Thursday, December 20, 2012
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/CONFRONTED with a revolt among the rank and file, House Republicans abruptly put off a vote on legislation allowing tax rates to rise for households earning $1 million and up, complicating attempts to avoid a year-end "fiscal cliff" that threatens to send the US economy into recession.
Associated PressAnother victim from attacks on U.N.-backed anti-polio teams in Pakistan died on Thursday, bringing the three-day death toll in the wave of assaults on volunteers vaccinating children across the country to nine, officials said. Hilal Khan, 20, died a day after he was shot in the head in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said health official Janbaz Afridi Since Monday, gunmen had launched attacks across Pakistan on teams vaccinating children against polio. Six women were among the nine anti-polio workers killed in the campaign, jointly conducted with the Pakistani government. The U.N. World Health Organization suspended the drive until a government investigation was completed. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the killings "cruel, senseless and inexcusable." Speaking at his year-end news conference Wednesday, Ban said the victims were among thousands across Pakistan "working selflessly to achieve the historic goal of polio eradication." The suspension of the vaccinations was a grave blow to efforts to bring an end to the scourge of polio in Pakistan, one of only three countries where the crippling disease is endemic. Azmat Abbas, with UNICEF in Pakistan said the field staff would resume the work when they have a secure working environment. "This is undoubtedly a tragic setback, but the campaign to eradicate polio will and must continue," Sarah Crowe, spokeswoman for UNICEF, said Wednesday. However, local officials in the eastern city of Lahore continued the vaccination on Thursday under police escort, and extended the campaign with a two-day follow-up. Deputy Commissioner Noorul Amin Mengal said about 6,000 Pakistani government health workers were escorted by 3,000 police as they fanned out across the city. "It would have been an easy thing for us to do to stop the campaign," he said. "That would have been devastating." No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but some Islamic militants accuse health workers of acting as spies for the United States and claim that the vaccine makes children sterile. Taliban commanders in the country's troubled northwest tribal region have also said the vaccinations can't go forward until the U.S. stops drone strikes in Pakistan. The insurgent opposition to the campaign grew last year, after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the town of Abbottabad in the country's northwest. Prevention efforts against polio have managed to reduce the number of cases in Pakistan by around 70 percent this year, compared to 2011, but the recent violence threatens to reverse that progress.
Radio PakistanPolitical leaders and analysts say that historic address of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto this day (Dec. 20) in 1971 raised morale of the people and helped bring the state apparatus back on track. In his impressions in Radio Pakistan's programme 'Naey Ufaq'‚ one of the founding leader of the PPP Dr. Mubashir Hassan said there was a very delicate situation both internally and externally and Shaheed Bhutto made a balanced address to satisfy all concerned. Another PPP leader Taj Haider said people were disappointed due to Fall of Dhaka tragedy and the address of Shaheed Bhutto gave them hopes about future of the country. He said Shaheed Bhutto talked about different segments of the society and sought their cooperation in rebuilding the country. Prof. N.D. Khan said despite uncertainty Shaheed Bhutto conveyed the message to rebuild Pakistan as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam. He lived up to his commitment and gave the country a unanimous Constitution. Dr. Mehdi Hassan said Shaheed Bhutto told the demoralized nation not to worry as he is fully resolved to get things right with the help of people. He pursued pro-people policies and succeeded in different fields.
By AL ARABIYAAllowing Saudi women to drive will be safer than having them commute with male drivers, a Saudi activist, Tahani al-Juhni, told Al Arabiya in a TV interview this week. “One journalist at al-Riyadh newspaper urged the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to follow up on a case of a driver, who after driving female teachers to their homes, raped one of them,” said the activist. Al-Juhni warned that there are about 2 million chauffeurs in the kingdom and half of them are illegal. “Those illegal drivers are dangerous for society, especially since there is no law that governs them.” She warned that some drivers have been known to harass women as well as children. “Saudi women press on the issue because of the registered crimes published in newspapers, and others by the way were not published,” said al-Juhni. According to the activist, the responsiveness of Saudi society in tackling the issue has improved over the years. “Since 1990, the issue was shunned when some people started demanding that Saudi women drive but in the past three years demands for women to drive have become stronger, some cases even went to the courts.” Article 2 in the Saudi constitution guarantees justice and equality, the only injustice in Saudi society is the rule against women driving claimed the activist. She goes on to say that allowing women to drive will lessen the economic burden on families in the Kingdom.
Official overseeing referendum on draft constitution resigns amid allegations of irregularities.One of the top officials in charge of overseeing Egypt's vote on a contentious draft constitution has resigned citing health problems, while critics believe the resignation was prompted by widespread irregularities. Zaghloul el-Balshi, the secretary general of the election committee, attributed his resignation to "a sudden health crisis", according to a copy of a letter he sent to the committee on Wednesday that was published by several Egyptian dailies including the privately owned el-Watan. Relatives told local Egyptian media that el-Balshi had undergone eye surgery. "The effort I put in over the past period has caused a sudden health crisis," the letter of resignation read. "As you know, it is impossible to carry out my mission with this health condition," it added. Critics, however, believe the resignation was prompted by reports of widespread irregularities. "The violations were blatant, and he couldn't bear more, so he resigned. Don't believe what is said about his health condition," Hossam Eissa, professor of law in Ain Shams University and a leading opposition member, said. "Half of the people will not recognise this constitution." In an interview with daily al-Masry al-Youm, a senior member of the committee, Mahmoud Abu-Shousha, warned the opposition "not to exploit the sickness of the man and describe his resignation as caused by what they consider violations in the first round". Egypt's Justice Ministry has ordered an investigation into allegations. Prosecutor general Meanwhile, the country's prosecutor general has withdrawn his resignation, first issued on Monday. Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah told reporters he initially submitted his resignation under pressure from prosecutors holding a sit-in in front of his office. Those officials accused him of pressuring a judge not to release some 130 anti-Morsi protesters taken into custody this month following clashes with Muslim Brotherhood members. The December 5 violence was one of the most tense moments Egypt has witnessed in recent weeks. Charter controversy Many of the country's judges boycotted overseeing the constitutional referendum, though the law requires that each polling station must be supervised by a judge. The latest branch of the judiciary to boycott is the administrative prosecution union. They are protesting what they called the "abduction" of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which the Muslim Brotherhood accused of conspiring against the referendum. Brotherhood supporters held a sit-in for weeks to prevent members from convening. The run-up to the two-stage referendum vote on the constitution has been marked by often violent protests in which at least eight people have died. Morsi and his backers say the constitution is needed to advance Egypt's transition from decades of military-backed autocratic rule. Opponents say It is tailored to serve Islamic parties and ignores the rights of women and of minorities, including 10 percent of Egyptians who are Christian. The first day of voting last weekend resulted in a 57 percent vote in favour of the draft basic law, according to official media. The final stage on Saturday is expected to endorse that result as it covers parts of Egypt, particularly rural areas, thought more sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The current situation in Greece is totally unworthy of the Nobel Peace Prize winning European Union and so far below international human rights standards as to make a mockery of them,” Dalhuisen said.
http://rt.comThe Syrian civil war is becoming increasingly sectarian, as Sunni-majority rebel forces fight government troops supported by country’s religious and ethnic minorities, a new UN human rights report has revealed. The Syrian civil war is becoming increasingly sectarian, as Sunni-majority rebel forces fight government troops supported by country’s religious and ethnic minorities, a new UN human rights report has revealed. The report – which is based on interviews with Syrians who fled the country and covers the period between September 28 and December 16 – said that foreign fighters with links to extremist Sunni groups are infiltrating Syria to fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. The foreign fighters, described as “militant, radical Islamists, or Jihadists,” are reportedly operating independently but coordinate with the Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition group supported by Western nations. “The commission is extremely worried by the presence of foreign fighters… who are not fighting for human rights and democracy,” said Sergio Pinheiro, the head of the independent UN commission that produced the report. While they are fighting against government forces, they are not doing so “with the same agenda as the Free Syrian Army,” continued Pinheiro. “By their own admission, they are very proud of their breaches of humanitarian law.” More than 20,000 people have been killed on both sides of the Syrian conflict since the fighting began, according to UN estimates. Most of the casualties in the nearly two-year war were civilians, and both sides are responsible for human rights abuses such as torture and executions, Pinheiro said. The rebels have hidden in Syrian cities among the civilian population, resulting in deadly government artillery and air strikes, the report said. Evidence suggests that government forces do not take sufficient precautions to avoid civilian casualties, and that the resulting attacks are “disproportionate to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated,” the report continued. The conflict has also continuously drawn in other minority groups – especially Christians, Armenians, Druze and others – who mostly support President Assad. The main divisions in Syria are between the Sunni and Alawite communities; most of Syria’s senior government and military leaders belong to the latter. As the fighting between government and rebel groups approaches the end of its second year, the conflict has become overtly sectarian in nature, the report said. The commission has received credible reports of anti-Assad groups attacking Alawites and other minority communities. In response, some of them have formed armed self-defense groups known as “Popular Committees” to defend their neighborhoods. “We think this is a war where no military victory is possible,” Pinheiro said. “It is a great illusion that providing arms to one side or the other will help end it.” As the conflict drags on, the belligerents have become “ever more violent and unpredictable,” leading to conduct that is increasingly in breach of international law, the report concluded.
xinhuanet.comChinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday to discuss China-U.S. relations. Wang was to wrap up his three-day visit to the United States on Thursday. He arrived in Washington on Tuesday to co-chair the 23rd Session of the China-U.S. Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade with acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk from Tuesday to Wednesday. Earlier on Thursday, Wang also met separately with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
Here are the stories of three women:Gita Ganeshan, a 52-year-old bank worker, moved to New Delhi with her husband four years ago from the central city of Bhopal to protect their oldest daughter after she was attacked in the Indian capital, where she was studying. The young woman had been out for a morning walk in a park near her house when four men surrounded her and began tormenting her, Mr. Ganeshan said. “One of the men squeezed her breast. She screamed and kept screaming and running till she came home,” she said. She said she and her daughter would go to the park when she visited the city. “This was a park where we would walk every day. The girls would jog or run and we would walk along,” she said. “Just that one day, she went alone and this happened and it changed our outlook as far the safety of our girls was concerned.” Her daughter gave up jogging and wouldn’t leave the house alone for months. Her parents got themselves transferred to the city to look after her. “That was when we decided that protecting our children had to be our first priority. We’ve given them a good education. We cannot now tell them now not to pursue their careers because it is not safe to be out working late,” she said. She has trained the young woman to be alert: “Never let your guard down.” Now, Ms. Ganeshan is thinking of moving to the central city of Indore to protect her younger daughter, who got a job there. But for now, she has arranged a special plan to watch over her from far away. Every evening, her daughter calls as soon as she gets off the bus on her way home from work. The two talk for the next 15 minutes while the young woman walks the kilometre to her home, Ms. Ganeshan said. “Every day, I wake up and my first thought is of my daughters and their safety. I call them up, or they call me,” she said. “It is a real fear we confront when, even for a few hours, we are not in touch over the telephone.” Sandhya Jadon, 26, a lawyer from the northern town of Agra, said the harassment starts as soon as she leaves her home. “For most men, any woman who is out of the four walls of her house is fair game,” she said. Last week, she was repeatedly groped on a public minibus. “It was broad daylight. I was heading to court, and this man kept trying to touch my thigh. I shouted at him and he had the gall to ask me, ‘So what can you do to stop me?’ ”he said. She shouted, made the driver stop and got off. But the man continued sitting in the bus and grinning at his audacity. Not one of the 10 other passengers came to her help. Most looked away, she said. “All day that day I was disturbed. I was shaking inside but also angry. Why do we women have to suffer this?” she asked. For the next few days, she avoided public buses for fear she would run into the man again. She feels relatively safe at court, in her lawyer’s robes. But she still doesn’t stay late at work and asks her parents to meet her at the bus stop to walk her home. “But the fear — that something bad will happen if you are not careful — is always with you. It hangs over your work; it hangs over everything you do — what you wear, or don’t wear; how you talk or how you walk. It is like this big suffocating cloud hanging over you every single day of your life,” she said. Priyanka Khatri, a 21-year-old college student, said fear of attack has forced her to limit her world. There are no movies in the evening, no late-night parties, no outside activity at all after sundown. College events are cut short because she has to get home. “Whatever happens, I have to be home before dark. Otherwise, my parents get so worried and they will keep calling me on my cellphone till they know I’m safe,” she said. Ms. Khatri ri said she will only go out in the evening accompanied by her parents to a nearby temple or a family wedding. She is shadowed by fear when she gets dressed in the morning. “I wouldn’t dream of wearing shorts or skirts in public,” she said. She is petrified by her daily commute to school on public buses. “Usually I carry a safety pin with me, because in buses there are always men who will try to touch you,” Ms. Khatri said. “Some men are so brazen, you tick them off and they will persist on groping you. Then you feel you have to do something. So I stick my pin into them, or I use my elbow, and just jab them with my elbow. But that too makes you afraid.” And she has tempered her dreams to fit the reality of life in Delhi. The outgoing badminton enthusiast longed to be an event planner. Instead, she is looking for teaching jobs, “because then I can be home before dark.” If her precautions fail and she is attacked, Ms. Khatri has a backup plan, she said. “I will scream. I always have a scream.”
http://www.bloomberg.comPakistan’s National Assembly approved a bill allowing use of electronic evidence from wire- tapping and communication intercepts against terror suspects after a large number of acquittals by anti-terrorism courts for lack of proof. “It is an accepted fact that terrorists are not getting convicted and are not brought to justice because of lack of relevant rules and laws,” Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said while presenting the bill in the National Assembly, or the lower house, in Islamabad today. The U.S. “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011,” released in July, put the acquittal rate for terrorist cases to as high as 85 percent in Pakistan, which is seen as a hub of global terrorism. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in a Pakistani town by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is an ally of the U.S. and has lost more than 40,000 people to bombings by the Taliban since joining the U.S. in the war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The bill, which was unanimously passed by the National Assembly, now goes to the Senate, Pakistan’s upper house.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has reportedly decided on Thursday to remove Punjab Governor Latif Khosa from his post. Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) Parliamentary leader in Punjab Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood is likely to replace Khosa, sources say. Mehmood is a member of the Punjab Assembly from PP-292, Rahim Yar Khan. The move came after a meeting between Mehmood and Pakistan’s President and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his son Ali Musa Gilani also attended the meeting.
By Rubina Sadat Qaim khaniThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the UN General Assembly was a real landmark but it took years and years to realize its true meanings in the context of Pakistan where forces of darkness prevailed and prevented the smooth promotion and protection of the same rights.
Afghanistan SunPolitical will is required from the government of Pakistan and opposition parties to make hard decisions on the country's energy crisis, according to Alex Thier, who is USAID's Assistant to the Administrator for the Office of Pakistan and Afghanistan Affairs. Thier, who returned from a trip to Pakistan last week, said that USAID programmes would have added 900 megawatts to the grid by early next year, reports The Express Tribune. "Pakistan is only going to solve its energy crisis if it better governs the energy system," said Thier, adding that this requires work on the transmission system's losses, cracking down on theft, ensuring payment of electricity bills and an efficient load shedding management system. "What really needs to happen is at the political level, that some of these changes, like making sure the electricity tariffs are equivalent to the costs because otherwise the circular debt problem is never going to go away. If Pakistan can't generate electricity and basically can't charge consumers for the electricity that it generates then the system is never going to reach a balance. But you can't charge people more for energy if you don't provide it consistently, so you need to improve the management and delivery of the system," he added. Thier said the Pakistan government has made clear to the US that their number one development priority for Pakistan is Diamer-Bhasha Dam. Thier said the US has committed to working with the Asian Development Bank and the government to carry out the necessary studies - feasibility, environmental, social safeguards, engineering and financing. "The financing plan is deeply tied to these questions of energy reform. The financing plan basically has to say that is there a business model by which this investment will be productive and will yield sufficient returns over time to pay back loans, to pay the private sector and so on. So all five of those feasibility studies need to be conducted in order to get the international financing to actually build the dam," said Thier. In new programmes, USAID is spending 44 million dollars on the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, which aims to match private sector funds in investment in small to medium enterprises in Pakistan, he added.
http://dunyanews.tvAccording to the sources, Makhdum Ahmed Mehmood of PML-F would take charge as new governor. The sources said that the decision was taken during Mehmood’s meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari AT Bilawal House in Karachi Former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani.also attended the meeting.
EDITORIAL: Daily TimesThe targeted killing of four women polio vaccinators in Karachi and one woman near Peshawar has rendered the polio immunisation campaign a high-risk enterprise. Two male immunisers were also wounded in the attacks in Karachi. A day earlier, a worker with the local government-World Health Organisation (WHO) programme was killed in the city. Earlier still, a paramedic was killed and a Ghanaian doctor associated with WHO was wounded along with his driver in Karachi. The current attacks took place in Pashtun-dominated areas in Karachi, indicating the probable hands behind the dastardly act. Although the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments expressed their commitment to continue the campaign, WHO has announced the suspension of the campaign. Condemnations have come from the US and the UN and throughout Pakistan. Karachi and some cities of interior Sindh saw protests against the attacks. The security forces have launched an operation in Karachi against suspects and reportedly killed two people and seized weapons. Meanwhile reports while writing these lines say attacks against women immunisers are continuing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. That underlines the importance of proper security arrangements for immunisation workers if the suspension by WHO and continuation of the critical campaign are to be saved from the savage clutches of the dark and backward looking forces that are holding our society hostage to their antediluvian agenda. The Taliban have been resisting the polio immunisation campaign for years. The programme was launched in Pakistan, one of only three countries in the world still polio-endemic, in 1994 with WHO’s help. It had relatively smooth sailing until 2005, when Mullah Radio began fulminating against it on his illegal FM channel. His example spread to other Taliban-run illegal FM stations, all of them initially painting the immunisation campaign as a conspiracy to make Muslims infertile and thereby reduce their population. New arguments were mustered against the polio immunisation campaign over the years, but they reached the peak of hostility after the Osama bin Laden raid. Now the Taliban have managed to declare a ban in Waziristan, which has put 240,000 children in the tribal areas at risk. The irrationality of the Taliban mindset is nowhere better on display than in this motivated offensive against a healthcare programme that will ensure our children are safe from the crippling disease. The polio virus is threatening to carry over borders into neighbouring countries and perhaps further abroad, which could bring in health restrictions against Pakistani citizens seeking to travel internationally. The targets selected, women and men associated with the work and unable to defend themselves against such attacks, prove that the Taliban, apart from attacking military facilities like the attack on the Pakistan Air Force base in Peshawar following earlier assaults against the Mehran base in Karachi and the Kamra air base, are now also focusing on soft targets. Apparently the authorities had received prior warnings of possible attacks against the polio immunisation teams, but no security was provided to them. This is one more failure of the security authorities, for which Interior Minister Rehman Malik received more than his fair share of flak in the National Assembly from even his own party MNAs. Pakistan will not be able to ensure a better future for its people or its children unless the whole country is united and mobilised in support of the security forces’ efforts against the terrorists. A tiny minority of fanatical extremists and their tacit or explicit supporters in society and sections of the media have managed to so muddy the waters regarding whether or not this war is ours, etc, that the national will required to combat the menace is conspicuous by its absence, the brave souls who still stand up against the fanatics and terrorists notwithstanding. The struggle against the terrorists is for the very soul of Pakistan. Let it not be said with hindsight that we were found lacking.
THE FRONTIER POSTThe blanket ban on YouTube in Pakistan subsequent to its transmitting an outrageous film in the mid of September continues to the detriment of a broad section of society which used this Google-owned website to augment their learning. The government requested the parent company to block sacrilegious transmission before taking the decision. It was upon the refusal of the company to block the material that a blanket ban was imposed. The company refused the government request because it was not register in Pakistan and Pakistani laws do not govern it. YouTube suspended its services to many Islamic countries, including Egypt, Libya, Malaysia and Iran; even the Indian population was refused access. But this proved to be a temporary phase for them and the service has since been restored there after these countries blocked the blasphemous material and allowed other material for the use of its population and the issue was settled. But in Pakistan any meaningful closure to this blasphemy episode seems nowhere in sight and YouTube, the most popular website of the world, will likely remain blocked in the near future. The government action of banning the entire website, rather than blocking only the objectionable contents, has gone beyond harming local internet users who include students, scholars, intellectuals, educational institutions, professionals and their representative bodies, big or small business and other sections of society, particularly the youth. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said towards the beginning of November the ban would be lifted in two weeks, but it seems the government is not using the common sense to allow access to the website. But a good number of Pakistanis, particularly the population knowing the use of computer and its applications, have accessed to the website using other proxy servers. Virtually the government itself invited the illegal use of severs. This unlawful use has resulted in the disrupting or at least slowing down of various Google services and they include: Gmail, Gmail Chat, Google Talk, Google Drive, Google Analytics and Google Maps which an increasing number of Pakistanis are found to be using to navigate in their cities and across the country. Essentially, rather than filtering the blasphemous content, the authorities chose to put in place a wall by blocking the whole platform of YouTube which is only one-thirds of the whole Google regime .The government must act objectively by lifting ban on the website by blocking the outrageous material as has been done by other countries.