Saturday, October 6, 2012

Afghans still revere Pakistan’s hospitality

Despite spiraling tension between Islamabad and Kabul, the common Afghan citizen at Kabul and other parts of the war-stricken country, not only respect Pakistan and its people but is also desirous to have cordial, friendly and trustworthy relations between the two neighbours. “Irrespective of government policies, we can’t forget the unprecedented hospitality of Pakistan and its people,” remarked Mohammad Yaseen Sangar, a local tribal leader at Kabul. In fact, Sangar, while waiting to meet an Afghan politico-spiritual elder at the latter’s residence in Kabul, opened his heart after coming to know that next to him sat a Pakistani national. Sangar belongs to Central Bameyan province of Afghanistan, and was amongst the millions of Afghans who abandoned their home country after the invasion of former Soviet troops in 1979, and migrated to Pakistan. While narrating the tale of his stay of over two and half a decades in Pakistan, Sangar was unable to keep his tears at bay. He stayed in Sardar Ahmad Jan Colony Charsadda Road, Chirat and Warsak Road, Peshawar. “During this long tenure, I felt Pakistan was just like my native country,” he said, “and my most golden days were in Sattar Shah Bacha Colony Peshawar where I made friends like late Amir Hamza Baba Shinwari, late singer Rafique Shinwari and Kheyal Mohammad. He said that he and his family members were in contact with their Pakistani friends and neighbours through telephone since their repatriation to homeland in 2002. Several other Afghans expressed similar sentiments, praising Pakistan and its people for extending help to them in a critical stage. “It was only Pakistan and its people, who opened their gates for Afghans when over 100,000 Soviet troops landed in Kabul and other main cities and towns,” remarked a senior Afghan politician. The politician is counted amongst friends of Pakistan and he believes that Pakistan and Afghanistan could emerge as the most prosperous states in South Asia if the rulers resolved their misunderstandings. An ironic phenomenon was witnessed throughout Kabul on the eve of the T-20 Semi Final between the Green-Shirts and Sri Lankans at Colombo, on Thursday. Afghans of every age demonstrated the same enthusiasm while watching the cricket match as Pakistani nationals and almost all of them prayed for Pakistan’s victory. But unfortunately like millions of Pakistanis, these Afghans were also disappointed when Sri Lanka came out as victorious. At that stage, a government official, Qari Naseer, a computer expert Hilal Shinwari and an emerging cricketer Zabih Shinwari extended sympathies with Sangar’s tribe on the failure of Pakistan. Right from Torkham till Hairataan, almost all Afghan markets and bazaars are flooded with Pakistani products. Trucks carrying construction materials, office materials, stationary, vegetables, China clay, marbles, fresh and dry fruits, vegetables and a wide array of other products regularly make the difficult journey from Pakistan to Afghanistan for the common people. Pakistani labourers, technicians, artisans and others are also playing a key role in the reconstruction and rebuilding of the war-stricken Afghanistan. Due to lacking of proper arrangements between the two governments, however, such efforts aimed at the rehabilitation of Afghanistan face problems. For further boosting up trade links between the two neighbours, Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries is going to hold an exhibition from October 12 to 18 at Kabul. Arrangements in this respect are in full swing, and Afghan traders and businessmen are considering it a valuable opportunity. Newspaper reading habit is very low in Afghanistan but some of the political stalwarts, workers, intellectuals and technocrats developed the habit during their long stay in Pakistan, and have now subscribed to Pakistani newspapers on a regular basis. A couple of days back, the Afghan government banned supply of newspapers from Pakistan on the pretext of its negative approach towards Afghanistan, which has disheartened the readers in Kabul. Continued distrust and misunderstandings between policy makers and rulers from both countries is however increasing the distance amongst the people who entered into close relations with each other after the Soviet invasion. Most Afghans are not only familiar with Pakistan’s culture and traditions but can easily determine the ethnic background of a Pakistani visitor. Strengthening of such relations could help rulers and policy makers from both the countries in tackling their politico-economic crises by adopting policies and strategies in accordance with the wishes and expectations of people.

Why can’t we store flood water in small dams?

BY:Amanullah Khan
ACCORDING to latest number of casualties due to monsoon floods about 371 people were killed and nearly 4.5 million were displaced or dislocated. This is not the first time when Pakistan facing floods, since past two years Pakistan has suffered devastating floods, including the worst in its history in 2010, when catastrophic inundations across the country killed almost 1,800 people and affected 21 million. As in 2010 and 2011, most of those hit by the latest floods are in Sindh province, where the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said 2.8 million were affected, with nearly 890,000 in Punjab and 700,000 in Baluchistan. Successive floods in the country had also major negative impact on national economy. Every year Pakistan’s economy is considered to have suffered a 0.5 per cent loss to the estimated growth rate. Flash floods that hit most of Sindh and parts of Baluchistan last year caused a loss of Rs324 billion to the economy. It is estimated that about 9.6 million people had been affected directly or indirectly and the sectors hit hard were irrigation and flood management, housing, agriculture, livestock & fisheries, transport & communications, energy, social & gender financial, private sector and industries, education, health, water supply & sanitation, governance, environment, disaster risk management and social protection. Keeping in view the ongoing disastrous situation, the affected areas and people need immediate and long-lasting mitigation measures to avoid future economic impacts and loss of life and property. Disaster mitigation refers to measures which can be taken to minimize the destructive and disruptive effects of hazards, and thus lessen the magnitude of a disaster. Mitigation is an activity that can take place at any time before, during, or after a disaster. Mitigation measures can range from physical measures such as flood defenses, safe building designs and establishment and maintenance of storm and wastewater drains to legislation, training, and public awareness. However, in the case of Pakistan, despite knowing the fact that floods had negative impact on the economic growth, every year government planned a disaster preparedness action plan, a disaster response plan, a disaster reconstruction and a rehabilitation plan, and a disaster mitigation plan. The plan identifies priority items and activities, delineates responsibilities, and stipulates time frame including periods for monitoring and evaluation. The absence of an institutional accountability, however, has resulted in poor quality monitoring and consequently in minimal knowledge about disasters. The crux of the problem lies also in the central government and their unwillingness to recognize local governments and local community groups and its failure to tie in disaster mitigation efforts with the ongoing debate on decentralization. Along this, policy makers, donors, and relief and development agencies treat flood disasters as isolated events that break the continuity of the ‘normal’ way of life. Most interventions to mitigate disasters are post hoc responses made under the assumption that an emergency support in the form of relief will help overcome the situation of hardship. Such support aims at restoring the situation to what it was before the disaster. Even when a flood disaster affects the same community every year, government, donor, and non-government organizations respond by providing the same relief and rehabilitation measures each time. Relief is the dominant approach championed by the regions’ governments, minion of the state, including international agencies and donor agencies. This approach does not consider the situation of a society during normal times between the occurrences of two hazard events important. Disasters are considered as a coincidence when a hazard interferes with society. Many times the terms “natural hazard” and “natural disaster” are used interchangeably. Despite the fact that flood disasters are widespread and frequent, efforts in Pakistan at creating a suitable set of institutions to deal with the associated consequences have been hamstrung by the lack of resources. Its government-centric approach ignored local governments and community based institutions. Even more problematic is the notion that each flood disaster is an isolated event and that post-disaster relief is the only logical response. Disaster is still considered an act of God that strikes once in one location, not something that could happen again and again. Flood disaster mitigation also involves large commitment of financial resources that could otherwise be spent on mainstream development effort. Disaster preparedness would imply making adequate initial investments in acquiring a better, more scientific understanding of the causes of natural hazards and a parallel effort in improving institutions and infrastructure necessary to confront them. It also means increasing the role and involvement of social institutions that range from local governments to non-governmental actors at the regional and the state levels. A major problem is the actual response to flood mitigation, which, conventionally is perceived as the responsibility of the government. There are separate agencies to work on different aspects of floods, ranging from hydrology to relief and rehabilitation, but they are ineffective. There is a conspicuous absence of flood disaster management plans. Even multi-sectoral approaches have had little co-ordination and thereby have been of limited value in mitigating hardships caused by flooding. The co-operation of the nongovernmental sector is critical and should also be solicited to identify factors that exacerbate societal vulnerability, which may vary in type and intensity from one area to another. The fact is that it is not the natural risk of floods, which is always present, but institutional failure, which exacerbates vulnerability. Institutions are conceived to include rules, regulations, practices, laws and organizations of both formal and informal types. Marginal community groups are not able to cope with a flood that face immense suffering. Outbreaks of epidemics, which often follow floods, make the situation worse. The resulting social trauma makes the distress difficult to remedy by only providing relief. The conventional responses to mitigating flooding are of two types. The first response takes the form of post event relief and the second is structural solutions in the form of multipurpose projects and embankments. In all over the world, large and small dams not only protected the countries but also provided them with cheap electricity through which they ran their industries smoothly. It is disappointing that Pakistan is an agricultural country but importing agro-based item from Saudi Arabia due to Pakistan’s failure in handling floods. Flood policy in Pakistan has been somewhat of a peripheral area for Pakistani water managers and then, it has also been limited to concerns with physical risk and exposure reduction. On the physical risk-management side, the priority for dam and barrage management has always been irrigation and power generation, and then flood control as an afterthought. There is an urgent need for Pakistani water managers to be trained to do multi-criteria management of the system, where long-term flood management is a priority on par with other priorities. The managers, if trained and given the autonomy, could operate infrastructure in such a way as to periodically flush channels and reduce the need for costly levee-breaching during flood events.

TTP Punjab warns PTI march participants of 'painful consequences'

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Punjab faction has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf “peace march” is forcing them to take “strict actions”, a statement issued by the militant faction said on Saturday. The TTP Punjab warned the participants to not endorse his “peace march” and said that they will face “painful consequences” if they do so. The statement said: Their only motive to come to Waziristan is to mislead the simple people of the tribal region. The statement further said that the journalists “following the Jews” and endorsing Khan’s rally were “out of the pale of Islam”. The militant outfit said that the PTI had not only “ignored the values of Islam, but also forgotten its norms.” PTI’s “peace march” left from the limits of Islamabad and proceeded towards South Waziristan, today. The motorcade will drive across Talagang, Chakwal, Kundian, Mianwali, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan and finally enter Waziristan.

Putin’s postponement of Pakistan visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unexpected announcement of postponement of his visit to Pakistan days before his arrival in Islamabad, is a great setback to the efforts of his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, who has been, in the past few years, trying to make a turnaround in the otherwise “strained” and “unsmooth” relations between the two countries for decades. Putin informed the Pakistani side last week about the decision of postponement of his visit on October 2-3, when Zardari was in New York, without giving any firm date of his “rescheduled” visit to Islamabad in the future. Had his visit materialised, indeed, it would have been a first visit by a Russian President in the history of Russia-Pakistan relations.It was supposed to be a genuine sense of reciprocity that the Kremlin had shown to Zardari’s efforts to upgrade the bilateral relations to the highest political level, whatever might have been the reasons for the putting off Putin’s visit to a later date. The Russian side publicly did not give any reasons for the postponement and rescheduling of the Putin’s visit. Last Thursday, although the Pakistan Foreign Office leaked the “suitable” parts of the Russian President’s letter informing Islamabad about his decision to call off the visit, it did not provide any reasons why Putin declined to travel to Pakistan at this point of time. The Foreign Office only said in a statement that a summit meeting of the leaders of quadrilateral group of countries, including Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which was planned to be held in Islamabad on October 2-3, was being “rescheduled.” The quadrilateral summit was scheduled to be hosted on October 3 and Pakistan was expecting Putin to arrive on an official bilateral visit in the Pak capital on October 2. “I am confident that in future, we shall be able to find opportunities for arranging our personal meeting,” Putin wrote in his letter to Zardari, adding “We shall always be happy to receive you in Russia.” “New summit dates will be worked out after seeking convenience of the respective leaders through diplomatic channels,” the Foreign Office spokesman told reporters. As for the reasons of the cancellation of the trip by the Russian President, according to media reports, Putin’s visit to Islamabad was timed with the convening of the quadrilateral summit of the leaders of Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which he was supposed to attend. However, Russia denied that Putin’s visit was ever confirmed, claiming it remained only on the discussion level. “Russia agreed to take part in the quadrilateral meeting, but we never said Putin will lead the Russian delegation (at the quadrilateral summit),” the head of the 2nd Asia Department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zamir Kabulov was quoted as saying in some press reports, blaming the Pakistani side for the fiasco. Despite the refusal by the Russian and Pakistani sides to disclose the reasons for the postponement of the visit, there was a wide speculation in media as to why the Russian President was reluctant to come to Islamabad at this particularly important juncture of the upward trend of bilateral relations.Diplomatic sources said Putin’s decision to put off his visit to Islamabad could be linked mainly to two reasons : Moscow’s security concerns in the wake of violent protests in the country over the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” made in the US, and Islamabad’s unwillingness to sign a deal allowing Russian energy giant Gazprom to build its section of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. However, what was surprising in this connection that there was even no major word in the Russian media about the coming Putin’s visit to Pakistan. Of course, some Russian newspapers reported quoting the Pakistani press on the possibility of the cancellation of the President’s visit stressing that with no special emphasis by Russian and Pakistani leaders on the bilateral summit, it was most likely that Islamabad may not have prepared well for the summit, from the point of security risk in the Pakistani capital, and economic and political agenda for the Putin-Zardari summit-level talks. According to many political observers, the differences between the two sides, over an estimated $1.2 billion deal to award the construction of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to Gazprom was the main reason for the postponement of the visit. Gazprom reportedly wanted the construction of the gas pipeline without any participation in the bidding process. But Pakistan was reported to have ultimately balked at Russia’s proposal, arguing such a step would be contrary to the general rules and regulations of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA). As a result, they pointed out, the Kremlin might have “in retaliation” called off Putin’s visit, promising to reschedule it, giving the Zardari government to reconsider the Russian proposal, in which Moscow is still interested, despite stiff American opposition. Currently, Pakistan is engaged in conducting negotiations with three countries, including Russia, China and Iran. While China has not responded to the Pak offer, Islamabad has also entered into talks with Iran over the project. Russia’s disappointment over the refusal of Pakistan government to allow the Gazprom to build the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was quite understandable, since it made a proposal in this regard when Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar paid a visit to Moscow, in February this year. The Pakistani Government had also submitted detailed engineering design of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project during the meeting of Pak-Russia Joint Working Group in June. Pakistan and Russia also held final rounds of talks in September to decide whether Gazprom will sign deals to participate in the Iran-Pakistan, TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) gas pipeline projects and the Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan (CASA-1000), and construction of railway lines and motor roads from Tajikistan to Pakistan as new trade routes. Russia has shown keen interests in these ambitious energy and infrastructure projects, with Putin promising to invest $500 in CASA-1000. It is also willing to assist Pakistan in oil and gas exploration and the modernization and expansion of the Steel Mills, initially constructed by the former Soviet Union. The face of Russia-Pakistan bilateral relations have been changing ever since Zardari held bilateral talks with the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, at the sidelines of quadrilateral summit of the leaders of Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, at his residence of the Black Sea resort of Sochi, in August 2010. The Sochi summit provided a rare opportunity for the Kremlin to turn the page on its relations with Islamabad, with each side looking on each other with deep suspicion and mistrust for decades. Sochi became a turning point as the bilateral summit at the highest level was marked by “uncharacteristic warmth” from both sides. Medvdev invited Zardari to pay an official visit to Moscow, while the Pak President extended a similar invitation to Medvedev. Russia has since then assiduously been building the new format of improving the relations between the two countries, with Zardari paying an official visit to Moscow in May 2011. During the three-day visit, the two sides signed a number of agreements on cooperation in agriculture, aviation and energy. Despite the postponement of his visit, Putin in his letter to Zardari, expressed his willingness to “jointly enhance our efforts to further develop Russian-Pakistani ties and advance mutually beneficial trade and economic projects.” Apparently, this shows that in the aftermath of the Russian President’s visit, both Moscow and Islamabad have agreed to put their past behind and move forward towards the development of bilateral trade and investment in Pakistani economic projects, political observers said. One indication which way the wind is blowing, is clear from the press reports in Islamabad that Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will pay a four-day visit to Moscow on October 3-6, in a bid to “address the temporary hiccup” in bilateral relations, following Putin’s decision not to travel to Pakistan. Kayani last visited Moscow in 2009, at the invitation of the Russian Ground Forces chief Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev. Kayani’s visit to Moscow was on the cards for months, but got additional urgency because of the cancellation of Putin’s trip, Pakistani media reports said. Undoubtedly, Pakistan holds a strategic place for Russia, as far as, its geopolitical interest is concerned in South Asia and Central Asia. Moscow is very concerned over the stabilization of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces in 2014, with Washington claiming to maintain foreign bases on Afghan territory. As a whole, both Russia and Pakistan see eye to eye on the prospects of possible developments of scenarios in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US in 2014 and both are opposed to US maintaining military bases in the country. Russia has also already backed Islamabad’s request to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in order to make Central Asia and Euro-Asian region, a stable region, with emphasis that good relations with Pakistan would certainly be one of Russia’s top priorities, in the future.

Bahrain Shiite activist Rajab on hunger strike

Bahraini Shiite rights activist Nabeel Rajab has gone on hunger strike, a local rights group said Saturday, just two days after he was briefly released from jail to attend his mother's funeral. Rajab, 48, who is serving a three-year sentence for participating in illegal demonstrations, was allowed out of jail for one day to bury his mother. After the funeral, Rajab was taken back into custody and barred from attending the three-day condolence gathering where friends and relatives pay their respects. "In protest against this unjustified punishment, (Rajab) started a full hunger strike (on Friday)," said the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). In a comment posted on Twitter, Bahraini rights lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi said "Rajab's hunger strike is an expected reaction since he's being denied his lawful and humane right to attend his mum's funeral." Bahrain authorities say Rajab was barred from attending the condolence gathering because he "committed violations" at the funeral. "Rajab was released briefly to attend his mother's funeral on humanitarian grounds," the authorities said in a statement, but he "violated the terms of his release and delivered a speech inciting mourners to stage illegal protests". "Because of his actions, Rajab has had the privilege to attend further mourning gatherings revoked," the authorities said. The BCHR said that Rajab called on mourners to "continue their struggle for rights and democracy," and argued his speech was a "peaceful expression of opinion." The next hearing in Rajab's appeal is set for October 16. The courts have merged Rajab's three separate cases of "incitement and illegal assembly" into one single appeal. The activist led anti-government protests following a crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the Sunni Al-Khalifa regime in March 2011. Bahrain continues to witness sporadic Shiite-led protests that have often spiralled into clashes with police. According to Amnesty International, since the protests first began in February 2011, at least 60 people have been killed.

Iran's currency plunge ruins Afghan markets

Deutsche Welle
The decline in Iran's national currency has brought unrest and protests in Iran. But the rial's inflation has also wreaked havoc in neighboring Afghanistan. Cross-border trade threatens to collapse. At the bazaar in Herat in western Afghanistan, the mood is heated. The decline in Iran's currency, the rial, has unleashed great unrest on this side of the border. Herat is the wealthiest city in Afghanistan, thanks largely to its fluid, cross-border transactions with Iran. Oil, Water, and foodstuffs in particular are imported from their next-door neighbor. Yet Iran's currency crisis now threatens Herat with ruin. For business people in the city, Iranian inflation is nothing short of a financial death sentence, said Haji Khush, a merchant in Herat. "The drop in the rial has done damage to all of us," he said. "We had to give everything up and are just sitting at home now. All of our money is gone." Whether wares, fuel, or currency exchange, everything had collapsed, he added. Cash in suitcases:Many Iranians have tried to escape their currency's runaway inflation by bringing pillow cases stuffed with rials to Herat, where they hoped to exchange them for US dollars. "In one case it was around 140,000 euros [US $180,000] that someone tried to bring over the border in a suitcase. We seized it," said General Sher Ahmad Maladani of the Afghan border patrol. In west Afghanistan, both rials and US dollars are popular shadow currencies, more popular even than the country's own cash, the "Afghani." Given that the Herat market has been positively flooded with rials, the Afghan dealers are now finding themselves sitting upon large piles of Iranian cash - cash that is losing value every hour. To avoid losing all of their dollar reserves, the Afghan government has levied a $1,000 ceiling as the maximum allowable to be shipped over the border into Iran. But experts like Mir Barez Hossaini, professor of economics at the University of Heart, doubt the government's measures will protect the Afghan market from collapse. "We have a long border with Iran that can't really be controlled," he said. "The state's measures will not have much of an effect, but they are legal and the state has the legitimacy to enact them." Under current conditions he thought smuggling would boom. Falling rial, rising prices It is in western Afghanistan, in the provinces of Herat, Nimroz and Farah which border Iran, where the rial circulates in the largest quantities. In some areas the rial is even used exclusively. But if the dollar continues to rise, people will stop utilizing the rial as a second currency, said Hossaini. He believed western Afghanistan markets would collapse, sending prices sky high. Jan Agha Farahi, a merchant from Herat, reported of already-dramatic exchange rates. "Earlier, when Iranian dealers received loans from us, the money was at least worth something," he said. "For a million rials I got 40,000 Afghani. Now that'd be 15,000. People are getting angry." Since Islamic law prohibits profiting from interest on debt and loans, Afghan dealers have to look toward other sources of income. Many of them have relocated their activities directly to Iran. For dirt-cheap prices they can by goods there and sell them in Afghanistan.

Alleged Taliban's pamphlet against PTI march distributed

The one-page Punjabi Taliban’s pamphlet has also threatened the participants of the rally.
A pamphlet against the peace rally of Imran Khan has been allegedly distributed by a group named Punjabi Taliban in Dera Ismail Khan. The pamphlet termed Imran Khan as an agent of theUnited States, Britain and Israel and alleged that he is politicising the issue and has no sympathy for the poor tribesmen. The one-page Punjabi Taliban’s pamphlet also threatened the participants of the rally. The pamphlet requested the people not to participate in this rally otherwise Imran Khan would be held responsible if something unpleasant happens. Imran Khan is leading a convoy from Islamabad to South Waziristan to protest against US drone strikes. The one-page TTP’s pamphlet was written in Urdu.

Pakistan: Efforts urged to maintain Capital polio-free status

Comprehensive arrangements must be made to achieve 100 per cent coverage for administering the children with polio drops during the forthcoming polio campaign to help maintain polio-free status of Islamabad. Chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA), Syed Tahir Shahbaz directed this while chairing the District Polio Eradication Committee meeting held here at CDA headquarters. Representatives of international organisations, which include WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, Rotary International were present in the meeting. Representatives from allied government organizations, collaborating and assisting in polio campaigns like Federal Directorate of Education, Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PIERA), Federal Government Service Hospital, PIMS, Islamabad Traffic Police, Motorway and Highway Police were also present. The Chairman CDA said that polio eradication is foremost priority of CDA and we would continue efforts to maintain polio-free status of Islamabad. The Federal Capital has been a polio-free city since 2008 as no such case has been detected during the period due to enhance vigilance of the civic agency. He said that he would personally monitor the campaign. The meeting was apprised that hundreds of employees of CDA have been involved in the Polio Campaigns. In additions, CDA is providing logistic support during the campaigns. The CDA has established an Operation Room to intensify the monitoring and arrangements of the polio campaign. It is encouraging to say that the coverage of CDA in the previous campaign has been 97% as verified by WHO Independent Monitors, which is quite up to the mark. The performance of CDA is proved by the fact that every child is administered with the polio drops. He appreciated the efforts of the health services CDA in this regard. The chairman called upon the partner organizations to join hands in the polio campaign where their assistance is required. He said that he has directed other formations of CDA to extend full support during the campaign, especially in Kachi Abadies and high-rise buildings. Director Health, Dr Hasan Arooj presented detail overview of population coverage, high-risk areas to be covered in the forthcoming campaign on 15th to 17th October 2012. He said that for this National Immunization Drive (NID), the Directorate of Health has divided Islamabad in 15 Zones and constituted 574 teams to vaccinate the children. The teams have been headed by Medical Officers as Zonal Supervisors. Moreover, 108 Fixed Centers and 35 Transit Points have also been established. Dr Arooj mentioned that DHS has established a well-equipped state of the art Operation Room to monitor Polio Campaign vigilantly. With the support of Chairman and members, a double monitoring system has been established.

Taliban warn Imran against anti-drone rally

While terming Imran Khan’s rally to South Waziristan “a mere drama”, the Taliban has warned Tehreek-e-Insaaf Pakistan not to go ahead with the rally or face music. According to media reports, the Taliban have distributed a pamphlet in Tank, the gateway to South Waziristan, and termed Imran Khan as an agent of the United States, Britain and Israel and alleged that the cricketer-turned-politician is politicising the issue and has no sympathy for the poor tribesmen. Interestingly, the pamphlet has been issued from an unknown Taliban group Jaish-ul-Mujahedeen-al-Khilafat. Imran Khan’s party is planning to lead a convoy from Islamabad to South Waziristan on October 7 to protest against US drone strikes and has said that no- one could stop the peace march, adding that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari would be directly responsible for any untoward situation. The one-page TTP’s pamphlet, written in Urdu, was distributed in Tank Bazaar on Thursday night. It said, “We inform all and sundry with humble way that Imran Khan/TIP is taking a rally into South Waziristan with a slogan of anti-drone. (He has no sympathy with the tribesmen) actually it is a drama and he is the agent of Israel, US and Britain. On the politics of drone he is promoting the Jewish and agendas of Christianity (in Pakistan).” The pamphlet further added, “We humbly request the people not to participate in this rally otherwise Imran Khan would be responsible if something unpleasant happens.” Meanwhile, a South Waziristan Agency (SWA) grand tribal jirga on Friday announced to provide security for ‘peace march’ planned by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to South Waziristan Agency. The jirga meeting took place at Tank Town Hall which was attended by elders of Mehsud and Barki tribes. Representatives of all tribal agencies were present in the meeting.


A senior leader of the National Party, Mr. Rehmat Baloch, a former MPA, has censured the admission policy of the IT University of Management Sciences claiming that it was designed to discriminate Baloch and bar Baloch students from getting admission in the IT University. Earlier, the Baloch students, members of the Provincial Assembly and sitting Ministers registered their protest over the admission policy discriminating the Baloch students and Baloch area on the false pretext of merit. The University authorities and their bosses had framed their own policy confining the admission to the students from Quetta only barring the students from more backward regions of Northern, Central, Southern and Eastern Balochistan. The University was established in the name of Balochistan and it backwardness and the Government is providing funds on this basis to provide better and quality education to the students from more backward regions. However, the IT University authorities and their bosses are providing admission to students from Quetta alone denying the traditional merit of District Quota. The Government should stop all funds to the IT University until it defended the legitimate interests of Baloch students from remote corners of Balochistan providing them equal chances to get quality education. The best policy is to implement the district quota system which the Provincial Government is implementing in all spheres of human activities and recruitment of public servants. We support the demand of the Baloch students that the sitting Vice Chancellor should be sacked immediately for his hate-Baloch policies and a more competent IT expert should be appointed as the new Vice Chancellor. The Chief Minister should issue an order to the IT University to admit students from all the 30 districts of Balochistan ending the monopoly of Quetta Mafia on the University.

Pakistan: ‘Perfect solution’ firmly in sight
The Supreme Court on Friday granted more time to the government in the contempt notice against the Prime Minister for failing to write the letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in line with para 178 of the National Reconciliation ordinance verdict on Friday. Adjourning the hearing till October 10, a five-judge special bench, led by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, said: “we are only inches away from the perfect solution in the instant matter, which will uphold the dignity of the court and address the government concerns as well”. Federal Law Minister Farooq H Naek submitted the revised draft of the letter before the bench, saying it had been prepared in accordance with the observations of the court and para 178 of the NRO judgment. He said: “I am appearing as representative of the government and not as a private party in the case”. Terming the matter ‘sensitive’, Naek pleaded that to understand the court’s reservations and to convey its concern to the Prime Minister, he may be heard in the chamber for 15 minutes. After examining the draft, justices went to their chambers for consultations and summoned Naek. Returning a few minutes later, the bench observed that the court found the first two paragraphs of the letter in consonance with the spirit of the para 178 of the NRO judgment. However, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa observed that the last paragraph of the draft was incompatible with the first two paragraphs and did not conform with the judgment that called for revival of the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari Soon after the bench began writing a short order on which the government sought more time to improve the draft upon which Farooq H Naek said he had made no such commitment, adding that he had requested for more time for consultation with the Prime Minister on the matter. Later, hearing was adjourned till October 10. After the hearing, Farooq H Naek said that the President enjoyed immunity under Article-248 of the Constitution. Commenting on the close-door deliberations, he clarified that such deliberation were meant to foil anti-state forces and maintained that the system would not be allowed to be derailed.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Islamabad

The post-haste arrival of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Islamabad to explain sudden postponement of President Putin's visit is indeed a positive development as it marks a clear departure from the decades-old tundra-cold Pakistan-Russia relationship. It's also indicative of Moscow's revived strategic interest in this region after withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. Is Islamabad ready to embrace Russia's reanimated interest in the region of late, it appears to be still preparing for it? Ordinarily, after the Russian President's abrupt 'postponement' of visit, the situation would have required Army Chief General Kayani to cancel his visit to Moscow. To many in Pakistan the excuse that President Putin couldn't make it to Islamabad because of 'rescheduling problems' was too flimsy, and the media had talked of some plausible causes for the no-show incident. With hindsight, however, it appears that Moscow was not playing roulette; Lavrov was here for good 48 hours and his open condemnation of drone attacks as infringement of Pakistan's territorial integrity amply suggests a definite change of mind and heart towards Pakistan. Even when the host foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, was a bit ambiguous on the drone saga - she, in line with her earlier take on it in Washington, upheld the "objective" of strikes but questioned the methodology - the Russian foreign minister was absolutely unequivalent. Since drone attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity these are not acceptable - a position more tougher than what our foreign minister wants us to believe. And as Foreign Minister Lavrov shared Pakistanis' rejection of drone attacks he also unfolded the blueprint of Moscow's expectations from Pakistan, especially in Afghanistan beyond end of next year when the Nato forces quit the country. "On Afghanistan we feel answers should come from within the country and the region...All proposals should come from the territory of Afghanistan and foreign partners should only encourage these proposals, as lots of remedies were imposed from outside but none of them worked in Afghanistan," he said at the media encounter after talks at the Foreign Office. And he also discussed with the host government other issues including Syria, Libya and Iranian nuclear programme, and found to "have common concerns". Of course, they did not find much being jointly done at the international forums on these issues but Islamabad's position on them is largely in a state of flux and does show early signs of tilting towards the Russians'. China, another important stakeholder in the regional security, too is on the same page, which tends to influence Pakistan's policymaking. And with West bending too low towards India and the United States playing the lead role in that direction Russia's reinvigorated interest in this region sits well with Pakistan's. But one swallow doesn't make the summer. There have to be more such visits and exchanges. Likewise, the regional multinational forums like Shanghai Co-operation Organisation have to be proactive - for which the West's dwindling economic and financial interest in this part of the world presents a real opportunity. Despite the frozen, if not hostile and adversarial, political bilateral relationship for many decades the avenues for economic co-operation were always there, and in some areas like energy and steel manufacturing they were very productive. Pakistan Steel Mills, and the OGDC, the country's premier industrial landmarks, are there to prove how Russia can come here again to help Pakistan get rid of perennial energy shortages. It is heartening to learn from Foreign Minister Khar that "in the next few months we'll be able to move beyond MoUs to specific projects". And that is very much possible that some progress has already taken place on CASA-1000 project, TAPI gas pipeline, and rail link with Central Asian states which can be expedited.

‘Punjab govt destroying medical education’

In its message on World Teachers’ Day on Friday, Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) accused the Punjab government of destroying medical education in the province. YDA’s Dr Talha Sherwani said, “Wrong policies, abuse of power and appointments against merit are rampant at medical universities of Punjab.” He alleged that a relative of PML-N’s MNA has been heading King Edward Medical University (KEMU) for the last two years, adding that there is no regular vice chancellor at the university. “There are also no regular principal, controller and registrar at KEMU while junior most professors are running affairs of the institution. Most of the professors are least concerned about the affairs of KEMU,” Dr Sherwani said. The YDA also appealed to the Supreme Court to take action against those who are responsible for “destroying the most prestigious institution of the province”.

Pakistan: From Russia with love

EDITORIAL :Daily Times
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Islamabad to meet his counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and other senior members of the ruling administration, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Many things have been discussed and issues have been put forth to start searching for solutions in what looks ready to be a new strategic relationship, one that has been eluding Pakistan and Russia for decades, especially since our decisive role in the Cold War, which saw the Soviet Union defeated in its designs on Afghanistan. Ms Khar and Mr Lavrov were on the same page during their talks when it came to condemning US drone strikes as unlawful and against the sovereignty of the country, and counter-productive means in the war on terror. That Russia and Pakistan are on the same page where a tactic employed by Pakistan’s original ally in the war on terror - the US - is concerned should serve as an interesting prelude to what may just be a new geostrategic partnership in a region that has not seen many friends. In addition, the two foreign ministers reiterated that their respective countries were looking forward to dynamic economic cooperation in the days ahead, signalling that Russia and Pakistan were looking towards maintaining a relationship for the long haul. Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed and promises made on improving economic relations and maintaining regular contact to combat terrorism and drug trafficking. This trip by the Russian foreign minister is no ordinary visit. Pakistan was originally expecting Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit this week in what would have been the first visit of a Russian head of state to Pakistan. This was an extremely anticipated visit, one that was raising the eyebrows of many an international observer. However, Putin cancelled the trip, citing a tight domestic schedule. This started off a round of speculation and crazed theories both at home and abroad. It seems that Sergei Lavrov’s hastily arranged two-day trip has been to reassure Pakistan that Russia has still left the door open for full strategic and economic relations, signalling a new era of foreign policy and alliances with promises of the Russian president visiting Pakistan very soon. This should not come as a surprise with the US’s 2014 withdrawal date from Afghanistan looming round the corner. Pakistan is well known as the centre through which all bases are covered and main routes are accessible when it comes to Afghanistan. Without Pakistan’s involvement, access to Afghanistan’s troubled political, cultural and geographical structures is near impossible. Hence, while Russia has been known to ally with India and Pakistan has been known to ally with the US where the war-torn country is concerned, there seems to be a new model in the making, one that is being watched with bated breath. In a rather unique ‘coincidence’, COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is in Russia meeting his Russian counterparts and discussing different aspects of military cooperation between the two nations. No doubt, a lot of effort is being put into rectifying any fallout from Putin’s cancelled visit and discussing all aspects of a post-2014 Afghanistan. All in all, these meetings really do signal a new chapter in the long stuck alliances that have, so far, been shaping the landscape of this region. Pakistan is doing the wise thing by finally deciding to stack its eggs in a couple of different baskets. By exploring our options we too are opening the door to regional participation at a time when we will need all the friends that we can get. It is hoped that these friendly overtures develop into long lasting, meaningful ties that benefit both nations as well as a very troubled, very ravaged Afghanistan.

FATA timber association says no to forest tax

The Express Tribune
The All Fata Timber Association (AFTA) has rejected the provincial government’s tax on timber imported from Afghanistan and threatened to halt imports altogether. According to the association, 25% of timber is imported from Afghanistan. AFTA President Shahid Khan told The Express Tribune that good quality timber is imported from Afghanistan, which is better than local timber or even that imported from the US or the European Union. The timber from Afghanistan comes from Kunar via Bajaur, Mohmand and North Waziristan agencies and then sent to Peshawar and Lahore. It is famous for its softness and beauty and used in constructing windows and doors, among other goods. In addition to the tax, the political agent is also paid to allow imports, Khan said. It costs Rs80,000 per truck in Bajaur and Rs60,000 per truck in Mohmand. Adding to the cost, a duty of Rs8,000 per truck is also paid to the agency for forest development. At the district level, the provincial government has increased the tax from Rs40 per cubic feet to Rs150. “Due to this increase in tax, we will incur losses as local timber is cheaper in the market,” Khan said. Bacha Khan and Abdul Ghafar, representatives of the timber association in Bajaur Agency, said that they were providing employment to hundreds of labourers, carpenters and truck drivers. Many people will lose their jobs if their business shuts down. The Fata Chamber of Commerce is not doing their job, they say. Haji Hanif Khan, a representative from North Waziristan, said that the chamber is a monopoly run by two families who share the seat among themselves. The election process here is a sham because the leaders are chosen beforehand and elections are just a formality, Hanif said. Sardar Khan, another commission agent, said that people are now relying on steel due to the price hike in timber.

Political activities in Fata a positive step: Kausar

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor, Barrister Masood Kausar described the political activities in Fata as positive development towards mainstreaming of the people of the area. He said said the government was making all efforts to encourage constructive step by any political force. The Governor, while commenting on the keen interest of certain political circles in streamlining their political influence in Fata further said that credit indeed goes to the President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardar for enforcing Political Parties Order in Fata, which, beyond doubt is a visionary step. People of the entire country especially of Fata will always remember this bold and wisdom oriented initiative of the president with great regards and thanks, he added. Referring to the move of PTI’s rally in South Waziristan, the Governor said, it was also a welcome sign to engage the people of Fata in positive political activities. However, he said, things need to be considered and judged in line with ground realities which beyond doubt demand extra care on part of all concerned. The administration of the South Waziristan Agency, he added, is very much conscious of its responsibilities and would never disappoint while fulfilling its responsibilities in this respect. He said that it was because of the consistent and continuous efforts of the present government to ensure peace in Fata and the peace that prevailed was the result of great and supreme sacrifices by security forces of Pakistan and that of the people of Fata. Therefore, it would only be in the interest of democracy and people of Fata that success so far achieved in this regard must be safeguarded at all cost, he added. Any political activity in Fata is welcomed, however it is also important that we should not provide any opportunity to the negative elements to exploit the situation by sabotaging such activities by taking measures which may endanger life and property of all Pakistanis who are taking part in such activity, he further added. "Still normal activities mindful of such apprehensions will be welcomed", he said. He said that he was grateful to all political parties of Pakistan who had so far organizing political activities in close co-ordination with local administration to ensure that any ugly incident might be prevented from happening. The Governor has also condemned the drone attacks and said that continuous drone attacks in FATA, despite our clear opposition, have been constantly causing a source of unrest and provocation in the area and there is a need to stop the process forthwith. He further said that Government had already successfully convinced to international community the negative consequences of drone attacks and that realization at the moment found great support to achieve that objective.

US suspects Haqqani tie to Afghan insider attacks

Associated Press
The Haqqani insurgent network, based in Pakistan and with ties to al-Qaida, is suspected of being a driving force behind a significant number of the "insider" attacks by Afghan forces that have killed or wounded more than 130 U.S. and allied troops this year, American officials said Friday. Until now, officials had said the attacks seemed to stem either from personal grievances against the allies or from Taliban infiltration. The Taliban has publicly claimed to be orchestrating the campaign to subvert the U.S.-Afghan alliance. New data provided to The Associated Press this week also reveal that in addition to 35 U.S. and allied troops killed in insider attacks last year, 61 were wounded. Those included 19 in a single attack in the eastern province of Laghman on April 16, 2011, in which six American servicemen were killed. Thus far in 2012 there have been 53 killed and at least 80 wounded, the figures showed. Haqqani involvement in the plotting would add a new dimension to that group's insurgent activity, which has been marked largely by spectacular attacks against targets inside Kabul. Haqqani leaders have pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but the group largely operates independently. The two groups have a shared interest in evicting foreign forces. The U.S. officials said that although there is no hard evidence tying the Haqqanis to specific attacks, the pattern of shootings and the movements and backgrounds of some of the shooters — including travel into Pakistan shortly before the shootings — point to a likely connection to the group Washington last month officially labeled a terrorist organization. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss inferences drawn from internal U.S. military analyses of a string of murderous attacks over the past two years that have angered the allies, embarrassed the Afghan government and threatened to undermine the war effort. The officials were not authorized to make the comments publicly. The U.S.-led military coalition recently slowed, temporarily, its partnering with some Afghan forces, partly in response to a recent spike in insider killings. The data on the attacks provided to the AP reveal that shootings in 2012 have been concentrated more in the Pashtun south and the swath of Pashtun territory that forms the southern approaches to Kabul. In 2011 the attack pattern was more dispersed, although the largest number occurred in the south and the east. The internal military analyses, based in part on that data, indicate that a number of shooters were recruited into the Afghan army or police forces from Pashtun areas in eastern Afghanistan — including the provinces of Paktika, Paktia and Khost — where the Haqqanis wield great influence, the officials said. In some cases these Afghans — most of whom had served in uniform for six months of less — returned to those areas on leave from their army or police duties, or briefly crossed into Pakistan, shortly before turning their guns on American or allied soldiers, the officials said. Officials say the Afghan government is now watching such movements more closely and taking other steps to prevent additional insider attacks, although the U.S. believes they will not end. Of the 38 reported attacks so far this year, 10 happened in Kandahar province, the spiritual and traditional home of the Taliban, and 10 happened in neighboring Helmand province, also a heavily Pashtun area. Ten others were in or near a Haqqani-influenced swath of territory along the southern approaches to Kabul, including the latest attack on Sept. 29 in which Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel T. Metcalfe, 29, of Liverpool, N.Y., and a U.S. civilian were killed by Afghan soldiers. They were killed in the same district of Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, where a July 3 attack by a rogue Afghan soldier wounded five American soldiers. "The truth of it is, the removal of this threat completely would be extremely difficult because of the varying nature of the motivations" of the attackers, said Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble, a senior operations officer on the staff of the Kabul-based international coalition. Noble said that while he knew of no Haqqani ties to the attacks, the killings are a means of dividing the Afghans from their allies that is "right up their alley." Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, who has extensively studied the Haqqani network, said Friday that U.S. suspicions may be well-founded. "If we accept the notion that a proportion of the 'insider attacks' are due to infiltration, then it is absolutely plausible to assume that the Haqqanis are responsible for a portion of those," Dressler said in an email exchange. "The tactic of 'insider attacks' is certainly a potent one, so I would also suspect that the insurgency is doing all it can to increase the frequency and lethality of the incidents." The Haqqani network has the backing of elements within the Pakistani security establishment and is regarded as one of Afghanistan's most experienced and sophisticated insurgent organizations. The network maintains a safe haven in North Waziristan, Pakistan, across Afghanistan's southeastern border. The Pakistani Army has consistently refused to launch a military operation in North Waziristan despite the presence there of al-Qaida senior leaders. Australian Maj. Gen. Stephen Day, the plans chief for the international coalition's joint command, said in an interview that the Haqqanis are a more troublesome military challenge than the Taliban. "They represent the most dangerous threat because they are the best trained, best resourced opponent we have." Day said Thursday. He was not speaking about the question of a Haqqani link to insider attacks. When the number and lethality of insider attacks began to accelerate early this year, U.S. and coalition officials were reluctant to release details, including those cases in which the shooter missed or wounded but did not kill his target. The attacks were dismissed as isolated incidents. That changed over the summer as top U.S., Afghan and NATO officials began speaking about them more and publicly pressing for solutions. On Friday the AP was given a previously unreleased set of data about 2012 and 2011 insider attacks. The data show that in addition to the 53 U.S. and allied personnel killed so far this year, more than 80 have been wounded. Although the coalition had previously said there were 21 attacks killing 35 allied personnel in 2011, it had not said that another 61 were wounded. The statistics also show a previously unreported pattern of attacks happening either in multiple locations on the same day or on consecutive days. This has been the case 10 times so far this year, and Noble said he and other officials are unable to explain the significance of this. ___

Karzai should thank allied forces

Associated Press
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lashed back at Afghan President Hamid Karzai Friday, saying the Afghan leader should say thank you now and then to the allied forces who are fighting and dying there, rather than criticizing them. Panetta was responding to Karzai's complaints Thursday that the U.S. is failing to go after militants based in Pakistan, and instead is concentrating on the insurgents in Afghanistan. "We have made progress in Afghanistan because there are men and women in uniform who have been willing to fight and die for Afghanistan's sovereignty," Panetta snapped, as he spoke with reporters traveling with him to South America. "Those lives were lost fighting the right enemy not the wrong enemy and I think it would be helpful if the president, every once in a while, expressed his thanks for the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought and died for Afghanistan, rather than criticizing them." The uncharacteristic shot from Panetta comes as tensions between the two countries have escalated over the increase in insider attacks, where Afghan security forces or insurgents dressed in their uniforms have turned their guns on coalition troops. And it raises the temperature on the heels of the announcement that, as of last weekend, 2,000 U.S. troops had lost their lives in the war. At the same time, however, there is persistent frustration with the insurgents, including members of the Haqqani network, who wage attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan and can then retreat to their safe havens in Pakistan. U.S. officials have repeatedly pressed Islamabad to more forcefully go after the insurgents, including Haqqani factions in and around North Waziristan. But, the U.S. also routinely uses drone strikes across the border into Pakistan to target and kill militants. Karzai spoke at a press conference, complaining that if NATO troops want to go after terrorists they need to go where their safe havens are. And he also expressed frustration that Afghan forces aren't getting the weapons they need from NATO allies, suggesting Afghanistan might have to go to other countries such as China and Russia to get them. Panetta's sharp retort also comes just days before he and other NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the war and the road ahead, as allied forces begin to withdraw and transfer security to the Afghans. And the exchanges could fuel concerns among NATO allies that the insider attacks may be eroding trust between coalition and Afghan troops, making security transition all the more difficult. Panetta last met with Karzai in May when he traveled to Afghanistan to meet with commanders and visit troops before the holidays. Both Panetta and Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will attend the NATO meeting. Asked whether the insider attacks could prompt some allies to seek a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, Panetta reaffirmed support for the current timeline that has combat troops leaving the warzone by the end of 2014 and turning security over to the Afghan forces. Officials have said that as many as 20,000 U.S. troops could remain over time, to continue training and counterterrorism efforts. "My goal is to make clear to NATO and to our allies that we are taking all steps necessary to confront this issue and that it should not be allowed to deter us from the plan that General Allen put in place," Panetta said. To date there have been 53 NATO troops killed in insider attacks, prompting military leaders to briefly curtail some partnered operations and set up a new approval process for those that involve smaller units.

Karzai’s prank

No surprising could it be. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is compulsively given to this prank. Pakistan he thinks is ordained to suffer perpetually on account of Afghanistan, as indeed it has over the past so many decades veritably. Others he believes are destined to always gain from Afghanistan. Religiously, he is given to the belief that for Afghanistan Pakistan must invariably be demonised and punished while others be courted and rewarded. No wonder, giving two hoots to Pakistan’s security concerns in Afghanistan, he gave the Indians a strategic pact. They in fact were the first he accorded this favour. For Pakistan, he says it has to fulfill certain preconditions to get such deal. Those include prevention of “infiltration of terrorists and suicide bombers” into his country. Leave alone the underlying skullduggery that has all through marked this pet contrivance of his and his US-led occupation allies to cover up their monumental collapses, failures and foibles in the Afghan war that they have to all intent and purposes lost. But for a moment could he be honest and tell what for have he and his cohorts berthed Pakistani fugitive militants like Fazlullah and Faqir Mohammad along with hundreds of their brigands in the neigbouring Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan? Who in Afghanistan tasks these proxies to cross over into Pakistan, attack the border posts and civilian villages, slaughter the innocent and put out footage of the Pakistani soldiers they capture in their surprise assaults and behead? For whose pleasure? His own or his occupation coalition allies’? And will he admit at least now how nefariously has his intelligence service infested Pakistan’s underbelly of the tribal areas, about which his spy masters feels so proud and keep bragging arrogantly? And when will he lift the lid on his administration’s dark adventurism of turning Afghanistan into a sprawling nursery of insurgency in Pakistan’s province of Balochistan, and also tell how Brahamdagh Bugti lived under his own wings and was fed so well by the Indian intelligence agencies? Anyway, if someone in Islamabad is hankering for a strategic deal with Afghanistan, that could only be the business of its hierarchy. The people of Pakistan have no such interest at all. All they are interested in, and desperately, is that they now be spared of the tribulations that have visited them in battalions because of Afghanistan over the past several decades on end. The so-called Afghan Jihad had bequeathed them with fearsome gun culture, corroding drug addiction, rabid religious extremism and massive Afghan refuge populace, no less than four-million-strong. And now the war on terror in Afghanistan has landed them with militancy, terrorism and insurgency, much of it foreign-fuelled with its wellsprings lying right inside Afghanistan. For a pause, Karzai must lift the mantle of spurious piety from his face, admit the ugly realities as those obtain on the ground in Afghanistan and call a spade a spade. For a change, he must confess that Afghanistan today is what it is because his occupation coalition allies have failed spectacularly in bringing it to peace, security and stability. Scapegoating of Pakistan would be no avail to him as the reverses that he and his coalition allies have suffered in the Afghan war are just irreversible. The insurgents are in the upswing and not even the world’s armies would now be able to subdue them. This is no hyperbole but a bitter factuality. Even the soldiers of the Afghan army and police are now turning on their coalition mates and trainers lethally, increasingly. In any case, he should not fret about giving Pakistan a strategic pact. Instead, he must do it the favour of taking back nearly two millions of Afghan refugees, still staying put in Pakistan. They have long overstayed their welcome. And a burdensome burden have they become on this nation’s economy, infrastructure and businesses, with which its bruised back is now aching unbearably painfully. He must repatriate the refugees and he may keep his strategic pact with him. The people of this country couldn’t care less. They know from one to all that he is no friend of Pakistan but its eternal enemy and hence no good could be expected of him.

Obama, Romney exchange barbs as jobs number improves

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney intensified attacks against each other on Friday, as they reacted to a newly improved jobs number. Obama, who was campaigning in Virginia, said at a rally that " today's news is certainly not an excuse to try and talk down the economy to score a few political points. It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now." He was referring to the Labor Department's announcement that the unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage point to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest level since January 2009 and below the psychological threshold of 8.0 percent. However, Romney and other Republicans continued their offensive, saying the jobs report was nowhere near good enough. "There were fewer jobs created this month than last month," Romney said at a rally in Abingdon, Virginia, referring to the revised August figure. "The unemployment rate has come down very, very slowly but it has come down nonetheless. And the reason it has come down this year is that more and more people have just stopped looking for work." Some conservatives questioned the jobs number, crying conspiracy. Jack Welch, former head of General Electric, tweeted " unbelievable jobs numbers... these Chicago guys will do anything.. can't debate so change numbers." Florida Republican Rep. Allen West wrote on Facebook that " somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the presidential election." The accusations were dismissed by the White House. Josh Earnest, the White House deputy spokesman, told reporters on Obama's campaign trail that the conspiracy theories were "utter nonsense." "Anybody -- any serious person who has any familiarity with how these numbers are tabulated understands that these are career employees at the Bureau of Labor Statistics that are responsible for compiling and analyzing these numbers, and they do that on their own," said Earnest. Jen Psaki, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, told reporters that " we also saw Mitt Romney say that this was the result of people removing themselves from the workforce. That's false. So it shouldn't come as a surprise given this week he's been playing pretty fast and loose with the facts." Related: U.S. unemployment rate drops to 44-month low WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua)-- The U.S. unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since January 2009 in September, the Department of Labor reported on Friday. But analysts say the decline, which has the potential to change the dynamics of the heated presidential campaign, may not be good enough to improve the whole U.S. job market picture. Full story Poll shows U.S. congressional race still tight WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- New poll results released on Friday afternoon indicated that this year's U.S. congressional race remains tight, with registered voters almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted between Sept. 24 and 27, found 47 percent of registered voters prefer Democrats and 46 percent prefer Republicans. Full story U.S. presidential debate drew 67.2 mln viewers LOS ANGELES, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- A total of 67.2 million people watched the first presidential debate between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Wednesday night, according to ratings company Nielsen on Thursday. The number is much higher than that during the spar between the then-Senator Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, in 2008. The audience tallied 52.4 million. Full story Obama, Romney cross fires on economy in 1st presidential debate DENVER, the United States, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday night fought head-to-head here over economy, the top issue on the campaign trail, among several domestic issues in their first face-to-face debate. The somewhat subdued incumbent and the generally more aggressive challenger began their first prime-time debate side-by-side at Denver University in Denver, Colorado.

Russia offers cooperation to Pakistani military

Russia on Friday expressed willingness to cooperate with Pakistani armed forces in all fields. The desire was shared in a meeting between Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Russian Army Chief of General Staff (CGS) General Makarov at the Ministry of Defence in Moscow. According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday, the Russian army chief was assisted by Deputy Chief of General Staff (DCGS) Colonel General Postnikov, Ground Forces Col General Postnikov and Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Chirkin. The statement said that Gen Makarov welcomed the COAS and expressed his desire to cooperate in all fields with the Pakistani military.