Monday, December 10, 2012
http://www.cbsnews.comIt seems the closer we get to the "fiscal cliff," the less anyone In Washington is saying about it, and that could be a good sign. The president and the Speaker of the House are negotiating in earnest, not in public, for a change. "Fiscal cliff" is the name given to the end-of-the-year tax increases for most Americans and big cuts in federal spending. There are just 13 days left to find a solution before the traditional congressional holiday. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House this weekend alone, one-on-one, for the first time in about 18 months. The formal deadline for a deal on the "fiscal cliff" is just 22 days away, but there are a lot of people around here who are hoping it will happen even sooner. If lawmakers want to settle this in time for Christmas, negotiations have to kick into high gear this week, and the president and Speaker Boehner must reach an agreement by early next week at the latest. That's the only way members will have enough time to read it, debate it, and vote on it in the House and Senate before heading home for the holidays. In a now-familiar routine, both sides blamed each other today for the slow pace of talks. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid: "Right now, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader (Mitch) McConnell are the only thing standing between Congress and compromise." A spokesman for Speaker Boehner said in a statement: "The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, and we continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he's willing to make as part of the 'balanced' approach he promised the American people." The White House and Speaker Boehner's office haven't revealed a single detail about the meeting on Sunday, and the members CBS News have spoken to are taking that as a good sign that the talks are getting serious and substantive, just in time.
ahram.org.egBoth opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi will take to the streets on Tuesday to make their voices heard about Saturday's constitutional referendum. Ahram Online provides a brief summary of each side's goals for the day and a map of various marching routes. Islamists mobilise for yes vote According the Muslim Brotherhood's official web presence, Ikhwanweb, two main million-man marches are set to take place in Cairo on Tuesday to voice their support for "legitimacy." Joining the protests are the Egyptian Board of Trustees of the Revolution, a group led by Salafist preacher Safwat Hegazy, and the Islamist Coalition, which is formed of 10 parties and forces affiliated with political Islam. The protest is further calling on people to vote 'yes' in the constitution referendum. However, the Salafist Nour Party, one of the members of the coalition, announced that they will not be taking part in the rallies, to have more time to mobilise the street for a 'yes' vote in the referendum on Saturday "to ensure an exit from the current phase to stability." "We're currently touring all governorates, holding campaigns to interact with the public," Mohamed Mansour, a member of the high commission of the Nour Party told state-owned news agency MENA. Islamists protesters are expected to assemble at Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque and Al-Rashdan mosque, both in Nasr City, a northern suburb of Cairo. Protests are scheduled to converge at a common venue which will be later determined by groups, "depending on certain circumstances." Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan told Ahram's Arabic website that the protesters have no intention of marching to the presidential palace, where dozens are holding a sit-in to denounce the referendum and the president's recent declaration. Last Wednesday the Muslim Brotherhood called on its members to head to the palace to "peacefully" support the president's decisions, while opponents of the president were present at the same place. Morsi supporters reportedly attacked the sit-in, leading to bloody clashes that left at least eight dead. The Islamist group has claimed that the majority of those killed were members of the Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood members in Upper Egypt, including Wadi Gedid, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, and Aswan are also calling for mass protests at the Omar Makram mosque in the governorate of Assiut. Opposition rallies supporters Meanwhile, the presidential palace, which is around three miles away from the pro-Morsi rallies, will receive six opposition marches on Tuesday. Marches that will leave at 4pm from Al-Nour mosque in Abbasiya, from Hadayek Al-Kobba close to Heliopolis in northern Cairo, from Al-Higaz Square in Upper Heliopolis, from Al-Anwar Al-Mohamediya mosque in Matariya suburb next to Heliopolis, and from Zaki Hussein Street in Nasr City. The opposition are protesting the referendum on what they describe as an "unrepresentative constitution", which was drafted by an Islamist-led Constituent Assembly; they also object to the taxes rises on certain goods that were announced on Sunday but suspended several hours later by the presidency pending "further study." "President Morsi is turning into a dictator. His speeches are fragile, not to mention that he has accused the opposition of being foreign agents," read the statement signed by several political forces, including the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Constitution Party.
Rebel groups across Syria are defying the United States by pledging their allegiance to a group that Washington will designate today a terrorist organization for its alleged links to al-Qaeda.A total of 29 opposition groups, including fighting "brigades" and civilian committees, have signed a petition calling for mass demonstrations in support of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist group which the White House believes is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The petition is promoting the slogan "No to American intervention, for we are all Jabhat al-Nusra" and urges supporters to "raise the Jabhat al-Nusra flag" as a "thank you". "These are the men for the people of Syria, these are the heroes who belong to us in religion, in blood and in revolution," read a statement widely circulated on Syrian opposition Facebook pages. Jabhat al-Nusra made its mark early this year with a string of suicide bombings, a tactic it continues to use. Aided by fighters from abroad and Syrians who have returned from other wars in the Middle East, it has also led battles for a number of military bases and has secured a string of recent victories. Along with allied jihadist groups, it captured the Sheikh Suleiman base west of Aleppo yesterday morning, and has also dented the infrastructure of the regime in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Although Jabhat al-Nusra remains separate from the Free Syrian Army, many FSA leaders now recognise its strength and order their forces to cooperate with it.The decision to blacklist the group, which according to the Washington Post will be announced today, raises the prospect of a drawn-out, anti-American insurgency if and when the rebels succeed in forcing out President Bashar al-Assad . The designation prohibits Americans from having any financial dealings with the group and freezes its assets in the US. Washington is taking the step as part of a new strategy to impose "shape" on the opposition it hopes will replace Mr Assad. Even mainstream opposition activists expressed anger at what they claimed was America's last-minute attempt to "muscle in on their revolution". "It is terrible timing on the part of the United States," said Mulham Jundi, who works with the opposition charity Watan Syria. "By calling Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, the US is legitimising the Syrian regime's bombardment of cities like Aleppo. Now the government can say it is attacking terrorists." The rise of Jabhat al-Nusra represents the Americans' worst fear – they refused to arm the rebels earlier in the conflict to avoid weapons falling into the hands of jihadists, only to find that in their absence, jihadi groups well-funded by supporters in the Gulf have risen to prominence. The West attempted to rectify this at the weekend by backing the formation of a new FSA command structure at a meeting in Turkey. Its new leadership, which sidelines former commanders such as Gen Mustafa al-Sheikh and Col Riad al-Assad, includes senior figures without a regime background. Many are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood or even more radical Salafi movements, but are thought to be men with whom the West "can do business". The command is seen as a prospective military wing of the new Syrian National Coalition, formed last month also under Western auspices in Qatar. EU leaders including William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, met the heads of the coalition in Brussels yesterday, having already recognised it as "the legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people". Opposition fighters inside Syria told The Daily Telegraph that the US announcement was too little too late, and that any attempts by the West to intervene in Syria would be rejected. "We don't support the new FSA military command," said Ous al-Arabi, a spokesman of the Deir al-Zour Revolutionary council. "For Deir al-Zour province they have chosen people who are not representative. Jabhat al-Nusra is the strongest group here and they ignored that. "The people are not going to accept intervention by the West now. You were watching us die, and now that we close to victory you want to intervene? You are not welcome."
From the Christian West to the Islamic Middle East, atheists face discrimination and persecution including execution, life in prison, the revocation of citizenship and the denial of education and medical services, a new report has revealed. A 69-page study titled ‘Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious’ has been released by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). The report covers laws affecting freedom of conscience in 60 countries, and lists numerous individual cases where atheists were persecuted for their beliefs. The report cited discriminatory laws that deny atheists the “right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship [and] restrict their right to marry.” Other laws include “obstructing access to public education, prohibiting them from holding public office, preventing them from working for the state, criminalizing their criticism of religion, and executing them for leaving the religion of their parents.” The report argues that atheists in Islamic countries – such as Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan – face some of the worst discrimination, including capital punishment. The study did not list specific recent executions, but claimed that capital punishment was often shifted into life imprisonment sentences, as in Afghanistan. The publication of atheist or humanist views is strictly prohibited under blasphemy laws in countries like Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia, the report said. In most of these countries citizens are required to register as participants of an officially recognized religion – usually Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Without this registration, citizens are not allowed to receive medical services, drive, attend university or travel aboard, forcing non-believers to lie. Anti-atheist discrimination in North America and Europe The report emphasizes that non-believers are discriminated against even in North American and European nations. In the US, “atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans, or non-Americans.” And in at least seven US states, “constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office and one state, Arkansas, has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial.” Other discriminatory incidents included instances were soldiers in the US Military were forced to attend evangelical Christian events, and when a detention center in South Carolina denied prisoners any reading material except for the Christian Bible. In the Canadian province of Ontario, the state funds Catholic religious education but does not providing funding for any other religious schools. “One-third of Ontario’s public schools are Catholic schools,” and those institutions can exclude non-Catholic children and staff, the report said. In Switzerland, a teacher was fired from his job in 2010 after raising concerns over the state’s promotion of Catholicism in public schools. “[The teacher] was told he was fired for removing the crucifix from the classrooms in the public school at which he taught,” the report said. Every year, British children are turned away from local state-funded schools because of their parents’ religious beliefs. Polish musician Dorota Rabczewska was fined $1,450 for ‘offending religious feelings’ when she said in a 2012 interview that the Bible is full of "unbelievable tales." Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini called in 2010 for “Muslims, Jews and Christians to unite to fight the ‘threat’ that he claims atheism poses to society.” Heiner Bielefedt, the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, welcomed the report’s publication and expressed concern over the lack of awareness that international human rights protections apply as much to atheists and religious skeptics as to other groups.
Al JazeeraCoalition of opposition parties calls for demonstrations against President Morsi's plans for vote on draft constitution. Egypt's opposition has called for more protests against President Mohamed Morsi after rejecting his plans for a constitutional referendum later this week on a disputed draft constitution. "The National Salvation Front announces its total rejection of the referendum and will not legitimise this referendum which will definitely lead to more strife," Sameh Ashour, who spoke on behalf of the coalition of opposition parties, said on Sunday. "The Front invites Egypt's great people to protest peacefully in various liberation squares in the capital this coming Tuesday to show dissatisfaction at the president's disregard of the people's demands and in refusal of the constitution that infringes on rights and freedoms."Morsi's decision on Saturday to retract a decree awarding himself wide powers failed to placate opponents who accused him of plunging Egypt deeper into crisis by refusing to postpone the vote on the constitution scheduled for December 15. "We are against this process from start to finish," Hussein Abdel Ghani, spokesman of the National Salvation Front, said. But not everyone in the opposition agrees: Instead of rejecting the process, several parties, including the Strong Egypt party and the Social Democrats, are actively campaigning for a "no" vote. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the National Salvation Front, seemed to hint at these divisions in an interview with American broadcaster CNN on Monday night. "We will continue to vote on the street with our feet," he said. "We will either boycott, or vote 'no.'" The Egyptian president insists on holding the referendum on schedule, despite concerns over who will monitor the vote. Several groups of judges, including the judges club in the central city of Assiut, have said they will not oversee the referendum. But on Monday, the state council judges club in Cairo announced that its members would work as monitors, as long as the government "eliminates causes of clashes" by banning protests on Saturday. The opposition has repeatedly said that the constitution, drafted by a Muslim Brotherhood-led constituent assembly, disregards the rights of women and ignores personal freedoms. "I cannot imagine that after all this they want to pass a constitution that does not represent all Egyptians," Ahmed Said, another member of the National Salvation Front coalition and the head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, said. Military to maintain security The Egyptian military has assumed responsibility for security and protecting state institutions in the country until the results of the referendum. The army took up the task on Monday in line with a decree a day earlier from Morsi. The presidential edict orders the military and police to jointly maintain security in the run-up to Saturday's vote. The decree also grants the military the right to arrest civilians. "The armed forces must support the police service in complete co-operation in order to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum on the constitution," the decree, which appeared in the government's official gazette under "Law 107", says. Commenting on the presidential edict, AL Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said: "It is not about going back to military rule ... it's a practical move to maintain order. "It does once again raise concerns because the military are unaccountable when they arrest etcetera, but remember this is a temporary move." The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice party, as well as Salafist political parties, have urged the opposition to accept the referendum's verdict. Mahmud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesman, said a coalition called the Alliance of Islamist Forces have also called for a demonstration on Tuesday under the slogan "Yes to legitimacy" in support of the referendum. The rival rallies in the capital Cairo raise the potential for clashes such as those that erupted last Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding hundreds. The referendum has deeply polarised Egypt and sparked some of the bloodiest clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents since he came to power in June.
A shocking video has surfaced on the Internet showing militants in Syria having a child behead a kidnapped man. The clip, recently posted on YouTube, displays a child using a sword to chop off the head of the kidnapped whose hands are tied up. The incident is believed to have taken place in the western city of Homs, located about 160 kilometers north of the capital, Damascus. The video also displays one of the militants at the scene showing the severed head and placing it on the dead body. Other beheaded prisoners can also be seen in the footage. However, the identities of the victims are not known. Experts say the Arabic language spoken by the militants does not belong to Syrian people and they are believed to have Saudi accents. On November 29, a similar footage surfaced online displaying foreign-backed militants in the country killing 10 unarmed Syrian prisoners. Syria has been the scene of unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil. The Syrian government says a very large number of the militants operating in Syria are foreign nationals.
The seeds of blind extremism are gradually being sown in Syria with the deliberate intention of plunging the country deeper into crippling chaos and stifling anarchy. A video recently circulated on the internet shows a child who is commanded by the foreign-backed al-Qaeda militants in Syria to behead a pro-Assad supporter. This is believed to have taken place in the western city of Homs, located about 160 kilometers north of the capital, Damascus. The video also displays one of the militants at the scene who shows the severed head and places it on the trunk of the victim. In line with this policy of fanning extremism, Saudi Arabia is reportedly dispatching those on death row in the country to Syria in order to fight against Assad. A series of secret documents “leaked to the media” revealed on Monday that Saudi Arabia is sending death convicts to Syria to fight against Bashar Assad's government in return for pardon or remission of their punishment and financial support for their family. Among those on death row are drug traffickers, murderers and rapists. According to the document, the families of the convicts are not allowed to leave the county but they are cared for as long as the convict continue to fight along with the militants and remain loyal to the unholy cause. The convicts include 105 Yemenis, 21 Palestinians, 212 Saudis, 96 Sudanese, 254 Syrians, 82 Jordanians, 68 Somalis, 32 Afghans, 194 Egyptians, 203 Pakistanis, 23 Iraqis and 44 Kuwaitis. Given the fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already been paying salaries to militants fighting in Syria against President Bashar Assad, this does not seem to be some bolt from a madman’s imagination. "The payment has been going on for months and the agreement was made on April 2 by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with logistical organization from Turkey where some Free Syrian Army factions are based," an Arab diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "The point of this is to encourage as many factions of the Syrian army to defect and to organize the FSA, control it and prevent any extremist organizations from joining it." To say that the payment is being made under the excuse of curbing extremist organizations is nothing more than a Freudian slip. In point of fact, extremism is the first step to downfall in any country and that is exactly what some regional Arab states which have been financing the militants in Syria are capitalizing on. After all, it is Washington which cherishes the greatest passion in promoting extremism in the region in general and in Syria in particular. Turkey has also been playing an active role in fomenting crisis in Syria and burgeoning extremism in the country. Ankara has set up a clandestine nerve center in Adana with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar in order to “direct vital military and communications aid to Syria's rebels from a city near the border.” In fact, a triangle of antagonists comprising Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are working together in coordinated efforts in accordance with a carefully US crafted agenda in order to destabilize the government of Bashar Assad without an initial military intervention by Washington and the West. "It's the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom," a Doha-based source told Reuters. As for Americans, "They are very hands-off on this. US intel are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes." All these efforts have been going on for months and the trio and the US have succeeded in exacerbating crisis in the country. Back in 2011, Qatar set up an army of Wahhabi forces to help overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. The forces who later came to be known as the Free Syrian Army was initially comprised of 20,000 militants. The hard core was made up of 1,000 members of the militants fighting in Libya and 1,000 operatives of the Ansar al-Sunna, and the Iraqi Islamists that reportedly carried out 15 coordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad in 2011. Further to that, Qatar airlifted the 2,500 troops from Libya and Iraq to the southern Turkish town of Antakya in the border province of Hatay. Little by little, other al-Qaeda-linked militants joined the league and fought against the government of Assad. Strange to say, Washington is reluctant to engage in any military intervention at the moment but is monitoring every move in Syria and giving due instructions to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as to how to turn the situation in the country into one of utter extremism. Needless to say, for Washington, a Syria replete with extremist ‘child’ decapitators is far more strategically workable than a Syria bereft of its ruler through a military intervention.
daily timesTerming Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif pioneer and mastermind of corruption in the country, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Raja Riaz said on Monday all development funds allocated for other districts of Punjab were being used in Lahore and for the purpose developmental work in other districts have been suspended. Flanked by PPP Deputy Parliamentary Leader in the Punjab Assembly Shaukat Basra, Ahsanul Haque Nolatia and Makhdoom Irtaza, the opposition leader was talking to reporters at the Punjab Assembly’s cafeteria. Riaz said the spending on “Jangla Bus Service” (Metro Bus Service) had exceeded to Rs 70 billion from initial estimate of Rs 32 billion and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has a 20 to 25 percent commission from the contract. He also alleged that Shahbaz Sharif and company were getting a 40 percent commission from the Lahore Waste Management Company, adding that the CM granted the contract to a Turk company at Rs 7 billion, whereas the total annual contract of the LWMC was Rs 2 billion. He asked the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of this unprecedented corruption scandal. The PPP leader said Shahbaz’s repeated tours of Turkey were good for nothing, adding that the “corruption king” was working for his kickbacks. He said that the Punjab CM was a stubborn child and because of his non-flexible attitude the public service projects like a surgical tower at Mayo Hospital Lahore, a hospital in Gujranwala and Dental College at Jubillee Town Lahore could not be meterialised, as all the allocated funds were spent on MBS project. Citing the examples of Shahbaz government’s nepotism and corruption, Riaz said that Justice Khalil Ramdey’s son Mustafa Ramdey was paid Rs 3.2 million from the Lahore Development, and similarly the son of former LHC chief justice Khawaja Sharif was paid a hefty amount in advance from the Law Department. Shaukat Basra also levelled allegations on Hamza Shahbaz and Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan for embezzling Rs 2 billion in the name of the Punjab Sports Festival. He asked the CJP to take notice of this corruption too. Talking about recent by-elections in Punjab, Basra said that judges did stop Faryal Talpur to persuade voters in Sindh but in Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (r) Safdar were using government resources openly to persuade voters. Ahsanul Haque Nolatia said that the project in which iron usage is required in bulk gets Punjab cabinet’s approval within no time. He said that no open tenders were called for MBS project, while the contract was given at more than 16 percent high rates. Calling Shahbaz Sharif the Punjab chief minister of 80 million people of the province was an insult to the Punjabis, rather the CM should be called the mayor of Lahore. To a question, Riaz said that the Sharif brothers have been declared registered accommodators in Asghar Khan case. To another question, Raja said that whenever the interim set up would be established, action would be taken against the Sharifs and their final destination would be either jail or Jeddah.
TIME.COMThe unfolding revolution wrought by unmanned aerial vehicles has freed a number of military missions from the tyranny of human endurance. Plinking terrorists no longer requires an aircraft with oxygen flowing into the cockpit, parachutes or other gear necessary to ensure a pilot’s survival.
Associated PressA U.S. drone strike has killed an al-Qaida commander in Pakistan's northwest, the second member of the Islamic militant network killed in the area in less than a week, Pakistani intelligence officials and a Taliban militant said Monday. Mohammad Ahmed al-Mansoor died Sunday when drone-launched missiles hit a house in Tabbi village in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in the country, the officials and militant said. Al-Mansoor was a close aide to senior al-Qaida leader Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan on Thursday, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Al-Hussainan was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti. Covert CIA drone strikes have killed a series of senior al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal region over the past few years. The attacks are controversial because the secret nature of the program makes it difficult to determine how many civilians are being killed. Pakistani officials often criticize such strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty, which has helped make them extremely unpopular in the country. But senior Pakistani officials are known to have cooperated with strikes in the past, and many people believe they still do. There were conflicting accounts of who died in the strike Sunday along with al-Mansoor. The intelligence officials said his wife and son were also killed, while the militant said two Punjabi Taliban fighters died with him. The Taliban militant spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by the government. Al-Qaida's central leadership in Pakistan has been dealt a series of heavy blows in the past few years, including the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad last year. A significant number of senior al-Qaida leaders have also been killed in U.S. drone attacks in the country. Also Monday, Taliban militants armed with a rocket, hand grenades and automatic weapons attacked a police station in northwestern Pakistan, killing six people, police said. The attack occurred in the city of Bannu, which serves as a gateway to the North Waziristan tribal area and which has been hit by repeated attacks over the years. The militants began the attack by firing a rocket at the gate of the police station and tossing hand grenades, triggering a battle with police that last lasted over an hour, said senior police officer Wagar Ahmed. Three policemen and three civilians were killed in the attack, said Ahmed. The civilians were coming out of a nearby mosque when they were shot by the militants. Eight people were wounded, including three policemen and five civilians. Three militants were killed during the attack and one escaped. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press from an undisclosed location. Elsewhere in the country, gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by paramilitary forces on the outskirts of the southern city of Karachi, killing two soldiers, said police officer Azhar Iqbal. Two policemen were wounded in the attack, he said. In the eastern city of Lahore, an elderly Swedish woman who was shot and critically wounded a week ago by an unknown assailant was flown home for medical treatment, said police officer Zahoorul Haq Qureshi. The woman, Bargeeta Almby, is in her 70s and was a volunteer at a church in Lahore. She was flown home in an aircraft sent by the Swedish government, Qureshi added.
thenewstribe.Safe havens in Pakistan, corruption and limited Afghan government capabilities are the greatest obstacles to stability in Afghanistan, according to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress and made public today. According to a US Department of Defense press release, the Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan also states that the coalition surge accomplished its mission. The enemy has lost capability, the report says. The number of attacks is down and, while the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies can launch a few flashy attacks, the terror group’s capabilities have waned. Pakistan remains a problem, but there is some progress on that front, according to the report. “The insurgency and al-Qaida continue to face US counterterrorism pressure within the safe havens,” the report says. “US relations with Pakistan have begun to improve following the re-opening of Pakistani ground lines of communication, and there has been nascent improvement with respect to cross-border cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” In fact, the report continues, there has been some cooperation on both sides of the border in coordinating counterterror offensives. Most security metrics have improved, the report says. It compares the first year of the surge – 2010 – with April through September of this year, noting that enemy-initiated attacks have declined by 12 percent. Detonations of improvised explosive devices declined 9 percent. The percentage of civilian casualties caused by NATO forces declined 28 percent. Direct- fire attacks have dropped by 9 percent, and indirect-fire attacks are down by 24 percent. However, civilian casualties caused by enemy attacks are up 11 percent, according to the Pentagon report. The report’s findings point to progress with the Afghan national security forces, which will take over security operations when US and coalition forces leave at the end of 2014. “The ANSF has grown by 88,464 personnel, and has dramatically increased its capabilities,” the report states. “The areas of the country influenced by the insurgents and the ability of the insurgency to attack the population have been significantly diminished.” The report to Congress highlights the improvement in security of populated areas. “Security dramatically improved in most of Afghanistan’s five most populous districts, with [enemy-initiated attacks] in the first nine months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011 dropping 22 percent in Kabul, 62 percent in Kandahar, 13 percent in Herat, 88 percent in Mazar-e-Sharif, and rising 2 percent in Kunduz,” the report says. Insurgent attacks are taking place away from these populated centers, the report says, noting that the majority of Afghanistan’s 405 districts now experience very low levels of enemy attacks. Eighty percent of attacks occur in districts encompassing only 20 percent of the population, and nearly half of all attacks in Afghanistan occur in just 17 districts that contain only 5 percent of the population, the report states. The Taliban’s ability to attack Afghans is diminished particularly in Kandahar, the group’s operational and ideological base. But overall, the report paints a picture of mixed progress toward security and stability, with the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border remaining a hot zone. “Pakistani-based sanctuary for insurgents, such as the Haqqani Taliban Network in North Waziristan, as well as the financial and operational support that insurgents receive from various sources, keeps the security situation along the border with Pakistan in Regional Command – East volatile,” the report says. While enemy attacks in the region declined slightly, eastern Afghanistan accounted for almost a third of all insurgent attacks throughout the country. “The Taliban-led insurgency remains adaptive and determined, and retains the capability to emplace substantial numbers of IEDs and to conduct isolated high-profile attacks,” the report says. “The insurgency also retains a significant regenerative capacity.” As ISAF and Afghan forces erode Taliban efforts, insurgents have increasingly resorted to asymmetric tactics in an attempt to regain territory and influence, including assassinations, kidnappings, intimidation tactics, encouraging insider attacks and strategic messaging campaigns, the report states.
The Express TribuneThough Karachi is notorious for its volatile law and order situation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) statistics indicate that the rest of the province isn’t much better either – around 1,162 people have been killed in the first 10 months of the year. HRCP’s Sindh Task Force issued a report on the eve of United Nations Human Rights Day. It paints a very bleak picture of the situation in the areas outside of Karachi as well. The reports states that 772 men, 310 women and 78 children were killed. Among them, 99 men, 146 women and 10 children were killed in the name of honour. Some people also lost their lives in tribal conflicts. “The number of overall killings has gone up from the previous year, when the figure remained within three digits,” HRCP’s coordinator for Sindh Task Force, Ashothama Lohano, told The Express Tribune. In addition to the murders, 305 people committed suicide while another 180 were unsuccessful in taking their own lives. Men are more suicidal than women or children, with 181 killing themselves and 90 attempting to do so. “More deaths occurred in the areas hit by floods this year or those recovering from the natural calamity from last year,” said Lohano. The report indicates a drop in the incidents of karo kari (honour killing). In 2011, more than 600 incidents were reported from the province, but the figure for this year has dipped to 255. “Interestingly, the killing of women has dropped more dramatically than of men,” Lohano said, adding that 99 men and 146 women were among the victims of this crime. There was also a considerable decrease in rape cases this year with 131 cases reported so far – almost half the number as compared to 2011. About 65 children and 63 women were victims of such incidents.
By: Yasser Latif HamdaniAfter the Lahore High Court’s verdict, Mr Sharif’s bravado is calculated to rally the people of Punjab behind the PML-N ‘Shahinshah-e-Punjab’ Shahbaz Sharif is the great Muslim ruler of the mighty province of Punjab in this ‘Islamic’ Republic of ours, or at least he likes to think so. He thinks and acts not as the elected chief executive of the largest province of the country, responsible to the provincial Assembly, but more as a despotic Mughal emperor. Maybe the ‘Hakim-e-Ala’ has heard the saying of the Ummayad Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz who said that he was responsible even for a dog starving on the banks of Dajla. Religious minorities, forced or otherwise, in the province of Punjab are treated worse than even animals. At least that is what Chief Minister Sharif’s conduct makes us believe. The last years of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) government in Punjab have been the worst for religious minorities in the province since the bloodletting in the immediate aftermath of partition in 1947. Then at least you had men like Iftikhar Mamdot, Mian Iftikharuddin and Sir Francis Mudie in the government of Punjab who made every effort to stem the massacre of Hindus and Sikhs. Mr Sharif’s government is either unable or unwilling to act. Consider the plight of the much maligned and hated Ahmadi community. The May 2010 attacks on Ahmadis as well as the recent desecration of graves happened in a one-mile radius of the chief minister’s residence. To date no security has been provided to the Ahmadis. Should we be surprised? This is the same chief minister under whose watch the Auqaaf department holds regular government funded conferences against this community. Ahmadis are not the only community at the receiving end of this government’s ‘anti-minorities’ policy. The ethnic cleansing of Christians in Gojra in 2009 happened during this government’s tenure. Countless Christians and Hindus have suffered under this government, the latest being the Swedish Christian NGO worker who was shot the same day as the desecration of the Ahmadis’ graves, again a stone’s throw away from the chief minister’s residence. Countless places of worship have been destroyed in the name of development. A church (not to mention the beautiful Kufic Kalima Chowk sculpture) on Ferozepur Road razed to make way for the concrete monstrosity that Mr Sharif says is a flyover. Even the parking plaza in Liberty market was built on the United Christian Hospital’s property in flagrant violation of the Protection of Communal Properties Ordinance of 2001. Nor has Mr Sharif even tried to justify his prejudiced policy. Not long ago, he appealed to the Taliban that they should spare Punjab because the Punjab government had the same objectives as them. Now his party’s alliances with the sectarian anti-Shia organisations have become known. Just so that we are clear, Mr Sharif’s development record does not inspire any confidence either. First of all the blatant favouritism for Lahore at the cost of the rest of Punjab in terms of development funds is itself indicative of the lopsidedness of this government. Really, Mr Sharif is better suited to be Lahore City Nazim than the chief minister of a province that on its own is also the 40th largest economy in the world. However, even in terms of Lahore, his record is abysmal not just on the security and law and order front. Consider his rapid bus transit system. The whole of Lahore rues the day he went to Istanbul and got this fantastical idea. Turkey has a lot to offer to Pakistan in terms of how a Muslim majority society can reconcile with modernity but the rapid bus transit system is not one of those things. The essential issue in Lahore is of space, which meant that any transit system would either have to be a monorail or a subway system. Our solution in this case lay in looking eastwards to that great city of the subcontinent: Delhi. Instead the chief minister has created an eyesore, which will remain an eyesore and not solve the traffic problems of the city. Given the urgency of elections, the work on the panacea of all our traffic problems has been accelerated. This has brought untold misery on the hapless residents of this once great city who every morning are forced to calculate alternative routes to their destinations only to find alternative routes also dug up. There has to be an impartial investigation and analysis of the total costs of this bus transit project, i.e. not just the cost of building, which is allegedly close to Rs 100 billion, but the social cost, i.e. environmental pollution and other hidden costs such as the fuel costs that have been incurred as a result of continuous traffic jams in the city. I do not hold a brief for the Chaudhries of Punjab who had their own shortcomings, but one cannot help but feel that Lahore was a much better governed city under them. A clue to his predicament comes from Mr Sharif’s recent statements regarding the Kalabagh Dam. After the Lahore High Court’s verdict, Mr Sharif’s bravado is calculated to rally the people of Punjab behind the PML-N. Having miserably failed in providing even the most basic form of government to the people of Punjab, do not be surprised if he continues to talk about the Kalabagh Dam because the citizens of Punjab are likely to be fooled by that promise. It is the personal opinion of this writer that the Kalabagh Dam should be made but it should not become a cheap slogan for electioneering, either for or against. All the parties concerned know that the Kalabagh Dam is unlikely to see the light of day but it is a good issue to play politics over.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Jinnah; Myth and Reality. He can be contacted via twitter @therealylh and through his email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Frontier PostAfter the initial arrests of the drivers transporting three-containers full of chicken meat, the Peshawar district authorities have not taken any action to apprehend the owner of the warehouse, the supplier of the unhealthy chicken meat and the proprietors of food outlets in the city who were to cater the same to their valued but unsuspecting customers. The containers were despatched from Punjab and the chickens, which were said to have died of natural causes and then sliced to pieces, were to be distributed to hotels of the Khyber Pakthunkhwa metropolis. The first concern is religious. Animals and birds dying of natural causes are not kosher according to Muslim jurisprudence. The second concern is health: According to the officials who seized the containers from a warehouse on Chamkani Road, the chicken meat had gone stale and the odour was so intense that the raiding personnel could not stand it. It is obvious that the said chicken meat was not fit for human or even animal consumption and yet it was to be supplied to hotels, restaurants and fast food joints and fed to customers. These customers would have been paying many times more for the unhealthy food than they would have spent if they had cooked freshly slaughtered chicken at their homes. The three containers could not have contained less then about thirty to sixty kilograms of stale and unhealthy chicken meat. Supply of such quantity of the stale chicken leads one to suspect that most of the hotels and fast food joints were to get the same. The reason for this belief is that all food outlets have long-term contracts with suppliers and that no supplier would in his right mind transport perishable goods unless he has confirmed buyers. This creates the notion that the supply of unhealthy chicken may have been going on for quite sometime. Nobody knows for how long the people of Peshawar have been paying high prices in trendy outlets for unhealthy food treated with vinegar and spices to kill the odour. Yet unhealthy and stale chicken meat is not the only food item transported to this province from Punjab. There have, also been instances of unhealthy beef and mutton arriving from that province, also. We did not see the official outrage in the case of stale beef and mutton and by the inaction, it seems, we would see no action in this recent incident. Such illegal operations cannot run either without official patronage or without the active cooperation of those who cater to the end-user. Nevertheless, the high officials have not taken upon themselves to direct and supervise action in this regard. We, it seems, have lost all our religious and health sensitivities. After all what goes around comes around: it seems senseless, but it seems anyway, that those on the high posts in the provincial government think that they and their families can avoid eating this non-kosher and unhealthy food. Whatever, those in government choose for themselves, The Frontier Post and the people of Peshawar demand that action should be immediately taken in this regard and all the culprits responsible for this horrendous crime be apprehended. For once we will like to see a meaningful action against the criminals who have lost all sensitivities to peoples’ religious feelings the care for their health.
Radio PakistanDirector General of UNESCO Irina Bokova and Federal Minister Sheikh Waqas signed the document at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. President Asif Ali Zardari was also present on the occasion. Pakistan will provide seed money of 10 million dollars for the fund. Under the agreement‚ the UNESCO will strengthen cooperation with the ministries of education of all the countries. Later‚ addressing joint news conference along with Director General UNESCO Irina Bokova in Paris on Monday‚ the President said the Government is committed to empowering women. He said the democratic Government is taking all possible measures for this purpose. He said policy of women empowerment is in line with the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. The President said women are being encouraged in all spheres of life in Pakistan. The Director General UNESCO said education is basic right of every child including girls. She said no country can achieve sustainable progress without promoting education.