Friday, November 2, 2012

Storm Sandy blamed for at least 102 deaths in US, Canada

Deaths in the United States and Canada blamed on Sandy, the mega-storm that tore across the U.S. East Coast this week, rose to at least 102 on Friday. In New York City, 40 people have been found dead, half of them on Staten Island, the borough that lies across New York Harbor from lower Manhattan. In New Jersey, authorities said the death toll there had reached 13 and 14 deaths were reported by emergency management officials in Pennsylvania. The storm also killed at least 69 people in the Caribbean, including at least 54 in Haiti and 11 in Cuba, before hitting the U.S. coast on Monday, authorities said. The following are reported and confirmed North American deaths related to the storm. State authorities have warned the numbers are subject to change. A decrease may occur if the cause of death is later deemed not to be a direct result of the storm. * New York state: 48 (40 in New York City and eight elsewhere in the state) * New Jersey: 13 * Maryland: 11 * Pennsylvania: 14 * West Virginia: 6 * Connecticut: 4 * Virginia: 2 * North Carolina: 3* * Toronto, Canada: 1 * The U.S. Coast Guard has ended its search for the missing captain of HMS Bounty, a tall ship that sank 125 miles off the southeast coast of Hatteras, North Carolina. (Massachusetts state police said a traffic accident that killed one man during the time of the storm was not related to the storm or weather.)

Obama Receives Big Endorsement

Live video: Former President Bill Clinton visits Fort Myers

Watch live streaming video from thenewspress at

Jobs growth quickens, giving Obama some relief

Employers stepped up hiring in October and a small increase in the jobless rate was due to more workers restarting their job hunts, a hopeful sign for a lackluster economy that has been a drag on President Barack Obama's re-election bid.
Employers added 171,000 people to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. The government also said 84,000 more jobs were created in August and September than previously estimated. The jobless rate edged up a tenth of a point to 7.9 percent, but that was due to workers surging back into the labor force. Only people who are looking for a job count as unemployed. "This report is consistent with the emerging picture of an economic recovery that is continuing to regain traction after grinding to a halt earlier this year," said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities in New York. The stronger-than-expected data was the last major report card on the economy before Tuesday's presidential election. Polls show Obama and Republican Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat in a race in which the nation's feeble jobs market has been front and center. Romney cast the elevated jobless rate as a signal of the economy's ills. "The economy is at a virtual standstill," he said in a statement. His top economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, said a jobs growth figure closer to 300,000 would be needed to show an economy with real vigor. Obama said the report showed the economy moving in the right direction. "We have made real progress," he told a rally in Hilliard, Ohio. Despite the political wrangling, the impact of the report on the election could be muted as most voters' perceptions on the economy are likely mostly fixed by now. However, the jobs report could make it more difficult for Romney to drive his message home. While the rise in the jobless rate was expected, the increase in payrolls beat even the most optimistic forecast in a Reuters poll. U.S. stocks opened higher but then turned down, while the dollar strengthened and prices for U.S. government debt were little changed. GLASS HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY? A full recovery from the 2007-09 recession remains distant and even sustained monthly job gains of 171,000 would likely bring down the unemployment rate only slowly. The jobless rate, which peaked during the recession at 10 percent, remains about 3 percentage points above its pre-recession level. The persistently high unemployment rate has undercut wage growth. Average hourly earnings fell one cent last month to $23.58. Over the past year, they have risen just 1.6 percent, the lowest on records dating to early 2007. A narrower measure that looks at just production and non-supervisory employees is up only 1.1 percent, the smallest rise since at least 1964. In October, the jobless rate rose because 578,000 people entered the workforce. That helped push the participation rate, a measure of the portion of the population in the labor force, up two tenths of a point to 63.8 percent. A gauge of the proportion of working age Americans who have a job hit a three-year high at 58.8 percent. The rise in the jobless rate was too small to reverse a big drop registered in September. A broader measure of underemployment that includes the unemployed, people who can only get part-time work and people who want a job but who are not looking ticked down a tenth of a point to 14.6 percent, its lowest level since April. Still, 23 million Americans were underemployed by this measure. All of the gain in payrolls was in the private sector, which added 184,000 jobs in October, the biggest increase since February. The government shed 13,000 positions. Private service-providing jobs were up 163,000, with retail trade adding 36,400 jobs. Temporary help services, often a harbinger of future full-time hiring, added 13,600 jobs, more than reversing the previous month's decline. The construction sector saw a 17,000 increase in jobs, the largest rise since January, while factories added 13,000 workers, snapping two straight months of decline. While consumers have picked up spending in recent months and the housing sector has stirred back to life, the U.S. economy faces a real threat of a renewed recession next year. Without action by lawmakers, taxes will rise and government spending will fall to the tune of about $600 billion. That "fiscal cliff" could easily cause the economy to contract. Europe's debt crisis, which has hit factories around the world, is also weighing on the U.S. recovery. A severe storm that hit the U.S. East Coast early this week could briefly drag on growth. Given the uncertain outlook, businesses have been hesitant to invest. A separate report on Friday showed orders for non-defense capital goods, excluding aircraft, rose just 0.2 percent in September after a similarly tepid 0.3 percent gain in August. Still, overall orders received by U.S. factories bounced back 4.8 percent, nearly reversing all of a deep slide seen in August.

President Barack Obama: My vision for America

For the past few days, all of us have been properly focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetimes. We mourn those who were lost. And we pledge to stand with those whose lives have been turned upside down for as long as it takes them to recover and rebuild. Because when hardship hits, America is at its best. The petty differences that consume us in normal times quickly melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm -- only fellow Americans. That's how we get through the most trying times: together.Four years ago, we were mired in two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Together, we've battled our way back. The war in Iraq is over, Osama bin Laden is dead, and our heroes are coming home. Our businesses have created more than 5 million new jobs in the last two and half years. Home values and 401(k)s are rising. We are less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last 20 years. And the American auto industry is back. We're not there yet. But we've made real progress. And on Tuesday, America will get to choose between two fundamentally different visions of what makes America strong.I believe America's prosperity was built on the strength of our middle class. We don't succeed when a few at the top do well while everyone else struggles to get by -- we're better off when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. When Bill Clinton was president, he believed that if America invested in the skills and ideas of its people, good jobs and businesses would follow. His economic plan asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more so we could reduce our deficit and still invest in job training and education, research and technology, better health care and a dignified retirement. And what happened? By the end of his second term, our economy created 23 million new jobs. Incomes rose. Poverty fell. Deficits became the biggest surplus in history. The path Governor Romney offers is the one we tried for eight years after President Clinton left office -- a philosophy that says those at the very top get to play by a very different set of rules than everyone else. Bigger tax cuts for the wealthy that we can't afford. Encouraging companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. Fewer rules for big banks and insurance companies. They're the policies that caused this mess in the first place.In the closing weeks of this campaign, Governor Romney has started calling himself an agent of change. And I'll give him one thing -- offering another $5 trillion tax cut weighted towards the wealthy, $2 trillion in defense spending our military didn't ask for, and more power for big banks and insurance companies is change, all right. But it's not the change we need. We know what real change looks like. And we can't give up on it now.Change is an America where people of every age have the skills and education that good jobs require. We took on banks that had been overcharging for student loans for decades, and made college more affordable for millions. Now we'll recruit 100,000 math and science teachers so that high-tech, high-wage jobs don't end up in China, and train 2 million workers at community colleges for the skills local businesses need right now. Change is an America that's home to the next generation of manufacturing and innovation. I'm not the candidate who said we should "let Detroit go bankrupt," I'm the president who bet on American workers and American ingenuity. Now I want a tax code that stops rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas, and starts rewarding companies that create jobs here; one that stops subsidizing oil company profits, and keeps supporting clean energy jobs and technology that will cut our oil imports in half. Change is an America that turns the page on a decade of war to do some nation-building here at home. So long as I'm commander-in-chief, we'll pursue our enemies with the strongest military in the world. But it's time to use the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down our debt and rebuild America -- our roads and bridges and schools. Change is an America where we reduce our deficit by cutting spending where we can, and asking the wealthiest Americans to go back to the income tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was president. I've worked with Republicans to cut a trillion dollars of spending, and I'll do more. I'll work with anyone of any party to move this country forward. But I won't agree to eliminate health insurance for millions of poor, elderly, or disabled on Medicaid, or turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut. The folks at the very top don't need another champion in Washington. The people who need a champion in Washington are the Americans whose letters I read at night; the men and women I meet on the trail every day. The cooks and cleaning staff working overtime at a Las Vegas hotel. The furniture worker retraining for a career in biotechnology at age 55. The teacher who's forced to spend less time with each student in her crowded classroom. Her kids, who dream of becoming something great. Every small business owner trying to expand and do right by his or her employees -- all of these Americans need a champion in Washington. When these Americans do well, America does well. That's the change we need right now. It's time to finish what we've started -- to educate our kids, train our workers, create new jobs, new energy, and new opportunity -- to make sure that no matter who you are, where you come from, or how you started out, this is the country where you can make it if you try. The America we believe in is within our reach. The future we hope for is within our sights. That's why I'm asking for your vote this Tuesday.

Russia slams Clinton for Syria opposition remarks

Russia on Friday blasted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call for an overhaul of the Syrian opposition and accused Washington of trying to solve the conflict on its own terms. The Russian foreign ministry said Clinton's comments on the Syrian National Council (SNC) no longer representing the entire anti-regime movement clashed with the agreements world powers reached on the conflict in Geneva in June. "We heard direct orders (from the United States) about what the Syrian opposition should do to form a 'government in exile,' and about who should join such a government -- up to specific people," the Russian statement said. It noted that Washington and Moscow had both agreed in Geneva to support setting up a transition government that would be decided by the Syrians people as a first step for ending the 20-month crisis. Clinton this week said the SNC "can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition" -- comments that came just days ahead of an important Syrian opposition meeting in Qatar. Russia also accused US officials of starting to simply ignore Russia and China's joint resistance to what Moscow sees as international efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "US representatives are saying that they do not intend to wait for a change in Russia and China's position. So they are bluntly making clear that they see the Syria conflict being settled exclusively on their terms," the ministry said. Russia and China have vetoed several UN Security Council resolutions to end the crisis in Syria. Moscow has viewed the ruling Syrian government as its last important Middle East ally and has refused to cut military cooperation with Assad's regime.

Saudi Parties Call for Nationwide Rallies Early November

Saudi Arabia's political parties called for nationwide demonstrations early next month to demand release of political prisoners in the country. The Saudi parties are preparing for several protest rallies on November 2 concurrent with the demonstration in Kuwait. Founder of Saudi Arabia's Islamic Ummah (nation) Party Sheikh Mohammad bin Saad Al-Mofarrah has called on the public throughout the country to stage nationwide demonstrations to call for political prisoners, including those detained during the recent protest rallies in the country. Salafi figures in Kuwait plan to stage a demonstration codenamed 'Keramat al-Vatan 2 (Homeland Dignity 2)' in a bid to reject a revision of electoral laws ordered by Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al- Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. Salafi opposition figures have already declared that they would hold protest rallies after Muslims' Eid al-Adha to oppose against reforms in electoral laws. Over 100 Salafis and 11 police forces were injured during conflicts last Sunday in Kuwait. The clashes came after Kuwaiti Emir ordered the revision in the laws ahead of snap parliamentary scheduled for early December. The Kuwaiti Emir has recently dissolved the parliament formed in 2009 and paved the way for snap elections for the second time in 2012 and 5th time over last 6 years.

UN Chief Concerned Over Bahrain Protest Ban
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed concerns over the recent restrictions imposed on public demonstrations and other public gatherings in Bahrain and urged authorities in the Gulf Kingdom to lift those restrictions without delay. "The Secretary-General believes these restrictions could aggravate the situation in the country and urges the Government of Bahrain to lift them without delay," Ban's spokesperson was quoted as saying in a news release issued on Thursday. The spokesperson said the U.N. chief also called on protesters in Bahrain to "ensure that any demonstrations are, in fact, peaceful," and stressd that "recent violence that reportedly killed two police officers is unacceptable." Further, he reiterated his earlier appeal to the Bahraini authorities to "abide fully by international human rights standards, including respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association." The Secretary-General "reaffirms his belief that there needs to be an all inclusive and meaningful national dialogue that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis, as this is the only way towards greater stability and prosperity for all Bahrainis," the spokesperson noted. Ban also called on the Bahraini government to "complete the full implementation" of recommendations contained in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which the King of Bahrain established in June 2011 to investigate incidents that occurred during unrest in the tiny Middle-East State that year. The Commission reportedly found that government forces had used excessive force during the protests in February and March 2011, which left at least 35 people dead, including five police officers, reports said. The Commission also found evidences of torturing some detainees.The Commission's 17 recommendations included creation of independent bodies to investigate claims of human rights violations, review of convictions and sentences of individuals detained during the unrest, and avoidance of detention without prompt access to lawyers and without access to the outside world, with all cases of detention subject to effective monitoring by an independent body. On October 30, Bahrain banned all protest gatherings and threatened legal action against groups encouraging demonstrations and clashes. The move is believed to be aimed at crushing the oil-rich Kingdom's anti-government uprising spearheaded by the majority Shia population, who have been complaining about discrimination by the ruling Sunni royal family. It is estimated that at least 60 people have been killed since pro-democracy protests broke out in Bahrain in February 2011 as a fallout of the 'Arab Spring' that saw the toppling of entrenched rulers in North Africa and the Middle East. The Bahraini government had suppressed last year's unrest with the help of troops from other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) States. Nevertheless, the country continues to witness frequent protests staged by the Opposition and Bahrain's Shia majority, who have long been complaining about discrimination in housing and government jobs. They have been demanding greater political rights and want the Sunni monarchy to hand over most of its powers to the elected Parliament.

Bahrain protest ban fails to stop street clashes

'UN must suspend Bahrain membership for rights violations'

A Bahraini political activist says the United Nations must suspend the membership of the Persian Gulf kingdom due to Manama regime’s human rights violations, Press TV reports. “They have to tell the Bahraini government we are going to suspend your membership because you violated all these human rights and the freedom of assembly, [and] the right to expression, and for this reason people were killed, people were tortured, people were jailed, opposition leaders are still in jail, teachers, physicians are in jail,” President of the Bahraini Medical Association Osama Alaradi said in an interview with Press TV on Friday. The Bahraini revolution began in mid-February 2011, when the people started holding mass demonstrations. The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring Persian Gulf littoral states. Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries. “They had been trying to suppress the Bahraini people for the past actually two or three decades but they were not able to, because Bahraini people are determined to achieve their rights, their basic rights,” Alaradi said. He further argued that, expressing concern over the situation in Bahrain is not enough and as an international organization, the UN, should take action with regards to the violations taking place in the kingdom. “I know they are admitting that the Bahraini government is violating the basic rights of assembly, [and] freedom of expression, but just to say that we are really concerned about that and this may aggravate the situation is really not enough at all.”

PAKISTAN: Quality education still a long way off

As evening approaches in the centre of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, children gather at a small playground, chatting and laughing. It is a scene played out in countless parks across the country, but the children are not here to play after school - they are here to attend one.
For three hours every evening, free classes run here for anyone who wants to attend, with the idea being that some of the many children who live on Islamabad’s streets, or work in its markets and houses, might benefit. Mohammad Ayub, who runs the unofficial school, began teaching children whose parents could not afford to send them to school in 1988. Despite the fact that state-run primary schools do not charge fees and many provide free textbooks, other expenses (such as stationery, uniforms and transportation) mean that for many poor families, schools are unaffordable. “It became quite popular and many parents who couldn’t afford a meal - forget education - would send their children to my little school in the evenings,” Ayub said. The school, which relies on volunteers and donations, is one of dozens of informal institutions in the capital which are helping to educate children. Pakistan has made limited progress in improving the quality and reach of its education system, and millions of children are missing out on schooling altogether in what the governments of Pakistan and the UK have termed an “education emergency”. Despite making education a fundamental constitutional right in 2010, Pakistan has no chance of fulfilling its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal education by 2015. Over seven million primary-aged children do not attend school, according to a 2011 report by the Pakistan Education Task Force (PETF), a body which includes senior education officials and independent experts. The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in 2010 that 30 percent of Pakistan’s population lives in a state of “extreme educational poverty” - receiving less than two years of education. “We could clearly see that an emergency was unfolding. Fifty percent of children of primary school age were not attending school or not completing it,” said Shahnaz Wazir Ali, social sector adviser to the prime minister and PETF co-chair, adding: “We can no longer treat the education sector with a business-as-usual approach.” PETF reckons the economic cost to Pakistan of not educating its people effectively translates into hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity. A success story Many of those who have finished Ayub’s informal school in Islamabad have gone on to complete high school and college, and today have jobs they could never have dreamed of. Ayub estimates that 20 percent of the students finish grade 10, with around 10 percent going on to complete degrees at colleges. Many, like Yasmin Nawaz, a 30-year-old mother of three who graduated from the school in 1994, became teachers themselves. “I finished middle school, grade 8. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to high school, but Master Ayub said I must,” Nawaz said. “He paid for my textbooks and my exam registration fee, and in return, I taught here at the school. I then taught elsewhere as well.” Despite the clear return on this investment and Pakistan’s pledge to spend at least 4 percent of its GDP on education, that figure has been decreasing. Education spending today stands at less than 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, according PETF.“The government recognized this problem early on. We’ve been working hard, on our own and with our major partners, especially the British government, to improve the situation,” Ali said. “Much more needs to be done but the government has taken some significant decisions and implemented them too.” These efforts include investments in teacher training, infrastructure and providing textbooks to students, but it is not merely a matter of getting children into school. The quality of their education also needs to be addressed, analysts say. “One of the solutions you hear to the problems in Pakistan’s education sector is for the private sector to step up and fill the gap,” Abbas Rashid, executive director of the independent Society for the Advancement of Education, told IRIN. “Around 30 percent of students are attending private schools, but what kind of education are they getting?” Poor quality Private schools, analysts say, are preferred by parents over government schools, despite the higher fees, but the quality of education at these schools is often only marginally better. “The issue is: better does not necessarily mean adequate,” said Rashid. According to the 2011 Annual State of Education Report (ASER) compiled by the South Asian Forum for Education Development, 45 percent of grade 5 students in public schools can only read a grade 2-level story in Urdu. The number is only slightly better in private schools - 57 percent. That parents are concerned about quality is reflected by the fact that many of the students at Mohammed Ayub’s school attend government schools in the morning. Seven-year-old Rimsha Samuel goes to a government primary school in the morning, and after lunch, heads to Ayub’s school for further classes. “After I study here, I understand my lessons really well. I don’t forget and do well in tests,” Samuel said. Lack of resources not the only problem Meanwhile, Ayub says: “Do I think the education system in Pakistan has let the children of this country down? Sure… But the reason for that is not lack of resources. If resources were an issue, where did they get money for all these school buildings where teachers don’t teach… There’s just no will to improve the situation.” Experts agree that just throwing money at the problem will not solve it, and that policy and governance are issues that have to be dealt with at the same time to achieve any lasting results. “Money is one of the main issues, but there is a problem with how policies are made. And they are constantly changed, not using the research that has been carried out on the sector,” said Fareeha Zafar, an independent education expert. Accountability “There is the issue of governance, there are no accountability mechanisms. For example, even if you do have sufficient teachers - which we don’t - if they are not in school, it is not possible to achieve anything.” The LEAPS (Learning and Educational Achievement in Pakistan Schools) project and PETF estimate that teachers in government schools, despite being paid more than their private sector counterparts and having greater job security, are not present one-fifth of the time. Government school teachers often use political connections and union action to protect themselves. “Even if a senior officer reports a teacher that is not performing or not even attending school, it is very difficult to take action because they will involve the unions or go to an MNA [member of the National Assembly],” said Zafar. “Even if you get that [teacher accountability], the quality of education, of textbooks, is an issue. So all of this needs to be considered, not just what is spent on education, but how.”

Afghanistan’s game plan

Things are apparently happening right according to plan in Afghanistan. The presidential polls will be held on schedule in April 2014, negating concerns that President Hamid Karzai was seeking a delay in elections. The presidential polls will coincide with the drawdown of tens of thousands of foreign troops, who are expected to exit the country by the end of 2014. Moreover, provincial elections, originally scheduled for mid-2013, will also be held on the same as the presidential elections, while the parliamentary elections will be held in 2015. According to this future calendar of political events, it seems like Afghanistan is not doing too badly. The process of electoral democracy is finally getting consolidated and the impending exit of foreign forces will pave way for true Afghan self-governance. But, while the political roadmap might appear quite orderly in Afghanistan, things are not too upbeat for the war-torn country. The Taleban insurgency, instead of rescinding, has been in fact growing in the last few months. On the occasion of Eid Al Adha, a suicide bomber struck people coming out of a mosque in the northern part of the country and killed 45 people. Wedding processions and high-profile government functionaries have been targeted recently. Hamid Karzai’s ethnically fractious government has not only blatantly failed in controlling the violence the country, it is also ridden with rampant corruption and inefficiencies. In fact, public officials are quite openly involved in illegal drug and arms trade. Moreover, the electoral process has been far from perfect. The 2009 elections, which re-elected Karzai, were tainted by allegations of fraud and experienced only 33 per cent turnout. Even though $13 million in funds have been pledged this year to help the Afghans prepare for the elections — with EU being the major contributor — there is no guarantee that they will actually elect a leadership any stronger than the present one. There’s a great danger that the forthcoming elections would bring about another contentious result and spark bitter in-fighting amidst the top political contenders. This scenario, especially during a time of fragile security created by the departure of the US troops, can lead to a power vacuum that will threaten to further destabilise the country. Thus, the game plan for Afghanistan, as envisioned by the Afghan leaders and the Western countries, might seem like it is right on schedule, but there’s no guarantee that its execution and results will be fruitful.

US Study Says Afghans Not Ready to Manage Forces

A U.S. government audit warns Afghanistan’s security forces may not be able to sustain themselves beyond a 2014 pullout of international troops. The audit found problems with the hiring and training of competent administrators to do everything from run power plants to basic accounting and purchases. Afghan uniformed police in Helmand Province learn to read and write under an internationally funded literacy program. It is one of many in parts of the country that are now under Afghan government control. It is here where the U.S. and NATO are fighting one of their biggest challenges in preparing Afghanistan to take full responsibility for its security before international forces pull out in 2014. Nearly 70 percent of Afghans are functionally illiterate, and that makes it difficult to find qualified people to manage supply systems and infrastructure to sustain its security forces. Those forces are growing. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta - at a NATO meeting in Brussels last month - said efforts to train them are paying off. "The number of Afghan security forces has now grown to about 350-thousand, and that larger force has maintained its recruitment and retention rates. Those forces have taken the lead to very complex combat operations, and they are suffering the vast majority of coalition casualties - a further sign that the Afghans have the willingness to sacrifice and take the fight to the enemy for their own future,” Panetta said. But a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction suggests those gains could be jeopardized. The report looked at the Afghan government’s operations and maintenance capabilities and concluded they are undeveloped - making the force incapable of sustaining itself when international troops leave. It said one major problem is the high number of soldiers and contractors who are illiterate and cannot do things like basic accounting and purchasing, or read manuals and blueprints to operate power plants. Security analyst Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington says the deficiencies are a major threat to peace in the country after 2014. “Like every soldier, if you don't have food, if you don’t have equipment, if you don’t have ammunition, and particularly in a fledgling military like Afghanistan’s, what happens is people leave. The desertion rate is already high but if you’re not being equipped and you’re facing an enemy, you’re not going to stay in place. So it’s a serious question,” Schmitt said. The U.S. administration has decided to pull American forces out by 2014, and Afghan leaders support that decision. But they say they will still need international support beyond the withdrawal date. Analysts say the inspector’s general report raises further question of whether Afghanistan is ready to secure itself beyond 2014.

Malala Yousufzai status updates

Doctors treating Malala Yousufzai said she continues to make good progress and remains in a stable condition at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Balochistan firing: 13 killed as van catches fire

The Express Tribune News Network
At least 13 people were killed and several sustained injuries when their van caught fire after a shoot-out at a small petrol pump in Khuzdar, Express News reported on Friday. According to initial details, the van was parked at the petrol pump when unknown armed men opened fire on the vehicle. Express News correspondent Irfan Rana said that petrol drums at the pump caught fire because of the shooting, and as a result, burnt the van. The injured have been taken to a nearby hospital.

India: 5,000 visas likely for Pakistan cricket fans

The Home Ministry and security agencies have swung into action to complete the modalities for issuing visas to Pakistani cricket fans visiting India for the limited-over series later this year. According to sources in the Ministry, India is likely to give 5,000 visas to Pakistani nationals but only after due diligence and by following stricter guidelines. “On earlier occasions, India has been liberal in granting visas to Pakistani nationals… but this time Indian agencies want to take extra precaution in allowing cricket fans from the neighbouring country following revelations that Pakistan-based terror groups had sent their operatives to India earlier to do recce to possible targets,” a senior Ministry official said. From next week, senior Ministry officials will hold a series of deliberations with their counterparts in the External Affairs Ministry, besides security and intelligence agencies to prepare a road map for issuing visas to Pakistani nationals for the cricket series. “On Monday, a high-level meeting will take place at the Home Ministry to decide on types of visas and other guidelines to be adopted. As there will be various matches, it will also be decided whether to give Pakistani fans a match-specific visa or for the entire series…it is crucial to ensure that Pakistani fans do no disappear during their stay in India,” the official said. The Home Ministry has formed a special committee that includes Additional Secretaries Khurshid Ahmed Ganai and K. Skandan to look into all issues. Home Secretary R.K. Singh has already held deliberations with BCCI officials and assured them all help, in terms of security preparedness and logistical support, to ensure successful completion of the much-awaited sporting event. The India-Pakistan comprises three ODIs and two Twenty-20 Internationals that will be played between December 2012 and January 2013. The ODIs are likely to be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi, while India would host Twenty-20 matches in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Accordingly, the Ministry officials will hold meetings with the civil and the police administrations of the respective State governments. Post 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, India severed cricketing ties with Pakistan, though both nations have been playing matches in various competitions at neutral venues. They have not played a bilateral series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007. However, in the Cricket World Cup semi-final in Mohali last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his then Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani watched the match. Sena, MNS oppose matches Mumbai Staff Reporter writes: The Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena on Thursday vehemently expressed their opposition to the Pakistan cricket team’s tour to the country next month, terming it a matter of “national shame.” In an editorial in his party mouthpiece Saamna, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray castigated the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government as “an enemy of national pride.” The Sena chief also came down heavily on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), accusing it of “betraying the country for [the] sake of money” and making Indian cricketers a part of that process of betrayal. “Except for Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, no cricketer has opposed playing cricket with Pakistan,” said Mr. Thackeray. Alluding to Pakistan’s role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike and the 2001 Parliament attack, Mr. Thackeray said allowing Pakistan cricketers to play on Indian soil was tantamount to insulting the martyred jawans. “By allowing them to play, we are not valuing the blood spilled by them [Indian jawans] in our battles against Pakistani aggression.” He also censured Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, as he had “offered his services to Pakistan,” by giving the green signal for the tour. MNS chief Raj Thackeray, Mr. Thackeray’s nephew, has also vociferously opposed the tour. “Raj saheb had already declared that we will not allow any India-Pakistan match to be played in Maharashtra,” said MNS MLA Shishir Shinde.

Malala's Schoolmate Says Taliban Bullet Has Only Strengthened Her Resolve

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Recovered after being struck by a Taliban bullet, 16-year-old Kainat Ahmad is now focused on two things -- continuing her education and seeing her best friend again. Ahmad was wounded during the attempted murder last month of teen peace activist Malala Yousafzai, targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for her criticism of the hard-line group's influence in the restive Swat Valley. On November 1, Ahmad returned to the girls' school she and Malala attend in Mingora, the capital of the Swat district. Ahmad spent nearly a week in a hospital in Mingora after being struck by a bullet in her right arm when Taliban gunman fired on the vehicle she and Malala were riding in. Malala is slowly recovering in a British hospital from a serious bullet wound to her head. Ahmad says she's looking forward to the day when Malala will join her at school and says everyone in the community is praying for her recovery. 'We Are All Capable' While the 10th grader says her friend's relentless promotion of girls' education incurred the wrath of the Taliban, Ahmad says the incident has only strengthened her resolve to pursue an education. She says Malala's courage and defiance has made her an inspiration to a generation of Pashtun girls. "Girls will be attracted to an education because of Malala," Ahmad says. "Many are saying, 'If Malala can do what she did, why can't we do something similar?' They say, 'We all are capable.'" Ahmad says girls' education is necessary for the progression of society and is an avenue for opportunity.Education is a must for both boys and girls. The boys can pursue any jobs," she says, "but girls need a respectable profession where nobody can point fingers at what they do." She says the early October shooting has given her a career goal. She wants to become a doctor. "I will work very hard to become a doctor so I can serve the poor and my nation," she says. The shooting of Malala because of her activism for peace and child rights focused global attention on the Taliban's opposition to girls' education. Rallies condemning the shooting and in support of Malala were held nationwide. The Taliban threatened journalists and media outlets across the country in the wake of the shooting and even said they would try to kill Malala again if she survived. Malala's story continues to dominate headlines in Pakistan, reflecting the public's outrage over the shooting.

Pakistan's anti-graft body summons three former generals
Pakistan's top anti-corruption agency has summoned three retired generals, who were allegedly involved in the lease of railway land to a golf club at a throwaway price resulting in the loss of over Rs 16 billion. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned former Lieutenant Generals Javed Ashraf Qazi and Saeeduz Zafar and former Maj Gen Hamid Hassan Butt in connection with the lease of land to the Royal Palm Golf Club in Lahore, a media report said today. The retired army officers have been asked to appear before an investigation team at the NAB headquarters in Islamabad, The News quoted its sources as saying. Their case is likely to be referred to the courts for a decision. According to NAB officials, the Generals caused a loss of over Rs 16 billion to Pakistan Railways by leasing its lands at a throwaway price. The Standing Committee on Railways of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament recently issued directions to the NAB to conduct an inquiry into the alleged involvement of the Generals in the case. NAB officials informed the Parliamentary panel that the lease of the railways land to the golf club lacked transparency. The panel was further informed that the Generals were allegedly involved in the controversial lease process. Initially, 103 acres were leased and this was later extended to 140 acres while ignoring the highest bid. NAB officials informed the Parliamentary panel that the Royal Palm Golf Club had agreed to raise the lease amount. The NAB is likely to recover Rs 16.18 billion from the contractor of Royal Palm Golf Club for Pakistan Railways.

Altaf for referendum on ‘Taliban’s or Jinnah's Pakistan’

The MQM chief Altaf Hussain has directed party workers to organize referendum in the country. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain during his telephonic conversation has directed the MQM Coordination Committee to organize a referendum and ask the masses whether they want Taliban’s or Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan? He has directed his party workers to organise the referendum throughout the country on the same day. He said that the counting of votes should be done in the presence of senior retired judges, lawyers or prominent citizens. The MQM chief has appealed to Pakistanis that since the country was passing through a difficult time of its history, they should perform their national duty and vote without any fear or pressure.

Zardari orders ‘operation’ in Karachi

Expressing displeasure at the worsening law and order situation in Karachi, President Asif Ali Zardari has directed the law enforcing agencies to conduct raids on the dens of criminal elements. Chairing a meeting at the Chief Minister House on Thursday, the president also took notice of proliferation of the arms and weapons in the metropolis and observed that the arms licences should be Smart Card-based to ensure that no fictitious licences were issued. Taking note of the use of mobile phones by the militants and criminals, Zardari also asked the government to work out a plan to ensure that no SIMs are available at the retail shops and the outlets of mobile companies, rather they are posted to the CNIC addresses of the applicants. The president directed the interior minister to frame draft in this regard for the cabinet’s approval. The president advised the provincial law minister to work on enacting suitable legislation, in consultation with all stakeholders, for the protection of the witnesses. He observed that one of the reasons hindering effective prosecution was that witnesses backed out due to fear and insecurity. He advised the government to study the model of witness protection laws adopted in other countries in the wake of rising militant activities for this purpose. Briefing the media, Presidential Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said the meeting was attended by Acting Sindh Governor Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, provincial ministers, IG Police, DG Rangers, Secretary General to the President and senior federal and provincial officials. CM Qaim Ali Shah briefed the president about the overall law and order situation in the province, especially in the metropolis. The federal interior minister also gave an overview of the security situation. Farhatullah said that President Zardari emphasised that maintenance of order was a shared responsibility of all the political forces and concerted efforts should be made by all concerned for ensuring peace in the metropolitan city. Zardari said that no effort should be spared in ensuring smooth law and order and no discrimination be made in dispensing justice to the law-violators. He said that ensuring security of the citizens was the prime responsibility of the government and all efforts should be taken in this regard. Chairing a meeting on the establishment of Pakistan Kidney Institute (PKI) at Islamabad, the president said that public-private partnership model can be successfully followed to overcome the shortage of medical facilities for catering to the growing health needs of a booming population of the country. Those who were present during this meeting included Prof Dr Saeed Akhter, Dr Syed Nayer Mahmud, Dr Manzoorul Haq Qazi, CEO and President Shifa International Hospital and other doctors associated with the project. President Zardari said that in view of rising numbers of kidney and urological diseases, there was an urgent need to establish a state of the art institute that could cater to these diseases especially of the poor segments of society who cannot afford exorbitant diagnostic and treatment cost involved with such diseases. In this context the president commending the role of Prof Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi and the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant (SIUT) in Karachi being the leading institute in this field in the country, remarked that in view of the shortage of such state-of-the art facilities especially for the people of the upper region of the country, there was an urgent need to establish one in the capital city for catering to the growing demands of an increased population. Prof Dr Saeed Akhter briefed the president about the feasibility of establishment Pakistan Kidney & Liver Institute in collaboration with COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT). According to the proposal, the Institute is envisioned to be a not-for-profit organisation where 50% patients will be paying while 50% beds will be for non-paying poor patients. The revenue generated from the paying patients would be utilised in providing relief to the poor patients. It said that in near future, liver services will also be added to Institute. The proposal stated that PKI will work as an independent organisation under its board in collaboration with COMSATS. The meeting was informed that land was available for the establishment of PKI. The president also appreciated the role being played by the doctors of the private sector in the establishment of this centre of excellence in urology, nephrology liver diseases and Transplantation. During a meeting on Sindh Medical University, the president directed for significantly increasing the number of merit-based as well as seats for student from rural Sindh so as to provide opportunities to those deserving students who despite talent cannot reap the benefits of establishment of university due to limited number of seats. Those present during the meeting included Acting Governor Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, CM Qaim Ali, Federal Minister Dr Farooq Sattar, Dr Noshad Sheikh, Dr Tariq Rafi, SMU VC, alumnus of Sindh Medical University and concerned senior officials. The president commended the role the university has played so far in imparting medical education to the students. He also called upon the provincial government to resolve legislative issues of the SMU. The last meeting in the series was with the Sindh Chapter of Civil Service Academy Alumni wherein the president also laid the foundation of a housing society for the civil servants. According to the prepared text of the speech, President Zardari observed that an efficient, effective and dedicated civil service could play a decisive role in finding solutions to the issues confronted by the country that continue to haunt us and hinder our progress. He said that the government believes in safeguarding the legitimate interests of the civil service of Pakistan and was conscious of the need to attract the best talent in civil services. He said that the government was also aware of reforming the pay packages of the civil servants, and catering to issues such as transportation and the housing facility in big cities like Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. The president assured the government would do its best to resolve the problems that stand in the way of a motivated and satisfied civil service.

ANP chief says situation in Karachi is very uncertain

ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan on Thursday condemned the killing of ANP workers at Landhi Town Karachi and urged the workers to keep patience. In a statement issued from Bacha Khan Markaz ANP chief Asfandyar condoled with the families of Abdurahaman, ward President of ANP Landhi Town, vice president Abid Khan, Sajid Khan, vice president UC-6 Mian Jan, Mohammad Salim and Niaz Badsha and prayed for their departed souls. Asfandyar said continuation of target killing in Karachi, which is the financial hub of the country, has created an uncertain situation in the city where people have been feeling very insecure. He said tolerance and non-violence is the policy of ANP which should not be perceived as weakness because ANP knows how to raise voice for the rights of Pukhtuns in every corner of the world. Urging Sindh government to bring the target killers to book, ANP leader said government should ensure the protection of life and property of Pukhtuns as well as other suppressed nations in Sindh. He said Pukhtuns could not be deterred through such terrorist attacks and they will win the war against terrorism at every cost as it is important to win this war for the protection of next generation. He urged the workers that to keep patience and without indulging in violence continue their political activities as well as continue support the families of the martyred workers.

Security beefed up in Peshawar

Security is on high alert in Peshawar in the backdrop of security forces’ operation against extremists in Khyber Agency and due to Friday prayers, Geo News reported. According to police, security forces are battling against the extremists in the adjoining tribal belt of Peshawar due to which additional police check posts have been set up in the suburban areas of Matini and Budh Bair while additional troops have also been deployed. Policemen have been stationed at the mosques of Peshawar Cantt and in interior areas while walk-through gates have been installed at main mosques. The main road leading to the Saddar Bazaar has also been closed due to security risks.

Pakistan Inflation: who is responsible?

Federal Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh was reportedly criticised by his cabinet colleagues for the rise in food prices. The Prime Minister is said to have emphasised the need to check sky-rocketing prices especially given that elections are around the corner. This was subsequent to the claim by the Ministry of Finance that inflation had come down from a high of 25 percent in 2008/09 to 8.8 percent at present. This claim requires highlighting two relevant facts. First and foremost the mechanism for the calculation of the food component of the Consumer Price Index was changed during the last fiscal year. Previously perishable and non-perishable food items were lumped together with tobacco, betel leaves/nuts and alcoholic beverages. The two are now separated resulting in a massive decline in the weightage given to food relative to beverages, tobacco and betel nuts/leaves: only 7.13 percent for the former and a whopping 17.8 percent for the latter. The reason for the change was given as a variation in consumption patterns, however, it is not clear what was the basis for this specific assessment. In addition, there is a need to highlight the fact that the Finance Ministry refused to accept the government-approved extensive surveys that began in 1996 to evaluate the change in sectoral contributions to the GDP and insisted that the old base year 2001 be used, a year with particularly low output as Pakistan was a pariah state till that time due to a bloodless coup by Musharraf in 1999. The 2001 base year allowed the government to forecast a growth rate of 4 percent while the Federal Bureau of Statistics announced a rate of 3.2 percent but was forced to revaluate the data and release a 3.7 percent growth estimate. And, secondly, the reason for food inflation is the inability of the government to ensure that high support prices for major crops lead to lower consumer prices as input costs are rising at a faster pace - input prices that are mainly linked to sustained poor governance in the power sector. The Cabinet was also informed that salaries had been increased by 115 percent during the last four years, accounting for former premier Gilani's decision to raise salaries by an unprecedented 50 percent in one year followed by 15 percent in the two subsequent years, while inflation has been around 11 to 12 percent. The implication was that wage earners were better off in real terms. However, ignored are two related facts. First, the salary rise was limited to civil servants both at the federal and provincial levels and was cited as a major reason for the failure of the provinces to invest adequate amounts for infrastructure and social sector development projects. All other wage-earners were not offered such attractive pay rises and needless to add the bulk of those employed in the country are in the private sector with agriculture/forestry accounting for 45.1 percent of total employed, manufacturing 13 percent and wholesale and retail trade 16.5 percent. Secondly and equally pertinently in a situation where budget deficits are reaching unsustainable levels resulting in high inflation, any rise in wages would simply generate wage-push inflation. The Finance Minister in turn blamed his Cabinet colleagues by referring to the pressure on his ministry to keep extending large bailout packages to the power sector, the PSM, the PIA and Pakistan Railways, to name just a few, without any attempt to improve governance of these entities that is undeniably the major factor for the demand for bailout packages. It is notable that the Finance Minister as the head of a committee to resolve the energy crisis resisted demands for a grant to retire part of the power sector circular debt to enable Pakistan State Oil to purchase fuel from abroad, urging the relevant ministry to first prepare a plan to improve governance but he was invariably forced to give in when asked by his more senior colleagues. In short, the minister correctly implied that he needs support from his cabinet colleagues to ensure that inflation remains low. The responsibility for controlling inflation technically rests with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). It was for this purpose that the International Monetary Fund's 2008 Stand-By Arrangement had amongst others two conditions: (i) to keep interest rates high to mop up excess liquidity - excess because of indiscriminate printing of money; and (ii) legal provisions relating to operational independence of the SBP be reviewed. It is pertinent to point out that the SBP Governor has recently made disturbing statements in which he has challenged the government's statistics and urged the Finance Ministry to arrest its domestic borrowing and reduce pressure on the SBP to print money.

Pakistan: Blasphemy allegations against girls’ school termed conspiracy

Teachers, students, their parents and residents of Ravi Road area on Thursday condemned the attack on Farooqi Girls High School and termed allegations of blasphemy against the school a “controversy”. Carrying placards and shouting slogans against violence, hundreds of girl students protested outside Lahore Press Club against Tuesday’s mob attack on the school. They urged government high-ups, clerics and residents of the area to let their school reopen. The placards read “Release Principal Sir Asim”, “Release our spiritual father”, “CJ take suo motu notice”, “Attack on our school is a conspiracy”, “We have the right to education” and “We are also lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)”. The students also showed the torn book which their teacher had used while preparing the content in question. Famous for producing good results in matriculation examinations, Farooqi Girls High School was caught in a controversy after its teacher of class 6 handed out an assignment to students carrying “blasphemous” content. An angry mob attacked and set the school on fire on Tuesday while an FIR was also registered against Asim Farooqi, owner and principal of the school. However, the protesting students claimed that a conspiracy had been hatched against the school for its excellent performance and progress. Talking to Daily Times, they said they had been given Islamic teachings at the school and its administration had nothing to do with blasphemy. They requested the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu of the controversy and order steps for early reopening of their school. Fatima, mother of a student, said the mob attacked the school without probing the blasphemy allegations. “Had the protesters let police complete investigation, things would have been different,” Fatima said. “I myself was shocked when I read the content in question. But I calmed down after I came to know that the torn page of the book led the teacher to write wrong lines,” she said. Another student said that girls in Pakistan would suffer due to this incident. She compared the ransacking of school with the last month’s attack on education icon Malala Yousufzai.

US to enhance job opportunities in KP, Fata

US Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Hoagland Thursday told the KP government officials that the United States was committed to improving infrastructure and expanding economic opportunities in KP and Fata. Ambassador Richard Hoagland in his day long visit to the provincial capital on Thursday held meetings with Governor Khyber Pakhunkwa Barrister Masood Kausar and Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti wherein he affirmed the importance of the US-Pakistan relationship and highlighted US assistance to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, including projects to rebuild infrastructure and livelihoods in the region during his recent visit to Peshawar. Ambassador Hoagland told KP Governor Masud Kausar and Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, that the United States is committed "to helping Pakistan become a secure, economically vibrant and stable democracy and looks forward, with Pakistan, to the day that assistance is no longer needed." Ambassador Hoagland also detailed US assistance to the region, which has built more than 470 kilometers of roads, launched more than 2,000 community-based projects, provided clean drinking water for more than two million residents in the FATA, and pledged to help local officials increase educational and economic opportunities and reconnect the region to the rest of Pakistan. During brief chat with local newsmen Ambassador Hoagland highlighted the on-going cooperation between the two countries in combating terrorism: "We are working together with your leadership to realize this vision, and we are grateful for the partnership we share with the government at the national, provincial, and city level. It truly is an enduring relationship that we are building here in the Fata and KP."

President Zardari directs for indiscriminate action against miscreants in Karachi

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari who reviewed law and order situation at a meeting in Karachi on Thursday directed to take indiscriminate action against miscreants in the city. He also directed the federal and Sindh authorities to work in unison to restore peace in Karachi. Interior Minister Rehman Malik briefed the meeting about the overall law and order situation in the country particularly in Karachi. He said suspending the mobile telephone service for four hours at Eidul Azha helped in averting any untoward incident. Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad Khan and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah also attended the meeting. The President taking note of the use of mobile phones by the militants and criminals asked the Government to work out a plan so that no sims are delivered at the retail shops and outlets of mobile companies. He said sims should be posted on the addresses of the applicant as mentioned in the Computerised National Identity Card. The President directed the Interior Minister to frame draft policy in this regard for the Cabinet's approval. He advised Law Minister of the provincial government to work on enacting suitable legislation‚ in consultation with all stakeholders‚ for the protection of the witnesses. He advised the Government to study the model of witness protection laws adopted in other countries in wake of rising militant activities for this purpose. President Zardari also took notice of proliferation of the arms and weapons in Karachi and observed that the arms licenses should be Smart Card based as to ensure that no fictitious licenses were issued. He emphasized that maintenance of order was a shared responsibility of all the political forces and concerted efforts should be made by all concerned for ensuring peace in the metropolitan city.

Pakistan needs to upgrade education

Daily Times
Pakistan’s educational system needs to change dramatically to meet the needs of the 21st century, but any changes introduced needs to be sustainable over time. These views were expressed by experts while addressing the inaugural session of an international three-day conference on ‘In Search of Relevance and Sustainability of Educational Change’ organised by Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) in collaboration with United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Higher Education Commission (HEC), Islamabad, held here at AKU auditorium on Thursday. Education needs to move on with the times, to be responsive to the emerging needs of present day societies. This was well illustrated by an enactment of The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, a satirical commentary explaining how unexamined traditions of schooling could result in resisting needed changes, written by an American educator and writer, Harold Raymond Wayne Benjamin. Experts further said that provincial governments would need to lead the change, as education was a provincial subject after the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Addressing the audience, a renowned educationist and the chief guest, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy said that the 18th amendment had empowered the provinces to bring change, but they had failed to take any initiatives so far. “Pakistan presents a particularly challenging environment for affecting change, but there are some grounds for optimism. A clearer understanding of how the education environment can be better managed, both inside and outside the classroom, will doubtlessly be important in moving towards this goal,” he said. Dr Greg Moran, Provost AKU, addressing the session via a recorded video, stressed on the need to establish a link between relevance and sustainability in educational reforms if they are to have any impact on the quality of education. Earlier, Dr Muhammad Memon, Director AKU-IED, stressed on the importance of setting a firm direction for improving the quality of education and reform efforts. “The education system needs to be made responsive, resilient and agile for leading changes for sustainability. Students need education that is holistic, relevant, meaningful and enlightening”, added Dr Memon. He also emphasised on the need for preparing a policy framework that recognises teachers’ professional status and integrity. During his keynote address through a video link, Dr Andy Hargreaves, the Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education at Boston College, highlighted the importance of teacher quality in effective and sustainable educational change. “There is no better sign of a system, community or society than how it treats, supports and develops its teachers,” he concluded. Eminent scholars and experts in education presented papers and participated in panel discussions on the first day of the three-day conference.

Pakistan parents arrested for acid killing

Al Jazeera
Couple allegedly beat and poured acid on their 15-year-old daughter after seeing her talking to a boy.
Pakistani officials say police have arrested a couple for allegedly killing their 15-year-old daughter by throwing acid on her because she was seen talking with a young man. Local government official Masood-ur-Rehman says the couple was arrested on Tuesday in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Police officer Imtiaz Ali says the parents confessed to killing the girl a day earlier because they believed she had sullied the family's honour. Local police officer Tahir Ayub told AFP news agency that the father, Mohammad Zafar, had had suspicions about his daughter Anvu Sha and became enraged when he saw her with a boy outside their home on Monday. "Zafar beat her up and then poured acid over her with the help of his wife. She was badly burnt but they did not take her to hospital until the next morning, and she died on Wednesday," Ayub said. Doctor Mohammad Jahangir of the state run Kotli hospital confirmed the death, saying the girl was brought to hospital in a "very critical condition" with almost 70 percent burns. Anvu Sha's married elder sister alerted police and demanded they investigate the incident in Khoi Ratta district, 140 kilometres north of the state capital Muzaffarabad. "The parents have confessed, saying that they suspected the girl had illicit relations with a boy," Ayub said. "We have registered a murder case against the girl's father and mother." Honor killings are widespread in Pakistan, where scores of women are murdered every year for marriages or relationships not approved by their families.

U.S. blames Imran Khan of using Toronto detention for 'political reasons'

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan used his recent detention in Toronto by U.S. authorities for political mileage, according to U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Hoagland. "A lot of the story that went out was not very accurate, but played up for political purposes," The Express Tribune quoted Hoagland, as saying. Hoagland added that in principle nobody is ever stopped from entering the United States for their political beliefs. Furthermore, Hoagland said counter-terrorism was most important in U.S.-Pak relations. "The sooner we contain terrorists the more peaceful the methods (of counter-terrorism) will become," he said. "The Strategic Pause" an interim period of a difficult relationship between both the countries was now paving way for a "more mature but restrained relationship" based on diplomatic, military and intelligence sharing, Hoagland further said.

Imran detention played up for political reasons: Hoagland

Imran Khan’s recent detention in Toronto by US authorities was used for political mileage by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief, said the US Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Hoagland in a talk with a select group of journalists on Thursday. Hoagland said, “A lot of the story that went out was not very accurate, but played up for political purposes.” He added that in principle nobody is ever stopped from entering the United States for their political beliefs. Furthermore, Hoagland said counter-terrorism was most important in US-Pak relations. “The sooner we contain terrorists the more peaceful the methods (of counter-terrorism) will become,” Hoagland said. “The Strategic Pause” an interim period of a difficult relationship between both the countries was now paving way for a “more mature but restrained relationship” based on diplomatic, military and intelligence sharing, said the US diplomat. Elections in the US The US diplomat added that no matter who won the US presidential elections, there would be “no pendulum swing in foreign policy.”