Monday, December 3, 2012

Euro Music Hits 2012 New Summer Song 2012 in Europe

Indian navy ready to deploy to South China Sea as tensions climb

India has declared itself ready to deploy naval vessels to the South China Sea to protect its oil-exploration interests there, a potential new escalation of tensions in a disputed area where fears of armed conflict have been growing steadily. India's naval chief made the statement on Monday just as Vietnam's state oil and gas company, Petrovietnam, accused Chinese boats of sabotaging an exploration operation by cutting a seismic cable being towed behind a Vietnamese vessel. Petrovietnam said the seismic vessel, Binh Minh 02, had been operating outside the Gulf of Tonkin when the cable was severed on Friday. It had earlier been surveying the Nam Con Son basin further south -- an area where Indian state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has a stake in a Vietnamese gas field. Indian Navy Chief Admiral D.K Joshi said that, while India was not a territorial claimant in the South China Sea, it was prepared to act, if necessary, to protect its maritime and economic interests in the region. "When the requirement is there, for example, in situations where our country's interests are involved, for example ONGC ... we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that," Joshi told a news conference. "Now, are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is yes," he said. Petrovietnam posted on its website comments made by the deputy head of exploration, Pham Viet Dung, to a journalist from Vietnam's Petrotimes that the seismic cable was quickly repaired and the survey resumed the following day. "The blatant violation of Vietnamese waters by Chinese fishing vessels not only violates the sovereignty ... of Vietnam but also interferes in the normal operations of Vietnamese fishermen and affects the maritime activities of Petrovietnam," Dung was quoted as saying. Tensions have simmered in the South China Sea for many years but have escalated this year as an increasingly powerful China, which sees virtually the entire sea as its territory, begins to assert its long-standing offshore claims more vigorously. Parts of the South China Sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. The region, Asia's biggest potential military troublespot, is believed to be rich in oil and gas -- and more than half the world's oil-tanker traffic passes through it. Last week, Chinese state media said police in southern Hainan province would board and search ships which illegally entered what China considers its territory in the sea -- a move that immediately raised fears for the free passage of international shipping and the possibility of a naval clash. COLLISION COURSE? India is not the only non-claimant nation concerned about disruption to shipping or oil exploration in the South China Sea. The United States, a close ally to several of the Southeast Asian claimants, has also voiced concern at the prospect of China stopping international ships in contested waters. India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration block off the coast of Vietnam. Any display of naval assertiveness by India in the South China Sea would likely fuel concern that the navies of the two rapidly growing Asian giants could be on a collision course as they seek to protect trade routes and lock in the supply of coal, minerals and other raw material from foreign sources. Admiral Joshi described the modernization of China's navy as "truly impressive" and a source of major concern for India. "It is one of the most important international waterways and freedom of navigation there is an issue of utmost concern to India because a large portion of India's trade is through the South China Sea," said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the Centre for Policy Research, in New Delhi. Chellaney, however, played down Joshi's comments, saying the Indian navy's focus would remain on the Indian Ocean, which the South Asian nation views as its strategic backyard. Singapore, home to the world's second-busiest container port, joined some of its neighbors on Monday in expressing concern at the Chinese reports that Hainan police would board and search ships under rules to take effect from January 1. "We urge all parties to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to refrain from provocative behavior," the Singapore government said in a statement. Asked about the reports of China's plan to board ships, Joshi said India had the right to self-defense. Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the South China Sea range as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a 2008 report. That would surpass every country's proven oil reserves except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the BP Statistical Review. On Monday, China's National Energy Administration said China aims to produce 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year from the South China Sea by 2015. It said the South China Sea would "form the main part" of China's offshore gas exploration plans.

France’s Floating Generation

Malala: Symbolizing the right of girls to education

“Stand up for Malala -- Stand up for girls’ right to education!” is the rallying cry of an advocacy event, taking place at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters on 10 December, the United Nations Human Rights Day. Organized by UNESCO and the Government of Pakistan, the event will accelerate political action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority for achieving Education For All.
The event pays tribute to Malala Yousafazi, an astonishingly brave 15 year old girl who survived an assassination attempt for her determined efforts to defend girls’ education in Paskistan, after the Taliban outlawed schools for girls in her native Swat Valley. The human rights to education and gender equality were both violated by this action. “Whenever and wherever a young girl is forbidden from going to school, it’s an attack against all girls, against the right to learn, the right to live life to the full; and it is unacceptable,” declared UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova last month in an official manifestation of support for Malala. Indeed, there is no justification – be it cultural, economic or social – for denying girls and women an education. Humanity stands as a single community when united around human rights and fundamental freedoms.Malala’s struggle highlights a devastating reality: Girls make up the majority of the world’s 61 million out-of-school children. They are less likely than boys to enter primary school. Harmful practices such as early marriage, gender-based violence, discriminatory laws, prevent them from enrolling in or completing school. Educational disparities start at the youngest ages and continue into adulthood. Women represent two thirds of the world’s 775 million illiterates. Despite making breakthroughs in higher education, women still account for just 29 per cent of researchers.
There can be no equitable and just society without achieving gender equality, beginning with education. UNESCO is committed to the full enrolment of girls and ensuring they stay in school, from primary through secondary and on into higher education. Education accelerates political, economic and social transformation, giving girls the tools to shape the world according to their aspirations. It has a positive impact on child and maternal health, fertility rates, and poverty reduction. It is a life multiplier. For example, women with post-primary education are 5 times more likely than illiterate women to be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS prevention. n her famous blog about life under Taliban rule, Malala reacts to the destruction of schools, and especially girls’ schools: “Five more schools have been destroyed, one of them was near my house. I am quite surprised, because these schools were closed so why did they also need to be destroyed?” As UNESCO’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report reveals, children and schools today are on the front line of armed conflicts, with classrooms, teachers and pupils seen as legitimate targets. The consequence, as one UN report puts it, is “a growing fear among children to attend school, among teachers to give classes, and among parents to send their children to school”. Saluting Malala’s courage, Ms Bokova offered this sobering reminder of the global situation: “This April, in Afghanistan, more than 100 high school students from the Takhar province were poisoned by fanatics hostile to girls’ education. In Mali, young girls are married by force, recruited by militia, and prevented from going to school and leading a dignified life. Malala is the symbol of all of these young girls.”
How many other girls see their access to education impeded by violence, either threatened or actual? Why are girls and women the principal victims of such threats? Rather than lying on the frontline of conflict, education must be at the forefront of building peace.UNESCO reacted to news of Malala’s shooting, which also left two other girls injured, in an official condemnation. “Guns cannot be allowed to wipe out the right to education or the right to freedom of expression… It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to stand up against this,” said the Director General. To close the 190th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board, all 58 Member States took up this call, standing in a moment of silence and holding photographs of Malala. The launch of the 2012 Education For All Global Monitoring Report in Islamabad was dedicated to Malala, to emphasize that girls' education is a must if development targets in Pakistan are to be achieved. “My purpose is to serve humanity,” Malala once said in an interview, with a maturity well beyond her years. Like so many young people today, Malala is helping to change the world. Malala’s passionate advocacy shows the power of aspirations for human rights to move history. UNESCO’s event on 10 December draws strength from her example. There are no immovable barriers to gender equality and education for all. Her dream is ours. We are all Malala.

Syria conflict inflated from abroad

Few dare to deny it: the oxygen of the conflict that causes the bleeding in Syria is inflated by western powers and Arab countries that hearten, support and finance the opposition to President Bashar Al Assad. The argument that the bloody clashes in different parts of the country are the result of a civil war between different faith groups is disproven daily as the military increasingly capture insurgents and prove their belonging to other nationalities. Official sources estimate that at least 70 percent of the insurgents fighting in the country come from nations like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Chad, among others, along with a significant number of members of the terrorist organization, Al Qaeda. In a recent article, the analyst Michel Chossudovsky explained how since mid-March 2011, Islamist armed groups, secretly backed by western intelligence services and Israel, made terrorist attacks against Syrian government buildings, including arson. It is widely documented that snipers and mercenaries commit terrorist acts, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians as part of a U.S. initiative, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Israel, aimed to support, empower and fund operatively a terrorist entity within Syria, he added. Weapons and ammunition flow unchecked into the hands of the rebels through the porous borders with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, press reports note. Analysts point out that if the insurgents do not count on a seemingly limitless, open and continuous delivery of money and weapons, the Syrian Army could have settled with them in a matter of weeks, maybe months. However, everything points to the fact that they will continue to deliver contraband to sustain the conflict namesake. In an interview with Al-Alam channel, the Syrian Minister of Information, Omran Azoghbi, analyzed the failure of the first phase of planned aggression against his country, which he considered an attempted military intervention. Therefore, he stressed, hostile nations will achieve political gain by prolonging the crisis in Syria and maintain external opposition as a ptopaganda available for its use. On the 11th of November, the Syrian opposition factions met in Doha, Qatar, where they tried to make up for this external opposition by creating a new entity, the National Coalition Forces and the opposition, Syrian Revolution (Cnfros). However, the coalition refused from the first moment to "negotiate or talk" to Damascus, and stressed that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad should resign or be deposed by armed combat. "Not only do we need money and bread, we also need weapons to defend ourselves," the cleric, Ahmed Muaz Al Jatib, head of the organization said in a tirade after his election. France and Turkey, just as the Gulf countries and most Arab League nations, immediately recognized Cnfros as the "sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people," according to the self-proclaimation of the organization itself. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, in a radio interview, assured that his government will present a proposal to the European Union to lift the ban on sending arms to opposition groups in Syria. There are serious concerns in the judgement of political experts, because such a step would throw more firewood into the rampant violence that, according to calculations, has taken the lives of more than 35 thousand Syrians. Political leaders agree that stopping the delivery of weapons to the insurgents would be a first and fundamental step to design any initiative that leads to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. There are those who want chaos in Syria, and Russia rejects this. If the sending of weapons does not stop, the developments in the Middle Eastern nation could lead to chaos, as happened in Libya, predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin days ago. At the opening of the Conference for Syrian National Dialogue, which took the stage as Tehran, on the 18th and 19th November, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salihi, argued that the crisis facing Syria today has been triggered from outside. The disgraceful crisis that we are unfortunately witnessing in the Levantine nation was exported and imposed by western countries, which prefer their interests to the lives and blood of the peoples of the region, Salehi said. In turn, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Ali Khamenei, asserted that resolving the crisis in Syria is to prevent arms shipments to this country and that the so-called "opposition" lay down their arms in response to the demands of the Al Assad government. It remains to be seen if the powers that today try to dismember Syria and bathe it in the blood of its own people decide to stop igniting the flames of violence, that are the flames of a conflict that should never should have occurred, but need to be extinguished.

China opposes U.S. bill concerning Diaoyu Islands

China has expressed serious concern and firm opposition to a U.S. bill that regards China's territory as under the authority of a U.S.-Japan security pact. At a regular press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters, "The Chinese side expresses serious concern and firm opposition to the U.S. Senate's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which involves the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets." In the bill, which the U.S. Senate passed last week, the United States reaffirmed that it "takes no position" on the ultimate sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands. However, the bill notes that Japan has the rights of administration over the territory and that "unilateral actions of a third party" would not affect its position. Hong said the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets have always been the inherent territory of China since ancient times, and China has undisputed sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. According to the U.S. bill, any armed attack "in the territories under the administration of Japan" would be met under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Hong called the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan as a "product of the Cold War era", saying it should not go beyond bilateral scopes, nor undermine the interests of a third party. Hong said the U.S. side has repeatedly stated that it will not take sides on territory disputes between China and Japan. He said the U.S. side "should not send out signals that conflict with each other." He expressed the hope that the U.S. side would "proceed from the general situation of peace and stability of the region", "keep its words" and "do more things that are conducive to peace and stability in the region."

Turkey and Russia fail to agree on Syria

Syria was on the agenda along with energy and trade issues as Putin makes first visit outside Russia since October.
Russia and Turkey cannot agree on how to respond to the Syrian conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is in Istanbul for talks with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said. "Russia and Turkey for the moment cannot find a mutual approach on the methods of how to regulate the situation in Syria. But our assessment of the situation completely coincides," said Putin during a press conference with Erdogan on Monday. Erdogan told Putin that Russia should stop supporting the regime of Syria's Bashar al-Assad, a claim Putin denied. "We are not defenders of the existing regime in Syria, I have already stated this, we are concerned about something else, we don't want to repeat the mistakes of past." Russian-Turkish tensions came to a head in October when Turkey intercepted a Syrian plane en route from Moscow to Damascus on suspicion that it had military cargo, drawing an angry response from Russia. Erdogan says the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers will work together more intensively on the Syrian problem.
Patriot missiles
Russia also objected to Turkey's request to NATO for the deployment of Patriot missiles on its volatile border with Syria. It warned that such a move could spark a broader conflict that would draw in the Western military alliance. Putin told the joint press conference that the deployment of US-made Patriot missiles with war-ravaged Syria would worsen tensions. "Creating additional capabilities on the border does not defuse the situation but on the contrary exacerbates it," said Putin. But Turkey insists the US-made Patriots would be used for purely defensive purposes. Dimitri Peskov, who is Putin's spokesman, told Al Jazeera that there were differences over Syria between the two men. "Turkey says Assad’s regime should go. We say if Assad leaves, the tens of thousands of refugees in Turkey right now will increase to hundreds of thousands. There will be a gap in the government and there will be lots of blood on the streets. This is what we say". Protesters had chanted anti-Putin slogans outside Erdogan's office and another demonstration was staged outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul before the two leaders began their meeting on Monday.
Trade links
Despite their differences on some thorny political issues, Russia and Turkey enjoy growing trade and energy links. The trade volume between the two countries is expected to reach $35bn by the end of this year. Turkey depends on Russia for most of its natural gas and oil supplies. In 2010, Ankara struck a deal with Moscow to build the country's first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu in the southern Mersin province. Putin told the press conference that his country would finance the total cost of the plant. Russian state company Rosatom is set to construct the 22-billion-dollar plant. It is expected to be completed by 2022. It is Putin's first trip outside Russia since he visited Tajikistan on October 5 and follows speculation that the normally globe-trotting leader is having health problems.

Pakistan, US agree to deepen bilateral, trade ties

The Express Tribune
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in Brussels to discuss US-Pakistan relations and Afghanistan. “As part of their regular series of consultations, Secretary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khar and their delegations reviewed the progress in US-Pakistani relations in 2012 based on their commitment to identify shared interests and act on them jointly,” said a readout provided by a senior State Department official late on Monday.
Meeting on the sidelines of the Foreign Ministerial meetings at the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on Monday, the two leader reviewed progress in their countries’ relations based on “their commitment to identify shared interests and act on them jointly.” The State Department official said that Secretary Clinton and FM Khar discussed cooperation in counter-terrorism, support for the Afghan-led peace process and the transition in Afghanistan in 2014. The official said that the two also discussed “the need to move the US-Pakistan economic agenda from aid to trade, emphasising market access and investment.” The State Department official added that the two leaders “welcomed the recent meetings of the trilateral Core Group and the Law Enforcement, Economic and Defense working groups. They looked forward to meetings of the Energy and Strategic Stability working groups.” The official said that both countries will continue these engagement in the weeks and months ahead. Meeting with Lady Ashton Prior to her meeting with Secretary of State, Khar met with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Lady Catherine Ashton in Brussels, a foreign ministry release read. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with the European Union in all spheres. She noted that the commencement of Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue and 5-year Engagement Plan were important landmarks in Pakistan’s growing relations with the EU and underlined the importance of institutionalising Summit-level meetings to sustain the upward trajectory. Khar thanked the EU for granting Autonomous Trade Preferences (ATPs) to Pakistan and hoped that the new GSP+ scheme would also accommodate Pakistan when it enters into force from January 1, 2014. The foreign minister briefed the High Representative about the situation in Afghanistan and the efforts Pakistan was making to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process. She also elaborated on the steps Pakistan government had taken for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country with particular focus on women, children and minority groups. Lady Ashton said that the EU regarded Pakistan as a significant country in the region and appreciated the role it was playing for peace and stability in the region. While recognising the various legislations Pakistan had adopted regarding human rights, Lady Ashton hoped that Pakistan would continue to make all efforts to provide additional safeguard in this regard.

Malala : PIKER executive director visit

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Executive Director Karamat Ali visited Malala Yousuzai in Birmingham on Saturday. Ali delivered a signed messaged on behalf of the programme, administration and support staff at PILER to Malala. The message included wishes to Malala for a speedy recovery, as well as support for her stand against extremism in Pakistan. Doctors have noted an improvement in Malala’s health; who is able to walk again and displays a sharp memory. Although she is doing better, it may be a while before she fully recovers and is allowed to be discharged from the hospital. Malala sent her thanks to the PILER team as well as to her friends and supporters in Pakistan.

India to help strengthen Libya’s democracy

A visit to India by a four-member delegation from the High National Election Commission (HNEC) has resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding between it and India’s Election Commission on Indian support, expertise and training of election officials. The visit from 26 November to 30 November, led by HNEC Vice-Chairman Nagieb Abd Al-Salam Mohammed Alrabti, is part of growing contacts on election systems between the two countries. In October, two HNEC officials attended a management course at the Indian Election Commission’s training institute. India is the world’s largest democracy, with over 650 million voters regularly heading to the polls in national, state and local elections. During the visit, the delegation also met with the vice minister at India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sanjay Singh. Various avenues of bilateral cooperation were discussed including Indian assistance in capacity building. In an earlier congratulatory message to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India hoped to further strengthen and diversify relations with the new Libya and would extend all possible support to the country While in India the HNEC delegation was given a presentation on electronic voting machines (EVMs), now standard in the country.

Unemployment, booming population spur hidden poverty in Saudi Arabia

A few miles from the blinged-out shopping malls of Saudi Arabia’s capital, Souad al-Shamir lives in a concrete house on a trash-strewn alley, with no job, no money, five children under 14 and an unemployed husband who is laid up with chronic heart problems. “We are at the bottom,” she said, sobbing hard behind a black veil that left only her eyes visible. “My kids are crying and I can’t provide for them.” Millions of Saudis live in poverty, struggling on the fringes of one of the world’s most powerful economies, where job-growth and welfare programs have failed to keep pace with a booming population that has soared from six million in 1970 to 28 million today. Under King Abdullah, the Saudi government has spent billions to help the growing numbers of poor people, estimated to be as much as a quarter of the native Saudi population. But critics complain that those programs are inadequate, and that some royals seem more concerned with their wealth and the country’s image than with helping the needy. Last year, for example, three young Saudi video bloggers were arrested and jailed for two weeks after they produced an online video about poverty in Saudi Arabia. “The state hides the poor very well,” said Rosie Bsheer, a Saudi scholar who has written extensively on development and poverty. “The elite don’t see the suffering of the poor. People are hungry.” The Saudi government discloses little official data about its poorest citizens. But press reports and private estimates suggest that between 2 million and 4 million of the country’s native Saudis live on less than about $530 a month — about $17 a day — which analysts generally consider the poverty line in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has a two-tiered economy made up of about 16 million Saudis, with most of the rest of the population consisting of foreign workers. The poverty rate among Saudis continues to rise as youth unemployment skyrockets. More than two-thirds of Saudis are under 30, and nearly three-quarters of all unemployed Saudis are in their 20s, according to government statistics. In just seven decades as a nation, Saudi Arabia has grown from an impoverished backwater of desert nomads to an economic powerhouse with an oil industry that brought in $300 billion last year. Forbes magazine estimates King Abdullah’s personal fortune at $18 billion, making him the world’s third-richest royal, behind the rulers of Thailand and Brunei. He has spent government funds freely on high-profile projects, most recently a nearly $70 billion plan to build four gleaming new “economic cities,” where government literature says “up to five million residents will live, work and play.” The king last year also announced plans to spend $37 billion on housing, wage increases, unemployment benefits and other programs, which was widely seen as an effort to placate middle-class Saudis and head off any Arab Spring-style discontent. Abdullah and many of the royals are also famous for their extensive charitable giving. For many years, image-conscious Saudi officials denied the existence of Saudi poverty. It was a taboo subject avoided by state-run media until 2002, when Abdullah, then the crown prince, visited a Riyadh slum. News coverage was the first time many Saudis saw poverty in their country. Prince Sultan bin Salman, a son of Crown Prince Salman, said in an interview that the government has acknowledged the existence of poverty and is working to “meet its obligations to its own people.” Prince Sultan said the Saudi government was “three to five years” away from dramatically reducing poverty through economic development, micro-lending, job training and creation of new jobs for the poor. The Saudi government spends several billion dollars each year to provide free education and health care to all citizens, as well as a variety of social welfare programs — even free burials. The government also provides pensions, monthly benefits and payments for food and utility bills to the poor, elderly, disabled, orphans and workers who are injured on the job. Much of the welfare spending comes from the Islamic system of zakat, a religious requirement that individuals and corporations donate to charity 2.5 percent of their wealth; the money is paid to the government and distributed to the needy. “Living in Saudi Arabia is like living in a charitable foundation; it is part and parcel of the way we’re made up,” Prince Sultan said. “If you are not charitable, you are not a Muslim.” Despite those efforts, poverty and anger over corruption continue to grow. Vast sums of money end up in the pockets of the royal family through a web of nepotism, corruption and cozy government contracts, according to Saudi and U.S. analysts. Bsheer said some Saudi royals enrich themselves through corrupt schemes, such as confiscating land from often-poor private owners, then selling it to the government at exorbitant prices. At the other end of the spectrum, many of the poorest Saudis are in families headed by women like Shamir, who are either widowed, divorced or have a husband who is sick or disabled. Under Islamic law, men are required to financially support women and their children. So women who suddenly find themselves without a man’s income struggle, especially because the kingdom’s strict religious and cultural constraints make it hard for women to find jobs. The situation for many families, including Shamir’s, is worse because they are “stateless” and not officially recognized as Saudi citizens, even though they were born in the country. The United Nations estimates that there are 70,000 stateless people in Saudi Arabia, most of them descended from nomadic tribes whose traditional territory included parts of several countries. Their legal limbo makes it harder for them to receive government benefits. Shamir, 35, lives in the shadow of a huge cement factory. The houses and streets are covered in a haze of smoke and dust. Her concrete house is down a narrow alley, where graffiti covers the cracked walls and litter piles up in the street. The landlord is threatening to kick her out, and a neighborhood shop owner has cut off her credit for food and gas for her stove. She lives mainly on charity from wealthy Saudis who show up with food and clothes. One recent morning, her children ran to the door to help unload food being dropped off by a middle-class Riyadh couple in an SUV. Shamir said donations help her pay for the electricity to run an air conditioner, but she does not have enough to buy school supplies for her children. While middle-class Saudi youth have all the latest gadgets, Shamir’s 14-year-old daughter, Norah, has never sent an email or seen Facebook. Her husband has a second wife who has another 10 children who live across town. Most of them are unemployed. Shamir said her husband earned about $500 a month as a security guard until his health forced him to quit five years ago. She said she has tried in vain to find work as a seamstress or a cleaner. “I’ve been patient all these years,” Shamir said. “I hope that God will reward me with a better life for my children.”

It's time for Israel to talk to Hamas
By A.B. Yehoshua
Just as the PLO was transformed into the Palestinian Authority, so it is time to start treating Hamas not as a 'terror organization,' but as a government.
During the War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanians shelled western Jerusalem for months, besieged the city and prevented water and fuel from reaching its residents. Hundreds of civilians were killed during the shelling, yet Israel did not refer to the Jordanians as terrorists, but as an enemy. Once a cease-fire was attained, Israel began open negotiations with the Jordanians, at the end of which an armistice agreement was signed. For years prior to the Six Day War, the Syrians shelled towns in the Galilee, killing and injuring many. Syria's Baath constitution even contains a clause about the annihilation of Israel. Yet the Israelis never called the Syrians terrorists but rather enemies, and even reached agreements with them, including a disengagement agreement following the Yom Kippur War. The Egyptians under Gamal Abdel Nasser called for Israel's destruction many times and even tried to realize that goal on the eve of the Six Day War, yet still the Egyptian tyrant was never a terrorist but an enemy. Even the Nazis weren't called terrorists. Their acts of horror were perpetrated while they were in uniform, openly before all, affiliated with the regime and clearly identifiable. They were the cruelest enemy in the history of mankind, but they were not terrorists. The time has come to stop calling Hamas a terrorist organization and define it as an enemy. The inflationary use of the term "terror," of which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is particularly fond, impedes Israel's ability to reach a long-term agreement with this bitter enemy. Today Hamas controls the territory; it has an army, governmental institutions and broadcasting stations. It is even recognized by many states in the world. An organization that has a state is an enemy, not a terror organization. Is this just semantics? No, because with an enemy one can talk and reach agreements, whereas with a "terror organization" talking is meaningless and there is no hope for reaching accord. It is therefore urgent to legitimize, in principle, the effort to reach some sort of direct agreement with Hamas. That's because the Palestinians are our neighbors and will be forever. They are our close neighbors, and if we don't reach a reasonable separation agreement with them, we will inevitably lead ourselves down the path to a bi-national state, which will be worse and more dangerous for both sides. That's why an agreement with Hamas is important not only for the sake of bringing quiet to the border with Gaza, but also in order to create the basis for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip, there have been worrying signs that the Hamas government in Gaza is losing the ability to distinguish the possible from the impossible, and Israel's military blows are not only failing to sober up Hamas, but actually strengthening its martyr-driven aggressiveness. How did it happen that in the wake of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, violence exploded? There are religious fanatics everywhere, but not every fanatical government exposes itself, unnecessarily, to the devastating response of the Israeli army, one of the strongest militaries in the world. To understand and perhaps try to change Hamas' behavior, which has more than a smidgen of suicidal urge, Israel must hold genuine, direct talks with Hamas. Just as the "terror organization" PLO turned into the Palestinian Authority, so it is worth treating the Hamas "terror organization" as the Hamas government. Underlying Hamas' behavior is a contradiction: On the one hand, there throbs a justified feeling of heroism and strength since they managed to get the settlers and Israeli army out of Gaza without any pre-conditions. On the other hand, there is a feeling of deep frustration that that very act brought upon them a profound blockade, within a narrow territory, cutting them off not only from Israel but mainly from their people in the West Bank. And so, encouraged by their success in tossing the Israelis out of the Strip, they think they can oust them from the rest of the "conquered lands," or at least force them to lift the siege. But because they have no faith in Israel and they believe that dividing the Palestinian people into two parts is in Israel's interest, and they know that Israel will never again try to govern Gaza - instead of trying to rebuild the Gazan economy, stop the violence, and build a normal life (and thus perhaps convince the Israelis to enable them to link up with their brethren in the West Bank), they choose the way that has proven itself in the past in Gaza: unremitting aggression. For all the cease-fire, neither side has a sense that the cycle of violence is over. The suicidal element now evident in Gaza can lead, with the nefarious support of Iran, to more death and destruction. Therefore it is imperative to try, by stopping demonization on both sides and by direct negotiations, to reach the outline of an agreement between Israel and Hamas that will be based on four principles: - Hamas' accepting strict international supervision over demilitarization of the Strip of all offensive high-trajectory weapons. - Opening the passage between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. - Opening Israel's border to the controlled entry of Palestinian workers. - Gradually opening the safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, based on the rules set in the Oslo Accords, in order to begin to restore Palestinian unity. This will lay the basis for negotiations with Israel, since the PA cannot reach a peace agreement with Israel without the participation of Hamas. Decisions of great national importance call for broad national support. This has applied to Israel, both in heading to war and signing peace agreements, and so it has been for many peoples in history. Talking with Hamas and gradually restoring its ties to the Palestinian people in the West Bank is essential both in order to eventually reach an agreement on two states for two peoples, as most of the people of Israel want, and in order to prevent the slow but continuous slide toward a bi-national state.

Islamists vs the secularists in Egypt?

NATO ready for ‘political dialogue’ with Pakistan

Daily Times
NATO has expressed readiness for political dialogue and cooperation with Pakistan and stressed the importance of its ties with the country in the fight against “terrorism” as the military alliance prepares the way for its 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Most urgently, we need to remain united to defeat terrorism,” NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen told visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. “At NATO we understand well that Pakistan has paid a high price in these efforts. The alliance stands together with you to combat this scourge,” Rasmussen said in a statement. It is “clear that the pursuit of peace and security in your region is in the interest of the broader international community. That includes peace in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has a particular role to play,” he said. The statement said Khar also held talks with the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s government body, where officials voiced their readiness to “develop political dialogue and cooperation with Pakistan.” They also stressed that “Pakistan’s positive engagement was needed to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” it said. NATO foreign ministers, led by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are due to meet Tuesday and Wednesday at alliance headquarters in Brussels for talks at which Afghanistan will be a top agenda item. Khar discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest with the NATO secretary general. The foreign minister said that Pakistan had a strong and long history of cooperation with the NATO and that it was committed to working closely for the common objective of peace and stability in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. Briefing the secretary general about Pakistan’s commitments to improving relations with Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that sincere efforts were being made by her country to build trust between the two countries at all levels. Rasmussen commended the role Pakistan has played to fight a common threat of terrorism and extremism and assured that NATO would remain its steadfast partner in this regard. He also assured the foreign minister that the NATO regarded Pakistan as an important player, both regionally and globally, and that the two sides had a common stake to jointly work towards creating an environment necessary for a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He said that NATO was committed to turning its relationship with Pakistan into a strategic partnership. It also wanted to reinvigorate its political dialogue with Pakistan and to move beyond 2014. The NATO chief thanked the government of Pakistan for concluding a transit agreement with the military alliance. Talking about the situation in Afghanistan, he said that NATO was committed to peace and stability in Afghanistan and assured that it would not leave a security vacuum in that country after its withdrawal in 2014. Rasmussen also appreciated Pakistan’s response to the recent visit of Afghan High Peace Council and for playing a very positive and strong role for political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Later, the foreign minister also addressed the North Atlantic Council and briefed them on the regional situation with particular reference to the efforts Pakistan was making for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

No Rules In The Great 'Game' Of Afghan Politics

The story of Afghanistan — its history, its culture — is a narrative writer Tamim Ansary says he "carries in his bones." Ansary was born there to an Afghan father, educated in the United States, and an American mother. He spent much of his 1950s childhood in the town of Lashkar Gah. There, his father worked on a massive irrigation project, funded by the U.S. and aimed at turning a dusty valley into fertile farms. Though Ansary's adult life has been here in America, his writing reflects his deep Afghan roots. His new book, Games without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan, details the past 200 years in the life of Afghanistan, a history "often interrupted" by invasions from outside powers like Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. The title — Games Without Rules — references both the political game played for control of Afghanistan and a popular sport there. "There's a game in Afghanistan called buzkashi," Ansary tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "This is an ancient game, and its mounted riders grab a goat carcass off the ground and try to get it to a goal post and back again. ... As it was played originally, the field of play had no lines, there were no referees, there were no fouls, and there were no teams — riders played for their own glory or for the landowner or tribal chieftain that supported them." Over the course of Afghan history, Ansary continues, various elites have tried to centralize power and "impose rules on a game without rules." Invading powers, particularly, did not mix well with Afghan culture and society. "When the British came, they lived ... in compounds separate from the Afghan people, and they brought their British life with them, they brought the chandeliers, they brought polo matches, they brought cigars and after-dinner liqueurs, and the two societies pursued their lives completely in isolation from each other." The British — like the Americans who came after them — weren't intending to stay in Afghanistan. "When the Mongols conquered, they wanted the place," he says, "but in the last 200 years, there's been something different going on." That approach hasn't helped Afghanistan, Ansary adds, but it did trigger a desire among the Afghan elites to develop the country and build it up to Western standards, "not to supplant Afghan culture, but to enable Afghans to have more of the things that Western societies enjoyed."And that aim fitted well into the Cold War struggles between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — Afghanistan pulled in a great deal of development money by playing the two sides against each other. Ansary was partially raised in an area of southern Afghanistan known as "Little America," where he lived two lives, going to Afghan school during the day and hanging out with his American friends in the evening. "We did American things, we read Mad magazine, we'd have square dances — I learned how to cha-cha," he says, laughing. "The peacefulness of that era is so dramatic now when we look back through the fog of war." The Soviet invasion of 1979 was a turning point in Afghan history, wiping out the place Ansary knew as a child. "The crucial point of that war was when the Soviets decided that the way to win the war was to depopulate the Afghan countryside, and then there was this campaign of carpet bombing, driving people from the villages, and that really destroyed the fabric of Afghan society and it opened the way for all these buried resentments, contradictions, struggle between the old and the new to just come roaring up." Ansary describes the country now as a mix of the 21st century and the 12th — but, he adds, there's something new emerging. On a recent visit to Afghanistan, he encountered villagers in remote areas with solar panels on their houses, powering television sets and satellite dishes. "Technology will not be held back; if you ask any man you see on the street, 'should girls go to school,' and some of these other traditional ideas, they would say 'oh yeah, yeah, we're firmly for that.' They're probably not completely aware of how the influx of information is wearing in on the attitudes they had held, and who knows how the mixture will produce in the years to come. But it's not going to be the way it was in the past."

Geithner: taxes must rise for wealthy or no deal

President Obama Hosts Kennedy Center Honorees at White House

Seven entertainment icons were hosted at the White House today for their contributions to the performing arts. Actor Dustin Hoffman, blues guitarist Buddy Guy, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and comedian David Letterman were given a reception with the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin before the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala this evening. President Obama welcomed the performers before they were presented their awards at the main event. The president joked that the motley crew’s presence continued “a tradition at the White house by honoring some extraordinary people with no business being on the same stage together.” “Here in America, more than any other place on Earth we are free to follow our own passions, explore our own gifts, wherever they may lead us,” he said. “And people from all around the world come here to make sure that they too can provide us the incredible gifts that they have.” The individuals had one thing in common: all came from what the president called “humble beginnings.” “Growing up as the son of a share cropper in Louisiana, Buddy Guy made his first guitar out of wires from a window screen,” he said, later adding the artist is now one of the “last guardians of the great American blues.” Makarova, on the other hand, defected from the Soviet Union in 1970 only to find her name excised from the record in her homeland. “But no one can erase what takes hold in the heart,” he continued. “In 1989 when the iron curtain opened, the Russian people welcomed her back with open arms. Over 2,000 people packed in the Kirov Theater where she had trained when she was younger. Another 20 people crammed in the orchestra.” While Dustin Hoffman and David Letterman started as a struggling young actor and weatherman respectively, Obama credited the surviving members of Led Zeppelin — Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones — with redefining the rock genre and its lifestyle. In humor, the president said it was “fitting” the room had three-inch thick windows, given the band’s history of trashing hotels. Together, the talent assembled reminded the country of the “unique power that makes the arts so important,” he concluded. “Each of us can remember a moment when the people on this stage touched our lives,” he said. “Maybe they didn’t lead us to become performers ourselves. But maybe they inspired us to see things in a new way, to hear things differently, to discover something within us or to appreciate how much beauty there is in the world.” Home of the National Symphony Orchestra, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of Washington’s most recognizable institutions for the field. Their annual awards ceremony is a star-studded affair, bringing the elite of the music, dance, film, theater and TV worlds together with Washington high society. The Kennedy Center Honors has no categories or competition, selecting recipients solely for lifetime contributions to entertainment culture. It is probably one of the few occasions where one would see awards given to both a Russian ballerina and a man known for airing “stupid pet tricks.” Obama and the first lady were also in attendance at the gala at the performing arts center.

American Drones Ignite New Arms Race From Gaza To Iran To China

While President Obama ponders new legal and moral guidelines to govern America's growing use of armed robot aircraft, the world outside the White House is engaged in a revolutionary frenzy of building, arming and flying killer drones.
Small, inexpensive and lethal, drones enable everyone from terrorists to the Chinese People's Liberation Army to engage in what the Pentagon acknowledges is a new arms race with "alarming" consequences. More than 50 countries operate surveillance drones and, increasingly, are fitting them with weapons. The U.S. covertly uses armed drones to assassinate alleged terrorists or insurgents in Pakistan, Sudan and Somalia. In Pakistan alone, some 2,341 people identified as Taliban and al Qaeda leaders have been killed, according to one authoritative account. Armed drones are increasingly active in Afghanistan as well, where they've completed 1,160 strike missions since 2009, according to the latest Air Force data. American spy drones operate globally, from the Western Pacific to Iran, where a secret U.S. spy drone was shot down last December. But American drones are not alone in the sky. Spy drones routinely shadow U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups and other military exercises. Drones crisscross the Persian Gulf. Israeli drones have circled over Gaza during the recent fighting there. Experts say it's a rare conflict that doesn't attract spy drones; even the United Nations has considered using drones to monitor the fighting in Congo. Using unmanned aircraft with cameras is nothing new, of course. But armed drone technology is different: the rapidly spreading technology gives attackers a new edge, whether they are clandestine terrorist gangs or global superpowers. Small and highly maneuverable, drones can befuddle air defense systems built to intercept big, lumbering aircraft. In the dismaying history of war machinery, armed drones are a "game-changing technology, akin to gunpowder, the steam engine, the atomic bomb -- opening up possibilities that were fiction a generation earlier but also opening up perils that were unknown a generation ago," said Peter W. Singer, an expert on drone technology and its ramifications for the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank. A new Pentagon study frets that enemy drones could be a "very serious threat" to U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific and elsewhere, as well as to "supply convoys and other combat support assets which have not had to deal with an airborne threat in generations." On the battlefield, an enemy could create chaos and confusion simply by flooding the airspace with drones, and any U.S. bases within drone range would have to be closed, the report said. "For UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles], the U.S. currently has limited dedicated defensive capabilities other than fighters or surface-to-air missiles, giving the enemy a significant asymmetric cost advantage," the Pentagon's Defense Science Board report concluded in its July 2012 study. In essence, the study suggested, armed drones are the equivalent of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), a simple, cheap and effective weapon which has forced the U.S. to spend billions of dollars in defense while experiencing growing casualties: 1,330 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan by IEDs, including 125 so far this year. An incident early last month dispelled any doubts about the spread of drone technology. On Oct. 6, a small unmanned aircraft flew high over Israel's Mediterranean coast, headed for its nuclear reactor at Dimona. Soaring for 35 miles through heavily guarded Israeli airspace, the intruder was eventually shot down by an Israeli F-16. Against such small and maneuverable threats, Israel's missile defenses -- including its Arrow and Iron Dome missile defense systems, so effective against rockets fired from Gaza this month -- are less effective. Israeli officials speculated the drone in October was on a reconnaissance mission or possibly a practice run for a later suicide attack on the nuclear site. Hezbollah, the radical Islamic militia and political party based in Lebanon, later claimed that it had assembled and launched the drone. Experts said the aircraft was in all likelihood provided by Iran, which already has operational drones and claims its newest drone, the Shahed-129, has a range of 1,250 miles. The distance from Tehran to Tel Aviv: 988 miles. A day after Israel shot down the Hezbollah drone, an armed Israeli drone fired a missile that wounded two activists and eight passers-by in Gaza. On Nov. 1, two Iranian jet fighters fired multiple rounds at an American Predator drone over the Persian Gulf; the spy drone was conducting "routine surveillance," Pentagon spokesman George Little explained. The drone got away unharmed. Obama administration officials have said they are weighing various options to codify the use of armed U.S. drones, because the increased use of drones has been driven more by perceived necessity than by deliberative policy. But that effort is complicated by the wildfire spread of drone technology: how could the U.S. restrict its use of armed drones if others do not? Already, the Pentagon is worried that China not only is engaged in an "alarming" effort to develop and field high-tech drones, but it intends to sell drone technology abroad, according to the Pentagon report. Indeed, the momentum of the drone wars seems irresistible. "The increasing worldwide focus on unmanned systems highlights how U.S. military success has changed global strategic thinking and spurred a race for unmanned aircraft," the Pentagon study reported. Modern drones were first perfected by Israel, but the U.S. Air Force took the first steps in 2001 to mount sophisticated drones with precision weapons. Today the U.S. fields some 8,000 drones and plans to invest $36.9 billion to boost its fleet by 35 percent over the next eight years. Current research on next-generation drones seems certain to exacerbate the drone arms race. The U.S. and other countries are developing "nano" drones, tiny weapons designed to attack in swarms. Both the U.S. and China are working to incorporate "stealth" technology into micro drones. The Pentagon is fielding a new weapon called the Switchblade, a 5.5-pound precision-attack drone that can be carried and fired by one person -- a capability sure to be envied by terrorists. "This is a robotics revolution, but it's not just an American revolution -- everyone's involved, from Hezbollah to paparazzi," Singer, the Brookings Institution expert, told The Huffington Post. "This is a revolution in which billions and trillions of dollars will be made. To stop it you'd have to first stop science, and then business, and then war."

Pashto Songs

Ahmadi graves desecrated in Pakistan

Gunmen on Monday desecrated graves of Ahmadis in eastern Pakistan, members of the minority community said, in the latest act of intimidation and religious hatred against the beleaguered group. More than a dozen masked men broke into an Ahmadi graveyard in the upmarket Model Town area of Lahore before dawn and after tying up the security guard and caretaker vandalised graves, community spokesman Salimud Din said. The attackers shattered the tomb stones of about 120 graves and left, he said. Ahmadis, who believe their founder was the messiah after the Prophet Mohammed, were declared non-Muslims in 1974 as part of an Islamisation programme that has made the Pakistani state one of the most religiously intolerant in the world. They are legally banned from calling themselves Muslims and their places of worship mosques, they are forbidden from from preaching and even from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage, and their publications are prohibited. Din said police took no action after similar incidents a few months ago in the eastern city of Faisalabad and the central town of Lodhran. "The government has failed to protect our human rights and Ahmadis' life and property is not safe in Pakistan," Din said. Shahid Ataullah, a local Ahmadi elder, said the attackers came around 2:00am (2100 GMT) and threatened the guard and caretaker with "dire consequences" and said that they were annoyed because Islamic verses were engraved on the tombstones. Ataullah told AFP that the attackers told the guards they were from militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban, though there was no claim of responsibility. Members of the community were discussing whether or not to lodge a formal complaint with police, he said. "We are under lots of pressure and the objective seems to be to harass us," Ataullah said. Police said that they were not aware of the incident. "There is no such thing in our knowledge. We will take action when someone files a report about the incident," local police station chief Idrees Qureshi told AFP. In May 2010, nearly 100 people were killed in Lahore after militants stormed two Ahmadi prayer halls launching gun and grenade attacks. Gunmen later raided the hospital where victims were being treated, killing four people in a shoot out.

Saudi protesters stage anti-regime rally in Qatif

Protesters in Saudi Arabia have once again held a demonstration against the Al Saud regime in the country’s oil-rich Eastern Province, Press TV reports. On Sunday, the demonstrators chanted anti-regime slogans in the Qatif region, situated about 418 kilometers (259 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, and called for the immediate release of senior cleric Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer. The cleric has been behind bars since last year for criticizing the ruling Al Saud monarchy. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, as well as an end to widespread discrimination. However, the demonstrations turned into protests against the repressive Al Saud regime, especially after November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the province. Saudi forces have also arrested dozens of people including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. The country's officials warned in October that they would deal "firmly" with anti-regime demonstrations. Amnesty International slammed the warning, and urged the authorities to "withdraw their threat."

Afghan Businesswoman Breaks Boundaries, Taboos

Roya Mahboob
is a rarity -- an Afghan woman in a position of power and influence. The 25-year-old tech entrepreneur is the CEO of Afghan Citadel Services, an IT firm she founded in the western city of Herat. Her staff of 20 software programmers -- more than half of them women -- develops computer software for government ministries, universities, and international organizations in Afghanistan. But in this deeply traditional country, success for women also comes fraught with danger. Mahboob says she has received abusive phone calls and e-mails warning her to stop working and threatening to target her family. "Women face many challenges. Even when they have great ideas they cannot start up their own businesses. Women also face insecurity," Mahboob says. "They can't go and work in the districts or villages. Women have traditional and cultural [challenges]. When you're working, people want to stop you so you can't continue your work."
Opening Up The Tech Market
Mahboob, who has served as project coordinator for the Afghan Higher Education Ministry's IT department, founded her firm with several classmates from Herat University back in 2010 with start-up capital of just $20,000 -- most of it coming from their own savings. The aim, she says, was to create jobs for recent university graduates -- especially women -- in Afghanistan's growing tech market. "We wanted to use our knowledge in IT to bring some changes to the market and to bring change to the lives of Afghan women," Mahboob says. "IT can even help women work inside their homes, help them to make money, and give them an opportunity to use their knowledge." In the decade following the end of Taliban rule in 2001, Afghan women have made considerable strides. Millions of girls are back in school, the country has a female provincial governor, and dozens of women are members of parliament. But despite the progress, Afghanistan remains deeply conservative and male-dominated. Domestic abuse is routine, forced marriages are the norm, and women are discouraged from pursuing careers. Suicide rates among women are among the highest in the world. So not surprisingly, Mahboob's success as a businesswoman has sparked a fierce backlash from her community. She is constantly changing her phone number and e-mail address due to the threatening calls and messages she says she receives almost daily. Her father has been supportive. But even he is often confronted by locals who tell him it is dishonorable for his daughter to be working in public, meeting male clients, and even driving a car. Two of Mahboob's female employees have already resigned under pressure from locals.
Overcoming Market Discrimination
Mahboob has also had to overcome considerable market discrimination. She says potential Afghan clients, many of them men, often laugh and express skepticism that she is actually a CEO. Some refuse outright to do business with her company. "When we go to [potential] customers, they don't believe that women can do [business]. They give you a smile or they look at you as though you cannot [deliver]. Even if they want your product, they want you to give it to them for a price that is cheaper than [the price charged by] a male competitor," Mahboob says. But despite the obstacles, Mahboob and her business have thrived. Afghan Citadel Services currently has ongoing or finished projects worth approximately $500,000. Among the projects the company has completed are a patient-management system created for Afghan hospitals and a student-registration system for universities and private schools. Recently, the company has opened new offices, including one in the capital, Kabul. Mahboob has also hired more staff to meet needs as the company's business expands. The company is also expanding into other sectors. Earlier this year, it partnered with Film Annex, an online film distribution platform, to launch the Afghan Development Project. The project seeks to show "a new face" of Afghanistan by broadcasting current events-related videos, interviews, and news clips. Her company is also working with Film Annex to equip Afghan schools with Internet access in order to connect students with the outside world -- and discourage them from joining the insurgency. But for Mahboob, it isn't just about business and the bottom line. She says her main goal is to become a role model for Afghan women. "My message to Afghan women is that they should be ready to change their lives. They [can't] stay at home and say, 'We are just women and we have to stay at home and we accept it,'" Mahboob says. "We have to understand that we have rights. We can bring a lot of changes to society and can bring peace and prosperity to the economy of Afghanistan."

Burney writes to Pakistan president to book guilty of temple demolition
Pakistan's former federal minister for human rights Ansar Burney has written letters to Pakistan's prime minister and president seeking immediate action against the real estate builder on whose behest century old Sri Rama Pir temple in Karachi was demolished on Saturday. While talking to TOI over phone from Karachi Burney said that it was a blasphemy case and government of Pakistan should deal with iron hand against the persons responsible for demolition of Hindu temple. "I have written letters to Pak president and prime minister asking them to book persons who had brought disgrace to idols of Hindu deities and those behind demolition of temple under blasphemy act". Karachi based President of Pak Hindu Seva Trust, Sanjesh S Dhanja said that there was much disappointment among Hindus of Pakistan following demolition of temple . "I wonder that despite stay orders how could anyone demolish the temple" he said adding that Hindu's of Pakistan believed in police and judiciary of Pakistan. "I believe that government will take strict action against those responsible for the demolition of temple" Delhi Minorities Commission has condemned the demolition of century old Hindu temple in Karachi by building contractor and has demanded from Pakistan government to reconstruct the temple to restore confidence among minority Hindu community of Pakistan. While talking to TOI Chairman , Delhi Minorities Commission Safdar H Khan said that razing down of a religious place of any community was most deplorable incident. Khan who is also Vice President India Islamic Cultural Center said that he would write to Pakistan High Commission to express his resentment and would also demand reconstruction of temple by Pakistan government. Meanwhile President of Hindu Shiv Sena, Surinder Kumar Billa has expressed mass migration from Pakistan following demolition of historical temple. "Hindus are not safe, they had been migration to India in recent past and I am sure the migration of Hindu's will again begin unless Pakistan government take strict action against the culprits to win over hearts of Hindus of Pakistan".

Pakistan: Blasphemy accused dies in custody

The Express Tribune
A 22-year-old youth, accused of burning a copy of the Holy Quran, died in police custody at Warburton police station on Sunday, The Express Tribune has learnt. The youth, Nadeem, was detained without an FIR by the Nankana Sahib police seven days ago. Police say he was being kept in protective custody. He was later shifted to Warburton police station, 20km for Nankana Sahib. Talking to The Express Tribune, Nankana Sahib district police officer (DPO) Ghulam Mubashar Maken said the youth fell severely ill while in custody at Warburton police station and subsequently died. He said allegations against Nadeem had not been substantiated so far. He added that they were informed by a local committee of Ulema that there was no proof so far to suggest the youth had burned the Holy Quran copy. Since they had been waiting for the committee’s final decision, no case was registered against the youth, DPO Maken said. Meanwhile, police have handed over Nadeem’s body to his heirs and initiated proceedings under section 174. DPO Maken said Nadeem’s father Yousaf had told the police that his son was mentally unstable. He added that even after his son’s death, Yousaf was unwilling to take legal action. Police officials also suggested that Nadeem was tortured by local resident when they allegedly discovered him burning a copy of the Holy Quran. They also suspect he may have been an addict. Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 on blasphemy charges, also belongs to Nankana Sahib.

Six X-ray machines out of order at Services Hospital

Six X-ray machines of different departments of the Services Hospital are in a state of disrepair after being operated upon by unqualified technicians. Hospital sources said on Sunday that only six out of the 230 technicians working in different wards and operation theatres were qualified to handle the expensive machines. The large number of unqualified technicians had misused the costly medical equipment, including X-ray machines, and had rendered the machines useless. According to sources, one X-ray machine in New X-ray Block, two X-ray machines in the main X-ray Department, one in Outdoor Patients Department (OPD), one CR X-ray machine of Emergency Department and a C-Arm machine of orthopedic operation theatre have been dysfunctional for the last two years and patients were being directed to go to private labs to get their X-rays done. The main reason of faults in the machines was being handled by unqualified and inexperienced technicians. It is important to mention here that for a technician, the basic requirement was FSc with one year diploma from the Punjab Medical Faculty, but mostly matriculate persons were operating the X-ray machines and other expensive medical equipment. Patients had to pay Rs 400 for an ordinary X-ray and Rs 700 for digital X-ray to private labs which would otherwise cost Rs 100 and Rs 150 at the public sector hospitals respectively. It was also learnt that some new machines have also developed faults due to handling by unqualified technicians. When contacted, the hospital officials blamed power fluctuations and shortage of funds for the bad condition of the machines. They further said that an enquiry had also been ordered to ascertain facts.

Pakistan’ Anne Frank: Mehzar Zahra, a victim of Shia genocide

Annelies “Anne” Marie Frank (12 June 1929 – early March 1945) is one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her diary has been the basis for several plays and films. Born in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Over one million children under the age of sixteen died in in World War II, not because of the bombs, but because they did not fit in as Hitler’s image of the “perfect” German. Many children and their parents living in countries, which had been invaded by the Germans, were imprisoned and killed because they were Jewish. At least six million Jews were killed by Hitler and his Nazi Germany apparatus while the entire world, particularly Europe, looked the other way. While nothing in human tragedy can be compared to the Jewish holocaust, the situation of Shia Muslims in the Islamic history in general, and in modern Pakistan in particular, appears to be in some ways similar to the persecution, harassment and genocide which Jews have been facing for at least two thousand years. It is my considered opinion that, as two most persecuted communities of the world, Shia Muslims and Jews should try to understand and accept each other, treat each other with respect and compassion. In particular, Israel and Iran should seriously reconsider their hostilities which are more a handiwork of Saudi cunning lobbying and propaganda, because there is no substantive or historical basis for animosity or hatred between Shias and Jews. Hamas Salafists in Gaza will feel equal joy in killing a Shia as they have in killing a Jew. As the people of the book and as a persecuted nation, Jews deserve full respect and sympathy as do Shia Muslims (and all other persecuted communities). The Jew Shia unity is good for both communities, the hatred between Jews and the Shias will only help their common enemy, i.e., Saudi Arabia and its Salafist-Deobandi mercenaries who want to kill all Jews and Shias. Anne Frank was only one of at least one million children killed by Nazis in Germany; she and her family members were killed only because of their faith, i.e., Judaism. The situation of Shias in Pakistan is not much different. So far, at least 20,000 Shia Muslims have been killed at the hands of Takfiri Deobandi militants of the Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba, financed by Saudi Arabia, and nurtured by Pakistan Army. At least 6,000 Shia children have been killed in Pakistan. Their pictures and brief background is provided in this post: However, on 30 November 2012 around 8:00 am something very painful happened in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. Mehzar Zehra, 12, a grade 7 student, was on her way to school along with her father Syed Mazhar Abbas Zaidi. Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked her and her father on the Shaheed-e-Millat Road. Her father was killed in front of her, while she too was showered with bullets. Four bullets pierced her body and as I write these lines she remains in critical condition in the I.C.U. Doctors are not operating her because they fear she might get paralysed if they proceed with the operation. She been constantly asking about her father, but the little kid doesn’t know that he is no more. What was Mehzar and her father’s only crime? Their Shia faith. Just as Hitler wanted to create what he saw was the perfect German, this meant that anyone who did not fit into his perfect image was persecuted (ill treated) and/or killed, he persecuted German citizens who were Jewish, Gypsies, or otherwise “undesirables”. Similarly, Saudi-funded Deobandi and Wahhabi terrorists want to kill Shia Muslims because Shias do not fit their perfect image of Muslims. The attack on Mehzar and her father is indeed very disturbing. However, Pakistani media, rights activists have completely ignored this incident along with other incidents of Shia genocide. Reason? Shias are considered lesser Muslims and lesser humans in Pakistan. According to a recent research by Pew, at least 50% of Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, Deobandis and Wahhabis in particular, consider Shia as Kafir (infidels). This figure not only includes madrassah educated right-wing bigots but also many middle-class and elite Pakistanis, many of whom also work in media and rights groups. Hence, the silence!

Bilawal Bhutto takes strong exception to incidents of attacks on minorities

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says attacks on temples‚ graveyards‚ properties and lives of the minorities are an attack on the Jinnah's vision of Pakistan and pose an existential threat to the country. Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has taken strong exception to the latest incidents of attacks on the minorities and urged provincial governments and the law enforcement agencies to do their best to protect the fundamental rights of the minorities of the country. The Chairman PPP said yesterday there was a report of demolition of a Hindu temple in Karachi and today we woke up to the news of desecration of graves of innocent Pakistanis in Lahore. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the attacks on temples‚ graveyards‚ properties and lives of the minorities are an attack on the Jinnah's vision of Pakistan and pose an existential threat to the country‚ something Shaheed Benazir Bhutto gave her life fighting against. The Chairman PPP appealed all political parties‚ religious bodies‚ civil society organizations and all institutions of Pakistan to rise up to defend the Jinnah's Pakistan as the continuing attacks on the minorities‚ if un-checked will threaten the very existence of Pakistan. He said our forefathers did not give their lives for an intolerant‚ extremist‚ sectarian and authoritarian Pakistan. I appeal you to rise up to defend Jinnah's Pakistan and my party will stand by you‚ shoulder to shoulder.

Iftikhar vows to foil attempts to construct Kalabagh Dam
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain on Saturday said that all three provinces of the country are against the construction of disputed Kalabagh Dam and any attempt aimed to raise the issue for interest of certain elements would be thwarted. Addressing to the Civil Officers Mess, he said that we reject the decision of Lahore High court in this regard, as the project would cast a negative impact on overall stability of the country. He said that keeping in view the perilous affects of Kalabagh Dam, work should be initiated on Baasha Dam and Katzarra projects rather to serve the motives of those who are working to create misconception between judiciary and parliament. Mian Iftikhar said after the 18th Amendment the consensus of a province is necessary for construction of dams and Supreme Court should take notice of the decision regarding Kalabagh Dam. He said that apex court should take a decision that reflects the wishes of people and further improve the existing stature of courts. Information Minister said we will also demand of the revenue generated from water of our land that was taken in form of Ghazi-Brotha project by diverting the natural course of River Indus. He said that fertile land of our province have been left barren by the project.

Pakistani Hindus protest destruction of temple

Associated Press
Pakistani Hindus Sunday protested the destruction of a Hindu temple in the southern port city of Karachi. The temple was razed, along with some nearby homes, by a builder.
Minority Hindus have complained of increasing harassment and discrimination in Muslim-dominated Pakistan in recent years, including the destruction or desecration of their places of worship. Residents and members of the Hindu community said Sunday a builder with a police escort razed the small temple in one of the older neighborhoods of Karachi, along with some surrounding buildings. The outer walls and roof of the temple were demolished, and rubble was strewn about the area. Local residents told an AP reporter on the scene that authorities took statues and artifacts out of the building before it was destroyed. One of the longtime residents, 75-year-old Kali Das, said he was born in the area and remembers when the temple, called Sri Rama Peer Naval, was built. He said more than a hundred families lived nearby and prayed at the temple. Residents protested at the Karachi Press Club on Sunday, demanding compensation as well as the return of religious materials they said were taken during the incident. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani from the Pakistan Hindu Council said there is a long-running legal dispute between the builder and residents over the land, but it belongs to the Hindu residents. Zeenat Ahmad, who runs the department in charge of military land, said a court order allowed some of the buildings to be razed. A Pakistani police officer, Parvez Iqbal, denied anything was taken. The military owns vast tracts of land in Karachi and other parts of the country. Vankwani said the incident was another example of the problems Hindus are facing in Pakistan. Hindus complain that girls are forcibly converted to Islam, there is no legal recognition for Hindu marriages, and Hindus are discriminated against when it comes to access to government jobs or schooling. "Every month there is an incident, like taking property of Hindu people or forced conversion of Hindu girls," he said. During partition in 1947, the violent separation of Pakistan and India into separate countries, hundreds of thousands of Hindus decided to migrate to India, where Hinduism is the dominant religion. Those who remained and their descendants now make up a tiny fraction of Pakistan's estimated 190 million citizens. Most live in Sindh province in the southern part of the country.

Malala thanks supporters after being shot by Taliban

Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban, has expressed gratitude to the people around the world who have supported her as she recovers from the traumatic attack. "Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and support," Malala said in a message read by Anderson Cooper at the CNN Heroes ceremony in Los Angeles. "I thank the people that supported me without distinguishing religion and color." Malala has been campaigning for girls' right to education in a conservative area of Pakistan for years. In her message, she praised girls in northwestern Pakistan "who are continuing their studies despite threats from militants."She is now at a hospital in Britain, where she was transferred to soon after the assassination attempt in northwestern Pakistan in October. Examinations there revealed that she had suffered no major neurological damage, but she still faces a long struggle to recover from her injuries. Malala is reading books and walking in the hospital in the city of Birmingham, according to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai. Her story generated a huge amount sympathy and support in Pakistan and across the globe. The Pakistani Taliban have threatened to go after her again, but Malala appears to be undeterred from her campaigning. "People have actually supported a cause, not an individual," she said in her message. "Let's work together to educate girls around the world."