Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pakistan hands over Taliban prisoners to Afghans

Deutsche Welle
Pakistan has released several Afghan Taliban prisoners to "facilitate the peace process" in Afghanistan. However, experts say this should not be mistaken for a change in Islamabad's Afghanistan policy. Pakistani officials said on Wednesday that the government had decided to free several Afghan Taliban prisoners in order to bolster peace efforts in neighboring Afghanistan. "A group of Afghan Taliban has been released and they are accessible to anyone who wants to contact them," a Pakistani foreign ministry official told the German news agency, dpa. The news was confirmed on Thursday after a series of meetings in Islamabad between Afghan peace mediators Pakistan's top leaders and religious figures. A joint statement issued said the negotiating parties had agreed to cooperate to allow safe passage for "potential negotiators amongst Taliban" to attend future talks. Dozens of mid-level and senior Taliban commanders - who fled to Pakistan after the NATO forces attacked Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime in 2001 - are being held in Pakistani jails. The decision to release Taliban prisoners came during the meetings between Afghanistan's High Peace Council delegation - led by Salahauddin Rabbani - and Pakistani authorities in Islamabad. The Afghan peace delegation - which arrived in Islamabad on Monday on a three-day visit - met with Pakistan's civilian and military leadership to discuss ways to persuade the Taliban militants to end the decade-long insurgency in Afghanistan. Reconciliation efforts The Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told dpa that it was "too soon to comment" on Islamabad's decision. "The Islamic Emirates (the Taliban's name for Afghanistan) will announce its reaction soon after the decision of the leadership meeting."The number of freed Taliban leaders is said to be less than a dozen and it does not include Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's former deputy leader. Baradar was arrested in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi in February 2010. The Afghan government believes that Baradar can influence the Taliban to join the Afghan government-led peace talks. So far, the Taliban have rejected the negotiation offers. "We aren't too certain whether they (the released Taliban leaders) can play an important role in peace negotiations but it is a positive gesture from Pakistan in helping peace efforts," an Afghan official told the Reuters news agency. The Afghan government and the US are trying to hold separate peace talks with the Afghan Taliban in the hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the decade-long war. The US is winding up its operations in Afghanistan against Islamist militants and NATO troops are scheduled to withdraw from the war-torn country in 2014. Bargaining chip Afghanistan has long criticized Pakistan for not giving it access to imprisoned members of the Taliban leadership. The Afghan government and the US accuse Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) of supporting its favorite Taliban factions to use them as a bargaining chip while dealing with Kabul and Washington. Experts say that, despite the fact that Islamabad has agreed to hand over some Taliban leaders to Afghan authorities, it is unlikely that it is going to abandon its policy of maintaining strategic influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban.Dr. Naeem Ahmed, professor of International Relations at Karachi University, told DW that Pakistan wanted "to see a bigger role for the Taliban in Afghanistan." "Washington and Kabul also want to take the Taliban on board, and they are already conducting secret talks with some of their factions, but they want to exclude Pakistan from these negotiations," he added. "That is not going down well with Islamabad." Islamabad-based defense analyst Tahir Khan told DW that there were several unresolved issues between the two uneasy neighbors. "The Afghan government demands that Pakistan must give access to detained Taliban leaders so that its officials could talk to them directly," Khan said, adding that the Afghan government had always accused Pakistan of assassinating the Taliban leaders that were willing to negotiate with Afghanistan. A U-turn? Dr. Moonis Ahmar, professor of International Relations at Karachi University, told DW that peace efforts in Afghanistan were in Pakistan's own interest. He said that Pakistan did not want to see a civil war in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops from the country in 2014. For that reason, Ahmar said, Pakistani authorities had been trying to use their influence on some "moderate Taliban leaders" to engage in talks with the Afghan government and the US. "It is not clear on what terms and conditions these Taliban leaders are being released," Ahmar said. "The Afghan government has clearly said that it will only talk to the Taliban if they agree to certain rules and abandon the use of violence. I am not sure that those who are being freed have agreed to these terms." Ahmar also told DW that Saudi Arabia had been playing a big role in the Afghan reconciliation efforts at the behest of the US government, suggesting that the deal between Kabul and Islamabad for the prisoners' release could be facilitated by Riyadh.Experts, however, say that Pakistan would not favor any government in Kabul which did not protect its interests. They say that, despite its willingness to set some Taliban leaders free, it will still bargain with the US and Afghanistan through leaders like Baradar. "India is becoming a major player in Afghan politics," Ahmar said, referring to several economic and strategic pacts between Kabul and New Delhi during Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent Indian visit. Experts say that the US and other NATO countries have to find a way in which Pakistan, particularly its powerful military generals, feels that its interests are not compromised. Ahmar concluded that the lasting solution of the Afghan conflict depended on how India and Pakistan came to an agreement about their respective roles in the post 2014 Afghanistan.

Over 70.1m people suffer from diabetes in Pakistan, moot told

Daily Times
Diabetes disease depends on family history but now this scenario has also become common that diabetes hits kids before striking parents, and it is necessary for every person to go for check-up at least once in a year so that person can tackle disease from the beginning. These views were expressed by the Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) General Secretary and AKUH Assistant Professor Dr Kamar Masood while addressing a press conference on ‘Protect our future’, featuring diabetes preventions and precautions, which should be implemented by diabetes patients in their lives, held here at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Wednesday. On the occasion, PES Executive Members Prof Zaman Khan, Dr Zaqir Alvi, Dr Khalid Imam and Dr Khurram Shahid were also present. Dr Masood further said, “It is necessary for a diabetic patient to manage blood pressure below 80-130, AIC should be maintained at 7 percent and cholesterol should not be more than 100.” He further said that every person should also go for medical test of eyes, feet, lungs and liver once in a year. He further said that pre-diabetes was a stage before diabetes, in which person could not be called normal or diabetes patient, but from this stage he/she could deal and control with disease easily. Dr Masood further expressed that multiple physical activities such as sports, exercise, walk and others could be every helpful in diabetes. “Diabetes has become common disease among people, it is impossible to get rid of this disease but it can be controlled and a patient of diabetes can spend normal life without complications,” Dr Masood added. Talking about causes in raising diabetes patients, Dr Masood said that the real cause behind the number of increase in diabetes patients was new era life style, where people prefer vehicle rather than walk. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Khurram Shahid said, “Diabetes is the most expensive disease, as every year almost Rs 31 billion are spent on it and misconception among people is that patient of diabetes can not enjoy taste of delicious food items.” They could eat every kind of food in limit but without compromising on food quality, he said. “It is also a false conception among general public that insulin is a harmful medicine.” Dr Shahid said. He said that insulin could be given to a patient from the beginning of disease and there was no risk in it. People also believed that sugar medicine also affected lungs and liver, which was also another misunderstandings as this was not true, he said. Dr Shahid further said that diabetes was a disease, which could not be eliminated from the patient’s body but control over it was very easy. He said: “The need of the hour is to eliminate fear of diabetes from people as diabetes patient can also live like a normal person.” Prof Zaman Sheikh said that debates could be controlled by medicine and exercise, however, patient could also take insulin as there was no harm in it. He added: “It is a disease which can cause blindness, failure of lungs, feet disability, hearts and brain disease.” He said that proper and timely treatment of diabetes was very necessary. Talking about IDF report, Sheikh said that in a recent IDF report, Pakistan expenditure on one diabetes patient was US$24, which was very less as compared to other countries. He said that in importing stick of blood glucose test, government takes three kinds of tax, which also increased the price of stick. He urged government to come forward in order to control the disease. He further said that in Pakistan, present figure of diabetes patients was 7.01 million, which indicates that number of patients could increase to a figure of 11.04 million in 2030. Dr Alvi and Dr Imam also spoke.

Pakistan: A lost civilisation: 3,000-year-old cemetery discovered in Swat

The Express Tribune
Archaeologists have caught another glimpse of Swat’s glorious past — revealing secrets of a civilisation that have been buried in the earth for over 3,000 years. The Italian Archaeological Mission on Wednesday discovered an ancient cemetery dating back thousands of years at Odigram, Swat — a site experts believe was built between 1500 BC to 500 BC. The site was home to unique ancient graves, pottery, ornaments made of bronze and copper, spindles and hairpins — a discovery made under the framework of the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) project. A total of 23 graves have been excavated at the site that seems to be an ancient cemetery, indicating that they belonged to the pre-Buddhist era. The newly-discovered vessels symbolise simple but competent craft — ranging from copper pins used to fix hair to small perfume bottles which might have been used by women during that time period. Personal ornaments including bronze earrings and spindles made out of ivory were also unearthed from the site, which indicates the type of role woman played back then. “In some graves, we found two skeletons, one in a primary position and one in a secondary position. The structures of the graves are also unique. Some have small walls, some have been dug in clay while others are made up of clay benches,” Roberto Micheli, an expert of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, told The Express Tribune. ACT specialists working on the site told The Express Tribune that this particular cemetery was not the only one that could have existed during that time; in fact, there could have been hundreds of such in Swat. “It clearly indicates that Swat Valley was thickly populated at that time. Most probably they were the Dards (a group of people defined by linguistic similarities and not a common ethnic origin, predominantly found in Eastern Afghanistan) and in my view these Dards were somehow linked culturally to the people presently living in Kohistan and Kalash valleys,” revealed Massimo Vidale, a professor of Archaeology at University of Padua. “They probably spoke the Indo-European languages. We can say that the present culture of Kalash and Kohistan in Chitral valley can be linked with the ancient culture of Swat,” Vidale explained. “What we can understand from the graves is that they were a very powerful civilisation. They were socially well organised and apparently very peaceful because no weapons were found from the site, unlike most civilisations,” Vidale said. The professor was of the view that the people of this civilisation had very complex rituals since the excavated graves revealed that one grave contained two bodies placed strategically such that they face each other. “They might be relatives: Father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister or wife and husband. This signifies the emphasis they placed on the strong bonds of familial ties.” The ancient remains were discovered at Odigram, which was the capital of Swat during the Hindu Shahi period between the 8th and 10th century. The region was identified as Ora by Aurel Stein, the city where Alexander the Great fought one of his battles. Ruins of Raja Gira’s Fort and the Mahmood Ghaznvi Mosque were also excavated by Italians here.