Friday, October 26, 2012

VIDEO: MALALA's Father speaks to the media

Video: Dr Dave Rosser speaks to the press

Pashto-Urdu Eid Songs

Russia wants answers on NATO post-2014 Afghan mission

Russia wants to know more about the scale and scope of NATO's post-2014 mission in Afghanistan before deciding whether to keep cooperating with the Western alliance, an envoy for President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Moscow, NATO's Cold War-era foe and still a frequent critic, fears instability in Afghanistan after the pullout of most foreign troops by the end of 2014 may spill over into ex-Soviet Central Asia and threaten Russia's own southern borders. The former Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan in 1979 and withdrew its forces by early 1989 after a disastrous war. Moscow supported the U.S.-led invasion after the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks and has allowed transit of supplies for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including through a new hub in the city of Ulyanovsk. But Zamir Kabulov, Putin's special envoy for Afghanistan, told Reuters that Russia wanted "full clarity" on the combat capabilities of the post-2014 mission and reiterated a threat to withdraw cooperation unless the alliance receives approval from the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow holds veto power. "At the end of the day NATO is a military bloc. If a military-political group appears in the neighborhood of Russian territory, without our consent and with tasks unknown to us, this is problematic. A mandate is indispensable," Kabulov said. "Our current cooperation with NATO is based on the current NATO mandate from the U.N. Security Council. And we will only cooperate with such missions as have a mandate for which we have also voted," he told Reuters in an interview. NATO aims to hand security responsibility to Afghans in 2014 and revamp its mission into a training and advisory one. Russia's acting ambassador to NATO said this month that Russia would stop cooperating over Afghanistan post-2014 if no Security Council resolution authorizing the new mission is secured. A NATO official said it would be helpful but stopped short of saying it was essential. Kabulov, a former ambassador to Kabul, said Moscow wanted more information about foreign forces in Afghanistan after 2014. "The Americans say various things. Generally they say it will be a training mission, but then it becomes clear that there will be special forces, combat groups that will engage in combat in case of necessity," he said. "We need full clarity on the capacities they will have, what that is supposed to be. Because such a strong network of foreign military bases in the region provokes questions." REGIONAL WORRIES NATO has not yet given details on how many troops it wants to deploy in Afghanistan post-2014 but Kabulov questioned the ability of a limited force to ensure stability when tens of thousands of ISAF troops have not managed to do that. "And if they are not there for this purpose, then what for? This is our question and we are asking for a clear answer," he said. "Imagine several thousand instructors sitting in a base and suddenly being attacked by the Taliban. What will they say, 'Don't shoot, we are instructors'?" He added any final decision on cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan was in the hands of Putin, whose term ends in 2018. After the Soviet experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Russia ruled out sending soldiers to aid the United States and NATO this time around. Kabulov said Moscow was ready to supply Kabul with arms, including air-defense systems, any time. "NATO itself does nothing without air coverage in Afghanistan. Why should the Afghan army not have that? No modern army can do without it ... We are ready for this, but there have been no detailed talks about it yet," he said. Kabulov said he saw the overall situation in Afghanistan deteriorating and said NATO failed to meet its goals there, but admitted things were better now than before ISAF was launched. "If destabilization becomes a regional phenomenon, which has already happened in practice in many ways, then obviously Russia will have to redirect large resources from domestic development to safeguard its national interests and security. We would not like that," he said in his office at Russia's Foreign Ministry. On October 5 Putin secured a new 30-year lease on a military base in Tajikistan, Russia's main line of defense against radical Islamists and drug trafficking from Afghanistan. "We are ready to cooperate with NATO on Afghanistan not because we like NATO, not at all, but because it corresponds with our own interests. This is a very pragmatic approach, nothing personal," he said.

Obama votes early in Chicago

U.S. President Barack Obama cast his ballot early in Chicago at his home state of Illinois Thursday afternoon. It was the first time that a sitting U.S. presidential nominee voted early in person. With only 12 days left in the presidential race, Obama stepped into a polling station at around 4:20 p.m. local time, signed forms, showed his driver's license and made his choice at a touch- screen machine, according to White House Press Office. "I can't tell you who I voted for, but I very much appreciate everybody here," said Obama after he cast early ballot, an effort to encourage the early voting drive of the president's reelection campaign. "But all across the country we're seeing a lot of early voting.. .If something happens on Election Day, you will have already taken care of it," said Obama. The Obama campaign has embarked on an early voting drive, as dozens of states have started early voting procedures. The president has used his campaign appearances to call on supporters to do so. "The President will be early voting today in Chicago. This is the first time a sitting President is early voting in person," said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, during Thursday's press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route Richmond Virginia.The Obama campaign said early voting has been crucial to its get-out-the-vote efforts, trying to outperform the Republican presidential ticket on the ground particularly in key swing states. "This is a major part of our on-the-ground program and focus, and we hope that having the President do this today will send a message to people across the country, in states where early vote is an option, that this is something they should do, too," said Psaki. "This afternoon, I'm casting my ballot in my hometown of Chicago," wrote an email by the Obama campaign sent to supporters earlier Thursday, "I'm told I'll be the first sitting president to take advantage of early voting." The email also noted that effectively getting people out to vote, of which early voting is a huge part, would be even more critical in this year's "extremely tight race" than four years ago. Psaki also told reporters that the Obama campaign has so far out-performed in key states compared to their own in 2008 and ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney right now. Last week, U.S. first lady Michelle has already cast her absentee ballot, another form of casting ballots ahead of Nov. 6 other than early voting in person. In her twitter account, Michelle Obama published a photo of her holding an absentee ballot, with the words "I just dropped my absentee ballot in the mail - I couldn't wait for Election Day!" Following Michelle's move, Obama also announced through his official twitter account that he would vote early on Oct. 25 in person. Obama, currently on a two-day blitz campaign tour across eight states, holds advantage over Romney in early voting numbers. A Time Magazine poll released Thursday showed the incumbent led Romney two-to-one among respondents in top battleground Ohio who say they have already voted.

International vote monitors warn Texas

International election monitors took a dim view on Wednesday of Texas' threat to prosecute them if they observe voting in the state a bit too closely on November 6. The exchange pitted the Vienna-based human rights watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who warned the OSCE not to interfere with polling in state elections. "The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable," Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) monitoring arm, said in a statement. "The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections." Abbott told Reuters on Wednesday that he is considering legal action against the group if it doesn't concede that it will follow the state's laws. "They act like they may not be subject to Texas law and our goal all along is to make clear to them that when they're in Texas, they're subject to Texas law, and we're not giving them an exemption," he said. Abbott is skeptical about why the group wants to look at elections in Texas. "Our concern is that this isn't some benign observation but something intended to be far more prying and maybe even an attempt to suppress voter integrity," he said. In a letter on Tuesday to the Warsaw-based ODIHR, Abbott had noted that OSCE representatives were not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. "It may be a criminal offense for OSCE's representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place's entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE's representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law," he added. He cited reports that OSCE monitors had met with organizations challenging voter identification laws. Texas' voter ID law was blocked earlier this year by a federal court, and Abbott has said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about Voter ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has already determined that Voter ID laws are constitutional," Abbott wrote. Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade also wrote to the United Nations-affiliated OSCE/ODIHR on Tuesday, saying that it's key for Texans to understand that the organization has no jurisdiction over the state. Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry tweeted on Tuesday: ‏"No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue." The 56-member OSCE routinely sends monitors to elections and noted November's elections would be the sixth U.S. vote that ODIHR has observed "without incident" since 2002. For next month's elections it has a core team of 13 experts from 10 OSCE countries based in Washington and 44 long-term observers deployed across the country, it said. Lenarcic had shared his "grave concern" about the threat of Texas prosecutions with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the OSCE said. "Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way," Lenarcic said. "They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them."

International vote monitors must follow Texas law, state tells Clinton

Texas' attorney general warned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday that international election monitors planning to observe balloting in the state were not above Texas law. Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott's letter to Clinton was the latest move in his campaign to ensure that the Vienna-based human rights watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not mess with Texas. "It appears that OSCE is under the misimpression that the State Department can somehow help its representatives circumvent the Texas Election Code," Abbott wrote. "Texas law prohibits unauthorized persons from entering a polling place — or loitering within 100 feet of a polling place's entrance — on Election Day. OSCE monitors are expected to follow that law like everyone else." In a letter on Tuesday to the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE's monitoring arm, Abbott had warned that failure to follow Texas law could subject OSCE representatives to criminal prosecution. Janez Lenarcic, director of the monitoring arm, told Clinton on Wednesday about its "grave concern" with Abbott's letter, saying the threat of criminal sanctions was unacceptable and unprecedented. The 56-member OSCE routinely sends monitors to elections. For the November 6 U.S. elections, it has a core team of 13 experts from 10 OSCE countries based in Washington and 44 long-term observers deployed across the country, it said. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland noted that the OSCE had sent observers to U.S. general elections since 2002. The OSCE has assured Clinton and Texas authorities that OSCE observers are committed to following all U.S. laws, Nuland said. "To my knowledge it's the only state that came forward and said, 'Please reassure us, that you're gonna follow our state electoral law.' And they have now been reassured," Nuland told a news briefing in reference to Texas. But in his letter to Clinton, Abbott took issue with Lenarcic's assertion to the secretary of state that Abbott's threat of criminal sanctions contradicted commitments made by the United States, including in the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen document. "The fact that representatives of the United States joined the U.S.S.R, Yugoslavia, Romania, and other OSCE member-nations in signing a document at a 1989 conference in Copenhagen has absolutely no bearing on the administration of elections or laws governing elections in the State of Texas," Abbott wrote. He added that the OSCE was not above the law. Abbott told Reuters on Wednesday he was considering legal action against OSCE if it did not concede that it would follow the state's laws

Obama gets briefing on Hurricane Sandy

Associated Press
President Barack Obama has been briefed on Hurricane Sandy and the White House is urging people in the storm's path to listen to local officials and monitor weather reports. The White House says the president was briefed on the storm late Wednesday and again Thursday morning. Spokesman Jay Carney says federal emergency management officials have been working with local officials to prepare. Carney says citizens living along the Eastern Seaboard should monitor weather reports and listen to local officials in the days ahead. Obama will continue to receive updates on the storm. The hurricane is currently a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rain and wind to the Caribbean. It could affect a large swath of the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic early next week.

6,000 PU students still without laptops

Thousands of students of Punjab University who were registered in the first phase of laptop distribution are still without laptops, Pakistan Today has learnt. Students from over 70 departments of the Punjab University were registered by the Punjab government during the first phase of the laptop distribution ceremony that was held on March 23 this year. Students of evening and replica were registered according to the same criteria which the Punjab government had announced. Even then the students are still without laptops as the officials concerned continue to beat about the bush. The names of the students are also registered on the website. Some students also held protests but to no avail. “We sent all the documents to the department and the delay is on their end,” a PU official said, adding that the department had even sent a reminder three times. “I keep getting calls and SMSes from the chief minister but what is the point if I haven’t got the laptop,” said Huma Ejaz, a student from the Mass Communication Department. Another student from the Sociology Department said that he and his friends had even held a protest and the Punjab government had promised that they would be given their laptops but nothing had been done so far. Mohsin Ali, another student, said that “these laptops are just a political game and the Punjab government has distributed them to get votes.” “Punjab government is just trying to overcome the issue through the Punjab Youth Festival as they are not taking us seriously,” another student said. “Officials have told us that there is a shortage of laptops so the students will have to wait,” an official of the PND Department of the Punjab University said. Repeated attempts were made to contact Education Minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman but he could not be contacted.

Sharif brothers to be provided B-Class prison in Sindh

Sindh Information Minister Shajeel Memon has said that Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif will be provided B-Class if they came in Sindh's jail as prisoners. In a statement, the minister said that they (PPP) would also conduct anti-dengue spray in the jail's barrack for both the brothers. "We hope they will not cry this time to disturb the other prisoners." He alleged that Nawaz Sharif had disrespected the mandate of 180 million people to remain in the power by getting illegal money. Moreover, Provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon has demanded of Election Commission of Pakistan to disqualify Nawaz Sharif for involvement in rigging the general elections held in 1990. In a statement, Sharjeel Memon said that the court ruling in Asghar Khan Case has proven that Nawaz Sharif insulted the mandate of the 180 million people because he had a greed for power. He stated that Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif are no more 'Sadiq' and 'Ameen', as they rigged the polls by receiving an amount and lost their integrity.

When Malala fell, Pakistan stood up for her

The response of Pakistan to the shooting of the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was a "turning point" for the country, her father said Friday at the British hospital. “When she fell, Pakistan stood and the world rose. This is a turning point," a clearly emotional Ziauddin Yousafzai told journalists. He said Malala, 15, was recovering "at an encouraging speed" in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she was brought from Pakistan on October 15. "She is not just my daughter, she is everybody's daughter," her father said. He thanked the doctors at the hospital in the city in central England, saying: "She got the right treatment, at the right place, at the right time. "She is recovering at an encouraging speed and we are very happy." At one point, Ziauddin had to stop and compose himself as he recalled how in the aftermath of the shooting he asked his brother-in-law to make arrangements for a funeral because he did not believe Malala would survive. When asked how he felt when he and his family saw Malala for the first time since they arrived in Britain on Thursday, he said: "I love her and last night when we met her there were tears in our eyes out of happiness. "We all cried a little bit." Malala's mother and two brothers have also come to Birmingham, where the girl is being treated in the highly specialised hospital where service personnel who are seriously injured in Afghanistan are taken. He said her mother was too camera-shy to attend the media briefing, but pictures released by the hospital showed the family gathered around Malala's bed. Malala was wearing a pale green head covering. Malala has received thousands of goodwill messages from around the world. Doctors have said a bullet grazed her brain and came within centimetres of killing her, travelling through her head and neck before lodging in her left shoulder. She requires reconstructive surgery, but she must first fight off an infection in the path of the bullet and recover her strength, which could take months. Her skull will need reconstructing either by reinserting bone or using a titanium plate.

Malala will "rise again".

The father of a Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education said on Friday she would "rise again" to pursue her dreams after hospital treatment. Malala Yousufzai, 15, was flown from Pakistan to Britain for specialist treatment after the October 9 attack, which drew widespread international condemnation. The father Ziauddin Yousufzai and other family members arrived in Britain on Thursday to help her recovery. "They wanted to kill her. But she fell temporarily. She will rise again. She will stand again," he told reporters, his voice breaking with emotion. Malala has become a powerful symbol of resistance to the Taliban's efforts to deny women education. Public fury in Pakistan over her shooting has put pressure on the military to mount an offensive against the radical Islamist group. "When she fell, Pakistan stood ... this is a turning point," her father said. "(In) Pakistan for the first time ... all political parties, the government, the children, the elders, they were crying and praying to God." The Taliban have said they attacked her because she spoke out against the group and praised U.S. President Barack Obama. A cheerful schoolgirl who wants to become a politician, Malala Yousufzai began speaking out against the Pakistani Taliban when she was 11, around the time when the government had effectively ceded control of the Swat Valley to the militants. She has been in critical condition since gunmen shot her in the head and neck as she left school in Swat, northwest of Islamabad. She could be at risk of further attack if she went back to Pakistan, where Taliban insurgents have issued more death threats against her and her father since she was shot. "It's a miracle for us," her father said. "She was in a very bad condition ... She is improving with encouraging speed." British doctors say Malala has every chance of making a good recovery at the special hospital unit, expert in dealing with complex trauma cases. It has treated hundreds of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan. Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director, said she would be strong enough to travel back to Pakistan in a few months' time but it was unclear whether the family would choose to do so. "She's certainly showing every intention of keeping up with her studies," Rosser added. Malala's father said he and his family cried when they were finally reunited with her on Thursday. "I love her and of course last night when we met her there were tears in our eyes and they were out of happiness," he said, adding that Malala had asked him to bring school textbooks from Pakistan so she could study. "She told me on the phone, please bring me my books of Class 9 and I will attempt my examination," he said. "We are very happy ... I pray for her."

Malala recovering fast in UK: father

The father of a Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education said on Friday his daughter was recovering fast in the British hospital where she is undergoing treatment. Malala Yousufzai
was flown from Pakistan to the British city of Birmingham to receive treatment after the October 9 attack which drew widespread international condemnation. Her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, and other family members flew to Britain on Thursday to help their daughter's recovery. "It s a miracle for us ... She was in a very bad condition," he told reporters. "She is improving with encouraging speed. "We are very happy ... I pray for her."

Look unto yourself: Raja Riaz to Shahbaz

Pakistan Today
Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz on Thursday said that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, instead of removing rubbish from politics of country, should face accountability regarding Asghar Khan case verdict. In a statement, Riaz said that Supreme Court’s decision has exposed the fake mandate of Sharif brothers in 1990. He said that all awards including introducing corruption in politics, establishing “Lota factory”, horse trading and using public resources for personal and political gains, go to PML-N. The opposition leader in Punjab Assembly said that Sharif brothers depend on politics of “Changa Manga”, and had stolen public mandate by constituting IJI and now were ruling through horse trading. Raja Riaz urged the Sharif brothers to first appear before Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to provide details of money acquired from ISI in 1990 for hatching conspiracy against PPP to defeat it in general elections.

Pakistan: Minority money, Muslim Haj

Not only has the misuse of funds at the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), allocated for the specific use of the minorities, been reported - but it has also been found that these stolen funds were ironically used to pay for Umra and Haj! This was disclosed by National Harmony Minister of State Akram Masih Gill during his testimony to the Public Accounts Committee during its meeting on Wednesday. He said that the tenure of the ETPB Chairman, Ashraf Hashmi, had expired, but he continued to hold charge. Mr Gill’s question, about the validity of any Haj or Umra performed with money meant for minority welfare, remains unanswered. What a shame that this money, apportioned for the upkeep and maintenance of minority places of worship, should be stolen, in defiance of the very teachings of Islam, to fund Islamic pilgrimages! This censure also applies to parts of the money spent on development in the Rahimyar Khan constituency of the minister of state, during the Musharraf era. This should go beyond the Committee’s stricture that this was abuse of authority. Both examples not only need investigation and affixing of guilt, but also highlight the misuse of supplementary grants, in a way which makes a mockery of the budgeting process, and of parliamentary oversight over public expenditure. Though the example of reappropriation of funds came to the Committee from the ETPB, this particular abuse is prevalent across the whole of government, and thus deserves more attention than before. Any money a department is unable to spend under a particular head should be carried forward, and not conveniently reappropriated to some other head. The provision for supplementary grants of this sort was supposed to be so as to allow emergency spending, but it represents a violation, indeed defiance, of the budgeting process, because it allows spending of government money on things that have not been approved by the Assembly. The government gets such supplementary budgets passed using the same threat as it uses for the budget itself: its own fall. This makes the Committee all the more important as a means of accountability. It is the Committee which has a major role in holding the Executive to account, and it must not limit itself to pointing out abuses, but also of ensuring that they are investigated thoroughly.

PML-N’s defeat in next elections now certain

Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Inam Memon has claimed that in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict in the Asghar Khan case, the defeat of the Nawaz League in the next general elections seems certain. In a statement issued here on Wednesday, he said that Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N had now been fully exposed before the masses. Memon was of the view that for the sake of power, Sharif had “humiliated the mandate of the people in the 1990 general elections”. He also appealed to the Election Commission to “disqualify Mian Nawaz Sharif”. The PPP minister said that Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif were no longer “Sadiq and Ameen”.

Malala Yousufzai visited by family

The family of Malala Yousufzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, have visited her in hospital after arriving in Britain, a spokeswoman said Friday. The 14-year-old’s mother, father and two brothers arrived in the city of Birmingham in central England on Thursday and went straight to see her at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. “Her mum, dad and her two brothers are here in the UK,” a spokeswoman for the hospital told AFP. “They visited last night.” After flying into Britain’s second city, they were given a police escort through Birmingham to the hospital. In an attack which outraged the world, Malala was shot on a school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of Pakistan’s Swat valley on Oct 9 as a punishment for campaigning for the right of girls to an education. On Oct15 she was flown from Pakistan to Birmingham in a medically-induced coma, and taken to the highly specialised hospital where staff have extensive experience of treating British soldiers seriously wounded in Afghanistan. The hospital said Malala was still comfortable and continued to respond well to treatment. She has received thousands of goodwill messages from around the world since she was attacked. The bullet, which grazed her brain and came within centimetres of killing her, travelled through her head and neck before lodging in her left shoulder. It will take weeks to months for Malala to defeat an infection in the bullet track and recover her strength enough to face surgery. Her skull will need reconstructing either by reinserting bone or using a titanium plate.

Malala inspiration for Pakistani students

The courage of Malala Yousafzai
has renewed the determination of Pakistani students to learn despite the poor state of education in the country, undermined by poverty and under attack from militants. The 15-year-old is recovering in a British hospital after militants shot her in the head in a cold-blooded murder attempt for daring to promote the right of girls to go to school. The October 9 attack came in Malala's hometown Mingora in Swat, part of Pakistan's restive northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where insurgents bitterly opposed to a secular curriculum -- and girls' education in particular -- have destroyed hundreds of schools in recent years. Militants have destroyed four schools in the last week alone, according to officials -- two on Wednesday in Mohmand tribal district and two more in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The provincial government says more than 700,000 students have been affected, though casualties are low as most school attacks happen at night when students are at home. "The insurgents mostly target girl's schools and order both teachers and students to stay inside their homes as per their version of Islamic teachings or face dire consequences," said provincial information minister Iftikhar Hussain. Naseem Begum, a teacher at the government-run Islamia Collegiate girls' high school in Peshawar, the main city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told AFP the destruction of schools and the attack on Malala had frightened parents. But students at the school said they were inspired by Malala, who rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC chronicling life under militants, who terrorised the picturesque Swat valley from 2007 until an army offensive in 2009. "It is disappointing that militants are destroying schools," Saba Riaz, a final year student, told AFP. "Such attacks are disturbing but Malala has given us courage to fight for the cause of education." Her friend Razia Khan agreed: "Girls will never be scared by such attacks. In any case we will continue our studies, even if they are destroying schools or attacking girls like Malala." But it is not only militancy that schools in Pakistan have to contend with. The nuclear-armed nation's spending on education is tiny -- less than 2.5 percent of GDP, according to the UN children's agency UNICEF. Only nine countries in the world spend less on education. Pakistan's official literacy rate is 58 percent, with less than half of women able to read and write, yet in 2011-12 the government's spending on defence was more than 10 times greater than education. The country of 180 million people languishes near the bottom of the world literacy list at 159 out of 184 countries categorised by the UN Development Programme. A recent UNESCO report said at least 5.1 million Pakistani children are out of school -- 63 percent of whom are girls. Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM), a government survey, found gender disparity in education across the country, but most severe in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. In Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa just six percent of students are girls, and in Balochistan's Dera Bugti the figure falls to one percent. Poverty is also a factor. More than a fifth of the population is classed as poor by the government, though activists believe the figure could be closer to 30 percent. "People are getting poorer, that is making us more illiterate and more hungry. The girl child becomes the first casualty of poverty and illiteracy," said Tauseef Ahmed Khan, of Karachi's Urdu University. Free and compulsory education is a right of Pakistani children enshrined in the constitution, but for many parents a child at school is a child not earning money -- an estimated 3.3 million under 14 years of age in Pakistan work. "A poor family prefers to send a boy to school. Most families think educating girls is wasting money, which can be saved and spent on their marriage," Zohra Yousuf, who heads the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said. Girls often leave school young to join their parents in cottage industries and most poor girls are married off as teenagers. But some parents are determined that their own children should have a different future, and see Malala as a hero. Mother-of-four Azra Shabbir, now 32, was just 14 when her father married her off, forcing her to leave school and work with her husband in a shoe factory. "I have two girls, both are in college like their brothers. I want to see them literate, see them prosper no matter how much hard work I have to do for this," she said with a glint of hope in her eyes. "Our poverty haunts us, but we can fight against it, like Malala did," she smiled.

CM HOTI:Serving the people in challenging and difficult situation is itself a test

Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti has said that ruling during normal circumstances was easy but serving the people in challenging and difficult situation was itself a test. He said that God has chosen followers of Bacha Khan for leading the nation in testing times which was an honour for us. He turmed unity among the nation, sincere party workers as great asset and we can’t separate ourselves from the people regardless of the circumstances. He was addressing a people gathering at Mohabatabad Mardan which was chaired by ANP District President Farooq Akram Khan. Provincial Vice president Engr. Abbas Khan, District General Secretary Imran Mandoori, Coordinator Javed Yousafzai and party office bearers and large number of party worker were also present on the occasion. Dozens of political workers announced association to ANP on the occasion. The CM welcomed the new party workers and termed their decision congruent to prevalent circumstances. He said that confronting challenges and turmoils can be overcame through unity. He said that betraying the motherland was unfortunate but people revered it were indeed fortunate. He said that protection and sincerity to our motherland was our belief. He said that several areas including Mardan were denied of development during the past 60 years, added, it’s high time to remove these injustices and deprivation and to leave no stone unturned in this connection. He said that Mohabatabad was symbol of backwardness some four years back but now due to link roads establishment of schools and Health Centers have turned it to a developed area. He said that Rs.73 million have been spent on drains while Rs.10 Million has been consumed on installation of 50 Hand Pumps. He also approved funds for installation of additional hand pumps and drains. He said that Rs. 27 million will be spent on scheme of flood protection under public Health Engineering and irrigation Departments. The CM said that currently we were confronting two types of elements: one which intentionally want to fulfill their agenda through terrorism and other which was enticed for this purpose. He said that the latter discussed element can be rehabilitated through education and without education solution to problems was difficult. He said that present government has concentrated both on worldly and religious education and the youth of Mardan were acquiring knowledge in institutes like Abdul Wali Khan University and Bacha Khan Medical College while 5 new colleges for Girls in Mardan were under process. He said that three primary schools at Mian Kali, Krugh and Khas Krugh in Union Council Mohabatabad were near to completion while girls middle school upgraded to higher level and its additional room were under construction. He said that 45 million rupees have been spent in education sector in the said union council while a BHU costing Rs.40 million was under construction. He said that local funeral place will be completed at a cost of Rs.3 million. He said that Rs.240 million has been spent in roads sector that included several link roads and a road from main road to Krugh. He said that all these development initiatives were not favor upon the people rather it was their right and my prior responsibilities. He said that he will continue serving mosques and will keep it above politics which aimed at pleasing Allah only. He said that he will fulfill the resolve of collective service to Mardan that require people cooperation. Regarding Swabi incident the CM said that nothing can separate him from the people. He said that man is mortal and fear is enemy of human being. He said that no injustice will be made to affectees of Ring Road. Earlier Haji Hameed Khan, Azizullah, Sardar Khan, Rajab Khan, Wasim Khan, Jawad Hussain, Israrullah, Abdul Samad, Imtiaz Ali, Salar Khan, Khial Bacha, Fazil-e-Haq, Nadeem Khan, Zar Gul Khan, Awr Haji Perdil Khan have announced affiliation to ANP. The CM offered them ANP red caps. Hashim Khan presented the welcome address and Nawab Khan presented tributes to services of the Chief Minister for development of Mardan. Meanwhile the Chief Minister was apprised of situation regarding developmental schemes and problems confronting the people during his weekly meeting with MPAs at his office on Thursday. Federal Minister for Railway Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour also met the Chief Minister and discussed matters of mutual interest. Those meeting the Chief Minister included Senior Minister Rahimdad Khan, Provincial Ministers and MPAs hailing from different political parties.

Pakistani Media: A camp-follower

Do our media too have to be a camp-follower of the political class, and not independent opinion leaders that they pretend to be? What indeed is the point in hosting talk shows so incessantly on the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Asghar Khan case and in featuring politicians as panelists, as are engaged various television networks so zestfully over these days. The political strands may have every vested interest to play up or play down the verdict in their own lights. They may have every motive to twist or slant it to serve their own political ends. But what interest could the networks have in bringing the shouting political panelists on the show again and again? The people at least are least interested in this circus when they know for sure what stance each and every political strand has taken on the verdict. They have heard and read it too often and can easily anticipate what a particular panelist was going to say even before he opens his lips. Or do the anchorpersons think that a PML (N) participant in their show by some quirk of miracle would confess that the Sharif Brothers had taken the money and then apologise? Or the PPP participant would concede that the facts were still to be established and full truth was still to be known? Why indeed are the networks so hell-bent on boring the viewers ad nauseam with the trite? Had their anchors been any imaginative they would have invited instead experts and legal minds to analyse the verdict objectively and dwell on its implications for the democracy project? That would have been both informative and educative. What they are putting out now is not even entertaining. Why really have the networks stooped so low? Why have they surrendered so grandly to be leaders and have submitted so slavishly to be mere hangers-on? These are virtually election times. The elections are almost on our head. And had the networks so desired, they could have guided and led the entire stump talk. The politicos across the spectrum remain enmeshed in politics even now. What have they in their plans for the people remains unknown. They do not speak of it. Had the networks been smart, they would have nudged them and diverted the entire political talk to this direction. Their anchors would have invited the partisans to their shows and asked them what have their parties chalked out for the people’s welfare and the country’s advancement. They could have quizzed them what are their plans for jobs creation and to address the galloping unemployment. What are their economic programmes, industrial policies and agricultural growth plans? What measures their parties contemplate for generating and augmenting revenues, what taxation formulas have they planned out and what segments would they focus on to create new taxpayers? What energy policy would they follow? Above all, what are their schemes for poverty alleviation? And what strategy would they adopt to face up to the menace of surging extremism and terrorism in the country? To put it in short, there are hundred and one such-like questions that the anchorpersons could have asked. The outcome would definitely have been a political discourse less about politics and more about nation-building. But playing vassals to the political class, the media networks have forfeited this lead role. Had indeed our media taken a leaf out of the book of their counterparts of the open polities, they would have been better off. There, the media networks are not mere cheerleaders. They are in effect real opinion leaders. It is the political class that takes a cue from them, not the vice versa. Here, the media have fallen to take a cue from the political class and play the ball it rolls out. And yet the self-assuming anchors and the commentariat lay the claim of being the pace-setters of the political discourse. They all need imperatively to revisit their act. Even now they can redirect the entire election discourse. Only they have to abandon what interests the political class and focus on what interests the mass of the people. But are we asking for too much? Perhaps.

Suicide bomber kills 40 at Afghan mosque during Eid

A suicide bomber killed at least 40 people in a mosque in Afghanistan's relatively peaceful north on Friday as worshippers gathered for prayers marking the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, police officials said. The attack in Maimana, capital of Faryab province, also wounded 40, regional police chief General Abdul Khaliq Aqsai said, pinning the blame on the Taliban. A Taliban spokesman said they were investigating to find out who was responsible. "The suicide bomber detonated explosives when our countrymen were congratulating each other on the Eid holiday," said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for the police in the Afghan north, adding that almost half of the dead were police. He said Aqsai appeared to be the target. "As soon as the police chief got in his vehicle, the bomber detonated his explosives," Ahmadzai said About 20 bodies, some in police uniform, lay in front of the mosque's gates as smoke billowed above. The attack, at around 9 a.m. local time on the first day of Eid, came just before President Hamid Karzai repeated his call for the Taliban to join the government. "If you (Taliban) want to come to the government, you are welcome. You have rights as an Afghan and as a Muslim," he said in a speech marking Eid in the capital, Kabul. Kabul and Washington have been seeking separate peace negotiations with the Taliban as the 2014 deadline looms for most foreign troops to leave. Karzai condemned the mosque attack in a statement. Violence is intensifying across the country 11 years into the NATO-led war, sparking concerns over how the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces, often the target of the Taliban, will manage once most foreign troops leave. The Taliban, in a statement released to media on Friday, said two Afghan soldiers were behind the attack in western Farah province on Thursday that killed one Italian soldier. One of them later joined the Taliban, the statement said, along with the policeman who killed two U.S. soldiers in southern Uruzgan province on Thursday. That attack was the latest insider attack, when Afghan security forces turn their weapons on their foreign mentors and partners. At least 54 members of the NATO-led force have been killed this year so far in insider attacks, which have been eroding trust between Kabul and its western backers.

Malala attack plot hatched in Afghanistan

Attaullah Khan, the prime suspect in the shooting of Malala Yousafzai,
planned his attack following a meeting with Mullah Fazlullah in Kunar province of Afghanistan, well-placed security officials told The Express Tribune. According to the officials, Khan is one of two main suspects in the attack which involved a larger group of 12 people. With the main suspects still at large, officials say six facilitators of the attack have been arrested so far. Officials said they were on the trail of Khan, 23, prime suspect, who is a resident of Swat. Officials add that Khan is pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry in Peshawar. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in physics at Jahanzeb College in Swat. The school’s principal, Alam Zeb, condemning the attack, said that Khan had given school officials three or four dates of birth. Zeb said that he was surprised to hear that a former student of the college may have been involved in the gruesome attack on the 14-year-old girl. In addition to arresting six men, all of them from Swat, the police have also arrested Khan’s mother, brother and fiancée. The suspect’s relatives have not been accused of involvement in the attack but may provide clues to Khan’s whereabouts, a senior official added. Malala, who spoke against the Taliban, was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, while on her way home from school. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Eshanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the attack. Internationally recognised for a blog about the horrors of life under the Taliban and a campaign for the right to an education, Malala is the highest-profile target of militants in Swat for more than three years. Homebound Malala Yousafzai, who is currently recovering in the United Kingdom, will return to Pakistan, her father said on Thursday. Talking to the media, Ziauddin Yousafzai has dispelled the notion that the family would seek asylum abroad. “I first laughed at it because all of our sacrifices, my personal (sacrifices), or this attack on my daughter, cannot have such a cheap purpose that we would go to some other country and live the rest of our life there,” he said. Malala’s father spoke alongside Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad. Malik promised that the government would protect Malala upon her return. “Even while sitting there, she is taking care of her schooling,” as she asked her father to bring books when he goes to Britain, said Malik. Earlier, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar met doctors treating Malala at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Iftikhar said that Malala was receiving the ‘best care in the world’. He said the hospital has the most appropriate expertise and experience to treat the injured teenager. (with additional input from news desk)

Malala Yousafzai status updates

The medical team caring for Malala Yousufzai at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham said today that she was still comfortable and continued to respond well to treatment.