Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Madonna - Papa Don't Preach

Police to question Jackie Chan on gun claims

Police are to question action movie star Jackie Chan over his claim that he once used "guns and grenades" to fend off triad members.
The actor made the claim in the same interview with a mainland magazine in which he controversially suggested the government restrict Hong Kong people's freedom to demonstrate. Chan said he and other actors used to be bullied by triad members, who used guns to threaten them and extort money. "In the past, when they bullied me, I hid in the United States. They opened fire at me once I got off the aeroplane. From that moment on, I needed to carry a gun every day when I went out. When I returned to Hong Kong and ate outside, more than 20 people surrounded me with melon knives," he said. "I pulled out a gun, and had two more concealed. I told them they had been going too far and that I had been hiding from them. Later on, I confronted them with two guns and six grenades," he was quoted as saying. He did not elaborate on when the events happened and how the confrontations ended. Chan did not say if he still carries a gun when going out. Chan also condoned some forms of robbery. "As long as there are people, there are thieves," he said. "If you can get away with gold from HSBC without hurting anyone, that's wonderful, and I think you are a genius. But it is unforgivable to injure anyone if you hold hostages." A police spokesman said they would follow up on the remarks. A source said officers were trying to contact Chan. Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said it would be difficult for police to collect evidence, as Chan could be making up the claims. "Even if he says he had guns, or even if somebody saw them, it would not be enough. There would have to be proof they were real," he said. Possession of firearms without a licence can bring penalties of up to 14 years' in jail. Chan could not be reached for comment.

Mursi opponents protest over Egypt’s Islamist-backed charter

Egypt’s opposition launched fresh protests on Tuesday in a last-ditch bid to scuttle a draft constitution pushed by President Mohammed Mursi and his Islamist backers ahead of a second round of voting.
Hundreds of people had already begun gathering in Cairo by late afternoon ahead of the evening rallies, AFP correspondents reported. The biggest were set for outside the presidential palace and in the capital’s iconic protest hub Tahrir Square as the opposition sought to mobilize voters against the draft charter in Saturday’s second leg. Islamist President Mohamed Mursi obtained a 57 percent "yes" vote for the constitution in initial voting on Saturday, his party said, less than he had hoped for. The result is likely to embolden the opposition, which says the law is too Islamist, although the second round is expected to result in another "yes", while underlining the deep divisions that have riven Egypt since Hosni Mubarak's fall. A group of top judges, meanwhile, announced on Monday it would boycott supervision of the second round, and Germany said it has postponed debt relief for Egypt because of concerns over the country’s commitment to democracy. Adding to the complications for Mursi, the prosecutor general named by the president as he temporarily assumed sweeping powers last month handed in his resignation, a judicial source told AFP. “The prosecutor general has submitted his resignation under pressure from protesters,” said the source, referring to magistrates who have been clamouring for his immediate departure. The Supreme Judicial Council will examine prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah’s resignation next Sunday, a day after the second and final round of voting in the referendum, the source said. The opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, urged Egyptians to “take to the streets on Tuesday to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution” ahead of the second round. It claimed “irregularities and violations” marred the initial stage of the referendum last weekend across half of Egypt that Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood said resulted in a 57 percent “yes” vote, according to its unofficial tally. On the legal front, the State Council Judges Club, whose members took part in overseeing the first round as required by law, said it would boycott next Saturday’s vote because the authorities had failed to live up to their promises. The association has demanded that a “siege” of the Supreme Constitutional Court by Brotherhood supporters be lifted. But the action has continued without any intervention by the authorities, it said. In Germany, a spokesman for the overseas development ministry said a plan to forgive up to 240 million euros ($316 million) of Cairo’s debt had been delayed indefinitely. Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel said earlier he had serious reservations. “There is the danger that the dictatorial system of ousted president (Hosni) Mubarak is returning,” he told the daily Berliner Zeitung. Niebel said Berlin had cancelled talks on development aid scheduled for mid-December and that future assistance was dependent on Egypt’s progress toward democracy and the rule of law. Also increasing the pressure, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Salvation Front’s coordinator and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, renewed his call for Mursi to cancel the referendum altogether and enter talks with the opposition. “Last chance: cancel the ill-reputed referendum and begin a dialogue to close the rift,” he wrote on Twitter, although a spokesman for ElBaradei’s group said the comment was not a call to boycott the second round. Large protests both for and against the proposed constitution have been staged during the past three weeks, sparking violent clashes and revealing deep divisions in society over Mursi’s rule. Early this month, eight people were killed and more than 600 hurt when rival protesters fought outside the presidential palace in Cairo. The opposition says the constitution weakens human rights, especially those of women, and undermines the independence of judges while strengthening the military. It fears Islamists propelled into power after a revolution last year that toppled Mubarak’s 30-year regime want to establish sharia-style laws. Mursi, though, argues the slender majority he won in June presidential elections gives him a mandate for change and that the draft constitution is a key step to securing stability. The opposition claims Saturday’s first round of the referendum, which took place in the biggest cities of Cairo and Alexandria and in eight other regions, had numerous violations. Those included monitors not being allowed into some polling stations, judges not present in all as required and some fake judges employed, and women prevented in some cases from casting their ballot.

U.S: ''3 tragedies, 3 presidents, 13 years''


Will the US ever change its gun laws?

We analyse the failure of US gun control laws in preventing recurring mass shootings.
Barack Obama, the US president, has had to make speeches like this three times already during his tenure, consoling communities where mass killings had taken place. The said mass murders took place in Tucson in Arizona, Fort Hood in Texas and Aurora in Colorado.But it was only after last week's killing of 20 children aged six and seven in Connecticut that Obama said it was time for action. "Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I've been reflecting on this the last few days and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough, and we'll have to change," he said. While Obama did not use the word "gun" in his speech to members of the Newtown, Massachusetts community, gun control has now become the focus of discussion. The US has the highest gun ownership per capita in the world – nine guns for every 10 Americans.On Friday morning, 26 people were killed after a gunman carrying a high-powered military-style rifle and other guns stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, was armed with four weapons and a semi-automatic rifle with dozens of high-velocity rounds – all of which were obtained legally by his mother. Lanza also killed his mother and took his own life.An investigation by Mother Jones into US mass shootings over the last 30 years found that in 80 per cent of 62 incidents, the guns were obtained legally; while in 11 incidents they were obtained illegally. As for the type of guns, the investigation found 66 semi-automatic handguns were used in the shootings, 35 assault weapons, 20 revolvers and 17 shotguns. Gun control opponents say guns should not be blamed for the actions of a person. While acknowledging there was no one answer to ending this type of violence, Obama said more had to be done. Is more stringent gun control the answer to preventing mass shootings in the US? Joining the discussion with presenter Shihab Rattansi on Inside Story Americas are guests: Adam Winkler, a specialist in US constitutional law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America; Mark Follman, a senior editor at Mother Jones which has done a special report on mass shootings in the US; and Christian Heyne, a grassroots coordinator for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. The National Rifle Association (NRA), the main gun lobby in the US, declined Al Jazeera's invitation to join the discussion. "We have to be happy that a conversation is taking place. So many times when these shootings take place, for some reason there's this push to take guns off the table, we can't talk about the mechanism in which these mass shootings take place [but] that's not happening this time maybe because of the horrific nature of [this crime]."

Egyptian Opposition marches to protest poll violations, reject draft constitution

Opposition groups holding multiple marches in Cairo on Tuesday to condemn polling violation during first phase of constitutional poll, rejecting draft charter
Hundreds of protesters march in Cairo on Tuesday to condemn violations during the first phase of the constitutional referendum and to reject the draft charter. A few hundred protesters kicked off the march at 4pm from El-Nour and Rabaa El-Adawya mosque in Nasr City, heading to the presidential palace in Heliopolis.
While two marches starting from Shubra Square and Cairo's Mohandessin Mostafa Mahmoud mosque are on their way to Tahrir. The marches were called for by the National Salvation Front (NSF), an umbrella organization of opposition groups, to "prevent the forging of the voters’ will." The Egyptian Popular Current, a member of the NSF, called for Tuesday's marches to continue to the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) headquarters after they converge at the presidential palace. A march in Giza's working class district of Imbaba is also scheduled for 7pm local time to encourage residents to vote against the constitution referendum on Saturday, 22 December. The march was called for by ten political groups, including the Revolutionary Socialists, Strong Egypt Party, the Six April Youth Movement and Socialist Popular Alliance to denounce what they described as "the Brotherhood's constitution." Unofficial results show 56.5 per cent voted in favour of the referendum in the first phase of the referendum on 15 December. Voter turnout was around 31 per cent, according to reports. The NSF said 1500 violations were officially reported with the police and 7400 were documented by rights monitors during voting on Saturday. The NSF said the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), headed by Judge Zaghloul El-Balshi, should investigate the violations. Violations included banning monitors from entering some polling stations, delaying voting and a general lack of judicial supervision at polling stations. There were also reports of supervisors falsely identifying themselves as judges. The SEC on Monday said it would investigate reports of violations and announce its findings at the same time as the referendum results. A majority of judges refused to oversee the ballot in protest at President Mohamed Morsi's 22 November constitutional decree. Members of the higher council of the Egyptian State Council's judges club on Monday said they would not supervise the second phase of the poll due to the violations committed in the first phase. The Egyptian State Council was one of the few judicial authorities that had agreed to supervise the referendum. The Judges Club’s general assembly boycotted the election and before the poll claimed 90 per cent of its member would refrain from overseeing the poll. The NSF has called for the second phase of voting to be postponed because the lack of judicial supervision makes an honest vote impossible. However, it is still calling for Egyptians to take part in the poll and vote ‘No'. Many groups rejected Egypt’s draft charter well before the referendum dates were announced. The opposition and other independent groups said Islamists were monopolising the drafting process, and thus produced a draft constitution that will deter many freedoms should it be ratified. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups dominated the Constituent Assembly, especially after a number of liberals, leftists and independents resigned. President Morsi, who was a long-term member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is accused of dividing the nation after he ignored calls for the draft constitution to be rewritten by a more inclusive assembly. The second phase of the referendum will take place in 17 governorates on 22 December, including in Giza which has the second highest number of voters after Cairo.

Estonia has the highest rate of single mothers living in poverty in Europe

Social welfare policy experts, who recently convened in Brussels, noted that according to statistics, 17% of women in the EU live in poverty, writes LETA/Eesti Päevaleht. In terms of single parents’ poverty, Estonia’s indicators are among the worst in Europe.If one were to take into account personal income, not household income, 36% of women live in poverty. In terms of single parents’ poverty, Estonia’s indicators are among the worst in Europe: data collected a few years ago demonstrate that more than 50% of single mothers lived at risk of poverty and slightly more than 40% of single fathers were in the same position. The average poverty-risk indicator in Europe, at the same time, was 27% for single mothers and approximately 23% for single fathers. MP Helmen Kütt who has been working as a social worker for years, also stated that when compiling budgets in Estonia, women’s circumstances are not taken into account, nor is the budgets’ impact on women and their children. “Riigikogu and local governments are shaped according to the image of men, while poverty has the image of a woman,” she said. “We also cut back on a number of benefits that are important for single mothers during the difficult times, for example abolishing the school-bag benefits,” she pointed out.

India: Time to be ashamed

Perhaps the real tragedy we must contemplate, as we consider the story of the young woman who now lies in a Delhi hospital bed battling for her life after being brutally beaten and gang-raped Sunday night, is this: in six months or less, she will have been forgotten. There will, by then, have been the next victim, and the one after — and absolutely nothing will have changed. Ever since Sunday’s savage crime, India’s political leadership has been loudly engaged in what it appears to believe is advocacy of women’s rights — in the main, dramatic but meaningless calls for summary trials, castration and mandatory death penalties. The same leaders will, if past record proves a guide, do absolutely nothing to actually address the problem. For all the noise that each gang-rape has provoked, Parliament has made no worthwhile progress towards desperately-needed legal reforms. Even nuts-and-bolts measures, like enhanced funding for forensic investigations, upgrading training of police to deal with sexual crimes, and making expert post-trauma support available to victims, are conspicuous by their absence. How does one account for the strange contrast between our outrage about rape — and our remarkable unwillingness, as a society, to actually do anything about it? For one, we are far more widely complicit in crimes against women than we care to acknowledge. The hideous gang-rape in Delhi is part of the continuum of violence millions of Indian women face every single day; a continuum that stretches from sexual harassment in public spaces and the workplace to physical abuse that plays itself out in the privacy of our homes far more often than on the street. Nor is it true, secondly, that Delhi is India’s “rape capital.” There are plenty of other places in India with a higher incidence of reported rape, in population adjusted terms — and Delhi’s record on convicting perpetrators is far higher than the national average. Third, this is not a problem of policing alone. As Professor Ratna Kapur argues in an op-ed article in this newspaper today, there is something profoundly wrong in the values young men are taught in our society — values which bind the parental preference for a male child to the gang of feral youth who carried out Sunday’s outrage or the hundreds of thousands of husbands who were battering their wives that same night. Finally, India’s society rails against rape, in the main, not out of concern for victims but because of the despicable notion that a woman’s body is the repository of family honour. It is this honour our society seeks to protect, not individual women. It is time for us as a people to feel the searing shame our society has until now only imposed on its female victims.

Obama backs bill to ban assault weapons

US President Barack Obama is backing a new bill to revive an assault weapons ban and other new gun laws, the White House says.
Obama has called an ardently pro-gun senator who has shifted his position on firearms laws since Friday's school massacre in Connecticut and has begun meeting top cabinet officials to consider his options, his spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday. The killings of 26 people, including 20 children, at a Newtown elementary school traumatised Americans, and may have shifted the political debate on firearms in US society, after years of gun lobby ascendancy. Carney said that Obama is "actively supportive" of an effort by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein to write a bill early next year to reintroduce a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. Obama aides have said after previous gun crimes that the president supports reintroducing a ban on deadly arms like the one used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza, but he has never put personal political muscle behind such a push.Carney said Obama would also interested in any move to ban high-capacity clips -- magazines that hold dozens of rounds -- and close the so-called "gun show loophole" that allows unlicensed individuals to sell guns privately. "He is heartened ... by what we have all heard from some members of Congress who have been long-time opponents of gun control measures, common-sense gun control measures like the assault weapons ban and the like," Carney said. Feinstein has said her bill would ban by name at least 100 military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, and would curb the transfer, importation and the possession of such arms. "It's going to be strong, and it's going to be definitive," she said. But once the outrage from the Newtown massacre fades, prospects for Feinstein's bill remain uncertain and every piece of legislation is subject to intense amendment and pressure from various lobby groups. But the California senator said that the tragedy was so acute in Newtown, a "sea change" in gun politics was possible. "This is so graphic in people's minds, the smallness and beauty of these children, is so graphic, the loss is so dramatic," she said. The most well known gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, spoke up about the school carnage for the first time on Tuesday, saying it was "shocked" and pledging to hold a news conference on Friday. "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," it said. On Monday, the White House said Obama did not yet have a "specific" agenda on gun control, but would begin a dialogue with Americans on a broad approach to the issue within weeks. But it said that Obama's pledge on Sunday that gun tragedies "must end" could only be realised in part by gun control. To that end, he met Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday to discuss a "comprehensive" effort, possibly including new efforts to stop the mentally ill from getting guns. Obama also Tuesday called West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a pro-gun politician who has suggested he may back an assault weapons ban, following the trauma of Newtown. Americans meanwhile deeply affected by gun violence gathered to pressure politicians in Washington for change, under the auspices of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Andrei Nikitchyuk, father of a boy who escaped from the school in Newtown, called for "immediate change" as he stood with campaigners who had lost loved ones in shootings including those at Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colorado. "We all need to speak up, let's unite, stop this partisan division. It's not a partisan issue," he said. America has suffered an epidemic of gun violence over the last three decades, including 62 mass shooting sprees since 1982, three of the deadliest in the second half of this year alone. The vast majority of weapons used have been semi-automatic handguns or military-style assault weapons obtained legally by the killers. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and many political leaders are pro-gun for political and philosophical reasons, though there are signs some positions are softening. "We need to accept the reality that we're not doing enough to protect our citizens," Senate Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday.

Opinion: Until When Can We Tolerate More Newtown Shootings?

Several days have gone by and it's still difficult to comprehend what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Seeing the pictures of the little ones that died and hearing the stories of some of the parents describing what their children mean to them, it's inevitable to feel their pain. We're talking about children who were 6 and 7 years old, just beginning their lives, still learning the difference between right and wrong. They were children who might have been scared of the dark or of monsters under the bed. But they probably never imagined that an assault rifle's bullet would ripple through their little bodies and take their lives. It's not the first school shooting but it's one of those tragic events that become a turning point. There's a before and after. It won't be the same sending our children to school without thinking even if for a brief moment, that we might not see them again. Schools can no longer be seen as a place where our children are safe. A teacher will not only have to prepare to educate children but to protect them as well.We can no longer just sit and lament one more tragic event. We have to do everything in our power to prevent it from happening again. Just as so many things changed after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, drastic measures need to be taken to protect us from the devastation caused by weapons. Be it in a school or in a movie theater or in a shopping mall or on our neighborhood streets across the country, the danger is palpable. More security is a good start but it's not enough. We have to give more importance to mental illnesses, detect signs of a disturbed mind and offer the adequate treatment and protection. As parents, we have to be more aware of the influence that movies, television shows or violent video games that desensitize our kids can have on a fragile mind. But more than anything as a nation we have to make drastic changes when it comes to the access of firearms. I'm tired of hearing those who defend possession of weapons say that it's not guns who kill people, but the people who kill people. Yes, it takes a human being to pull the trigger but if he didn't have that weapon, the result would be different. The Constitution of this country gives Americans the right to bear arms, but the intention of the Second Amendment written more than two centuries ago was to allow citizens to defend themselves in their homes, not to go out and indiscriminately kill innocent people. There are a series of measures that can be taken, if not to prevent, to at least reduce the number of deaths by firearms. President Barack Obama addressed the issue during the religious ceremony in Newtown two days after the tragedy: "We can't tolerate this anymore, these tragedies have to end. And to end them we must change." Without directly mentioning gun control Obama said that in the coming weeks he would use the power of his office to prevent tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary. The president does not have the power to change the Constitution nor write legislation, but what he can do is pressure Congress to change the laws to make it harder to obtain a firearm. In this country weapons that are designed to kill the enemy in a combat situation should not end up in the hands of mentally ill or disturbed individuals. It can't be easier to buy a weapon than to adopt a pet. And it should not be as easy to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet as it is to buy a bouquet of flowers. As citizens we can also make a difference. We can pressure our elected officials to pass stricter gun laws. If we don't, the deaths of 20 innocent children and five teachers will have been in vain. May they rest in peace.

Saudi says women banned from flight jobs

Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow its women to work as stewardesses on its passenger aircraft because of social barriers, its aviation chief has said. “There are no plans for the time being to allow Saudi women to work as stewardesses or take up other flight jobs because of social and legal reasons,” said Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Mohammed, head of the Saudi Aviation Authority. Quoted by the London-based Saudi Arabic language daily Alhayat, he said Saudi women had been allowed to work at flight ground services and airports through the Gulf Kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter with a population of 28 million. “We are undertaking efforts to allow Saudi women to get new jobs that will fulfill their ambitions,” said Prince Fahd, also chairman of Saudia Airlines. Women cannot drive cars and are still banned from many jobs in Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative Moslem nations.

Obama rejects GOP 'fiscal cliff' backup plan

White House says Republican John Boehner's "Plan B" proposal does not put enough tax burden on wealthiest Americans.

Egypt opposition protests against constitution

Opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi staged protests in Cairo on Tuesday against an Islamist-backed draft constitution that has divided Egypt but looks set to be approved in the second half of a referendum this weekend. Several hundred protesters outside the presidential palace chanted "Revolution, revolution, for the sake of the constitution" and called on Mursi to "Leave, leave, you coward!". While the protest was noisy, numbers were down on previous demonstrations. Mursi obtained a 57 percent "yes" vote for the constitution in the first part of the referendum last weekend, state media said, less than he had hoped for. The opposition, which says the law is too Islamist, will be encouraged by the result but is unlikely to win the second part this Saturday, which is to be held in districts seen as even more sympathetic towards Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood. The National Salvation Front opposition coalition said there were widespread voting violations last Saturday and called for protests to "bring down the invalid draft constitution". The Ministry of Justice said it was appointing judges to investigate complaints of voting irregularities. Opposition marchers converged on Tahrir Square, cradle of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak almost two years ago, and Mursi's presidential palace, still ringed with tanks after earlier protests. A protester at the presidential palace, Mohamed Adel, 30, said: "I have been camping here for weeks and will continue to do so until the constitution that divided the nation, and for which people died, gets scrapped." The build up to the first day of voting saw clashes between supporters and opponents of Mursi in which eight people died. Recent demonstrations in Cairo have been more peaceful, although rival factions clashed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city. RESIGNATION Egypt's public prosecutor resigned under pressure from his opponents in the judiciary, dealing a blow to Mursi and drawing an angry response from his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement on its Facebook page, the Islamist group that propelled Mursi to power in an election in June, said the enforced departure of public prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim was a "crime" and authorities should not accept the resignation. Further signs of opposition to Mursi emerged when a judges' club urged its members not to supervise Saturday's vote. But the call is not binding and balloting is expected to go ahead. If the constitution is passed, national elections can take place early next year, something many hope will help end the turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the fall of Mubarak. The closeness of the first referendum vote and low turnout give Mursi scant comfort as he seeks to assemble support for difficult economic reforms. "This percentage ... will strengthen the hand of the National Salvation Front and the leaders of this Front have declared they are going to continue this fight to discredit the constitution," said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University. Mursi is likely to become more unpopular with the introduction of planned austerity measures, Sayyid told Reuters. To tackle the budget deficit, the government needs to raise taxes and cut fuel subsidies. Uncertainty surrounding economic reform plans has already forced the postponement of a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The Egyptian pound has fallen to eight-year lows against the dollar. Mursi and his backers say the constitution is needed to move Egypt's democratic transition forward. Opponents say the document is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and of minorities, including Christians who make up 10 percent of the population. Demonstrations erupted when Mursi awarded himself extra powers on November 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through an assembly dominated by his Islamist allies and boycotted by many liberals. The referendum has had to be held over two days because many of the judges needed to oversee polling staged a boycott in protest. In order to pass, the constitution must be approved by more than 50 percent of those voting.

Deadly year for journalists worldwide

The year 2012 is likely to be one of the deadliest for journalists around the world, with at least 67 killed while doing their jobs, a US-based media rights group said on Tuesday. The Committee to Protect Journalists said the number of deaths is up 42 percent from last year, due in large part to the Syria conflict, shootings in Somalia, violence in Pakistan and killings of reporters in Brazil. “With 67 journalists killed in direct relation to their work by mid-December, 2012 is on track to become one of the deadliest years since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992,” the New York-based committee said. The worst year on record for journalist killings was 2009, when 74 individuals were confirmed dead because of their work, nearly half of them slain in a massacre in Maguindanao province, Philippines, according to CPJ. CPJ also said it was investigating the deaths of 30 additional journalists in 2012 to establish whether they were work-related. “Internet journalists were hit harder than ever, while the proportion of freelancers was again higher than the historical average,” the group said in its yearly report. Syria was by far the deadliest country in 2012, with 28 journalists killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces, CPJ said. In addition, one journalist covering the Syrian conflict was killed just over the border in Lebanon. Worldwide, the vast majority of victims, 94 percent, were local journalists covering events in their own countries, a proportion roughly in line with historical figures. Four international journalists were killed in 2012, all of them in Syria: Marie Colvin, an American who wrote for the Sunday Times of London; French freelance photographer Remi Ochlik; France 2 reporter Gilles Jacquier; and Japan Press journalist Mika Yamamoto. Other organizations do separate calculations of journalist deaths. Last year, Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign said at least 106 journalists were killed in 2011, among them 20 who reported on the Arab spring uprising.

Pakistan and 5 Female Polio Workers killed is the Legacy of Saudi Arabia, UK and US: Now Aimed at Syria.

By Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker
In any nation where you have radical Sunni Islamists intent on killing, then barbarity is only around the corner. This applies to killing minority Muslim groups, persecuting non-Muslims, attacking women and a host of unsavory factors which bind Islamic jihadists together. Therefore, the murder of five female polio workers and one male worker in Pakistan isn’t a surprise. After all, this is the typical Islamist mindset which only knows how to butcher and to turn the clock back to “year zero.” Given this reality, then the criminal act in killing health workers on the grounds of jihad, sums up the warped logic of a religious movement which is intent on crushing all alternative thought patterns. In a world based on logic, then these health workers would be praised for dedicating their lives for the good of humanity. Yet logic within the mindset of Islamic jihadists is not only thin on the ground but it is equally neo-primitive to an extreme. However, if we turn the clock back to the early 1980s then nations like America, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom supported radical Sunni Islamists against communist Afghanistan. This meant that special operatives from within the CIA representing America and the ISI from Pakistan, and other operatives from nations like the United Kingdom, enabled international Islamists to get a foothold in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The upshot of all this was that a nightmare was created and today the world is witnessing this ongoing nightmare. It is abundantly clear that the roots of September 11 are connected with the political naivety and crassness of nations like America and the United Kingdom. After all, it is clear that Saudi Arabia and the elites within Pakistan in the 1980s were intent on spreading Islamism based on religious and political factors. Yet for America and the United Kingdom it was about “turning the Islamist clock on and off” to when it suited. Of course, the events of September 11 woke America up briefly but under the Obama administration it is clear that the “Islamist clock is being turned on” once more. The same now applies to nations like France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. After all, these nations are now behind many atrocities in Syria. This applies to killing religious minorities, killing pro-Sunni supporters of the government, beheading people, daily car bombings, torturing Syrian soldiers and a plethora of crimes against humanity. Indeed, in the last few weeks many images coming out of Syria highlight the fact that children are now being indoctrinated just like in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet, just like the crisis in Afghanistan in the 1980s it is major Western nations, along with powerful Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding this hatred in Syria. The upshot of all this, is that now small children are being taught by various Islamist terrorist groups and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to behead and torture pro-government individuals and Syrian soldiers. Alongside this, children in Syria under the control of the FSA and various Islamist factions are being taught to hate mainstream Sunni Muslims, Alawites, the Shia, Christians and members of the Druze community. Turning back to the recent brutal murder of five female polio workers and one male member, then this hatred was ignited by the deeds of outside nations and the political elites in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s. This was supported by Islamist indoctrination which spread sectarianism, terrorism and the persecution of women. However, this was tolerated and supported by America, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and other nations, because of various factors in the past. Yet, you can’t “switch off radical Islamism” to suit the agenda of the day and September 11 was further evidence of this. Despite this, political elites in Ankara, Doha, London, Paris, Riyadh and Washington are now working together alongside international jihadists and Islamist indoctrination in Syria. This means that the secular government of Syria is fighting for its survival and the same applies to mainstream Sunni Islam and all minority faiths, which are deemed to be infidels in the eyes of Salafi Islamists. If individuals want to see the consequences of supporting such a brutal policy, then one only needs to look at Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to see the future. Therefore, while the five Pakistan polio health workers were killed in late 2012 in and around Karachi, it is abundantly clear that the evil forces unleashed in the 1980s by outside nations and elites within Pakistan, are equally to blame for unleashing radical Islamism. In this sense, the brutal murder of these health workers ties in with the unfolding events of the last 40 years in this part of Asia. Similarly, the brutal video of a child hacking at the head of a captured Syrian soldier would have been unimaginable until recent times in this country. Yet, once more, outside nations like America, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Qatar are all “switching on the Islamist clock” in order to crush secular Syria. This reality means that the madness of Afghanistan and Pakistan is now being replicated in Syria by the usual players.

Pentagon to reimburse $688mn to Pakistan

The Pentagon quietly notified Congress this month that it would reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of stationing 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan, an effort to normalise support for the Pakistani military after nearly two years of crises and mutual retaliation, The New York Times reported. According to the report, the United States also provides about $2 billion in annual security assistance, roughly half of which goes to reimburse Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism. Until now, many of these reimbursements, called coalition support funds, have been held up, in part because of disputes with Pakistan over the Bin Laden raid, the operations of the CIA, and its decision to block supply lines into Afghanistan last year. The $688 million payment - the first since this summer, covering food, ammunition and other expenses from June through November 2011 - has caused barely a ripple of protest since it was sent to Capitol Hill on Dec 7. The absence of a reaction, American and Pakistani officials say, underscores how relations between the two countries have been gradually thawing since Pakistan reopened the NATO supply routes in July after an apology from the Obama administration for an errant American airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.

Tackling Pakistan’s population time bomb

A high birth rate is not making life any easier for Pakistan’s 180 million people, already affected by political instability, economic stagnation and natural disasters. Internal pressures in the country with the world’s sixth largest population are likely to get worse before they get better: At 2.03 percent Pakistan has the highest population growth rate in South Asia, and its total fertility rate, or the number of children born per woman, is also the highest in the region, at 3.5 percent. By 2030, the government projects that Pakistan’s population will exceed 242 million. The failure to adequately manage demographic growth puts further pressure on the current population, who already lack widespread basic services and social development. Pakistan’s health and education infrastructures are poorly funded, and experts have questioned the quality of what is being provided with existing budgets. With a weak economy and low growth, food insecurity and unemployment present further challenges. “The problem is that if you have a population that is illiterate and does not have proper training, a large segment cannot participate meaningfully in the economy,” said economist Shahid Kardar, a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. “[Based on Pakistan’s population trends], you need a GDP growth rate of 8 percent to employ them.” Pakistan’s GDP growth rate has not exceeded 3.7 percent in the last five years. If population growth is not managed, experts say, it will exacerbate these negative trends as resources are stretched and improvements in service delivery fail to keep up with demand.
Low use of contraception
A further problem is the low awareness and availability of birth control. The contraceptive prevalence rate is only 27 percent, and only 19 percent employ modern methods, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). While demand for contraception has been rising, at least a quarter of that demand remains unmet. “The main effort is a long-term one, to ensure the availability of contraceptives. There is a rising demand for contraceptives, and there is unmet demand. Many couples want to use contraceptives but don’t know about them or can’t access them,” said Shahnaz Wazir Ali, social sector adviser to the prime minister. “So the main priority, with an effort by the public and private sectors, has been to ensure that people know about family planning and can access contraceptives.” Precise data on the participation of the private sector in providing contraceptives and family planning services was not available, but a senior official at Pakistan’s Ministry of Population Welfare put the public-private ratio at 70 percent to 30 percent. “The private sector is a significant player, and its help is necessary in improving population planning,” the official said, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Lack of awareness of family planning techniques
A lack of awareness has cost Mohammed Ghafoor, a 30-year-old taxi driver in Rawalpindi. He is worried about the health of his 10-day-old daughter, and has brought her to the Holy Family Hospital for tests. The newborn daughter is the couple’s fourth child, and their eldest is only six years old. “I drive my taxi from dawn to midnight, and with rising fuel costs, I usually take home around 200 rupees [just over US$2] every night. Now there is another mouth to feed,” Ghafoor said. “We have moved here from Sialkot and don’t have family here, so my wife can’t go to the hospital herself. I didn’t have the time to take her to the doctor.” Ghafoor and his wife do not want more children, and their last two pregnancies were unplanned. They have sought family planning guidance, but another addition to the family has compounded their misery. Every third pregnancy in Pakistan is unplanned, according to a 2011 Wilson Center report on the country’s population issues. “I’ve had to pull my eldest child out of school because I can’t afford it. He cries every day, says he wants to go to school. I tell him we can either eat or he can go to school, and he says he’d rather starve,” said Ghafoor. “How do I make him understand? How do I make this right?”
Population growth increasing poverty
It is this decision ordinary families must make every day in Pakistan that perpetuates the knock-on effect of population growth in a country where economic opportunities are limited. “There is a close association between population and poverty. All evidence points to the fact that if you look at households that are big, there is a strong chance that these households will be poor,” said Rabbi Royan, UNFPA's country representative in Pakistan. “Parents’ resources will have to be spread out for many more children. In a smaller household, they can spend more on fewer children, so there is a better quality of health and education,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for poverty reduction to take place, and reduce the chance of the intergenerational transmission of poverty.” I’ve had to pull my eldest child out of school because I can’t afford it. He cries every day, says he wants to go to school Mohammed Ghafoor, Taxi driver Seven million children of primary school age do not go to school, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says 30 percent of Pakistanis are in a state of “extreme educational poverty” - receiving less than two years of education. The country’s health infrastructure is also struggling to cope with demand, with not enough doctors and a lack of critical facilities in many areas. Only 45 percent of births, for example, were attended by skilled personnel, according to the UNFPA 2012 report on the state of the world’s population.
A demographic dividend?
Pakistan’s failure to adequately manage its population growth and reduce its fertility rate has meant that over the last few decades, the country has become younger. Today, two-thirds of Pakistanis are under the age of 30, and it is one of the largest youth populations in the world. Several senior government officials have described this as a “demographic dividend”, and expressed the hope that this young population can spark growth and bring prosperity to Pakistan. "The prerequisite for a demographic dividend is a decline in the fertility rate. With a fertility rate decline, the ratio of the dependent population to the population that is working gets smaller, so more can be invested into generating growth,” UNFPA’s Royan told IRIN. “If I’m spending less on the education and other needs of my children, I’m saving, which accumulates into the overall saving in the country. That can help spur investment and thus economic growth." Reaping a demographic dividend, experts say, requires significant investments in education, health and infrastructure. Without these efforts, such a population increase can have the opposite effect, with growing frustration and resentment in the segments of the population deprived of basic services and opportunities. “There are very serious, adverse consequences of unplanned, rapid population growth. The resources of the state are limited, and already under pressure; with unplanned growth, demands will be enormous,” said prime ministerial adviser Shahnaz Wazir Ali. “There will be economic consequences, as resources are stretched beyond realistic limits, for housing, food, education, health, jobs and all the infrastructure that goes with it. Despair and frustration among the young can lead to criminal, violent and anti-state activity.”
Risk of extremism?
The Wilson Center’s 2011 study on Pakistan’s population issues echoes this concern, highlighting the country’s failures in education and rising economic disparities as two major factors that contribute to a rise in extremist activity. Stretched resources, increasing demand, a rising population and the instability that comes with it are forcing Pakistan into a vicious circle. “I keep hearing this nonsense about a demographic dividend and a young population. But what have we given this young population? Have we given them a stake in the economy and society?” said economist Kardar. “They look at what’s happening around them and they get frustrated and angry.” “Our demographic dividend is the Taliban.”

Time to quell militancy in Pakistan

By: Khalid Khokhar
Pakistan faces a long-term challenge from Talibanisation, which is, in fact, a gift from Afghanistan that spread from Fata along the Afghan border deeper into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and mainland with Swat becoming a major stronghold for the Pakistani Taliban. Militancy is bolstered by religious, social, and political networks in Pakistan by the spread of conservative nationalist politics. Religious divide and intolerance have increased so much in our society that each religious group is adamant on the righteousness of one’s own religion while interpreting others’ religious views as shrouded in ignorance fraught with the wrath of Allah. Taliban militants wanted to enforce their own brand of laws in the region and started challenging the writ of the government by attacking government buildings, courts and security forces in Buner, Dir and Shangla. The orthodox right-wing political groups support Taliban style of thinking. The Taliban and hard-line political groups in Pakistan are also against those who support the American policies. They want the Pakistan government to change its policies and adopt a friendly attitude towards the Taliban. The leaning of Islamic parties towards the Taliban has emboldened them to attack on national strategic installations as well as resorting to intimidate those who publicly criticize their doctrine. As in the case of Lal Masjid-2007 episode, the two Maulana brothers Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Abdul Aziz, tried to impose an extremist view in the name of propagation of virtue and preventing vice from the society by kidnapping Chinese women they thought to be prostitutes, denying women to drive a car, forcing women to wear veil and forcing the owners of CDs shops to shut their businesses. These acts were not only un-Islamic but also against the spirit of Islam, which teaches humility and tolerance. It was simply a blatant attempt at Talibanisation, which would push the people back into the dark ages in the name of Islam. This scenario necessitates to quell militancy from Pakistan. In order to accomplish the objective, Pakistan armed forces carried out successful operations in Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajaur agencies against terrorists and militants, with full support of the nation articulated by the parliament of Pakistan. The Swat de-radicalisation Programme was a model for other relevant organizations to learn from and replicate. Equally worth mentioning is the efforts of our intelligence agencies that have led to apprehensions of hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives and targeting of their leadership. Pakistani counter-terrorism intelligence efforts at national level have become quite effective in the recent years, but politicians having vested interests are reluctant to muster public support for the war. Owing to brave resistance by Pakistan’s armed forces coupled with effective internal counter-insurgency strategy, the TTP umbrella organization has splintered into smaller factions that often rival one another. In the same milieu, Pakistan has banned 38 organisations that fomented terrorism and sectarianism in the society. The attack on journalists by a Taliban group has given an opportunity for how the de-radicalisation process is to be further embarked upon. Needless to say, there is no military solution to terrorism since military strategy can only provide enabling environment. The menace has to be tackled which warrants a comprehensive response entailing synergy by all elements of national power. Some of the essential features to counter it are: i) Pakistan must keep the Western powers at bay and never allow them any role in this de-radicalisation process. Both the government and the people should be determined to go without it. Raymond Davis’ role in Pakistan is a point in case. ii) “Political will” is a must to defeat terrorism. All political parties must have unflinching commitment to stamp out extremism in national interest of Pakistan. The Islamic parties should convince the Taliban to moderate their behaviour and work within the framework of Pakistan’s Constitution and law. This will be their major positive contribution towards promoting societal harmony and stability in Pakistan. iii) Pakistan Army derives its strength from the people of Pakistan and is answerable to the people and their representatives in parliament, therefore, public support/awareness is a must. Public should be made aware of sacrifices they have to offer in men and material during the course of security forces’ operations. The nation must be prepared to endure the fallout of a counter-insurgency campaign, iv) Armed forces must be provided with every essential weapon/equipment to meet growing threat, v) Intelligence agencies should proactively identify suicide sleeper cadres/cells before initiate any untoward incident of terrorism. More importantly, long-term pathway to address radicalisation process is linked to the process of character-building. One does not require any law to offer five times prayers, behave honestly, speak truthfully, treat others fairly and be morally upright. A particular society through its socialising agents like parents, teachers etc, inculcates these worthy attributes in the individuals. The environmental influences nurture these values and encourage conducive environment for personality progression and growth. ‘Social education’ is instrumental in ‘character building’ which means a bundle of virtues, the highest sense of honour and integrity, and that you will not sell your principles for anything in the world, however tempting it may be. These are the characteristics, which go to make a healthy community. When a crisis arises, if you live up to these virtues, no one on the surface of the earth can defeat you. Coming generations must be developed, and renewal must occur naturally, from within and by democratic means against extremist religious bigoted forces to secure the future of Pakistan.

Malala’s lesson....Malala Yousafzai college

If you were looking to name a school in someone’s honour, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more deserving than Malala Yousufzai.
The 15-year-old Pakistani student was shot in the head in October by the Taliban for criticizing the militant group and for being an advocate for girls’ education. Malala, who is still recovering in a London hospital, was recognized by the renaming of her school in her honour, but apparent concerns by students that they could be targeted by the Taliban sparked a protest last week. It’s reported up to 300 students took part, breaking the sign with the school’s new name, removing photographs of the injured girl and refusing to attend classes.
Malala is a brave girl who has stood up to oppression. Her accomplishments and spirit are such that there’s a global campaign to see her awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The fact her classmates would oppose the renaming of their school in her honour speaks to the Taliban’s barbarism and the fear it instils in decent people. We can only hope that Malala’s schoolmates will find inspiration in the young woman’s courage and do what she did: stand up to oppression and refuse to be cowed. The alternative — to be submissive and bow down to perverse control — would be regrettable indeed.

TIME Person of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai Deserves the Honor

The year 2012 is almost over and it is time once again for someone to grace TIME Magazine’s cover as Person of the Year. As we reflect, we consider current events and those individuals who are making a difference. We consider diplomats, CEOs, leaders and advocates, but we also consider young people. After a tremendously emotional weekend spent reading about the horrors at Sandy Brook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I cannot help but feel all the more certain about the young person I believe should be TIME’s Person of the Year; happily I’m far from alone in this suggestion. Her name is Malala Yousafzai and she is 15 years old. Yousafzai is deserving of the Person of the Year distinction for a number of reasons, some more hauntingly important after recent events. As a young person, she is an inspiration. First, she stood up for her right to attain an education, for which she was brutally attacked by the Taliban on a bus on the way home in Pakistan. She was shot in the head because those with guns were frightened by the prospect of an educated female population. Even though she was aware of the dangers posed, she was assertive when it came to her right to go to school. Here in the U.S., we reacted with shock that a young woman would be shot in her own country for simply wanting an education – a right that Yousafzai believes everyone should have. Yousafzai was interested in becoming a doctor, but her father encouraged her to consider politics, which he believes was an avenue for creating a more progressive society with greater opportunities for future generations. As a millennial, she is a leader and an advocate for change; an inspiration to others around the world. I’m humbled that she is a member of my generation. As Yousafzai recovers from her injury, she is still outspoken about her work to help ensure that other young women attain an education. Here, in the United States, millennials are the most educated, and widely traveled generation in history. Many have friends across the globe with whom they share as strong a bond as they do with their local neighbors – if not stronger. In a global community, stories like Yousafzai's truly resonate, as we embrace our shared dreams and vision. As we strive to contribute, lead and create change, her individual actions stand with the most powerful stories humanity has to tell. For millennials around the world, her actions are an inspiration and a reminder of how hard it can be to follow your dreams. We should all give thanks that, many of us, do not fight for certain rights with a gun to our head. Yet, we cannot shrink from what is hard, and turn our eyes from problems whose complexities mean there is no easy answer. Whenever we think our own work is hard or daunting, we should think of her story.

'Peshawar airport attackers identified'

Provincial Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain Tuesday informed the provincial assembly that identity of terrorists who attacked Bacha Khan Airport and fought fierce gun battle on next day with security forces in a village located in the vicinity of the airport has been ascertained. Speaking in provincial assembly, Information Minister said the blood samples of the killed terrorists have been sent for DNA test and soon reports will be received. About the identity of terrorists, he said among those who were killed during encounter with security forces while attacking airport two were Chechens and three were Pakistanis. While those who were killed in encounter in Pawaka village one was Pakistani, one from Kirghizstan, one from Daghistan, one Uzbek and one Chechen, he added. He said it is very encouraging that public has also raised hands against the terrorists and fully supported the government in fight against militants. Mian Iftikhar said the attackers on Airport were trained people and it seems that militancy has dying down as trained people are usually used as a last option. About the tattoos on the body of killed terrorists, Mian Iftikhar said according to religious scholars such type of paintings on human body are strictly prohibited.

Pakistan income tax: House cleaning

Editorial:By Najam Sethi
According to a joint report by two civil society organizations, nearly 70 per cent of parliamentarians, or 300 out of 446 members of the National Assembly and Senate, did not file income tax returns in 2011. The study found that only 20 of 55 cabinet ministers had filed tax returns, while 49 senators out of 104 paid any income tax. Among the leaders who did not file tax returns were President Asif Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Among those who did, Senator Mushahid Hussain, paid a tax of only Rs 82 in 2011. Eighty members of parliament had no tax number, despite spending crores on getting elected. The report comes on the heels of another by Transparency International on corruption in Pakistan that shows that Pakistan has slipped to 139th position out of 173 countries, making it the 34th most corrupt country in the world. As if this wasn't enough, the chairman of NAB, ex-navy chief, Admiral Fasih Bukhari, has declared that Rs 7 billion is lost to corrupt practices every day in Pakistan. Understandably, the reports have infuriated parliamentarians in general and cabinet members in particular. They insist it is no big deal to file tax returns because their tax is deducted at source when they are paid their salaries. This is also the stock argument of agriculturists whose incomes from tilling the land are not subject to tax. The income tax department is also not pushed to pursue them as tax dodgers because their tax liabilities have seemingly been fulfilled. But the law is clear on the subject: income and wealth returns must be filed by those who earn Rs 42000 or more per month, failing which they are liable to a penalty of up to 25%. According to the Federal Bureau of Revenue, over 3 million people have National Tax Numbers but less than 1 million pay any tax at all. This is a shocking statistic in a country with a population of nearly 200 million. Similarly, there are nearly 80,000 listed companies with the Securities and Exchange Commission but less than 25% pay any tax. No wonder, Pakistan's tax-GDP ratio is less than 10%, and governments have to print money or borrow to stay afloat. The fiscal deficit is running at over 8% and national debt has more than doubled in the last four years. The size of the underground economy is estimated to be equal to the formal economy. Why can't we collect more taxes? Obviously, the tax collection machinery is both corrupt and inefficient. The customs and tax departments, along with the police, are hot favourites of Pakistanis sitting the superior services exams. Pakistanis are also loath to pay taxes to corrupt governments, preferring instead to fork out to private charities that run hospitals, schools, mosques and madrasahs. The cost of transforming black money into white is also low: for about 1% transaction cost, one can send Pak rupees abroad and bring back US dollars, no questions asked about the source of the inland remittance. And, since the abolition of wealth tax a couple of decades ago, there is no pressure to submit or to scrutinize wealth tax returns for consistency with income tax returns. "The problem starts at the top. Those who make revenue policies, run the government and collect taxes, have not been able to set good examples for others," the report, called Representation without Taxation, said. Various attempts have been made in the past to make people cough up taxes. Tax rates have been lowered and tax amnesty schemes floated from time to time. But lack of reliable data and political will have hampered progress. Documentation of the economy is fiercely resisted by powerful trade and business lobbies affiliated with political parties. But time is catching up with tax dodgers. The country's data base is being fine tuned, thanks to computerization of identity cards, tax numbers, bank accounts and electoral rolls, all of which can be synced. Land records are next in line. It is a good sign too that donors are tying foreign aid and grants to tax reforms, lower fiscal deficits and tight money policies. Media pressure is also building up to highlight corrupt practises and tar tax evaders. House cleaning must start from the top, with public representatives who make laws and are expected to uphold them. Next, the FBR must submit itself to accountability, so that those who are tasked with catching the thieves are not thieves themselves. A dose of privatization might also be injected into the tax collection machinery to make it competitive. It is a good idea to make the head of the FBR a constitutional post with fixed tenure so that political meddling and influence is minimized. Finally, a simple and uniform federal income tax structure must be built in order to cut down bureaucracy and overlapping, starting with a small tax on agricultural incomes and wealth so that everyone is brought into the tax net.

Fata lawyers term AI report on human rights abuses accurate

The Fata Lawyers Forum (FLF) on Sunday said that the Amnesty International (AI) report on the human rights abuses in the tribal areas of Pakistan was accurate and based on facts. The FLF General Secretary Samiullah Afridi told The News that the report titled “The Hands of Cruelty - Abuses by Armed Forces and Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas” was a good piece on the events taking place in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He said the militants were engaged in killing of tribal people and destroying their houses and also abductions for ransom. The security forces, he said, during operations also destroy houses and detain thousands tribesmen for years. Such detentions, he argued were unlawful and done on basis of suspicion. He complained that human rights of the tribesmen had been trampled by both the militants and security forces as neither the military rulers nor civilian governments had given them fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitution. “They are being treated inhumanly under the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901,” he added. In the Amnesty International (AI) report issued on December 13, it was stated that millions are locked in perpetual lawlessness in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas where human rights abuses committed by the armed forces and the Taliban are beyond the reach of justice. The report stated that thousands of men and boys have been detained by the Armed Forces and many have alleged torture, are held in secret places of detention and never seen again. It added that investigations into such cases are extremely rare and ineffective even when they do take place. “After a decade of violence, strife and conflict, tribal communities are still being subjected to attack, abduction and intimidation, rather than being protected,” Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director was quoted as saying in the report. It said that human rights safeguarded under the Pakistan’s Constitution and the courts were excluded from the tribal areas, where the Armed Forces were using new broad security laws and a harsh colonial-era penal system to commit violations with impunity. The report stated that Taliban and other armed groups continue to pose a deadly threat to Pakistani society as thousands have been killed in indiscriminate attacks or those deliberately targeting civilians over the last decade. “The Taliban and other armed groups are also carrying out brutal, unlawful killings of captured Armed Forces personnel or suspected spies, sometimes following quasi-judicial proceedings that fail to meet even the most basic international fair trial standards,” said the report. The report is based on interviews with scores of victims of human rights abuses, witnesses, relatives, lawyers, and representatives of the Pakistani authorities and armed groups in the region. It said that although the Pakistan armed forces have wrested back control of most parts of the tribal areas from the Taliban over the past three years, they have arbitrarily detained thousands of individuals for long periods with little or no access to due process of justice.

Punjab's banned outfits in contact with Uzbek militants

Banned militant organisations in Punjab province have contacts with Uzbek militants who charge $40,000 for carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan, a federal minister told the National Assembly on Tuesday. During Tuesday’s session, Federal Minister Sheikh Waqas Akram told the assembly that the Uzbek militants were in contact with the banned outfits in Punjab, adding that the members of these banned organisations could be seen wearing shirts of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). “These (Uzbek) militants demand a payment of US$40,000 to perform terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil,” he told the assembly. Akram, who belongs to ruling coalition partner the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), said Interior Minister Rehman Malik should stop “spinning tales” and take definitive action against these banned militant outfits. The minister’s disclosure comes after a brazen attack on Peshawar’s Bacha Khan Airport and military airbase on Saturday by militants said to be foreigners of Dagestan and Uzbek origins. Uzbek militants are known to corroborate with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in battles against the Pakistani security forces, which include an attack on Bannu jail conducted to release Taliban inmates and the high-profile prisoner Adnan Rashid. NA Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi chaired Tuesday’s assembly session held here in Islamabad.

Fall of Dhaka remembered

Prime Minister (PM) Raja Pervez Ashraf said in a speech at a rally in Kasur on Sunday that opposition parties should end the politics of confrontation and help start a new era in politics. He made mention of the events of December 16, 1971, the day Dhaka fell and East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh. The PM said December 16 is a constant reminder that there is no room for any future blunders in politics. Ne’er was a truer word spake. Unfortunately though, we are a society of ostriches with our heads buried in the sand. Not only have we brushed the events that led to the breakaway of East Pakistan under the carpet, we have failed to educate successive generations after 1971 about those tragic times. The 1970-71 crisis finds no mention in our curricula or textbooks. The result is that there are many among us by now who are not even aware that East Pakistan once existed as the eastern wing of the country. How then, despite the PM’s good intent, are we as a people expected to know and learn the lessons from that debacle to avoid repetition of similar mistakes when we are wholly or partially uninformed? Pakistan came into existence as a result of partition in 1947 comprising of two wings separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory. It was an unlikely construct to begin with. Subsequently, successive regimes (largely based on West Pakistani bureaucrats, Generals and politicians) treated East Pakistan like a colony, linguistically, culturally, politically and economically. The resentment that built up against domination by West Pakistan therefore was not an overnight phenomenon but accumulated over 24 years before culminating in the inferno of 1971. As early as 1952, the people of East Pakistan rose in protest against the declaration by none other than Mr Jinnah in 1948 that Urdu, and Urdu alone, would be the official language of the new state. Although it is the student protest in East Pakistan that is best remembered as offering the first Bengali language movement martyrs (at the hands of police firing) in our history, what is often lost or forgotten is that West Pakistan comprised at least four nationalities with diverse languages, culture and historical identity dating back hundreds of years. Their linguistic and cultural rights too were violated in the 1948 declaration. After that bloody 1952 episode, the die was cast for incremental bitterness amongst the people of East Pakistan against their treatment. That treatment consisted of denying the Bengali people their political rights, reflected in the arbitrary dismissal of the united front government in East Pakistan called the Jukto Front in 1954 and the removal of Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy’s government after just 13 months in power in 1957. The 1956 constitution had imposed one unit in West Pakistan and parity of seats between the two wings in a malign effort to deny the numerically greater people of East Pakistan the democratic right of one man one vote. During the 1950s and 60s, a process of extraction of the economic surplus and foreign exchange provided by East Pakistan’s jute exports was ploughed into infrastructure and industry in West Pakistan, a process that reinforced the sense of alienation of the Bengali masses. Mujibur Rehman, once a protégé of Suhrawardy, suffered imprisonment repeatedly for voicing the demands of the people of East Pakistan and was finally arrested in the Agartala Conspiracy case in 1967, a trumped up sedition charge that did not outlast the agitation that overtook the whole country, East and West, against Ayub Khan. The aftermath of that countrywide seven month agitation resulted in the departure of Ayub, martial law under the army chief Yahya Khan, extreme repression to quell mass unrest, the undoing of one unit (a popular and much iterated demand of the progressive political forces of both wings) and the announcement of general elections in 1970. Had Yahya accepted the results of the elections, which gave Mujib a majority and the right to form the government, Pakistan may well have been intact today. Instead, Yahya, in collaboration, it must be said with regret, West Pakistani political leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, launched a genocidal military crackdown in East Pakistan that finally ended, after thousands of lives lost, rapes and other atrocities, in the fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971 to invading Indian forces. The contention that we have learnt nothing from this past and stubbornly refuse to do so is proved by the fact that Balochistan’s political problems are being dealt with today in the same fashion: repression, military operations, kill and dump atrocities. The more things change, the more, it seems, they remain the same. Time to wake up to the dangers posed to the unity of remaining Pakistan before it is too late.

Nawaz spent millions from IB fund on politics, media

Daily Times
Former prime minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif distributed millions of rupees of Intelligence Bureau (IB) funds among journalists and to institute cases against rival politicians, the Supreme Court was told on Monday. The court was hearing the suo motu case regarding the alleged misuse of Rs 270 million IB fund by the incumbent PPP government in 2008-09. Appearing in the court, an English daily’s reporter, Asad Kharral, submitted a fresh report regarding the misuse of public money. He told the court that the IB had provided Rs 3 million to journalist Nazir Naji who at the time was a columnist with an Urdu newspaper and also a government official in the capacity of Pakistan Academy of Letters chairman. Besides IB’s recent issue of withdrawal of Rs 270 million in 2008, Kharral’s report said it was also involved in siphoning off millions of rupees in 1998-99 (from November 1998 to October 1999) during Nawaz Sharif’s regime. He contended that millions of rupees of IB fund were not only distributed among journalists but a major chunk had been spent to institute cases against rival politicians Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, both inside and outside the country. The report said, “According to the rules and regulations, the purpose of the secret fund is only to obtain or uncover sensitive information necessary to protect ‘national interest’ – it cannot be used for any other purpose, even emergencies or incidental expenses. All withdrawals are supposed to come under specific heads and justifications. This was not the case with this large withdrawal.” “The secret funds which IB got under different supplementary grants were supposed to be utilised for the purchase of journalists and to make comprehensive cases against the PPP’s leadership,” it further said. The objective, the report claimed, was to utilise the cash for these purposes under the umbrella of IB’s secret fund to avoid audit. This huge amount had been distributed to different persons on the special directions of the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, through his two close aides, the then Ehtisab Cell chairman Saifur Rehman and his principal secretary, Saeed Mehdi. On the directions of the prime minister, Mehdi met the then IB DG, Col (r) Iqbal Niazi, in Prime Minister’s Secretariat and conveyed the message of his boss (Sharif) regarding provision of Rs 3 million to the said journalist. Major (r) Farid Jadoon, who was the then personal staff officer to the IB DG, delivered the said amount (Rs 3 million) to Naji’s house. The report also stated that IB also transferred about Rs 100 million abroad though illegal channels such as Hawala/Hundi after changing Pakistani currency into foreign currency. This amount received by the IB through supplementary grants for this specific purpose on the direction of the then prime minister, whose close aide conveyed the message to the then IB chief to transfer these amounts abroad to some individuals, front men, including lawyers who prosecuted the cases against Benazir and Zardari. More than Rs 100 million were spent on the materialisation and pursuance of cases against Benazir and Zardari in Swiss courts. Millions of rupees of IB secret funds were also used for accommodation and transportation of dignitaries and their relatives.

Grenade attack at Pakistan army facility wounds 10

Associated Press
Two men on a motorcycle hurled hand grenades at the main gate of an army recruiting center in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding 10 people, police said. The injured in the attack in the garrison town of Risalpur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province included civilians and security personnel, said senior police official, Ghulam Mohammed. Mohammed told The Associated Press that the police have launched a manhunt to trace and arrest the attackers, he told The Associated Press. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of assaults in recent days that illustrate the continued challenge Pakistan faces from militants despite military operations against the Pakistani Taliban and their supporters. Tuesday's attack came a day after a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Pakistan's northwestern town of Jamrud near the Afghan border, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is located on the edge of Pakistan's tribal region, the main sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taliban in the country. The province has witnessed scores of attacks, most of them blamed on the Taliban. Ten Taliban fighters armed with rockets and car bombs attacked the military section of an international airport in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Saturday night, killing four people and wounding over 40 others. Five of the militants were killed during the attack and the other five died Sunday after hours-long shootout with security forces.

Zardari orders firm steps to nab criminals

President Asif Ali Zardari and his son PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have expressed concern over the law and order situation especially cases of target killings in Karachi and instructed Rangers and police to take a firm action against criminals. They showed concern during a meeting with Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah here, sources in Pakistan People’s Party said. The governor shared with them issues relating to traders and informed the president about extortion faced by businessmen in Karachi. He said CCTV and surveillance cameras were being installed which hopefully would assist in nabbing the criminals. Zardari instructed the Sindh government to provide help on a permanent basis to the families of victims of target killings in Karachi. He also instructed formation a policy for providing financial support to widows and jobs to children of terrorism victims in the city. The president also directed the PPP leaders to make arrangements for the death anniversary of former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto on December 27 during which the party would also launch the political career of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Following attacks WHO anti-polio campaign stopped in Karachi

Following attacks on vaccination workers, the World Health Organization's (WHO) anti-polio campaign has been stopped in the city. Four female workers of the campaign were killed while performing their duties in the Landhi and Orangi Town areas of the city. Two male team members were also injured during the attack in Orangi Town. Following the attacks, Sindh Health Minister, Dr Sageer Ahmed condemned the attacks and issued a statement that the anti-polio drive had been halted in the city. Earlier on Tuesday, a female worker of the anti-polio campaign was killed in Peshawar which prompted the WHO to recommend to stop the campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The 14 year old volunteer was critically wounded when she was shot and later succumbed to her injuries at the Lady Reading Hospital.

Gunmen Kill Anti-Polio Workers in Attacks in Pakistan

Gunmen killed five women and a man on Tuesday in separate attacks on workers in a national drive to eradicate polio in Pakistan, officials said. The attacks forced health officials to temporarily suspend the anti-polio drive in Karachi, the country’s most populous and most volatile city. Saghir Ahmed, the health minister for southern Sindh Province, was quoted as saying that he had ordered an immediate halt to the vaccination campaign in Karachi. At least 24,000 aid workers were taking part in the vaccination campaign in the city. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Taliban insurgents have repeatedly vowed to target anti-polio workers, accusing them of being spies. That perception was reinforced after 2011 raid by American forces that killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad. American officials have said that a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, had been running a phony hepatitis B vaccination program as a ruse to obtain DNA evidence from members of Bin Laden's family in the Abbottabad compound. Dr. Afridi was arrested by Pakistani authorities and sentenced to 33 years in prison. Since then, Taliban insurgents, who are based in the country’s tribal regions, straddling the border with Afghanistan, have increased their opposition and issued religious edicts against vaccination campaigns, claiming that United States runs a spy network under the guise of vaccination programs. Pakistan is one of just three countries where polio is still endemic, accounting for 198 new cases last year — the highest rate in the world, followed by Afghanistan and Nigeria. Three national anti-polio campaigns were begun on Monday. Officials were expecting a backlash by militants but the extent and scale of the attacks Tuesday caught the government by surprise. In the attacks in Karachi on Tuesday, three teams of health volunteers were targeted in poor neighborhoods: Landhi, Orangi Town and Baldia Town. Two female aid workers were killed in an attack in Landhi, according to reports in local news media. In Orangi Town, unknown gunmen opened fire on a health team, killing one woman and a male volunteer. Another female worker was killed in Baldia Town, a neighborhood in Karachi. In the northwestern city of Peshawar, gunmen attacked two sisters who had volunteered for the polio vaccine drive, killing one.