed by the United States in January this year and now Germany has shown keenness in investing to the exploration of huge Thar coal reserves, one of the largest in the world, for the production of electricity and gas. China is also said to be not far behind. Nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarkmand, chairperson of the governing body of the project, is working on a project to produce 2,300MW from coal-fired power plants and this is said to be in an advanced stage of execution in four to five years. However, he has, of late, been in the firing range of the lobbies which probably don"t want the exploitation of this enormous gift of nature. One of them is the furnace oil lobby which even influenced a member of the Planning Commission of Pakistan to assert that the project is not feasible and that it was begun without a feasibility report. Another example is that Australian authorities had also been planning to shut down the 30MW power generation project because it was also not said to be feasible. One of the major factors for delay is the release of funds by the federal government which made available only $10 million during the last three years although it was committed to release $115 million during the period. What more evidence can be found in the project being feasible than burning of coal about 250 feet underground at Islamkot area of Thar in December last year in addition to successfully finding of gas in this coalfield. Dr Mubarikmand has said that Pakistan has gigantic potential of power generation over decades. Meanwhile, tender for power plant has been floated to generate 100MW electricity and the project is expected to be executed soon after the funds are made available. Estimates about the project in hand say that these limited coal resources will hopefully generate 10,000MW electricity for 30 years and produce 100 million barrel diesel each year. The project is to cost Rs9 billion with a foreign exchange component of Rs6 billion that was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council last year. Latest reports suggest that four more coal wells were set on fire last week and, as a result, gas production from these will hopefully begin by the end of May. A flame will be lit from gas as emission begins from these wells towards the end of this month. Dr. Samar has said that through underground gasification technology, electricity can be generated at Rs3 to 4 per unit while diesel can be produced at $40 per barrel. The average rate of power production through furnace oil comes to Rs20 per megawatt. How critically vital Thar coal is for the country, needs no emphasis. But the government will have to demonstrate it really feels its importance and take matching measures to complete the project. This emphasis is unfortunately missing so far.