Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Syria’s top priority ending crisis, not forming opposition

The Russian Foreign Ministry says the priority in the Syrian conflict is to end the bloodshed rather than forming an opposition bloc.
Sergei Lavrov made the remarks at a press conference in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Wednesday after attending a foreign ministerial meeting of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council. Lavrov called on all sides of the conflict to adopt the Geneva plan to implement a ceasefire. On June 30, diplomats meeting in Geneva reached an agreement on a Syria-led transitional governing body that could include members of the current Syrian government and the opposition. The Geneva plan urged all sides involved in the conflict in Syria to agree on a ceasefire in line with a six-point peace plan proposed by former UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan. The foreign ministers of Russia, China, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi attended the Geneva meeting. “Russia is convinced that the priority is to end the bloodshed. This is what is stipulated by the Geneva plan … We believe it is important, before anything else, that all external parties should work to implement the Geneva plan. No one is doing so,” Lavrov said. "We suggested that the UN Security Council adopt the Geneva document, but our partners were not willing to do so," he said, adding, “Russia is defending the Syrian people.” He also called on the opposition parties to set up a committee to negotiate with the Syrian government. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the ultimatum the Syrian opposition issued to foreign diplomatic missions in the country is unacceptable. The crisis in Syria began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed. The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the insurgents are foreign nationals.

China says Syria's fate in hands of Syrian people

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated on Wednesday that Syria's fate should be decided by its people. Hong's comments came after the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces was formed on Sunday in Doha, Qatar. It has been acknowledged by some countries, including France. The new coalition includes opposition groups outside of Syria as well as activists inside the country and rebel commanders. "A political interim process led by the Syrian people should start soon, to realize a fair, peaceful and appropriate solution of the Syrian issue," Hong said at a regular press conference. He added that China will continue to maintain contact and communication with all relevant parties of Syria. According to an agreement reached by the exiled opposition parties, once the new coalition wins international recognition, it will form an interim government in exile and call for a national conference if the Syrian current administration is ousted.

Jordan hit by 2nd day of violent street protests
Jordanians hurled stones at riot police and chanted unprecedented slogans against the monarchy for a second day Wednesday as growing anger over price hikes threatened to plunge the U.S.-allied kingdom into a wave of unrest. So far, King Abdullah II has steered his nation clear of the Arab Spring that has swept across the region, toppling the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen along the way. But Jordan's massive budget deficit and other economic woes could increasingly push the population into the opposition's camp. Tensions rose late Tuesday after the government raised prices for cooking and heating gas by 54 percent to rein in a bulging budget deficit and secure a $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Minutes after state television announced the hike, several thousand Jordanians poured into the streets across the country, pelting police with stones, torching government offices and private cars and chanting slogans against the king. "I like the king, but so what?" asked 29-yead-old civil servant Daoud Shorfat, one of some 300 protesters in central Amman on Wednesday who police dispersed with tear gas and water cannons. "He can't feel our pain. ... He is watching the government raising the prices, while the people are barely able to feed their hungry children." Violent demonstrations broke out across the rest of the country Wednesday as well, hitting all 12 of Jordan's governorates, police said. Protesters burned tires to block traffic, torched police and private cars and at least 20 government offices, including court buildings. Police said at least 120 people were arrested nationwide. In the northwestern city of Salt, tens of protesters unsuccessfully tried storm the residence of the Jordanian prime minister, while in the southern city of Maan, demonstrators fired in the air to force riot police out of town, wounding one officer, police said in a statement. Some 2,000 protesters in the city of Karak shouted "Down, down with you, Abullah," and "Get out and leave us alone" as they marched through the town, shattering shop windows, eyewitnesses and police said. Jordan has been hit by frequent, but small, anti-government protests over the past 23 months, but these demonstrations have shifted the focus from the government squarely to the king. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan's most powerful opposition group, called the protests "a wakeup call to the king to avoid a replica of the violence in Egypt and Tunisia." "The street is seething with anger and an explosion is coming," Zaki Bani Irsheid said. "We want to create a Jordanian Spring with a local flavor _ meaning reforms in the system while keeping our protests peaceful." The Brotherhood, which has spearheaded the protest movement in the past, has harnessed anger over the price hikes to form a loose _ and temporary _ alliance with Arab nationalists, Marxist and Communist groups. The umbrella recently has expanded to include the militant Salafis and the largely secular protest movement, known as Hirak composed primarily of young people. The riots are reminiscent of those in 1988 and 1996 over similar hikes on the price of bread and other food commodities under Abdullah's late father, King Hussein. At the time, Hussein was forced to introduce swift reforms that ushered in Jordan's first parliamentary elections after a 22-year gap, an end to martial law and the renewal of a multiparty system that had been banned for decades. Jordanian political commentator Osama al-Sharif said the new wave of protests pose a "serious challenge, probably the most crucial since he (Abdullah) became king" in 1999. The 50-year-old king has been fighting to fend off a host of domestic challenges, including a Muslim Brotherhood boycott of parliamentary elections, increasing opposition from his traditional Bedouin allies and an inability to keep the Syrian civil war from spilling over the border. So far, Abdullah has largely maintained control, partly by relinquishing some of his powers to parliament and amending the country's 60-year-old constitution. His Western-trained security forces have been able to keep protests from getting out of hand. And most in the opposition remain loyal to the king, pressing for reforms but not his removal. But as the pressure has mounted, Abdullah has been forced to make more concessions. He has surrendered some of his absolute powers to an elected parliament, and renounced his right to appoint the prime minister, saying lawmakers will select the premier following Jan. 23 national elections. The country's economic woes have added to the crush of challenges, and they show no sign of easing. Jordan's budget deficit is expected to reach a year end record of $3 billion, while foreign debt is expected to jump 27 percent to $27 billion this year as the country grapples with rising poverty, unemployment and inflation. Donations promised by Saudi Arabia and other oil producing Arab nations _ a badly needed cash infusion for resource-barren Jordan _ have failed to materialize, while the cost of sheltering some 265,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war at home has put further strain on Jordan's already meager water, fuel and electricity resources and health care system. On top of that, disruptions in cheap Egyptian gas shipments cost Jordan an extra $7 million a day, the government said. The pipeline that transports the natural gas has been blown up more than a dozen times over the past year by militants in Egypt's Sinai desert, halting shipments. Jordan has switched to the more expensive fuel oil to generate electricity. Despite the challenges, Abdullah is expected to ride the latest wave of protests, which are confined to certain areas in the country and have attracted relatively small numbers so far. The stakes are high: Abdullah is a close friend of the United States and has been at the forefront of its global war on terrorism, including in Afghanistan. Jordan serves as a buffer zone to Saudi Arabia, another Sunni Muslim country, and to Israel, a friend under a peace treaty signed in 1994, and Iraq. The kingdom hosts the largest Palestinian population outside the West Bank. "Washington's goal is to preserve the status quo, whereby Jordan is a "safe zone" in a sea of unrest," said a report by the Washington-based Middle East Research and Information project.

Obama: No evidence of security breach in Petraeus affair

President Barack Obama declined Wednesday to join the chorus of congressional voices calling for an investigation into why the FBI did not act sooner to notify the White House and other political leaders of the investigation into the affair that led to the downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus. "I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding Gen. Petraeus came up," Obama said at a White House news conference. "We don't have all the information yet, but I want to say I have a lot of confidence generally in the FBI. So I'm going to wait and see." Obama said he agreed with Petraeus' decision to resign after acknowledging an affair, but praised his past service to the country. "I want to emphasize that from my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service," Obama said. He also said he has seen no evidence of a potentially damaging breach in national security stemming from the affair. "I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security," Obama said. In Congress, some lawmakers in both parties are increasingly concerned about not being notified sooner of the investigation that led to Petraeus' downfall, as well as potential security breaches. In calling for a special select committee to investigate the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said he is increasingly concerned about the potential fallout from the Petraeus affair and any national security implications, including ones linked to the Libya attack. "The goal of this investigation is to have professional staff that hears everyone testify, the same set of senators who hears everyone testify so we can segregate out the weird from the national security," Graham said. "And there is beginning to be a national security component to the human failing that I want to know about." House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, were expected to conduct a "big-time dive" in closed-door briefings with CIA and FBI officials into issues surrounding Petraeus' resignation and whether Congress should have been notified sooner.FBI Director Robert Mueller joined Deputy Director Sean Joyce and acting CIA Director Mike Morell in briefing the lawmakers. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said Tuesday that she has "many questions about the nature of the FBI investigation, how it was instituted." "And we'll be asking those questions," she said. But the committee's ranking Republican member, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, said Wednesday the group will not look into questions about the FBI investigation and how congressional leaders learned about it until after the bureau concludes its work. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Wednesday defended his request to withhold the nomination of Gen. John Allen to become NATO commander pending the investigation into his contacts with Jill Kelley, the woman whose complaints about anonymous, harassing e-mails led to the discovery of Petraeus' affair with Paula Broadwell, his former biographer. Defense officials announced Tuesday that the FBI had referred information to them indicating Allen may have exchanged potentially inappropriate e-mails with Kelley, who is an unofficial volunteer at MacDill Air Force Base. Allen was once stationed at the base. Allen has denied wrongdoing, a senior defense official said. Sources familiar with Kelley have said the relationship between the two was not sexual. Read more: The Petraeus scandal: What we know "There is no affair," a senior official close to Allen said. "She is a bored rich socialite involved with every single senior commander at CentCom, because she worked as an honorary ambassador." The move to delay Allen's nomination was "a prudent measure until we can determine what the facts are, and we will," Panetta told reporters Wednesday. "No one should leap to any conclusions." He said Allen "certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces," a viewpoint shared by Obama, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. While the nature of the relationship between Allen and Kelley, if any, is unclear, evidence of an affair could subject the general to military prosecution. Adultery is a violation of military law. That Allen remains in command in Afghanistan suggests that there is no criminal issue, a U.S. official told CNN. But the official said the Defense Department's inspector general, an agency watchdog, could still find evidence of criminal conduct. Kelley has not responded publicly to the latest news. Both Allen and Petraeus appear to know Kelley's sister, Natalie Khawam. The men wrote letters in support of the sister in a custody battle, court records show. One of the sources familiar with Kelley said she first mentioned the alleged harassment in a casual conversation with an FBI agent she knew socially. She did not seek him out specifically for action on the matter, but he was happy to help, the source said. The source added that Kelley did not know at first that the e-mails led to Petraeus. Kelley, 37, and her husband have released a statement saying they have been friends with Petraeus and his family for more than five years and asked for privacy. Meanwhile, details continue to emerge Wednesday about the Petraeus affair. A source familiar with Kelley's version of events said the anonymous e-mails later traced to Broadwell -- which led to the discovery of Petraeus' affair -- began in June. It wasn't until two months later that the FBI told Kelley who had sent the e-mails, said the source, adding that Kelley does not know Broadwell and has never met her. Kelley's version differs from one offered by the senior official close to Allen, who said it was Allen who received an anonymous e-mail about Kelley, and tipped her off that someone was threatening her." Amanpour: CIA vs. FBI in Petraeus scandal On Monday, FBI agents were at Broadwell's home in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to spokeswoman Shelley Lynch. She declined to say what the agents were doing there. A source told CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend that Broadwell was acting as Petraeus' archivist and that the FBI went to the house to look for any documents she might have. It was not clear, the source said, whether any of the material was classified. The Internet has been abuzz with video of a speech by Broadwell in which she suggested the Libya attack last September 11 was targeting a secret prison at the Benghazi consulate annex, raising unverified concerns about possible security leaks. "I don't know if a lot of you have heard this, but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to get these prisoners back," she said in a speech last month at the University of Denver. A senior intelligence official denied the claims, saying no prisoners were ever held at the annex. Broadwell did not provide a source for her information, and there's no evidence so far that it came from Petraeus. Administration officials have said the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. Acting CIA chief has been here before Petraeus was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill this week about the Benghazi attack at closed-door hearings. Some Republicans have criticized the administration's response to the attack and have speculated that the timing of Petraeus' departure was linked to the congressional inquiry. Feinstein said Tuesday that she hopes to bring Petraeus before the panel as early as Friday.

Finland's educational success story: Less testing, more trusting

Finland has become an educational star by doing the opposite of what's happening in many U.S. schools and school districts. Pasi Sahlberg, an official with Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture, is in Seattle this week to share the story of Finland's success.
Forty years ago, Finland was a small, homogeneous country with mediocre public schools. Today, Finland is still small and, although it has grown more diverse, is still much more homogeneous than countries such as the United States. But no one calls Finland's public schools mediocre anymore. In 2000, the Finns surprised the world when their 15-year-olds scored at the top of a closely watched international exam called the PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment. Finland has stayed near the top ever since, while the U.S. scores around the middle. Pasi Sahlberg, an official with Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture, is in Seattle this week to share the story of Finland's success, and what states like Washington can learn from it. Sahlberg's message, although he is too polite to put it so bluntly: Stop testing so much. Trust teachers more. Give less homework. Shorten the school day. Finland, in other words, has become an education star by doing the opposite of what's happening in many U.S. schools and school districts, including many in Washington state. Sahlberg spoke Tuesday at a conference at the University of Washington. He will also give a free talk Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the UW's Kane Hall. Critics often dismiss Finland's success as irrelevant, saying the country is too small and too different for its policies to work here. But Sahlberg, once a junior-high math and science teacher, thinks Finland's experiences can inform and perhaps inspire other countries to consider new ways of achieving their educational goals. In the U.S., he pointed out, education is handled by states, most of which aren't much bigger or smaller than Finland, which has a population of about 5.5 million. Sahlberg has given similar talks all over the U.S. in the past few years, especially following the publication of his book "Finnish Lessons," which tells the story of Finland's success. On Tuesday, in a room filled with teachers, principals, professors, school-board members and policy makers, Sahlberg joked about the Finns' reputation for being a quiet, humble people. When Finland hit the top of the PISA, he said, the biggest disbelievers were Finns. More seriously, he said, Finland never set out to create the world's top school system. Instead, he said, the country decided in the 1970s that it wanted to ensure that a student's success didn't depend on family background. To achieve that goal, Finland relied on cooperation among teachers and schools, rather than on competition. Rather than judging teachers and schools based on test scores, he said, Finland puts trust in its teachers and principals. Teachers develop the curriculum in Finland, and design their own tests. There are no national tests, except one at the end of high school. That's just the start. Along with a shorter school day, Finnish students don't even start school until they are 7 years old. Many primary schools have a policy against giving homework. Teaching is a highly respected profession in Finland, on a par with medicine and law. Teachers don't earn a lot more than U.S. teachers, but the job still attracts the nation's top graduates. The University of Helsinki, Sahlberg said, received 2,000 applications this year from students who want to become primary teachers, and accepted just 120 of them. Sahlberg spoke almost harshly about charter schools, which Washington voters have just approved, saying they privatize the public-school system. In Finland, he said, parents don't angst over where to send their children to school. All the schools, he said, offer the same high-quality program. Not that everyone should simply copy Finland, he said. "I'm not here to tell you that if you just do what Finland is doing, you will be just fine. It doesn't work like that." But Finland, he said, succeeded in part by adapting ideas from the U.S. and other countries. And those countries, he said, can learn from Finland, too.

Most Afghans optimistic about future

Associated Press
Most Afghans believe their country is headed in the right direction but still worry about the lack of security resulting from the 11-year war, a public opinion survey by a major international nonprofit group said Wednesday. The poll by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation also found that an overwhelming majority of Afghans back the government's efforts to negotiate and reconcile with armed insurgent groups. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered jobs and housing to Taliban fighters who defect and formed a High Peace Council to facilitate negotiations. Though officials and diplomats say contacts are being made with insurgent leaders, no formal peace talks are currently under way — mostly because the Taliban broke off efforts to start negotiations earlier this year. "Security continues to be the biggest indicator of both optimism and pessimism for Afghans, said Abdullah Ahmadzai, the deputy representative for Afghanistan with the Asia Foundation. Only 30 percent of respondents in the poll expressed sympathy for the insurgents, while nearly two-thirds said they did not support them. But when asked why the Taliban continue to fight, the most common reason cited was opposition to the presence of foreign troops in the country. Other reasons included a desire to gain power, illiteracy, support from Pakistan and corruption. Despite their opposition to the Taliban, many respondents also said they were also afraid of the troops from the U.S.-led NATO coalition and government's security forces. Nearly three-quarters said they felt fear when meeting international troops, while just under half said they had the same reaction when encountering the Afghan army or police. NATO has intensified training of the 352,000-strong Afghan police and army to help improve standards and enable them to operate independently after foreign combat troops leave the country at the end of 2014. The survey, which included 89 questions on a wide range of issues, showed that the vast majority of Afghans see corruption as a major problem in all facets of life and at all levels of governance. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said graft was a serious problem across the country, the report said. The in-person survey of 6,290 Afghans from all 34 provinces, conducted with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign agencies, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percent. The Asia Foundation's annual surveys are regularly cited by many groups working in Afghanistan. However, since the pollsters could not reach some areas of the country because of security concerns, Asia Foundation said those likely to be more pessimistic about the overall direction of the country were probably underrepresented in the survey. "We hope these findings will help bridge the gap in understanding between the international community, the Afghan government, and local communities — dialogue necessary for Afghanistan's long-term prospects," Ahmadzai told reporters.

Afghanistan seeks Indian investment

Afghanistan and India have signed several pacts and memorandums of understanding to boost economic and strategic cooperation ahead of the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
It's almost as if Afghan President Hamid Karzai were visiting old friends. He studied in India as a young man and has made at least 12 trips in recent years alone. This time, he is there to encourage Indian businesses to invest in his war-weary country. He said on Monday that India was a "frontline" partner in Afghanistan's reconstruction. "Investment opportunities in Afghanistan are better in a country that is more confident in its future and is willing to receive investment from its friends, particularly India," Karzai told reporters on Monday. Karzai said Afghanistan is ripe for investment He has received a warm welcome.Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to provide 100 million dollars for small socio-economic projects. "President Karzai and I agreed to intensify our cooperation with a special focus on deepening our economic engagement in areas ranging from agriculture and small businesses to mining and infrastructure," he said. Four pacts to boost economic development were signed and agreements were made on mineral resources, small development projects, fertilizers and youth affairs.India also said it would intensify its training of Afghan troops and police as part of a strategic partnership between the two countries that was announced last year. Jochen Hippler from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany told DW that both countries had Pakistan in mind. India does not want its nuclear-armed arch-rival to wield more influence in Afghanistan and does not want the country to again become a fertile breeding ground for extremism. Sayed Masood, an economics lecturer at Kabul University, said India would have more political influence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international troops, but warned that it was a tricky situation. "Although India and Afghanistan have a longstanding friendship, one has to be careful with India so that Afghanistan's foreign policy does not suffer. Pakistan should also be encouraged to participate peacefully in Afghanistan," he said. An uneven pair India was one of the few countries to support Afghanistan and keep diplomatic ties with Kabul during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s. There was an interruption of ties when the Taliban came to power, while India supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Since the ousting of the Taliban, India has given vast amounts of aid to Afghanistan. However, Hippler does not think that the two countries have a very strong friendship and instead are merely defending their common interests."In terms of economics, size and democratic conditions, the two are a very uneven pair," he said. Hamid Karzai would like to suggest that the relationship is very strong. He said proudly on Indian television in Hindi that India was the "best country." According to a poll carried out by a German television station in 2009, his fellow countrymen would agree. Three quarters of Afghans had a favorable opinion of India whereas only 8 percent had a favorable opinion of Pakistan.

Nitish Kumar's Pakistan visit should be an eye-opener

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is currently touring Pakistan after getting invitations from Islamabad as well as the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab. President Asif Ali Zardari hosted a special dinner for Nitish and his delegates on Tuesday after learning that the day also coincided with Diwali, the Hindu festival of light.Nitish Kumar had earlier spoken to a Hindu panchayat and also shared with officials in Sindh his experience in improving governance and law and order situation in his own state. He also praised the Pakistan government's flagship poverty alleviation scheme called the Benazir Income Support Programme and said India could learn from its neighbour. The JD(U) leader said, in an observation, that besides the regular talks between New Delhi and Islamabad, there should also be communication between places like Lahore and Amritsar and Patna and Karachi.

Islamabad Agrees To Free Several Taliban Prisoners
Media reports say that Pakistan has agreed to free several jailed Taliban militants. Pakistani and Afghan sources say the agreement was reached during talks on November 14 between Afghanistan's High Peace Council delegation and Pakistani officials. The Afghan delegation, headed by Salahuddin Rabbani, has been seeking the release of Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was arrested in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi in February 2010. It is not clear if Baradar is among the Taliban detainees to be released. The peace process in Afghanistan will mainly depend on possible talks between the Afghan government and leaders of the Taliban insurgency, some of whom are based in Pakistan. Baradar is considered a key figure capable of winning over a large number of Taliban insurgents.

NRO case: SC discharges contempt proceeding against PM Ashraf
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday discharged contempt proceeding initiated against the Prime Minister for not implementing its order in NRO case. A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali resumed the hearing the NRO implementation case. During today’s hearing, Federal Law Minister Farooq H. Naek informed the apex court that the letter had been written to the attorney general of Geneva through the Foreign Office. The court discharged the contempt proceeding against the PM. On August 08, the top court issued show cause notice for contempt to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in NRO implementation.

Narcotics trade linked to terror network

President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday called for creating a regional mechanism for exchange of information and coordination and to establish a drug court in the region to fight the illicit drugs trade. Addressing the session of Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter-Narcotics here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the President said that the merchants of death did not recognise any political, geographical, ethical, or legal boundaries and were destroying the youth, no matter what passport they possess. He urged the participating countries to develop pragmatic ways of strengthening regional cooperation among the concerned national agencies, especially to disrupt the nexus between narco-money and financing for terrorism. Zardari said that the heroin trade did not flourish in vacuum and it was linked with the terrorist networks in the region. He said that the money from the heroin trade was being used to finance terror operations. He said that the illicit drug trade was now challenging the very foundations and posed a serious threat to all the countries in the region. Zardari said that the drug mafias had a nexus with terrorist organisations and crime syndicates. They were linked with arms smuggling, human trafficking and money-laundering, he stated. The President said that the heroin trade had grown across borders and was spreading death and destruction in the name of ideology. “It is threatening the security of our countries,” he said. He also recounted various measures taken against the narco-trade and said that Pakistan had accorded high priority to the efforts aimed at fighting the illicit drugs. He said that at the policy level a new national Anti-Narcotics Policy in 2010, a 5-year Drug Abuse Control Master Plan, and an Inter-Agency Task Force on Narcotics Control had been created. As a result, the President observed, Pakistan became a poppy free country in 2011. He said that today Pakistan was among the top countries in terms of seizures of opium and heroin. Reiterating that narcotics challenge transcends national boundaries, the President said that no individual country or organisation could overcome it single-handedly. He said that everyone had stakes in the success of this campaign and peace and well-being of the people and the security and stability of the region depended on success against the drugs. Earlier,the two-day regional Ministerial conference decided to enhance cooperation in the efforts against narcotics trade. The delegates including Ministers from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan who attended the conference. The ministerial session, jointly chaired by the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Interior, adopted the conference declaration on Tuesday which recommended establishing a hotline among the concerned anti-narcotics agencies as well as a Regional Contact Group that will develop a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to counter the national and regional threats posed by narcotics. The Regional Contact Group shall become operational by the start of 2014 after finalisation of its Terms of Reference in the intervening period. The Group will focus on developing a comprehensive regional counter-narcotics strategy.

Pakistan to emerge as major bike maker in years ahead
Pakistan will be amongst the top five countries in the world which will produce and export high quality motorcycles in the next few years. This was stated by Senior Managing Director of Honda Motor Company Japan, T Oyama, Technology Times Reported. He said that the production capacity will be increased to one million units during the next few years. He said collaboration between Atlas Group Pakistan and Honda Japan is amongst the oldest in joint venture history of Honda Motor Company anywhere in the world. With the support of the government through Economic Coordination Committee, the localization in the motorcycle industry can continue and bring more profits.

Karachi violence: 5 shot dead in different areas

The Express Tribune News
While law enforcement agencies attempt to control violence and unrest in the city, the most recent spate of firing incidents took five lives in Karachi on Wednesday, Express News reported. Unidentified men opened fire on and killed a man identified as Qari Muhammad Imran at a cell phone shop near Filmistan Cinema on Nishtar Road. The deceased was a muezzin at a nearby mosque. Following the incident, people burned tyres and created an uproar, resulting in halting of traffic from Teen Hatti to Lasbela. A man identified as Shujaat Hussain was killed when unidentified men fired upon him in Orangi Town. Ghulam Muhammad in Manghopir and Maulana Saifullah in Korangi 51/C were killed by unidentified men, while an unidentified man was killed in firing near Bashir Chowk. Uproar on the issue was also seen in the Senate, with lawmakers from the Awami National Party (ANP) demanding an immediate military operation in Karachi and saying that the Sindh government had failed. Meanwhile, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged walkouts from both houses to register their protest against the government’s inaction. The unrest has been blamed upon terrorist infiltration into the city as well, with police suspecting a grenade attack to be the work of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Earlier, the Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC) claimed arresting four members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s (LeJ) Sindh chapter.

Senators want army to take over Karachi

Daily Times
The Upper House on Tuesday urged the government to hand over Karachi to the Pakistan Army to deal strictly with criminals. The Senate also suggested declaring emergency in Karachi. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) boycotted the session against rising violence in Karachi. The senators were of the view that it is the right time for military action, not speeches by the interior minister. After a heated debate, the Awami National Party (ANP) demanded immediate military operation in Karachi while the MQM demanded imposition of emergency in the city. MQM Senator Mustafa Kamal said that the prime minister should take immediate action on the issue. He demanded that the premier should impose emergency in the city. He also suggested that the PM and other top officials of the government should visit Karachi and address people’s complaints. Kamal demanded that the government take action against criminals in Karachi irrespective of their political affiliation. He said, “We are going to walk out from Senate until complete restoration of peace in Karachi.” ANP Senator Ilyas Bilour said that peace in Karachi cannot be restored until army operation was launched in the city. “Enough is enough, we don’t want any further briefing but want action over Karachi unrest,” he added. He demanded that the prime minister brief parliamentarians on Karachi law and order situation. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Mushahidullah Khan said that his party does not support any operation in Karachi because no operation could be successful in the presence of the government. Only military action could flush out terrorist groups from Karachi. Without military operation there is no way to resolve Karachi situation. He also tried to walk out over Karachi issue but the Senate chairman stopped him to listen respond from law minister. ANP Senator Zahid Khan said it is very disappointing that neither federal nor provincial government accepted responsibility of Karachi law and order situation. He said that the situation would further deteriorate if appropriate measures were not taken. He suggested the government to take up stern action before Muharram. Law Minister Farooq H Naek informed the House that on Tuesday (today) is federal cabinet meeting and he would apprise the PM of the concern of the senators on Karachi law and order situation. In other routine proceedings, the Senate took up the privilege motion of Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash against Punjab Police and sent it to the committee concerned. Standing Committee on Defence Chairman Mushahid Hussain Syed presented report of the committee to amend the Airports Security Force Act, 1975 (The Airport Security Force (Amendment) Bill 2012). The Senate also passed a felicitating resolution over Diwalai for Hindu community. To a question during the question hour session, Naek informed the Senate in a written reply that there was no bar on a citizen of Pakistan having dual nationality for appointment in the judiciary. Asked if there were any officers/officials of the federal and provincial governments against whom cases of corruption were registered by NAB from 2008 to 2011, Farooq Naek said that NAB had informed that necessary information was being collected from Regional Offices of the NAB and the House would be informed as and when received from the quarters concerned. “I will share all details on the next rotta day about this question,” he assured. Minister for Postal Services Sardar Umar Gorgeij told the House that Pakistan Post is providing services in the international sector including Foreign Letter Mail Service which includes Letters, Aerogramme, Postcards, Printed Papers, Small Packets and Cecogramme (Literature for the Blinds); Foreign Parcel Service which include air parcel service, surface air lifted parcel service and surface parcel service; and express mail service. He said that Pakistan Post has computerized 83 GPOs and launching of Central Software Solution (CSS) is under active process to improve performance of Agency Services.

Pakistani officials consider options for filtering YouTube

For two months, Pakistanis have been unable to call up YouTube to watch an anti-Islam video that sparked deadly riots here and elsewhere in the Muslim world. But neither have they been able to use the service to view the U.S. presidential debates, to catch the “Gangnam Style” craze or even to laugh at silly kitties in the Friskies Internet Cat Video Awards. Now, the netizens of Pakistan are telling the government that they want their YouTube back, prompting a reevaluation of the ban. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a regular social media user, announced last week that the government will set up a committee to find a way to filter anti-Islam content on YouTube — most notoriously, the crudely made “Innocence of Muslims” video that mocked the prophet Muhammad — but still let Bollywood music videos continue to entertain the nation. A ministry official said a large number of people on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have asked that the ban be lifted, but the government in Islamabad wants to ensure that material deemed blasphemous or otherwise objectionable is blocked. “I will do my best to open U tube,” Malik tweeted last Tuesday. “You all know that this matter does not concern my ministry yet every body demands me to open it.” The ban was put in place by the Ministry of Information Technology in mid-September on the orders of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Although high-speed Internet access is too expensive for the vast majority of Pakistanis, many of them use their phones to surf the Internet because of low per-minute usage charges. And though pop music hits are popular, so, too, is religious programming. A reader of the English- language daily Dawn recently complained in a letter to the editor that he was unable to follow his routine of the past few years of watching the hajj religious pilgrimage on the Internet. “I am sure that like me, many students, researchers, and knowledge seekers are missing a great utility that has been blocked because of the malicious designs of one criminal mind and failure of our telecommunication authorities in taking the pain to selectively block the websites involved in posting blasphemous material,” the writer said. This is not the first time that the Internet has been censored here. Twitter was briefly banned in May for tweets encouraging participation in the “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” campaign on Facebook. Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet blasphemous. Facebook has been shut down more than once over a page promoting the contest. The page still cannot be accessed in Pakistan. Free-speech activists call the bans ineffective, knee-jerk reactions that ultimately serve no purpose. Twitter users in Pakistan managed to circumvent the shutdown and continued to tweet via their mobile devices. Some YouTube users also have found ways to access its videos, including by using proxy sites. “Either we block the entire Internet, form our own version of the Internet like Iran is trying to do, or come to terms with the fact that we live in a global society,” the Express Tribune, another daily here, quoted its Web editor as saying.