Friday, September 28, 2012

Afghan troops get a lesson in American cultural ignorance

A new Afghan army-issued guide explains to soldiers here that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge. Eleven years into the war in Afghanistan, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural understanding, officials say, contributing to a string of insider attacks that have threatened to undermine the military partnership. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. To address a laundry list of cross-cultural pitfalls — and to avoid their potentially fatal consequences — the Afghan Ministry of Defense this month introduced a pamphlet called “Cultural Understanding — A Guide to Understanding Coalition Cultures.” The 18-page training guide, written in Dari, will soon be distributed to Afghan military leaders across the country. The booklet will be taught in three one-hour sessions to all soldiers as well as new recruits. It is intended to “strengthen our understanding of our [NATO] counterpart,” according to an English translation of the pamphlet that was provided to The Washington Post. But in doing so, it also reveals seemingly minor — and rarely acknowledged — cultural faux pas that have created palpable tension between the two forces. “Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you,” the guide instructs. “When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind,” it explains. “They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you’ve done. Once again, they don’t mean to offend you.” And another tip: “When someone feels comfortable in your presence, they may even put their feet on their own desk while speaking with you. They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don’t know or have forgotten the Afghan custom.” Pointing the soles of one’s shoes at someone is considered a grievous insult in Afghanistan. The guide also warns Afghan soldiers that Western troops might wink at them or inquire about their female relatives or expose their private parts while showering — all inappropriate actions by Afghan standards. As NATO winds down its mission here, the “Cultural Understanding” guide marks the Afghan army’s most significant effort to identify long-standing points of contention and confusion between the two forces. Despite those points, the coalition is described glowingly, often in florid language. The United States is “a little like a lovely carpet. Different colored strands combine to make a beautiful whole.” NATO’s coalition is described as a “work of art.” The task of laying out a set of commonly misinterpreted behaviors fell to Brig. Gen. Mohammad Amin Nasib, the bearish, affable head of religious and ideological affairs at the Ministry of Defense, and his senior military adviser from the NATO side, Michael W. Gore, a mild-mannered Navy commander and chaplain. “Some would argue that we’re too late, but any time is the right time to promote understanding of each other’s culture,” Gore said. “The Golden Rule goes a long way in any culture in helping to foster tolerance and understanding.” Nasib wasn’t quite as buoyant. “Unfortunately, it’s too late,” he said. “It should have been done early.”

Bashar Al-Asad: "Turkey dreams of a new Ottoman Empire"

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday criticized Turkey for supporting the insurgents fighting the government in Damascus and sees that his neighbor has the ambitious dream of establishing "a new Ottoman Empire." Moreover, the Syrian president spoke of Qatar and claimed that this Arab country is using terrorists. In an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, the full text will be published on Friday, Ankara regretted that instead of worrying about "the interests of their people" Al-Asad focused "solely on their ambitions, including the creation of a new Ottoman Empire. " The Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Ottoman Empire was a multiethnic and multi-ruled by the Osmanli Dynasty. Moreover, the Syrian president spoke of Qatar and claimed that this Arab country is using "the power of money and revolves in the Western orbit by providing weapons and money to terrorists to repeat the Libyan scenario." In this regard, he said that Qatar has been one of the premier governments in fueling the violence in Syria. Finally, the Syrian authorities said that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have supported the insurgents in his country "would not win the battle." Since mid-March 2011, Syria lives with strong disturbances and bloodshed, orchestrated from abroad, a critical situation that worsens every day due to the incessant terrorist acts seeking foreign military intervention. Ed. As is well known, Turkish history is one of tremendous bloodshed, the Turks being a nomadic tribe that murdered the original inhabitants of the land that now comprises the artifically created entity known as Turkey. Turkey has been a useful vessel through which the various western powers have exerted their will in the region. It is also worthy to note that many Zionists as well would like to see the re-establishment of the Ottoman Emire, as they considered they were welcomed and treated well in their dealings with the Ottomans when expelled from Spain.

Aitzaz sees SC in ‘blind alley’

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president and PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan says the Supreme Court has entered a blind alley after convicting former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and now wants an acceptable solution of writing a letter to Swiss authorities. Talking to reporters on the Lahore High Court premises on Thursday, Barrister Ahsan, who was also counsel for Mr Gilani in the NRO contempt of court case, said he was not sure that the letter would be written as directed by the court. He said the concession being given to incumbent PM Raja Pervez Ashraf was commendable but regretted that Gilani was not extended such a concession by the SC. He further said the SC had been left with only one option of sending another prime minister home but it was a difficult task now. Replying to a question about the draft of the letter, he said he had not seen the draft written by Law Minister Farooq H Naek but had some reservations on it. He said if the letter was written on the dictation of the SC, there would be many complications. Mr Ahsan dispelled an impression that the presidency and the Supreme Court had any joint venture to oust Gilani. “There was no such understanding between them,” he said.

Pakistan: Internet users cross 25m mark

Internet users in Pakistan have increased to more than 25 million due to its online accessibility through mobile phone services on affordable rates. According to Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), the estimated Internet users are on the rise with its increasing trend of utility via mobile phones reaching the figure of up to 15 million. The mobile phone subscribers go online through different Internet services including, EDGE, GPRS and Blackberry Internet Services (BIS). The cellular phone companies have been working aggressively on the promotion of Internet services for last two years mainly for earning extra revenues besides voice calls and text messages. These companies introduced different bundle packages of Internet services in their youth brands to promote Internet services as an essential for young customers for education and entertainment purposes. The trend of using Internet is increasing rapidly with the arrival of smartphones of different handset makers though low-cost handsets are available in the market having options of online connectivity. It was further given impetus through providing easy connectivity to users for using Facebook and Twitter. Mobile phone companies and handset makers alike have provided easy connectivity of Facebook and Twitter Internet users that gave further impetus to Internet usage among the customers. Officials of the mobile phone companies said the Internet consumption of their subscribers varies due to different needs of individuals in their daily life. They said the customers having postpaid connection are large users of Internet services due to their business and professional demands. Besides youngsters usage of Internet is limited on mobile phone as they usually avail Internet services for social networking sites, informative webs and browsing. Cellphone operators have created demand of Internet usage among customers through different tools like applications of education, infotainment and entertainment by their own portals. The excessive branding and marketing campaigns of mobile phone companies are generating positive results on their business in fact creating awareness among the customers before the launch of high data service—3G technology. The Internet users having demand of high-speed services are also increasing particularly through broadband. As per industry estimate, there are more than five million broadband users in the country through 2 million connections. The Internet users mainly do connect with one IP connection and consume Internet services through sharing at home, office and educational institutions. There are 50 Internet services providers in which 10 are broadband companies exploring untapped market in big cities.

Zardari: Education helps fight militant mindset

President Zardari said that education holds the key to socio-economic development. President Asif Zardari while talking to UN Special Envoy for Global Education‚ Gordon Brown said that education is the most effective tool to fight militant mindset and to lead the nation on the path to socio-economic development and upward mobility. Gordon Brown briefed the President about the objectives of UN initiative "Education First". Brown said that he will visit Islamabad soon and his mission aims at ensuring greater enrollment‚ provision of quality education‚ training of the teachers and promotion of education technology in Pakistan.

Pakistan rejects U.S. media report on drone strikes

Pakistan has rejected an American media report that the U.S. drone hits were taking place with the "tacit consent" of the Pakistan government, a Foreign Ministry statement said on Friday. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the intended target areas are "outlined" to the Pakistani intelligence service which then gives an unspoken consent to the U.S. forces to conduct these strikes within its borders by clearing the airspace and does not "interfere physically with the unpiloted aircraft in flight." The report also claimed that Pakistan clears airspace of a certain area where a drone attack is planned, in correspondence with the faxes its intelligence service receives once a month from the American CIA. Responding to the report, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson categorically rejected the insinuation made in the report and reiterated Pakistan's long-standing position on drone attacks. "There can be no question of Pakistan's agreement to such attacks," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. He said that the U.S. drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. Drone attacks in Pakistan tribal regions are one of the irritants in relationship between the two countries for years. Pakistan opposes these strikes but the United States defends the CIA-controlled campaign as an effective source to eliminate al- Qaeda and Taliban militants blamed for cross border attacks. On Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar called the drone strikes inside Pakistani territory "illegal, unlawful and counterproductive", saying they were among the reasons for the rise of anti-Americanism in Pakistan. "Drones are a reason why the United States is unpopular in Pakistan," she said in response to a question at Asia Society in New York where she spoke to a packed-to-capacity audience on the foreign policy goals of the democratic government. She insisted that the use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal. "It is illegal and it is unlawful." the foreign minister said, according to text of her speech released by the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. She added Pakistan's government needs to build popular support for its own efforts to crush armed militant groups, but this is impossible as long as the war is viewed as U.S. interference.

Experts fear a 'Talibanization' of Afghan justice

The lashing of a teenage girl in Afghanistan for having an "illegal relationship" has caused an uproar inside and outside the country. Experts fear a "Talibanization" of the Afghan justice system. On September 16, three mullahs in the southern Afghan province of Ghazni sentenced 16-year-old Sabera to 100 lashes for having an "illegal relationship" with a boy. On Monday, September 24, hundreds of students and rights activists took to the streets to protest so-called "desert trials" such as the one which tried Sabera, which take place without due process of law and are held by the Taliban and local clerics. The protesters demanded the government take measures to stop such unlawful trials and punishment. A day later, Afghan authorities reported the arrest of five people connected to Sabera's lashing. Authorities said they were investigating the case. Sabera's sister Shafiqa was among the demonstrators. She had watched the sentence being carried out."At first, no one had the courage to carry out the lashings," she told Deutsche Welle. "When a local police chief said he would take responsibility, that's when one of his officials went forward and carried out the order." Expecting justice? Shafiqa said she tried to get the legal authorities involved in her case but that they had not been cooperative. "Basically they said, 'what do you expect if you want justice?'" Parastu Yari, one of the demonstrators in Kabul, said the justice system should get involved in such cases. "We want the organizers of arbitrary trials to be brought before a court of law. The government must become active and prohibit these kinds of acts." Shahgul Rezai, an MP from Ghazni province, where the trial took place, joined the protesters in Kabul to show her solidarity with the teenage girl. She also agreed to commission a parliamentary delegation to investigate Sabera's case. Equal rights? Amnesty International welcomed the decision of the Afghan parliament to investigate the incident. At the same time, the rights organization criticized the country's government and its legal authorities for not taking any action in such cases in the past. The impunity for violence against women was widespread in Afghanistan, Huria Musadiq of Amnesty International told DW - despite the fact that the Afghan constitution guaranteed equal rights to men and women. In reality, she said, women faced much discrimination.Referring to a 2011 report by the UN Mission in Afghanistan, Musadiq said very few judges and prosecutors in Afghanistan even had any knowledge of equal rights laws: "The discrimination of women starts in families and goes all the way to the justice system and to the top leaders of government." Preparing for the worst? For many, it was quite a surprise that Sabera was subjected to this form of parallel justice in an area like Jaghori District, where the Taliban is not active and has no followers, and which is generally seen as forward-thinking. The government, for the most part, has control over security and administration in the region. Afghan expert Musadiq fears the incident could be an indication of a "re-Talibanization" of Afghan justice. "We are observing a self-imposed censorship and the withdrawal of women from the public sphere," he told DW. "An incident like the one in Jaghori could be an indication that the people there fear the return of the Taliban and are simply preparing themselves by demonstrating that they follow shariah law."

Zardari’s finest hour at the UN

By:Wajid Shamsul Hasan
President Zardari did the nation and Muslim Ummah proud at the UN General Assembly session when he stood tall amidst world leaders to forthrightly present Pakistan’s case in its correct perspective as well as resonate worldwide condemnation of the blatant act of incitement of hate against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the comity of nations. I watched his speech on television and I saw in him a different man in a mood that is true manifestation of how hurt a Muslim feels inside on the horrendous act of blasphemy. While not condoning violence, he forcefully urged the international community not to remain a silent witness to criminalisation of the freedom of expression, which endangers the global peace and security. As the sole spokesman of the brave and courageous people of Pakistan, Zardari underlined the enormous challenges faced by his resilient nation. He recounted the sacrifices in blood to fulfill its enormous commitment to provide better future not only to itself but to entire world moving from one crisis to another in what has come to be a century of terror. Zardari asserted Pakistan’s image as a lead player determined to bridge interfaith and cultural harmony across the globe in opposition to Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilisations” by fostering equality irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender for eliminating poverty through equitable distribution of wealth and empowerment of all classes of people. Zardari nailed squarely the constant media diatribe against Pakistan aimed at blackmailing it with the objective of forcing it into a corner to make it dance to the tunes played by various vested interests with varied geo-strategic ambitions. He was absolutely right in asserting that the sinister design behind the anti-Islam film was to provoke protests and violence in the Muslim world to weaken them internally and externally. Zardari did not lose his statesmanlike cool while conveying to the comity of nations the grievously injured feelings of the Muslims across the globe. Indeed, as he put it, in Islam the best revenge is compassion and the world at this critical juncture needed to follow the martyred leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s legacy of reconciliation and tolerance. He made an impassionate appeal to the world leaders to get down to bridging the ever-increasing widening of gulf so that God’s little earth is not plunged into a quagmire of violent polarisation from which there would be no pulling back. The president highlighted the inbuilt mechanism of compassion, mercy and forgiveness in Islam. He stressed what could be the panacea for resolving the issues emanating from increasing outrageous blasphemous acts. To pull the world back from the suicidal brink he pleaded for organising and mobilising saner, civilised and universally effective response for nipping in the bud all those conspiratorial elements who seek to make fortunes by sowing seeds of discord among communities and religions. A united approach is needed to combat this other “form of terrorism”. It can only be vanquished by pulling the rug from under the feet of fly-by-night carpet beggars who believe in making hay by dividing people and nations. Besides, President Zardari did not forget to raise his voice in support of the right of self-determination for the people of Palestine and the people of Jammu & Kashmir. He strongly conveyed his profound concerns to wake up the sleeping conscience of the international community to the never-ending plight of the people of Palestine and Kashmir – two of the oldest issues lying unattended in the UN morgue. He pleaded with the world leaders to fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian and Kashmiri people who have given blood in hundreds and thousand for the much promised right of self-determination. President Zardari harkened the world about the most counter-productive drone strikes in total contempt to enormous sacrifices rendered by the people and armed forces of Pakistan as a frontline state in the war against terror. In putting Pakistan’s case straight, President Zardari highlighted it by telling the world leaders, “I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan but to tell how much wronged Pakistan has come to be.” His words like that of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s in 1971 will resonate in the Hall of the United Nations for many decades to come. He said, “The people of Pakistan have already answered them. The politicians of Pakistan have answered them. The soldiers of Pakistan have answered them. We have lost over seven thousand Pakistani soldiers and policemen, and over 37,000 civilians. We have lost our Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti and my friend Salmaan Taseer, the governor of our most populous province of Punjab, to the mindset of extremism. And I need not remind my friends here today, that I bear a personal scar. On December 27, 2007, knowing her life was under threat from the mindset she had warned the world against, Pakistan’s first elected woman leader and my wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred through the bullets and bombs of terrorists.” “Terrorism and extremism have destroyed human lives, torn social fabric, and devastated the economy. Our economy, our lives, our ability to live in the shadow of our Sufi saints and our freedom-loving forefathers have been challenged. We have responded. Our soldiers have responded. So I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan. To those who say we have not done enough, I say in all humility, please do not insult the memory of our dead, and the pain of our living. Do not ask of my people, what no one has ever asked of any other peoples. Do not demonise the innocent women, and children of Pakistan. And please, stop this refrain to do more,” the president said. These painful words coming from a man whose brave spouse gave her life for freedom and empowerment of the people moved every one in the UNGA. It was not just forceful expression of a man hurt deep inside. His conclusion, indeed, must have left indelible imprint on all those present. Zardari’s humility in his speech must have left enormous food for thought for the global leaders. They must have noted that though hurt yet he was not arrogantly defiant. His sincere pleading for “global cooperation, connectivity, and mutual respect” as “stake holders in each other’s futures” is the need of the hour. It is a question of now or never. By pursuing goals of peaceful co-existence sans discrimination, sans double standards and no preference to expediency over principles can guarantee a better, brighter, prosperous, progressive and peaceful future for this world.

Zardari meets Karzai, discusses bilateral ties and regional situation
President Asif Ali Zardari met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai here on Thursday night on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York and discussed bilateral relations, situation in the region and peace process. During his meeting with President Karzai, President Zardari said, "Pakistan believes that the destinies of the people of the two countries were intertwined and the two neighbours who are linked with historic cultural and religious bonds should work together in confronting the shared challenges and issues." The President said Pakistan has abiding interest in the peace, stability and socio-economic development of Afghanistan and will continue to support every effort of the international community in this regard. He said that Pakistan was supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan owned reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Discussing common challenges and issues, President Zardari said that militancy, terrorism, narco-trade, illiteracy with less economic opportunities were among the main issues being confronted by the two countries but "we must join hands to overcome these issues". The President said the goal of completely eliminating militancy and terrorism from the region would remain elusive until an enabling environment is created where the militancy is automatically defeated. He said that education and provision of economic opportunities would be instrumental in winning the battle of hearts and minds and weaning away youth falling into the traps of militants. The President also emphasized upon the need for the two countries to focus on financial mechanisms involved in funding the terrorist activities. He said that there was a nexus between the large scale heroin trade and terrorism, adding "we must urgently cut this cord". The President said equally important in this quest was to offer alternatives to the people. President Zardari said that hosting of an international conference on the issue of narco trade later this year by Pakistan was a measure of the commitment to collectively fight the menace and to promote real-time substantive cooperation for effectively addressing the issue of drug production and trafficking. The President underlined the need for enhanced regional connectivity saying that Pakistan was eager to extend Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) to the Central Asian states for promoting trade and economic activities in the region. He expressed the hope that, as a first step, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan will be able to sign the trilateral transit and trade agreement this year. President Hamid Karzai thanked President Zardari for the assistance being provided by Pakistan to his country. The two leaders besides discussing bilateral ties, regional situation and peace process in Afghanistan also exchanged views on the issues of international importance as well as the challenges facing Muslim Ummah. They also agreed to build trust and reduce trust deficit so that they could enhance cooperation in all the fields including intelligence sharing. Those who were present during the meeting from Pak side included among others Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Dr. Asim Hussain, Secretary General M. Salman Faruqui, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, Ambassador Sherry Rehman and Ambassador Masood Khan. Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Chief of High Peace Council Salauddin Rabbani and Ambassador Eklil Ahmad Hakimi among others were also present during the meeting.


The Federal Information Minister, Mr. Qamar Zaman Kaira, has put at rest all speculations by saying that the interim set up will be established once the sitting Government completes its constitutional tenure. He specifically said that the interim set up can be established after March 16 next as the Government is completing the constitutional tenure on March 18 next. After the categorical statement from the Qamar Zaman Kaira, the minister informed other political parties that the Government is not holding negotiation on this issue. Thus he had closed the chapter We are opposed to the formation of any interim set up as it proved useless and powerless in the past and they played no role to curb electoral fraud and powerful personalities and dishonest groups in politics manipulated the elections in their own favour. The public functionaries rigged the elections at will and ensured that their favourites should return to the Assembly. They succeeded in their efforts to dominate the assemblies by sending their own handpicked people. Transparent elections are not possible under the present circumstances as powerful sections in our Government and society will not allow their opponents to win the election with comfortable majority to rule the country single-handedly. As the interim set up is unable to prevent poll rigging and electoral fraud, there is no need to form an interim Government for a few months.

Dr Najeeb was follower of Bacha Khan: Iftikhar

ANP observes death anniversary of late Afghan president
ANP observes death anniversary of late Afghan president
Awami National Party (ANP) Thursday observed the death anniversary of former Afghan President Shaheed Dr. Najibullah with great reverence here at Bacha Khan Centre. Provincial Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mian Iftikhar Hussain and other party workers including MPAs attended the event and paid rich tribute to Shaheed Dr. Najibullah. Speaking on the occasion, Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that Dr. Najibullah was follower of Bacha Khan's teaching and rendered his life for establishment of peace in the area, adding that he left the leadership of the country for peace in Afghanistan. He lamented that United Nations could not protect Dr. Najibullah from terrorists' attack. Despite passage of 30 years not a single leader in Afghanistan could succeed to establish peace in the country, he noted. Mian Iftikhar said that the war on terror has deteriorated the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well but the followers of Bach Khan did not bow to terrorists and sacrificed their lives for peace. He said peace in Pakistan could only be maintained if there is peace in Afghanistan and it needs pragmatic and sincere measures against the terrorists and miscreants by the two governments. He said terrorists have no religion rather they are exploiting innocent people for their ulterior motives and killing people in Mosques, Imam Barghas and other religious places to fan sectarianism and terrorism. He said USA and European countries should have to play their role positively for peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Abidi stands by charges against CJP

Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), on Thursday recorded his statement with Islamabad Police in connection with his press conference about Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. In his statement, Abidi said he stood by the allegations he had made against the CJP and his son on TV talk shows and conversations with the media. He denied being part of any campaign against the chief justice. However, the ruling party’s leader said the CJP had been taking suo motu notices over “minor issues such as recovery of wine bottles and slaps of Waheeda Shah”, but was not taking notice of the killing of Pakistan Army personnel, rape of women in Parachinar, and the killing of Shia community members. He said that he was not intending to humiliate the chief justice and his son, but wanted “their reformation” and supremacy of law in the country.