Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Malala: A Tipping Point For Pakistan?

Last week’s assault on Malala Yousafzai
in her hometown Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat valley shocked the world. In Pakistan, where killings, bombings and abductions happen on an almost daily basis, the attack on Malala sparked an unusual wave of public outrage. Pakistan’s political leaders, including those of the far-right-wing Islamist parties strongly condemned the attack terming it a cowardly act. The Haleemzai tribe of the Mohmand agency in Pakistan’s tribal areas have termed Malala as Fakhar-e-Pakhtoon (‘the Pride of the Pashtuns’) and denounced the assault stating that attacks on women are not only against Islam, but also against the Pashtun culture and tradition. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani, said that “[we] will refuse to bow for terror. We will fight, regardless of the cost we will prevail.” Meanwhile, Pakistan’s federal parliament is working on a resolution to make Malala an ‘ambassador for peace and education’ and to recognize her as a ‘daughter of Pakistan.’ This rare outburst of nation-wide solidarity has tempted some commentators to claim that ‘Malala’ may well represent a tipping point in Pakistan’s struggles against terrorism.The emotions that the assault on Malala aroused remind of the shock wave that a video of a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban in Swat in 2009 sent through Pakistan. Maulana Fazlullah is the brains behind these actions. He holds a notorious reputation that stems from 2007 to 2009 when his group, that is a part of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistani Taliban), was in effective control of the Swat valley. His shadow government imposed strict Islamic law by the power of the gun. Authority and loyalty were enforced by creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. The video was a catalyzing factor that led to a military campaign to put Swat back under government control. The campaign was both a success and a failure. It was a success because the Swat valley was indeed put back under Pakistani control, but the operations were unsuccessful in the sense that they did not fully eliminate the organization. In fact, Fazlullah managed to escape Pakistan. Recently, the Pakistani Taliban revealed that it is not only operating from the North Waziristan agency in the tribal areas, but that it has safe havens in Afghanistan too – where they are out of reach of the Pakistani army. Fazlullah is believed to be using the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan to prepare attacks on military and civilian targets in Pakistan. Even if Pakistan decided to go after the TTP, chances are that they will not succeed in defeating this organization. The TTP is part of a large conglomerate of extremist organizations that are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. These organizations are known to collectively run training camps, provide financial and logistical support and even human resources to each other. Also connected to this network are extremist organizations, such as the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban, that are covertly supported by Pakistan. Hence, the image of a hydra-headed evil appears. The problem of the TTP will not be solved by simply chopping off its head. It will grow back on, unless its body –the root problem- is targeted. Stating that the assault on Malala would constitute a tipping point in Pakistan’s struggle against terrorist organizations presupposes that organizations such as the TTP have previously received substantial support of the Pakistani population. And indeed, some news reports claim that the TTP is supported by many Pakistanis because it stands up against the US and the Pakistani government that continues to give support to NATO in Afghanistan. While the argument in itself is correct (74% of Pakistanis call the US an enemy, and President Zardari has an approval rating of only 14%) this does not automatically mean that the TTP is popular among Pakistanis. A recent report published by the Pew Research Center demonstrates that the TTP is viewed positively by only 17% of the Pakistani population – a percentage that has remained virtually unchanged over the past years. What is more, the inhabitants of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Mingora is the capital of Swat district which is located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) generally tend to have much more unfavorable views of extremist organizations than Pakistanis from other parts of the country, most probably because this is one of the regions that suffered most from terrorism. The claim that the attack on ‘Malala’ would represent a tipping point in Pakistan’s struggle against terrorism seems unsubstantiated. The fact that the Pakistani population speaks out so vehemently against terrorism is not new because of a supposed change of public opinion. Instead, it is remarkable for the very reason that it is a large public outcry. Back in 2009, such public protest stimulated the government and army to launch an operation to clear the Swat valley of insurgents. Today, however, it is unlikely that a military operation at a similar scale is launched, if at all. First, Fazlullah found refuge in Afghanistan. Second, they are only part of a much larger problem, which Pakistan indirectly helps to maintain through its support of organizations such as the Haqqani Network.

President Zardari directs to expedite relief activities in flood-hit areas

President Asif Ali Zardari has directed to expedite relief and rehabilitation activities for the rain affected people of Sindh and Balochistan. He said this during a briefing through video-conferencing in Islamabad on Wednesday. The President said all available sources should be used for dewatering of the inundated areas. The President also asked for urgently providing wheat and sunflower seeds and fertilizers to the farmers in flood affected areas in all provinces. Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar while briefing the media said that Chairman NDMA Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qadir said that 14000 tents in Sindh and 20000 tents were distributed in Balochistan to the affected families besides other parts of the country. The Chairman said that irrigation system of Desert Pat Feeder along Sindh Balochistan border was over-topped and breached at several places. Similarly Begari Sindh Feeder was also affected. To cope with the situation‚ Khirthar Branch was strengthened to serve as defence line and to divert water towards Hairdin Drain. He said that at present 69 de-watering pumps were operative to de-water rain water through various canals whereas eleven pumps were in standby in Sukkur. He said that further arrangements would be made in view of the emergent situation. The meeting was informed that 161‚245 ration packs have been distributed in Sindh‚ 17500 in Punjab and 42250 in Balochistan. The President directed that similar video conferencing facility be set up in the affected areas in Balochistan and linked with the Presidency for the briefing.

President Zardari urges US to invest in Pak power sector

President Asif Ali Zardari
has urged the US businessmen to invest in power sector in Pakistan. He was talking to a delegation of a US power company DACC Global in Islamabad on Wednesday. The delegation headed by Doug Melvin, President DACC Global, comprised of Arnd Spinger, Joseph Steinfeldt, Mark Lohoff, Adnan Hameed, Zafar Ahmed and Nasir Waseem. Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, Chairman Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan Mr. Hameedullah Jan Afridi, Secretary to President Maj (R) Haroon Rashid, Secretary Water & Power Ms. Nargis Sethi, CEO Alternative Energy Development Board Mr. Arif Allauddin and other senior officials were also present during the meeting. Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar while briefing about the meeting said that DACC Solar Power Generation Company (DPGC) is pursuing development of a 50 MW Solar power project in Punjab, production of bio-fuel and installation of solar water pumps in the country. He said that the President while welcoming the delegation appreciated their interest and investment in the alternate energy sector. The President highlighted huge investment opportunities available in the country in the alternate energy sector and said that abundant sunshine and wind corridors offered great opportunities to the investors for harnessing this clean and efficient source of energy. The President said that energy shortage has been one of the major challenges faced by the country at present. He said that the Government was according highest priority to facilitating the investors undertaking business ventures in this sector. He said that the Government was committed to promote the alternate means of energy production so as to reduce dependency on conventional modes and simultaneously to save the environment from further degradation due to burning of the fossil fuels. The President also recounted various incentives being offered to foreign investors in the energy sector. He said that Pakistan offered 17 percent return on Investment (ROI) for renewable energy projects which is one of the highest in the world. He said that NEPRA was working on up-front Tariff for Solar Power projects which will further incentivize setting up of solar power plants in the country. The President also mentioned special control rooms in the Ministry of Water and Power and various offices of power distribution companies for monitoring and coordination purposes. He said that all efforts were being undertaken to avoid bureaucratic delays and to address the issues related to supply and distribution of power on spot basis.

No political cell in Presidency: Ch Nisar was architect of IJI: Kaira

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that Pakistan People’s Party’s mandate was stolen in 1990’s elections through a well–planned conspiracy devised by spy agencies in connivance of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). “Fake organizations like Tehreek-e-Takhfuz-e-Pakistan, Pakistan Voter Forum, Tehreek-e-Nojawan-e-Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Intaqam-e-Paksitan etc. were created in 1990 to launch propaganda campaign against the PPP. Our opponents came into power through the support of spy agencies, while we came into power with the support of the people despite all struggle by agencies,” Kaira said while addressing a news conference here on Tuesday. “Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says he does not accept the investigation of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) while the Supreme Court had ordered FIA to investigate regarding the recipients of money from secret agencies,” he added. Kaira said that some leaders of the PML-N wanted investigation through a commission while others by United Nations (UN). The PPP leader claimed that Chaudhry Nisar was the architect of IJI because his party had most of the ministries at that time. He said that at that time 80 percent seats were ‘given’ to PML-N and 20 percent to other parties. He said that the formation of IJI had started prior to Benazir Bhutto’s arrival in 1986 and accused agencies of manipulating the 1988, 1996, 2002 and 2008 elections. He said that intelligence agencies had also manipulated 1988 elections and right-wing got 63 seats while PPP bagged 92 seats. “Lahore High Court Bench headed by Justice Rafiq Tarrar at that time gave judgment against Benazir Bhutto. As reward, the PML-N elected Tarar as President of Pakistan in 1997,” he said. “Today, the PML-N talks about Sadiq and Amen (truthful and honest). Now, the history has proved who is Sadiq and Amen. The PML-N leaders should feel ashamed and apologise to the nation. The government, which came into being after 1990 elections was illegitimate,” he argued. To a question, Kaira said that today there was no political cell in the presidency. “The office of the Presidency is purely political. Parliament elects a President. And Parliament is right place for politics. Politics take place in the parliament. But the office of the President is impartial. There is no wrong in meeting the President if the people belonging to any of the province or other parts of the country want to see him. The PML-N leaders can also meet the President,” he said. During the press conference, the Minister showed newspapers’ clippings of that time, wherein former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had categorically claimed that the 1990 elections were rigged and a political cell in the Presidency was used for this purpose. “Our party and leadership sacrificed for democracy in the country. Today, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif are sitting in the country because of Benazir Bhutto,” he said.

Dismal Pakistan ranks 134 out of 135 countries in Gender Gap Index 2012

SOURCE:The Express Tribune/
Pakistan ranked a low 134 out of a total 135 countries in the Gender Gap Index 2012, according to The Global Gender Gap Report.
The Global Gender Gap Index, introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 is a measure to capture the scope and magnitude of gender disparities. The report bases itself on four major pillars to measure gender disparities within nations. These are: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.
The work space
In the sphere of economic participation, Pakistan’s female labour participation rate is a dismal 22%. In terms of wage equality, Pakistan sits on 110 out of the 135 countries. Only seven per cent of women in Pakistan own businesses. Their access to land ownership on a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 best score and 1 worse best, is 0.5.
In terms of educational attainment, Pakistan ranks at 129, with a 40 per cent female literacy rate. Enrollment in primary education is 67 per cent and drops down to 29 per cent in secondary education. One of the possible reasons for this could be that 16 per cent of the women get married between the ages of 15-19 years. The singulate mean age at marriage for women, however, is 23 years.
In terms of health and survival, Pakistan stands at 123. Maternal mortality ratio, per 100,000 live births is 260 on a scale of 150 and 500. Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births at the age of one is 70 per cent.
Women in Pakistan were allowed to vote in 1956. Ten per cent of the women hold ministerial positions. Twenty three per cent women are members of the parliament. Furthermore, Pakistan scored 0.75 out of 1 in terms of the existence of legislations punishing acts of violence against women in terms of domestic violence. On the Global Gender Gap Index the top five countries are Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland. The bottom five are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen. India sits on 105 out of the 135 countries, whereas Bangladesh takes the seat at 85, Sri Lanka ranks on 39 and China on 69. India ranks 123 in terms of economic participation, 121 in educational attainment, 134 in health and survival and 17 in political empowerment.

Pakistan: Missing the point

IF Pakistani politicians have a talent, it is the ability to waste opportunities for meaningful change even when these are handed to them on a silver platter. For all its symbolic importance, the Supreme Court’s short order in the Asghar Khan case is in the news for all the wrong reasons. In no uncertain terms, the order declares that “it has been established” that former generals Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani “acted in violation of the constitution” by rigging the 1990 elections. And yet what is getting lost in the heat of the ensuing political battle is precisely this point, which is also the most important point — the role of the generals. Between the ruling party’s attempts to make political capital against the PML-N and the latter’s attempts to defend its reputation and argue about the FIA’s lack of independence, the focus has shifted to which politician received how much money. Meanwhile, those who did the real and enduring damage to Pakistani democracy are watching comfortably from the sidelines of this schoolyard brawl. In part the room for this distraction from the real issue has also been created by the SC order itself. After leaving no doubt about the generals’ guilt, it does nothing to hold them to account beyond throwing the ball in the government’s court. In a slew of high-profile cases this court has found ways to enforce accountability directly or appointed people to do so and then monitored their progress. From directly appointing investigation commissions to demanding status updates from law-enforcement agencies and government officials to bypassing the NA speaker and disqualifying the prime minister, it has not hesitated to take action itself. And yet, in this preliminary order at least, it has simply asked the government to take the “necessary steps” against the generals without specifying what these should be. This lack of urgency from both the SC and the government is worrying mostly because Pakistani democracy may not be out of the woods yet. Memories are still fresh of the ISI propping up the PML-Q in the 2002 elections. The defence secretary has said that the agency’s political cell had stopped functioning five years ago — implying it was active until very recently. Even now, there are suspicions that certain interest groups and political parties are being supported by the establishment. The military’s involvement in politics may be less blatant this election cycle, but we do not know that it is not taking place. Nor will we know so long as the SC and the government shy away from holding past manipulators to account and politicians continue to focus on fighting each other.

بیگم نصرت بھٹو,Begum Nusrat Bhutto

Malala status updates-Wed 24 October 2012

Malala remains in a stable condition and continues to make good progress at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, under the care of a medical team from the Queen Elizabeth and Birmingham Children’s hospitals.

Bomb attacks destroy two schools in Pakistan

Two state-run schools have been destroyed in bomb attacks in Mohammad Agency district in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region, Press TV reports.
The incident occurred on Wednesday morning in Haleemzai Tehsil area. No human loss was reported in the attack. Security forces have arrested two watchmen of the schools and launched an investigation into the attack. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. However, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants are the main suspects in the incident. They have banned female education in northwestern Pakistan in a move that has affected thousands of girls and caused the number of enrolments to drop dramatically. The group warns parents against sending their daughters to schools, describing education as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘harmful’ for girls. Over the past several years, the TTP militants have destroyed hundreds of schools, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

No change in US stance on Durand Line

unya TVD
US recognised the Durand Line as international border and there is no change in its stance on it. The United States endorsing the statement by US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Marc Grossman regarding porous Pak-Afghan border, reiterated that Durand Line is an internationally recognized boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Reaffirming Washington’s position over the 2640-km-long border, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “Our policy on this has not changed. It was correctly stated by Ambassador Grossman that we see this as the internationally recognized boundary.” It should be mentioned here that the Afghan government did not approve of a statement made by US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Grossman during his visit to Kabul, where he reiterated Washington’s policy of international recognition of Durand Line. The US Department spokesperson, however, was not aware of Afghanistan’s protest with the US on the issue. Replying to a question if Washington received any protest from the Afghan government following Grossman’s statement, the spokesperson replied, “To my knowledge, no. But I know there has been quite a bit of press commentary out there”.

Pakistan's threat within - the Sunni-Shia divide

About 20 men dressed as Pakistani soldiers boarded a bus bound for a Muslim festival outside this mountain town and checked the identification cards of the passengers. They singled out 19 Shi'ites, drew weapons and slaughtered them, most with a bullet to the head. The shooters weren't soldiers. They were a hit squad linked to the Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, or LeJ. They had trekked in along a high Himalayan pass that hot August morning to waylay a convoy of pilgrims. Here and across Pakistan, violent Sunni radicals are on the march against the nation's Shi'ite minority. With a few hundred hard-core cadres, the highly secretive LeJ aims to trigger sectarian violence that would pave the way for a Sunni theocracy in U.S.-allied Pakistan, say Pakistan police and intelligence officials. Its immediate goal, they say, is to stoke the intense Sunni-Shi'ite violence that has pushed countries like Iraq close to civil war. More than 300 Shi'ites have been killed in Pakistan so far this year in sectarian conflict, according to human rights groups. The campaign is gathering pace in rural as well as urban areas such as Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city. The Shi'ites are a big target, accounting for up to 20 percent of this nation of 180 million. In January, LeJ claimed responsibility for a homemade bomb that exploded in a crowd of Shi'ites in Punjab province, killing 18 and wounding 30. LeJ's reach extends beyond Pakistan: Late last year, LeJ claimed responsibility for bombings in Afghanistan that killed 59 people, the worst sectarian attacks since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. "No doubt - (LeJ) are the most dangerous group," said Chaudhry Aslam, a top counter-terrorism police commando based in Karachi, whose house was blown up by the LeJ. "We will fight them until the last drop of blood." For an outlawed group accused of fomenting such mayhem, the leader of LeJ is surprisingly easy to find. Malik Ishaq spent 14 years in jail in connection with dozens of murder and terrorism cases. He was released after the charges could not be proved - partly because of witness intimidation, officials say - and showered with rose petals by hundreds of supporters when he left prison in July 2011. Although Ishaq is one of Pakistan's most feared militants, he enjoys the protection of followers clutching AK-47 assault rifles in the narrow lane outside his home. There, in the town of Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab province, Reuters visited him for an interview. "The state should declare Shi'ites as non-Muslims on the basis of their beliefs," said Ishaq, calling them the "greatest infidels on earth." Young supporters with shoulder-length hair in imitation of the Prophet Mohammad hung on every word. FOLLOWING THE TRAIL To assess the LeJ threat, Reuters followed the group's trail across Pakistan - from Ishaq's compound, to Gilgit in the foothills of the Himalayas, recruiting grounds in central Punjab, and the backstreets of Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast. In interviews, police, intelligence officials, clerics and LeJ members described a group that has grown more robust and appears to be operating across a much wider area in Pakistan than just a few years ago. But it had a head start. The LeJ once enjoyed the open support of the powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. The ISI used such groups as military proxies in India and Afghanistan and to counter Shi'ite militant groups. Since being outlawed after the attacks of September 11, 2001, LeJ has worked with Sunni radical groups al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban in several high-profile strikes. Among them were assaults in 2009 on Pakistan's military headquarters and on Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team. Washington says LeJ was involved in the killing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in 2002. Now it is gathering strength anew. The risks are heightened by Pakistan's long-standing role as a battlefield in a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, which have been competing for influence in Asia and the Middle East since the 1979 Iranian revolution. That competition has heated up since the United States toppled secularist dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq and left the country under the control of an Iranian-influenced Shi'ite government. Intelligence officials say the LeJ is drawing financial support from Saudi donors and other Sunni sources. "Unfortunately, the state for strategic reasons turned a blind eye to the LeJ for a long time," said a retired army general. "Now we have a situation where it has become Pakistan's Frankenstein." Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who is in charge of internal security, told Reuters that "we always take action" against the LeJ when the group is suspected of murder or terrorism. "We track people and arrest them." When asked why those arrested are often freed, he said: "Look, my job is to arrest people, not to let them go. We all know who lets them off the hook and why," he said, referring to local politicians and elements of the military who turn a blind eye to their activities or even support them in some cases. SACRED CALLING Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose name means Soldiers of Jhangvi (after its founder, Haq Maulana Nawab Jhangvi), isn't the only lethal militant group that once enjoyed patronage from the spy agency. One is Lashkar-e-Taiba (Soldiers of the Pure), which fights against Indian control in disputed Kashmir. It is blamed for several deadly attacks on Indian soil, including the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, and an audacious raid on India's parliament in December 2001 with another Kashmiri militant group, Jaishi-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad). That raid brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Another is the Pakistani Taliban. Its attack this month on 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Swat was only the most recent in a long list of strikes on civilian and military targets, mainly in the unruly tribal area along the Afghan border. What makes LeJ particularly dangerous, however, is that the group is based in Pakistan's Punjab heartland. And it is not just attacking targets in Pakistan's neighbors, but has also targeted the state, including the 2009 attack on Pakistan's military headquarters. LeJ was established as an offshoot of another anti-Shi'ite organization called Sipah-e-Sahaba (Soldiers of Mohammad's Companions). LeJ believes it has a sacred calling - to protect the legacy of the companions of the Prophet Mohammad - and it sees Shi'ites as the main threat. Mahmood Baber, educated in a madrassa, was drawn by LeJ's call to holy war against Shi'ite infidels. His 16-year career in the movement ended in October, when he and other LeJ members were arrested. Handcuffed and with a cloth thrown over his head at a Karachi police station, Baber described for Reuters the "great satisfaction" he felt killing 14 Shi'ite "terrorists" over the years. His voice choked with emotion when he said that for 1,400 years Shi'ites had insulted the companions of the Prophet. "Get rid of Shi'ites. That is our goal. May God help us," he said, before intelligence agents led him away for a fresh round of interrogation. The schism between Sunnis and Shi'ites developed after the Prophet Muhammad died in 632 when his followers could not agree on a successor. Sunnis recognize the first four caliphs as his rightful successors; the Shi'ites believe the prophet named his son-in-law Ali. Emotions over the issue have boiled through modern times and even pushed some countries, including Iraq five years ago, to the brink of civil war. DEMONISING IRAN The LeJ's leader, Ishaq, lives in a house whose gate bears a sign inviting residents of the town to debate whether Shi'ites are infidels. These days Ishaq calls himself a leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba, the LeJ parent group. Pakistani officials say he still runs, or at least inspires, LeJ. Ishaq denies any wrongdoing, repeatedly saying: "I've been acquitted." He has indeed been acquitted 34 times on charges of culpable homicide and terrorism. He does not hide his feelings about Shi'ites, his voice growing strident as he opened a plastic folder filled with printouts from what he describes as Shi'ite Internet sites. One contained a photo of a pig, an animal considered by Muslims to be dirty, and is accompanied by an insult to Sunnis. Another alleges the Prophet Mohammad's wife committed adultery - all proof, he says, that Shi'ites are blasphemous, and deserve punishment. "Whoever insults the companions of the Holy Prophet should be given a death sentence," Ishaq declares. Ishaq and other hardline Sunnis believe that Iran is trying to foment revolution in Pakistan to turn it into a Shi'ite state, though no evidence for that is offered. THE SAUDI CONNECTION In the Punjab town of Jhang, LeJ's birthplace, SSP leader Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi describes what he says are Tehran's grand designs. Iranian consular offices and cultural centers, he alleges, are actually a front for its intelligence agencies. "If Iranian interference continues it will destroy this country," said Ludhianvi in an interview in his home. The state provides him with armed guards, fearful any harm done to him could trigger sectarian bloodletting. The Iranian embassy in Islamabad, asked for a response to that allegation, issued a statement denouncing sectarian violence. "What is happening today in the name of sectarianism has nothing to do with Muslims and their ideologies," it said. Ludhianvi insisted he was just a politician. "I would like to tell you that I am not a murderer, I am not a killer, I am not a terrorist. We are a political party." After a meal of chicken, curry and spinach, Ludhianvi and his aides stood up to warmly welcome a visitor: Saudi Arabia-based cleric Malik Abdul Haq al-Meqqi. A Pakistani cleric knowledgeable about Sunni groups described Meqqi as a middleman between Saudi donors and intelligence agencies and the LeJ, the SSP and other groups. "Of course, Saudi Arabia supports these groups. They want to keep Iranian influence in check in Pakistan, so they pay," the Pakistani cleric said. His account squared with that of a Pakistani intelligence agent, who said jailed militants had confessed that LeJ received Saudi funding. Saudi cleric Meqqi denied that, and SSP leader Ludhianvi concurred: "We have not taken a penny from the Saudi government," he told Reuters. Saudi Arabia's alleged financing of Sunni militant groups has been a sore point in Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in a December 2009 classified diplomatic cable that charities and donors in Saudi Arabia were the "most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." In the cable, released by Wikileaks, Clinton said it was "an ongoing challenge" to persuade Saudi officials to treat such activity as a strategic priority. She said the groups funded included al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Saudi embassy in Islamabad and officials in Saudi Arabia were unavailable for comment. SHI'ITE REVENGE Some Shia groups do look to Iran's clerical establishment for spiritual leadership, but insist they have no aims beyond protecting members from Sunni attacks. In the offices of a Shi'ite organization in Karachi, images of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini are featured on a wall clock. There, a Pakistani Shi'ite woman named Shafqat Batool described what happened to her son, a judge, when he left for work on August 30. Minutes after Sayid Zulfiqar stepped out of the family home in Quetta, she said, witnesses told the family three men on a motorcycle opened fire with Kalashnikov rifles. One of the assailants then grabbed a weapon from Zulfiqar's bleeding driver and pumped more bullets into her son. It prompted Zulfiqar's family to move to Karachi. "We are not safe anywhere in the country," his mother said. "People are horrified, people can't sleep." The fear is palpable in Quetta, the mountainous provincial capital of southwestern Baluchistan. LeJ has unleashed an escalating campaign there of suicide bombings and assassinations against ethnic Hazaras - Persian-speaking Shi'ites who mostly emigrated from Afghanistan and are a small minority of the Shi'ite population in Pakistan. At least 100 Hazaras have been killed this year, according to Human Rights Watch, leaving some 500,000 Hazaras fearful of venturing out of their enclaves. "We are under siege; we can't move anywhere," said Khaliq Hazara, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party. "Hazaras are being killed and there is nobody to take any action. In Quetta and Karachi, Shi'ite leaders say they are urging young men to exercise restraint and buy weapons only for self-defense. "We are controlling our youth and stopping them from reacting," said Syed Sadiq Raza Taqvi, a Karachi cleric, seated beside a calendar with images of Iranian Revolutionary Guards. But with each killing, the temptation to take revenge grows. Shi'ite extremists have not adopted the kind of attacks favored by LeJ. But they have hunted down members of the SSP. One such case was an attack survived by Sohaib Nadeem, 27, son of an SSP member. Men he described as "Shi'ite terrorists backed by Iran" opened fire on the Nadeem family in their car. Nadeem survived nine gunshot wounds but his father and brothers were killed. "The Shi'ites are our enemies," Nadeem said. CONFEDERATION OF MILITANTS When the Taliban and al Qaeda want to reach targets outside their strongholds on the Afghan border, they turn to LeJ to provide intelligence, safe houses or young volunteers eager for martyrdom, police and intelligence officials said. "Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is the detonator of terrorism in Pakistan," said Karachi Police Superintendent Raja Umer Khattab, who has interrogated more than 100 members. "The Taliban needs Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Al Qaeda needs Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They are involved in most terrorism cases." The massacre of Shi'ite bus passengers outside Gilgit has had a profound impact on this mountaineering hub in the Himalayan foothills. Never before had Sunni extremists asked for identification to single out Shi'ites and then kill them on such a large scale. Sunnis and Shi'ites, who had lived in harmony for decades, now cope with sectarian no-go zones. "Sunnis can't go to some areas and Shi'ites can't go to others," lamented Gilgit shopkeeper Muneer Hussain Shah, a Shi'ite whose brother was killed in a grenade attack. When violence erupts, text messages circulate rallying one sect or the other. Shops and schools close. Authorities have banned motorcycles to stop drive-by shootings. Law enforcement itself is a victim of sectarianism in Gilgit, said police chief Usman Zakria. Shi'ite officers are reluctant to investigate crimes committed by Shi'ites, and the same is true of Sunnis. "They are in disarray," said Zakria. "None of this has happened before."

Over 3,000 women harrassed in Punjab in six months!

Majority of the women harrassed in the streets was married - A total of 3,153 incidents of violence against women were reported from Punjab in the period January – June, which was nearly 69 percent of the total number of such incidents reported from the country. Statistics showed that 42 percent of women who suffered from violence were unmarried. Around 1,309 unmarried women were victims of violence, while 1,262 married women faced violence in Punjab. Around 38 percent victims were divorced while 71 percent were reported to have been widowed. There was inconclusive information regarding 15 percent of the victims. Ages of most victims was uncertain, however 455 victims were below 18 years of age, 173 were 19 to 36 years old and 63 victims were over the age of 36 years. If statistics from all other provinces were combined, the number of incidents of violence in other provinces was less than the number reported in Punjab. The high number of incidents was an indication of increased access, for women, to media and law enforcement. It might however be possible that incidents of violence in Punjab were really more frequent. Abduction and kidnapping remained the most frequent forms of violence against women in Punjab, with 29 percent cases of abduction reported. Murder, rape and gang rape were the second and third most frequently reported categories of violence, with 471 murders and 366 rape and gang rape incidents reported. Suicide, honor killing, miscellaneous injuries and torture, domestic violence and suicide attempts were also frequently reported from Punjab. Around 165 incidents of honor killing were also reported from Punjab, 107 incidents of attempted rape and 13 incidents of sexual assault were also reported. FIRs had been registered for 76 percent of the reported cases from Punjab. FIRs of 4 percent of the cases did not get registered while there was no information regarding the FIR status of the remaining 20 percent cases. Nighat Khan from Asar told Pakistan today that Lahore is provincial capital of Punjab and it is also known as the city of education. Despite that, acid throwing is one of the most shameful acts which we have not seen in other provinces except Punjab. CM Punjab should take such actions to stop this violence against women, she added. Categories of VAW in Punjab Types of violence Total crimes Percentage Abduction/Kidnapping 911 29% Acid throwing 44 1% Burning 24 1% DV Injury 64 2% DV Torture 51 2% Honor Killing 165 5% Attempt to kidnap 53 2% Attempt to Murder 78 2% Attempt to Rape 107 3% Attempt to suicide 80 3% Early Marriage 6 0% Forced Marriage 4 0% Harassment 34 1% Illegal Custody 15 0% Incest 8 0% Misc Injury 200 6% Karo Kari 7 0% Trafficking 24 1% Threat to Life 31 1% Misc Torture 138 4% Vani 20 1% Watta Satta 0 0% Murder 471 15% Rape/Gang Rape 366 12% Sexual Assault 13 0% Suicide 239 8% Total 3153 100% 10 worst districts in Punjab S.No District Name Total number of crimes Percentage of Total against women 1 Lahore 272 9% 2 Okara 262 8% 3 Sargodha 223 7% 4 Faisalabad 185 6% 5 Rawalpindi 143 5% 6 Sialkot 135 4% 7 Gujrat 130 4% 8 DG Khan 125 4% 9 Pakpattan 110 3% 10 Muzaffargarh 105 3% Marital Status Total Crimes Percentage Un Married 1309 42% Married 1262 40% Divorced 38 1% Widowed 71 2% No information 473 15%

Govt rejects PML-N stance on FIA probe

Ruling PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira, the minister for information and broadcasting, on Tuesday called on the PML-N to apologise to the public and the President of Pakistan for the ‘ugly role’ it played in stealing the public mandate in the 1990 general elections.
“The history has divulged the truth that the people’s mandate had been stolen. But on the other side, the ‘sinners’ are branding it as propaganda,” Kaira said referring to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s Monday statement in which he had said the people would not be influenced by the propaganda against his party. Addressing a press conference at the PPP Central Secretariat here, an emotional Kaira said that PPP’s opponents always came to power through conspiracies, but their efforts to erase it from the hearts of the masses proved futile altogether. According to the minister, the 1988 elections were also rigged (by the agencies), but the PPP still managed to win majority of seats. He remarked that everybody knew how General Gilani made Nawaz Sharif chief minister. Kaira tapped into the history, recalling that the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) was founded in 1986, when Benazir Bhutto touched down in Pakistan. “It (the IJT) was an attempt to gather like-minded people by an Army-led cell and was formally launched by General Hameed Gul after the death of Ziaul Haq.” “The apex court verdict (in the Asghar Khan case) has exposed how Chaudhry Nisar’s cronies rigged elections in the past,” Kaira said. “What has been depicted from the ruling is just a small chapter of a condemnable propaganda, as various other characters and their wrongdoings are yet to be exposed.” He said, “Although the verdict has proved the robbery of people’s mandate, the status of the government formed on the basis of that rigging is yet to be decided.” The minister told the media that some people were demanding a UN investigation, while others were not ready to accept an investigation through the FIA. “It is the court, not the government, which wants to put the FIA in charge of the investigation.” “Today, the doors for poll rigging have been closed and no one can win elections on the basis of false propaganda and support from the agencies.” Kaira claimed that N-League’s historic triumph of the 1996 elections was also due to rigging, and promised to come up with proofs to expose PML-N’s mandate in 1996. He also recalled that the agencies had threatened Benazir Bhutto that her jailed husband would be killed if she refused to accept the then government. The minister said the court verdict had vindicated Benazir Bhutto in her grave as all her statements, including the formation of a government by stealing the public mandate, had proven true today. He asserted that while political adversaries came to power using propaganda and unconstitutional tactics, the PPP always banked on the people’s mandate despite all conspiracies. Kaira further said Ishaq Khan had toppled the Benazir government and his action was ratified by the then Lahore High Court chief justice Rafiq Tarrar, who in return was later made the country’s president. The minister quoted news items of the 1990s containing BB’s statements on the establishment of a cell in the Presidency to rig the polls and IJI’s victory on 105 seats, several of them with 100 per cent turnout, proved that fact. Kaira mentioned a white paper issued by Benazir Bhutto regarding the tactics used for rigging the polls, and clarified that the PPP had nothing to do with Asghar Khan’s petition as it was moved after the elections were lost. In 1990, some bogus outfits, such as Tehrik-e-Naujawanan-e-Pakistan, Tehrik-e-Islah-i-Muaashra, Pakistan Voters Forum and Tehrik-e-Istihkam-e-Pakistan, were formed to help rig the elections. The PPP, the minister said, had tendered an apology to the people for the mistakes it did not commit. “We apologised to the people of Balochistan for the mistakes of others.” The minister expressed surprise over the statement of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and others demanding establishment of a commission or investigations by the United Nations. To a question, he said that action against elements involved in misusing the public money would be taken according to the Constitution and law. About Younis Habib, he said that Nawaz Sharif had granted him a licence of Mehran Bank as a gift to hatch a conspiracy against the PPP. He regretted that the government, formed as a consequence of the rigged elections, instituted cases against BB and Asif Ali Zardari. Kaira, to another query, replied that the president was neutral and it was not fair to expect him to be a completely non-political entity. “The president is a part of Parliament, which is the product of political and democratic process,” he said, and advised the PML-N to respect the office of president. Kaira also said that even the PPP prime minister was also neutral in his approach, as the government released funds to opposition MPs on an equal basis, besides giving them full respect.

Adeel asks US to do needful against militant hideouts in Afghanistan

Pakistan and the United States should continue to work together for peace in the region and the world at large, said Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Haji Adeel on Tuesday. Talking to acting Political consular Rick Waters and Brooks, Haji Adeel said that the reconciliation process should continue for lasting peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US officials said that the US considered Pakistan a very important element and its role was critical to attain lasting stability and peace in the region and world. They condemned the attack on Malala Yousufzai and offered allout support in this regard. Senator Haji Adeel told the US officials that such attack could not deter Pakistan's resolve to root out militancy and extremism. He said that there were safe havens of militants in Afghanistan and the US and NATO forces should stop them from acting against Pakistan. He said that Pakistan was being given a meager military assistance to fight the militants whereas the US was spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan without desired results. He said that the FC personnel lacked fighting gadgets and needed helicopters to fight terrorism. The US officials invited Senator Haji Adeel to visit the United States after elections there.

Peshawar: Violence against women high

Peshawar is among 14 districts in the country with high incidence of violence against women over the first six months of the current year, according to an Aurat Foundation report. Other districts are Lahore, Okara, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Gujrat, DG Khan, Pakpattan, Muzaffargarh, Sahiwal, Mirpurkhas, Sheikhupura and Ghotiki, said the ‘Violence Against Women In Pakistan Monitor (Jan-June 2012) report released here on Tuesday. According to the report, women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are at a high risk of subjugation but culture and societal norms in the province make it harder for women to report violence against them. During January and June this year, 283 VAW cases were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but the number is six per cent of the countrywide incidence of such crimes. Around 55 per cent of VAW incidents reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in six months were of murder totaling 157, while the province registered nine cases of abduction and kidnapping during the period. Overall, 32 cases of domestic violence, 23 of honour killing and 30 of suicide were reported in the province between Jan and June 2012. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the prevalence of sexual violence was reportedly low as seven cases of rape or gang rape were reported in six months. The rate of the registration of first information report for VAW was reportedly high in the province as FIRs of 65 per cent of the cases were reported during the first six months of the year. According to the report, FIRs were registered for 184 VAW cases but no FIR was registered for 82 cases. There is no information about the status of FIR for 17 cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Statistics show 60 per cent of women who were subjected to violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were married. “A total of 1,170 married and 62 unmarried women were victims of violence of women in the province during the Jan-June 2012 period. There is no information available about the marital status of 51 victims of violence against women,” it said. The report said there was no information about the age of 69 per cent of VAW victims from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It added that 47 women subjected to violence were aged below 18 years, 33 between 19 and 36 years and seven over 36 years. According to the report, during the Jan-June 2012 period, the country reported 1,086 cases of women’s abduction and kidnapping, 792 of women’s murder, 435 of women’s rape or gang rape, 349 of suicide by women, 346 of honour killings, 298 of domestic violence against women, 50 of sexual assault against women, 46 of throwing acid on women, 32 of burning women and 1,160 of other kinds of VAW. It said the VAW numbers are based on media reports and the actual incidence of VAW is much higher. “All issues related to women are still considered a very private matter and are not frequently reported. Women are either forced to or prefer to suffer in silence,” it said.

Global literacy rate: Pakistan ranks 113th among 120 nations

Pakistan ranks 113th among 120 countries regarding literacy rate, which is projected to reach 60 percent till 2015 from the existing 55 percent. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in collaboration with Unicef and International Labor Organization (ILO) organised an event here on Tuesday titled ‘Girls’ Right to Education’.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan Timo Pakkala, Unesco’s Director Kozue Kay Nagata, ILO’s Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio, Unido’s Country Director Shadia Yousif Bakhait, Unicef’s National Gender Specialist Sadaf Zulfiqar and Unesco’s National Education Specialist Arshad Saeed Khan were among participants of the event. Timo Pakkala said: “Education is one of the key priority areas of the government of Pakistan, but to increase the overall literacy rate of the country, it is essential to change the mind set of the communities especially in this patriarchal society.” “Pakistan is lagging behind in the achievement of MDGs, while a lot of work is to be done in education sector to achieve MDGs especially in remote areas and Fata where the female literacy rate is just three percent,” Timo Pakkala said. He said that the devolution of Ministry of Education to the provinces is a unanimous political decision and the provinces would have to make efforts to cope with this heavy responsibility of improving and developing the education sector of Pakistan. According to him, empowering girls and women through quality education is the smartest investment for breaking the poverty cycle and achieving social justice. Arshad Saeed Khan said that the United Nations’ Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) was a flagship for girls’ education. It served as a principal movement to narrow the gender gap in primary and secondary education and to ensure the right to education and gender equality for all children, girls and boys alike, he said. Arshad said that Pakistan was spending just 2.3 percent of its GNP and 9.9 percent of overall government budget on education, India 4.5 percent of GNP and 12.7 % of government budget, while Bangladesh was spending 2.1 percent of GNP and 14.1 percent of total government budget on education. Pakistan’s literacy rate was projected to reach 60 percent, India’s 71 percent, while Bangladesh was estimated to have 61 percent literacy rate by 2015. Youth (between age 15-24) female literacy rate in Pakistan is 61% against 79% for males. However, youth female literacy rate is projected to be 72% (against 82% for males) by year 2015, whereas adult female literacy rate of older age group (15+) is projected to be 47%. Other participants emphasised that economic progress was not possible when 50 percent human resources were uneducated. Armed conflicts in society and among groups could be avoided when women had equal access to education and participate in decision-making. Some key donors were not only reducing their overall aid budgets, but might also be assigning education a lower priority. Participants said that literacy was crucial for adults’ social and economic well-being and that of their children. Yet progress on this goal had been very limited, largely as a result of government and donor indifference, while there were still 775 million adults across the world who could not read or write.

Pakistan: Political football

It is so disgusting that a monumental judicial verdict like the Supreme Court’s ruling on Asghar Khan’s case should become a subject of political polemics. And what is to be decided through judicial and investigative processes is being sought to be sorted out in political forums and media talk shows. The apex court had not just handed down its judgment. It had even laid down the roadmap for its execution to carry it to its logical conclusion. All the propriety thus demanded that full respect be accorded to the honourable court’s order. Yet certain segments of the political class, opinion leaders and the commentariat are raking up one controversy or the other, with some even interpreting it self-servingly. The most queerly behaving is the PML (N), though. It says it respects the verdict. But then in the same breath it says it doesn’t accept the investigation of the politicians allegedly involved in the IJI project by the FIA, as ordered by the apex court. This hence could only be a strange kind of acceptance, which if analysed critically simply boils down to the PML (N) saying perplexingly that it accepts the verdict but that it doesn’t accept the verdict. Not irrelevantly, this very party was always very censorious of its political rivals if they would express some reservations for one reason or the other about the apex court’s judgment in cases they were involved in. It always was insistent that they should obey the court verdict as it was without any whimper or whine. The same commitment to the dignity, honour and respect to the court the PML (N) should show this time round. If it feels uncomfortable about some part of the verdict, the way out is not issuing press statements, holding press conferences and talking to the anchorpersons of the talk shows. It should seek redress to its grouse through legal means which are all available to it. The honourable court has put no curb on that option. And it is up to the PML (N) to explore that option and utilise it. Crying in the media is just no option in the instant case too. That could only be mere skullduggery of the most odious kind. The PPP too should hold its horses. The party is, of course, enjoying the discomfiture of the PML (N) as the latter would invariably be gloating over its own in the past. But this verdict of the honourable court is too serious to be a plaything. It is an epoch-making ruling to keep politics from praetorian meddling and adventurism. The PPP leadership must remember that the involvement of politicians in the IJI project is not yet a given. The facts are still to be established, responsibilities to be fixed, charges to be brought up and proved. And yet it has already pronounced the Sharif Brothers guilty. This is all politics. And this intrinsically is wrong legally, morally and ethically. It must wait until the investigative processes are complete and the wrongdoing is established beyond a shred of doubt. The media, commentariat and the chattering classes too must hold their peace. They have run away with the verdict spiritedly as if it is a piece of parchment to show up their talking and writing skills. Noisy talk shows are being held with quarreling panelists filling the studios with their shrill. Patently partisan analyses and commentaries are being penned down volubly. The ruling indeed has been made a hot subject of gossips of all sorts. All this is fundamentally wrong. This is a stupendous verdict. A hash of it should not be made with irresponsible partisanship and self-serving rhetoric. The disgruntled could knock at the doors of the court for relief. But a political football of this historic judgment should not become in any event.

UN donates 175 laptops to Peshawar University

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) donated 175 mini-laptops to University of Peshawar which are to be distributed among various departments and two affiliated schools of UoP where Afghan students are enrolled. The Laptops were donated as a goodwill gesture and recognition of the services of University of Peshawar with regard to Afghan students over the past three decades. The handing over of laptops took place at the UNHCR site office (warehouse) in Pabbi where Program officer UNHCR Nasir Azam Sahibzada handed over the Laptops to Prof Dr Babar Shah, of Department of Regional Study, who was nominated by the vice chancellor to attend the ceremony. In his address, the program officer said that Pakistan was still host to approx. 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees and a number of Afghan students were still studying in Pakistani educational institutions. UNHCR together with government was trying to find a durable solution to the problem of Afghans refugees and their repatriation, he added. The official apprised that a number of initiatives had been taken by UNHCR, including provision of DAFI (Albert Einstein German Scholarship) to Afghan students studying in Pakistani institutions to help rebuild their country. The year 2012 marked the 20th year of DAFI scholarship worldwide, as a recognition to rebuild Afghan`s lives, he said. Prof Dr Babar Shah said that a number of Afghan students who had studied in the University of Peshawar were serving their own country ranging from government functionaries to educational experts, thereby contributing a great deal to the economy and rebuilding of Afghanistan. Vice Chancellor University of Peshawar Prof. Dr. Qibla Ayaz thanked the UNHCR office for the generous donation and lauded the efforts of Prof. Dr. Babar Shah for materializing the contribution being done by the UN agency.