Thursday, November 8, 2012

Malala Yousufzai status updates

Thursday 8 November 2012
Malala continues to make satisfactory progress at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. The medical team supervising her care described her condition as comfortable and stable.

Taliban epicenters are in Punjab

The KP governor has demanded that the Punjab government should take action against Taliban. Talking to media in Peshawar on Thursday, Barrister Masood Kausar said the Punjab government neither denied its contacts with the extremists nor did disclaimed the reports regarding its adjustment, adding the provincial government should take action against the terrorists wherever they are. He demanded the Punjab government should bear down on them. Kausar asserted that the statements by Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry are not sign of a confrontation. Punjabi Taliban, he noted, are a reality; had it not been so, people would have coined the terms of Balochi and Sindhi Taliban as well. Masood Kausar maintained that role of Pakistan Army has remained very significant for the democracy in the country.

'We will not abandon Afghanistan'...Rasmussen

NATO will end its combat mission by the end of 2014 as planned, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told DW. International forces will, however, continue to offer support. You will serve as NATO secretary general until summer 2014. A couple of months later, the last NATO combat soldier will leave Afghanistan. Are you confident that both NATO's mission and your personal mission can be accomplished by then? Yes, I am confident that Afghan security forces will be able to take full responsibility for the security all over Afghanistan by the end of 2014 as we have planned. Some 50 NATO troops have been killed already this year by members of the Afghanistan army or police, and the number of these so-called insider attacks continues to grow. I wonder if NATO can stick to its timetable for the pullout? Obviously these insider attacks are a matter of great concern because they threaten to undermine trust and confidence between foreign troops and Afghan security forces. But these enemy tactics will not succeed. No one can drive a wedge between us and our Afghan partners and this is the reason why we have taken a number of measures to prevent such insider attacks - including strengthened recruitment procedures, strengthened counter-intelligence measures and other steps, and we will not hesitate to take further steps if needed. So these insider attacks will not derail our strategy. We will stick to our strategy, to our timetable. And by the end of 2014 we will complete our current ISAF mission. Many experts warned that the Taliban and warlords are just biding their time until NATO combat troops have left. Was it the right decision to set a fixed date for the end of ISAF's mission? Yes, it was the right decision to outline a roadmap for handing over more and more responsibility to the Afghans. Firstly, because we are not in Afghanistan as an occupation force. The ultimate goal must be to hand over full responsibility to the Afghans themselves. We can't stay in Afghanistan forever. That's my first point. Secondly, I also think it's important to have certain deadlines because deadlines serve the purpose to push forward the process. The Afghans know that they have to be ready at certain dates, so the roadmap and the deadlines serve as a driving force and we have actually seen a lot of progress thanks to that roadmap. But many NGOs portray Afghanistan as a country doomed to slip into another civil war and they warn of a collapse of the Kabul central government. Regarding these worst-case scenarios, what can, what will NATO do after 2014?First and foremost, I would like to stress that I don't share these doom and gloom perspectives. I fully realize that we still have a lot to do and there are still challenges. But overall, we have seen progress. Security-wise, we have seen a decline in the number of enemy attacks. When it comes to development, we have seen progress: a relatively high economic growth; an improved educational system - eight million children go to school out of which more than one third are girls; a better health situation - child mortality has gone down, life expectancy has gone up. So, we have seen a lot of progress. We will not abandon Afghanistan. We will complete our current combat mission by the end of 2014, but we will stay with the NATO-led training mission after 2014 so we will continue to assist the Afghan security forces to make sure they maintain their capability to take full responsibility for security all over Afghanistan. Let's take a look at this new NATO mission to Afghanistan - ETAM. Will it only be training and assistance or might there also be combat troops required? It will not be a combat mission. There will be a clear difference between the current ISAF combat mission and the new training mission. So we will focus on training, assistance, giving advice to the Afghan security forces. They will do the fighting. We will help them with training, assistance, and giving advice. But having said that, of course, we need to make sure that our trainers and instructors can operate in a secure environment so we need to protect them effectively. What that will take has not been decided yet. We are in the early stages of the planning process. But it will definitely not be a combat mission. These early stages of the planning - does it also involve the question of whether the new mission needs a UN mandate? No, we are not there yet. But do you want a UN mandate? A UN mandate would be excellent but, according to international law, it would be sufficient to have an invitation from the Afghan government. If we, on top of that, could have a UN mandate, as we do today, it would be excellent. The Afghan government is unwilling to grant NATO military personnel immunity from prosecution by Afghan courts after 2014 but NATO can't risk demanding this immunity for their soldiers. Could this row endanger the new mission as a whole? Well, these legal aspects must be addressed. We have actually not made any decision in that respect yet. There will be talks between us and the Afghans. And we have to solve these legal aspects because otherwise I foresee problems as regards the deployment of trainers and instructors in Afghanistan. Briefly looking at geopolitics, the US is leaning more and more towards the Pacific region. Does this weaken NATO? No, not at all. On the contrary, I think it is also in Europe's interest that the United States focus on the Asia-Pacific region, taking into account the rise of emerging powers like, for instance, China. It's important of course that it does not take place at the expense of the traditional transatlantic relationship, and we have seen that the Americans are committed to European security. One example is missile defense. The Americans provide a major input into the NATO missile defense system. European allies provide input as well so it's a joint effort. It's an example that the United States continues to be committed to European security and the transatlantic relationship. So I do believe that this re-balancing of the US defense and security policy will not take place at the expense of the transatlantic relationship.

Pakistan: Family Forced To Marry Off 6-Year-Old Girl To Settle Feud
The parents of a 6-year-old girl in Pakistan's Swat Valley say tribal authorities are forcing them to marry off their daughter to resolve a family feud. A jirga tribal assembly in the village of Ashari ruled that the girl, Bibi Roza, should be married to a member of a rival family in order to resolve a dispute between the two clans. The parents have appealed to a Swat court to have the ruling overturned, and local police now say they will attempt to block the wedding, which is scheduled for November 11. Swara, the practice of exchanging women and girls to settle personal feuds, is common in Swat and other parts of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. But exchanges involving girls as young as 6 are considered extremely rare.

Pak-US relations strong despite ups and downs

US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard G Olson said on Wednesday that Pak-US relationship was strong despite the ups and downs over the years. In an informal conversation with participants at the residence of the Deputy Chief of Mission for the US presidential election results watch, the new Ambassador said he looked forward to stronger ties between the two countries. Olson said, regardless of election results, US policy would continue to emphasise the importance of a close relationship with Pakistan. He said his country wanted a strong relationship with Pakistan, one that stood on the basis of mutual respect and interests. The ambassador acknowledged Pakistan’s key role in the war against terror and recognised that it had paid a very high price for its involvement. He said Pakistan also had an important role to play in Afghanistan and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in this regard. He further said the two countries were friends and that his department was looking forward for constructive cooperation between them in the war against terror. Olson described the tight race for the white house as a triumph of democracy. The ambassador labelled the upcoming general elections as Pakistan’s internal matter. However, he added that he looked forward to witnessing the transition from one democratic government to another and termed this as an important milestone in Pakistan’s history. He said he wished to meet as many Pakistanis as possible during his stay so as to better understand the people and improve people to people contacts between the two nations.

Balochistan wastes Rs50 billion

The bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption in a backward province like Balochistan, which is facing an insurgency like situation, where the people are poorest of the poor and where the most fundamental needs of life like drinking water are not available, must be regarded as a criminal act of the worst order. Absence of socio-economic development in this province has always been attributed to the federal government. However, all members of a sub-committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs must have received a shock of their life when the Planning Commission apprised them that none of the 32 federal-funded development projects worth Rs60 billion initiated in Balochistan over the past 10 years could be completed so far despite disbursement of over Rs50 billion, 80 per cent of the allocated funds. The Pat Feeder Water Sector Project, strengthening of Kirthar Canal’s embankments and development of check dams to prevent flooding by hill torrents of Marri-Bugti area, commencement of academic activity at a technical college in Gwadar, fencing of the Gwadar airport and water management scheme for Quetta are some of the projects. Pat Feeder and Kirthar Canal schemes were initiated 15 years ago and they are deplorably nowhere near completion. Similarly, the college in Gwadar was completed by the federal government a couple of years ago but the provincial authorities did not develop access roads and related facilities, nor appointed teachers, and the building was now decaying. The report proved to be too obnoxiously revealing to make senators from Balochistan remark that the provincial bureaucracy and leadership had played a role in forcing people to take up guns and move to mountains. Senator Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hosni chaired the session. The delay in execution of the vital projects is so inordinate as to give the smell of corruption. For example, even the acquisition of land for Mirani Dam has not so far been completed. This goes without saying that the project’s cost has gone up manifold. The question of paying compensation to landlords also seems a tricky business because some people were demanding Rs700,000 in compensation for a tree and there are 17,000 trees on ground; the provincial government appears ready to pay Rs60,000 for a tree that I too exorbitant a rate. The provincial government needs to get the details of all the projects probed and must request the federation to involve the National Accountability Bureau in the matter. Even of no corruption has taken place and the delay owes to the inefficiency of the bureaucracy, officers responsible must be proceeded against under the efficiency rules and punished accordingly. The absence of the chief secretary and his nominee, the additional chief secretary, must also be taken seriously.

Peshawar: Education key to fight militancy

Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti on Wednesday said that education was the only weapon to combat terrorism and militancy in the province. “We are ready to face any challenge and difficulties but will ensure a bright future for our next generation by spreading education,” he told a public meeting after laying the foundation- stone of new building of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM). AWKUM Vice-Chancellor Dr Ihsan Ali also addressed the meeting. Member National Assembly Himayatullah Mayar, Member Provincial Assembly Ghani Dad Khan, Awami National Party (ANP) district President Farooq Akram Khan, Commissioner Mohammad Adil Khan and elites of the city were also present. Chief Minister Hoti said that AWKUM had achieved great success in a very short period. He said that AWKUM was his dream and it has now started a successful journey. “I am laying the foundation-stone of 18 buildings on the same time and day on the land purchased for AWKUM,” he told the gathering. He said Mardan was ignored in terms of development during the last 60 years, but the ANP-led government established university, medical college, ring road, children hospital and other mega projects in the district. The chief minister appreciated the efforts of AWKUM vice-chancellor and his team saying they had succeeded in achieving the desired goals. He said he would talk to governor to extend the tenure of Dr Ihsan Ali as VC AWKUM because of his meritorious services towards education. He said the provincial government was facing challenges of terrorism, energy crisis, unemployment, which would be addressed through result-oriented policies. To address the energy crises in the province, he said the government has prepared a plan for executing several hydro-power projects. He said work on five hydro-power projects had already been started and would be completed in five years. The chief minister said the government had also established Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Company which would start work shortly. “We are launching Rs1 billion project, “Naway Sahar Laptop Scheme” through which laptops would be given to talented students,” he said. Dr Ihsan Ali lauded the efforts of the chief minister and his team for establishing an institution like AWKUM in Mardan. He said that work was continuing on the new building of AWKUM and in the first phase its boundary wall of more than seven kilometres was completed.

Indian delegation in Pakistan left unprotected for a short while; probe ordered

Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his 45-member delegation were left unprotected for a short while when their Pakistani police guards left their duty and went off to have dinner at a club here. The incident occurred on Wednesday night at the Royal Country Palm Club, where Pakistani businessmen had hosted a dinner for the Indian visitors. Punjab Police chief Haji Habibur Rehman took serious note of the "security lapse" and ordered an inquiry into the incident, officials said.Superintendent of police (Security) Shomail Akram, however, contended the incident was not a security lapse. "The policemen performing duty with the Indian delegation were hungry and they had to eat at the function. They were present on the premises while having dinner and therefore there is no question of a security lapse," he argued. The Punjab Police chief's office said the inquiry would establish whether there was a security lapse. The Indian delegation on Wednesday visited Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque. They also went to the Food Street near the Mughal-era mosque. Badal attended a Youth Festival along with Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. Leaders of the Pakistan People's Party, which is in power at the centre, hosted a luncheon for the delegation.

Suicide attack on base in Pakistan's biggest city kills one

A suicide bomber killed at least one person when he rammed his vehicle into the gates of a military base in Pakistan's largest city on Thursday, police said, the latest in a series of audacious attacks on security forces. Thirteen people were wounded in the explosion but the attacker was unable to penetrate into the headquarters of the Rangers paramilitary base in the port city of Karachi. "It is a heavy blast near the Rangers office, with some casualties," said senior police official Javed Odho. He told Pakistani television the bomber had used more than 100 kg of explosives in the attack. Karachi is Pakistan's financial hub and is home to 18 million people. The bombing is the latest in a series of attacks on military bases in Pakistan, including a 16-hour assault on Pakistan's navy base in Karachi in 2011 that killed at least 10 people and an attack on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009. Some of the assaults have prompted speculation the attackers had sympathizers inside the military who gave them information about the bases. Nuclear-armed Pakistan, an uneasy U.S. ally, is fighting its own homegrown Taliban as well as other insurgents who cross its porous border with neighboring Afghanistan. Karachi is home to a number of sectarian groups and fighters allied to the Taliban insurgency and is also faced with an epidemic of violent crime.

President Barack Obama’s ground game delivers in Florida

The final tally for Florida won’t be clear until at least Wednesday, but President Barack Obama’s ground game and organization was strong. That’s the biggest take-away from President Barack Obama’s strong showing Tuesday in Florida, a state with such high unemployment and home-foreclosure rates that it was primed for a Republican win. But, with thousands of votes still out Tuesday night, Obama appeared close to winning the nation’s largest battleground state, thanks to a mammoth grass-roots campaign. It may have killed Mitt Romney’s chance of unseating the incumbent. Obama led Romney 50-49 percent in Florida, according to Edison Research’s exit poll that exactly mirrored the results of the actual vote as of Tuesday night. With voters casting ballots well into the night, the final tally for Florida won’t be clear until at least Wednesday afternoon, when Miami-Dade County plans to announce its final results. More than 18,000 absentee ballots turned in Tuesday have yet to be counted. The race could be close enough to trigger a recount — unless it is waived by Romney, who lost the overall election to the president. Obama’s strength: liberal Southeast Florida, where early vote returns showed the president nursing a double-digit lead. Romney did well in conservative North Florida. For the first time ever, a Democratic presidential candidate won absentee ballots — typically a Republican strength — in Miami-Dade County, with Obama eking out a 382-vote margin. That was a leading indicator of Obama’s strong grassroots campaign, which involved 200,000 unpaid volunteers who helped register 320,000 new voters this year. Obama won big with the fastest-growing segment of the electorate: Hispanic voters, who voted for the Democrat, 60-39 percent, the exit poll showed. That’s better than Obama did in 2008. Obama’s Hispanic-vote margin came despite a massive Hispanic-outreach effort by Romney, who struggled at times in the general election because of the hardline immigration policies he espoused during the Republican primary. Obama won big in Osceola and Orange counties, home to a burgeoning Democratic-leaning Puerto Rican population that’s starting to counterbalance Cuban-American Republicans in Southeast Florida. Obama’s Hispanic outreach effort was so robust that he planted a field office — one of more than 100 in Florida — in the once-Republican stronghold of Little Havana. “I have faith. I have faith in him,” independent voter Sandy Basham, 39, said Election Day when she cast her ballot. “He just needs more time.” Obama carried independents, 50-48 percent, the exit poll showed. Independents are the key to winning Florida, a nearly deadlocked state. Obama won outsized black-voter support, but lost non-Hispanic whites by double digits. Heading into Election Day, Democrats had cast 167,000 more early votes statewide than Republicans. But the Romney campaign denied it had much significance. They pointed out that Obama was doing worse than he did in 2008, when he won Florida by less than 3 percentage points. But Obama 2012 wasn’t running against Obama 2008. He ran against Romney 2012. And it looks like the president won that contest. The final results are still in doubt and the margin will be close either way. Late Tuesday, the margin was so close that the winner could be decided by Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who had more than 41,000 votes. Romney’s strength: The economy — the top issue for more than 60 percent of the Florida electorate, according to exit polling. Of these economy-first voters, Romney beats Obama by 6 percentage points. By 51-46 percent, voters believed that Romney would be better than Obama in handling the economy. Voters also believed Romney was slightly more likely than Obama to share their values, be a strong leader or have a better vision for the future. Romney also persuaded some voters that, like Obama four years ago, he is the candidate who can bring about change. “We need a better change,” said Samantha Gentile, a 20-year-old independent who voted Tuesday at St. Gregory’s Church in Boca Raton. “We need an economic change,” Gentile said. “We need jobs.” Florida voters didn’t completely blame Obama for the nation’s economic woes; 51 percent said it was President George W. Bush’s fault and 42 percent said Obama. Gentile’s remarks stood out, in part, because of the T-shirt she wore that openly advertised her support of gay marriage, which Romney opposes. Gentile said she also favors abortion rights, while Romney is opposed. The exit polls indicated that Gentile was in the minority for those in her age group. Obama carried young voters, while he lost older voters to Romney, the exit polls showed. Voters thought Obama was better than Romney by 50-46 percent, when it came to managing Medicare. Also, the poll showed, 57 percent of Florida voters believed that taxes need to be increased on the wealthy —a position that blunted Romney’s attack against Obama as a tax raiser. Obama fared well on an all-important question for Florida voters: Are you better off now than four years ago? Only 34 percent said no, and more than 83 percent of them were Romney voters. Both sides slung considerable mud at each other. In all, including the U.S. Senate race, about $180 million in ads were spent in Florida. Many of them were negative. Obama spent a huge sum attacking Romney in the summer to drag down the Republican’s poll numbers. Romney surged briefly after an October debate that Obama lost. It could take days for the final results of the election to be clear. In Miami-Dade, voters remained in line in some precincts until well past midnight. The close race could easily trigger a recount under Florida law, which automatically kicks in when any race is decided by a margin of one-half of one percent or less. If 9 million people vote in Florida — a plausible figure, given reports of heavy turnout around the state — that means there could be a recount if the presidential vote is decided by 45,000 votes or less. In a recount, all ballots are submitted again into the tabulating machines to recount the votes. If the recount yields a margin of one-quarter of one percent or less, the local canvassing boards must then perform a manual recount to examine so-called “undervotes” and “overvotes” — ballots that recorded no vote for president, or multiple votes for president. Any recount must be completed within nine days from the day it is ordered by the Secretary of State. However, state law also says any recounts must be completed within 12 days of Election Day. But, just as in the 2000 recount, there are tensions between the state and federal law: Elections officials still must collect absentee ballots cast overseas for some 10 days after Election Day. So overseas ballots could trickle in through Nov. 16, with a recount deadline of Nov. 18. In 2008, more than 97,000 absentee ballots were cast by overseas Florida voters. For those who have blotted it from their memories: The 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore was decided by just 537 votes in Florida. Read more here: