Friday, July 27, 2012

U.S. And Pakistan Tense Talk in Conference

Tensions flared between the United States and Pakistan on Friday, as two top officials traded accusations of doing too little to combat Taliban sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tart exchange between the officials, Douglas E. Lute, President Obama’s top adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, took place during a conference in this bucolic mountain setting. Under questioning from Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes,” Ms. Rehman, speaking on videoconference from Washington, said that Pakistani Taliban fighters, who have taken refuge in two remote provinces in eastern Afghanistan, were increasingly carrying out rocket attacks and cross-border raids against Pakistan. “These are critical masses of people that come in; this is not just potshots,” Ms. Rehman said. She said that on 52 different occasions in the last eight months Pakistan had provided to American and NATO commanders in Afghanistan the locations from which the militants were attacking, to no avail. Immediately, Mr. Lute, a retired three-star Army general and deputy national security adviser who rarely speaks in public, fired back. “There’s no comparison of the Pakistani Taliban’s relatively recent, small-in-scale presence inside Afghanistan to the decades-long experience and relationship between elements of the Pakistani government and the Afghan Taliban,” he said. “To compare these is simply unfair.” Pakistani officials have long faced criticism from Americans and Afghans for what they say is their failure to stop militant assaults originating from safe havens in Pakistan, often with the complicity of Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. But in the past several months, Pakistani officials have started accusing American and allied officials of the same problem coming from Afghanistan. Just last month, Afghan-based Taliban militants crossed into Pakistan to kill at least 13 Pakistani soldiers, beheading some of them, the military said. A senior Pakistani military official said at the time that more than 100 Taliban militants armed with heavy weapons had crossed the border in the attack. After the raid, the militants retreated back into Afghanistan. Pakistani Taliban fighters fled into Afghanistan starting in the summer of 2009 after a major assault by the Pakistani military on the Swat Valley in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Many have taken refuge in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, areas where they have strengthened their presence as American forces have withdrawn. Pakistani officials say that two senior Taliban commanders — Maulana Fazlullah from Swat and Faqir Muhammad from Bajaur — are taking refuge there while their fighters plan attacks in Pakistan. “We’re feeling a little bit of blowback from ISAF redeployments along the border,” Ms. Rehman said, referring to the NATO command in Afghanistan. The barbed exchange came during a wide-ranging 90-minute panel discussion in the Aspen Security Forum at the Aspen Institute here. The New York Times is a media sponsor of the four-day conference. At the beginning of the session, it seemed that Mr. Lute and Ms. Rehman were intent on building upon the recently agreed deal to reopen NATO supply lines into Afghanistan. Ms. Rehman said that the two countries had experienced “an extraordinarily difficult period” after an American airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at an outpost near the Afghan border last November, but that they were still staunch allies. Mr. Lute said the countries shared the vital interests of defeating Al Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan. But the bonhomie did not last long. Ms. Rehman also criticized the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone strikes in Pakistan, saying they had reached the point of “diminishing returns” while also whipping up anti-American sentiment in the country. “This adds to the pool of recruits we’re fighting against,” she said.

Afghan president issues decree to curb corruption

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is under pressure from the international community to do more to battle corruption, has issued an ambitious list of government reforms that orders his ministries, prosecutors and judiciary to fight bribery, nepotism and cronyism. Karzai's 23-page decree also instructs officials to clear the attorney general's office and the courts of languishing corruption-related cases and do more than talk about bringing crooked figures to justice. Donor nations have long expressed concern about corruption within the Afghan government and $16 billion in aid pledged this month at a Tokyo conference is tied to a new monitoring process to assure that the money is not diverted by corrupt officials or mismanaged. Karzai has blamed international contracting procedures for some of the problem. In the decree, Karzai also repeated his request that high-ranking government officials or their relatives do not get rebuilding contracts. He also demanded that ministries and other governmental departments write up a flurry of progress reports on a myriad of issues — including efforts to resolve traffic problems in the dusty, congested Afghan capital, Kabul. The decree, issued late Thursday, is similar to an executive order, but is ambiguous about what happens to those who don't comply. It also does not spell out who will pay for the government cleansing that Karzai proposed. Political analyst Jawid Kohistani said he did not think the decree would stave off corruption in the government. "Karzai is acting late on corruption," he said Friday. "We have anti-corruption laws, but it is very difficult to remove corruption. It is hard to just remove corruption by a decree. He should start to remove corruption from inside the palace. "I'm not confident that this decree will bring good results because those people who are involved in corruption are high-ranking officials in the government. They have control of the economy and they also are grabbing the land. The low-ranking employees of the government — they are only getting small bribes." Afghanistan, with a history of war and international interference and support, has long been plagued by corruption. It has come in 180th out of 183 countries on Transparency International's corruption index, which scored countries based on perceived levels of public sector corruption. Only North Korea and Somalia were deemed to be more corrupt. Karzai, who has about two years left in office, has repeatedly promised to clean up corruption in his administration without much result. On June 21, he called a special session of the parliament to speak out against corruption — just ahead of the donors' conference in Tokyo, where the international community complained about corruption within his administration. "You should cooperate with me on these reforms. You have accused me of making deals. Yes, I have done so, but I had reasons. And now I am changing this. I am bringing reform from the inside," Karzai told the Afghan lawmakers in June. It was unclear what he had meant by "deals," although the president is frequently accused of letting allies keep powerful posts despite allegations that surround them. Highly placed government officials have been investigated but seldom prosecuted. Some of the graft investigations have come close to the president himself, implicating either family members in government posts or close Karzai associates. While Karzai expressed gratitude for the Tokyo pledges, he said his government was not solely to blame. He said the contracting process for development projects, which have poured billions of dollars into his war-torn country's fragile economy, have led to influence-buying. The anti-corruption decree also says: —Government officials are not to appoint relatives or friends to positions within the administration, or try to influence those who are making the appointments. —The Afghan Supreme Court is to finalize in the next six months all cases regarding corruption, land grabbing and targeted killings suspected of being conducted for political reasons. —Promotions and appointments within the Afghan army and police are to be reported to the president's office in an apparent effort to curb nepotism and cronyism. —All inactive courts are to be fully operating within nine months in all 34 provinces and their more than 300 districts. In rural areas, lack of government presence has lead citizens to turn to Taliban courts, which swiftly resolve disputes but undermine the government's influence. —The Finance Ministry is to send a report to the president in a month, detailing the outstanding loan money and property the government is trying to reclaim from the troubled Kabul Bank. The bank, which nearly collapsed in 2010 because of mismanagement and more than $800 million in questionable loans, became a symbol of the country's deep-rooted corruption. —Two public campaigns are to be developed — one to reduce violence against women and the other to promote national unity in Afghanistan, which has a patchwork of various tribes and ethnicities with a history of conflict. The withdrawal of most foreign forces by the end of 2014 has spawned fears of a civil war.

Gujranwala: girl burnt over marriage issue

A man Friday burnt her sixteen-year-old sister over a marriage issue against the will of her family. According to media reports, Beenish refused to marry against her will and that was unacceptable to her family. The incident occurred in Guru Nakakpura area. The girl was taken to Civil Hospital where doctors said that 70% of her body was burnt. On the other hand, uncle of the girl said that she tried self-immolation and not burnt by brother or anyone else.

Pakistan 'global leader' in visa, passport forgery: British envoy

Dubbing Pakistan as a "global leader" in visa and passport forgery, Britain's envoy here has said that visa fraud is a deep-rooted industry in this country. About 4,000 people were caught last year while trying to acquire British passports using fake documents, the UK's high commissioner to Pakistan, Adam Thomson, said. Pakistan was a "global leader" vis-a-vis fake passports and visas, he told reporters at the National Press Club on Thursday. Thomson said it was unfortunate that Pakistan had been rated a world leader in visa fraud. "Unfortunately, you people are world leaders in visa scam. Forgery is a strong industry here," he was quoted as saying in media reports. Thomson expressed satisfaction with Pakistan government's visa issuing system but added that no passport or visa system in the world could claim to be absolutely perfect. "There may be occasional slippages," he said. Referring to the British tabloid The Sun's expose of passport forgery in Pakistan, the envoy said, "I am no one to determine the truth of the British tabloid's story regarding passport forgery in Pakistan." However, he said British authorities have no evidence of anyone travelling to Britain on a fake passport as part of Pakistan's Olympic squad. "Getting accreditation is a lengthy process that requires months of scrutiny. It is almost impossible to become a part of contingent nearer to the start of Games," he said. The Sun has claimed that it uncovered a Lahore-based ring that could issue passports and documents that would allow terrorists to slip into Britain as support staff for the Pakistani Olympic team. The Pakistan government has dismissed The Sun's report and said it intends to file a lawsuit against the tabloid.

Bangladesh looks to the Blue Green Revolution for food security
Bangladesh hopes to achieve self-sufficiency in food production by 2050 and alleviate poverty, with an ambitious scheme called the Blue-Green Revolution. The population is projected to grow from 164-million to 220-million in just under four decades, with the demand for food expected to soar. Bangladesh has been ranked "highly-vulnerable" to climate change. It now hopes to produce more food from the same area of land, without a huge environmental impact. Agricultural expert Professor Dr Nesar Ahmed says the benefits of the Blue-Green Revolution are many.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Professor Dr Nesar Ahmed, Bangladesh Agriculture University and the University of Stirliing, Scotland
DR AHMED: You know that Bangladesh population is currently 164 million, and by 2050 the population will increase to 222-million. So by that time, our agricultural land will reduce and the population will increase and Bangladesh will face alot of pressure. So in that case, if we ensure food security, we must go for rice-fish farming. We have ten million hectares of rice fields, in addition, we have two-point-83 million hectares of seasonal rice fields, where water stays for a couple of months. If we use this water body for the next decade, if we convert 2.83 million hectares of rice fields to rice-fish farming and also prawn farming, Bangladesh would get around one million tonnes of fish, 1.5-million tonnes of additional rice and Bangladesh would earn around ten billion US dollars per annum. That would accelerate our economic growth. So if we adopt this farming system, Bangladesh would be a poverty-free and food secure country within a decade. As we have 700 rivers and tributaries criss-cross the country and we have fertile land, around 10-million hectares of land, suitable for rice-fish farming, and we have found that as Bangladeshi people eat rice and fish, both, and when they culture fish in their rice fields, that means they're getting their staple food, rice and fish. Also, coastal areas, a few advanced farmers culture prawns with fish in their rice fields. LAM: And of course, the prawns, one presumes, would bring extra income, because they can sell the prawns? DR AHMED: Yes, rice and fish for staple foods and household consumption and local markets, but when they culture prawn, that's a high value product for the international market, as almost all Bangladeshi prawns are exported to the USA and Europe, so culture of prawn may bring enormous earnings and bring benefits to poor fish farmers. LAM: Food security of course has long been a challenge for Bangladesh, so is this Blue-Green Revolution happening, catching on, in rural communities as we speak, or has it been slow in taking off? DR AHMED: Actually, Blue Green Revolution has not yet been widely cultured in Bangladesh, but a few number of small farmers have been adopting rice-fish farming. As Bangladesh is a small country, and our population is around 164 million. LAM: What are the obstacles, what's stopping Bangladesh from adopting it full-scale? DR AHMED: Our main problem is water management. There're floods and drought. So there's too much water during the monsoon when fish escape, and the farmers are not interested in rice-fish farming, and the drought also is one of the major constraints for fish culture in rice fields, as they can't go for rice-fish farming, if there's no water. Actually, the northern part of Bangladesh is a drought-prone area. LAM: So in terms of water management, how is Bangladesh coping? DR AHMED: I think it's possible to cope very easily. If a flood happens, we can use a net around the ponds or rice fields, so the fish cannot escape. Or we can also build hard dykes so we can conserve rain water or flood water, that is also one of the coping strategies of climate change. And in case of drought, we can provide irrigation facilities. Our challenge is irrigation facilities require electricity supply or power, and Bangladesh has been a little behind in this opportunity. So we intend to introduce 'micro irrigation' facilities. You know Bangladesh invented micro-credit. This year, it's 'micro-irrigation'. So if we introduce 'micro irrigation' in our system, we can easily go for integrated rice fish farming. If we need huge irrigation, we need huge power - that is not possible because our government's first priority is industrial development, even though the government is keen to develop our agriculture sector. So in that case, we use our rain water, flood water and side by side, small-scale irrigation facilities - that would help and be of enormous benefit to our food production. Sometimes, the farmers' association or a community-based irrigation management would work very accurately. We have good contact with farmers, it's a two-way process - sometimes farmers come to us, and if we discover a new findings, we'll introduce them to the farmers. So it's a two-way process. As our research is mainly associated with agriculture, the farmer is always our friend. LAM: And one of the consequences of the green revolution is 'chemical agriculture' which can be destructive. Is this issue being addressed? DR AHMED: Oh, yes, the green revolution is actually not so green, because it means high-yielding varieties of rice monoculture, that is not sustainable. And it requires huge amounts of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides that have negative impact on society, environment and bio-diversity. Similarly, the Blue revolution also a negative impact, as it too requires huge fertilisers and chemicals. So that's why we suggest rice-fish farming, to help the integrated management of rice and fish, reduce fertiliser use, insecticide use, pesticide use and bring alot of environmental benefits. Topics:

President Zardari resolves to eliminate all types of discriminatory practices‚ abuses against women

The President said guided by the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto‚ a number of legislative measures have already been taken to protect women President Asif Ali Zardari
has reaffirmed the resolve to eliminate all types of discriminatory practices and abuses against women. He was addressing a ceremony in Islamabad on Friday marking the end of 'One Million Signatures' campaign launched last year to stop violence against women. The President pointed out that discrimination against women is deeply routed in the social‚ political‚ economic and legal spheres of the society. Women issues are not limited to Pakistan but other countries in the region are also facing similar issues. Enumerating the present government's initiatives for women empowerment‚ he said highest priority has been accorded to addressing the issue of discriminatory laws against women. He said guided by the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto‚ a number of legislative measures have already been taken to protect women. These include Adoption of the Protection against harassment of women at workplace Act 2010‚ Criminal Law (Amendment) Act‚ Acid Control and Acid Crime Act and Prevention of Anti Women Practices Act. The National Commission for Human Rights Act 2012 has also been enacted to monitor the overall human rights situation. He said that Women in Distress and Detention Fund Act 2011 has been promulgated to provide financial and legal assistance to the deserving women. Besides‚ 26 Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers for women have been established in various districts to provide immediate relief to female victims of violence. President Zardari said that one million women are receiving direct assistance under the government flagship Benazir Income Support Program. He said that the National Commission on the Status of Women has been strengthened to monitor the violation of women's rights. He said a proposal is also under consideration to give more representation to the women in the judiciary. Speaking on the occasion‚ Country Director of UN Women Pakistan Alice H. Shackelford lauded the legislative measures taken by the Pakistani government for the protection of rights of women. She emphasized the need for collective efforts to bring a positive change in the society. On the occasion‚ the President also signed the 'One Million Signatures' campaign‚ becoming the one millionth signatory to the campaign.

Why does violence continue to plague Assam?

Saudi forces open fire on demonstrators in Qatif : several injured

Saudi forces have opened fire on demonstrators in Qatif in the country's Eastern Province, leaving several protesters injured. Similar demonstrations have also been held in Riyadh and the holy city of Medina over the past few weeks. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in the Qatif region and Awamiyah in Eastern Province, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, pokes fun at Mitt Romney

Romney's Olympics gaffe hands gift to Obama

Republican candidate backtracks on warning of 'disconcerting' signs for Games after rebukes by British PM and London mayor Mitt Romney leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting David Cameron. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images Mitt Romney handed Barack Obama a potential gift for the US presidential election campaign when the presumptive Republican nominee blundered on his first diplomatic outing by questioning whether London was capable of staging a successful Olympic Games. In a move that astonished Downing Street, hours before it laid on a special reception for Romney at No 10, he told NBC there were "disconcerting" signs about the preparations for the Games. One senior Whitehall source said: "What a total shocker. We are speechless." David Cameron wasted no time in rebuking Romney hours after his remarks were broadcast. On a visit to the Olympic Park, the prime minister said: "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere." Cameron's remarks were intended to be a light-hearted jibe at Romney, who used his famous management skills honed at Bain Capital to rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Boris Johnson, the London mayor, joined in the jibes at a celebration to greet the Olympic torch in Hyde Park. "I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready," Johnson yelled from the stage to a cheering crowd. "He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are." Loading the player... Boris Johnson pokes fun at Mitt Romney Link to this video Romney rowed back after a 45-minute meeting in Downing Street where the prime minister expressed his unease about his remarks. "I am very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic Games. What I have seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organisation and [I] expect the Games to be highly successful," he said. When asked about the preparations for the Olympics in an interview on Wednesday night with the NBC anchor Brian Williams, Romney said: "There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because there are three parts that makes Games successful. "Number one, of course, are the athletes. That's what overwhelmingly the Games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they'll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin."n Washington, Democrats pounced on the comments. Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate, said they were an embarassment for the US. "It's not good for us as a country – it's not good for him – but as a country to have somebody that's nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody," Reid told the Huffington Post. Romney's campaign team set up a conference call with US reporters in an attempt to limit the damage from the faltering UK visit. The campaign fielded Lousiana governor Bobby Jindal and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell in Romney's defence. "We're not worried about overseas headlines. We're worried about voters back here in America," Jindal said in comments reported by Talking Points Memo. The Olympics blunder came on top of what had been an inauspicious start to Romney's week-long overseas trip, designed in part to establish his foreign policy credentials with voters back home. His camp was forced to repudiate comments by an un-named adviser who told the Daily Telegraph that Barack Obama, the first black US president, had mishandled Anglo-American ties and that Romney better understood the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" between the two countries. On Thursday, Romney also took the unusual step of acknowledging that he had met the head of MI6, Britain's secretive foreign intelligence agency, when asked about his discussions with British officials about Syria. Such conversations are not normally discussed publicly by government leaders. "I can only say that I appreciated the insights and the perspectives of the leaders of the government here and opposition here as well as the head of MI6 as we discussed Syria and hoped for a more peaceful future for that country," he said. Romney also met Ed Miliband, the leader of the oppositon Labour party. Miliband took questions from two reporters from what he called "my side", but Romney would not take questions from US journalists. At one point, Romney called Miliband "Mr Leader", which prompted suggestions he had forgotten Miliband's name.There were also meetings with foreign secretary William Hague, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and former PM Tony Blair. Romney later went on to a fundraiser at the Mandarin hotel in London, at which he repeated his promise to restore a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office in the White House if he is elected. Obama replaced the bust with one of Abraham Lincoln after his election, in what was interpreted in the British media as a snub to the transatlantic relationship. His campaign team claimed the event took $2m in donations, but there were reports earlier that ticket prices had been lowered, and that some people had been offered free passes.

Asian Americans should participate in US political affairs

Asian Americans took a huge step in participating in political affairs. According to the World Journal, about 30 Asian Americans ran for the U.S. Congress in 2012, setting a historical record. The figure was 10 in 2010 and eight in 2008. Judy May Chu, a Chinese-American member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that the congressional election of 2012 will probably be a milestone for the Asian Americans. "It is an important step taken by us," Chu said in an interview with CNN. Two Asian American-based constituency for House of Representatives and one Asian American-based constituency for Senate were added in the redistricting plan announced in New York State on March 12, 2012, which is regard as a huge victory for Asia Americans in U.S. politics. Although some failed in the primary congressional election, there are three Asian Americans who won the success in New York, Tennessee and Florida and respectively became the first Asian-American candidates of congress in their own states. The article titled "Asian Americans participating in political affairs" is published by The Walt Street Journal on July 6, which says that there was not a congressman of Asian origin in past 12 years while the success of Chinese American Grace Meng in the sixth constituency in Democratic primary for House of Representatives opened a new page for New York's political history. Chu said in a program that the newly emerged Asian-American representatives in the U.S. mainstream society will help change the public's traditional impression on the Asian Americans and their participation in the leadership of the United States will enhance the political voices of Asian Americans. The exaggerated strength of Asian Americans Many media regarded the record number of Asian-American political participators as an embodiment of their increasing strength. A survey report of U.S. Pew Research Center described the Asian Americans as "successful, well-off and highly educated". Some media said that the Asian-American electors and electoral districts become increasingly mature and powerful in recent years. Grace Meng is the best example. Although economic situation, consciousness of political participation and political status are improved, some groups of Asian origin believe that their strength is exaggerated and the Western media were also suspected of misleading the public. There is still a long way for the Asian Americans to go There is still a long way for the Asian Americans, in the real sense, to participate in the political affairs, attract the attention of electoral camps and make their own voices heard. Actually, the lack of Asian-American managerial personnel also occurs in the fields of education, science and technology and business. In terms of political participation, the voting enthusiasm of Asian Americans from registration to poll is less than the groups of Latin-American origin. Therefore, the Asian Americans still need to make great efforts to enhance their potential and influence in the U.S. elections and safeguard their own interests by using political elections.

Pak military playing ‘double-game’ in Bara

By Richard Leiby
Haleem Gul and his family shelter under U.N. tarps in the ceaseless sun and wonder when it will be over: The militancy in their tribal homeland, the occupation by Pakistani troops, the numbing days in the refugee camp. “My greatest wish is to go home,” said Gul, a taciturn, 35-year-old shop clerk. Having waited for more than two years now, he gestured skyward with his hands and said he can only entrust his future to Allah. Gul’s return to the scenic, mountainous Khyber tribal area that borders Afghanistan also depends a great deal on the Pakistani military — which has made little headway in three years against a relatively small concentration of Taliban-allied insurgents, raising questions about the security forces’ capacity and will to defeat them. While the United States and NATO draw down combat troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan is still battling a fierce Taliban and al-Qaeda-allied rebellion that arose in part due to its alliance with the United States after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In recent years the Pakistan army has launched several successful operations to clear militant groups from other northwestern regions, and resettled millions of people displaced because of the fighting. But the opposite is the case in Khyber agency: Because of the continued instability, more than 350,000 people from the Bara district, a longtime commercial hub, have fled to Peshawar, the closest relatively safe metropolis. Sixty-one thousand refugees — including Gul, his wife and young daughter — now occupy the UNHCR’s Jalozai camp, southeast of Peshawar. Officials say food supplies there are running short. In Bara, where fighting has leveled homes, shuttered hospitals and businesses and impoverished those who remained, the Pakistani Taliban influence is growing, some residents said. This is particularly worrisome because convoys carrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan wind slowly through the surrounding areas, vulnerable to attack. Gunmen on Tuesday killed a truck driver in the first such attack since Pakistan ended its NATO-routes blockade three weeks ago; the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. The hard-core militant ranks are believed to number about 500. Estimates of troop strength on the Pakistani side — mainly the paramilitary Frontier Corps, commanded by Pakistani army officers — top 5,000, but neither figure could be independently confirmed. “Not a single village has been cleared by security forces,” said Abdul Wahid Afridi, a leader in the secular Awami National Party who is based in Khyber. “The militancy could be collapsed. All the people are asking why can’t the army eliminate them? Why not, after three years?” To Haseebullah Khan, 37, another refugee from Bara, the answer is simple. “They don’t want to do it,” he said. “This is beyond our thinking.” Pakistani military officials did not respond to e-mailed questions. Foreign journalists are barred from Khyber agency and Pakistan’s seven other semiautonomous tribal areas, so it was not possible to corroborate the refugees’ statements. Some military analysts describe what’s going on in Bara as part of a long-standing “double game” in which Pakistan’s military establishment protects certain Taliban groups as a way to ensure influence in a future Afghan government after U.S. combat troops depart. “It cannot burn bridges,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a columnist and author of a book on the Pakistani military. “From Washington this looks like a double game. From Islamabad’s perspective, this looks like a desire to build a constructive shield around itself when the U.S. draws down and Pakistan will deal with the consequences.” Ejaz Haider, another writer and analyst, said the military operations in Bara have been small-bore and less effective than the major offensives elsewhere. The security situation also is complicated by a terrain that favors the militants, who can shift quickly from one area to another. Haider disputed the notion that the military — which has lost nearly 3,500 troops fighting against the Pakistani Taliban and other radical Islamists — would back its enemies. “I don’t believe there is any official policy at any level that is supporting groups that are killing soldiers,” he said. At Jalozai, the largest of the three UNHCR camps left in Pakistan, the Bara refugee influx hit an alarming high of 10,000 a day in mid-March. It has since ebbed, but Save the Children, UNICEF, and the U.N.’s World Food Program have put out urgent appeals for donations. The World Food Program recently had to reduce three of its camp rations — high-energy biscuits, yellow split peas and a nutritional supplement — by half, officials said. Further cuts may have to be implemented. “We are basically running out of food,” Robin Lodge, a WFP spokesman, said as U.N. officials gave a tour one day this month to European diplomats, hoping to drum up financial support. It was 115 degrees — especially dangerous for people from cooler, mountainous climes like Bara’s. In the flat expanse of the camp, medical workers paid special attention to pregnant women — 189 of them live in the latest sections of Jalozai to open. In another tent, mothers cradled newborns. Children in the camp are regularly screened for malnutrition, but there is not enough money to monitor that majority of refugees who live elsewhere in the Peshawar area. Back in their tribal districts, some besieged residents have turned to drug smuggling, kidnapping or joining the Pakistani Taliban for income. The insurgents pay about $100 a month — triple what a man can earn at hard labor, said a tribal leader who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals. “And for joining the militants he gets great respect,” the tribesman said. “The militancy is not under control,” he added. “And day by day things are going to get worse.” Pakistani military and government officials deny the persistent U.S. argument that Pakistan tolerates and even promotes attacks by some militants to ensure a proxy role in the Afghanistan endgame. “Let me assure you that Pakistan does not support any terrorists,” the country’s newly installed prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, told reporters during a visit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul last week. “It is not in our interest and we cannot afford it.” When U.S. officials raise such accusations, Islamabad points out that Pakistan has sacrificed considerable blood and treasure, including 25,000 civilian deaths. It cites the displacement of 3.5 million citizens as part of the cost of carrying out military operations. Refugees Haleem Gul, his wife, Ishrat Bibi, and their 9-year-old daughter, Hina, are part of the collateral damage. Their loss can be seen in a picture the father painted and hung on one of the tarps that serve as walls for their hovel. It looks at first like a cheering reminder of their home in the scenic, green reaches of Bara, an urn filled with red flowers. But it bears this inscription underneath: “Disappointment is the other name for death.”

Punjab govt footing bill for PML-N social media revamp

Published in The Express Tribune
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has hired two advertisement agencies for publicising and promoting its activities, party sources told The Express Tribune. The decision was taken at a meeting of the party’s social media politics team after recommendations by the PML-N senior leadership and the Punjab government’s information technology-related officials, they added. The meeting, chaired by party president Nawaz Sharif, took place at his Raiwind residence. Punjab Board of Information Technology (PBIT) Chairman Umar Saif gave a presentation to the participants, discussing the PML-N’s current presence on social media and the appeal of the party’s manifesto for the youth. PML-N constituted its team of social media experts to counter the web presence of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). According to some party officials, however, the team was hired by the Punjab government but has been utilised solely for PML-N objectives. A well placed source in the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade said that two floors of the board’s offices at Arfa Karim Tower were currently occupied by the PML-N’s social media teams, who had been working day and night to accomplish the party’s social media goals. He confirmed that the workers were hired by the Punjab government under PBIT, along with various other departments like the Punjab Sports Board. The Punjab government set up a five-member committee last year to spruce up its image with a social media campaign. This team however, is apparently being utilised to promote PML-N’s social media presence.

Hamza Shahbaz to appear before NAB on July 28

NAB Punjab has issued notices to Sharif family after registration of references against them. Addressing a press conference in Lahore, PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz said that NAB had sent him a notice to appear on July 28. Hamza said he had received the notice himself and he will appear before NAB as he respected all institutions. He added that he will bring all documents with him and would prove before the NAB that his family was not involved in any sort of corruption.

NATO: Afghan militant attacks up 11 percent
The U.S.-led coalition says insurgent attacks in Afghanistan during the past three months were up 11 percent, compared to the same period last year. The latest statistics also say that the number of attacks in June was the highest for any month since fighting surged in the summer of 2010. NATO released the figures on Thursday. They indicate a disturbing uptick in attacks at a time when foreign troops are leaving and insurgents are trying to prove they remain a potent force. The coalition offered two possible reasons for the uptick. It says a shortened poppy harvesting season prompted insurgents to start their spring offensive earlier this year. Also, with more Afghan security forces on the ground and taking the lead in more operations, more of them are getting killed.

Pakistan suspends Nato supply route over security
Pakistan has temporarily stopped Nato supply trucks crossing its northwestern border into Afghanistan over security concerns due to fears of terror attacks, officials said Thursday. Gunmen on Tuesday attacked a convoy of Nato supply trucks, killing a driver, in the town of Jamrud near the main northwestern city of Peshawar, in the first such attack since Pakistan lifted a seven-month blockade of the border. "Movement of Nato vehicles has been temporarily suspended since Wednesday evening to beef up security," a paramilitary official told AFP. "We have launched a search operation in the hills surrounding Jamrud," the official added. On Wednesday officials at the northwestern Torkham crossing had said traffic was picking up for the first time since the blockade ended, with more than 100 vehicles crossing in recent days. Local administration official Bakhtiar Khan confirmed Thursday the supply route had been suspended due to "security reasons". "Intelligence officials have informed the authority that attacks may occur on Nato vehicles this week and in the light of this a security plan is being chalked out," Khan told AFP. He said the Nato route would "resume very soon", but that until then trucks carrying supplies for the 130,000-strong US-led mission in Afghanistan had been told not to approach the border. "We have been told by authorities to wait here as they are building up security after the firing incident," Amanullah Khan, a Nato truck driver, told AFP in Peshawar. So far, the closure has only affected the Torkham crossing. At the southwestern crossing of Chaman, some 17 trucks were awaiting clearance to enter Afghanistan and 20 other trucks were parked in Quetta, clearing agent Ashraf Khan told AFP. Islamabad closed its land routes to Nato convoys after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, but reopened them after Washington said sorry for the deaths. Before the blockade, around 150 trucks crossed into Afghanistan each day at Torkham - the closest border crossing to Kabul - and officials say the flow will rise to up to 300 a day.

Pakistan: National conference

IN theory, it’s a sensible idea: assemble the country’s political leadership for a roundtable conference and get them to focus on the country’s internal and external problems. In Pakistan, however, practice is far removed from theory. So is the MQM’s attempt to reach out to other political parties for a roundtable conference likely to yield anything? In recent years, seemingly every political party has mooted a national conference for one problem or the other. Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani popularised the idea of national conferences — on Balochistan, on power, on solving poli-tical problems — and soon the opposition was doing the same. But as Balochistan continues to burn and power continues to run short, the national conferences and roundtable ideas clearly have not amounted to much so far. However, past failures shouldn’t deter further attempts and already in the MQM’s outreach there is at least the possibility of one positive development: violence in Karachi may dip as the various political players in the city get together on the national stage for a round of consultation and frank discussions. The meeting between MQM and ANP leaders in Islamabad on Tuesday will have come as some relief to the beleaguered citizens of Karachi who must deal with news of killings, bombings, attacks, kidnappings and extortion rackets on a daily basis. Of course, of one meeting peace is not made in a city as complex as Karachi. Nor will a national conference necessarily bring down the organised violence and crime in Karachi immediately. Nevertheless, as long as channels of communication are kept open and expectations build that something positive will happen, there is possibility that a peaceable solution will be found. After all, while it may not seem so at the moment, Karachi is too important a city to be left at the mercy of forces of disorder and violence. Beyond Karachi, the MQM’s outreach to parties from the Jamaat-i-Islami to the PML-Q to the PML-N could be the right tonic for stabilising national politics at a time that the judiciary vs government spat is fuelling all manner of speculation. The MQM’s status as a regional party is a positive in the sense that other major parties, such as the PML-N, may not necessarily feel they are being lured into a public relations’ trap by a national rival. Then again, the MQM’s historically prickly relations with most other political parties could be an impediment to a well-attended and successful roundtable. Still, it’s worth a shot, particularly if the politicians can hammer out a realistic strategy on education or health — the polio crisis, for example — and boost the public’s faith in the democratic process.


The hypocritical approach towards the Afghans by the establishment should now end and all of the Afghans should be sent back to their home country, voluntarily or involuntarily. In 1980s, they were valuable political guests we needed to oust the nationalist and radical Government in Kabul as the imperialist world and their agents desired it. Now they are unwanted guests of Pakistani people, if not the State, and considered a serious economic and security burden in the wake of serious political and economic crisis Pakistan is facing. The Afghans contributed a lot in deepening the crisis of survival making it more complicated by siding with the enemies of Pakistan. In a conference in Australia, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, categorically declared that Pakistan would not accept the Afghan refugees after December this year. After December, the international community should establish refugee camps on the Afghan side of the international frontier and keep them there as long as the community wants. There is no place for Afghans on the Pakistani soil and the period of hospitality is over as they became a serious security threat. They are a serious burden and a security risk for Pakistan thus they should be herded out of all major cities of Pakistan, mainly Quetta, Karachi and Lahore, as the Government had already barred Afghans from Peshawar and Islamabad. We hope that the announcement made by the former Prime Minister in Australia is part of the State policy and not the personal views of the former Prime Minister. For this, the Government should make preparation to take all Afghans out of the major population centres, mainly Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, settle them in transit camps close to the Afghan borders till such time they are repatriated to Afghanistan. If they try to leave the camp should be arrested. Pakistan Government had fulfilled all its international commitment by providing them shelter, food, jobs and other services which were denied to the Pakistani citizens, mainly the Baloch people, to this date. There is no violation of international obligations on the part of the Government of Pakistan. Now the International Community should play its role by providing food, shelter and other facilities to Afghans on other side of the international frontiers. It is up to the Afghans they want to go back to their homes or prefer to stay in refugee camps inside Afghanistan. The international community should bear the cost of the refugees, including for their food, shelter and other comforts besides transporting them to Afghanistan from different points in Balochistan and KPK. The UNHCR should stop apply pressure tactics on the Pakistan Government, using power and influence of the super powers, to allow Afghans to stay back or settle permanently in Pakistan as they spent three decades in Pakistan. This argument is not acceptable and if the Government surrenders to the pressure from the international community allowing the Afghans to stay back, the Government will face wrath of the people who were deprived of their means of livelihood on the pretext of humanitarian assistance to the Afghans. The Afghans are economic refugees as they are facing no threat to their life as there is a friendly nationalist Government in Kabul and they are not at war with the Kabul Government. The Afghans are here for economic reasons or the militants misusing the goodwill of the people of Pakistan by using the Pakistani territories in launching attacks on Afghan and other foreign forces for political reasons. The militants should be first to be kicked out from Pakistan so that they should not undermine the security of the people of Pakistan. They use Pakistani territory as a springboard in attacking the US and other foreign forces; providing a risk of retaliatory attacks on Pakistan in which the people of Pakistan will suffer the most. The Afghan militants should not be acceptable at the cost of the innocent people of Pakistan. It is the responsibility of the Government to provide security of life to its own citizens. It should be the politics of the state to defend the people first against all pressure or incentives from foreign powers.